- By Gitabushi
One of the things that annoys me the most about a guitar is if you take a guitar out to another location to play it, or move from indoors to outdoors, and the change in temperature and humidity causes the neck to bend differently. Suddenly, the strings fret out. Or the action is suddenly higher. You have to get out an allen wrench and make adjustments to the truss rod.
Or even worse, you purchase a guitar, and over the months or years, the neck slowly warps, twisting or bowing or even developing humps that make it nearly impossible to have low action without buzzing or fretting out.
Guitar manufacturers are aware of this, and they dealt with it in a number of ways. First, of course, is the truss rod that allows you to adjust to the changes. Other solutions have included dual carbon-fiber truss rods (that can deal with twist), baking/drying/aging the wood so that it will less susceptible to environmental conditions, using three-piece necks with the grain of the middle strip running opposite to the two outside strips to cause any wood movement from environmental factors to work in opposition, and using other materials that are less susceptible to environmental changes.
In an excellent example of that last approach, in 1976, the Kramer guitar company made aluminum-necked guitars.
The guitars featured an aluminum skeleton neck, with a distinctive forked neck, attached to a normal wood body. The neck has wooden inserts usually, but not always, the same type of wood as the body, with the intent of providing a more conventional, less cold feel for the guitarists fretting hand.
In 1978, they came out with the DMZ line, including the one I have, the DMZ 2000. The DMZ portion was a marketing emphasis on its Dimarzio pickups. The 2000 being that it was better than the 1000, I think. Or maybe just that there was a series, because the 3000 is just a Strat-style guitar, without extra features, and the 4000 and 5000 series are basses…no one in their right minds would say a bass is better than an electric guitar, right?
Like all Kramer aluminum-necked guitars, the DMZ 2000 featured an ebonite fretboard. That’s something I really appreciate, because I really like ebony as a fretboard for a number of reasons. First, I like the appearance of black fretboards. Second, I fancy that I can hear an impact on tone; guitars with ebony fingerboards seemed to have an extra chime to the attack. Or, at least, I used think that. I can’t seem to tell the difference anymore, so maybe it was all in my head in the first place. After all, there is no way to swap out fretboards on the same guitar to a/b the tone. Third, ebony has always been the easiest and fastest to play on. I really can feel that rosewood fretboards are more difficult to play on, because the softer, more open-grained wood of rosewood literally clings to skin and slows down the release. I know the difference is microseconds, if not nanoseconds, but I have tested this out on many guitars, and I really can feel the difference. Ebony-style man-made materials (like ebonite and other materials like acrylic) are simply faster.
The DMZ 2000 also has two coil split toggles, so you can get eight different usable tones from the two pickups, including some good single coil tones either singly or in combination.
All that aluminum does make the guitar pretty heavy. It’s a drawback that doesn’t bother me much, but might bother someone with shoulder or back problems.
The guitar is very comfortable to play standing up or sitting down. Personally, I love the tone and ergonomics of playing this guitar.
I got mine from a local vintage-focused guitar shop. I was surprised to see it listed at just $850. I had heard about these and thought they would be collector-priced well beyond my willingness to pay, maybe something above $2000. A quick search showed that the price was pretty much in-line with what they sold for on Reverb, or maybe slightly lower. I didn’t regret buying it. It is one of my favorite guitars: collectible and a great player, but also durable enough that I wouldn’t be afraid to take it out to a gig.
There are other aluminum-necked guitars made by Kramer, of course. The DMZ line was the second wave, running from 1978 to 1981. From these pictures, you can see the first wave, as well as how the second wave changed during its production run:
You can find out more about Kramer’s aluminum-necked guitars here.
…man, I really want to choose “robots” as one of the categories for this post, but I’ll stick with accuracy and refrain.