A thinking player’s “budget boutique” guitar.
What’s a high-end luthier to do during tough economic times? For many, the answer is a budget line built in Asia. But Doug Kauer of Kauer Guitars takes a different tack. While regular Kauer models can list for north of $4,000, his new brand, Titan, sells the KR1, their debut model, for a base price of $1,299—and it’s American-made.
Even more impressively, KR1 features superb workmanship, great materials, brand-name pickups, terrific tones, a nice gig bag, and—remarkably for this price range—good factory setups created with help from a Plek machine. (A Plek setup alone usually costs a couple of hundred bucks.)
KR1’s minimalist design keeps production costs low without sacrificing workmanship or material quality. The body shape is simple and easy-to-produce, yet comfy and attractive. There’s no binding, purfling, fancy position markers, or other unnecessary ornamentation. Necks connect via a 4-bolt Fender-style joint. Finishes are matte-textured monotone. The bodies have large “swimming pool” routs that can accommodate almost any pickups without modification.
E Pluribus Unum
It’s tempting to compare the KR1 to a Model T. But while Henry Ford famously told consumers they could have cars in any color as long as it was black, Titan buyers can choose from five finishes and eight pickguard designs. The options aren’t merely cosmetic. You can also choose a T-style or S-style bridge, and a two- or three-pickup layout.
Basic Seymour Duncan S-style, T-style, and P-90 pickups are included at the base price. Locking Gotoh tuners, medium-jumbo Jescar frets, Dunlop Straplok-ready buttons, Emerson pots, Switchcraft jacks, and CRL switches are all standard equipment. The online store/builder at the Titan website also offers optional paid upgrades, including pricier pickups (from Duncan, Lollar, TV Jones, Wolfetone, and Roadhouse), hardware from Bigsby and Mastery, slider switches, and premium Mono cases. Nice.
KR1s are assembled to order. Domestic delivery takes from one to four weeks, depending on your requested parts. Our review model has a Glacier Blue finish, a traditional 3-saddle Tele bridge, and a pair of nickel-covered Duncan Seth Lover PAFs. (The latter are a $75 upgrade.) While all KR1s employ the same rosewood-on-maple neck and basswood body shape, there are many possible looks. (Check out Titan’s online gallery to see some possibilities.)
Bearded Wizards With Hammers
The basswood body with its extra-large pickup cavity is extremely light, yet it balances nicely. The C-shaped neck is comfy, and the neck joint is tight. The thick rosewood fingerboard has 22 frets and a 12" radius. There are master volume and tone controls plus a T-style pickup selector switch. Two additional switches reside on the upper bout. One splits both pickups’ coils, while the other engages a notched-wah-style bandpass filter. (These switches might be configured differently for single-coil pickups, which, of course, can’t be split.)
And oh—Titan has a sense of humor: Stamped on the rear of the headstock are the words “Made in California by bearded wizards” and “In hammers we trust.” The coil-split switch is illustrated by a picture of a bisected spring, while a squawking chicken indicates the filter switch.
Light, Meet Heavy
The first time you hoist the light body with its flat, unadorned surface, it may feel like you’re strapping on a budget 1960s guitar of the Valco ilk. But as bitchin’ as those old department store axes can be, that’s not the sound you get. The fine hardware, stout neck/body joint, and quality woods yield deep, resonant tones with startling amounts of sustain (as heard in the final chord of my demo clip).
Seth Lovers have long been my favorite regular-production Duncan pickups, and they sound killer here. Like original PAFs (and unlike most other humbuckers), they aren’t potted with wax. That gives them airy, open-sounding tones with great treble animation and cool upper-mid resonances. Clean sounds are crisp and authoritative. Heavy tones are rich and textured, with more low-end power than you’d probably expect from such a light guitar.
There’s terrific tonal range: everything from suave jazz sounds to gnarly trash-rock. Intonation is excellent. The near-vertical cutaway is a gateway to the topmost frets. The Plek setup provides low, fast action in all positions. On all fronts, KR1’s playability is remarkable for the price.
Splitting and Clucking
Naturally, different types of humbuckers produce different split-coil sounds. (Seth Lovers provide especially attractive Fender-like split sounds.) But KR1 will probably sound awesome with Lollar Gold Foils, TV Jones Filter’Trons, or any other cool pickups you choose to install.
The filter switch is an unusual extra. The edgy resonance of the overdriven bridge pickup has a decidedly Mick Ronson-esque character. On the neck pickup, the filter cutoff is a little too low-pitched for my taste, but it would only take a few cents and a few minutes to solder in a different capacitor. If fact, such easy user mods are one of Titan’s most appealing traits. I predict that many players will use KR1 as a starting point for wild and woolly guitar hacks.
I’m not sure which I admire most: KR1, or the attitude behind it. Kauer and crew have truly delivered high quality at a modest price thanks to ingenious design, bling avoidance, and a build-to-order business model that can still accommodate personal taste. This retro-style PAF model with Tele-style switching and coil splitting is right up my alley. You may hang out in very different alleys, but chances are you can configure a KR1 to suit your style. Man, I dig this great-sounding, ultra-playable axe and its clean, minimal look.
Watch the Review Demo:
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Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.