In this Kramer Baretta review, I’ll tell you why this guitar, which helped define the sound of 80’s Rock n’ Roll, is still a popular choice among beginning and professional guitar players.
Are you looking for a guitar that is easy to play with fast action and comes in a variety of stunning graphic finishes? Then, check out my favorite Baretta models, one of which could very well be your dream guitar.
Keep on reading to learn more!
What Are Kramer Baretta Guitars?
If you were around during the 1980s and played rock guitar or liked rock music videos, then chances are you are familiar with the Kramer Baretta.
It was introduced in 1983 by Gary Kramer and made famous by Eddie Van Halen. Eddie developed his signature prototype in the form of his “FrankenStrat” guitar that had a “banana headstock” and a single “reverse zebra” diagonal bridge pickup wired directly to a volume control.
Baretta guitars also featured the Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo system, which allowed the guitar to stay in tune, even after ultra-aggressive whammy bar antics and dive-bombs.
The Baretta disappeared when Kramer went bankrupt but was brought back as a reissue guitar in the 199s when Gibson bought the company.
Who Is The Kramer Baretta For?
One of my first 80s shred guitars was an ESP George Lynch Kamikaze graphic guitar. ESP (Electric Sound Products) began making guitar necks and bodies for Kramer in the 80s.
I remember plugging it into a Marshall JCM 800 50 Watt half-stack and worshiping the sound. It wasn’t long before I got myself a Kramer Baretta, which played just as well, if not better, than the ESP.
The Kramer Barreta is for the player who wants a no-nonsense guitar designed to deliver quintessential rock and metal tones. The Baretta has a unique look and sound that will make you stand out in the band and take your playing to the next level.
This guitar has been a favorite of players like Eddie Van Halen, Neil Schon, and Richie Sambora.
If you’re looking for a stripped-down high-performance shred machine, then the Baretta is for you!
What I like About Kramer Barettas
Here are some of the things I think are worth mentioning about Kramer Baretta guitars.
Looks That Kill
These guitars have that iconic “80s big-hair band” look that just screams “shred-time!” The body style and banana/hockey-stick headstock perfectly compliment each other.
A Baretta hanging on the wall of a guitar store will pop out, even if it is among 100 other guitars, and you will probably end up taking it down to give it a test drive.
If you have ever played a Baretta, then you know how fast and fun the neck is. It’s a guitar that changes the way you play and makes you want to plug in, crank your amp to 11, and tap out Van Halen’s”Eruption.”
Baretta’s with double locking tremolos all have excellent tuning stability. They are made for whammy abuse, and you can’t put them out of tune, no matter what you do.
One-Pickup, No-Nonsense Wiring
The Baretta has a single humbucker wired directly to the master volume, with no tone control or pickup selector switch. This configuration gives you maximum signal output, just the way Eddie liked it, and the results speak for themselves!
There’s A Baretta For Everyone
Here are some of my favorite Kramer Baretta guitars in three price ranges that make them affordable for any guitar player. Their budget to mid-level pricing makes them a great starting instrument for rock and metal players.
Kramer Baretta Special
The Kramer Baretta Special is an entry-level guitar for the beginner or guitar player on a budget. This guitar is part of Kramer’s “Original Collection.”
Don’t let the price fool you. It is every bit a Baretta as their higher-end models.
It has high-quality hardware with deluxe die-cast 14:1 ratio tuners and a Kramer Traditional non-locking tremolo with a plastic nut.
A high-powered open-coil “zebra” humbucker with Alnico V magnets wired to a master volume control give it the classic Baretta sound and attitude. It does not have a push/pull coil tap switch on the master volume.
The Baretta Special comes with a 12-inch radius bolt-on maple neck and 22 medium-jumbo frets.
The mahogany body and maple neck combination give the guitar a balanced sound.
Colors: Candy Blue, Ruby Red, and Purple
Street Price: $180 – $200
This is an excellent choice for the money. If you want a guitar that really rocks and will stay in tune with mild to moderate whammy bar use, then check out the Baretta Special.
Kramer Baretta Vintage
The Baretta Vintage is part of the “Kramer Original Collection.” This model is Kramer’s attempt at recreating a modern guitar take on their original Baretta design.
It has a maple neck and body for a brighter tone and increased sustain.
The 14-inch radius fingerboard and 22 medium-jumbo frets make it play like “grease-lightning.”
True to the vintage spec, a slanted Zebra Seymour Duncan JB bridge pickup pumps out “high-voltage” rock n’ roll. This is the pickup that started the 80’s shredding sound. It has the perfect balance of harmonics and distortion.
The Vintage has a Push/Pull Coil Tap Switch on the master volume control for single-coil sound.
It features a “shred-approved industry-standard” Floyd Rose 1000 Series double-locking tremolo to stay in tune, even under extreme whammy bar abuse.
Colors: Pewter Gray and Ruby Red
Street Price: $700
The Baretta Vintage is a mid-price guitar that gets you that original 80s Baretta sound and feel. The high-performance whammy setup is just made to dive-bomb, squeal, flutter, and shriek.
Kramer Baretta Custom Graphics Collection
The Custom Graphics Collection contains some of Kramer’s nicest-looking guitars!
They have an alder body and a maple neck with 22 jumbo frets. The neck shapes, fingerboard radiuses, and headstocks can vary slightly on each of the six models.
The collection features a single slanted Seymour Duncan JB zebra-coil pickup. In addition, the guitars in this series come with a Push/Pull Series/Parallel Switch on the master volume, which gives them two unique double-coil sounds.
The Floyd Rose 1000 series tremolo has an R2 1000 series locking nut. These guitars also come equipped with an EVH D-Tuna and a Floyd Rose LRT-L40 Trem Stop.
A premium gig bag is included.
Street Price: $1,000
Here are all six models in the Kramer Custom Graphics Collection.
If you don’t mind spending the extra money, the Custom Graphics Collection guitars look amazing. They play great, and the D-Tuna & Trem Stop are included. You won’t ever want to put this guitar down!
What You Might Not Like About Baretta Guitars
I am a big Baretta fan, although there are a few things you might want to consider. Still, you basically get what you pay for with these guitars.
Limited Tonal Options
The Baretta’s are made to rock, but they don’t come with a ton of bells and whistles. They are not designed to dial in a wide variety of sounds.
so, if you are a “tone-control tweaker” and like to switch between two or three pickups while you play, this might not be the guitar for you, or you might want to consider it as a second instrument.
Gig Bag Not Included?
The Custom Graphic Collection models come with a deluxe gig bag, but you could be on your own with the Baretta Special and Vintage models. Some dealers will throw in a gig bag if you negotiate that into the deal.
I think all guitars should come with some type of case or gig bag, even the lower-cost models.
The Baretta Special has a non-locking tremolo. At the price of this guitar, you shouldn’t expect it to come with a double-locking system. However, if you are not an aggressive whammy bar user, this tremolo should work well for you.
If you love dive-bombing, then the PVC nut on the Baretta Special will probably give you some tuning issues, but you can lubricate it or change it to a graphite nut. It’s a great beginner’s guitar, no matter how you look at it.
For more info, see How To Keep An Electric Guitar In Tune.
Are Kramer Baretta Guitars Legit?
No matter what Baretta guitar you purchase, you get what you pay for and then some. These guitars all really rock and have a unique sound all their own.
Baretta’s are well-respected by shred guitarists worldwide, but they are also a good choice for classic rock and blues.
If you have been thinking about grabbing one, then go for it!
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the questions that people ask about Kramer Baretta guitars.
Where Are Kramer Baretta guitars made?
The various parts for the current reissue series of the Kramer Baretta are made overseas, typically in Eastern Asia, and then assembled in the USA.
Who Plays Kramer Baretta?
Most people that like the Baretta will cite Eddie Van Halen, who made his “FrankenStrat” prototype guitar from Kramer parts. Neil Schon and Richie Sambora also used Baretta guitars.
How Much Does A Kramer Baretta Weigh?
The average Baretta weighs between 7.5 and 8.5 pounds.
Are Kramer Guitars Good For Beginners?
The Kramer Baretta is an excellent guitar for beginners that want to learn rock and metal playing styles. They have the look, playability, and sound that will get you where you want to go.
Baretta models with Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo systems stay in tune, even with aggressive whammy bar use.
The Baretta Special is an excellent choice for new learners on a budget.
When Did Gibson Acquire Kramer?
The original Kramer company went out of business in 1991. Gibson bought Kramer out of bankruptcy in the late 1980s, with an acquirement transition period from 1987 to 1997.
Final Thoughts About The Kramer Baretta Review
The Kramer Baretta guitar is an excellent choice for rock and metal players. They have an aggressive look that screams “play me fast and loud” and come with eye-popping graphics.
The Baretta Special, Vintage, and Custom Graphics Collection guitars are all excellent choices for budget to mid-priced buyers.
If guitar flash is your forte and you are looking for a “Strat on steroids,” then the Baretta is an excellent contender.
The double-locking Floyd Rose tremolo system models make them “whammy abuse” friendly, and the simplicity of a single humbucking pickup wired directly to a volume control gives you unmatched power and tone.
For more info about Kramer guitars, see Van Halen Live Without A Net DVD Review – Mind Blowing! and Super Strat Guitars – Turn Your Strat Into A Shred Machine!
Tell Me What You Think
Please leave a comment below if you enjoyed this Kramer Baretta Review, have any questions about this product, or want to leave your review. I will be happy to help you.
- Do you own a Kramer Baretta or have you ever played one? What did you think?
- What do you like best about the Baretta guitar? The least?
- Who is your favorite Baretta guitar player?
- Do you have any of the original vintage Kramer guitars?
- Would you be interested in a more in-depth Kramer Baretta Special review?