Framus guitars have come a long way since their sixties heyday. Founded in 1946, achieved great heights through the years, but failing to market their product properly to gain more customers forced the company to bankruptcy in 1975. In 1995, Framus guitars were revived by Warwick, however are much different than the originals; centering on modern designs that are perfectly made — in small numbers — with some of the highest technology machines and fixtures used by any top guitar builder.
The Panthera Legacy symbolizes both quality and style. The guitar is crafted from solid mahogany, carved top with a mahogany set-neck, and in its very well applied satin Burgundy Red oil finish looks extremely workmanlike, reflecting loosely its ‘blue-collar’ Telecaster-inspired outline.
The Panthera Legacy guitar has a 24.75-inch set-neck design; the body top is smoothly graduated and carved, the rear has a shallow rib contour and overall body depth is 44mm. The mahogany neck is neatly fitted to the body, the heel nicely shaped and offset, making top fret access easy. Modern Framus necks exude playability – the medium gauge frets are superbly polished and fettled (Framus guitars uses the Plek set-up system). In profile we have what feels like quite a skinny, shallow ‘C’ (19.5mm at the first fret, 22mm thick at the 12th) — if you’re a fan of big necks, you won’t find one here.
Playability, however, is impeccable as is the entire construction: beautifully detailed and up there with the absolute best. The top-drawer vibe is continued by the Bigsby chrome vibrato with Framus roller bridge hardware, Graphtech black Tusq low friction nut, Seymour Duncan covered ‘buckers — APH-1N Alnico II Pro (neck), SH-PG1B Pearly Gates (bridge), beautiful domed, knurled metal knobs matched by a chromed metal-tipped pickup selector, and included Warwick security strap locks (not to mention a “user kit” and top quality Warwick “Premium Line Plus” RockBag).
The jack socket is firmly mounted on a chromed metal plate – just how we like ’em; stage worthy and easy to maintain if needed – and even the cover of the rear control cavity is neat. It’s a precision molded plastic plate, with two small push clips all you need to remove it.
How does it sound?
This Panthera’s rich acoustic ring underpins its clean sounds, which are perfect for chiming chord thrangs and picked arpeggios. The balanced tone – nice bass but not Les Paul huge, with punchy, very Gibson growling mids and bright but slightly rounded highs – also works very well with more effected, modulated sounds.
There’s plenty of woody chop to the cleaner tones; pull the volume down, engage both pickups and pull up the coil-split switch (which voices the screw coils only) and you’re in Fender land.
The split bridge pickup is country sharp, but with a little gain gets quite punky; the neck single-coil is sweet but articulate. There are some very good sounds here.
With a dirtier amp, the Panthera turns into a taut, punchy dirty riff machine with the Pearly Gates bridge pickup, while the neck pickup is, by comparison, a little underpowered. This does create more vocal depth for bluesier outings, however. Lightweight, comfortable, responsive and a great guitarist — this one will cover a lot of musical sounds.
This is a very fine guitar, no question. Ballsy, excellent for no-nonsense classic to modern rock but also cleaner, ringier voices, older blues and jazz tones too. It’s well balanced, lightweight, resonant and, we’ll say it again, absolutely beautifully made.
Our dilemma is simply the price, not helped by the current economy. On paper it appears steep for what many will see as a “Plain Jane” utility equipped with a Bigsby vibrato guitar — that’s pitched against some of the finest and most established guitar brands in the world.
In reality, compared to other high-end brands it’s not silly and, if you simply appreciate great guitar craft, you should really investigate the Framus Panthera Legacy. What’s that saying? You get what you pay for?