I was getting frustrated with my 2005 MiJ RG2570EX Prestige. For 11 years, it's never felt "right" for me, and we never really clicked, so I was idly looking at options. While researching (OK, fantasizing about) my dream guitar, the Jackson USA Soloist (out of reach for my budget, commitment and skill level), I kept seeing people mention the Kramer Stagemaster. I knew Kramer from the '80s, and thought of them as a sort of mid-level brand. But people spoke so glowingly of the flagship Stagemaster - repeatedly saying they were as good as or better than USA Soloists - that I was intrigued. Come to find Gibson had bought the Kramer name and was building sporadic tributes to classic Kramer models, including the Stagemaster, alongside Epiphones in Korea. The SM-1 isn't a replica; it's a bit heavier, the top isn't as contoured, the neck is chunkier, and of course the electronics are updated, but it's a neck-through, 24-fret superstrat, H-S-S (Seymours or EMG), Original Floyd (albeit Korean, not Schaller), with a coil-tap switch and a couple other tricks; in short, every single thing I was looking for. But more importantly, people were saying the new Korean models lived up to the quality of the (also Asian-made) late-'80s Stagemasters, and still compared favorably to USA Soloists, and that the MSRP made them a stone-cold bargain. I was just about to pop for one at full retail when Sam Ash came through with a mint-condition demo at a steep discount - black with EMGs - and I took the plunge. With all those very positive reviews, I expected a lot, but this SM-1 goes way beyond even my lofty hopes. I've never owned a USA Soloist, but I've played them, and yeah. This is in that league. It's incredibly responsive. Playing this guitar back-to-back with my RG is like driving a Porsche Boxster back-to-back with a Camry. It's accurate, quick and eager, and next to it the Ibanez feels sluggish and stubborn. Anything I try, the SM-1 just does. Tricky multi-string bend? No problem. Long sustained note, any fret, any tone? As long as you want. Flagrant whammy abuse? Go for it - the tuning is unshakable. Classic Clapton or Knopfler Strat tones? Nailed. Warm, smoky jazz chords? Awwwww, yeah. And full-on Metal crunch? Holy expletiving expletive. Brutal gain, menacing voicing, yet articulate and nuanced even at near-max saturation (Laney Ironheart 1X12 combo, with the boost at 9 and the gain at 8+). It's intoxicating and addictive. This guitar just does everything asked of it. I say jump, it doesn't quibble about how high; it just takes off. It's giving me confidence I've never had in 33 years of playing. It's making me a better player, like it's determined to make me worthy of it. I can't keep it out of my hands. It's only been a couple weeks, but I know I will keep this guitar forever.