This is a slightly tongue-in-cheek review of one my Kawai guitars.
The KS11XL model was pretty much top-of-the-Kawai-range back in the late 70s/early 80s. Kawai had evolved from putting their brandname on a variety of fairly cheap, multi-pickup, multi-switched bolt-on neck models in the previous decade, and I've always thought of the KS range as their attempt to emulate the Yamaha SG range that had recently become pretty popular.
Having had a couple of the Yamaha SGs, I can definitely confirm that the quality and construction is up there with the SG1000/SG2000, the sound is similar, and so's the weight.
Where it came from
I bought this one from a s/h shop in Carlisle sometime in the mid 2000s. I'd found it via an email through the KawaiGuitars website from someone who was aware of my search, and had seen it in the shop. IIRC, I paid £300/£350.
Why I bought it
I bought my original Kawai - KS12XL - back in 1979/80 from Tim Gentle music in Southend. I had to choose between the KS12 & KS11 models. I chose the KS12 because it had an extra mini-toggle (a phase switch), and as "12" was higher than "11", it must have been the better model, right? But I always wondered what the KS11 would have been like, so I set out to try and find one. It took a good few years, and I was diverted by a few other Kawai models before I found this one, but eventually the search was successfully and I snagged this - a natural finish KS11XL. I remember being fairly pleased that day.
Construction & Components
This follows the classic rock guitar pattern of;
- a 2 piece mahogany body
- a 2 piece maple top with a fairly plain grain pattern
- a 3 piece set-neck, with the KS range's defining design feature - the open headstock
- originally these were fitted with a pair of Mighty Mite distortion HBs, based on the DiMarzio Super Distortions of the era
- 2 vols, 2 tones, a 3-way selector switch and a mini-toggle coil split.
Pros & Cons
Noting my admitted bias, I'll try to be objective;
+ these are quality instruments, properly made with decent materials and have really stood the test of time
+ the maple top adds a bit of grain interest without being bling - I prefer this model to the flat-top/non-capped KS12XL.
+ the neck is straight and true, and is comfortable to my hand (I don't like the half-baseball styles) without being skinny
+ it sounds as you'd expect with a couple of high power HBs in a mahogany/maple body
- it's on the heavy side, mine is around 9lbs, so easily in the LP territory (but if you want a big sound ...)
- finding them is a challenge, they were never commonplace but nowadays they're just rarer than a rare thing
When I bought it, the original p'ups had been swapped out and the bridge saddles were too worn to do their jobs. I've fitted it with a new Badass-style replacement bridge, and a set of PRS Dragon II p'ups. Apart from that, it's needed no work. The frets are still in good order, and look to be original, and whilst the bodywork has a few scratches & dings on it, it's in pretty smart condition for a 35yo guitar, and there's certainly no structural problems with it.
Would I sell it?
You don't have enough money.