Written Sept. 2023
Bladerunner Gold Relic
Modern Tremolo units
A fine selection of more modern style tremolos. Some of these are more re-engineered from the vintage tremolo´s, offering better, smoother action, better tuning stabilities and other technical improvements like arm mounting systems.
6-Screw and 2-Point are presented
The Hipshot company has been around since 1982. Their tremolo´s are easily recognized for their oval saddles. They are the go-to for 7, 8 and 9 strings as well as well as their tuners.
Overall, its a design bridge with little to offer on the 6-Screw, Once used to be offered with oval saddles. now standard block saddles. The 2-point is more pat-pending oriented, with two studs to offer stability. Price around $180 and offered in Black, Chrome and Gold.
The Vega tremolo is a very minimal and sleek but defiantly the most flexible of them. Its small size contains it within the borders of the tremolo route itself which means it can not be decked. It can be flexed both ways to the more extreme. It features a skeleton block which helps make it more flexible. You can get this for 2-point or 6-screw. Although the 6 Screw only features 4 Screws. The saddles reminds slightly of Hipshots. It also leaves a slight gap at the back in the tremolo route due to its size.
Many people love this tremolo, but it is a costly affair at $300 to get it. Features in chrome, black and Gold, and they make em also for lefty´s.. They also made a Telecaster tremolo recently.
The bladerunner is a very nice tremolo that keeps the look of a usual Fender units. I usually see it as the bigger brother of the Vega for some reason, although they are two different companies. Its system is such that it is installed into a blade that it pivots on. So no friction to speak off. Creating a nice smooth operation. Other than that its the same basic block and saddles that can be changed out for any other desirable ones. Featured in Chrome, Black and gold. They also have Relic versions and has shown love for lefty payers too. Also for Squiers they offer Shorty blocks versions. The Super Vee Goes for around $180. They do offer a $500 dollar locking unit that Floyds your tremolo too.
Babicz are more known for their unusuall acoustics and their "Spider" patent. But they make high-end tremolo´s too. Their FCH looks futuristic and they are building on the PRS / John Mann system of fenced saddles. Most noteworthy is their eCAM saddles that raise and lowers action with one screw. This also makes the tremolo quite tall in size. They do offer a classic vintage style with their saddles.
$150 for the vintage style and $250 for the modern version. Comes in gold, chrome, nickel and black and covers any mount type and spacing and shows love for Lefty´s too.
The John Mann bridges is the original offspring of the Fenced Tremolo system. By that i mean the saddles are enclosed not to move around because it has a "fence of metal" around it.
John Mann is the inventor of these, and a good friend of Paul Reed Smith of PRS, and it was for his guitars he designed these.
To me, they are just that. A standard 6-screw classic trem with a "fence of metal" around the saddles. Nothing in terms of locking or fancy patented systems to find. They are stable tremolo´s though and since invention, has offered this to all styles of guitars. Although he has retained the punch hole saddles to be a PRS featured product. All others trem models features Block saddles. All his models retails for $250 no matter model
Wilkinson has many bridges to select from. Their most famous one is the VS100 bridge which i myself once owned. But they offer a great deal of models to choose from.
Now these must not be mistaken from the cheap asian bridges you see for $30. The products from their WilkinsonDirect site is a whole different class and price level and are better machined.
Wilkinson licenses other factories too, and they do have long collaboration with Gotoh to make their bridges as well. These are simply labeled "Wilkinson by Gotoh" stamped on their bridges. These are all good stuff. Stable and well machined bridges.
They actually call these their "Vintage line". But with block saddles and screw-on arms i refuse to say that it is. Block saddles are marvelous with. rollerball on it for smoother action. A well machined tremolo.
Schaller are more focused on Floy Rose units which they sell more off but these units are great bridges. One cool thing they offer is length on their blocks. Which is unusual. If you struggle with intonation, changing the block length can help.
They offer nothing for 6-screws but offer up to 5 different finishes on these.
Price is $160 which i believe are OK for what you get.
There are a few select budget bridges out in the internet. All Asian made. Click on the photo slide to reveal a few. Qualitywise, don´t expect the best. Sloppy tollerance threading and such
There are many more unnamed tremolo´s on Ebay and other asian markets. But these are the dominating economy brands. Usually fitted on cheap guitars, Squiers or kit builds.
String Spacing Info
Tremolo spacing measurement can be very confusing at first. But it is actually quite easy once you get your head around it. In Fenders own eco system, there are three common spacings for the mounting holes and saddle width: Vintage, Mexico and Japan. If you fiddle with asian knockoff guitars, i really cant help you. The specs on tremolo´s can be all over the place on those.
Distance is measured from the outermost mount/ screw holes (See drawing Below)
MEASUREMENT IS AS FOLLOWS:
We roughly name them 52, 54 and 56mm to distinguish them more easy. Japan Strats can often use USA specs but mostly use their own 2-1/8 spacing. Please measure your MIJ before buy.
On the American continent, bridges comes in 3 models.:
Vintage Bridges are mostly featured on reissue models and Custom shops.
Vintage Narrow bridges have become the norm with Fender these days on new models.
Mexican Narrow came on early MIMs but have not been used since 2017.
You can easily rough-measure with a regular ruler to determine what bridge you have. You either land on 52mm, 54mm or 56mm.
Remember, as long as your guitar body is drilled for Vintage 56mm (2 7-32) spacing, you can fit either a Vintage Bridge or a Vintage Narrow bridge.
If you already have a vintage bridge and are annoyed by strings slipping off the frets on outer E-strings, you may consider installing a Vintage Narrow bridge.
You can also visit my Tech spec sheet where many Fender models are listed with spacing specs.
Toneshapers has an excellent description and illustration of the US bridges.