Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #109766  by joeriz
 Mon Feb 20, 2012 3:20 pm
Hi all,

I'm wondering if any one here has experience and/or opinions on different types of tremolo blocks for Strats (or other guitars for that matter). People make all sorts of claims for different materials (steel, brass, zinc, titanium) and types (shallow counterbore vs. deep, full-size vs. small) and I was curious so I thought I'd give something new a try and share my experience here.

I have an MIJ '67 reissue that I've had since I purchased it new in the late '80's. The block that came with the guitar is full-sized and I'm assuming that it's either run-of-the-mill steel or perhaps zinc. It also has deep counterbores for the strings as do most blocks these days. What this means is that the ball ends of the strings slide up far in to the block. My understanding is that vintage blocks tended to have shallow counterbores such that the ball ends of the strings sit right at the bottom of the block (i.e. you can see, and even sort of touch, the end of the string when the guitar is strung up and tuned).

So, I bought one of the much-loved Callaham blocks for my Strat. Let me say that the Callaham block is obviously a quality piece of machining. It is made from cold-rolled steel and is well 'finished' for a hunk of metal. The top surface of the block - the end to which the bridge mounts - is polished to a near-mirror finish. This supposedly allows for better vibration transfer between the block and the bridge. It also has the 'vintage' shallow counterbores.

Based on my experience I have to say that I didn't really notice much, if any, difference in tone. Moreover, I didn't really like what it did for the way my guitar plays. I think this had to do with the shallow counterbores for the strings. The guitar did not feel as 'slinky' (for lack of a better term) as it did with the stock block. I'm going to guess that this has something to do with the effective string length: the string is now essentially 'longer' and takes more tension to tune to pitch. Does that sound right? A lot of folks seem to claim that the vintage shallow counterbores are 'better'. All I can say is that I didn't care for it and that this probably has more to do with what I'm used to than anything else.

In the end I wound up taking out the Callaham block and putting the stock one back in. Maybe I will return it, maybe I'll keep it and try it again in the future. In any case, my opinion right now is that the material from which the block is made doesn't make a whole lot of least on this particular guitar. But where I really did feel like I experienced a difference was with the change in how far into the block the ball end of the string goes. I did not care for the subtle change in how my guitar played with the shallow counterbore. That is, I think I prefer (am used to?) the feel of the guitar with a block that allows the ball end of the string to slide into the block.

Anyway, that's my experience. Anyone else?

 #109767  by paulinnc
 Mon Feb 20, 2012 3:45 pm
That's interesting. When I put together my strat I went with a vintage style steel tremolo, however the string holes were drilled very deep so I didn't have the ends near the bottom. ... blocks.htm I got the American Vintage Steel block. I think that is probably what you are looking for, as far as tone goes I noticed the sustain was better and the guitar was actually louder too. I think because of the density of the metal allowing more vibration to transfer. Try one out, I think they are nice.