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Aftermarket Trem Blocks: Legit or Snake-oil?

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by HonkyTonkMike, Oct 11, 2012.

  1. HonkyTonkMike

    HonkyTonkMike Strat-Talk Member

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    I know that this is one of those questions that will have a different answer for each personal experience, but what do you think about aftermarket trem blocks? I've heard some pretty outrageous claims both for and against them.

    I recently bought a 2005 American Deluxe and the only reason I ordered the aftermarket block was because the pop-in arm just falls out of the stock one. (I went with the KGC mega-mass block) While I was at it I ordered new Callaham saddles, KGC claw, and Raw Vintage springs…..not necessarily because the guitar needs them, but just because I had always wondered if there would be any difference in tone/feel.

    To be honest, even with the rickety stock trem, this Am Dlx is the best feeling and playing strat that I’ve owned—and I’ve had both vintage and modern American strats. (By ‘vintage’ I mean 70s…I can’t afford any more vintage than that) :D

    Any thoughts/opinions?

    Thanks!

    -Michael
     
  2. ntotoro

    ntotoro Strat-O-Master

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    I liken it to the difference between aluminum and pot metal tailpieces on a Les Paul: you never know until you try.

    Most of the time there's a difference of some sort. What you have to ask yourself is whether the change in tone, attack and etcetera are positives to you. Even if the tone were unchanged when I used a Callaham block, I'd still prefer his bar and the fact that the delrin bushing in the hole makes the bar more responsive in my hands (the stock bar and block have a lot of slop in that regard).

    I hear more string-to-string definition among the wound strings with the Callaham block and a little more thickness among the unwound strings.

    Nick
     
  3. HonkyTonkMike

    HonkyTonkMike Strat-Talk Member

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    Any other experiences with aftermarket trem blocks?
     
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  5. BlackFace

    BlackFace Strat-Talker

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    They can make a bit of a difference, but for the price, I think it's snake oil.
     
  6. rcole_sooner

    rcole_sooner Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Once again it is a personal thing.

    99% of listeners will not hear a difference.

    99% of players who switched trem blocks will hear a difference.

    Substitute finish, strings, pups, and about anything in place of trem blocks, and it stays the same. Still, I do it, we all do it, and it keeps things "fresh". Whatever keeps you playing.

    * - I made up those percentages, but you get the idea. :mrgreen:

    ** - And, oh, yeah, "This subject again!" :D
     
  7. nickmsmith

    nickmsmith Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

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    80% BS, is my take.
     
  8. HonkyTonkMike

    HonkyTonkMike Strat-Talk Member

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    Yeah that's pretty much my opinion as well.. and sorry for bringing this topic back up! --I've read a few threads on it but thought that since I jsut ordered one it would be cool to get some opinions and experiences.

    I'll report my findings when I get to test-drive the KGC block. I would guess that it won't make much difference....I'd just be happy if the whammy bar doesn't fall out!
     
  9. Boris Bubbanov

    Boris Bubbanov Most Honored Senior Member Strat-Talk Supporter

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    The vast majority of the parts I buy from Bill Callaham are used to build new projects.

    (Lots of) Hardware, neck plates, S jack plates, Tele knobs, hardtail bridges for Strat and Tele, special wind Fralin pickups. I also buy his hardened trem mount screws and I replace the blocks on a case by case basis to address needs of a particular Strat or G + L "S" guitar. That's a balanced, pretty wide variety of stuff and it is universally the best product of its kind you can find (other than a few custom pieces already on some bespoke guitars).

    I can't speak for some of these other vendors. I think mixing pieces parts from different vendors scrambles the brain - there's no way to know what is working at what is not.
     
  10. OLDGREYGIT

    OLDGREYGIT Senior Stratmaster

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    They do make a difference. It's up to you to decide if you like the result.
    I tried the full Callaham set up, loved the engineering, but the 'tone' was not to my taste.
    I'm now using a Bladerunner, that has a low mass aluminium block, and sounds rather pleasant to my ears.
    As usual, I think you have to try something before you let rip with an opinion.
    Otherwise you are just talking out the back of your trousers.
     
  11. SennaF1

    SennaF1 Senior Stratmaster

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    Right on, How would you describe the change of tone from zinc to aluminum ?
     
  12. BlackFace

    BlackFace Strat-Talker

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    If I had a choice between Callaham & GHS, I would go GHS because the price difference. Now with the trem arm sometimes being loose, do what Jeff Beck does. Wrap that teflon white plumbers tape around the threads of the whammy bar where it screws into the block. Screws & fits in snug as a bug. There you have it, a Jeff Beck secret!;)
     
  13. HonkyTonkMike

    HonkyTonkMike Strat-Talk Member

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    The reason I went with the brass KGC block instead of Callaham was because I could use the stock Am Dlx pop-in arm. Supposedly the KGC has an insert to keep it tight.
     
  14. toecutter

    toecutter Strat-Talk Member

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    Well, I've machined my own brass blocks, tried aftermarket stuff and...... it...depends...
    It depends on the guitar. Each guitar will sing with the right combination. Sometimes stock is perfect, other times a slight change will make all the difference and other times it will take multiple changes. Continual experimentation is key.
     
  15. GaryCorby

    GaryCorby Strat-O-Master

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    I guess it depends on the quality of what you're replacing. I swapped the light pot metal block of my guitar for a heavier steel one from Callaham and the difference was so noticeable even my wife talked about it. Definitely audible to anyone. Not necessarily a better tone, but a different one.

    With the lighter block, the notes muddied and intermingled more. With the heavier block the articulation of each string was far more precise. My wife described it as a more metallic sound.
     
  16. BlackFace

    BlackFace Strat-Talker

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    -------------------------------------------
    How much do those KGC go for$$$? The last time I visited the Callaham web site awhile ago, they were going for $100 a block. They might have dropped the price a bit.
     
  17. BlackFace

    BlackFace Strat-Talker

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    --------------------------------------------

    That's a good point. It varies and depends on the guitar. I've read reviews where people described the sound just like you did. Some liked it, others preferred the original sound.;)
     
  18. nadzab

    nadzab Senior Stratmaster Strat-Talk Supporter

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    CDN, right? I don't think they've ever been $100 USD.
     
  19. BlackFace

    BlackFace Strat-Talker

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    I can't remember exactly. I'm assuming that's US prices. Well, our dollar now is almost on par...again!:!: Someone mentioned that they are probably around $60 -$70 a block. Of course these block use cold rolled steel while GHS uses die-cast steel, something to that effect.;)
     
  20. HonkyTonkMike

    HonkyTonkMike Strat-Talk Member

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    They're around $80 to start, but I got the pop-in arm option for $15 and the 'mega mass' 5/8 in block for $10 more.
     
  21. BlackFace

    BlackFace Strat-Talker

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    Well that works out to be around $100 ($105 to be precise). Does that include the taxes & shipping. Taxes are a killer up here!
     

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