Solid steel trem block in maple body "Strat"

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by kiwi blue, Nov 15, 2019.

  1. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,645
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    Hiya.

    Posting here because Stratty folk know a thing or two about trem bridges.

    I have a Westone Spectrum, a Matsumoko guitar from the 80s. Is it a Strat? Kind of. But not really. It's HH configuration, with maple body and neck and a 2 point trem bridge that's based on the Fender Strat bridge but again different.

    The neck is wonderful. I like the bridge bucker and I've upgraded the neck pickup to a rod magnet P90 style in HB size. Overall the sound is good but on the thin side with a high end brittleness that's hard to get rid of. This is also clearly audible in the unplugged sound. On the positive side the guitar sounds very clear, and the bass notes are tight and also super clear. This lends itself to fingerpicking and jangly sounds.

    Pretty sure the maple body is mainly responsible for this, but the trem block is a puny zinc block.

    Today I bought a Hipshot 6 point trem bridge in a close out sale. I'm thinking a solid steel bridge might help give the guitar a more balanced sound, but also there's no getting away from all that maple.

    What do you guys think? I can still change my mind and use the Hipshot in another guitar.
     
    Greggorios likes this.
  2. mkdaws32

    mkdaws32 Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Age:
    50
    Posts:
    500
    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2019
    Location:
    Moncton, NB Canada
    I know compared to brass, steel is brighter - I don’t know about zinc. I would think the saddles would make a larger difference on tone than the block itself - but it’s just a guess. Chrome covered brass saddles on the existing bridge might warm it up some.
     
    Greggorios likes this.
  3. tele12

    tele12 Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    4,487
    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2006
    Location:
    NY
    I always put a steel block in. All of the Pre-CBS Strats had a steel block, CBS changed to zinc, and all the cheap Strat copies come with a small zinc block.

    Will it get rid of the brightness? I haven't noticed drastic changes in the tonal balance when I have changed block.
    What I have heard is greater sustain and clarity and note separation.

    So I don't know if this ccx will give you what you want, but I would have to try.
    I have read brass mellows the tone out but haven't tried a brass block.
     
    Greggorios and Dismalhead like this.
  4. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    8,018
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2014
    Location:
    Lions & Tigers oh Mi !
    .

    Tip the pickup E vs e side.
    Lower both pickups to the trim rings, raise the bridge until volume parity with the neck.

    Swap pots & caps.

    It's not the block.

    .
     
    8trackmind and Greggorios like this.
  5. Dismalhead

    Dismalhead Poster Extraordinaire

    Age:
    56
    Posts:
    6,418
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2014
    Location:
    Sacramento, California
    I've made a couple of lightweight Strats and put a steel block in one and a brass block in the other. Main reason was to balance the weight in the guitars, but I do think a heavy block helps 'cause both really sing. It's a cheap upgrade too.
     
    tele12 and Greggorios like this.
  6. tfarny

    tfarny Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    3,050
    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2008
    Location:
    Hudson Valley, NY
    IF the tonal balance changes at all, I'd predict the steel block will make it brighter if anything. Adjust your pickup heights first, then explore brass saddles.

    I am always curious, though - you are happy with the sound of the pickups, but unhappy with the sound of the guitar? How does that work?
     
    Dismalhead and Greggorios like this.
  7. Mahogany

    Mahogany TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    94
    Joined:
    Feb 13, 2008
    Location:
    XYZ
    Some of it is.

    Try one made of pre-WWI Bessemer cast steel.
    Or pre-atomic steel if you cannot get the above.
     
    Greggorios likes this.
  8. schmee

    schmee Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    7,825
    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2003
    Location:
    northwest
    I think you were right; ".....but also there's no getting away from all that maple."
     
    Greggorios likes this.
  9. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

    Posts:
    8,991
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2013
    Location:
    Horn Lake, MS
    Steel blocks have always made my Strat types brighter, makes the harmonics more noticeable. So I would be going with a brass block or Aluminum barrel saddles if you can find them.
     
    Greggorios likes this.
  10. skradlee

    skradlee TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    51
    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2010
    Location:
    tempe
    I like brass blocks and saddles on my strats, but that is just my preference.
     
    Greggorios likes this.
  11. L.A. Mike

    L.A. Mike Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,144
    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2014
    Location:
    somewhere over a rainbow (Ex-L.A. resident)
    I'd make sure it has 500K pots and .022uf caps (tone control).
    Make sure it doesn't have a treble roll off cap on the volume pot.
    Make sure it's been wired correctly. Since it's from the 80s, people have most likely been in there.
    Check the pickup output with a volt ohm meter.
    Make sure the bridge pickup isn't too close to the strings. Since it's a bucker it doesn't need to be and if it is too close, lower it.

    Finally maple bodies are bright buy nature. That's why Gibson puts a maple cap on top of the mahogany bodied Les Pauls. Mahogany by itself can be a little dark sounding. That's why some Gibsons have 300k pots on solid mahogany bodied guitars.
     
    Zepfan and Greggorios like this.
  12. lost sailor

    lost sailor TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    40
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Location:
    No. Central PA
    +1 on pots and caps
     
    Greggorios likes this.
  13. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,645
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    Thanks for all the thoughtful feedback.

    I should have mentioned that the guitar is left handed, which restricts some options (eg, a brass block).

    What I'm hearing is in the acoustic sound as well as plugged in. Some recent experiences with other guitars have led me to believe it's best to start by getting the guitar vibrating and resonating at its best before moving on to pickups and electronics.

    I don't have a problem with the guitar being bright. It's just there's a brittleness to the very high end that I want to tame, and also a sort of mildly scooped sound. If I can change that brittleness to chime and have a bit more body to the sound the guitar will go to the next level. The only thing left that I can do with regards to its acoustic sound is to do with the bridge.

    Just this morning I've spotted an alder Aria Pro II body (with no neck, electronics or hardware) that's also Matsumoko made and should fit my Westone neck. I now have this mad idea of buying that body and moving everything over to it.
     
  14. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,645
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    Pulled the bridge off today and noticed the block was painted black and where some paint had rubbed off it looked like brass underneath. It’s also non-magnetic which supports that. The bridge weighs 5 grams more than the Hipshot bridge. Can’t see any point replacing it now so back in it went.
     
  15. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,645
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    Now I have the guitar sounding much better. Decked the trem with 4 springs screwed in tight. I also experimented with damping the springs with paper towels. Both of these changed the sound surprisingly. I settled damping 2 springs and letting the other 2 ring.

    The guitar is still bright and clear sounding but that annoying brittleness has gone. I now think it was at least partly coming from the springs.

    The Manlius rod magnet p90 in the neck is loud and clear and dynamic. Great pickup.
     
    Zepfan likes this.
  16. richbike

    richbike TDPRI Member

    Posts:
    50
    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2009
    Location:
    Brighton
    Ive got a spectrum st. Upgraded to a Wilkinson trem then upgraded the sintered steel block to a machined one.

    I think it's worth it but I like a bright chimey sound.

    Pups are custom made FWRH sort of copies wired in parallel.

    Controls a work in progress and hipshot staggered lockers literally ordered today.
     
  17. warrent

    warrent Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,942
    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Location:
    toronto
    And how does a few radionuclides added to the steel affect the sound?
     
  18. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's

    Posts:
    2,959
    Joined:
    May 21, 2006
    Location:
    Space
    Not sure if I missed this somewhere in the thread, but have you experimented with the trem cavity cover on vs. off? It may sound silly, but it may cure your "springs ringing too much" problem without need to resort to shoving paper towel in there (which will break down over time and create a mess, necessitating clean-up and replacement periodically).
     
  19. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,645
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    I haven't tried that, but the cover has been off the whole time. I did read recently where some people believe the cover creates a kind of reverb effect. I'll have to see if I can find the cover and experiment.

    The paper towels were just for proof of concept. I'll certainly replace them with something less perishable.
     
  20. MrGibbly

    MrGibbly Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,378
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2014
    Location:
    SATX
    I cut long thin square strips of that gray cushioning foam some products are packed in and pull it inside each of my trem springs. You want to make sure it is something that won’t cause the springs to bind if you use your trem.
     
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.


  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.