A prospective customer of ours recently asked about what sort of a setup would be done on his new Freya guitar, and asked some questions about floating vs non-floating tremolo systems.
Here is my answer, hopefully you might find it interesting…..
The setup does include taking sharp edges off the ends of the frets, fret polishing, truss rod and intonation as well as new strings (we have most Ernie Ball gauges in stock, you can have your preference).
Ah, tremolo…….. hard to give a very definite answer to the question of tuning stability. On the Strat style guitars the tremolo was only ever designed to go down a little, and up even less, and the original design called for the bridge to lay flat on the body (for tuning stability). However, over the years, and because of certain musicians wanting to go beyond the boundaries (a certain Mr. Hendrix comes to mind here) this changed and the Strat trems were made to “float”. They do this pretty well, and tuning stability is fairly good, but all Strat trems do drift a little if you’re going for dive bombs and big “pull ups”. I’m talking all strats here, now, not just Freya’s. For best tuning stability, I find putting 5 springs in and setting the tension to suit is best. I find my own Freya strat is stable, but I’m not going for huge bends.
The Floating Tremolo systems are a different matter. For starters, the locking nut clamps the strings and removes the issue of the strings sticking in the nut slots. The tremolo floats on a knife edge, and comes back to equilibrium much better than the Strat. Also the ball end of the string is eliminated, something that causes problems on strats. If you dive bomb a strat the ball ends may come away from where they rest and there’s no guarantee they’ll go back into the same position. Fender partially solved this problem with their bullet-ended strings, but not entirely.
The floating trem is a big improvement, much less drift, but you’ll see most guitarists who are using the trem are plugged into a tuner all the time. There are several reasons for this, the two biggest being the elasticity and memory of both the strings and the wood of the body and neck of the guitar. You remember that you’re always cautioned against taking ALL of the strings off your guitar at the same time? This is because it upsets the tension of the guitar and it may take a while to settle back down again. Same thing happens when you dive bomb a tremolo so that the strings get as loose as cooked spaghetti. Yes, you see some guys doing it, but only at the end of a solo that’s at the end of a song. Between songs, you’ve guessed it, they’re tuning….. Not by much usually, and certainly nowhere near what a Strat would require. Again, this applies to ALL floating tremolo guitars, from the €2500 Ibanez on down. I’ve had chaps come in here to me almost crying because they’ve spent a fortune on an Ibanez and were told at the shop they bought it from that “it’ll stay in tune no matter what you do to it”. The same laws of physics apply, no matter the price, and no matter whether or not the super-expensive guitar has carbon-fibre in the neck. If a shop sales-person tells you that “it’ll always stay in tune no matter what you do to it“, either they don’t play guitar or they desperately want to make that sale to you, so badly that they’ll tell you anything……..
So, to sum up, the floating tremolo is better, but ALL trems are prone to some little bit of drift, especially if you go for extremes of use.