I consider vintage strat tremolos an iconic piece of guitar heritage and engineering. They are undoubtedly one of the most common bridges used on electric guitars, yet many players find certain aspects about them frustrating. On the positive side, I have always found that these bridges sound great and bring a really cool vibe to the guitar. The drawbacks that are typically cited are tuning stability, play in the tremolo arm, rough saddle adjustment screws (this hurts the palm of your picking hand), strings not staying in the center of the saddle, and probably others I’m forgetting about. Interestingly enough, some of the most prolific guitarists that favor strats manage to not be deterred by these issues, particularly players like Jeff Beck & Scott Henderson come to mind. Both of these guys make heavy use of their tremolos and almost embed the tremolo bar into their picking hands.
When I was putting my white strat together I really wanted a blend of vintage tone and feel with some more modern playability and features. This is something that a number of guitar manufactures do a good job of capturing, particularly Suhr and Tom Anderson. Both of these companies use a lot of Gotoh hardware, and do so for good reasons. I’ve always enjoyed the Gotoh 510 bridge (modern & vintage style). I almost went with a Callaham, which are also fantastic, but the 510 has worked out really well for me. I’m glad I went with this route.
A couple months ago I upgraded the saddles on my tele and that got me thinking about my strat. I love this guitar and tone it has, but the hex screws are not comfortable and the B string doesn’t always stay centered in the saddle.
Then I got a perfectly timed solicitation from stewmac.com about Highwood vintage saddles. The sole purpose of this product is to solve the exact problems I’ve experienced without compromising the sound of a bent saddle. How could I resist it! I picked up a set for my birthday and was instantly impressed with the quality of the materials and the fit/finish – they’re basically perfect.
The installation was almost trivial. On the 510, both E strings have a “track” that the screws rest in. This was the only hiccup I ran into with the installation.
The above picture shows that the tracks are spaced further than the screws on the Highwood saddle. This prevents the saddle from sitting firmly on the base plate and doesn’t feel secure at all.
I reached out to the company to see if they knew of a work around for this problem. The customer service I got was honestly incredible. I got a timely response (maybe less than an hour) stating 1) it was a known issue 2) they’re tweaking the product to compensate for this 3) it will be ready in a couple weeks 4) they’ll send me two of them for my E strings. …..ummmmm. AMAZING!
In the meantime, they suggested using the outer screw to set the height and place it in the track. Then us the inner one to stabilize the saddle. This has worked really well for me as a temporary measure.
The bottom line is these saddles are incredibly high quality, and solve the issues I had with the regular bent saddles. I highly recommend these.