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Callaham Steel Saddles & Block Replacement on American Standard Stratocaster

After watching a video interview with Fender custom shop and one of my favorite all-time guitar legends, Robin Trower, he said as they designed his new Robin Trower Signature Stratocaster® that he preferred vintage steel bridge saddles instead of the newer cast alloy block style type that until the new 2008 model Strats has been used as far back as 1972. He couldn't put his finger on why he preferred them "just that the older style ones sounded better to his ears" So I did lots of research about it and while owning an American Standard 2-point Tremolo bridge type Strat wit the cast block saddles, I knew it was lacking some top end shimmer that my other vintage style Strats seemed to have. In researching all of Fender's Artists Series guitars (and there are many now), I found that all but the Jeff Beck model used the older vintage style saddles!

Scouring the net more, I recently ran across some info that Bill Callaham has designed vintage steel saddle replacements for the offset screw cast saddles in the Am. Std Strats so already owning several of his steel tremolo blocks, I figured I'd give it a try! Digressing, I had already replaced the cast alloy zinc blocks in all my Strats (that a magnet wouldn't even stick to) with Callaham Steel blocks and noticed an immediate difference in sustain and tonal brilliance. Still, in the Am. Std Strat there was just something a tad off until I put the Callaham Steel Saddles in!

As a test, last week I sat at a friend's house and demonstrated the difference between 3 brand new high-end Deluxe Strats with the cast saddles and my vintage saddled Strats and when picking right at the bridge kind of hard, you can hear this nasal type tone with the cast saddles but the vintage steel saddles have this cool Hendrix/Stevie Ray type twang leaving my friend who's a Stevie Ray fanatic scratching his head as to why he couldn't get that same tone having paid so much for his new Deluxe model Strats! Also, when you run it through an overdrive or a Fuzz pedal. the steel saddles adds the most awesome top end sparkle and shimmer! It's made the difference between mediocre tone and Trower level tone! Listen very closely to the 2 sound clips below and turn your speakers up. It may seem subtle as you listen but when the guitar is cranked up and especially using any kind of overdrive pedals the difference is like night and day. In fact,  to my ears, it's like taking a blanket off the strings where they really wail and sing now!

American Standard Strat with Cast Alloy Saddles
Sample Audio Clip - Double Click Play Arrow
American Standard Strat with Callaham Steel Block & Vintage Steel Saddles
Sample Audio Clip - Double Click Play Arrow

Note that these clips are just picking at the very edge of the bridge saddles for demo purposes. You wouldn't normally pick there but this is where the tone starts mechanically. If it doesn't sound good mechanically or acoustically in the wood and metal resonance, then the greatest pickup or amp in the world is going to sound bad! Notice the hollow, dull, tone edge. This is on a $900 guitar! This dullness travels up towards the neck pickup as you pick in varying degrees and it affects the overall tone and shimmer of the guitar immensely. This is one of the reasons why many players believe vintage guitars sound better. Vintage Strats used Steel Saddles vs. newer uses cast allow blocks, which is basically  pot metal. The new 2008 Strats have gone back to steel saddles some say as a copycat to Callaham stuff but after having played one with the new "injected copper alloy" bridge block it still sounds dead in comparison to a solid steel block and Callaham's stainless steel saddles. I highly recommend these and have zero connection to Callaham on a personal or business level except for being a customer sold on their super high quality bridge parts. Their steel saddles are super smooth to the feel in comparison to the vintage Strat steel saddles that normally cut my hands on the sharp screw ends. I'll be ordering 2 more sets!

Now, listen to the same exact strings, same amp settings. It wasn't easy to get the old strings back on but I wanted to make sure we were comparing apples to apples here. I carefully measure all the saddle heights and distances so the new Callaham Steel Saddles would be exactly where the old cast alloy block saddles were when installed. I picked with the same plectrum, intensity, volume and record levels moving nothing and if you listen close, you can hear the difference. As I said, it may seem small but add an overdrive pedal and the tone difference is huge with a brilliant top end and sustain for days!

 

Callaham Steel Vintage Saddles Rock!

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