Tremol-No hands on review

Discussion in 'Gear Reviews' started by Drew, Apr 3, 2005.

  1. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

    Messages:
    26,534
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Somerville, MA
    Ok, I've had one of these suckers in my UV7PWH for about three weeks now, so time for the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    First a bit of history - way back in the day, before I discovered the Ibanez Edge and an extra string, I was a strat player. I'd run five springs so the bridge would be flush with the body and wouldn't raise when I did bends, so when I first started playing a guitar with a fully floating bridge, compound bends were a source of considerable frustration for me. I gradually just stopped doing them, especially while recording, but I've always loved the sound of unison bends and faux pedal steel licks, so when Kevan Geier started hinting that he had something in the works to fix this, I was pretty interested. Finally, after about two years of begging and pleading, I managed to get Kevan to send me one of the prototypes (this tactic, namely being annoying, was so effective that I've started in on Mick Jagger. Expect to see me on his next solo tour (or in prison).

    Installation

    Let's just put it this way - I got my Tremol-no on St. Patrick's day. In Boston, everyone really IS Irish on St. Pattie's day, so I stumbled home after six or so pints of Guinness to find a UPS envelope on my doorstep. Being drunk, I was of course too impatient to wait until the morning to give the thing a try, so I threw on a Chroma Key CD and fired up my soldering iron.

    I believe I set some kind of a record, installing a Tremol-no in about 45 minutes. I'm not really sure how I feel about that, but since I spent a lot of that time opening beers, waiting for my POS Radio Shack soldering iron to heat up, and answering my phone, I think the fifteen minute estimation on the Tremol-no site is pretty reasonable. Oh, and did I mention I was loaded? Tough life, being a rockstar... Anyway, it's pretty straightforward. Mark off the edge of the claw with masking tape (as I was drunk I marked the back edge, not the spring side - oops. This still got me reasonably close, however), unsolder the ground, open another beer, back out the claw screws, thread them through the T-no, screw them back in so the edge of the claw lines up with the tape, open another beer, re-attach your trem, line up the shaft with the tailpeice, do some fine tuning, and you're ready to open another beer. Oh, and play. You get the idea. I've got the soldering abilities of a medium rare steak and I had no problems with installation while I was half in the bag - I'm sure a normal human being can do it in their sleep.

    In fact, as an aside, the one performance-unrelated detail of the tremol-no the impressed me the most was the ground attachment - rather than soldering to the body of the T-no itself, you either crimp or solder the ground wire to a little eyelet that screws into the body. I ended up soldering it - normally, soldering a ground is a pain in the neck because basically you need to get the claw itself hot enough so the solder will melt when it comes in contact with it, allowing the solder to adhere to the claw. This takes rather a while, as we're talking a fairly big chunk of metal. But, with a little eyelet that you then screw into the body of the tremol-no, you're able to heat it up to the required temperature in a matter of seconds. In fact, it heats faster than the wire does, making grounding a cinch. Every single tremolo should be designed this way. It's perfect.

    Cosntruction

    Well, I'd had some concerns about durability, especially after spending some time with a Tremsetter in my 7620 (the center shaft is a peice of brass, I think, thinner than your average coathanger. It doesn't exactly inspire confidence). The Tremol-no, on the other hand, impressed me in two respects when I first picked it up. First, it's much lighter than I expected it to be - I forgot the alloy and I'm too lazy to track down the information sheet, but the main body is made of aircraft-grade aluminum. I didn't notice any additional weight after I installed it into my UV. Second, I sorta get the feeling that you could use it to bludgeon someone to death and it wouldn't take a scratch. Like I said, aircraft grade aluminum, and a main shaft of surgical grade stainless steel. This thing's pretty tough.

    Performance

    Well, the main selling point here is that theoretically, when the Tremol-no is unlocked, you'll have unrestricted trem performance - you'll never know it's there until you use it. Is this true? Basically... It takes some fine tuning with the claw screws to get the shaft to line up right, but once you've got it lined up right and have everything locked down, you should have unimpeeded trem access. I can't verify this with 100% certainty, as I'm having some issues with my arm holder on the UV right now and as such trem response isn't perfectly smooth even without the Tremol-no installed, but once I get a new one in there I'll post a followup. What I CAN say is that unlike the tremsetter, flutter is a very real possibility here. If you spend some time dialing in the Tremol-No so the shaft is perfectly aligned with the receiver (and as this involves slightly adjusting the claw screws, this can take a while), then when it's unlocked, it's damned smooth. Flutter seems to take a slight hit (say, 100% to 90%) with the thumb screws unlocked but still in the T-no, but if you simply back them all the way out and pocket them, then there's no loss of vibrational energy anywhere within the system (everything except the shaft is bolted down tightly, and the shaft is free to move with no resistance). Cool.

    Locked down, however, is where the fun begins. First and foremost - you WILL be able to "feel" a difference in spring tension with the T-no unlocked and the T-no locked down - one of the quirks of a floating bridge is the slight amount of give it has gives a slightly looser playing feel. It's subtle, and won't bother you after a day or two of playing with a Tremol-no equipped guitar, but you'll notice it at first.

    Naturally, when you lock the thing down, your compound bends will be in tune - that's the whole point of the device. Not "audibly" in tune, like a Tremsetter (even under fairly firm tension, against my tuner I'd see other strings drop a couple cents when I'd bend another note - nothing a light vibrato wouldn't hide, but observable), but dead-on. In fact, even with the slight perceived increase in string tension (or possibly because of it), bends felt more controlled and more accurate with the Tremol-no enguaged. Combine that with the fact your compound bends now stay in tune, with the Tremol-No locked, you WANT to do bends. I found myself breaking out all these SRV Chuck Berryisms I hadn't done in years, and had an absolute blast doing so.

    Another unintended benefit was a subtle change in the dynamic response of the guitar. This could be because, way back in the day, it was blues that got me into lead guitar, but I've always had a fairly heavy pick attack. This has gotten me in trouble with floating trems, as if you dig in too hard, you'll get trem oscillations from the force of your attack and while trem flutter is a great effect, it's got it's time and it's place. An explosive bend is definitely NOT it. Not only is this not a problem when you lock the T-No down, but because all of the vibrational energy is staying within the string and the guitar's body, you get a much clearer and more accurate attack. For fast alternate picking runs, it seems slightly more defined and more "bell-like," for lack of a better word, but when you get into SRV "throw your entire upper body behind the pick stroke" rake and bend territory, cool things start happening. The pick attack isn't quite as explosive as my maple fretboarded, alder bodied, singlecoil equipped stratocaster, but it's a hell of a lot closer than I ever expected to get with a Universe. This is especially obvious when you bring the gain down and push your poweramp to that magical threshold where you can pick lightly and get a clean response, then dig in and push your amp into overdrive. With a floyd, the bridge limits just how hard you can hit the strings, and takes some of the edge off your attack. Twist the two thumbscrews on the back of the Tremol-no, however, and you've got a significantly wider dynamic pallate at your disposal.

    Additionally, as your bridge is no longer robbing vibrational energy from the strings, you get a boost in sustain, too. It's not about to turn your floyd-equipped axe into a Les Paul (there are too many other factors in play), but it was enough to feel while playing legato runs with lots of little linear ornamentations and held bends. Kevan tells me they've been able to get a RG to match a SG in side-by-side testing, and if the results I saw on my UV were indicative (longer sustain coupled with more organic, useable decay), I believe it.


    This is getting rather long, so let me stop here for now and finish in a separate response.

    -D
     
  2. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

    Messages:
    26,534
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Somerville, MA
    Part II

    So, that's the basic idea - You have an uninvasive little gadget, built like a tank, that when you twist two little thumbscrews in the back completely locks down your bridge. Does it work as described? Can even an inebriated tech-dork like myself install it? Yep.

    But how does it hold up in the real world?

    Destructive Testing

    Well, the first question I had was, "If you forget and grab the bar, what's going to happen?" So, I tuned up the UV, plugged in, made sure the tremol-no was locked down with just the thumb screws and the Deep-C attachment (more on that later) wasn't enguaged, and pushed gently on the bar. Nothing happened. Then I dove down with a bit more force. The thumb screws slipped, and the entire guitar went slightly flat. Reached underneith and unlocked them, and it sprang back into tune.

    This is actually a good thing, in my opinion - remember we're talking about a guitar and bridge assembly that's composed largely of wood and thin peices of metal. If you yanked hard on the bar and it was completely immoble, you're either going to snap the bar, your arm holder, or rip your claw screws out of the body. And like I said I had to use quite a bit of force to get it to slip - if in the heat of the moment you grab your bar for a dive, you're probably going to notice that your bridge is locked before you apply nearly enough pressure to knock yourself out of tune. So it's a compromise, but a workable one.

    The next logical question to ask yourself is, "what happens if you break a string?" So, since I was about due for a string change anyway, I locked down the Tremol-no with just the thumb screws, grabbed my Leatherman, and snipped the high E while watching my tuner. I don't know if you've ever taken a Leatherman to a perfectly good guitar, but you feel like you're murdering a puppy or something. However, to my relief, the guitar held tune. I've heard people claim a Tremsetter will do this too - frankly, I'll believe them when I see it. I was running mine fairly stiff and always dropped audibly out of tune whenever a string snapped. So, chalk one more up for the Tremol-no.

    Now, a word on the Deep-C. Essentially, it's just a little block of aluminum with another thumb screw on it. the idea is, you can lock it down and turn your guitar into a dive-only machine on the fly, then unlock it and go back to full floating. On a seven string guitar, at least, the thumb screw doesn't provide enough pressure to cope with the added tension from the low B, and will slip when you pull back on the bar. Apparently it does provide enough on a 6-string - if one of you guys wants to ship me a good Edge equipped six, I'll give it a try and send it back to you. Say, in six or eight months. However, the Deep-C also ships with an allen screw, and with that installed, I was able to pull back with impunity and still remain fixed.

    Another nice aspect of the Deep C, however, is that since when you detune a guitar (say, drop D or Drop A, or a personal favorite seven string tuning of mine, ADADGAD) the bridge tends to pull back, if you lock down the Deep-C and start detuning, your other strings will remain in tune. So, I figured I'd put it to test and after snapping the high E, I locked the Deep C down and started doing a string change.

    I typically change strings one at a time, so I can't speak for how it holds up without a single string on the guitar (in fact, due to the change in stresses on the device without anything counteracting the springs, Kevan doesn't recommend using it with a stringless guitar, as forces are applied in a manner the device wasn't designed to take). However, I monitored my tuning as I pulled and replaced each string, from the high E to the low B. Did the guitar shift tuning? VERY slightly. However, my guess here is that what I was seeing was not the tremol-no moving (because, when I added the string I'd just taken off, it went back into tune) but rather slight shifts in the neck as string tension decreased and increased. Any guitar, fixed bridge or otherwise, will do this, and as such the Tremol-no performed admirably, and made what has the possibility of being a very time consuming chore (especially as I was going from a 9-42 with a .58 to a 9-46 with a 56) quite a bit easier.

    So, locked down, the Tremol-No has enough resistance to cope with a string change. As such, alternate tunings were a breeze. I'd recommend having the Deep-C in place while doing any substantial drop tuning, but I mean just for kicks I tightened the two thumb screws down as far as I could get them by hand, and started dropping my low B with the Deep C off, and I got to an octave below Drop-A without the Tremol-No slipping. I probably could have gotten farther, too, but at that point my string was essentially slack and I couldn't get my tuner to pick up a pitch accurately. Cool - the ability to mess around with bizarre tunings was something I really missed when I first picked up my 7620 (I've always thought ADADGAD would lend itself gorgeously to heavy Tool-inspired riffing), but the Tremol-no makes that kind of low-tuned butchery possible. This could become detrimential to my social life, lol.

    (As an aside, with the Deep-C in place, I tuned my low strings down to a Mesh approved EADG, an octave below standard, with no detrimental problems aside from a slight wandering on the upper strings from the shift in the neck, easily remedied by a quick retune. Sounded like crap - a .56 is not meant to go that low - but it was a hell of a lot of fun :))

    So that's essentially it - with a Tremol-no installed, you'll still get great (possibly perfect - I'll report back after I sort out my trem issues) bar response, with the ability to go into dive-only or fully fixed trem modes in a matter of seconds. The quality of construction is confidence inspiring (and the eyelet soldering connection is sheer genius), it's a totally uninvasive installation (I never got too worked up about the fact a Tremsetter involved some drilling into your guitar until I bought a UV - suddenly I understood, this thing's a work of art and the idea of taking a drill to it made me shudder), and it does exactly what it's supposed to, giving you perfect bending, along with the unintended benefits of a better reproduction of your pick attack, increased sustain, wider dynamic possibilities, and better stability for both picking single notes and chording (I never knew how much it bugged me to play chords on a floating bridge guitar, with the slight waverings you'd get when digging in hard, until it stopped happening with both this and the Tremsetter). The Tremol-no is a well conceptualized and well executed improvement to the floyd rose style trem, and even if you would be leaving the Tremol-no unlocked the majority of the time, it still makes sense to have it in your guitar just for more in-tune sounding rhythm tracks and the ability to rip through bluesy compound bends with perfect confidence whenever the mood takes you. If you need to be able to do in-tune bends while using the bar then the Tremol-no isn't for you (although it's worth noting it's theoretically possible to run both a Tremsetter AND a Tremol-no in the same guitar), but if that's not a huge deal, then the ability to withstand string breakages, alternate-tuning forays (by the way, did I mention with the Deep-C in place you can detune yet still stay in dive-only trem mode?), and still be able to unlock it and go into over-the-top Vai-esq whammy bar abuse is a strong selling point. I'm pretty enthused.

    There's a few things I'd like to see different - it'd be nice if there was a third hole for an allen screw on the receiver, so you could lock the Tremol-no down completely if you wanted to explore high tunings (I'm a crap slide player myself, but if you wanted to go up to open E, you'd need to replace one of the thumb screws with an allen screw, and while it's only a 30 second swap, since there's space anyway it makes sense to me to just add an extra hole so you don't have to). Also, guitarists being guitarists, I could see someone unscrewing the thumb screw a little too far and it falling out and rolling around the stage during a gig - these should be sold with a few spare thumb screws to keep in your case to cover any eventualities. That's really about it, though. It's a very effective little device that works like a charm. I just wish I had one of these in my 7620 when I was playing with my old blues-rock band. It'd have been an absolute godsend.


    I'll get installation pics up early this coming week.
    -D
     
  3. Metal Ken

    Metal Ken Hates the Air Contributor

    Messages:
    21,002
    Likes Received:
    742
    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2004
    Location:
    Florida
    I Need to get one of these. THis review is just another reason for it. Kevan needs to hurry up and find a distributer...
     
  4. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

    Messages:
    26,534
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Somerville, MA
    I won't commit to any exact dates just yet, but I spoke with him last Friday and it looks like he's pretty close to having something inked - I'll let you know when I know more.

    -D
     
  5. Metal Ken

    Metal Ken Hates the Air Contributor

    Messages:
    21,002
    Likes Received:
    742
    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2004
    Location:
    Florida
    I'll be the first in line for it, hell, i'll PREorder 2 if i can.
     
  6. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

    Messages:
    26,534
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Somerville, MA
  7. Metal Ken

    Metal Ken Hates the Air Contributor

    Messages:
    21,002
    Likes Received:
    742
    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2004
    Location:
    Florida
    I'm itching to get 3 ;p
     
  8. dpm

    dpm Oni Guitars Contributor

    Messages:
    3,611
    Likes Received:
    440
    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2005
    Location:
    Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
    Dude, you want 3 of everything.

    I'd like to give this beast a try Drew. Can't understand your reluctance to drill holes in a UV tho?? :nuts:
     
  9. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

    Messages:
    26,534
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Somerville, MA
    That's cause he's got three UV's. ;)

    Idunno... I didn't understand it either until I got mine. Even this one, a total player, though, I couldn't bring myself to screw anything into.

    Actually, I had a cool Tremol-no experience over the weekend. I'd found a few backing tracks I'd forgotten about on my computer, and a few of them were actually quite good, particularly a minor blues ballady thing in the style of Jeff Beck. So, I rolled the gain back a bit, turned up, and started wailing away over the top. Towards the end, I started doing these stupid overbends on my high E string, around a 4th up. Pushed it a bit farther, and the string snapped... And I promptly flubbed the next couple notes as I was too shocked to find myself still in tune to do anything. :lol:

    I'd forgotten it was there until it made my guitar do something that you never in amillion years expect a floyd equipped axe to do. It'll be a bit of a learning curve, before I kick the habit of reaching for the bar to salvage a solo whenever I snap a string. :lol:

    -D
     
  10. dpm

    dpm Oni Guitars Contributor

    Messages:
    3,611
    Likes Received:
    440
    Joined:
    Apr 9, 2005
    Location:
    Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
    Drew - is there any chance I could get hold of that thing?
     
  11. Metal Ken

    Metal Ken Hates the Air Contributor

    Messages:
    21,002
    Likes Received:
    742
    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2004
    Location:
    Florida
    Including 3 more universes.
     
  12. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

    Messages:
    26,534
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Somerville, MA
    Mine? Nlo chance in hell. :D I haven't talked with Kevan in a bit, I'll see if there's any update on the liscensing agreement process - I think you'll be seeing these things on the market before TOO much longer.

    -D
     
  13. jtm45

    jtm45 SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    2,272
    Likes Received:
    180
    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Hoshino,South Wales,U.K.
    Yeah, if i'd managed to get my paws on a Tremel-no there's no way i'd be removing it from my guitar and sending it to someone else either :nono: .

    Can't wait to give one a try myself.

    I read your review (pts 1+2,lol) and it sounds like a great piece of gear. I've used one of the Ibanez Backstops on my RG1570 and it certainly improved the Edge-pro (not that fussed on them,I prefer the lo-pros) but the T-no is in a different league altogether by the sounds of it. A very versatile device indeed.
     
  14. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

    Messages:
    26,534
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Somerville, MA
    Well, it's a completely different peice of gear. The Ibanez Backstop (which I've always wanted to try, incidentally, as it's supposed to be better than a tremsetter) gives you in-tune compound bends while still allowing your bridge to float, whereas the T-no is basically an on-off switch for your trem - closer in idea to what Parker or Steinberger do with their trems (I believe both have a knob or switch to turn to lock them down) than to a backstop or a tremsetter.

    Personally, I think it's pretty f'in cool! :yesway:

    -D
     
  15. jtm45

    jtm45 SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    2,272
    Likes Received:
    180
    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Hoshino,South Wales,U.K.
    Yeah,I found it to be better than the Tremsetter but then I've only tried the tremsetter for a short time on someone else's guitar.

    You'd be more than welcome to have a lend of my Backstop but it would mean the cost of posting it to you and you posting it back me. On top of that you'd have to put a screw or two (i fixed it with one)in your guitar, although it goes behind the centre spring so you wouldn't see it once it's removed.

    I had it fitted to an '03 RG1570 I used to have. It was the first year with the Edge-pro trem and I really didn't take to it at all. Ended up selling it but I whipped the backstop out first, needless to say!

    I was thinking of fitting it to my RG2027 but I'm hanging on(and on...) for a T-no. I was going to block the trem off on it but I'm a bit cautious because you've got those 7 delicate piezo wires coming through under the back of the trem and I don't want to chance any damage there.
     
  16. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

    Messages:
    26,534
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Somerville, MA
    Tempting, but too much of a pain in the ass - I don't have nearly the time I used to do tweak my guitars. It sucks being an "adult," lol.

    Besides, shipping from England is supposed to be about as slow as BB King on a good day. :lol:
     
  17. jtm45

    jtm45 SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    2,272
    Likes Received:
    180
    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Hoshino,South Wales,U.K.
    It'd be coming from WALES, not England!!!!!!!! (same island,VERY different country!)
    But yeah, it would take a while and there's not much point putting something on and then taking it off again, leaving you with a screw-hole.

    There's one on ebay at the moment but it had an opening bid of $60 when I spotted it earlier.
    I've often wondered if Floyd-Rose actually made a version of the Backstop because it's got the 'Ibanez' logo embossed on the back and then it's also got the small-print "made under license from Floyd-Rose" on it too.Hmmm......????
     
  18. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

    Messages:
    26,534
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Somerville, MA
    <=== idiot. :agreed:
     
  19. jtm45

    jtm45 SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    2,272
    Likes Received:
    180
    Joined:
    May 3, 2005
    Location:
    Hoshino,South Wales,U.K.
    You lost me a bit there but yes,Guilty as charged! Apologies for my idiocy.
     
  20. Drew

    Drew Forum MVP

    Messages:
    26,534
    Likes Received:
    1,971
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2004
    Location:
    Somerville, MA
    No, I'M the idiot, lol, for screwing up England and Wales. In my defense, I'm American, and if we've never invaded it... :rolleyes:
     

Share This Page