Review of Stetsbar Pro II Tremolo System
A trem system that will retro-fit on just about any guitar - even
your vintage Gibson? Without damaging it? And it's as good as any
modern trem? No, we didn't believe it either. Neither did Michael
Casswell. And then he tried one...
I'm lucky enough to own a few guitars, the majority of which are
equipped with some kind of tremolo system. I think tasteful use of
a whammy bar can add a lot to the colours and textures the guitar
can create and knowing my way around the techniques that can be
utilised on a good trem has certainly put some money my way over
the years. And even though I own a few Gibsons and a couple of
Fender Teles, I will usually grab one of my Strats or vintage
Valley Arts guitars when I'm leaving the house for a gig or
session, purely because they sound great and have a trem that can
do everything I need it to. So imagine if I could create the same
whammy bar trickery on my 335, Les Paul, or Telecaster. Well, the
good news is, now I can!
In the dark ages prior to the Stetsbar, the best you could hope
for on a Gibson, or even a Tele, was a pathetic, polite, out of
tune waggle from something like a Bigsby, which has ruined many a
beautiful Les Paul or 335. To fit a Bigsby, and most trem systems
up until now, has usually involved major surgery to a guitar,
usually devaluing it, creating more holes or chiselling away
precious wood for a trem that usually ends up being rubbish anyway.
And the thought of anything like that happening to my triple AAA
grade flame top amber Les Paul is enough to make me lose control of
all my bodily functions (not a good look)!
The whole idea behind the Stetsbar tremolo is that it can be
fitted to any mainstream, non-trem guitar, with no modification or
butchery whatsoever. You simply unscrew whatever bridge or
tailpiece you have at the moment, and the Stetsbar bolts straight
on to your existing factory holes, with no drama and minimal
expertise needed. What a fantastic concept..........but does it
work? Is it any good?
Do you want the good news, or the bad news first? The good news
is......... there is no bad news! Yes it works, and yes, it is
really good! It's not even very expensive!
The demonstration guitar we were loaned was a UK-built Gordon
Smith - a venerable UK handmade brand that has been around for
decades and a pretty good test-bed for a Stetsbar Pro 2, which
would be the one that would fit directly on your Gibson style
guitar. To say I was sceptical is an understatement! Usually, with
most trems there will tuning problems straight away, or the feel of
it is just hideous, or there will be knocking or clanking from
somewhere, but straight away I knew we had something special here.
The feel was silky smooth, with no effort involved to move the arm.
Less effort means more control and more control means you sound
better (in theory!).
The main part of the trem rolls on top of micro roller bearings,
so there is hardly any friction to hold you back. It also delivers
a wide pitch range. I pulled the G string up to nearly a C, which
is the same as my Floyd Rose. It won't do the push down to slack
thing that a Floyd does (but we have all grown out of that, haven't
we!), but it does give you beyond a full octave down, which is more
than enough. It also doesn't trill and chirp like a good Fender or
Floyd trem, but the advantages with the Stetsbar outweigh any small
compromises. For instance, with a Floyd or and Fender trem, your
strings are under attack from metal fatigue every time you use the
bar, but with the Stetsbar, the strings move with the whole system,
so no metal fatigue, which means far less string breakage.
Even if you were to break a string, the Stetsbar will keep your
remaining strings in tune enough for you to get to the end of the
song, unlike regular floating trems, when string breakage means
disaster and a guitar change straight away. Also with the Stetsbar,
you can use drop tunings without resetting or retuning the guitar.
So it's all adding up to a great product. If you going to get
problems, it will be your headstock end. A poorly cut nut will make
your strings stick and worn or cheap tuning pegs will become a
nightmare. The Gordon Smith demo guitar that you can see on our
video has a brass nut that has been lubricated with some kind of
silicon, which is what Stetsbar suggest you do, but if your guitar
has no intrinsic high value, you could always fit a graphite nut,
and even some locking Sperzel tuners.
The Stetsbar comes in chrome, black, gold and nickel and there
is a version for stop tail, hard tail, Tele and Strat style
guitars, so most popular mainstream instruments are catered for,
but I get the impression from the stetsbar.com website that they do
not like to be defeated, and if they have to make a tremolo for
your strange hybrid, bitsa this, bitsa that, guitar, then they will
I may at some point fit one to my 335, safe in the knowledge
that all my bodily functions will remain intact. This is a
fantastic product that will be the answer to many a dream!
Check out the full review inc. video of the Stetsbar Pro II
Tremolo System by Michael Casswell featured in issue 4 of
Guitar Interactive Magazine (