KGC Brass vs Callaham Steel (trem block review)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by pennylink, Mar 17, 2011.

  1. pennylink

    pennylink Member

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    I recently installed a Killer Guitar Components (KGC) brass block in my partscaster, which up to that point was fitted with a Callaham steel block. For background purposes, this guitar consists of a poplar MIM Fender Standard Strat body with 2-1/16" vintage style bridge and bent steel saddles, Raw Vintage springs, ’59 roundback’ Warmoth maple/rosewood neck with SS frets, Gotoh vintage-style tuners, Kinman Blues pickups and quality electronics, including Jensen PIO tone cap; strung with 10-46 Pyramid Nickel Classics and played straight into a handwired tube amp via a 10ft Vovox cable.

    Appearance & Installation: Both blocks are very well engineered and beautifully finished. They are a breeze to install and they attach to the bridge plate without fuss. KGC uses longer steel screws than Callaham and KGC is slightly heavier: Callaham weighed in at 10-1/8 oz (284 grams), KGC at 10-7/8 oz (309 grams). Other than that, and the fact that one is brass and the other steel, there really isn’t much difference in quality.

    Clarity & Tone: Both are very clear with excellent string to string definition. Callaham is quite bright, especially on the high E and B strings, which could be good if you have a dark sounding guitar and/or amp. KGC sounds more balanced, warmer on the unwound strings yet very focused, and punchy and piano-like on the bass strings. Played acoustically both sound powerful, with maximum vibration transmitted to the guitar’s neck and body. Callaham’s unamplified tone is thinner though, while KGC’s is fuller and sounds more like you’re playing a semi-acoustic than a solidbody.

    Sustain & Touch Sensitivity: Callaham has great sustain, but KGC is even better and rings out what seems like forever. Touch sensitivity seems equally good with both.

    Trem Arm Fit: Callaham uses a Delrin insert to stop the arm from feeling loose in the block, resulting in responsive and accurate control of the trem. Callaham recommends using a 10-32 threaded ‘virtual pop-in’ arm with his blocks. These arms have a shorter thread that only need a couple turns to screw into the block. However, they still swing around freely once inserted, so you can’t ‘park’ it in a particular position. Also, the Callaham arm I have barely clears the tone controls when screwed in, which may or may not be an issue depending on your playing style.
    KGC uses a slightly different approach: a piece of nylon is pressed into the block approximately half way down on the trem hole which is then tapped for the trem bar, resulting in a positive fit and a trem bar that will stay in place no matter what position you decide to leave it in. The KGC block is tapped for standard 10-32 Fender style trem arm (with normal thread length).

    Conclusion: For many years I was quite happy with the performance of the Callaham steel block. It is well-made, has great sustain, and the trem bar doesn’t wobble like in most blocks. I always felt there was a certain brittleness to the attack of the unwound strings though that I simply couldn’t dial out. KGC has a warmer, dare I say ‘more vintage’ sound without harshness, yet with clarity and punch that equals Callaham’s. KGC’s sustain is out of this world and they have designed a better system to fit the trem bar IMO. Bottom line, the KGC block is staying in my guitar!

    Disclaimer: This review is based on using both blocks in MY guitar and evaluated with MY ears. Your playing style and what you consider good tone may well be different than mine and I respect that. I’m not affiliated with either company.
     
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  2. EADGBE

    EADGBE Member

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    What kind of music do you play? What amp did you use in the demo? And you saying the brass is warmer? And the stainless steel is brighter?
     
  3. amc

    amc Member

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    thanks for the review...........
     
  4. pennylink

    pennylink Member

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    I play blues/jazzy blues through a Sheldon 'TrueTone' TT3 combo (made in the UK low-wattage amp) with 12" Greenback. Yes, brass sounds a little warmer and less bright/harsh than steel especially on the plain strings. I would say the brass block is best described as 'more balanced' with lots of clarity but without harshness.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2011
  5. guit_lar

    guit_lar Member

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    I haven't used the brass block you mention. However, I have several Callaham trem bridges. I'd just like to relate my experience.
    I originally bought a Callaham trem Strat bridge as a replacement for a Stewart-Macdonald bridge. The improvement was striking. The Callaham had a lively pinginess to it that the other didn't. A little more on the way to a Tele bridge sound. Rings out. For the way I like to hear guitar, that's perfect. Perhaps that's the brightness you refer to. Tap the Callaham block with a small hammer or something, and it goes "ping"...the Stew-Mac went "thud"...
    It sounds like the brass block works well for you. Personally I wouldn't want to do anything to lose that zing. But then I don't play smooth jazz... I believe the Callaham is a fine bridge (as you also say), worth every penny.
    I guess it's a matter of taste...
    (BTW I too am "unaffiliated")
     
  6. EADGBE

    EADGBE Member

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    Thank you for the review. Yeah brass is slightly heavier too. This may cause a warmer tone too.
     
  7. man_mars

    man_mars Member

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    Would be great if could do an audio or video of the guitar now with the KGC block :aok Although a shoot-out between the 2 blocks would have been best, but I'm guessing that would not be possible now.
     
  8. edi_87

    edi_87 Member

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  9. trap

    trap Supporting Member

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    i love the kgc block i put in a couple of weeks ago. much more sustain and a beautiful clear powerful tone on my suhr s1.
     
  10. Rod

    Rod Tone is Paramount Silver Supporting Member

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    Yes, brass has always been warmer than steel...Many of us on the 70's used Mighty Might brass parts for our Fender guitars to give them a fatter, warmer tone. Some of use still do. Fender guitars have always had an unbalanced frequency response with generally to much high end. Brass bridge parts counter some of this...
     
  11. Ringo

    Ringo Supporting Member

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    I recently modded a new Blacktop Strat which comes with a small zinc trem block.
    I put in a KGC brass block, and some Tom Anderson humbuckers.
    Needless to say the KGC block is a major improvement over the stock zinc cast block, this guitar has great sustain and rings even acoustically.
    I like Callaham stuff too, I just thought I'd try something different for a change and I'm very satisfied with the results.


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  12. Dr. Jimmy

    Dr. Jimmy Member

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    Just ordered a setup from them, can't wait to try it out!
     
  13. Rick@KGC

    Rick@KGC Member

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    Hey Dr. Jimmy! What did you think of your KGC setup? Did you ever get it? Just looking for some feedback from you as this thread kinda died upon your last post here....
     
  14. Dr. Jimmy

    Dr. Jimmy Member

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    Hi Rick! The block is awesome (don't know if you remember me , but I had an issue with the bar not being able to screw into the block properly, so you sent me out a replacement...). I had you drill out the ball end holes a little deeper than normal, because I like the slinkiness that it gives.

    Anyway, install was a breeze and I could notice a slight sonic difference right away, a lot fuller and balanced. The feel of the trem is fantastic, very smooth.

    Highly recommended, and I'll probably be getting another some time soon.
     
  15. Rick@KGC

    Rick@KGC Member

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    Glad you are happy with your new trem, Dr. Jimmy! Feel free to contact me anytime if you need anything else or have any questions.

    Anyone else have any thoughts?
     
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  16. trap

    trap Supporting Member

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    ok, so i've had a bit of time with the steel block in my suhr s1 and it sounded pretty good. nice bite, etc. but today i played it and then switched to the KGC brass block ( a 1088 trem) and WOW! WOW! WOW! i was getting harmonic feedback from 8 feet away, and such clarity and warmth. the guitar sounded much bigger, like a different axe. and the delrin insert is just the icing on the cake. such a pleasure. my amp, a quinn D clone , leans to the bright side so this change works very well with it. Highly recommended!!!
     
  17. Doc58

    Doc58 Member

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    My name is Doc (Jimmy) I just ordered a Mega 5/8 KGC block, Mega Chrome Bridge Plate and 6 Brass Intonation Screws...I can't wait to bolt on the New Hardware when It Arrives! Rick's a pretty cool Cat' and if the Upgrade is impressive I will make another order for the Compensated Brass Claw and 6 Brass Saddles. Tomorrow I go to my Friends Shop to have a Custom Real Ivory Nut made and installed...Just gearing up for the new Hardware from KGC! :)
     
  18. swiveltung

    swiveltung Member

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    Is KGC still around? I cant find them on line...?
     
  19. Egnodin

    Egnodin Member

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  20. swiveltung

    swiveltung Member

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    thanks, weird it doesn't come up with google. Must be back a few pages....
     

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