Are Licensed Floyd Rose Guitar Bridges Any Good?

The original 1970s Floyd Rose tremolo guitar bridge system made a huge impact on the rock music of the 1980s and beyond. 

The inventor made and sold his own systems and also licensed the design to guitar makers and to other gear manufacturers.  

So just what are the differences between the original Floyd Rose systems and the licensed versions made by other companies?  Are the licensed versions any good?

Not all licensed Floyd Rose bridges are created equal.  Many of the lower-priced versions have had serious problems. But others, such as some models made by Schaller and Kotoh,  equal or exceed the originals in terms of quality and lifespan.

Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and countless other rock and metal players embraced the original Floyd Rose for its enhanced tremolo pitch range and for its ability to keep a guitar in tune even after wild divebombs and bends.  

The design was so popular that guitar makers such as Kramer and Ibanez paid Floyd Rose for permission to use it in their own guitars.

Many manufacturers of aftermarket tremolo bridges also bought licenses to use the design in their products.  

There are so many versions available now that it can seem a little overwhelming to shop for a Floyd Rose bridge system. 

Read on and I’ll explain the main differences, list some pros and cons, and highlight a few products that have good reputations among players and techs.

The Original Floyd Rose Bridge System

Floyd Rose set out to design a tremolo bridge system that would be better at keeping a guitar in tune while using a whammy bar. 

His main innovations included:

  • Tuning locks on both ends of the strings (bridge and nut
  • Hardened steel construction
  • Fine tuners

Rose had the originals manufactured in Germany to exacting specifications. 

The double lock system opened up new musical possibilities, allowing players to lower pitches by as much as an octave without having to retune.  

What are licensed Floyd Rose bridges?

Under US law, an inventor can apply to the US Patent and Trademark Office for a patent. 

The government will grant the patent if USPTO’s patent examiners agree that the invention is new, useful, non-obvious, and otherwise eligible under the law.  

The patent gives the inventor the exclusive right to profit from the new invention for 17 to 20 years. The patent holder can make or sell the invention and can also sell licenses allowing other companies to make and sell their own versions.  

Once a patent expires, anyone in the world can use the design in their own products. 

Realistically, though, a patent owner can often get new patents for later refinements and updates to the original design, thus extending the time of patent protection well beyond 17 or 20 years.  

Who manufactures licensed Floyd Rose bridges?

Floyd Rose hired the German company Schaller to make the original bridges and tuning systems. 

Rose also granted a license that allows Schaller to make and sell their own version.  Among others, Rose has sold licenses to 

  • Schaller
  • Kramar 
  • Ibanez 
  • Jackson 
  • Fender
  • Gotoh
  • ESP Guitars USA 

Why use a licensed Floyd Rose instead of an original?

Most licensed versions are less expensive versions of the original. 

The licenses allow manufacturers to use different materials like zinc alloys instead of hardened steel found in the originals. 

A license allows a guitar maker to include Floyd Rose bridges in lower-priced models. 

And licensed aftermarket companies can sell to more budget-conscious consumers.   

Does Floyd Rose still manufacture their original bridges?

Yes, they do! 

They sell the original model, still made by Schaller in Germany, as well as other variants with different refinements.  

Are licensed Floyd Rose bridges as good as the original ones?

Quite a few of the licensed ones have pretty bad reputations, but not all of them. 

Bridges produced by Schaller and Gotoh are well regarded, as are some by Ibanez.  

What are the main differences between licensed and original Floyd Rose bridges?

The licensed versions made from zinc alloys typically don’t measure up to the hardened-steel originals. 

The originals are prized for keeping the guitar strings in tune even after deep divebombs and bends, while many licensed bridges are less reliable, require more adjustments, and are more difficult to use.  

Notably, the steel originals reportedly last much longer with little or no decline in performance.  

Should you care about the kind of Floyd Rose bridge on your guitar?

Yes, because they differ wildly in performance and durability. 

The original, as well as licensed bridges by Schaller and Kotoh, are highly regarded for their performance and durability. 

Many cheaper licensed Floyd Rose bridges will wear out more quickly and fail to keep the guitar in tune.