Floyd Rose Alternatives: Which Is Best for You?

In the market for a tremolo bridge

What kind of music will you play with it? 

How handy are you at working on your guitar yourself? 

What’s the budget? 

What guitar will it go into? 

What kind of bridge is it replacing?  

There are many different choices on the market for all different kinds of tastes. 

Understanding the different designs and capabilities will help you find the best choice for you. 

Some alternatives to a Floyd Rose bridge are the Kahler tremolo system, the Steinberger TransTrem Bridge, and the Schaller Lockmeister. However, none of this is as popular. Non-locking alternatives include Bigsby tailpieces and Fender synchronized tremolos.

Knowing what you want from your guitar will help you shop for a new bridge. Read on for the lowdown on what’s out there.

Reasons to consider alternatives to a Floyd Rose bridge

People shopping for Floyd Rose alternatives generally fall into two main categories. Either they already have a Floyd Rose installed and they want to change it out, or they want to install a tremolo system and they’re comparison shopping.

Replacing a Floyd Rose

Some players find that they don’t like the tonal characteristics of the Floyd Rose. A guitar with a Floyd Rose system installed will tend to have more pronounced upper-midrange frequencies. 

Some guitarists dislike the complexity of a Floyd Rose. Changing strings requires cutting off the ball ends of the strings and loosening the nut locks and bridge locks. 

Proper setup and care of a Floyd Rose system take more expertise than many players have, so they have to take it to a tech. 

But removing a Floyd Rose system will leave the guitar with a large cavity. Some alternatives work well as drop-in replacements, while others will likely need expert modifications. 

Deciding between a Floyd Rose and the competition

To Floyd Rose, or not to Floyd Rose? There are a number of different designs on the market, many of which take much less modification to the guitar. There are differences in pitch range, price, tuning stability, and performance. There are tradeoffs involved. 

Some alternatives to a Floyd Rose bridge

The Floyd Rose is a double-locking floating bridge system, and there are other systems of the same kind on the market. But there are also completely different categories of bridges. 

Other locking and floating systems 

These are the most similar to a Floyd Rose system and will perform most like a Floyd Rose in terms of the pitch range.

Kahler Tremolo System

Like the Floyd Rose, the Kahler sports a double-locking option, and it delivers the same kinds of deep dives and big pulls. Its price tag is also comparable to an Original Floyd Rose. 

It has roller saddles and there’s a rolling cam instead of a pivoting knife-edge. Some claim the cam wears out strings faster. 

Kahler is among the most popular Floyd Rose alternatives but it demands the same skill and expertise to set up and maintain. 

Steinberger TransTrem Bridge

The TransTrem is an ambitious design that not only changes the pitch but actually transposes the guitar and keeps all the strings in tune with one another. 

Gibson bought Steinberger years ago and hasn’t kept the TransTrem in regular production, so the resale market is the best bet for finding one. And, like the Floyd Rose, the TransTrem is challenging to set up and maintain. 

Schaller Lockmeister

Shaller, the German company that originally manufactured the Original system on behalf of the Floyd Rose company, also manufactures its own licensed Floyd Rose system. 

It’s interchangeable with a Floyd Rose Original but is on par with the downmarket Floyd Rose Special. 

It might be a good choice over an Original Floyd Rose because of its cost. It’s a poor replacement for a Floyd Rose, though, because it has the same complexity but lacks the same performance and durability.

Non-locking floating bridge systems

These choices lack locking nuts or bridges and, as such, they allow for less extreme pitch changes. 

Bigsby vibrato tailpiece

One of the earliest tremolo systems was the Bigsby vibrato tailpiece. The bridge itself is fixed.  The spring-loaded tremolo bar moves a metal rod that adds and releases string tension, which in turn affects pitch.  

The Bigsby has a distinctive retro look and a significantly bigger tremolo arm.  It doesn’t enable deep divebombs like a Floyd Rose. Instead, it delivers pitch changes of a half step or so, better suited to blue notes and subtle vibrato effects.  

A Bigsby is mounted on top of the guitar, and there are several models for various flat top and archtop guitars. So it’s critical to get the right model. 

There’s no string lock, and Bigsbys are known for tuning issues. With a little care to pre-bend the string to conform to the shape of the anchor bar, however, the tuning issues can be minimized.  

Fender Synchronized Tremolo

The original Stratocaster came with a floating bridge and whammy bar when it debuted in 1954.  The Fender Synchronized Tremolo was a big hit, and it soon established itself as a de facto industry standard.  

Strings are fed into the back of the guitar and then pulled through from the front  There’s a routed-out space in the back of the guitar with room for two to five springs. 

The earlier models were mounted to the top of the guitar with 6 screws but the design later changed to 2 screws.  

The Fender system allows for drops of 3 half steps or so and pulls of one to two half steps – nothing like a locking Floyd Rose system but more than a Bigsby or other earlier designs. 

Tuning issues still arise, especially with heavy tremolo use.  This system is significantly less expensive than a Floyd Rose.  

PRS Tremolo 

This design doesn’t quite match the pitch range of locking systems but it enjoys a great reputation for tuning stability.  It rivals the Floyd Rose Original in terms of cost.  

Will locking tuners act as a replacement for a Floyd Rose?

Not by themselves. Locking tuners can substitute for Floyd Rose locking nut but they can’t alter the pitch as a whammy bar can.  

Locking tuners might work well to complement non-locking tremolo bridges, though.  

Is changing the bridge of your guitar worth it?

That depends on the player. If you have a Floyd Rose and you’re unhappy with its complexity, taking it to a tech for a pro setup might be worthwhile before you commit to a full bridge swap.  

If you love the look of a Bigsby and want one on your guitar, though, there’s really no way around it.  

Likewise, if you have a fixed bridge and want to play Eruption by Van Halen you will have to change out the bridge.  

Is a bridge swap reversible?

A bridge swap might require routing out a cavity in the back of the guitar.  Or mounting with new screws.  

Depending on the bridges involved, it can be major surgery.  Sustain blocks and other modifications might make reversal possible but you might not get back the same guitar that you started out with.  

Can you do it on your own?

You can certainly try but, depending on the guitar and the bridges involved, the job may well require craftsman-level skill and expertise. 

If you’re good with tools and enjoy this kind of challenge then it may be well worth the attempt.  Otherwise, however, it’s probably worth hiring a professional.  

Ultimately it all comes down to player preferences.  There’s something out there for just about every guitarist.