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Kahler Vs Floyd Rose: Which Locking Tremolo Bridge Is Better? [2021 Guide]

If you’re curious about Kahler vs Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo systems and which is best for you and your situation, this post is for you!

I’m no expert on the topic, but I have been playing guitar since 2003, and I do have an opinion on the issue.

In short:

Floyd Rose double-locking tremolos are more popular in general and more widespread in different genres whereas Kahler is more popular in metal genres. However, Floyd Rose licenses their system for manufacturing by many different entities. On the other hand, Kahler is the only manufacturer of its double-locking tremolo. So you may have more consistent quality with Kahler than with Floyd Rose.

I’ll dive into more differences in the sections below.

Locking Tremolos

To understand this fully, I’m going to first explain what locking tremolos are. The conventional whammy bar or a tremolo bridge has its limitations. They can only cause a lowering of the pitch.

Fender had some floating tremolo solutions that could cause a raising of the pitch. But these came with their limitations and were somewhat impractical.

Then there are locking tremolos. Their design involves clamping the strings at the nut and the bridge. So with this, you get a dual-wielding action and the strings stay in tune even after heavy use. Double-locking systems is another name that you can use for locking tremolos.

Floyd Rose

Musician and engineer, Floyd D. Rose, came up with the locking tremolo system back in the 1970s. He was motivated to create a tremolo system that doesn’t affect tuning stability.

None of the traditional methods worked. Nut lubrication and using fewer string windings on the tuning peg were not enough. After extensive tremolo use, things just went out of tune.

The solution came in the form of a double-locking tremolo system. Floyd developed some early prototypes and started using them. Once he proved the concept, he started selling the Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo bridges.

And, what’s more, plenty of famous guitarists started using them. They grew in popularity particularly during the 1980s. Eddie Van Halen, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Brad Gillis were just some of the famous names who used the Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo system. 

How It Works

A double-locking tremolo system has a specialized locking nut with three clamps. Each clamp holds two strings and you can tighten it up with a hex key. The locking nut works hand-in-hand with the bridge. It’s not an essential component as the bridge can work without it. However, it helps a lot with tuning stability.

The bridge itself is a bit complex. The original design from the 1970s is almost unchanged. It comes with six individual string saddles (or more, if referring to extended-range guitars).

The saddles are accompanied by clamps which are controlled via string lock screws. Once tightened up, the strings are in place and cannot move. This keeps the tuning stable, along with the locking nut.

Then there are intonation locking screws at each saddle. But most importantly, each string comes with its own fine tuner. After all, a string can go a bit out of tune. But these fine tuners allow you to keep strings in check without having to open the locking nut clamps.

All of these parts are located on the base plate. The plate itself makes contact with two studs in the body. We call these contact points knife edges. In order to keep things in tune and operating smoothly, these points should be lubricated.

Finally, in order for a Floyd Rose bridge to work, there should be modifications to the body. When you pull the tremolo arm away from the body, you make the strings go sharp. But you need room for the bridge to go that way. This is why guitars that come with Floyd Rose bridges are designed in advance to have a hole behind the bridge.

Kahler

Kahler bridges are a bit different. They don’t rely on the fulcrum-pivot principle. This means that the bridge plate doesn’t make contact with pivots that go into the body. There aren’t knife edges as with the Floyd Rose bridge.

Instead, the Kahler bridge relies on a cam. This rotating piece is the key component that helps you go sharp or flat. The biggest advantage here is that it requires way less body modification.

Strings go directly to the cam. And the ball end of each string is held in place by slotted blocks.

Also, the tremolo arm is screwed directly into the cam. This brings a very quick response. Additionally, there’s also a hex screw next to the arm. It tightens or loosens the arm’s swing action.

Such a design also brings specific saddles. You can notice that saddles come with rollers that remove all friction.

The counterbalance is provided with two springs. They’re hidden below the casing and they bring the bridge back to its original position. And, most importantly, you can limit the upwards and downwards tremolo action.

Other than that, there are some of the same elements. Like Floyd Roses, Kahlers have a locking nut, fine tuners, and string clamps.

Old Kahler bridges were very similar to Floyd Rose bridges. It was pretty much the same fulcrum-based tremolo. But there were some minor differences. However, Floyd Rose sued Kahler in the 1990s and won. After that, Kahler started making different bridges. These are the kinds that we have today.

Kahler Vs Floyd Rose: Which Is Better?

Now, this is a bit of a tricky topic. In a practical sense, Kahler and Floyd Rose bridges do the same thing. You can go up and down in pitch, even really fast. And you’ll stay in tune if everything’s set up correctly.

But there are some differences in their design and the way they work. And, honestly, I can’t help but point out a lot of advantages that come with Kahler bridges.

Firstly, the Kahler design requires less body modification. And sure, the arm may feel a bit too sensitive to some. But the bridge responds really well, which allows for full control.

Then you also have the option to limit tremolo arm action on Kahler bridges. This is yet another thing that allows for more control over your performance.

And one important thing to know is that Kahler is always made by Kahler. Meanwhile, Floyd Rose allows other manufacturers to make licensed copies. Of course, these are good, but it’s like comparing Fender and Squier guitars. With Kahler, you always know what you get. 

Nonetheless, both Kahler and Floyd Rose are worth it. It just depends on what you’re looking for. Floyd Rose is the more widespread variant. This makes it more of the standard so you’ll have more information on how to use Floyd Rose bridges.

Generally speaking, Kahler bridges are more common among metal musicians. Meanwhile, Floyd Rose has more widespread use among various different genres.

If you’re interested in more discussion on this matter, here’s a video going in-depth on the matter:

What You Should Know Before Getting a Locking Tremolo Bridge

Now, bear in mind that locking tremolos are a tricky business. Be it a Kahler or a Floyd Rose, they come with their own challenges. Above all, the restringing process is very tedious.

And, if a string breaks, all of the other strings go out of tune. If this happens mid-show, you better have a spare guitar. Otherwise, you’ll spend the next 10 to 15 minutes sorting things out.

Another thing to know is that guitars with super-low action can be problematic if you’re pulling the tremolo arm away from the body. In some cases, strings may even touch the frets. This can cause some unwanted sounds and effects.

But other than that, dual-wielding locking tremolo bridges come with great advantages. They have improved tuning stability and you can easily achieve a true vibrato.  

Kahler Vs Floyd Rose: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you understand the difference between Kahler vs Floyd Rose and which might be best for you.

And if you’re curious about some other aspects of guitar manufacturing and material choices, check out my post about Corian as a guitar nut material or my Richlite vs ebony fingerboard post!

Let me know in the comments if you have further questions about this or another guitar topic!

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