One may compare a flame maple body to the gentle curve of a lover's hip.   A mahogany neck to the smoothness of her bare thigh.   The polished chrome hardware to the jewelry you may adorn her with in hopes that she will return your affections.

True intimacy however, comes when you start to connect with what's inside your lover.   It begins when it becomes more than just how she looks, or how she feels,  but how she makes you feel when you're together.

There are many overlooked aspects on an electric guitar because they involve a deeper understanding of tone and feel than just what you can see in a catalog, or even in person.   Like many a romance novel or online porntube video, you can bare witness to all that may strike your fancy, but when you're ready to get serious about taking things with your lover to the next level, I  humbly submit to you the solid brass tremolo block from Killer Guitar Components (KGC) of Gloucester, MA.

Tremolo what?   I hope you didn't just ask that.   But if you did, here's a quick description. In most guitar tremolo systems (and that's what they're called, even if they're technically “vibrato” systems and commonly referred to as “whammy bars”) there is a solid piece of metal called a “block” in which the strings feed through before making contact with the bridge saddles.   This is to replace the mass that was cut out of the guitar to make room for the tremolo system in the first place.  Without the block, the overall sound of the guitar would be greatly diminished and have very little sustain.  

Unfortunately, most guitar manufacturers, while putting in blocks perfectly capable of returning the lost mass of the tremolo cavity, don't seem intent on putting in the best possible blocks that can be made.   Hence you have many companies out there who are trying to fill this gap by building higher quality components for existing tremolo systems, and KGC makes some of the BEST.

For less than $100 (most of his blocks, are under $100) and a little time spent with a screwdriver (installation is easy enough to do yourself, direct replacement, no mods necessary), you can upgrade your tone in serious fashion.   We're talking greater sustain, tuning stability, and most importantly, a sweeter tone.  I would say that with this block and some new strings, you can get an almost  piano-like tone on your guitar.  It's truly remarkable and it is sincerely worth the investment, and KGC has blocks available for Strats, PRSs, Ibanezes, Floyd Rose bridges, etc.   

I was fortunate enough to speak with Rick Peek (KGC's business manager) to talk about his product and his company.

Russ: What makes a man wake up in the morning, smile at the infinite possibilities of a band new day, and say to himself, “You know what? I'm going to make tremolo blocks!”?

Rick: "Well, the idea behind making tremolo blocks started about 5 years ago when [owner/founder] Sandy made one of his own with a piece of brass he had hanging around the garage.  Sandy has had a Bridgeport [milling machine] in the garage since the early 80's and being a master machinist, model-maker and lifetime guitar enthusiast - he took to the garage one Sunday and decided he wanted to make his own out of [that] piece of brass he had hanging around.  After manufacturing this first block, he installed it on his '57 Reissue Strat and found the results to be simply amazing.  A balanced, sweet tone, a great increase in sustain and a more stable feel due to the greater mass. 

"Sandy then started manufacturing brass tremolo blocks on the side as a part-time gig and selling them on ebay.  The feedback he received was off the charts and as sales grew, eventually it turned into a full-time thing and later I (his son, Rick) joined him to build a website and make Killer Guitar Components into a legitimate business with many offerings besides just the Strat tremolo blocks.   Now here we are - father and son working together every day to grow our seedling company into what we hope someday will be a giant in the industry."


Russ: Now, why brass? Something special about brass? Something special about YOUR brass? You seem to like brass. I mean it's pretty and all but, we're talking about something INSIDE the guitar you can't see.

Rick: "Brass is a great material for guitar hardware for a number of reasons.  Brass has a natural resonance and a natural ability to filter out undesirable harmonic spikes - giving truer notes and allowing more of your tone to come through from the body of your guitar.  There is a good reason that bells, horns and many other instruments have been made of brass for hundreds of years.  If they were made of zinc (like many of the OEM tremolo blocks) they would sound like sh*t. 

"During the infancy of Killer Guitar Components, we decided to experiment by making a tremolo block from each of a number of different alloys of brass, copper and steel.  After this experiment, we found that there seemed to be one alloy of brass that really stuck out as sounding the best.  Most balanced tone, best sustain - and it shines up real pretty.  We've stuck with that alloy for all of our components to date and I think most of our customers realize that there is something about this alloy that really works to enhance your sound. 

"We understand that many of our components are going to be stuck behind the guitar inside that cavity and many times covered by a plastic cover but we take a lot of pride in what we do.  Not only do we want these blocks and other parts to function as well as possible, but we also want them to be a showpiece.  Who wants to show off a beautiful guitar that has dull, hastily machined and finished parts in it?  That is why we also concentrate on aesthetics as much as overall quality.  We want you to want to show off your KGC gear...and look good doing it."


Russ: Let's not be coy here. I have one of these brass tremolo blocks in my Stratocaster. I love it. But it's one of those things you really need to hear and feel when you're playing it to understand just how good it is. Reviews are fine. Interviews and hype are fine. But how do you try and get across that “sound and feel” that really makes people's eyes light up when they experience it in person?

Rick:  "To tell you the truth, that is one of the really difficult things to get across in our business.  There are so many products out there these days for players to choose from and many of them do not do what a company may claim they do - some call it snake oil.  We have just done our best over the last couple years to get customers who have tried our stuff to tell their buddies and help to spread the word.  As you say, reviews are great and advertising can sometimes help too, but the best form of advertising is always word-of-mouth.  This is one of the many reasons it is so important for us to give personal service and attention to each customer and each component we manufacture to make sure the quality is there.  You just can't understand what these blocks can do for your guitar until you try it for yourself - and when you do, your eyes WILL light up.  That I can promise."


Russ: What's the best thing you ever heard someone say about your brass blocks?

Rick: "Oh boy, we have had some good ones.  I have had one guy tell us that 'I'm not sure whether to describe my initial reaction as proud or orgasmic ... probably a bit of both, in reverse order ...'  another who said  'can't wait to bring it to band practice because my MIM Strat now sounds better than my bandmate's $2000 Les Paul.'  We get a lot of feedback that mostly says that they can't believe the quality of the product itself AND the increases in sustain, tone and feel."


Russ: I know the brass tremolo blocks are just your flagship item. You have a ton of product, and just about everything a Strat owner could want. If someone handed you a plain old, off the rack, American Stratocaster and said “pimp my ax”, what would you do to it with what you have in your shop to make him or her just plain old shit themselves when they played it?

Rick: "I would do the ultimate Strat Pimp using the following items we keep in stock...

"Complete KGC bridge with solid-milled brass bridge plate, tremolo block and Killer Claw, Brass Strat Screw Kit, Raw Vintage Pure Steel Springs, Titanium Saddles, GraphTech TUSQ XL Nut, Kluson Tuners, Raw Vintage 50's pickups, Stainless Steel trem bar and some pure nickel Fender strings. 

"That setup would blow your freakin' mind.  Through much research, customer feedback and trial and error - we have found that the key to tone is a combination of materials.  If you have a whole brass bridge with brass saddles, your guitar will sound like mud...but when you put the titanium saddles on there with a set of Raw Vintage Steel springs and Nickel strings - that gives you some zing.  Combining the titanium and steel with the softer tone materials of brass and the TUSQ nut give you an awesome balance across the whole spectrum.  You don't lose that Strat 'quack' but you also don't get shrill or muddy tones that will make your listeners cringe."

 

No joke.  Visit Killer Guitar Component's website and see for yourself.  You won't be disappointed.

 

 

 

Category: Gear Porn