SMG Review: Super-Vee BladeRunner Tremolo

IT’S A BIRD…IT’S A PLANE…IT’S…

Super-Vee was founded by guitar tech Jeff Lathrop and engineer Marc Caldwell in a quest to improve upon problems with existing tremolos. By meticulously addressing issues such as tone, tuning stability, construction, and quality of materials, they developed the original Super-Vee locking tremolo system. A few years later, their patented “Blade” technology was used in producing a non-locking design, attracting players preferring a more traditional approach as well as providing a more affordable upgrade. The result was dubbed the BladeRunner.

BUILDING A BETTER MOUSETRAP

The BladeRunner is a replacement non-locking tremolo for Strat-style guitars requiring no modification to the instrument. The basic configuration is similar to stock with six individually adjustable saddles, a tremolo block that sits within the vibrato cavity and connects to a set of tension springs at the back of the guitar, and a threaded hole on the treble side for a whammy bar. This is where the similarities end. The materials are a substantial improvement with the bridge plate constructed from polished stainless steel and the tremolo block fashioned from a proprietary amalgam that reduces weight while maximizing tone and sustain. Whereas a stock bridge plate is a single piece screwed into the body through its leading edge, the BladeRunner’s leading edge is a separate strip hard-mounted to the body in order to maintain flush contact and maximize resonance. This attaches to the bridge plate by a flexible ‘Blade’ of industrial grade spring steel. It’s through this patented design that friction is eliminated, tuning stability is improved, and enhanced tone and sustain are transmitted. The included whammy bar has an extra post extending beyond the standard mounting threads. This pushes into a nylon insert, allowing the bar to stick in place right where you leave it. For those who prefer a free-swinging arm, the insert is easily removed.

For the record, ‘tremolo’ is modulation of volume whereas ‘vibrato’ is modulation of pitch. These two terms are often used interchangeably when talking about pitch-altering bridge systems.

BE YOUR OWN TWANG BAR KING

I grabbed the BladeRunner Strat and one of four stock Strats available to me that was the closest match to compare tone, sustain, tuning stability, and whammy feel. The tone of the BladeRunner was noticeably brighter and more chimey. Longer sustain was also quite obvious as attacks rang out with clarity and held with a slow decay. The stock Strat maintained a shorter hang-time and trailed off more quickly. Next, the ultra fun whammy test. I put both axes through their paces with multiple rounds of vibrato gymnastics: rapid shallow wiggles to full-on plunging of the bar to the body. I have yet to come across a non-locking system that maintains perfect tuning stability, but the BladeRunner was pretty damn solid. I found myself making slight tuning adjustments to just a couple strings between whammy rounds, whereas I had to make more significant and less consistent adjustments to more strings with the stock guitar. Finally, the response with the BladeRunner felt more springy and natural, creating more enjoyable interaction with the instrument.

FINAL WRAP

The BladeRunner proved its worth in a number of ways that affect tone and playability. These benefits extend to players who don’t even venture into the World of Whammy with improvements to clarity, and sustain. The only limitation I found was that the tremolo block hit the wall of the vibrato cavity, preventing full-on dive bombs and total slacking of the strings. It did dive pretty damn low, however, so this is a minor detail that probably only affects the most head-banging of us. It’s a great looking piece of hardware. At a price that’s easily affordable, I can’t think of any reason not to recommend upgrading your stock Strat with the Super-Vee BladeRunner. Now!

DIRECT PRICE – $149 + shipping

Dan Coplan is senior staff writer at SMG. Dan is a Los Angeles based cinematographer and self-admitting guitar junkie. Email: dancoplan@sharemyguitar.com

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