A New Level Of Whammy Wisdom

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Sophia Tremolos Elevate High-Performance Tremolo Systems Even Further

There are a lot of things that set the electric guitar apart from other instruments, but the tremolo (or is it “vibrato?” Another topic for another article, perhaps) bridge is certainly near the very top of the list. Enabling a second level of expression beyond finger vibrato, tremolo bridges have craved valuable roles in a massive range of guitar-based music, from cool, clean jazz-bos to rockabilly wranglers to the most extreme and technically advanced music pioneered by Joe Satriani, Eddie Van Halen, and Steve Vai.

Geoffrey McCabe of Coherent Sound in Light has spent years perfecting an accessory that is madly creative AND maddeningly frustrating all at the same time. The result of his efforts is the Sophia tremolo system, which allows the user to precisely modify and configure a high-performance tremolo bridge that fits his or her own needs and style.

Sophia tremolos start with three different foundations:

  • the 2:22 (Fender string-spacing),
  • the 2:92 (Floyd Rose string-spacing) and
  • the 3:22 for surface-mounted, Gibson-style tune-o-matic arrangements.

 

That’s right, Sophia makes a tremolo bridge that can be installed on Gibson-style bridge formats without routing! From there, the player can choose the other components to build the tremolo of his dreams.

It seemed like a good idea to me to build to a standard that makes it easier for the player to deal with hardware. All the other parts [of the bridge] are mix and match,”  and avoid compatibility issues, McCabe recently told TheToneKing.com.  Sophia offers three types of saddles:

  1. Standard (milled from stainless steel or brass),
  2. Deluxe (locking, IP cast stainless steel), or
  3. the revolutionary (no pun intended) Macro Tuners, configured for either the 2:22 or 2:92 bridges.

The Macro Tuners are probably the most visually striking aspect of the Sophia tremolo design. The tubular design enables the player to load the strings two different ways and eliminates the need to snip off the ball ends, as we’re all accustomed to doing with Floyd Rose-style locking bridges. Most importantly, the Macro Tuner offers far greater range and precision than traditional fine tuners, with 60:1 tuning ratio and infinite tuner rotations available. This means, on the rare times when a player has to make slight tuning adjustments, he can do so with confidence; the range of the Macro Tuner won’t require a recalibration with the tuning keys as a Floyd Rose sometimes might.

The Macro Tuner design also lends itself well to D-tuner mechanisms on the low E string. A quick flip of a lever, and your low E is instantly dropped down to D. But the inherent stability of the Sophia trem means that the rest of your strings stay in perfect tune, and don’t fluctuate due to changes in tension across the bridge. For comfort, the Standard, Deluxe, and Macro Tuner saddles are all free of grub screws and other pointy implements that can tear up a player’s palm when he rests his hand on the bridge.

Global Tuner

Which leads us to the next innovation brought to market by Sophia tremolos: stability. A lot of engineering has been devoted to aftermarket solutions that prevent unwanted fluctuations in a tremolo bridge’s position, particular when the bridge is set to float.

I started looking around and I realized there were stabilization things that people had done, but no one had built it into the tremolo itself,” McCabe said.  So he devised a trem block that provides the rock-solid stability of a hardtail: the Global Tuner.

It’s not a tuner in the way you’re probably thinking, but it is a tuner in function. A good way to think of it is a “total instrument tuner,” instead of an individual tuner driving an individual string. The Global Tuner is a thumb-wheel integrated into a high-quality tremolo block. The thumbwheel quickly and precisely governs the position of the tremolo bridge, ensuring it reliably returns to “zero” (and proper pitch) even after spirited whammy bar use. So if your tremolo does get hung up after some extreme whammy excursions, a quick flick of the Global Tuner will get you all sorted out. The Global Tuner can also function as a trem stop when the thumbwheel is rotated further out from the block.

Line 6

An advanced version of the Global Tuner, the Global Tuner Pro, provides the same dial-it-in stability but adds an additional coupling point between the bridge and body through dual “soft stop” stabilizers. In addition to providing enhanced stability, they also proved to be a powerful enhancement in another way.

I didn’t really expect to find that additional contact with the body would make the guitar come alive the way it does,” McCabe noted. “What I realized very quickly was those contact pins create an additional contact from the trem to the body that you don’t normally have.” The soft-stop stabilizers are also tweakable, enabling the player to dial in firmer or softer feel according to his needs and style.

Instead of producing a long, linear sustain that we typically expect in a guitar, the pins cause the sound to move , “...in waves, and it creates a ‘bloom’ on every note,” McCabe said, which adds expressiveness and touch sensitivity to the instrument. The great news is that these components can be added to normal Floyd Rose and Fender tremolo systems, if you’re not quite ready to take the leap into a flown blown Sophia tremolo (though at this point in the article, you should be!).

With all of this functionality, one can be slightly forgiven in thinking that a Sophia tremolo system is a complex affair. Thankfully, that is not the case.

I have a feel as a player for what I want in my instrument’s hardware. I’m a minimalist in function. I follow this inherent perception that the more parts you have in your device, the more those parts act like an acoustic sponge,” McCabe noted. A professional musician with two albums and a many shows under his belt, he figured out early that making ever part and concept count is an important recipe for tonal success. That’s why Sophia tremolo systems skimp on nothing.

I’m constantly thinking of ways you can use really nice material to add nice clarity or tone to your instrument,” McCabe said. “Because of that, all of the Macro Tuner bodies are cast stainless steel. Even the so-called ‘budget’ Fender bridge, the 2.22, is milled stainless steel.

I’ve always liked stainless steel. The tonality is very good. It sounds pretty hi-fi without sounding bland.” McCabe is also examining the possibilities that come with titanium, a material that has become a sought-after upgrade in bridges and hardware.

Headless Guitars & More!

The Sophia tremolo systems also feature a number of thoughtful design touches beyond the innovative saddle and block designs. The tremolo arms are secured with a collet to prevent arms from swinging freely (if that’s what you prefer). The tremolo springs are copper-coated to cut down on extraneous noise. If you use headless guitars, the Sophia HeadPeace offers an ingenious way to not only securely lock your strings at the nut-end of the neck, but also integrates a removable bar so that your headless instrument can now be used with a variety of guitar hangers and stands. Even for those only making incremental improvements to their tremolo bridges, Sophia tremolos offers a lot of ways to vastly improve the performance of one of the most critical tonal junctures on an electric guitar.

Wisdom!

The name “Sophia” is of Greek origin, and means “wisdom.” As you’ve probably deduced by now, wisdom is one of the main ingredients in every Sophia tremolo system and component. Every concept, every design feature is driven by the simple, straightforward, and logical approaches to solving a problem or improving a condition in the traditional tremolo. Geoff McCabe would also tell you that a little good luck is also in play, but the bottom line is that players who use the Sophia tremolo system will no longer have to rely on luck when it comes to staying in tune in the most demanding musical situations. All TheToneKing.com readers and viewers owe it to themselves to check out these amazing systems!

 

 

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About the Author: Hello. Welcome to TheToneKing.com! My name is Louis, but in name of good fun & entertainment - I call myself The Tone King. This website was born back in 2008, to compliment the videos I started uploading to YouTube on guitar & related gear (guitar, amps, pedals, etc.). It has since grown, thanks to the thousands that tune in, making it what it is. If you subscribe to TheToneKing.com, you can expect lots of Guitar, Amp, Pedal Reviews & Shoot-Out videos. I also have monthly Live Webcasts, perform Artist Interviews, and try to get all the juicy coverage Backstage and at trade-shows like NAMM. The cherry on top is that there are no shortage of How-To Videos & TTK Killer Deal Alerts getting you the most knowledge & gear into your hands & mind! Thanks for stopping by to check out my website! Rock ON!

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