Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

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Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by NICQ » Mon Jan 01, 2018 12:53 am

I have a Firebird kit that I want to put together and think of installing a Vibrola unit instead of the hardtail piece. Read a lot about it online and it seems as if it is pretty difficult to get it right - the break angle behind the bridge is critical and varies quite a bit between the available vibrolas

The Gibson original is just too expensive for a Firebird kit build - 259eur from crazyparts.de for example ... that's more than the whole kit has cost so far ;D also - I read a lot about complaints that the Gibson unit too has/had a too shallow break angle - especially units solds around 2005-2010?

Allparts and WD sell a Vibrola unit but only in nickel/gold (not chrome) - also conflicting reports about working fine and being inferior from build quality.. they go for 90-120eur on ebay

Montreux also has a Vibrola unit but there's not too much info online about it and also it is hard to get - they do not seem to have a good distribution in Europe (they are a japanese company afaik) & I can't find a dealer that has that item in their shops..

Funnily enough there are also several Vibrola clones on aliexpress - I would've considered them if they were significantly cheaper but they are around 80-100eur too so.. meh, not really an option.


Anyone tried those units mentioned? Any advice what to get and what not?
Yes Vibrolas tend to be inferior to Bigsby and the Jazzmaster trem but I just can't get the image of a Firebird VII with 3 pickups + Vibrola out of my head :?

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by rwlandes » Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:17 pm

NICQ wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 12:53 am
I have a Firebird kit that I want to put together and think of installing a Vibrola unit instead of the hardtail piece. Read a lot about it online and it seems as if it is pretty difficult to get it right - the break angle behind the bridge is critical and varies quite a bit between the available vibrolas
<snip>
Funnily enough there are also several Vibrola clones on aliexpress - I would've considered them if they were significantly cheaper but they are around 80-100eur too so.. meh, not really an option.
I had an Epiphone custom shop '61 Les Paul reissue and the stock Vibrola was fantastic (never should have sold that guitar), so maybe you could find one of those used? (And, FWIW, this Vibrola was NOT inferior to a Bigsby!)
NICQ wrote:
Mon Jan 01, 2018 12:53 am
Anyone tried those units mentioned? Any advice what to get and what not?
Yes Vibrolas tend to be inferior to Bigsby and the Jazzmaster trem but I just can't get the image of a Firebird VII with 3 pickups + Vibrola out of my head :?
I know the feeling. Curious which Firebird kit you have...

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by Mechanical Birds » Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:27 pm

Insane to me that those trem units are more expensive than a mastery with about 1/1,000"th the functionality.

Get a Les Trem II and be done with the headaches, and have a much smaller and easily gotten over affect on yr wallet.

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by retroeero » Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:12 am

I've tried the Gibson unit from crazyparts.de, the Montreux and the Hosco. Hosco was by far the best and actually the only one that was functioning properly.

The Gibson was unusable, returned it immediately. There was no break angle, the strings would actually float on top of the bridge. And because of the spring it wouldn't sit flat on the top. Here's a picture: https://imgur.com/zICtciQ

The Montreux was almost like the Gibson unit but it had some break angle. Not enough for my liking and the spring was actually bent crooked so the bass side was sitting lower than the treble side. Returned it too.

The Hosco had no problems whatsoever. Good break angle, bent straight and it felt good. It had longer and smoother travel than the Montreux, no problems with tuning either. And it was the cheapest one!

BTW these were all short Vibrolas but the spring part of the unit should be the same on both. I've also tried a guitar with a long Montreux Vibrola and it had similar issues too.

The Vibrola really has it's own feel, quite different than JM/Jag tremolo or Bigsby. Not worse or better, just different.

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by NICQ » Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:37 am

retroeero wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:12 am
I've tried the Gibson unit from crazyparts.de, the Montreux and the Hosco. Hosco was by far the best and actually the only one that was functioning properly.

The Gibson was unusable, returned it immediately. There was no break angle, the strings would actually float on top of the bridge. And because of the spring it wouldn't sit flat on the top. Here's a picture: https://imgur.com/zICtciQ

The Montreux was almost like the Gibson unit but it had some break angle. Not enough for my liking and the spring was actually bent crooked so the bass side was sitting lower than the treble side. Returned it too.

The Hosco had no problems whatsoever. Good break angle, bent straight and it felt good. It had longer and smoother travel than the Montreux, no problems with tuning either. And it was the cheapest one!

BTW these were all short Vibrolas but the spring part of the unit should be the same on both. I've also tried a guitar with a long Montreux Vibrola and it had similar issues too.

The Vibrola really has it's own feel, quite different than JM/Jag tremolo or Bigsby. Not worse or better, just different.
Thanks man - great advice!

Where did you get the Hosco Vibrola? www.emma-music.com ?

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by retroeero » Wed Jan 03, 2018 1:17 am

NICQ wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:37 am

Thanks man - great advice!

Where did you get the Hosco Vibrola? www.emma-music.com ?
I bought it from a Finnish retailer but they don't seem to have them anymore. Emma Music seems to have them and they actually have a picture showing the difference between Montreux and Hosco! It's little hard to tell from that pic if the bottom of the spring is sitting flat with the rest of the unit but at least the break angle seems to be ok with the Hosco. The Montreux will probably shoot over the bridge like the Gibson unit did.
Image

I'd ask a picture of a complete Vibrola unit on a flat surface before ordering to see if it's properly bent.

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by NICQ » Wed Jan 03, 2018 2:03 am

rwlandes wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 12:17 pm
Curious which Firebird kit you have...
I have bought this one from pitbullguitars (Australia) :
https://www.pitbullguitars.com/shop/gui ... -mahogany/

Hardware is cheap and will be replaced - bought a black aftermarket pickguard as well
I also have 2 Firebird pickups from David Barfuss lying around and will get a third eventually
Will fill the hardtail stopbar holes and glue some wood onto the headstock to cut it out like a real Firebird

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by NICQ » Wed Jan 03, 2018 2:59 am

retroeero wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 1:17 am
I'd ask a picture of a complete Vibrola unit on a flat surface before ordering to see if it's properly bent.
I will do that !

Another question: which bridge did you use with the vibrola?
Standard TOM/ABR - maybe with domed thumbwheels like this https://www.crazyparts.de/bridges--tail ... nickel.php or a rollerbridge?

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by retroeero » Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:22 am

NICQ wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 2:59 am
Another question: which bridge did you use with the vibrola?
Standard TOM/ABR - maybe with domed thumbwheels like this https://www.crazyparts.de/bridges--tail ... nickel.php or a rollerbridge?
I had it on my SG Jr. which had a normal wraparound bridge. The wraparound bridge actually rocked back and forth kind of like old ABR-1 bridges with domed thumbwheels so I'd definitely use those if I were to use Vibrola with TOM bridge! I guess a roller bridge would work too, haven't really used those.

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by NICQ » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:45 am

retroeero wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:22 am
I had it on my SG Jr. which had a normal wraparound bridge. The wraparound bridge actually rocked back and forth kind of like old ABR-1 bridges with domed thumbwheels so I'd definitely use those if I were to use Vibrola with TOM bridge! I guess a roller bridge would work too, haven't really used those.
I received the vibrola yesterday - it's a bit weird, looks like they sent me the chrome Montreux one from the picture and not the Hosco one:

just wanted to ask as you have some experience - here's a pic:

Image

the break angle of the tailpiece will be ok (can not really tell without pull of the strings)
but the spring itself has too big of a curve - it touches the body even when lying flat on the surface
and the strings will be too high - I could raise the bridge more but I'm still a bit concerned... the spring will not be bent by the string pull to float - as long as it rests on the body I think it is a faulty design... isn't it?

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by NICQ » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:00 am

also I noticed just right now that the spring is so low that the base does not touch the ground by itself :
Image



if I press the plate down like it would be when it was screwed to the body:
Image

-> there is quite some pressure on the spring against the body - if the strings have some pull too the spring is pressed onto the body and the plate is lifting...

I don't think there is a way to make that work... I thought about routing 7 mm under the spring and 4 for the whole thing in relation to the bridge (that firebird kit was quite cheap and is not assembled or has any finish) but tbh I'd rather get a spring with a flatter curve and still have the right break angle...

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by NICQ » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:11 am

as a comparison I found these pics of the crazyparts vibrola on everythingsg.com :

Image
Image

that looks right to me with the flatter curve on the spring...

But that's an older picture and crazyparts only sell the Gibson unit now for 256eur ... which is crazy indeed :fp:

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by retroeero » Fri Jan 12, 2018 1:06 pm

NICQ wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:45 am

I received the vibrola yesterday - it's a bit weird, looks like they sent me the chrome Montreux one from the picture and not the Hosco one:

just wanted to ask as you have some experience - here's a pic:

Image

the break angle of the tailpiece will be ok (can not really tell without pull of the strings)
but the spring itself has too big of a curve - it touches the body even when lying flat on the surface
and the strings will be too high - I could raise the bridge more but I'm still a bit concerned... the spring will not be bent by the string pull to float - as long as it rests on the body I think it is a faulty design... isn't it?
Yep, doesn't look good to me. I mean, how can you even use the vibrato when the arm is pointing up like that? :fp: Looks like it's the Montreux one, I'd definitely return it. It has the same flaws as I said earlier.

The second pic from everythingsg looks a lot better. I'd bet it's a Hosco since it's bent the same way. So I'd still continue hunt a Hosco unit.

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by Deed_Poll » Thu Feb 08, 2018 5:09 am

Hey Nico, I was wondering whether you've had any more luck with these vibrolas? Did you find out whether the one you received was in fact the Hosco?

I'm looking for a half decent, but consistent unit for some Juniorbirds... it's a bit concerning if they all come in different shapes!

Obviously I can design the body to fit the vibrato with the "ramp" behind the bridge, and I'll have control over the neck angle as well.

The Maestro gets a lot of criticism and it's no wonder given the inconsistency in the different options, and the fact they are a complete crapshoot as regards break angle.

If you have a set neck guitar, you're so limited with options to fix the break angle that you might as well not bother. I understand the frustration of many owners, particularly considering it is mostly featured on already overpriced Gibson Custom Shop guitars.

There's no excuse for that. I'm not trying to make excuses for it. It's bad design, just the same as the original Les Pauls with the understrung Trapeze bridge (I think they buggered up the neck angle and had to improvise).

HOWEVER, I think it's important to see the strengths in the design, albeit they are all subjective.

Firstly, it's extremely ergonomic to use. The arm is exactly the right shape and size, it stays just where you want it, and is in my opinion hinged in exactly the right place for up/down movement.

I feel like the Bigsby feels too stiff; the Jazzmaster (though on balance my favourite vibrato) is a bit too loose feeling - it sinks into the guitar body a bit too readily and easily for my playing style, and it is possible to lose track of where it is. The Strat trem is, again, a bit too stiff like the Bigsby and is also a bit too sensitive.

It also has a nice natural range / gearing curve to it (I don't know what the right terminology is). It's the only vibrato I find myself reaching for on hard tail guitars after having played it extensively over a time.

It also has a kind of trashy, punchy effect on the sound to my ear. Very funky and percussive, I guess because of the reduced sustain and shallow break angle. Both things I like, but most people would hate. I think Jazzmaster and Jag players in general are more likely to enjoy this than the general guitar playing public though, so I think many people around here would be making a mistake to discount it.

There's also the fact that the ones that play like shit (and there are A LOT) are going to be the ones sitting on the wall the longest that you'll find at the most tempting prices, and be most likely to plug in for a demo.

Finally, the thing just looks amazing. I know there's a general consensus that they're for posers, and I'm not going to say there's no truth to that. But looking good is a pro, not a con ;)

There are also things that can be done. If you have a rocking ABR-1 bridge, you can file the string slots really quite deep in the saddle, and this increases friction - which makes it work better, as long as there's some room for the bridge to move.

The Maestro on my Flying V reissue below has exactly this setup and it works beautifully, even though it has a break angle that makes a Jazzmaster look like a Tele.

Image

Anyway, rant over! Any more info on the Hosco vibratos or other options would be much appreciated :)

Dan

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Re: Firebird Tremolo: What's a good aftermarket Vibrola?

Post by Deed_Poll » Thu Feb 08, 2018 8:00 am

retroeero wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 1:06 pm

Yep, doesn't look good to me. I mean, how can you even use the vibrato when the arm is pointing up like that? :fp: Looks like it's the Montreux one, I'd definitely return it. It has the same flaws as I said earlier.

The second pic from everythingsg looks a lot better. I'd bet it's a Hosco since it's bent the same way. So I'd still continue hunt a Hosco unit.
Agreed, but bear in mind that when the string tension is added, that will pull the arm down ;)

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