From!!utnut!torn!!!rblander Thu Jun 3 23:04:33 CDT 1993
Article: 5148 of alt.guitar
From: rblande–(at)– (Robyn Landers)
Subject: REVIEW: Wilkinson VS100 bridge
Keywords: Wilkinson VS100 vibrato bridge
Sender: new–(at)– (USENET News System)
Organization: University of Waterloo
Date: Mon, 31 May 1993 19:44:14 GMT
Lines: 229
Xref: alt.guitar:5148

As promised, here is my review of the Wilkinson VS100
bridge. I’ve been meaning to do it for quite some time, and the
recent Floyd wars have prompted me to get going. This posting
is going to be very long, so I won’t do point-by-point compare
and contrast with a Floyd. You’ll have to figure that out
for yourselves.

I have installed a VS100C on a home-brew Strat
(Warmoth compound radius neck and Warmoth swamp ash body)
with very good results. As noted in other postings, Carvin
has switched to VS100 on their guitars. Godin, from Canada,
also offers the VS100 systems.

The Wilkinson VS100 is a new vibrato system from the
guy who brought you the roller nut you see on modern Strats, and
various other products. (Yes, “vibrato”. Tremolo is variation
in volume, vibrato is variation in pitch.) It comes in four
variations: two-stud or six-screw mounting, and “locking”
or “non-locking” arm. I put “locking” in quotes because
it is not locking in the sense of “double locking Floyd”
as we usually call it, where the string is clamped or locked
at both the nut and at the bridge. Rather, the Wilkinson
bridge optionally “locks” into place to prevent it from pivoting.
The term Wilkinson uses for this is “convertible”.

The model designations are as follows:

VS100 – two stud mounts, non-locking
VS100V – “vintage”, i.e. with six screw mounting, non-locking
VS100C – two stud mounts, convertible
VS100CV – six screw mounting, convertible

The VS100 is a very low profile, clean looking unit,
made of high quality stainless steel. It’s a typical fulcrum
spring-balanced knife edge pivoting design, essentially the same
as what Strats have had for 40 years, but with many refinements
that make it work very well.

All dimensions including mounting screws or studs
are identical to vintage Strat or modern Strat Plus dimensions,
so the bridge will retro-fit to any stock Strat.

All four models offer the following design features.

The saddles are solid bars, rather than the piece of bent
stamped metal as on the “vintage” Strat bridge. The side-to-side
spacing of the saddles can be adjusted to allow for various
neck/nut widths and pickup pole piece alignment. Two allen
posts in each saddle adjust individual saddle height.
An allen screw through the rear end of the saddle adjusts
intonation scale length. An allen screw down through the centre
of the saddle clamps it to the bridge plate after all adjustments
have been made, for extra stability.

String mounting can be done in several ways because
each tunnel in the sustain block contains a wedge and a locking
screw. You can use these (or not) as follows:

– normal mounting: remove the wedge and screw, load string as
usual with ball end in sustain block, bare end wrapped around
tuning peg.

– normal plus clamped: same as above, but install the wedge and
screw afterwards to jam the ball end tightly at the top of
the tunnel, preventing any extra play when whammying.
If you break a string, and have enough windings at the peg,
you can unwind a bit, feed the string down into the bridge
again, and clamp without needing a ball end.

– reverse: put the ball end at the tuning peg, and insert the
bare end down through the sustain block, pulling taut before
inserting wedge, then tighten with screw to clamp the string.
Now it’ll take less than one full wrap to bring the string
to pitch. Getting rid of wraps around the tuning peg helps
improve tuning stability when whammying.

If you use reverse stringing (or if you have locking tuning
pegs, like Sperzels) and have a properly cut nut, you shouldn’t
need to have a locking nut.

The “vintage” models use six screws to mount the bridge.
Each of the screw holes is knife-edged. This is useful if
you’re retrofitting onto a vintage instrument that you don’t
want to modify for stud mounts.

The stud mounts are probably superior. Two studs are
sunk into the body, and posts thread into them. The knife edge
of the bridge plate pivots on notches in the studs. Overall
height adjustment of the bridge is easy by turning the studs in
or out. This makes it nice for setting saddle height: lower the
bridge until the E strings just barely hit the last fret.
Adjust saddles of other strings so they too just barely hit the frets.
Now the saddles follow the fingerboard radius perfectly.
Raise the bridge to achieve desired action height.

The VS100 and VS100V will suffer from the same pitch
detuning problem that any fulcrum based design has: when you
bend a string, the bridge pulls forward so the pitch of other
strings drops. And if you break a string the guitar is hopelessly
out of tune. In general, you might try a Hipshot Tremsetter to
combat this problem. However, the stiffer you make the Tremsetter
to fight the problem, the stiffer the whammy feel becomes, so subtle
movement is difficult to do.

The VS100C/CV with the “convertible” mechanism solves
this problem. With these models, you get a new aluminum back
plate (that covers the spring cavity) which has a special little
receptacle mounted in it. The whammy bar extends right through
the bridge where it rests in a well in this receptacle. With the
bar at rest position (hanging down just behind the last tone control
on a Strat), the bridge cannot move, no matter how much you bend,
or even if a string breaks.

Back on top of the bridge, the whammy bar passes
through a ramped collar threaded into the bridge plate. A mating
collar is attached to the bar. When you swing the bar up from
rest position ready to use it, the ramped collar forces the bar
to rise up slightly so that it lifts out of the well in the
receptacle on the backing plate. This makes it free to pivot.
When you’re done whammying, release the bar. It swings back
down and locks the bridge again.

Thanks to this design, you need no Tremsetter and can use
as many or as few springs as you like, getting the feel you want,
without the pitch bending problem.

All the stuff here is adjustable: position of the little
receptacle, location of the ramped collars (hence height and rest
position of the bar), tension of the bar as you swing it into place.
And, by the way, *every* adjustment, saddles included, is done with
the same size allen key. If you prefer to have the bar stay up in
playing position while you’re not using it, then you lose the locking
ability. It has to swing down to lock the bridge.

Overall I think the VS100 looks great. It’s very low
profile and clean looking, compared to the huge mass of metal
a Floyd-type lumps on the guitar (oops I wasn’t supposed to do
any Floyd bashing :-). It looks modern but not out of place on
a Strat. I chose the gold plated model. The saddles are smooth
finish but the bridge plate is crinkle finish. It doesn’t look bad,
but it might have been nicer if the whole thing were smooth finish.
The whammy bar is not gold plated — it’s plain polished stainless

While installing this bridge I spent a great deal of time
fiddling with the adjustments. The orientation of the receptacle
on the backing plate affects ability to pull up on the bar.
Depending on how high you want the bridge off the body, the bar
height must be adjusted correspondingly, and if the bridge is low
and you use the string clamps in the sustain block, I found the
clamps can hit the backing plate while whammying. I solved this
by using a file to enlarge the slot in the backing plate.

To make the locking system behave properly, you must precisely
set the spring tension to match the string tension. Otherwise, when
you swing the bar up and unlock the bridge, the bridge can move forward
or backward (depending on string versus spring tension), throwing the
tuning off until you release the bar.

I found that at rest, the bar can make a bit of vibrating
noise. This is audible acoustically but not through the amp.
By slightly adjusting the position of the ramp collar on the
bar so that it is a wee bit off from where gravity wants to
make the bar rest, this vibration was overcome.

On the plus side, because everything *is* adjustable, you
can set it up so everything works. And when you do, it works very
well. I freely admit I am *not* a heavy duty whammy user. I don’t
do dive bombs and Satriani harmonic squeals. I have no need to let
the strings flap right out of their nut slots. So I can’t comment
on the guys who insist that only a true Floyd can withstand
full abuse and stay in tune.

For me, I absolutely hate the complexity and limitations
(and appearance) of a double locking Floyd setup. In my circle of
friends, those with Floyds have far more tuning problems than I’ve
ever had with either a vintage Strat bridge (and expertly cut graphite
nut) or with the Wilkinson VS100C.

I’m using ordinary Gotoh precision tuners and a graphite nut.
The guitar stays in tune fine for me with moderate whammy use. With
locking tuners such as Sperzels, or reverse string loading, and a
properly cut nut, the VS100 should do an excellent job.

There has certainly been no degradation of tone with this
bridge, unlike some who find that a Floyd makes their Strat sound
thin and harsh. I’ve still got lots of richness and warmth to the tone.

I’ve tried the reverse stringing idea. I find that with
ordinary strings, I can detune and retune only a few times before
the windings at the ball end break from the stress of being wrapped
around the tuning peg. (Don’t use reverse stringing if you’re
working on your guitar (e.g. installing pickups, adjusting neck) and
need to detune and retune a lot!) Maybe the “reinforced” type of
strings would help. Also, I’m going to try Fender bullet-end strings
instead of the usual ball-end strings, which might help too. Otherwise,
reverse stringing seems like a good idea.

It’s a joy to have a bridge with full saddle adjustability,
a nice light whammy touch (unlike my previous Tremsetter), and rock
steady tuning thanks to the “convertible” mechanism.

If you have questions about this bridge I’ll try to answer
them, although I’ve used up quite a pile of my spare-USENET-time
by typing all this in! 🙂

Robyn Landers
“I’m just doing my rock’n’roll duty.” — Dubois


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