Like the Schaller article, we could discuss the Kahler tremolo for days and have enough information to fill another website, but I won’t.
Before we get started, it’s important to know that I’m discussing the same company famous for making the cam style tremolo system as shown above.
During the late 70’s, Gary Kahler of Kahler Systems International formed a company by the name of Brass Factory. This company built guitar hardware exclusively of 360 H/H brass and his first major customer was Fender. Together with Fender they established the Brass Works line of Fender hardware that included the classic claw bridge and standard Fender bridges. Shortly thereafter, he began building brass products for Dimarzio’s guitar and bass lines as well. It isn’t until 1981 that American Precision Metal Works Inc., a division of Kahler Systems International; unveils the Kahler tremolo as we know it today.
Kahler Steeler (Mid- 1980s)
The Kahler Steeler, very top, was a very high quality tremolo made in the USA. Along with the Fernandes Headcrasher series and Kahler Killer, it’s considered one of the best licensed Floyd Roses of the era. In fact, the Steeler bridge was a result in a massive court battle between Gary Kahler and Floyd Rose where Gary Kahler came out the victor and was allowed to fabricate the early Floyd Rose Pros and Kahler Killer, Steeler, and Spyder tremolos.
Kahler Steeler, above. This is one of the first FRT-5 “whale tail” style tremolos Gary Kahler started making after he finished short Floyd Rose run for Kramer Guitars.
There were mutiple adjustments you could make with the sustain block, and it looks to be made of brass.
There is also a Carvin-branded version (above), which was very popular at the time.
The “Killer” model was their top of their line and had advanced features such as saddle height adjustment and the ability to keep the ball end on the strings while still being completely double-locking.
The Kahler Spyder was perhaps their most popular model during the mid to late 1980s. It was their lower-cost version, but still much higher quality than the other licensed Floyd’s during the era. It had replaceable knife inserts like the Schaller licensed version and had a wide-string spacing. For this reasons, it is not a direct drop in for a standard Floyd Rose.
The Fender HM strat of the late 1980s and a few other brands were notorious for using the Kahler Spyder.
Kahler used (and still uses) a locking nut that is placed behind a guitar’s standard nut, unlike the Floyd Rose version.
The “behind the nut” locking style is useful for guitars such as Les Pauls (above right) or guitars which already use a standard nut.
Above is a modern picture of different locking nuts offered. Notice locking nuts of up to 10 strings are offered…..!
Kahler Cam Systems
Kahler is better known for their cam-style systems as shown above. These tremolos, although very different than a Floyd Rose, were also very popular and were sported on a variety of guitars brands throughout the 1980s (and today). These cam-style systems were Floyd Rose’s main competitors.
The cam style requires less routing and has a differing spring mechanism. That being said, many tremolo users are rather polarized in either loving or hating a Kahler. It’s all personal preference.
The cam system allows the use to have a tremolo on a bass guitar, which is rather interesting. The Floyd Rose design has never had a bass version.
You can also get an 8-string bass version! With the Floyd Rose design, the tension caused by the bass strings would not be ideal.
Above is a tremolo made for a 10-string guitar, just in case you thought nine strings weren’t enough.
Gary Kahler was also able to hit the rising multi-scale guitar trend with a new tremolo to go along with it. For years, multi-scale users had to settle for fixed hipshot style bridges and forgo tremolos all together.
So as you can see, Kahler, although perhaps not as well known today on 6-strings, has captured multiple varying markets.