The advent of electric guitars with a whammy bar ranks among the best development in the evolution of the instrument. Whammy bar, vibrato, tremolo, or ‘wiggle stick’ – this metal arm extension has become the mainstay of ballsy expression in numerous genres.
For some guitar players, the whammy bar is a way to infuse subtle expression. Others manhandle it with dive-bombs and screeching assaults. Regardless of how you use it, the build quality and components of guitars with a whammy bar are not something you can gloss over.
Cheap guitars or entry-level options can be frustrating to deal with because of tuning stability issues. You need an instrument with a good set-up if you want to spend more time playing the instrument and less time tuning it. For that reason, I have rounded up reliable models in the mid-tier to the premium range for the whammy bar enthusiast.
As ever, this isn’t a definitive list. There are other parameters such as pickups, scale length, and playability that will influence your purchase. However, this list can act as a springboard to find a true quality instrument to blaze through your live set and studio sessions.
So, let’s look at the quick summary and then dive into the detailed reviews.
Table of Contents
Quick Summary: Best Guitars with a Whammy Bar in 2022
- Fender American Professional II Stratocaster on Sweetwater
- PRS SE Custom 24 on Sweetwater
- Squire by Fender Contemporary Stratocaster HH FR on Sweetwater
- Ibanez RE652AHM Prestige on Sweetwater
- Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 1 HH on Sweetwater
- Schecter Hellraiser C1-FR on Sweetwater
- Ibanez Genesis Collection RG565 – Vampire Kiss
- ESP LTD EC-1000FR Electric Guitar on Sweetwater
#1 Fender American Professional II Stratocaster (Top Pick)
A Fender Stratocaster is always a safe bet, regardless of the make/model. Luckily, Fender sets the bar very high with their whammy bars. If you love floating tremolos, Fender offers a wide range of guitars with a whammy bar that delivers classic tones with modern refinements. They also offer a few models with a Floyd Rose tremolo system.
- Alder body with a maple neck
- 25.5” scale length
- Fender V-Mod II single-coil pickups
- 2-point tremolo system
- Multiple color options are available
Strats have been used for decades with a whammy bar to create iconic sounds. You can safely invest in a quality Stratocaster that suits your budget. I’ve picked the Am Pro II for those who need a non-locking whammy bar system. The Am Pro guitars are pro-grade instruments made for the gigging/touring musician. You can venture downstream to the Player series Strat or Squire.
The guitar features an Alder body with a Deep-C maple neck profile. The maple (or rosewood) fingerboard sports 22 narrow-tall frets with dot inlays. Other notable features include die-cast tuners, bone nut, and a hardshell case that is included in the price.
There are some limitations to a Strat with a whammy bar. The obvious consideration is that floating tremolos are less likely to stay in tune compared to double-locking systems. However, the premium Fender models offer more reliability with the non-locking tremolo systems.
The cold-rolled steel block bridge and 2-point synchronized tremolo ensure that your tuning doesn’t go out of whack. Together, with the V-mod II Single-coil pickups and 5-way blade, the guitar delivers expressive playing with enhanced clarity.
An American-made Stratocaster is undeniable one of the most expressive and versatile guitars. Luckily, Fender’s been on the whammy bar bandwagon since the beginning. They have mastered the art of making non-locking tremolo systems. The American Professional Strat promises all the goodness of Fender with a robust and reliable tremolo arm. It’s one of those guitars that will enhance your playing.
PRS SE Custom 24 Solid Body Electric Guitar (Most Versatile)
The SE Custom 24 is a feature-rich guitar with a whammy bar – a truly affordable workhorse. Fitted with a molded tremolo bridge, it can handle subtle-to-moderate tremolo use with ease. More frenetic use could lead to adjustments and tuning. Either way, the guitar’s build quality, versatility, and affordable price tag make it a top choice for semi-pro and gigging musicians.
- Mahogany body with carved maple top
- 25-inch scale length
- PRS Tremolo and tuners
- PRS 85/15 “S” pickups
- Multiple color options
The PRS SE Custom 24 is a solid-body electric guitar with a whammy. It features a mahogany body with a beautifully carved maple veneer top. The maple neck seats a rosewood fretboard with 24 frets. Other notable features include the 85/15 pickups and split-coil functionality.
The SE Custom series is made in Indonesia, but the components, build quality, and fit/finish are solid for the price. The styling is identical to the classic PRS guitars with the iconic violin carve, wide-thin neck, and classic bird inlays that you won’t find anywhere else.
As for the whammy, the SE features a PRS-designed tremolo system that does a terrific job when put through the paces. It’s comfortable, functional, and opens doors to a wide range of great-sounding tones. It poses no issues if you use the tremolo moderately.
Nevertheless, it is a budget-friendly guitar. You will have tuning issues if you abuse the tremolo system. You can remedy this by replacing the stock tuners with locking tuners or opting for a bridge upgrade. If your budget permits, move upstream and get a high-end make/model, preferably the USA-mad PRS guitars.
In a nutshell, the PRS SE Custom 24 is a great choice if you want a pocket-friendly guitar. It sounds versatile, looks elegant, and the tremolo is easy to configure and a joy to play. It’s not the best guitar with a whammy, but it offers excellent value if you intend to use the tremolo lightly.
P.S. – PRS Guitars offer the SE Custom 24 Floyd electric guitar that is the same model as above but with a locking tuning system for the hardcore whammy enthusiast. Sweetwater also offers pre-orders on the new Floyd Electric model.
Fender Squire Contemporary Stratocaster HH FR (Budget Pick)
The Squire range has fantastic ‘budget’ guitars ranging from the Classic Vibe to the Bullet Mustang. But if you want a guitar with a whammy bar, the Contemporary Strat in the Squire range is ready and raring to go. With a modern/sleek cut and powerful humbuckers, the guitar’s tremolo system promises colossal dive bombs and robust rhythm work.
- Poplar body with a maple neck
- 25.5” scale length
- Floyd Rose Tremolo and die-cast tuners
- SQR Atomic Humbuckers
- Two-color options available
The Contemporary Stratocaster features a Poplar body with a C-shape maple neck. The roasted maple fingerboard sports 22 jumbo frets with dot inlays. The guitar is loaded with two SQR atomic humbucking pickups that are powerful, to say the least.
The 5-way pickup selector and coil splits allow for crazy tone sculpting possibilities. Plus, the sleek body, neck heel, and satin neck are designed to enhance playability. The tones are on the hot side but have a fantastic mix of warmth and clarity.
The whammy operation involves a Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo system with die-cast tuners (split shafts). Combine the 5-way blade with the tremolo and the guitar promises tones for a wide range of genres. All of which are fully capable of conquering the high-gain territory.
Fender found an answer to the plethora of rock/metal guitars in the low to mid-tier segment. The guitar offers an excellent cost-to-value ratio for beginners, students, semi-pros. It could also double up as a backup guitar or rehearsal ax for professional and gigging musicians. The only downside is that this model is not available with a hardtail bridge or as a left-handed version.
The Squire Contemporary Stratocaster HH FR is one of the best guitars with a whammy under $500. It bears the hallmarks of the mainstay Fender design but adds a modern spin that will appeal to rock/metal guitar players. The whammy bar outperforms the price tag and there is more good news – You can buy the same guitar with single coils or the Special HT version.
It’s time to look at the first pick among the double-locking tremolo systems and what better place to start than Ibanez? It’s not easy to pick a model because Ibanez offers a wide range of guitars with a whammy bar. However, I settled on the RG655 because it is a truly pro-grade guitar at a mid-tier price point. Plus, it is revered worldwide for its tones and addictive playability.
- Ash body and Super Wizard bolt-on neck
- 25-inch scale length
- Edge Tremolo, Locking Nut, Gotoh Tuners
- DiMarzio Air Norton and Tone Zone
- Hardshell Case included
- Best Floyd Rose system
The build quality of the Prestige series guitars is immaculate and the RG652AHM is no exception. The guitar features an ultra-slim Super Wizard neck with a 25 1/2–inch scale, a birdseye maple fingerboard, and 24 jumbo frets. The guitar is ergonomic and designed for supreme playability.
The electronics combine a DiMarzio Air Norton humbucker (neck) with a DiMarzio Tone Zone humbucker (bridge). The five-way selector and tone control open doors to a whole world of incredibly smooth and tight tones.
The Edge Trem (made by Gotoh) is one of the most reliable and iconic tremolo systems. The floating setup allows you to drop or raise the pitch without going out of tune. The whammy bar has a wide range of pitch changes – ideal for dive-bombing and carving hardcore bends.
The only downside is that the Edge tremolo systems are meticulous. You need some skill to set up the system for control/stability. However, with the right tools, a little patience, and extreme pitch-bending moves, the RG652AHM promises to impress with clarity and definition.
Needless to say, Ibanez has a plethora of other options from the JEM Jr to the Prestige series. All of them have blazing-fast necks, hardy construction, and killer tremolo systems. They also sell the Edge system (all variations) if you wish to retrofit the bridge/tailpiece into an existing (compatible) guitar.
Ibanez RG series models have ruled the roost since the 1980s. The RG655 Prestige model is an amalgam of the best features from the evolution of the Ibanez models. It ranks high on precision, craftsmanship, and playability. Whether you want a high-gain machine or polished clean sounds, the RG655 is one of the best guitars with a whammy bar that money can buy.
Every shredding guitar player dreams of a super-fast super-strat under $1000. Many of them find their dream instrument when they encounter the Charvel Pro-Mod San Dimas. Luckily, Charvel now offers a made in Mexico version of the 1984 flagship instrument popularized by Warren DeMartini. It looks sharp, plays fast, and punches way above its price tag.
- Alder body Strat-style body
- 25.5” scale length
- Floyd Rose 02000 double-locking recessed tremolo
- Seymour Duncan JB and ‘59 pickups
- Multiple options available
Charvel guitars are noted for their customizable designs. They are a big success among rock and metal players who need customizable instruments with fast-playing necks. The Style 1 model features an alder body with a bolt-on maple neck. The blonde-maple fingerboard sports 22 jumbo frets and a heel-mount whammy bar.
The San Dimas features a classic combo – a ’59 Seymour Duncan in the neck position and a JB in the bridge position. The guitar excels at fast licks and high-gain tones. Throw in the coil-slit and push/pull volume pot and you have a versatile palette of sounds at your behest.
The guitar features a Floyd Rose double-locking bridge tremolo system. You can opt for a hard-tail bridge if that’s your style. Either way, it’s designed to endure heavy whammy abuse while staying in tune. The system is stable and won’t demand repeated adjustments once it is set up.
Overall, the Charvel San Dimas Style 1 HH is a class act when it comes to comfort and playability. It features a forearm contour, sealed die-cast tuners, and a compound radius fretboard with rolled edges. The guitar is good for djent rhythms, bent blues licks, and everything in between.
I picked the San Dimas for the classic looks, reasonable price, and stellar build quality. If you are looking for the best guitar with a whammy under $1000, this one is worth every minute of your consideration. Don’t dismiss it as a rock/metal guitar, because it’s highly versatile and responsive in a way that sits well in every style and genre.
The Hellraiser C1-FR is one “hell” of a guitar in terms of build quality, styling, and tones. The C1-FR has a to-die-for whammy operation that’s designed to provide total stability through extreme shredding and the rigors of heavy genres. The guitar is available in other colors and antique fade finishes. The Black Cherry avatar is the top-selling version.
- Mahogany body and neck, Quilted Maple Top
- 25.5” scale length
- Floyd Rose 1000 series locking tremolo and nut
- EMG 81 humbucker and Sustainiac Pickup
- 2-way Sutainiac toggle + 3-way mode select
The C1-FR is a solid body electric from Schecter Guitar Research. The guitar sports a streamlined mahogany body, a quilted maple top, and a thin-C mahogany neck. The rosewood fingerboard sports 24 Extra Jumbo frets for comfortable playing. This guitar packs so many features and high-end appointments that it deserves a full-length review.
The electronics comprise of an active EMG Humbucking pickup (bridge) paired with the incessant Sustainiac humbucker in the neck position. The Sustainiac pickups are a staple in Schecter guitars, and they are bound to get you hooked if you’ve never encountered them before.
Most importantly, it features a locking nut and Floyd Rose 1000 Series Tremolo system for dive bombs and hardcore bends. The tremolo can handle a ton of abuse without letting the tuning or action relent. A good setup is essential but you won’t need adjustments for days, if not weeks.
You can raise or lower the pitch all you want. The pro-grade bridge/tailpiece combo will effortlessly carve out the sound with all the extreme effects and maneuvers. IMO, the C1-FR is an excellent choice for lower action, fast-playing, and shredding.
Priced slightly over $1000, the C1-FR is a rock-solid guitar with a whammy bar. If you are into modern or heavy styles, this guitar looks and plays the part to a T. The tremolo system is top-notch – reliable, stable, and wicked. And, the neck-through design and Sustainiac pickup are a ticket to limitless sustain.
The Ibanez Genesis RG565 is a great balance of performance, tones, and price. It features the OG Edge system, a tilt neck for the classic RG feel, and a treasure chest full of warm and growling tones. It’s designed for guitarists who love whammy action with eminent playability. Plus, it’s a reasonably priced gateway guitar to the storied heritage of the Ibanez RG Series.
- Basswood body and Super Wizard neck
- 25.5” scale length
- Edge locking tremolo and Gotoh locking tuners
- V8 Alnico and Infinity R Ceramic Humbuckers
- Multiple color options
The guitar sports an offset design with a solid basswood body sealed with a gloss polyurethane finish. It features a shred-friendly Super Wizard neck topped with a maple fingerboard. Other noteworthy specs include vampire kiss inlays, locking nut, and a bolt-on maple/walnut neck.
The electronics are equally impressive if you are into passive pickups. The guitar features a V8 Alnico humbucker in the bridge position and an Infinity R humbucker in the neck position. The two combine to deliver sonic versatility along with the 4-way selector.
The control panel hosts a volume knob, 3-way pickup selector, and a coil-split toggle. The tremolo system is a black Edge double-locking vibrato coupled with Gotoh locking machine heads. Whammy playing promises to be expressive with sacrificing tuning or intonation.
This tremolo system is the ‘genesis’ of the legendary Ibanez Edge systems, a now-licensed variant of the Floyd Rose system. The system is recessed and padded with a sponge. It allows you to lower or raise the pitch and string tension as and when needed. You can opt for the RGIX6FDLB if you prefer a model with a fixed bridge.
Ibanez fans swear by the Edge tremolo and bridge. Some go as far as to call it the best double-locking system out there. Whether that’s hyperbole or truth, a few minutes of noodling with this guitar with a whammy bar is all the convincing you need. The RG565 is unquestionably pro-grade, an ax that delivers killer looks and stellar performance for under $1000.
While ESP guitars can cost an arm and a leg, the LTD versions stand out as a middle ground for quality and pricing. Among them, you can find several guitars with a whammy bar. My pick of the litter is the EC-1000FR. It’s within the reach of most semi-pro guitar players and is among the best single-cut (LP-style) guitars in the LTD catalog.
- Mahogany body and neck
- 24.75” scale length
- Floyd Rose 1000SE Locking Tremolo
- EMG 81/60 pickup combination
- Quilted Maple and See-thru color options are available
The ESP LTD EC-1000FR features a mahogany body with an arched maple top. It has a 3-piece Mahogany neck with a neck-through joint and a thin-U neck profile. The Macassar Ebony fingerboard hosts 24 Extra Jumbo frets with eye-catching Pearloid Flags.
The EMG 81/60 humbucking pickup combination gives the guitar a modern-sounding tone. The pickups are articulate, powerful, and packed with expressive and responsive sounds. Combined with the 100SE vibrate, they afford you big bends with fantastic tuning stability.
Speaking of which, the double-locking Floyd Rose 1000SE system is designed for expressive manipulation. The bridge/tailpiece ensures that you don’t go out of tune as you rock out. It’s a joy to play classic rock, metal, or other genres that demand dynamic and aggressive playing.
The guitar is inspired by the timeless Les Paul styling with the addition of all-black hardware. Comfort and playability are top-notch due to a sharp cutaway to access the upper frets. Overall, it’s a beautiful combination of classic styling, powerful tones, and an ergonomic design.
The EESP LTD EC-100FR looks sophisticated and sports top-shelf hardware and electronics. Expression on tap, tone on demand, and a powerful professional-grade instrument for a reasonable asking price. It is a versatile guitar with a whammy bar, but the playability, aesthetics, and tones are ripe for modern metal and rock.
Those are my top pick for guitars with a whammy bar. Some are multi-purpose guitars with a whammy; others feature heavy-duty double-locking systems designed for heavy genres. But all of them are world-class instruments, worth every penny of the asking price.
Guitarists often display loyalty to brands. Therefore, I tried to cover models from as many big-name manufacturers as possible. I’m sure to have missed a few good ones out there. Share your favorites in the comments to let other readers know about your favorite. Until then, happy hunting.