The vintage style tremolo is not as good of a design as the modern Fender 2 pole.

This is widely accepted in many circles, and mostly experience-based.  It’s mostly but not totally true.  A vintage style trem can perform just as well as a modern two pole design, if the parts are high quality and it is set up correctly.  In a budget guitar like a Squier or even a MIM, the parts are not high quality, nor is the setup.  Cheaply made bridges combined with cheaply constructed wooden bodies can equal all kinds of technical problems.  Contrast that with PRS, a company that made its own trem design based on not the two pole but the vintage design.  PRS tweaked the design slightly but it’s essentially a vintage trem.  And PRS sells guitars into the five figures.  And their trem systems are extremely good.

So if you see a vintage-style trem on a cheap guitar, it’s highly likely to be unusable unless you tweak the hell out of it (correctly) and replace some of the parts.  So why do companies still do it?  Why doesn’t Squier offer the two pole trem system?  They do, on a few select guitars.  Other than that?  The reasons are that it’s cheaper to do a vintage trem, and it’s the “traditional” look that they feel customers want.

The two pole design is easier to properly execute and requires less fine tuning.  In most cases it’s a better choice.  It’s unfortunate that guitar companies continue to use the vintage design on budget guitars and execute it badly.  The extra cost of designing the body differently and routing two more holes could be offset by a small price hike and an education of the buying public.  But it’s easier to just keep doing what they’re doing.  At least Squier has it on a few models.

Note – The featured image for this post is a vintage tremolo sold by Callaham Guitars.  Callaham makes very high quality replacement parts and I highly recommend them!