Bass tuners What brands and models do you use?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by tjclem, Mar 18, 2005.

  1. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    and why. I am looking to buy about 25 and would like some opinions. also looking for a seller tha twill work a package deal. Anybody know of any?.Thanks Tom
  2. SPERZEL!!!
    1. light weight
    2. small footprint
    3. no friggin screw!
    4. MADE IN THE U.S.A
    5. many options as far as finish/color goes
    6. relatively inexpensive (compared to those friggin hipshots, way too expensive)

    don't know of any deals, but you can contact mr. sperzel himself and ask!
  3. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    I'm only familiar with the common Gotoh Y-shaped tuning keys -- Fairly light and cheap.
  4. This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. From the first time I laid eyes on an electric bass guitar, I have equated the quality of the tuners directly with the quality of the instrument. Back then, there were basically two types of tuners on instruments - the heavier open gear like Fender, Gibson, and Rickenbacker with nickel plating and the chrome plated closed-in-a-can small gear types that came on the low end imports from Asia. Only the "lawsuit" basses broke this model. This was the early-mid 70's so only the top artists had the Alembics with the high precision closed gear systems and that just hadn't filtered down yet. The Europeans didn't really have a competitive brand of bass yet (sure, name a Hagstrom model) and from what I remember, those designers were using even smaller gearsets more akin to large guitar tuners. Besides, parts weren't falling off of the trees back then like they are now and you got what you got - the tuners on your favorite instrument were likely going to be your favorite tuners period. First my interest comes from a players perspective as the headstock is practically the first thing I see and those beauties out there had better mean business. My love for machinery, music, and design all twist up the tension when I'm judging tuners. Then, when I started building, the economic factor crept in. Now the choices aren't limited by just style, or manufacturer - some price themselves off of the project.

    But I love 'em. If I won the lottery, I'd design my own just to say I did and make them from stainless steel because I could. :hyper:

    But onto more practical applications...I prefer the larger tuners as a style choice. I'm a traditionalist and that just jibes with the vibe. Of course the large ear early Fenders are the standard but there have been some really neat substitutes in the last few years that have been cool in their own right. My all time favorite tuner in any class comes from Stewart MacDonald and it's the Adjustable Cast Economy Tuners for about $35 set. They are a die cast chassis for stability, have well made gear parts, nice chroming, and the best part is the adjustable lash button on the end of the tuner stalk. This is so they will never loosen - a sure improvement over the regular open grear tuners (which are a sham - more on that later) They also have tapered posts but with domed heads for a real classy look. All in all there is absolutely nothing lacking in their quality features. The only con is an esthetical(?) one and that's the fact they are a short stalk style of large ear tuner. These are different when compared to the early 60's Fenders with the towering trees above the headstock. Man, you gotta love that look! The other little beef is with StewMac and their idiot stocking logic that has the black versions offered only in right/left sets. Dammit if you can make rights AND lefts, you can make a right set AND a left set ... can't you? :confused:

    I have recently found some unusual tuners that are smaller open gear with large cast elephant ears on the top. LIke the result of a drunken roll in the back of the van between sets at the Whisky between a Gotoh, and a Schaller. Unfortunately they are coming out of Singapore and that's been a problem with delivery. But when that's solved, they are pretty cool.

    I've just recently gotten into understanding these things. They are certainly a very good piece of machinery - very well cast and ground and the combination of shiny and dull surfaces in the chrome version is a cool distinction. I've got a set in the wings that I'm waiting for the right project. Mine are 4 inline so that's a limiting factor. I'm not a huge fan of the smaller tuners but I can certainly see the need for them when the design is a bit more petit than usual. I know that's why Greg Curbow uses them on HIS Petits - because of the way you can really pack them in. They don't need a screw because they use a locating pin and that just allows more room.

    End of part 1
    About 3 years ago, I noticed something about certain versions and models of the large open gear tuners. While I had always thought these tuners were built like their predecessors, the bastard industrial robber barons snuck in and cheapened up the works. I don't know if the imports were to blame but it happened sometime in the early 80's and I suspect it was because of the influx of imported Asian product at the time. What I had noticed was that the worm gears were no longer being totally surrounded by the frame of the tuner. Instead, a cheaper assembly was being utilized that had 2 spring steel shims pushing under the worm gear trapped in place by a keyed hole under the spur gear. When the tuner is attached, these shims aren't readily visible. Well, what these shims do is first rust and when they rust they leave that powder all over the back of the headstock. Not only that, since the shim is trapped under the spur gear, it gets ground down by all of the spinning done on top of it and that leaves a fine, black powder to mix with the rust. Once I figured this out, I could shop for the large ear tuners the same way. Now I had to see the bottom of the tuner to determine if it had the dreaded shims. Not all of the makers use them. Gotoh doesn't use them at all as far as I know. Fender American replacment and Vintage replacement stuff is OK too. But the real kicker, and the reason for the rant, is that SCHALLER, the hallowed Schaller, herr Schaller of roller bridge Schaller fame (one of my favorite bridges of all time) and maker of great tuners...was making these types of tuners and stamping the Schaller name on them. Not all Schallers have the shims but look out. They still do a good job of plating and the fit of the rest of the parts is top notch so there won't be much space to view them but look close and see if your next set of NOS $35 Schaller's found on ebay aren't crap like we're used to from the other side of the other ocean. But, if you have to use this type of tuner, by all means use the Schallers because they make them the best of all. When this type of tuner is made poorly, the slop becomes a feature.

    I've kept this close to my vest for awhile but you seem like a nice guy so I'll let you in on my connection :ninja: . Not just any connection. This is my Gotoh connection and by Gotoh, I mean Gotoh's chosen wholesaler. Through some research I came across some names and did some more research and finally wound up with an order to a company out of Kobi Japan called Hosakawa LTD. They are the distributors for Gotoh, everything Gotoh. Gotoh stuff you've never seen before. They will sell to small companies but you've got to be prepared to pay a *¥2500 service charge in addition to the shipping charge. This is to compensate for not meeting the mininum order of ¥25000. They work by bank transfer and fax which makes it easy except that you'll always get an order confirmation at about 3AM. If you have your fax at home, turn off the ringer. The company also sells parts, luthiery tools, kits, accessories. Pretty much a full service, wholesale music supply.

    Good luck!
  6. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Very extensive post Mr. Bone! Does the Gotoh connection make it worthwile for the extra hassle vs. buying them through Warmoth or stew-mac? Drop me an e-mail if you want.. :D .t
  7. I'm pretty partial to Sperzels. They are lightweight and can be mounted very compactly. They are priced very well also.

    The only downside is that are in fact so small, so things could look a little weird... like on a J Bass or something with a large headstock... as Hambone said.
  8. Zooberwerx

    Zooberwerx Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2002
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Hipshots and Sperzels are my favorites. Well, actually I prefer no headstock tuners at all...I use both a Status 5 headless and David King headless.

  9. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    I would like to get into the headless systems but I can't find them without spending an arm and a leg..t
  10. Yes, it is. The scale really begins to tip in your favor when you hit the $400-$500 order range. By that level, you've overcome the additional charge and are back on a more favorable wholesale pricing structure. Keep in mind also that this is a fluctuating percentage because of exchange rates. Hosakawa only accepts payment in Yen, so keep an eye on the daily's. That's for your planning. When they compile your order for invoicing, it will show a figure in yen. You will pay based on the exchange rated at the time of the bank transfer takes place. My last order was small - about $250 and it varied by about $2 over what I had planned about a week earlier. No big problem.
  11. For the neck end, my approach would be to manufacture them myself. This isn't a complicated part and could be made without precision machine tools if you took your time to design it right. That would free up some money for the tuner system alone. I might also be very tempted to solve that puzzle with available materials - I think it could be done (see sig). ;)
  12. cdef


    Jul 18, 2003
    Strangely, the unbranded tuners on my cheap Japanese-made 1978 Precision copy are the best I've found on any bass. They're like the big-gear, elephant-ear Fenders, but somewhat heavier and with a different ratio - much more exact. Also, the shaft has a threaded metal collar with a nylon bushing inside, which can be tightened up against the shaft with a little key to eliminate any lash or play. They turn as smoothly now as 25 years ago, and the chrome plating is still immaculate - not a speck, whereas I've seen other makes go dull, flaky, rusty and rattly in that time. I expect these would be Gotohs, but haven't seen them for sale anywhere. Solid quality, and worth the price of the bass.
  13. Lo end PUNCH

    Lo end PUNCH

    Jan 28, 2005
    The Gary Willis signature model from Ibanez has some pretty cool looking tuners. Dont know who makes 'em or what they're called but it's the only bass I've ever seen 'em on.
  14. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    'Bone it would be interesting to see what you came up with. As far as hipshots go it looks like LMI has the best deal on them if you buy at least 6.t
  15. I don't know who makes them, but Gary used to sell them direct (I don't know if he still does). You could retrofit any gotoh style tuner with those knobs.
  16. mheintz


    Nov 18, 2004
  17. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Ibanez parts are here:
    click on "strap pins and other parts".
  18. Hipshot and Gotoh.

    Schaller has "light weight" tuners that I may try.

    I need to look into Sperzels too.
  19. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
  20. andvari7


    Aug 28, 2004
    I'd say something like, "Curse you, tj," but that's a deal none of us could dare pass up. If I weren't saving my cash for a month of university in Japan (for my major), I'd be hitting up eBay for Ultralites for my fretless 4 short-scale project.