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Bridges

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by River Gambler, Jun 23, 2005.


  1. River Gambler

    River Gambler

    Feb 10, 2005
    Ok, a question again. I was putting an order together for a 4 string bass and was trying to figure out which bridge to use and I asked myself how much difference does the bridge really make? Is there a noticable difference in sound from an inexpensive bridge say a basic $15.00 with barrel saddels and an$80.00 bridge with more mass to it? TKX Tom
     
  2. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
  3. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD

    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Generally, I think you get what you pay for.

    With bridges, I think there are 3 basic types: bent, cast, milled.

    There are, of course, indi bridges, but they will be either cast or milled.

    With bent bridges (such as the one tjclem linked to) there is really not much to it. You just have to make sure that the bent plate of sufficient heft that it will not be bent further.

    Past that, the folks around here seem to prefer milled bridges to cast. And for good reason. When a bridge is milled from billet, it will likely be more consistent in its density, and therefore more consistent in tone across the strings. With cast bridges, there can be "lighter" spots, or even voids within the material. The enormous price disparity between cast and milled bridges involve machine cost vs casting cost. Obviously, a big milling maching will be drastically more expensive than a cast.

    I'm really not sure how much of a difference it makes in sound quality, and if it's cheap enough, it may be worth trying out. Even if it sounds like crap or breaks, you'll only be out a few bucks.

    That is my thought anyways.
     

  4. A pretty good analysis. I might disagree as to the relative difference between cast and milled. Without so much as knowing the alloys and processes used in each model, I wouldn't venture a guess as to how flawed the castings are on the inside. From the outside, I would assert the surfaces on these cast bridges rival the machined brands and that reflects on the quality of the overall casting. There's another point to consider - it's unclear, unless we intimately know the exact manufacturing process from metal supplier to bridge builder, whether the "billet" the bridge is machined from wasn't originally part of a larger cast ingot. Case in point is the ubermassive brass bridge on my Kawai. It's a large cast billet that's been machined to it's current shape. Only the sides and floor of the boxy design were left with the sandcast imprint. If that had been wiped away, I wouldn't have known it was a cast piece that had been machined to it's final form.

    In my opinion, it's a stretch to equate a small void in a casting with consistent tone across the strings. I just believe that the strings are quite isolated when they share such a homogenous and heavy foundation. If they weren't that isolated, there would be tremendous "crosstalk" between strings. After all, we're talking about a small bubble or less dense area actually affecting one string and not the others. The mass of the missing material wouldn't be enough to have an effect one way or the other. I've modified bridges for quite sometime - in essence making my own "voids" in their structure and haven't noticed any adverse tonal affects from doing so. There is no doubt that one could set up the experiment to test the theory AND if it proved true, one could test to find the best of the best bridges but if one didn't actually hear the difference, it wouldn't be worth the effort.
     
  5. HaMMerHeD

    HaMMerHeD

    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    I fully agree. That is why I said "I'm really not sure how much of a difference it makes in sound quality". It could be non-existent. I just don't know.

    With so many vastly different bridge designs out there, I'm not really sure that it makes a real tangible difference. I am, however, finding myself more and more offended by the too-high cost of bass bridges, and I am actively looking for an alternative. It seems like you can't make a 6-string bass without spending $15-$20 on the bridge, and another $20-$30 on the tuner for each string.

    I'll probably end up just making my own bridges. A plank of ebony and some inlaid graphite seems workable to me.
     
  6. parttimeluthier

    parttimeluthier

    May 7, 2005
    I'll probably end up just making my own bridges. A plank of ebony and some inlaid graphite seems workable to me.[/QUOTE]

    Hammerhed, I just completed a bass with a Striped Mahogany body of my own design with a Mighty Mite one piece maple neck.
    I have also disliked the choices in bass bridges. I decided to design my own similar to a thicker acoustic guitar bridge. I used a 1/2" piece of Black Walnut for the base of it. then routed out a channel for a 1/8"x 1/2" brass plate topped by a Corian saddle. On each end of the brass plate there is screw which is threaded down into inserts sunk into the walnut. That way if I ever have to adjust the height I can jut add couple small thin washers under the brass plate. The strings anchor through the body behind this bridge assembly and there is a brass plate sunk into the basses back to ground the strings and wiring to. the bridge assembly sits on the body under string pressure only similar to a jazz style guitar.
    I am very happy with this design and it came out very attractive. I do not think it is inferior in tone or sustain to a heavy all metal bridge. Neither do I miss individually adjustable saddles as the intonation is perfectly acceptable with the single corian saddle.
    I would post a pic. but my daughter is away for the month and she has the digital camera.
    Anyway I am glad I went with the wood/composite bridge and encourage you to go for it on one of your basses.
     
  7. River Gambler

    River Gambler

    Feb 10, 2005
    Thanks for your input guys. Tom
     
  8. I have another point of view regarding this. It matters depending on the purpose of the instrument. If you're building the bass for yourself and you're ok with slapping on a cheap (low quality manufacturing) bridge, then it does not matter. But if you're building an instrument for selling it, then it does matter, big time. As somebody here recommended (can't remember the thread or who it was), if you're building a bass, and you want to get top dollar for it, apart from good craftsmanship and pretty wood, you have to put in good hardware, the kind customers are looking for. If you see most highend basses out there are using hipshot hardware. I like my schaller bridges and sperzel or gotoh tuners, but I'm sure that if I put hipshots on a bass, it'll probably sell faster and for more money.
     
  9. Rodent

    Rodent Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Regenerate Guitar Works
    For four string basses, an excellent middle of the road choice is a Gotoh 206 set-up for thru body. Warmoth has these for $44 in chrome, $48 in black.

    I've been using these on the basses I've built recently, and I am quite satisfied with their adjustability and performance.

    R
     
  10. Just get your friendly neighbourhood machine shop to make you one. That's what I do.
     
  11. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    Welcome back Ham, apparently you survived your encounter with the medical community.
     
  12. luknfur

    luknfur

    Jan 14, 2004
    DIXIE
    FWIW:

    from my minimal experience and accounts I've read, the bridge on a solidboby won't alter tone.

    I use Schaller rollers cause I change pups all the time and on occassion have need for the lateral adjustment. I'll also be able to pull them and return the original bridges and they will cover the Schaller screw holes with no one the wiser when it's time to jetison the basses.

    I've paid $35 - $40 for them used shipped and some were new at that, and some with the optional spacer that came in handy once for a temporary setup. Those spaces are stackable though so if you need the elevation you can just stack them till you're where you need to be. None of the "permanent" installs needed a spacer. I think they're about 1/8" or so thick, I'd have to dig one out to check. But I though it was a pretty thoughtful option and it's an add-on that's not noticeable unless you know to look.

    I couldn't tell any difference in tone on any of the basses from stock to Schaller, spacer or not.
     
  13. I want to make sure that I'm not misunderstood. I didn't offer an opinion on what I thought of how a bridge(s) affects the tone of a solid body. I'm going to defer to inexperience here. For my own building there are certain models I like over others for sure. But I haven't built two identical instruments in any way so I've got no comparison. I can vouch for sustain gains through my experience of installing a coupla-three dozen but when a bass is in your hands for a matter of a few days compared to owning it, I can't make a good judgement on tonal changes.


    Thanx L I''m dying to get back at it but can't take the shock floor right now. It's too "grippy" and I find myself spinning and pivoting as I move and that's the worse thing I could do right now.
     
  14. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass

  15. Yes, I would have to agree with that one. This is the Custom Shop Parts "Contour Tail" design, a fairly inexpensive import. And Bud here has discovered that apparently it's less expensive than CSP would have led us to believe! From most angles it looks like the older "screwless" ABM bridge that Hipshot copied for their current design. I used this bridge in a 5'er for the Jazzwick and it was stellar. I have since bought another for later use I liked it so well. At these prices, I'll buy a couple more.

    BTW, these can be used as string thru's very easily - either with modification so the string goes through the chassis or without mod with the string coming up from behind the bridge.

    Off topic but I wonder why we don't hear anyone complaining about Hipshot "ripping off" the design of ABM like we hear about Behringer ripping off the designs of Mackie and such? :confused:
     
  16. River Gambler

    River Gambler

    Feb 10, 2005
    It looks like the Grizzly is going on the bass. Thanks Tom
     
  17. I'd say that there is less complaining about Hipshot ripping off the ABM design because there's no lawsuit, and it's only one type of product. (Roland sued the pants off of Behringer about the direct copies of pedals. I think Roland won, too, because the Behringer pedals have changed colors, and presumably circuits.)
     
  18. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    At first glance the Hipshot and the ABM look similar 'cause they're both top loaders, but they're really quite different. I've used both and prefer the ABM.
     
  19. Bud, ABM changed their design sometime in the last 5 or 6 years(?) as best I can pin it down. They don't look like they do now. I've got an old one on a Fender fretless and I had hell identifying it because there weren't any current pics. I'm talking about an earlier ABM design - even the Countour/Grizzly has some similiarity
     
  20. budman

    budman Commercial User

    Oct 7, 2004
    Houston, TX
    Formerly the owner/builder of LeCompte Electric Bass
    I don't think I'm familiar with an older design of ABM. The contour bridge that CSP and Grizzly sells is a lot closer to what ABM sells now (minus the string spacing adjustment) than what Hipshot offers.