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The Great Fender HiMass™ Vintage Bridge Mystery (to me)

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by Kro, Jul 27, 2019.


  1. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Why, exactly, are the fender high mass bridge saddle notches placed they way they are?

    I'm looking for a definitive answer. I inquired about it earlier in the Precision bass club with mixed results, but I know that there are a ton of smart people that watch this forum that can maybe answer the question once and for all. @Turnaround , sorry to single you out as one expert among many, but you've helped me in the past, and so I'm calling on your expertise here as well.

    This is, of course, a glamour shot of the bridge in question. Three large notches on the E and A string, with 4 smaller notches on the D and G string.
    images.

    I've done a number of searches and read many threads on the topic trying to get to the bottom of things, and it seems that the most common recommendation is: adjust it so that the strings are best centered between pickup pole pieces, and call it a day. I tried that, and wound up with very inconsistent spacing. Paired with the fact that additional research seems to indicate that the magnetic fields of the pole pieces are large enough that exact centering doesn't seem to make any difference, and I can't help but feel that this is sub-par advice.

    I had been using that advice though, up until about last night when I said enough is enough and decided to make my string spacing consistent. Knowing that string to string spacing at the bridge should be 19mm or .75", I whipped out my ruler and made the necessary adjustments. This is where my strings landed:

    Full.

    Given that the strings are radiused, it maybe doesn't look quite exact in the picture above, but I assure you that as the strings are currently placed, they are each 19mm/.75" from each other, as measured from the center of each string. See other attachments for reference.

    Note that this is the tightest possible combination for each string.

    So given that this most narrow arrangement fits the advertised standard string spacing for Fender basses, what is the purpose of the extra slots? Are there really that many people that want >19mm spacing?

    Here's the thing, I'm a player more than I am a gear hound or technical whiz - and with enough hours, I'll get used to just about anything, including wonky string spacings. However, to me the consistent spacing just feels better - as does the more narrow spacing, which I know I generally also prefer. Is there some benefit to a wider/alternate spacing besides preference that I'm missing?

    I find it hard to believe that Fender would include the additional adjustment options without a good reason, and I'd love to figure out what that reason is.
     

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  2. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    The real answer to the basic question is that it’s a matter of marketing.

    Consider this- on a typical P-bass an optimal string spacing at the bridge is 19mm. But what is "optimal" about it? Really if the string lies somewhere between the two magnets there is hardly a measurable difference in the pickup's output, and as a human listener it's highly unlikely you could tell if the strings were slightly offset or dead centre. But For some folk, the appearance is important. But to add to that, most J-basses are optimized at 20mm spacing. Then there's the preference of those who like a particular spacing for the feel rather than the aesthetic and are convinced that the signal optimization is not an issue.

    If you are an instrument maker (or an aftermarket parts manufacturer) and you are looking to sell to the largest possible customer base, you would be best off trying to satisfy the largest number of potential buyers as possible. And easy way to do that is to provide adjustable spacing so it satisfies all concerns. It's a simple cost-effective solution. And if you are making bot P and J basses you have a bridge that will work equally well on either - you can save the costs of tooling for model-specific bridges. And the marketing department can create some hype about the benefits of adjustable spacing as a selling point.

    But, I must comment on the angle of your pickups. On the surface it may seem like a good idea to have each pair of magnets the same distance from the corresponding string. It's not. Ideally you want to have the same strength of magnetic field at each string. But the outer strings have a magnetic field principally only on one side of the string, while the inner strings have the magnetic field reinforced from both sides - i e. the A string is supported by a magnetic field from the A string magnets and the E and D string magnets. The E string, on the other hand is supported by the field from the E and A strings only. To equalize things the A and D string magnets should be lower than the E and G.
     
    PWRL, TomB, Haroldo and 6 others like this.
  3. Spidey2112

    Spidey2112

    Aug 3, 2016
    Kro... sleep. This... will be here, tomorrow.
     
    DrMole, 4sight, TinIndian and 2 others like this.
  4. BlueTalon

    BlueTalon Happy Cynic

    Mar 20, 2011
    Spokane, Washington
    Endorsing Artist: Turnstyle Switch
    That makes me wonder where you had the strings on this bridge set before you changed them to their current locations in the innermost slots on each saddle.
     
  5. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Whoah, you just blew my mind. As I have them set up, the E is definitely lower, but then it raises gradually a little string by string to the G. That's incredible that you were able to see that from my crummy picture...

    But at the same time this makes perfect sense, reinforcing what I was reading earlier about the magnetic fields, but not fully comprehending.

    Yes... this is best. Looks like I have something to test tomorrow! :D

    @Turnaround , thank you so much! You completely answered my original question and went above and beyond to help me! I'm definitely in your debt!
     
    DrMole, Haroldo, bolophonic and 2 others like this.
  6. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    I believe I had the E and A strings in the middle notch. I'm not even 100% sure where I had the D and G... maybe where they are now. Things weren't drastically different, but enough that it finally got to me.
     
  7. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Alright, I know that I'm making some sort of faux pas here by posting three times in a row and quoting the same line twice, but I think this info warrants it.

    Is this like some sort of common knowledge that I've missed? Has everybody else known about this but me? I don't think I've ever came across this information before in all my years subscribing to TB.

    Maybe I need to hang out more in the setup forum...
     
  8. BlueTalon

    BlueTalon Happy Cynic

    Mar 20, 2011
    Spokane, Washington
    Endorsing Artist: Turnstyle Switch
    Yeah, that would look weird, and it would drive me nuts too.

    But then, things like appearance and symmetry are important to me. Probably way more important to me than they are to most musicians.
     
    Pbassmanca, jamro217 and Spidey2112 like this.
  9. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Supporting Member

    Wait. What? A Fender High Mass Bridge is different from a Fender Himass Bridge? All this time I thought it was a flavor/flavour thing.

    I have two of these, purchased as "Fender Himass Bridge"...
    IMG_20190621_114105.
     
    Pbassmanca and jamro217 like this.
  10. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    I don't know... maybe I called mine the wrong thing? I'm pretty sure that's how Fender refers to what I have though as opposed to the bent plate more vintage variety.

    Edit: found it. From Fender marketing:
    "HiMass™ Vintage bridge for increased sustain"
     
  11. Samatza

    Samatza

    Apr 15, 2019
    My MIA Jazz V deluxe has that bridge, I always assumed it was for string spacing. When I restring I put it in the slot the straightest line to the nut and the spacing seems even, I don’t really mess with it.
     
    TinIndian and Tad like this.
  12. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Supporting Member

    Maybe we have two different versions/models of the same thing? Or one's OEM and the other aftermarket? After all, Fender (Squier) does have 2 different Telecaster basses: the '51 reissue and the one with a telecaster style body...
     
  13. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    @Volker Kirstein , thread title updated for utmost accuracy! ;) Mine is specifically the HiMass Vintage.

    Which notches are you using, if you don't mind me asking?
     
    Volker Kirstein likes this.
  14. Samatza

    Samatza

    Apr 15, 2019
    I think I set them so the outer strings were equally distant from the fretboard edge all the way down the fretboard, hope this helps. 6CF0DAFD-F4A1-46B2-958F-9C265D192679. 86E64199-7440-4201-9983-9AC52CF25AD9.
     
    Kro likes this.
  15. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    You are not alone. It's pretty common to see pickups angled the way you had them. And I've even run across setup articles that advocate setting the pickups so that the magnets are equidistant from the strings. I don't recall where I learned about the overlapping magnetic fields relating to the pickup adjustment, but it was many decades ago. Somehow that information has gotten largely forgotten over the years in common lore.
     
  16. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    In theory I can understand overlapping magnetic fields.
    OTOH, the field drops off exponentially with distance.
    Is this overlap really that audible?
    If you take a Pre-CBS Fender and move the string from one slot in the same saddle to the other, I don't recall a difference in tone (too early to try this on my 60' P).

    Matrketing for the bring back?
    Yes, I think this was brought back from the 60's as apparently everything done on early Fenders was the best...
     
  17. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    So, two things going on in this thread. One is about string spacing, and the other concerning pickup height as it relates to magnetic reinforcement from adjacent, but not... I'll call them committed pole pieces: i.e. how the E string pole pieces/magnetic field reinforces the field of the A string, and so on.

    At this point, I feel satisfied that my original spacing question has been answered.

    But on the pickup height front, I kind of want to test things for myself with a more critical ear. In general, I've held the belief that minute adjustments in pickup height tend to not make a ton of difference as long as they're in the ballpark.

    Since I bought my Precision, I've had my pickup height set to 7/64ths, 6/64ths, 6/64ths, and 5/64ths, E to G respectively (based roughly on Fender's official recommendation), and haven't really noticed any string to string volume issues.

    It could be that my playing is compensating for them, that my normal tone with a little natural compression evens them out, or that my hearing/brain is plain not trained enough to hear the difference.

    Me being the nerd that I am, I have done a few tests in the past with my Precision hooked directly into my RTA software to test output levels. I was more interested in an overall average level at the time, but I do remember there being slight variances string to string. I also remember them to be rather small.

    I'll try and revisit them later today through this lens and see if anything is worth noting. This may deserve its own thread if so.
     
  18. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    Kro,
    Are you understanding the multiple string paths on the bridge as a marketing and/or adjustment tool to allow for a more direct string path over the pole pieces (presumably necessary for manufacturing tolerances)?
     
  19. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    My research seems to indicate that the importance of exactly centering strings between pole pieces ranges from overated to relatively nonexistent (within reason). This is due to the magnetic field that the pickup produces being apparently much wider than most would naturally intuit.

    Given the info in this thread, my recommendation to those wanting to best utilize the string spacing options on these HiMass™ Vintage bridges :p is to set them spaced for playing preference only, and let the strings fall where they may over the pole pieces. Thanks again to @Turnaround for all the great info.

    There may be some benefit from the additional notches for players that want a greater than 19mm string to string spacing from the center of each string (who are these people?), or perhaps measure spacing as the gap between strings, not from their center. Otherwise, it's likely just an easy way for Fender to cover their bases and silence one front from those more inclined to complain about things of this nature.

    Edit: I left out above the point that @Turnaround made about the adjustments being used for other bass models as well, allowing them to all use the same bridge.
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2019
    Jim C likes this.
  20. callofcthulhu

    callofcthulhu

    Oct 16, 2012
    AFAIK "high mass" is the generic name used in marketing for the bulkier bridges that came standard on a lot of basses (as distinct from "bent plate" bridges)

    "HiMass" refers to the specific Fender branded version of the Badass bridge they've been making since acquiring that IP.
     
    Turnaround likes this.

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