Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

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Gordon Bellerose
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Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

On some of the other forums I frequent, there is a lot of discussion around electric guitar bridges. Specifically, which is the best?
I would like to hear some other opinions on this. What is your favorite, and why?

Perhaps this has been discussed here before, and if you guys are sick of it please forgive me, I am relatively new here.

I know stewmac sponsors this forum and they do have some nice stuff which I've also used, but we should not be limited to their product should we?

I'll start. I think Babizc bridges are the best I've found so far. The full contact principle is a great idea, and the bridge itself is wonderfully built. Full adjustability is also really good. Dan Erlewine always talks about coupling, and this bridge definitely has that covered.
The only one I've used so far is the tune o matic style, so my experience is limited to that particular model.

I AM NOT affiliated with any company, so please do not think I am advertising.
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Jeff Highland
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Jeff Highland »

The "full Contact Principle" thing is BS
For starters you are not necessarily wanting to maximise vibration transmission to the body and even if you did, greater contact area does not equate to more transmission.

Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

I beg to differ Jeff.
Actually so would a guy named Dan Erlewine. After all he has written much on this topic.
He goes as far as sanding any small bumps off the bottom of Tele bridges so the entire bridge contacts the top of the body, maximizing coupling.
"Coupling" is one of the primary goals he strives for in doing setups and repairs. He certainly knows a lot more than I do, so I tend to listen to what he has to say.
I'm not saying the Babizc bridge is the ultimate answer. After all, I did ask an honest question about which bridge we all think might be best.
I did notice that you did not offer any options.
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Jeff Highland
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Jeff Highland »

You asked for opinions I gave mine
I don't really care what names you invoke, it's still BS
The "best Bridge" depends on whether you want fender or gibson height and what you like the look of.

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Greg Robinson
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Greg Robinson »

Might want to cool it there Jeff, I don't think you meant to come across as a smart-a, but your post could easily be interpreted as such (no tone or inflection on the Internet).
You called out Gordon's opinion, but didn't give any reasoning for your own. Would you care to elaborate on why you don't believe in the "full contact" idea?

Personally, I'm a fan of a bridge that has individual saddles for proper intonation of each string, and includes individual height adjustment of each string. I'm not a huge fan of Tune-O-Matics, I do enough repairs for people having issues with string breakage on those to know that they are hard on strings, even when properly set up.
I personally hate tremolo's, but if I had to choose one, it would be a Bigsby type.
I prefer saddles to be machined rather than cast, same with the base plate. More expensive, but much more robust.
I agree that good contact between the bridge and body, and saddles and baseplate is important, but I think that the "full contact" idea is a bit extreme for no perceiveable difference from a conventional, well designed and constructed bridge.
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Jeff Highland
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Jeff Highland »

Ok the levelling of the back of the telecaster bridge is done as a feedback prevention technique as far as I am aware, not as a coupling enhancer.

The very small contact area of the string to the saddle is adequate, why would you need more below it.
More contact area means less pressure( from string break angle force) and has no advantage in vibration transfer.

Besides on an electric guitar you do not want or need to extract all the energy from a string and transfer it to the body.

I put my opinion strongly because I think the Babizc full contact concept is an expensive ***???!!! with marketing based around a flawed principle

Henrique Schneiter
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Henrique Schneiter »

"Besides on an electric guitar you do not want or need to extract all the energy from a string and transfer it to the body."

I'm a fan of Dan Erlewine, and read a few of his books, but I'm with Jeff on that one. The whole concept of coupling, as far as I know, has some useful strategies in improving tone and sustain, but some concepts seem to be inherited from acoustic building and just doesn't apply to electrics. Some other concepts come from marketing interests, no doubt.

Back to the question, it's a hard one! If you would like to break it down, let's say, between tremolos and hardtails I could add my opinion.

About tremolos, simple answer: floyd rose. If you really like tremolos and use them frequently, you'll ultimately come back to the floyd rose after trying all the other conventional ones. I still use a 2-pivot strat bridge on my strat, it works, and I like it, but on that particular guitar it's used for tremolo or light detuning only.

On my last posted guitar I used a "top-mounted" floyd rose, which eliminates the issues of having a full-floating bridge, with the cost of eliminating "up-action", and some of the loose feel of that system (I'm aware of trem-setter stuff, they're useless IMO). Basically my guitar have better tuning stability than a hardtail would, and ability to do tremolo, detuning and dive bombing. I'm really happy with the result.

About hardtails, I vote for the roller TOMs.

Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

I do not want to stir up controversy. But I feel this is an important concept that can not be ignored by instrument makers, or repair people.

One of the best explanations of the concept of coupling came from a book called "Make Your Electric Guitar Play Great" by Dan E.
His reasoning is like this.
If you think of an object that has a lot of voids inherent in its make-up, it is always a sound absorber. As an exteme example he uses a mattress. You could hit one end with a hammer and not feel it, or hear it on the other end.
On the other hand, a sheet of steel transfers the impact in such an efficient manner that it carries the sound and vibration right through the whole sheet.

If this concept is carried to our instruments, it makes sense that we would not want anything to deaden the tone of the string as it vibrates in the nut, and over the bridge. Neither would we want to have a sound absorber in between these components and the guitar body.
The whole "Which Tone Wood is the best for an electric guitar" question would be moot. With little or no transfer of string vibration through to the body, you could use any kind of wood, and it would make little difference.

I am not saying that this is as important with an electric guitar as with an acoustic guitar, but the whole art of instrument making has been based on these theories for centuries. Not having a well coupled bridge is the same as having a felt pad in between it, and the guitar body.

Just my opinion.
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Jeff Highland
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Jeff Highland »

I have not read Erlewine' book and so I will not comment on it

Babicz's approach lies in first getting you to accept two concepts which appear to "make sense"

-Maximising transfer of vibration to the body is important
-Vibration transfer is increased by increasing contact area

Once you accept these then it is obvious that you need to use his designs
Problem is neither of these are proven.

David King
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by David King »

How a bridge changes a guitar's sound is more nuanced than just the contact area. Think of the bridge as having an impedance. It's mass and the distribution of that mass are going to affect what frequencies pass back and forth between the body and the string. There is no right answer but you can definitely hear differences and some bridges might help or degrade the overall perception of sound in each person's ears.

Warren May
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Warren May »

To the OP, I really like the Schaller flat mount roller bridge (3D-6?). It has a lot of mass, is very attractive and adjustable string width, height, intonation with really great quality. Interesting discussion about transfer of vibrations. I've always thought acoustic instruments like violin, mandolin, banjo, archtop and even steel string guitars with scalloped bracing have a small bridge footprint but well-sanded to the curvature of the top for energy transfer without impeding the vibration of the top. A lot of electrics have bridges with studs like the T.O.M. or "floating" tremolo but I like the flat mount Schaller a lot, especially on a mahogany body where I feel it's desirable to tone down brightness of woods like maple. Is that the reason for preferring the big chunky Schaller? I dunno.

Henrique Schneiter
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Henrique Schneiter »

Gordon, your post seems to be somewhat confused. The mattress example is about hardness and not density. If you actually compare a solid block of steel and a fenestrated (semi-solid) block of steel then someone could have a point about vibration transfer. Of course nobody wants to have a bridge made of soft material.

Think about an acoustic guitar with more voids than solid material on its volume - is it a sound absorber? On the other hand, compared to an acoustic, an unplugged electric guitar could be considered a sound absorber. What the magnetic pickups sense is the string vibration, which is influenced by how much energy is lost (absorbed) by all the other components of the guitar, and that's why the different tone woods make different sounding guitars. So, your ultimate argument would be that the wider contact point between bridge and body (footprint) improves the transfer of energy to the body wood? It could be right. But it doesn't mean that it is beneficial to the sound of the instrument, as Jeff stated.

The theories of the centuries apply exclusively to acoustics, as electrics are still novel in the history of instrument making. They are different animals, though.

Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

Some good points gentlemen.
Jeff, I still think that transfer of vibration to the body is a proven point. As a few have spoken of. whichever bridge you use must have good solid contact.
As Henrique said, "the sound is influenced by how much energy is lost (absorbed) by all the other components of the guitar".

Your point about the contact area may be valid. I can not substantiate that with any data, just my opinion as I stated earlier.

Warren. I will look into the Schaller Flat Mount bridge you speak of.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

Henrique Schneiter
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Henrique Schneiter »

"whichever bridge you use must have good solid contact"

Sure, but what is a "good solid contact"? A bigger footprint? If that is right, the old Gibsons with standard posts TOMs would sound like crap, as they have minimal footprints, and that didn't happen. So, it would be a rigid, immovable contact (like tonepros)? Then, the archtops and semi-hollow electrics with separate bridges would sound bad, but that didn't happen also. Not to mention the guitars with floating bridges...

I think that statement is just too simple to describe electric guitars.

Jeff Highland
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Jeff Highland »

The worst bridge design I have ever experienced was a Squier '51. Top load hardtail with block type saddles. The way the strings fed through the saddle, string tension was pulling the saddle up as well as pushing it down.

My telecaster with bigsby and mustang bridge seems to work fine with only a sharp post in a cup(to allow it to rock)
This must be minimal contact in terms of surface area.
There are plenty of other issues with a mustang/jaguar bridge, but not the post design

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Greg Robinson
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Greg Robinson »

Warren May wrote:I really like the Schaller flat mount roller bridge (3D-6?)....
I really dislike this bridge. It does not provide sufficient break-angle and strings pop out of the rollers very easily (although I do play quite hard). I also feel the width adjustment is redundant, and tends to "walk" about and move position, as they cannot be locked in place. The "roller" function is actually reliant on the same mechanism as the width adjustment, so bad design IMHO. Of course YMMV.
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Warren May
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Warren May »

I totally respect Greg's opinion and the break angle is low, as he says, like most top loaders. I am ham handed but I've not had the problem of strings popping out that some report but when I've used the Schaller, I build in a couple of degrees of neck angle so the saddles aren't adjusted all the way down to the baseplate. Schaller must be aware of the low neck angle that doesn't work for some so the newest version has a model with string slots milled into the baseplate so the strings go under the bridgeplate instead of top loading. I haven't tried that version but it looks like it would give more break angle if desired. To use it, though, you would either have to use the optional spacer that comes with it (which I don't like) or mill a recess in the body to receive the string balls. It looks like Rickenbacker is using the bridge on some of its models? Looking at reviews on StewMac's site, most give it full stars but, again, opinions do vary. The cam for locking things into place is a little fiddly but once locked seems to work okay for me and I haven't noticed any rattle. The rollers are on screws and, as Greg says, that's the same mechanism as the string spacing adjustment but they don't move much as they might on a tremolo. They remind me a little of Brian May's Red Special in the way they are designed but maybe Schaller could stand to improve the design.

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Greg Robinson
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Greg Robinson »

Yeah, some neck angle helps to keep the saddles high and get better break angle. I really do play hard and heavy though, so I would be pushing the design to its extreme, much more than most other players. Hell, I use a custom string set with 0.070" on the bottom, tuned to standard on a 25-1/2" scale, if that gives you any indication of just how hard I push things :)
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Chad McCormack
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Chad McCormack »

^ Holy smokes Greg! Any idea what type of string tension you're achieving with that set of strings on a 25.5" scale? I'd love to play something like that just to see what it feels like :)

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Greg Robinson
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Re: Electric Guitar Bridges - Which is best?

Post by Greg Robinson »

Well it's still (relatively) light on top, 0.010" - 16.2lbs, 0.014" - 17.8lbs, 0.019" - 20.7lbs, 0.030" - 25.0lbs, 0.046" - 31.1lbs, 0.070" - 40.8lbs. Total 151.6lbs.
I have most of my electrics strung this way, including my "shop" guitar that clients use to check amps before collecting them (I have a more standard Strat (0.009"-0.042"), Tele (0.010"-0.046") and humbucker (0.010"-0.052") guitars available for better benchmarking), and most people are at first shocked by the "telephone cable" strings I have on there, but are even more shocked when they find that it's very easy to play. You can get incredibly low action with such heavy strings, and a really solid tone to boot. Even big string bends are not difficult on the low strings, you don't have to deflect them far to get big pitch changes.
The problem is finding tuners that will accept the low E, pretty much all locking tuners are out, as are a lot of more modern styled "small profile" type tuners. Gotoh Stealths are right out.
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