Steel vs Aluminum ABR

Discussion in 'The Custom Shop' started by nibus, Jun 4, 2017.

  1. nibus

    nibus Senior Member

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    Anyone been able to directly compare two ABR's of these materials?

    I'm looking to brighten up one of my axes, and my first choice would be a Callaham but he doesn't offer gold hardware. So I'm thinking about the Pigtail aluminum gold ABR instead.
     
  2. ARandall

    ARandall Senior Member

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    There have been a few tests done, but it depends on what hardware you have on there now as to ways of brightening tone. Electronics also help......but it what are the symptoms??
     
  3. nibus

    nibus Senior Member

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    It's actually for an explorer. I already have a Faber lightweight tailpiece and locking steel studs. Currently I'm using a vintage Gibson ABR that's not bad, but I'm looking for a little more snappiness, which is hard to get on an all mahogany guitar.
     
  4. ARandall

    ARandall Senior Member

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    What are the pots etc. You can make some difference there. Also thinking of a no load tone pot too.
    Is it both pickups that have the issue??

    In terms of tonal shift, Al doesn't just change high end.....it scoops mids too. The cut you typically want comes from mids more than pure high end. Thats where electronics can come into their own. Having the higher value vol pot effects the whole pickup response across the spectrum.....making the resonant frequency not only higher up the frequency spectrum but also making the peak louder.
     
  5. David Mccarroll

    David Mccarroll Senior Member

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    Callaham will certainly give you snappiness, along with chime and an almost piano like clarity with a new set of strings. Every Gibson I own has Callaham ABRs and tailpieces. I believe they will do one in gold if you ask nicely, or at least they did a while ago.
     
  6. nibus

    nibus Senior Member

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    Regular Gibson 500K pots, but I am using a .015 RS Guitarworks modern cap for increased brightness. That alone helped quite a bit, but it's still lacking a bit of that snappiness that I'm looking for.

    I heard back from him this morning, I guess they are not offering gold plating anymore... :(

    The only other gold ABR I've been able to find was a GMI Luthier, which wasn't bad, but not as big a difference as a Callaham.

    I think I might give the Pigtail a go - I don't mind losing a little mids for the sake of more highs.
     
  7. mdubya

    mdubya Senior Member

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    Locking hardware kills tone, imho. :noway:
     
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  8. nibus

    nibus Senior Member

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    How so exactly?
     
  9. mdubya

    mdubya Senior Member

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    I just don't like it, I think it is a gimmick. Would you put locking hardware on any classic guitar 50's LP, Flying V, Explorer, 60's SG, Firebird, ES XXX? Even EVH got his best tone out of a Fender tremolo and a plain, un-clamped nut.

    I have a guitar with a locking tailpiece and I regret having it (the TP). I have two guitars with locking bridges and I have removed the set screws from each. I like to be able to make adjustments on the fly and I feel of the "locked" hardware feels stiff and deadens the tone. I like the guitar to vibrate and to feel alive. A guitar like my ES 330, I sometimes have to put some foam under the trapeze tailpiece because it is almost too alive. But there is no arguing with how lively the tone is that bounces and vibrates out of the very loose, almost jalopy like feel, of the setup.

    JMHO, of course.

    Lots of people want things more under control. I like buzz and hum and the feeling like I need to hold on to the instrument to keep it from going out of control.

    I remember a guy telling me about his (Joe Barden, maybe?) pickups in his Strat that were noiseless. This was way back, late 80's, early 90's; He said he could stand in front of his amp with his hands off of his guitar at full volume and it wouldn't even feed back. He thought that was great. I made a bad face and said, "Who would want that?"

    I want my single coils to hum. I want to have to control feedback with my hands and stage position. I want my bridge and tp to have some give, I want my strings to slide through the nut, freely. Different strokes.
     
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  10. PierM

    PierM Premium Member

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    Wondering, did you ever try just using some good (and properly slotted) titanium saddles? I can't see how a POT can give you more or less snap. That is mostly coming from nut (open notes) and bridge studs and saddles.... and trussrod, but this is not something you can't easily control. :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 6, 2017
  11. nibus

    nibus Senior Member

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    I had some titanium saddles on a Faber bridge I was using for some time. I ended up ditching it because I feel their alloy doesn't do favors to the top-end, even with the titanium saddles compensating. They use a lot of plain old zinc in their bridges. Their tailpieces and studs are great though.

    That's definitely worth looking at. Could you recommend any that would fit a standard Gibson ABR?
     
  12. korus

    korus Senior Member

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    Faber aluminum tailpiece is dark sounding. Use Kluson aluminum TP. Also use Faber regular non locking steel studs for tailpiece. You will have it both louder AND brighter for less than $40, while still using your vintage ABR-1. Do not replace it, it sounds better than any ABR-1 currently being made. (BTW what vintage is ABR-1, original nickel pre 1962 or later chrome with patent number?)

    If that is not enough, try carbon steel posts for ABR-1 if you have vintage brass ones. Also if thumbwheels are brass, try steel thumbwheels.

    Philadelphia Luthier tools sells aluminum TP, steel posts for ABR-1 and steel thumbwheels. Faber steel studs at Faber.

    And no locking. It dampens harmonics. No vintage instruments had any locking and managed to make THOSE recordings. Actually those loose parts contributed to the tone.

    Also, what is nut made of? It should be nylon 6/6 for the proper vintage Gibson tone. But, you can use bone nut instead of nylon, and it will make it punchier and brighter also, all the tones played on the guitar, not just open strings.

    And try not to replace any electric components until you sort out the basic primary tone. Electrics only mask the problem, they can not alter primary tone, and they can not invent brightness out of thin air if it is killed by darksounding hardware.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2017
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  13. nibus

    nibus Senior Member

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    Very interesting observations!

    I did notice a brighter tone when I switched to the Faber aluminum tailpiece with locking studs - however I haven't compared it with anything but the stock zinc tailpiece. I may give the Kluson a go, however I prefer an aged look... might have to do that myself I guess.

    The ABR-1 I believe is from the 70's era, but I can't confirm for sure.

    I think I'll start with steel thumbwheels and bridge post inserts. I have done the "mapleflame" mod before with great success, so it would make sense that the thumbwheels would also make a difference.

    The nut is stock - so whatever Gibson was using in 2006 on Explorers. I'm a fan of bone nuts so I may have one installed.
     
  14. Mustard Caps

    Mustard Caps Senior Member

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    I like the Pigtail. I got the Complete Assembly. I used the Zinc/Nickel Bridge. They also make Aluminum. Is also Wirelsss. Really well put together.

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  15. jcsk8

    jcsk8 Senior Member

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    I think you should play with strings brands (D´addario is pretty bright) and higher volume pots values first.
     
  16. Dolebludger

    Dolebludger Premium Member

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    An inexpensive Gotoh brightened up my tone, and I don't even know what metal it is made of. The reasons, I think, are the fact that the saddles are locked in by screws in holes (not merely in a slot) and the width of the saddles at their tops is less than an ABR. I couple that with a milled aluminum TP, and get all the snap I need.
     
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  17. Windwalker9649

    Windwalker9649 Junior Member

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    Yeah, I'd try a no load tone control. I just make my own. It's pretty easy.
    Just take apart the back ofthe pot (there's 4 tabs bent to hold it together, just bend them out). On the bottom of the knob part you'll see hanging copper leads, that come into contact with a thick copper trace on the other part of the pot. Just see where the leads contact that trace with the knob at 10,then either grind/sand/file that part of the trace off, or cover it with clear nail polish or super glue, then put it back together.

    Pretty much everything will be brighter than the stock ABR, it's just plated zinc. The aluminum will open up the tone a bit, but it will also take away some of the bottom end due to the light weight. Whether that's good or bad will be dependant solely on your taste,and what you play.
    Brass and steel (typically brass saddles) may get your what your want. I don't use them on my gibson, but I do on my Fender and a PRS with a wraparound tailpiece. I love out on the PRS. It didn't brighten it as in adding treble, but it does make each string stand out.
    I got to tell you, I've repaired and serviced guitars for a decade, and when I read "give a Les Paul snap," my first instinct is "play a different guitar." It's not so much the mahogany body that makes it hard to do (I've built a few mahogany bodied Strat copies for people that are warm compared to alder or ash, but definitely have more snap than a LP), as much as its the short 24 3/4"scale neck. The strings are just too loose to have a lot of that bite (that it sounds at least), like you're looking for.
    I can't believe I'm going to say thisjust 2 days after counseling someone not to do, but if you can lower the stoptail, bring it closer to the body, the little extra string tension may help (to be fair, it was doing a wrap over on the tail piece I was telling the other person to avoid).
    Also, using lighter gauge strings may get you closer to what you're looking for. I installed an EVH humbucker on a customers Charvel San Dimas a few months ago for a guy in VH tribute band. He usually uses 10s on his guitars but wanted to go to 8s to get closer to the EVH sound so I had to do a setup for them. I ran it through a 2525 Silver Jubilee head I have, and it definitely opened it up significantly. The individual strings rang out better, it had better string separation, etc.
     
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  18. Have FUN

    Have FUN Senior Member

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  19. nibus

    nibus Senior Member

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    This is for an Explorer actually, and I have to play it in a tribute band.. so unfortunately it is the only option.

    But I should clarify a bit on what I'm looking for -

    It's really only partly a matter of "brightness". I can add brightness by installing a lower value cap, or a higher value pot, or a no-load pot as you suggested. But this will only get me half way to what I'm looking for.

    "Snap" does not necessarily mean "brightness". I recently learned this when I installed steel saddles on a Telecaster, expecting more "snap" and liveliness. To my dismay, all the snap was gone! Didn't sound like a Tele at all. It was then I realized that "snap" doesn't equate to "brightness" at all.

    So maybe your suggestion of brass saddles is a good idea, as making the strings "stand out" is more what I'm looking for. I am limited to gold hardware unfortunately, and I haven't found a nicely made gold ABR made from solid steel. I have recently ordered a few things to help liven up my current bridge, including DeTemple titanium saddles. I'm hoping they will have a similar effect as brass. If not, I'll have to find some solid brass saddles to try.

    If these changes still don't get what I want I will try a Pigtail aluminum ABR and experiment with saddles.

    I also have steel thumbwheels and posts on their way, which in my experience do help to liven things up a bit.

    I may have to give that ABR a try - the brass saddles sound like a winner.
     
  20. nibus

    nibus Senior Member

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    Just an update -

    Tried some steel posts and thumbwheels on the explorer, and actually didn't care for the change. I lost top end and zing when compared to the stock brass inserts.
     

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