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Kluson Hardware Upgrades

#1 User is offline   benlf 

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Posted 03 May 2017 - 08:25 AM

I learned a lot about hardware recently.

Apparently Gibson has never made its own hardware. It used to source it out to other American companies. But now the standard tuners, bridge and tailpiece are made by Ping Wells, a Taiwanese company with factories in China. Also, the parts used to be made of different materials. Tuner cases used to be steel; now they are zinc. Bridges used to have brass saddles; now they are zinc. Tailpieces were aluminum for a while; now they are zinc. And the studs used to be steel; now they are (you guessed it) zinc.

Now that I know all that I feel like the hardware on my Gibsons screams out for a hardware upgrade. I've done a lot of research, and it turns out there are a lot of choices out there for American made hardware made of the same materials as Gibson used in the old days.

For example, Kluson Supreme tuners have a higher tuning ratio and steel cases. Also, Kluson sells American made bridges and tailpieces. They have abr-1 ad Nashville bridges with brass saddles, aluminum tailpieces and steel studs.

My link

I like Schaller tuners for my Fender, but I'm going all Kluson for my Gibsons.
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#2 User is offline   benlf 

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Posted 08 May 2017 - 06:16 PM

I swapped all the hardware on my Gibson, and the improvement in tone is mind-blowing (comparable to swapping out the electronics on an import guitar).

Before I did this the bridge pickup on my SG sounded great with a lot of distortion, and the neck pickup was good clean for a really smooth jazz tone. But that was about it.

I changed the zinc tailpiece for an aluminum one, and the zinc studs for steel. Then I got Nashville to ABR-1 steel conversion posts and swapped them for my non-steel Gibson posts; and changed my all zinc Nashville bridge for a zinc ABR-1 bridge with brass saddles.

I also swapped the tuners for Kluson Revolution tuners. I was really impressed with the Gotohs, but they had bushings instead of thread on collars, and the bushings didn't fit well (the holes are too large). Schaller also makes real nice Kluson style tuners, and the Schallers have threaded collars. But the casings and the post are not steel, and the plastic parts are more green than pearl.

Then I discovered the Kluson Revolution tuners which drop right in and have thread on collars. Plus they are SEALED tuners, unlike all the others. They have replaceable buttons, and they look really cool.

Anyway, the change in tone after replacing those parts is dramatic. Less midrange; no nasal sounds. Much less muddy and much clearer clean tone. More resonant acoustic tone. The high gain sounds are still there but the guitar is MUCH more versatile now.

If you play heavy metal or jazz, I would not recommend the aluminum tailpiece. IMHO the clean tone is smoother and the high gain tone has more bark with the zinc tailpiece. But if play blues, like I do. Or if you are just a tone freak, like I am too. You have to at least give this a try. It's only about $150 or so of modifications (unlike a changeover to all steel, which is expensive), and all of them are easily reversible.

I've known about the importance of good pickups and quality electronics for a long time. I've always paid attention to the woods and construction of the guitars I've owned. But I never took the time to experiment with different hardware until now. With Strats it's easy; steel sounds best for just about everything. But with Gibsons its more complicated.

A lot of people are tuned in to the aluminum tailpieces Gibson uses on its high end guitars. I noticed just about all of those guitars also use ABR-1 bridges with brass saddles, and steel posts, so that's why I went this route.

I also noticed the really pricey Les Pauls use Alnico III pickups, instead of the usual Alnico II classics (or Burstbuckers). Those should also produce a brighter, clearer tone. Next time I have time and money, I may try a set of those too....
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