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Replacement Bridge Pins


DaveKell
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I'm on several other guitar forums so I'm already aware as a newbie here I'm probably bringing up a topic that's been tossed around countless times. I tried to Search this but the returned results (145) were very non specific to the topic. My 2016 le Custom Shop AJ I recently acquired is endearing itself to me more every time I play it. I'm curious though as to the reasoning for the cheap plastic pins. I've read plastic is most impervious to climate changes and lots of high dollar guitars come with them to alleviate a documented problem of bridge splits from pin swelling in transit.I tried using ebony pins from a badly damaged commissioned build of a super abalone by Kazuo Yairi that is awaiting my acquiring the funds to have it restored. They were too small. Has anybody received any true benefit from replacing the plastic pins in a maple AJ? I'm totally enamored of the sound of this guitar as is but the pins give it a cheap looking touch in my estimation. I'm far from anal about it however, but would like to know if a suitable replacement is available.

 

Also, can anyone tell me why I see pics of what I believe is my same exact guitar but some of them have CUSTOM running vertically on the truss rod cover while others don't (mine)?

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Pins are fairly immaterial to the tone of a fine guitar like your AJ, mostly because the correct position of the string end resting against the plate renders the pin to only serving the purpose of keeping that ball end in full contact with the plate and thusly, the underside of the top. Pins shouldn't be involved in that relationship between resonating top and string tension, other than the securing of the string in it's place under high tension. When you finesse that string into the sweet spot, and pull up on it, the pin shouldn't lift at all. That's how you know it's seated properly, I use bone as a habit, but any good fitting pin will keep that ball end in place, so feel free to get the aesthetic touch you like. I do have some orig plastic pins on 50-60 year old guitars though, but the yellowed white looks right.

 

There are metal bridge pins out there. Somehow I think they might change the sound of a guitar a bit.

Edited by jedzep
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Pins are cheap enough to experiment with to see if they have any impact on your AJ's tone. A good set of bone pins is about $35, and there are many options beyond that, such as fossilized ivory.

 

Different guitars seem to respond differently to changes in pin material, so it's hard to generalize.

 

I have put various types of bone pins on all my flat tops. They may or may not have had any impact on tone, but I like the look of them. Some are aged, others have abalone dots, etc. It's sort of like wearing a different bow tie to work every day. It may not change anything except cosmetically, but it's cheap fun, and an endless subject for discussion.

 

And welcome aboard, by the way.

Edited by j45nick
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My 2012 AJ sounds great, stock plastic pins and all, so I have zero need or desire to change them. If I lost a pin, one broke, got mangled, etc., then I'd replace them with either the same exact plastic pins, or a bone set from Bob Colosi PURELY for aesthetics.

 

I also have a 2017 J45 Standard I replaced the stock Tusq pins on. I just hated the way they looked. The tops were flat and squished looking, overall the pins looked small, and they just bothered me as far as looks, so I replaced them with a set of bone pins from Bob Colosi. Again, this was ONLY for cosmetics/aesthetics.

 

All my other guitars (D-35, CS 00-18, and a 1975 D-28) all still have their original plastic pins (including the '75 D-28).

 

Personally, I think you'd get more bang for your buck experimenting with different strings and the most overlooked, cheap thing to experiment with that affects the sound of your guitar...picks! Picks are one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get different (and very noticeable) sounds from your guitar. In comparison, bridge pins are a bit more expensive, and the change in tone/sound is negligible/debateable/non-existant in a lot of cases.

 

My take on drive pins and affecting "tone" us whether or not you can hear a difference is directly related to how much you spend on replacement pins. The more you spend, the more of a difference you'll most likely hear.

Edited by sbpark
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Also, can anyone tell me why I see pics of what I believe is my same exact guitar but some of them have CUSTOM running vertically on the truss rod cover while others don't (mine)?

 

My guess is only Gibson knows the answer to this. With the J45, the "Custom" designation usually refers to the rosewood back and sides version that also has a bit more "bling" as far as inlays, etc. With the AJ I have no idea. Gibson is notorious for changing names or designations year to year for no apparent reason, just because.

 

Does your AJ have East Indian or Madagascar rosewood back and sides? I know some of the AJ's labelled "Custom" use Madagascar over the normally used East Indian rosewood.

Edited by sbpark
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Welcome to the forum.

 

I use wooden pins on my guitar. Ebony wood or boxwood. It’s my feeling that the more wood on a guitar’s top the better, even if it’s only the minor addition of wooden pins. Does it make a difference to the guitar’s sound? My feeling is yes, but in a nuanced way not anything major. But, as other nuanced things add to the over all sound, such as where one’s right hand rests or doesn’t rest on a guitar, where one plucks or strums a string, where the guitar sits against oneself or away, how hard the strings are played, using or not using picks, pick material and thickness, string bends, saddle material, where one frets in front of a fret...minor nuances add up to different sounds, so may as well have a bit more nuance by the choice of pin materials (whatever one chooses.)

 

Just my take on the subject.

 

QM aka “Jazzman Jeff

Edited by QuestionMark
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I have a 2016 Maple AJ too. GREAT guitars aren’t they? Mine may be my favourite.

 

The pins in yours and mine are Tusq rather than just everyday plastic. It’s a synthetic recreation of bone made by Graphtech, and a pretty good one at that. Bone can vary in density from piece to piece, and often across one piece in the case of saddle material (which is why undersaddle pickups often sound better with synthetic saddles rather than bone), which Tusq doesn’t.

 

I would only look to change your pins for aesthetic or tonal reasons-in my experience (I’ve tried plastic, Tusq, bone, boxwood, ebony, fossilised walrus ivory, buffalo horn and brass pins), if it’s a tonal change you need or you’re looking to adjust top weighting to deal with a wolf tone, there are plenty of options, but if you like the way your guitar sounds now, I’d leave it as is. Tusq pins are good quality and will serve you well.

 

Any pin change will make a tonal/response difference due to the alteration of resonant mass at the point of resonant transference from strings to the guitar top (ie the bridge). Plastic and Tusq are light and neutral, wooden pins will soften the guitar’s attack transient, bone/horn/ivory add a little weight and can sharpen the attack transient and shorten decay, and brass pins will tend towards a hard attack transient and a fundamental decay which is often masked by ringing overtones.

 

I only use brass if I need to move the frequency of a sympathetic resonance point (ie wolf tone) up or down so it doesn’t sit at a note that’s frequently played. They’re great for that-the only thing that really does the job. Thankfully I don’t need to do that sort of thing very often!

 

One thing I found was a massive upgrade on my AJ was removing the Baggs undersaddle pickup and replacing it with a Sunrise. The guitar was great before, but absolutely glorious once the pickup element was out from under the bridge saddle. Most of my guitars don’t seem affected by USTs too much, but the AJ definitely was...probably due to the light and extremely resonant build.

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I have a 2016 Maple AJ too. GREAT guitars aren’t they? Mine may be my favourite.

 

The pins in yours and mine are Tusq rather than just everyday plastic. It’s a synthetic recreation of bone made by Graphtech, and a pretty good one at that. Bone can vary in density from piece to piece, and often across one piece in the case of saddle material (which is why undersaddle pickups often sound better with synthetic saddles rather than bone), which Tusq doesn’t.

 

I would only look to change your pins for aesthetic or tonal reasons-in my experience (I’ve tried plastic, Tusq, bone, boxwood, ebony, fossilised walrus ivory, buffalo horn and brass pins), if it’s a tonal change you need or you’re looking to adjust top weighting to deal with a wolf tone, there are plenty of options, but if you like the way your guitar sounds now, I’d leave it as is. Tusq pins are good quality and will serve you well.

 

Any pin change will make a tonal/response difference due to the alteration of resonant mass at the point of resonant transference from strings to the guitar top (ie the bridge). Plastic and Tusq are light and neutral, wooden pins will soften the guitar’s attack transient, bone/horn/ivory add a little weight and can sharpen the attack transient and shorten decay, and brass pins will tend towards a hard attack transient and a fundamental decay which is often masked by ringing overtones.

 

I only use brass if I need to move the frequency of a sympathetic resonance point (ie wolf tone) up or down so it doesn’t sit at a note that’s frequently played. They’re great for that-the only thing that really does the job. Thankfully I don’t need to do that sort of thing very often!

 

One thing I found was a massive upgrade on my AJ was removing the Baggs undersaddle pickup and replacing it with a Sunrise. The guitar was great before, but absolutely glorious once the pickup element was out from under the bridge saddle. Most of my guitars don’t seem affected by USTs too much, but the AJ definitely was...probably due to the light and extremely resonant build.

 

I guess they're making any combination of woods and calling it an "AJ" now? Maple back and sides? Drop in saddle? Sounds like a different model to me, but then again, look at all the incarnations of J45's that seem so far off the original spec/woods but they still call them J45's! I guess Gibson can call whatever they want whatever they want!

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The Martin enthusiasts fancy the Antique Acoustic pins: https://www.elderly.com/brands/antique-acoustic.html

 

Are these superior or different than the stock plastic pins that come with our Gibsons?

 

I replaced the original pins in my 1965 J-50 with the Antique Acoustics, and they look identical to me. I don't think they are superior and they didn't change the sound. I don't know... do you think the originals really needed to be replaced? [biggrin]

 

bentpins.jpg

Edited by Boyd
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I guess they're making any combination of woods and calling it an "AJ" now? Maple back and sides? Drop in saddle? Sounds like a different model to me, but then again, look at all the incarnations of J45's that seem so far off the original spec/woods but they still call them J45's! I guess Gibson can call whatever they want whatever they want!

 

I love the AJ dynamics and the long scale neck on a slope dread body...I’ve just never been a Rosewood kinda guy. Had an RW AJ and traded it away years back, but always missed it and wished they’d made a Maple version as I’m a big fan of the sound and response of Maple. The long traditional saddle on my RW AJ was always a bear for me as at the time I wanted to use a UST which required quite a bit of modification.

 

It may not be an “AJ” in the traditional sense, but it’s perfect for me. Love everything about it!

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