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GreyGrayDays

2019 J-45 Customization (Pick-up, Saddle, Bridge Pins)

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 Hi, 

I recently sold my Taylor 410 and Gibson Working Man to pick up a brand new J-45 Standard.  I love the guitar, but it came from the factory with a tusq saddle, nut, and bridge pins. I've read that tusq is a better material for the LR Baggs Element UST it comes installed with.  I'd like to have a custom bone saddle made by a local luthier, but am considering uninstalling the UST as well not only because it won't react as well to the bone saddle, but because (from what I gather) direct contact with the saddle and bridge is ideal. To replace the Element I'm looking at having a K&K Pure Mini put in. I know the K&K is technically a cheaper system, but it comes highly recommended for it's tone, simplicity, & unobtrusive installation, and bridge plate transducers and/or on-board mics are widely preferred to USTs.  Furthermore, my 90's J-50 has a passive pickup in it and it sounds fantastic (not sure exactly what's in it though as I bought it used).

After reading a few forums, it's been recommended to leave the tusq nut alone as it only affects open string tone, they're more consistent than bone nuts, and the installation process is a lot more extensive/expensive.

I'm on the fence as whether to invest in ebony, rosewood, or bone bridge pins. Bone seems to be the traditional pairing with a bone saddle. Ebony has been recommended for mellowing out the bright, shrill nature of the guitar. Others have insisted the pins should match the material of the bridge itself - in this case, rosewood. 

Any thoughts, advice, or warnings against any of the above choices are very welcomed and much appreciated. 

Cheers!

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There's a pinned THREAD just for this discussion that should give you plenty of opinions

 

 

Welcome to the forum

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I did the K&K swap on my 2018 J45.  Very pleased with the results.  It sounds better plugged in and unplugged and it’s a few oz. lighter, which I like.  I installed bone saddle and pins and changed the tuners to 3 on a plate.  Oh, and I upgraded the pickguard to a tiger stripe guard.  

rb

Edited by rbpicker

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3 hours ago, GreyGrayDays said:

 

Others have insisted.......   Now why would any one insist on what someone else should do with their guitar?  As you likely know, results can vary from one guitar to another when changing saddles, pins and the like.  It's pretty much an experimental endeavor.........all you can do is try the stuff you think you might like and see, or rather hear  what happens.  Part of the magic of playing an acoustic guitar, me thinks.

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What Buc said. Acoustic guitars are idiosyncratic, and Gibsons are even more so. What sounds "good" (and "good" is subjective) on your guitar may sound lousy on mine, and vice versa, even though they are the same models. Add to that the player's individual style.

On my J-35, I switched out the plastic (ugh...) bridge pins for camel bone, and that was an improvement straight away. Last year, I got a Bob Colosi bone saddle and it, too, was an immediate improvement. The Tusq saddle that came with the guitar was ill-fitting and leaned in the saddle slot, so its bottom wasn't making full contact with the slot.

When I'm back in the U.S. this summer, I'm having the Tusq nut replaced with ebony. I just don't like Tusq (yes, I know people swear by it) but I want the sound and look of ebony. Plus, the original J-35s came with ebony bridges.

I'm also planning on having the UST taken out and going full-on acoustic.

I'll report back when it's all done.

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6 hours ago, Buc McMaster said:

Others have insisted.......   Now why would any one insist on what someone else should do with their guitar?  As you likely know, results can vary from one guitar to another when changing saddles, pins and the like.  It's pretty much an experimental endeavor.........all you can do is try the stuff you think you might like and see, or rather hear  what happens.  Part of the magic of playing an acoustic guitar, me thinks.

Buc is right. There is no magic bullet or proven formula here, every guitar responds differently to changes and every player hears it in an entirely individual way. 

There is a high likelihood that you will enjoy the K&K and find a small tonal improvement acoustically when you ditch the Element. I know I have found this to be the case many times, as the woven metal undersaddle unit tends to be quite soft and rob a little volume and top end clarity when fitted. 

I use soundhole pickups as I tend to play on a wide variety of stages and, whilst not as "pure" an acoustic tone as something like a K&K, they are tremendously consistent and offer a security blanket against feedback and other problems. I have K&Ks in my '67 J45 and Hummingbird 12 though and they sound fantastic. You're highly likely to enjoy the K&K sound. The other changes are entirely subjective though...suck 'em and see.

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I'm not for that Tohu wa-bohu around nut, saddle, and bridge pins only because the player can swap them relatively easily for he somehow thinks it's an "upgrade" to an already high-end guitar. It's a fallacy.

Any dense, consistent, hard material will do (deer antler, bone, tusq, any other high-tech plastic, etc). As such, what the guitar came with is perfectly fine and reliable for decades to come.

Let's put it this way: If you can hear the difference between two different kind of non-brass string pins (their purpose being holding down the dead end of the string without any rattling going on and nothing else!), you might want to either consult a therapist or sign up for entry into the Guiness Book of World Records.

 

Edited by Leonard McCoy

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46 minutes ago, Leonard McCoy said:

 

Let's put it this way: If you can hear the difference between two different kind of non-brass string pins (their purpose being holding down the dead end of the string without any rattling going on and nothing else!), you might want to either consult a therapist or sign up for the Guiness Book of World Records.

 

 

Leonard-that's being harsh to state that a musician who has enough ear sensitivity to detect musical nuances needs a therapist.  Many musicians have such ear sensitivity to be able to do so while of course some may not.  It’s a gift to be able to detect such musical subtleties, not something that needs a therapist or a listing in a book of records.  Jeez.

QM aka “Jazzman” Jeff (someone who CAN tell the difference between wood and plastic bridge pins or  a tusq or bone saddle  in my guitars and glad to be able to do so.)

 

 

 

Edited by QuestionMark

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I think the biggest improvement will be the transition to the K&K Pure Mini pickup.  I've got that in two of my Gibsons and really like it and the change is very noticeable.  As to the other changes, I like to get rid of the plastic, if such exists...what you go to, depends upon the sound that you want and get...all of which is very subjective, in my book.  Good luck!

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1 hour ago, QuestionMark said:

Leonard-that's being harsh to state that a musician who has enough ear sensitivity to detect musical nuances needs a therapist. 

But that's not what I stated at all. How you make the unbelievable leap from "hear the difference between two different kind of non-brass string pins" (to have to quote myself) to "detect musical nuances" is beyond me.

Edited by Leonard McCoy

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Love the k&k minis in my guitars. They sound best with a preamp like the k&k ones or the fire eye. Have fun!  You will hear different opinions on the effects of swapping pins and nuts... and even tuners. Congrats on your guitar

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1 hour ago, Leonard McCoy said:

But that's not what I stated at all. How you make the unbelievable leap from "hear the difference between two different kind of non-brass string pins" (to have to quote myself) to "detect musical nuances" is beyond me.

Sorry Leonard, but I read it exactly as QuestionMark did. You basically said nobody can tell the difference in the sound of a guitar based on differences in string pin material unless they are brass pins. If there is no difference between any dense materials except brass, and everything else sounds the same, you have just said that pin material makes a difference. You can't have it both ways.

The other materials you named do not all have the same densities, by the way. And if density alone were the primary criteria, you'd want to make your pins out of lead, tungsten, or spent uranium.

Certainly there may be no practical reason to obsess over different pin materials for most people, but you shouldn't discount the fact that it does matter to some people who are tuned into these things more than others.

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Thanks everyone for the warm welcome and wonderful feedback. It sounds like the K&K is definitely a safe and smart switch from the Element. I understand that every guitar is different, and every player is different on even the same guitar. There's so much subjectivity out there in terms of preference and theory. However, I do think patterns exist (even if some are more of a placebo effect). I've read more often than not that changing saddles, nuts, and pins can have very little affect on tone, while others swear by the improvement. In particular, bone saddles seem to satisfy a vast amount of players. I'm by no means implying there's a right or wrong way to go about customizing a guitar, but it's fun to share experiences, and I like to take those that shed light on what I'm at least attempting to accomplish with my guitar in to consideration. 

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18 hours ago, j45nick said:

Sorry Leonard, but I read it exactly as QuestionMark did. You basically said nobody can tell the difference in the sound of a guitar based on differences in string pin material unless they are brass pins. If there is no difference between any dense materials except brass, and everything else sounds the same, you have just said that pin material makes a difference. You can't have it both ways.

The other materials you named do not all have the same densities, by the way. And if density alone were the primary criteria, you'd want to make your pins out of lead, tungsten, or spent uranium.

Certainly there may be no practical reason to obsess over different pin materials for most people, but you shouldn't discount the fact that it does matter to some people who are tuned into these things more than others.

Who would have thought that there always be a way to further twist one's words or lead the most absurd argument I have read in recent time. If you want to put uranium on your guitar, put uranium on your guitar. If you want to be the bridge-pin discerning nutjob in the family, be the bridge-pin discerning nutjob in the family. And if you want to sing out, sing out.

Edited by Leonard McCoy

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Generally, I like the bone triumvirate....nut, saddle, pins but my luthier mentioned he prefers ‘high density bone’ for nuts and saddles. Whah, what? And that is what I have on my custom that he made. Why did I not ask if it came from high density cows?

Now my 1959 LG3 came with bone nut and saddle and plastic pins from 1959. Loved the sound, but everyone says you gotta have bone pins, so bone pins were got.....and the guitar sound became a bit....shrill. So after a few years of different strings and attempts to get the shrill gone, I put the original plastics back in....Voila. We are back to norm. Still there too, years on.

Then the old K&K furphy arrises here again. ‘Get a K&K, they all cry and your next open mic will be a pushover!’ I can’t stand the sound of a K&K direct.  Or undersaddles. You need a row of pre-amperage to cut the boom, quack and rattles. My K&Ks sound superb, but through my Tonedexter. Or a host of gadgets. My K&Ks are the source of electricity. That is the beginning only.

I think I have spent uranium nut, saddle and pins on my Hummingbird copy.

 

BluesKing777.

 

 

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18 minutes ago, BluesKing777 said:

 

I think I have spent uranium nut, saddle and pins on my Hummingbird copy.

BluesKing777.

 

 

Cheeky sod.

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