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Advantage of the adjustable bridge?


Bcapirchio
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Hi All

 

I'm just curious.  Obviously we all know that Gibson but adjustable bridges on their acoustics somewhere in the early 60's to mid 70's.

 

Yes there is debate in whether they are  good to have or not.  But that's not my question.

 

My question is:  what is the point of it?  I can assume it's because it allows you to lower or raise the action of your acoustic without having to shave the saddle down?  Is this a right assumption?  In a way isn't that a cool feature which would allow for more flexibility when adjusting the action?

Thanks!

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The adjustable saddle allows you to raise/lower the action to fit your playing style. To take extreme examples, a shredder, a bluegrass flatpicker, and a ballad fingerpicker probably need very different setups with different action heights.

The concept is appealing but the impact on tone can be significant. This impact may appeal to some people, but not to everyone. That impact depends very much on the material used for the adjustable saddle. Some of these originally were ceramic, others rosewood.  Some of us who had them back in the 60's and 70's modified the rosewood saddle with bone inserts. In recent years, we have seen modern bone versions of the adjustable saddle as well.

Some of the iconic acoustic rock recordings of the 60's were made on Gibsons with adjustable saddles. 

It's a good arrangement for folks who really like to chase different tone.

Em7 here can chime in on this aspect, since he is a great one for tonal experimentation.

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I have never spent a whole lot of time with 1961 and later Gibsons other than the  B45-12.   And I am a fan of the ADJ saddle bridge on the B45-12.    Moreover I prefer the original wood saddle to tusq or bone   \I am convinced that ADJ contraption  increases the attack you hear plus gives you a bit more sustain which while I am not enamored with on a 6 string I do fancy with a 12 string.

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1 hour ago, j45nick said:

 

The concept is appealing but the impact on tone can be significant. 

I

 

I have always believed the negative impact on sound most say they hear is due more to the stiff laminate bridge needed to support those contraptions which weigh some three times more than a conventional pin bridge.

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I have an ADJ bridge on my Gibson 2006 Custom Shop 1964 J-45 Reissue from Fuller’s.   It uses a tusq saddle.  For about 7 years I instead substituted a bone saddle, but this year went back again to the factory tusq saddle that came with it as the end of the bone  saddle broke off.    I have no prob with the sound of the ADJ bridge.  I’ve changed the string height only about three times since I’ve had the instrument when my string height preference changed.  Does it sound a bit different than a stable bridge.  Yes.  But, I like the sound of the ADJ bridge on the guitar.  I suspect the tusq or bone saddle insert may work better than the ceramic or wood saddles their originals had, but, I used to play a LG3 with a ceramic bridge in it and liked that sound a lot.   Plus, realistically when I gig I am plugged in, so I  not sure the ADJ bridge has much effect when the guitar is amped anyhow.  I do feel that one of the misunderstandings about the ADJ bridge is when the action is adjusted way low, reducing the break angle of the strings at the saddle.  Which is way easy and tempting to do with the ADJ bridge.  Too low of action and/or too little of a string break angle produces a sound with less volume or not a full sound.  I set the height on my ADJ bridge with good break angle and tension, and, it sounds just fine acoustically, too.

Just my experience.

QM aka “Jazzman” Jeff

 

 

Edited by QuestionMark
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Big fan here of the slightly metallic overtones delivered by the ‘60s adjustable saddles, in particular when coupled with a ceramic insert, plastic bridge, & LG size body.  Essentially, the plastic bridge just ends up holding the bridge pins in place.  Tone transfer goes through the saddle and into what amounts to something more akin to a metal mini arch-top bridge.  The rosewood adjustable bridges typically will also go tonally in that direction, but the effect seems a bit more pronounced with the plastic bridge, imho.

Note that this does not at all apply to non-adjustable plastic bridges, as seen on an LG-0.  In this case, the saddle is resting directly on the plastic bridge, so string transfer must go through the plastic - a totally losing proposition!

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Downright lOVE the ceramic saddles and have them in 3 old Gibsons - plus an old-vase-ivory version in a forth. 
And yes, many of the clazzik tunes from the golden age of rock'n'pop featured the white clay. Shall we mention

The Beatles (both John, George and Paul from 1962 to 1968)

The Rolling Stones (all Bird-stuff from 1965 to circa 1974 fx Angie which is considered the mother-sound of all square Gibsons)

Donovan (every albums that made him a world artist/songwriter from 1965 to approx 1970)

John Renbourn (one of the acoustic aces in the British folk-group Pentangle)

James Taylor (his entire start catalog)

But discussing taste is a waste - just like them or don't. I personally believe it's a shame if not sacrilege to 'fix' them - 'nough have been switched already. 

 

 

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The adjustable-saddle bridge IS the reason for that Gibson tone heard on so many classic '60s recordings. It's that plucky, thunky tone. It doesn't promote great volume but it sort of clips the tone in a really cool way. Records fantastically well and is full of that character.

I look at it not as inferior but simply as different. If you want THAT sound, a normal bridge won't quite deliver it.

It's not a sound you might want for everything but it's really its own kind of tone, and nothing else really does that except for maybe some of the Japanese copy acoustics of that era that also had similar adjustable bridges.

What I would like to know is if it's possible to duplicate that tone with a normal bridge. Seems you'd have to float the saddle a bit. Maybe a cardboard shim?

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My 1965 J-50 still has the original wood ADJ saddle. Since that's the way it was built, I'm not changing it. I think it affects the volume however, that guitar really isn't as loud as my 2008 J-50. In another thread, somebody suggested that this is because only the screws transfer the sound to the guitar body, as opposed to full contact with a traditional bridge/saddle. It is kind of cool to be able to easily adjust the height with the ADJ bridge though - was getting some string buzz with a capo awhile ago and realized that the adjustment was an easy way to correct that.

Aside from that.... I just think it looks kind of cool.

 

65j50-5.jpg

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2 hours ago, Holiday Hoser said:

I use a rosewood shim under my ceramic bridge ditched the spring thing and think it translates to a fuller sound. Still love the click of the ceramic but with trial and error got it to just the right thickness so my action is perfection with great break.

Way to go - top-contact is wanted.  Sometimes I raise either treb- or bass-side/screw a hair though. Cant' be heard really.                                                                                                                         Still have the spring in my plastic bridged 1963 J-45, but removed it in the SJ from that same year (just what felt/sounded right).

1 hour ago, Boyd said:

My 1965 J-50 still has the original wood ADJ saddle. Since that's the way it was built, I'm not changing it. I think it affects the volume however, that guitar really isn't as loud as my 2008 J-50. In another thread, somebody suggested that this is because only the screws transfer the sound to the guitar body, as opposed to full contact with a traditional bridge/saddle. It is kind of cool to be able to easily adjust the height with the ADJ bridge though - was getting some string buzz with a capo awhile ago and realized that the adjustment was an easy way to correct that.

Aside from that.... I just think it looks kind of cool.

 

 

Nothing wrong with the volume in the two 1963ers mentioned above - why should there be a difference as long as the adj. saddle has top-contact.                                                  Ordinary slim bone saddle in wood better vibe-transmitters than  solid burned clay !?                                                                                                                                                                                    Listening to and comparing with my 1964 fixed Country Western doesn't indicate that. 

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Thanks for the wonderful replies all.  I was looking into getting a mid 2000's Gibson B-25 which has the adjustable saddle.  I think buying online I feel kinda relieved that  the saddle is adjustable because I once bought a 65 LG-1 with a new  rosewood bridge and it basically had NO SADDLE. It was so low. So I returned that one.   

 

This one would have the adjustable saddle with the rosewood bridge and of rouse all solid wood body.  And I love LG's.

Edited by Bcapirchio
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19 hours ago, MikeJ30 said:

The adjustable-saddle bridge IS the reason for that Gibson tone heard on so many classic '60s recordings. It's that plucky, thunky tone. It doesn't promote great volume but it sort of clips the tone in a really cool way. Records fantastically well and is full of that character.

I look at it not as inferior but simply as different. If you want THAT sound, a normal bridge won't quite deliver it.

It's not a sound you might want for everything but it's really its own kind of tone, and nothing else really does that except for maybe some of the Japanese copy acoustics of that era that also had similar adjustable bridges.

What I would like to know is if it's possible to duplicate that tone with a normal bridge. Seems you'd have to float the saddle a bit. Maybe a cardboard shim?

 

For us the sound of the 1960s was still old Gibsons.  We could not afford anything new or recent. so stuck with used guitars. 

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22 hours ago, E-minor7 said:

Nothing wrong with the volume in the two 1963ers mentioned above - why should there be a difference as long as the adj. saddle has top-contact. 

 

I don't really know why, but it's a fact that my 1965 J-50 ADJ is not as loud as my 2008 J-50. And my 1974 J-50 is much louder than either of them. And this isn't a subjective opinion, it can easily be verified by recording levels.

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1 hour ago, Boyd said:

 

I don't really know why, but it's a fact that my 1965 J-50 ADJ is not as loud as my 2008 J-50. And my 1974 J-50 is much louder than either of them. And this isn't a subjective opinion, it can easily be verified by recording levels.

 

My thinking is that Gibson seemed intent on making their acoustic  guitars more like electrics.  In just a five year period they went to  skinny neck carves, followed by standardizing the once optional  the ADJ saddle bridge, and then the skimpier nut width,   More about marketing and  solving an engineering problem.

My thinking is also that Kalamazoo Gibsons were not "loud" guitars.  They were voiced to have saturated mids so the balance did not lean to either the high or the lows.  And both brightness and/or a boomy bass will create the illusion of volume.  

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18 hours ago, jvi said:

so now folks love adjustable bridges...  respectfully i say they suck, but in an older guitar I wouldnt change a thing

I don't think everyone loves adjustables - there are still pro and anti. Exactly like it should and we would expect it to be.

4 hours ago, Boyd said:

 

I don't really know why, but it's a fact that my 1965 J-50 ADJ is not as loud as my 2008 J-50. And my 1974 J-50 is much louder than either of them. And this isn't a subjective opinion, it can easily be verified by recording levels.

But Boyd, the (rose)wooden saddle insert is by definition the quiet version.  Suited for certain tasks fx while recording.

The attractive and characteristic claang of the clay is much louder and more distinct.

Apart from that zomb has a point when saying Kalamazoo wasn't particularly loud. There are reasons to believe modern Bozeman wanted to raise the volume a step. 

Still, , , especially my 1963 Southern Jumbo couldn't be called a whisper. Actually significantly more full-voiced than my fixed saddled Country Western from one year later.  

Though rare and rather pricey go see if you can find a ceramic insert. You'll be amazed, , , and suddenly almost have 2 guitars. . 😉

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I will throw this out there. The adjustable bridge has a large margin for error (from the factory)... I have seen many that have never had nor do they need a neck reset. Over set necks? You bet. Look at the saddles on an adj. , then tell me you would like your slotted saddle that tall. 

 As for the OPs question, yes I think it was intended as an action adjustment on the fly. As these pages will attest, it has become much more than that.

I like them and have had several. 

As Mr. 7th, I have had a long dance with the ceramic versions (there are two, shiny and the dull) and hereby declare it the best. Unless you want to sit back in the mix or record then the rosewood or ebony sounds perfect. Have tested the Tusq and bone and they aren't for me.

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I think the adjustable bridge sets a bad wrap not because they contribute to a distinctive sound (which, as you can see, many love) but because the bolts and adjusting mechanism on some of them loosen up with age, which does effect the tone in a bad way. Many of them are also on late 60's guitars, which can be over -built.  But a new guitar equipped with one, or an old guitar whose adj bridge's bolts are all tight should sound just fine. I have four guitars with the adjustable bridge mechanism and I don't regret any of them.

Red 333

Edited by Red 333
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5 hours ago, Red 333 said:

I think the adjustable bridge sets a bad wrap not because they contribute to a distinctive sound (which, as you can see, many love) but because the bolts and adjusting mechanism on some of them loosen up with age, which does effect the tone in a bad way.

 

While doing some research on a new-to-me guitar I recently picked up, for some reason I happened upon an old AGF discussion thread.  The topic was Gibson's adjustable bridges, and noted luthier Rick Turner was weighing in hot & heavy.  To cut it down to the basics, Turner said he'd changed out bunches of these bridges & they weren't worth one crap, and anyone who thinks they are worth a crap is a moron.  Maybe not his exact words, but very close - and it really was quite a rant.

With a luthier churning out such forum commentary while foaming at the mouth, it's no wonder many folks will feel free to parrot the bad wrap - whether or not they actually have any experience with these bridges.

Now from a luthier's perspective, I totally get that the design is an affront to the basics of ideal guitar construction techniques.  Absolutely, installing a bunch of metal hardware on your spruce top (and then maybe even throwing in a plastic bridge as a bonus), on paper seems like one of the dumbest things you could ever do.  But a funny thing was created on the way to the nut house - A unique acoustic tone was born.  And quite a few folks found that tone totally compelling.

Sure, a lot of the adjustable bridges have self-destructed, and if you're a luthier you might shake your head every time another one comes through the door.  But guess what?  A whole lot of standard-fare bridges from the '60s have given up the ghost, too.  They're old guitars.  On the other hand, every once in a while you'll run into something like my bone stock '66 Epi FT-45n Cortez.  Adorned with that silly plastic bridge, hardware, & adjustable saddle, it all is sitting there intact - exactly as it was when it left Kalamazoo, and structurally stable throughout.

Regardless of Gibson's original intent, it also sounds like a million bucks that you won't find on any other street corner.     

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