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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Why open-back tuners?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by Charlie Bernstein, Nov 14, 2017.

  1. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 26, 2003
    Augusta, Maine
    I've noticed that some people swap out their closed-back tuners for open backs.

    Is it just for looks, or are there advantages?

  2. memorex

    memorex Friend of Leo's

    Jan 14, 2015
    I don't know that are any advantages, but I just got a set of Hipshot open back locking gears, and I must say that they're a smooth, fine set of gears.
    bparnell57 and Charlie Bernstein like this.
  3. xafinity

    xafinity Friend of Leo's

    Dec 24, 2015
    my Mom's basement
    exposed gears?
    not meant to be used on fly of cargo snorts
  4. 4 Cat Slim

    4 Cat Slim Friend of Leo's

    Oct 17, 2012
    Nelson City TX
    They save a little weight, but I'm not sure that they'd completely cure a guitar with a tendency to neck-dive.
    It's probably another one of those personal preference issues, like chrome vs. gold hardware.
    Charlie Bernstein likes this.
  5. tap4154

    tap4154 Doctor of Teleocity Ad Free Member

    They just look cool.
    Charlie Bernstein likes this.
  6. Sconnie

    Sconnie Tele-Afflicted

    May 1, 2017
    Denver, CO
    Never had open back tuners so maybe I'm wrong but one thing to consider is that they might be easier to maintain, or keep clean, than the bent housing kind fender uses. Dirt and gunk still works it's way into the old "closed back" style and after a while (we're talking years here) they can get a little shoddy. With open backs you can hit them with compressed air, re-grease, and snug up the screws very easily whereas the fender style tuners are a bit more tricky, but not much.
    Charlie Bernstein likes this.
  7. AngelDeville

    AngelDeville Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Dec 27, 2007
  8. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Friend of Leo's

    Feb 3, 2017
    Foat Wuth, Texas
    I would guess it's a "traditional" affectation....I know older acoustics (Martin, Gibson, etc) all came with open gear tuners. My all time favorite acoustic, which belongs to an uncle, is a late '40's-early '50's Martin 000-17.....smallish body, all mahogany (even top) and it has open even has several gouges in the back of the neck where someone use a screw-tighten capo, over-screwed it, and went all the way into the neck....through the finish and a little into the wood. :(
    I know the Clapton Signature Martin has open tuners.
    Charlie Bernstein likes this.
  9. teletimetx

    teletimetx Poster Extraordinaire

    Jul 25, 2011
    Houston, TX
    since we're here in the Acoustic sub-forum, I'm going to address the acoustic version of this:

    IMO, it's fashion, the Waverly fashion - but for a reason, perhaps. If you go back 60 some years, when sealed tuners first came on the market, open back tuners were "then" thought of as lower quality, and the look of a Martin, with it's sealed Grovers became the mark of quality. So much so that many guitar makers started putting on covers over their open back tuners to make it look like a sealed tuner.

    but it was just a cover. I had a Goya flattop with open back tuners, with a metal cover to make it look like they were sealed. Those tuners were not so great. meh.

    Then at some point, I don't recall exactly when, some folks remembered that it's possible to make open back tuners in a high quality way. And now, for only $150 to past $300 per set, you can buy some Waverly tuners that not only say quality, but "vintage", too. Check out the Martins being marketed as "Authentic & Vintage", you'll find most of them have open back Waverly tuners. So now, there is a look that some desire that speaks of authenticity and quality by having open back tuners instead of sealed.

    Fashion always goes back and forth.

    Waverly is apparently owned by StewMac, according to some sources.

    Are they great tuners? Here's a link to a luthier who explains it better than I can:

    One of the benefits of a sealed tuner was not having to lubricate. Depending on ambient climate conditions in your neighborhood, an open back tuner may need lubrication at some point. But they can be manufactured to be every bit as accurate and useful as a sealed back.

    On electrics? It's never been as much of a fashion consideration, but could be.
  10. brookdalebill

    brookdalebill Telefied Ad Free Member

    Nov 15, 2009
    Austin, Tx
    So long as they work, I dig em'.
  11. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 26, 2003
    Augusta, Maine
    So you either go out and play in the audience, play with your back to everyone, or invite everyone onstage to watch you play from behind!

    Decisions, decisions . . . .
    nojazzhere likes this.
  12. JD0x0

    JD0x0 Poster Extraordinaire

    Feb 22, 2009
    New York
    After they corrode enough and fill with dirt enough to sieze, they hold tune better :p
    zosofan, Zepfan and Charlie Bernstein like this.
  13. Brokenpick

    Brokenpick Tele-Afflicted

    Oct 29, 2008
    This. ...And, it's a sales pitch to directly or subliminally cause you to associate your NEW guitar, with the famous, high-quality OLD guitars of bygone eras that had qualities you have heard of and want.
    Obsessed and Charlie Bernstein like this.
  14. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 26, 2003
    Augusta, Maine
    Places I play at, that'd take about three sets!
  15. stephent2

    stephent2 Poster Extraordinaire

    Jun 22, 2003
    Not fashion but function. Light weight tuners sound different than sealed tuners. I know some will poo-poo that statement, they either can't imagine a difference or couldn't hear any. That's fine, use what you want.

    I have Waverlys on most of my acoustics. Some came that way, others I've changed out. I prefer the direct feel of Waverlys as well.
    Charlie Bernstein likes this.
  16. noah330

    noah330 Friend of Leo's

    Feb 10, 2009
    I have an old Gretsch (with open backs) as well as an old Martin (1959) with them.

    No issues on either, it's just what they used back then. I suppose some people add them for the look?
    Charlie Bernstein likes this.
  17. Charlie Bernstein

    Charlie Bernstein Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 26, 2003
    Augusta, Maine
    This is finally getting interesting! For years, I've thought of closed-back Grovers as the height of tuner functionality. With guitars, there's always something to learn and something to unlearn.
  18. cabra velha

    cabra velha Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Jan 21, 2016
    estados unidos
    I've been asking this question for years now. I think its entirely a fad, there is no significant practical advantage to an open back tuner. Waverly's: 180gm, Schaller M6: 220gm (according to stewmac) and thats for a set, so maybe 6.5 to 7 grams difference each.

    Tone? Uh, right.

    Also, FWIW, over the past 30+ years I've tried almost all of the sealed designs, Gotoh's are pretty slick but I still think the original Schaller M series was a landmark design that it took a long time for anyone to equal. My current Jazz box has a set of gold Ms and everytime I tune up with it its like. . .ahhhhhhh. When I tune my flattop with Grover open backs I usually want to throw it out the window.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2017
    chezdeluxe and Charlie Bernstein like this.
  19. Slim

    Slim Tele-Holic

    Apr 11, 2003
    Fayetteville, AR
    I need that protection when I'm playing acoustic in a sandstorm.
    Charlie Bernstein likes this.
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