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Ebony pins

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by Seasicksailor, Jun 11, 2020.

  1. Seasicksailor

    Seasicksailor Friend of Leo's

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    I've had a Yamaha LL11 for the last 20 years. It's always had the stock plastic pins.

    The other day, I came across a thread here and a comment about brass pins. It never occurred to me that pins could make a difference. I always thought that the saddle and nut are the important contact points.

    After some internet digging around, I came across a lot of contradictory information - surprise surprise! :)

    So, I thought I'd try changing them and seeing for myself.

    I just switched the plastic pins for ebony pins. Well... it was the cheapest substantial upgrade I've done on a guitar. I didn't think I'd hear a difference, but I most certainly did. The guitar has more 'body' and the treble sounds tamer.

    I suspect the difference is that the pins force a better contact between the strings and the bridge. Not sure. But the difference is certainly there and it's a good one.

    So... thanks tdpri!! :)
     
  2. Axegrinder77

    Axegrinder77 Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    I found out the difference pins can make by swapping in ebony on my baby Taylor. I theorize that the difference was pronounced due to the higher pin to guitar relative size and mass.

    It opened my eyes, well ears I guess.

    Got ebony on the d28 and bone on my j15.

    It looks nice too!

    Anything that vibrates will impact tone. Strum a chord and feel the pins. There's your answer.
     
  3. Seasicksailor

    Seasicksailor Friend of Leo's

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    Ah yes... that was part of my purchase justification. If there were no sonic difference, the ebony ones look at least much nicer. :)
     
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  4. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I swapped the plastic pins in a nice sounding Sigma I have for brass ones, just a few days ago.
    Honestly I don't know if that made any sonic difference
     
  5. Dobronaut

    Dobronaut Tele-Meister

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    It's a cheap and easy mod. Doesn't always improve matters - some guitars sound the same whatever pins you have. Whenever I get a new guitar I always experiment, some like bone, some ebony, some rosewood, and there are some that do like brass, not many though in my experience.
     
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  6. Seasicksailor

    Seasicksailor Friend of Leo's

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    Aaah... it was your post that started it all for me! Thanks, BT! :)
     
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  7. Thinline casket

    Thinline casket Tele-Meister

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    I have bone pins in both of my Eastmans. In the rosewood it's not that big of a difference. In the mahogany, well, I really need some ebony pins.
     
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  8. muudcat

    muudcat Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

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    not only the pins but bone saddles will bring new life. I did that to a '77 Martin D-41 and Taylor GA-RS, kaboom, new guitars
     
  9. jackal

    jackal Friend of Leo's Platinum Supporter

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    I like the brass pins.
     
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  10. Seasicksailor

    Seasicksailor Friend of Leo's

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    Aesthetically or sonically?
     
  11. Seasicksailor

    Seasicksailor Friend of Leo's

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    The pins actually came with a bone saddle and a bone nut. I might try installing the bridge, but I'll take it to my luthier for the nut. I really don't trust me with it. :-D
    Having said that, I think the original saddle is bone anyway. Not sure about the original nut.
     
  12. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    OK, here is the challenge for each of you who hears a difference when you change bridge pins or saddles or whatever. Record your guitar with the old ones in. Record your guitar with the new ones in. Use the same quality recorder, the same mic, the same strings, the same pick, the same room. Position the mic the same for both sets of XXX. Give the files some sort of name that has nothing to do with the XXX's. Post the clips here and let us listen. I think it is more helpful to record single notes on each string, if you try to play something it gets confusing. But do whatever you like.

    Then you can do some other fun things. If the recordings are single notes then open two examples of your player and switch back and forth between them. Run the clips thru Audacity and do the time to frequency transformation - do you see differeneces? What are they?

    Many many years ago I did a test of about 8 different sets of bridge pins in two of my guitars (including no pins, the bridge was slotted). The pins were all 5 degree which is what I ream my pin holes. The guitars were my vintage D18 and my home made 000-28 clone. I used the same set of strings on each guitar, posted the clips on another forum without telling people what they were.

    Two conclusions. Most people could tell the clips with the pins completely removed and didn't like them. Many people could tell one of the brass sets (there were two). The stock Martin plastic pins were pretty popular.

    ps - I did not include ivory of any kind, I simply won't use ivory in any of my guitars. There were plastic, bone, synthetic, several kinds of wood and two sets of brass. The common thing was they all hold the strings in the guitar just fine.
     
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  13. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    One quick way to tell is to hit them on a belt sander - bone will smell like burning hair. Nothing else does
     
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  14. 39martind18

    39martind18 Friend of Leo's

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    Replaced bridge pins in the old Martin 45 years ago. Went with pearl dot inlaid ebony, the wood matches the bridge wood. Not sure if the pins made a whole lot of difference- this D18 has been a cannon during the 47 years I've owned it. (See avatar)
     
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  15. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    If there's a truly perceptible difference in the sound-and I'm not saying there necessarily is-I doubt a recording will reveal that. I think for full impact and appreciation of the sound of an acoustic instrument, you need to be in the same room with it
     
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  16. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Some random thoughts about bridge pins

    - if wood/bone/tusq/brass is so much better than plastic, why does Martin put plastic pins in so many of their nice guitars. You would think they could pass along the difference to the buyer

    - why did Martin for so long not ream the holes (that's why the pins sit so high). CFM IV was quoted as saying they expected the shop selling the guitar to do that when the did the setup for the buyer - how many are out there with tapered pins in cylindrical holes?

    - heavy brass pins are said to increase sustain, which is the holy grail of guitars. Then why is there a good after market business in replacing the heavy rosewood bridge plates in '70's martins with lighter ones like the prewars had?

    - some good (and not so good) guitars have pinless bridges - Lowden, some Taylors, Ovations.. Without pins they must not sound very good.

    - most classical guitars do not have pins, a few do. The ones that do must sound better.

    - some luthiers (including me) slot and ramp their bridges, either turn the pins around or use unslotted pins. Discuss

    - if you buy pins from a music store or parts distributor or of evil bay they will fit your guitar

    - if brass pins sound better, would a brass saddle? If ebony pins sound better, would an ebony saddle?
     
  17. Texicaster

    Texicaster Friend of Leo's

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    It's not just the pins; it's a properly cut string hole.

    Those grooved pins are a cheap way out of shaping the hole so the string is in firm contact and gripping from bridge plate to saddle. Optimal is a solid pin and a perfectly cut groove in the bridge and bridge plate so the ball end is firm on bridge plate.

    Most if not all acoustics use a typical taper and a $20 General reamer will clean up the shape and size of the hole. I don't have to tell you to be VERY careful as a sharp reamer can hog out wood but not brain surgery and improves contact.

    Collings is the only guitars I've owned that didn't need a little work here....
     
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  18. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    ^^^ Amen

    I take the time to ream the holes to fit the pins (there are two common tapers and several diameters, I have standardized on 5 degree), I slot the bridge and bridge plate so the balls sit nicely on the plate (I think it helps prevent damage to the b/p) and I open the slot to fit the particular gauge of string in that hole (hoe many slotted plastic pins do fit the low E string?).

    Can I hear a difference? I don't think so, but I think its better that way.

    0609201002_HDR.jpg
     
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  19. trev333

    trev333 Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Where does the Ebony come from that made the pins?....
     
  20. Seasicksailor

    Seasicksailor Friend of Leo's

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    No idea... but they were made in China.

    By the way, I'm not suggesting it's necessarily the material itself that made the difference. It could be merely a better snug fit.
     
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