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Impressions of Brass, Aluminum, and Steel Telecaster saddles

Discussion in 'Telecaster Discussion Forum' started by theprofessor, Apr 22, 2019.

  1. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    I have two Teles: one has a set of Rutters straight compensated brass saddles. The other has had a Glendale Twang set, which is a mixture of aluminum (6th and 5th strings) and brass (the rest). Both sets have been great. No problems at all; highly recommended.

    Today I received a set of Marc Rutters's straight compensated steel saddles, and I am replacing the Glendale Twang set on one of my Teles to hear the differences. I'm going one-by-one, with the same strings and everything.

    Here are my thoughts so far. Please feel free to chime in and correct, if necessary. I have only one set of ears.

    • The steel saddles offer more "information" than any of the others. As such, I think they are the least forgiving of the three. But also the best at translating everything going on at the fret board and with your fingers--including mess-ups or fret buzz or what have you.
    • Since there is so much information there, I think the steel saddles can offer up a bright distortion more than the others--certainly more than the brass.
    • The brass has a softer, sweeter sound, but one could also call it more muffled. Whereas the brass can go into a slight compression, the steel never does that. I think that's where that slight distortion comes in when the steel is hit hard.
    • I think the aluminum is slightly thinner-sounding and has more mid-range than both the others.
    • I use a wound third, so at the moment, I'm thinking I'll have steel on strings 6-3 and brass on strings 2-1. I need to try out the steel with strings 4-3 through an amplifier this evening.
    • I think a mixture of steel and brass is a great idea; I know that Bill Crook recommends using steel on strings 6-5 and brass on the rest. Having played with brass and aluminum and steel on the 6th and 5th strings, it seems to me that steel offers the greatest amount of clarity and the most distinct, defined, ringing sound.
    • I haven't yet tried steel on strings 2-1, but I'd be surprised if I liked it. Since those strings are already plain steel, I think they benefit from brass saddles. But again, I haven't yet tried it.
    • I think of Teles as lap steels made Spanish-style, and the steel saddles does the best impression of this.
     
  2. Fenderdad1950

    Fenderdad1950 Tele-Afflicted

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    I think it is the 11th Tele Commandment, Thoushalt use brass saddles:D
     
  3. BigDaddyLH

    BigDaddyLH Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Titanium?
     
  4. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    Ha! I would say the same, if someone only has one Tele. I recently got a bunch of parts to build a partscaster for my good friend. The body I got came with Rutters steel saddles. Though they're excellent saddles, I thought: there's no way I'm giving my buddy his first Telecaster unless it has brass saddles.

    However: as you know, Fender started using steel saddles regularly in the 60's.

    I haven't tried those. Nor copper.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
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  5. El Tele Lobo

    El Tele Lobo Poster Extraordinaire

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    I've tried Titanium. Switched to Gotoh Titanium from Wilkinson brass. Did a video on it on my channel, but it's long and the audio/video quality is bad (tried recording it with my MacBook instead of my usual cell phone cam...big mistake. Still it's gotten a lot of views. Weirdly, one of my worst videos yet one of my most watched. Go figure.

    My impression is that titanium is very similar to brass, tone-wise. It has a little more brightness to it...a subtle amount, but is harder and more consistent...where brass is soft and can wear grooves that lead to weird overtones and sitar effect.

    Though, I think the sitar effect I was experiencing was at least in part related to a nut issue...probably a burr...that I eventually corrected.
     
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  6. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    Thanks, Professor!

    First, I'm sure that Marc chose the best steel for this task, and so I would expect favorable results on the majority of guitars and depending on what's being replaced, might be 100% improvement.

    I found that Aluminum is Brighter than any of the brass I used, but has a sort of weird pattern as to which frequencies are turned up and which get passed over. Not duller than the brass. Most brasses are, in the long run, IMO a better choice.

    I once had the 6-5 strings using aluminum saddles on 50% of my "barreled" guitars. Now it is down to something like 5%. I've still got a lot of Bronze saddled guitars. This stuff is basically midway between brass and steel. A good material but it gets filthy black looking - kinda gross.
     
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2019
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  7. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    Ooooohh, interesting: bronze!
     
  8. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    Just tried it out with the 4-3 strings. Yep, that's staying. Brass is smoother, but the steel has this slice and presence that nothing else I've tried has. I think it makes the whole thing sound a little more "Strat-like," too, which make sense, given that Strats typically have steel saddles.

    Not brave enough yet to try it on the 2-1 strings, but I will eventually.

    One thing I noticed is that when I have steel on the wound 6-3 strings and brass on the plain steel 2-1 strings, the frequency response between all the strings seems much more even--there's not this top-end slice and bottom-end chime. With steel, it's all poppy and slicey.

    If I had to say in one phrase what steel saddles do on a Tele from this experiment, I'd say they basically have the same function as turning up the presence knob on a tweed Super or Bandmaster (for example). Like a presence control or bright control.

    I think that steel versus (say) brass saddles alone are enough to make two Telecasters different enough to justify having both. They're quite different. And hey, we're all looking for ways to justify having more than one Tele...
     
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  9. Milspec

    Milspec Poster Extraordinaire

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    It is far more complicated then that as there are various levels of quality to those saddles as well that make each one sound unique. Some brass saddles from over-seas are just plated onto pot metal and that will not sound the same as a quality brass saddle. Like everything related to a guitar, there is no such thing as apples to apples. A person could go insane chasing every little variable. Brass and Steel seem to work the best, but brass will not corrode as badly so that gets the blue ribbon in my book and likely why Leo chose it as well.
     
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  10. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's

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    Thanks for this. It's the kind of post that people can find later doing research and get some good info. from.

    Is there any reason why saddles aren't made of similar material to nuts? They perform a similar function, just at the other end of the guitar. I suppose this is done with acoustics, but why not electrics?
     
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  11. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    I indicated in the original post that I was comparing Glendale brass (and Rutters brass in my other guitar) to Rutters steel. We're not talking cheap stuff versus good stuff here. And I'm not buying that it's "far more complicated." I think it's good enough information to offer some general impressions.
     
  12. fender4life

    fender4life Friend of Leo's

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    Funny, but all but one steel saddles the opposite of what you described. But the threaded steel i have used were an exception. Brass also varies wildly and i find fender brass to be the saddle that more than any other brass or steel translates the full spectrum of frequencies best. I'd give that award to threaded steel except i felt it had a lack of lows or just way too much high end, however u wanna say it. I'm not saying u r wrong. Maybe my ears are shot or who knows what. But for whatever reason i hear steel as having a sort of softer overall sound in a way Probably not the best way to describe it but translating what you hear to text isn't easy. In any case, i have a bag of various saddle sets and every one has been swapped about on every tele i get, some so many times it's crazy. And my take on every tele to date is the fender brass (mine are compensated but i assume it's the same recipe as thier straight brass) allows all frequencies to come thru in good balance from the lowest lows to the highest highs. My callaham set for example sounds very different, like theres a dip in the high mids making them sound refined like running a GEQ and pulling down 1k.
     
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  13. Milspec

    Milspec Poster Extraordinaire

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    Got me, I didn't catch that you were being that specific and was commenting on a more general comparison approach where apples are rarely apples in hardware. If one was comparing steel vs brass vs titanium across the board of brands and styles (compensated vs non-compensated, coated vs non-coated) it absolutely gets pretty murkey and complicated. If you are wanting to just compare the limited variables of just those 2 examples, then asking what we hear compare to what you might hear is also complex beyond just generalities which is all that I can offer....or anyone else for that matter.
     
  14. ben smith

    ben smith Tele-Afflicted

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    i'm using steel and they sound bright and nice!
     
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  15. fenderchamp

    fenderchamp Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

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    I have 4 teles with glendale steel, rutters steel, c&j steel and callaham steel and 1 tele with rutters alum/brass/brass. They are all 1 piece maple neck and ash or pine bodies.

    I like the steel, I don't think it's too much on the high strings.

    All of the steel tele's are pretty dang zingy, but so is the other one.
     
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  16. toomuchfun

    toomuchfun Tele-Afflicted

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    I've never tried mixing saddle material, but feel body resonance plays into my choice.

    I made a partscaster out of an old chestnut barn beam with a maple neck and steel saddles were just too bright, verging on brittle. Changing to brass solved the problem but it's still a bright sounding guitar.

    I like steel saddles on other Tele's for clarity, but find myself with the tone control half way or lower for the tone I like best. But that's what it's for.
     
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  17. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'd love to see that chestnut Tele, if you don't mind posting a pic!
     
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  18. Guitardvark

    Guitardvark Tele-Afflicted Platinum Supporter

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    unobtanium is the best for it all
     
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  19. theprofessor

    theprofessor Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yes, but... I can't... obtain it!
     
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  20. El Tele Lobo

    El Tele Lobo Poster Extraordinaire

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    i recently picked up a Callaham bridge and brass saddles that someone was selling. I wasn't 100% until I got it, but was pretty sure from the pics it was Callaham. The seller and other bidders that it was some lesser brand. So I got it for about 10% of new value. Looking forward to trying it in a few weeks on the break. Hoping it kicks a little life into a dull sounding tele I have. Will record before and after vids. And it will be a better vid than my brass to titanium video.
     
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