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April 2009
My aluminum CompTone bridge arrived today and I installed it on my 6120. Let's start at the beginning:
The Bridge

Before installing the CompTone I gave it a quick once over. The workmanship is excellent with a nice polished appearance. The string notches were beautifully cut and perfectly finished. The height of the bridge is very similar to the height of the Adjustomatic it was replacing. The compensation built into the bridge is smooth and curves gracefully.
The Patient

The guitar I installed the bridge upon is a 2006 G 6120AM with two High Sensitive Filtertrons. The neck radius is 9.5" but the factory bridge is much flatter in radius. When I first got this guitar I was disappointed by the fact that I had to raise the bridge fairly high in order to prevent the inner pair of strings from buzzing.

I string this guitar with 10 - 48 D'Addario Chromes but I use a 0.017" unwound third string to allow it to bend more effectively. While I love the sound of a wound third string they require much greater displacement in order to bend to a given pitch so any guitar on which I intend to play Rock, Blues or Country usually ends up with a solid third string.

One last thing about this particular 6120 AM is that it has Planet Waves locking tuners that are self-trimming. These speed string changes considerably and the locking mechanism allows the strings to be clamped in place and use about 1/2 turn of string wrapped on the capstan. This contributes greatly to tuning stability. In my experience multiple turns around the capstan causes a lot of tuning problems.

The Installation

Swapping bridges is actually very simple if you keep track of what you are doing and don't let yourself become intimidated. The biggest challenge for most folks is setting intonation but once you've slooged through the process once or twice it becomes pretty simple. Because of my locking tuners re-using the existing strings would have been nearly impossible. The strings I took off were still full of life probably having less than 10 hours of play on them.

I removed all but the G string and then slipped the bridge out. I took another minute to compare the two bridges and found them surprisingly similar in dimensions. With this in mind I slipped the bridge onto the posts of the bridge base and kept the height adjusters at the same height. I held the bridge loosely in place with one string and then restrung the guitar one string at a time. With each added string I checked the intonation at the 12th fret. By the time I had three strings on the guitar I had found the proper position for the bridge (at that string height) and the job became a cakewalk. Like all guitars with a floating bridge tuning took a couple of passes to nail it down and then I did a final check of the intonation.

Setting intonation is not hard or mysterious. When you press string down to a fret the string bends and stretches slightly which raises the pitch slightly. By adjusting the position of the bridge you can compensate for this effect and end up with accurate intonation. Back in the early '70s we were able to accomplish this at home by chiming a harmonic at the 12th fret and then fretting the note at the 12th fret and if the pitch was the same the intonation was correct. If you tok your guitar to a music store they would use a strobe tuner and be able to measure the pitches very accurately but even with all of that technology no intonation adjustment can be more accurate than the person pushing down the strings. It's very important to be certain not to displace the string to the side when checking intonation or you can end up setting the intonation a bit flat. Fortunately setting intonation is easy enough that you can make adjustments on the fly if you discover a problem.

The other advantage that we have is the availability of low cost electronic tuners. While these are not quite as accurate as a high-dollar strobe tuner but with a bit of practice you can set intonation to a great degree of accuracy using an electroninc tuner. I have used a Sabine tuner for setting intonation, checked it against a Peterson strobe tuner and found no discrepancy.

The Results

Before I did the bridge swap I plugged the 6120 in and put it through its paces. It was never a bad-sounding guitar by any means and I had no complaints along those lines. After the swap I plugged in and gave it a good listen. The first difference I noticed was that the bass notes seemed to have more punch. The overall sound is solid and the sustain characteristics are quite good. On the neck pickup with the tone switch engaged I got a very nice Jazz sound but the biggest surprise came when I opened up the tone control and selected both pickups. Travis picking sounds much better now with the punch of the bass notes helping the thump effect that underpins this style. The Blues sound is aided by the increased sustain and it's easier to get a good funky sound now.

The bonus came from the fact that the bridge radius now matches the fingerboard radius. After my initial test-play I decided to lower the action a bit and I was amazed by how much improvement this allows. Now that the center strings are not the limiting factor I was able to lower the action significantly without any tendency towards buzzing. Suddenly I had an arch top that played more like a Les Paul and less like a big-band era rhythm guitar. Lowering the action required a quick tweak to the bridge position to bring the intonation back to spec and then the guitar was better playing and better sounding than anytime in its existence.

Compensation

Setting intonation requires that the relationship between the bridge elements at each string be correct. On individually adjustable bridges this is accomplished by moving a separate piece for each string. Such bridge designs can be rattle prone and may lack sustain because the mass of the bridge is broken into several pieces. Single piece bridges can be very accurate if they are properly designed and the CompTone is a perfect example of this. Once I had set the intonation on two strings the other four strings checked out OK. When I first restrung the guitar I used an .020" wound third string and this intonated ever so slightly flat but when I switched to a solid .017" string the intonation became perfect (just as it was between the other 5 strings). Teh CompTone is designed for an unwound third string so this makes perfect sense. Even with a wound third string it was pretty close, well below the threshold of perception for most players. I actually plan to try the .020" wound again the next time I change strings.

Because most string sets employ a standard relationship between string gauges the CompTone should work well with string sets that are lighter or heavier than the 10 - 48 set I use. When I checked the intonation I was amazed by just how accurate it is. IMO, this is an idea that is timely and of benefit to anyone desiring an improvement in sound for their Gretsch. I intend to try a few more of these in various materials, perhaps after the May jam session.

 

April 2009
I LIKE IT!!!! THANK YOU!!!! Aluminum Compton Compensated CustomBridge. More twang twangy twang-eeeeeee, more bite more pop brighter sounding on the bridge pickup I almost started to chicken pick like a Telecaster. I have had the following on this guitar the tumematic stock bridge, a roller bridge, a genuine Gretsch bar bridge. I was going to put an aluminum bigsby bridge on as I like what it did for my Guild X-500 and just live with the fact the unwound G strings intonation would be off and I would have to change the studs posts spacing on the bridge base as the stock Bigsby is one flat mutha and doesn't bend. Thanks to Worknot I don't have to live with the unwound G not intonated and didn't have to bother with the post on the bridge base. Click here to view on Gretsch-talk.com
 
 
 
 

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