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The Anniversary '63 335 ABR 1 saddle: nylon versus nickel plated brass

buckaroo

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Feb 17, 2009
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I just bought a 50th anniversary '63 ES 335. I LOVE the guitar! This is the first Gibson electric I have owned with the nylon bridge saddles. They sound good as is. And you should be aware that I am usually not one to modify guitars at all. BUT...I am going to put a traditional non wired ABR 1 (nickel / brass saddles) on it, from a Historic Les Paul, to discover the tonal difference, if any.

Interestingly, the sound of the nylon is not motivating my research. Rather, the new nylon saddles kind of look and feel like they may not be a long lasting saddle solution. The material strikes me as perhaps not being that durable. Below is a link that suggests that the reason Gibson started using nylon was to reduce "bridge noise".

http://030be21.netsolhost.com/WordPress/2010/08/30/back-in-the-saddle-again/

Other (various) online info seems to suggest that the wired ABR 1 bridges originally were developed for the same reason. Although many players report that the non wired bridges were a bit prone to lose saddles when strings would break. And that that concern may have motivated the move to wired bridges.

I have no conclusion on what is better between nylon versus nickel plated brass saddles. I kind of like both. Curious what others think.

The anniversary 335 is a great guitar. When I change the strings in the next day or two I will pull the neck pickup to see if the tenon is the same as the Nashville Historic tenon. To date that element has not been revealed that I have seen. My guess is that it has a truss rod sheath.
 

Progrocker111

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Yes, these are great guitars, very resonant and even with original Burstbuckers they have great tone.

But the nylon used on bridge saddles is very different at least from sight than nylon used on 60s/early 70s ABRs.
 

buckaroo

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Here is the link to the sites home page:

http://030be21.netsolhost.com/WordPress/

I am intrigued to learn if any one can compare the new "nylon" saddle material to the original "nylon" saddle material.

I sense that some players are not fond of the Burstbuckers. I like them better than the "57 classics on the older Historic 335's. Although the 57's are not bad either.

I just read on the Gibson site that the anniversary '60 ES 335 has the long neck tenon so I am hopeful that the "63 anniversary has the same. Also, two different Gibson reps have told me that it has the 1 piece rosewood board and that it is East Indian rosewood.

For the money, this is really one of the best Gibson guitars that I have had in a long time. The Nashville Historics from the mid to late 2000s that I have owned were nice guitars but I had expected more from them for the price. This Memphis guitar really delivers the goods in spades!
 
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bizzwriter

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Yes, these are great guitars, very resonant and even with original Burstbuckers they have great tone.

But the nylon used on bridge saddles is very different at least from sight than nylon used on 60s/early 70s ABRs.

One of my local guitar builder friends acquired a quantity of NOS early 60s Gibson nylon -- he's using it to make nuts. He tells me that this nylon is VERY hard -- it's more difficult to work with/shape than bone or other nut material.
 

efk

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Jan 8, 2009
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Nylon sure can be quite hard. I just had an old LP refretted/new nut by Nate Clark in Ithaca, and I specifically requested a nylon nut (he usually uses bone, I think). He said exactly the same thing: the sheet of nylon he bought was harder to work than bone or brass, and seemed even to be harder on his tools.

If the new nylon saddles seem soft, I wonder what grade of nylon they are? There are various grades, some softer than others.

Hey, look how much work it takes for a dog to chew up a nylabone!
 

PHILBERT

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Been there...done that.

Here is what the tenon looks like:

gibsonmemphis201350than.jpg


I tried to find some glue to see what it looked like, but the fit is so tight I can't really see any. And there is sawdust at the base that might be covering up what little there might be. This is a Memphis tenon, and not a Historic tenon. It may not have the stain and finish in the pocket, but it is a good tenon and not a "little weiner" tenon.

I already changed the bridge to brass with my good strings on (good strings blow away the strings that came with the guitar, so make sure you take that into account), and the tone got messy and more Les Paul sounding. It lost clarity and string definition. There is quite a bit of 335 magic going on with those nylon saddles. Going back (the same day with the same strings) confirmed that nylon sounded much better.

I love this guitar! Congrats on yours. :salude
 

Uncle Gary

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It does seem that Memphis has really upped their game when it comes to this series. Dang, you guys are giving me serious GAS. Every time I'm sure I'm not buying any more guitars, you guys start showing off these beauties.

Must....resist....urge....to....buy.........
 

PHILBERT

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Come on Gary, you know you want a taste. This is "the good stuff". Just a little bit won't kill ya'. :2cool

:biggrin:
 

buckaroo

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Feb 17, 2009
Messages
938
Been there...done that.

Here is what the tenon looks like:

gibsonmemphis201350than.jpg


I tried to find some glue to see what it looked like, but the fit is so tight I can't really see any. And there is sawdust at the base that might be covering up what little there might be. This is a Memphis tenon, and not a Historic tenon. It may not have the stain and finish in the pocket, but it is a good tenon and not a "little weiner" tenon.

I already changed the bridge to brass with my good strings on (good strings blow away the strings that came with the guitar, so make sure you take that into account), and the tone got messy and more Les Paul sounding. It lost clarity and string definition. There is quite a bit of 335 magic going on with those nylon saddles. Going back (the same day with the same strings) confirmed that nylon sounded much better.

I love this guitar! Congrats on yours. :salude

Thanks for that great post! That tenon looks full size to me. Also nice to hear your observation on the saddles.
 

Bluuzman

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Dec 26, 2002
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1,670
Been there...done that.

Here is what the tenon looks like:

gibsonmemphis201350than.jpg


I tried to find some glue to see what it looked like, but the fit is so tight I can't really see any. And there is sawdust at the base that might be covering up what little there might be. This is a Memphis tenon, and not a Historic tenon. It may not have the stain and finish in the pocket, but it is a good tenon and not a "little weiner" tenon.

I already changed the bridge to brass with my good strings on (good strings blow away the strings that came with the guitar, so make sure you take that into account), and the tone got messy and more Les Paul sounding. It lost clarity and string definition. There is quite a bit of 335 magic going on with those nylon saddles. Going back (the same day with the same strings) confirmed that nylon sounded much better.

I love this guitar! Congrats on yours. :salude

:2cool Very informative. Thanks.
 

OKGuitar

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Jan 20, 2011
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early nylon saddles are very hard and brittle (at least now). They were milled from a block of material whereas the modern ones I've seen look to be molded in some way. You can see the mill marks on the originals and the edges are very hard and crisp. The newer ones are rounder at the edges and softer. A set of milled nylon saddles on a 64 usually sounds pretty good. I've gone back and forth between them and generally find that I prefer the nylon. There are 335s that sound a little dull no matter which saddles you use. It's usually caused by one of two factors-the saddles are cut too deep or the nut is worn (or dirty or cut badly).
 

buckaroo

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Well, I have now acquired a Pigtail, a Gibson Historic non-wired and a Gibson "wired" ABR 1 collection to test in the anniversary 63 335. All will be compared to the nylon saddled 335. I will report back later. I have some saddle notches to cut........

I do recall that the wired bridges served me well for decades.....just sayin'
 

PHILBERT

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Well, I have now acquired a Pigtail, a Gibson Historic non-wired and a Gibson "wired" ABR 1 collection to test in the anniversary 63 335. All will be compared to the nylon saddled 335. I will report back later. I have some saddle notches to cut........

I do recall that the wired bridges served me well for decades.....just sayin'

I just bought two new chrome wire bridges (the old style with slightly tapered ends) and fitted them onto filed down Nashville bridge posts. One on my SG and one on my LP. It really increased punch, some warmth and overall power. Not a huge difference, but a good change for both guitars, especially the SG. Now very percussive. My best and tightest "crunch monster". The wire on the LP bridge was a bit too loose, and touching the third string, so I did what I used to do on my old '68 SG from back in the day and bent the wire down inbetween each saddle screw. Problem solved! It sounds great and looks more like a vintage bridge than the new wireless ones do.

Now, get to work! I want to hear what you think of these different bridges! :biggrin:
 
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buckaroo

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The wire on the LP bridge was a bit too loose, and touching the third string, so I did what I used to do on my old '68 SG from back in the day and bent the wire down inbetween each saddle screw. Problem solved! It sounds great and looks more like a vintage bridge than the new wireless ones do.


For all the bad rap that gets dished on the wired ABR 1, they do work and sound fine. The wire bend trick always cured any rattle. But most of them that I owned never needed the wire bent because they didn't rattle. They were in use on Gibsons for over 30 years too! In my book they work great and sound great. And most of all....you won't lose a saddle if you break a string!

Pretty soon everyone will be demanding the wired bridge again! Only the one that is most historically accurate with the exact same wire metal, etc.....:lol
 

zombiwoof

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For all the bad rap that gets dished on the wired ABR 1, they do work and sound fine. The wire bend trick always cured any rattle. But most of them that I owned never needed the wire bent because they didn't rattle. They were in use on Gibsons for over 30 years too! In my book they work great and sound great. And most of all....you won't lose a saddle if you break a string!

Pretty soon everyone will be demanding the wired bridge again! Only the one that is most historically accurate with the exact same wire metal, etc.....:lol

I have never had any problems with the wired ABR's, you do have to orient them with the saddle screws toward the pickups, not the TP, I don't think the strings will contact the wire at all if it is set this way, unless you slot the saddles too deep.

Al
 

PHILBERT

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Roger that. They work great and sound great. I might convert a couple of my other Gibson guitars (Explorer and Les Paul Special DC).
 

Uncle Gary

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Come on Gary, you know you want a taste. This is "the good stuff". Just a little bit won't kill ya'. :2cool

:biggrin:

No, but I do have to be thinking about retirement in a few years. For now I'll just have to be content with my '09 "Anniversary" ES-335 and my ES-355 with Bigsby.:spabout

I must admit, though that my favorite look for a 335 is an early 60's 335 with small blocks, short guard and a stoptail in cherry red. I'm old enough that I can just about remember the new ones hanging in the local music store, and that's the way I remember them.
 

Uncle Gary

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I have never had any problems with the wired ABR's, you do have to orient them with the saddle screws toward the pickups, not the TP, I don't think the strings will contact the wire at all if it is set this way, unless you slot the saddles too deep.

Al

In my experience, it's not the wire touching the strings that rattles, it's the screws that are the culprit. The wired ABR-1 bridges have saddle/screw assemblies that fit rather loosely in the bridge body. When the string is holding the saddle in position, the screw can vibrate loose. There is usually enough play between the screw and the bridge body for the screw to rattle against the frame or the wire.
 

buckaroo

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Well, I have spent the past week trying several bridges:

1. the original ABR with the plastic (nylon) saddles
2. a new Gibson ABR with metal (nickel over brass) saddles
3. a new Gibson wired ABR with metal (nickel over brass) saddles
4. a Pigtail ABR replica with metal (nickel over brass) saddles

Based on tone: I prefer the new Gibson #2 above and the Pigtail #4 although all three metal bridges sounded so close it was splitting hairs. Maybe a slight advantage to the Pigtail, but very subtle. The metal saddles overall sound a bit "stronger" than the nylon saddles. Also they provide a stronger "feel" to the string when played. The difference between the nylon and metal saddles is not huge, but you can "hear and feel" it if you choose to do so.

Based on build quality: Pigtail is very tight. The radius is slightly more curved than the Gibson before saddles are notched. The Gibson is fairly tight and looks just a bit more "correct" to my eye.

I went with the Gibson #2 because it was just a little bit better feel with the flatter default radius.

Interesting to note that the screws in the plastic saddle ABR were ever so slightly shorter that the screws in the Gibson #2 metal ABR. The screws in the Pigtail are slightly larger (FATTER) than the Gibson screws. The parts to all these are similar, but not exactly the same.

Lastly, the stock Nylon saddles seemed to show deepening of the slots (notches) after repeated string changes and set ups. Perhaps I received some less than ideal nylon saddles; but, my sense is they are would not have lasted a long life. I may try some after market plastic saddles before done.
 
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