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Bridges : badasses, kickasses and hi-masses

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Am I the only one? I really like the BBOT bridge, engineering simplicity and elegance.  Yes it can be improved,  Peavey (and others) have some grooves for the grub screws to prevent lateral movement.  Another (simple) useful improvement would be the ability to top load the strings rather than feed them through the hole.

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Just now, 3below said:

Am I the only one? I really like the BBOT bridge, engineering simplicity and elegance.  Yes it can be improved,  Peavey (and others) have some grooves for the grub screws to prevent lateral movement.  Another (simple) useful improvement would be the ability to top load the strings rather than feed them through the hole.

No, me too :)

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31 minutes ago, 3below said:

Am I the only one? I really like the BBOT bridge, engineering simplicity and elegance.  Yes it can be improved,  Peavey (and others) have some grooves for the grub screws to prevent lateral movement.  Another (simple) useful improvement would be the ability to top load the strings rather than feed them through the hole.

Agree. It’s endured well, form and function. Surprising how few BBOT variants there are our there. Top loading is a good shout 

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I went through a phase of routinely changing the BBOT in my Fenders et al and tried most of the available aftermarket bridges.  Not for any sonic reasons but because I preferred the look of many and the adjustability of some.  Mainly, though, I found the BBOT uncomfortable on the palm of my hand as I used to pretty much anchor it to the bridge whilst stabbing away with my pick.  Especially, as has been noted, where the saddle height grub screws poke out.

It seems that these days my hand has quietly migrated.  I play a lot more finger style than I ever did and I guess as a result of that I don't tend to rest my hand on the bridge quite so fervidly now even when digging in with a pick - only really for palm muting.  So as a result I don't find the BBOT quite so uncomfortable any more (although I will still replace sticky out saddle screws). 

Saved me a fortune! :) 

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1 hour ago, 3below said:

Am I the only one? I really like the BBOT bridge, engineering simplicity and elegance.  Yes it can be improved,  Peavey (and others) have some grooves for the grub screws to prevent lateral movement.  Another (simple) useful improvement would be the ability to top load the strings rather than feed them through the hole.

 

No, you're not alone. 

While it's not the best piece of engineering... it works fine for me. I like the saddles with the little grooves that allows you to set the string-to-string spacing. It's a very agricultural method, but it works for me. Maybe I'm easy to please ;) 

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3 hours ago, Beedster said:

Si

I agree re BBOT most of the time, but which ‘big heavy’ bridges take away from classic Fender tone if Fender Hi Mass and Badass don’t? 

Numerous big heavy brass bridges that tended to proliferate in the 1980s.  The relationship between the saddles and the base plate effect the tone a lot ie  have you got brass saddles on a steel base plate , or brass saddles on a steel base plate, for example. The Badass is zinc alloy, not brass, not brass, and that composition is a big part of its' sound . The BBOT is relatively lightweight and all steel, hence its characteristic sound. 

The Hipshot Kick donkey  offers steel or brass saddle options  for a different tone .Steel is supposed to be more open sounding with brighter overtones, and I would endorse that opinion. Brass saddles sound more mellow and focused , by comparison.

I would be perfectly content with the BBOT if only it had tracked saddles!

Edited by Misdee

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2 minutes ago, Misdee said:

Numerous big heavy brass bridges that tended to proliferate in the 1980s.  The relationship between the saddles and the base plate effect the tone a lot ie  have you got brass saddles on a steel base plate , or brass saddles on a steel base plate, for example. The Badass is zinc alloy, not brass, not brass, and that composition is a big part of its' sound . The BBOT is relatively lightweight and all steel, hence its characteristic sound. 

The Hipshot Kick donkey  offers steel or brass saddle options  for a different tone .Steel is supposed to be more open sounding with brighter overtones, and I would endorse that opinion. Brass saddles sound more mellow and focused , by comparison

I suspect you have better ears, or better amplification, than I do :)

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4 minutes ago, Misdee said:

The relationship between the saddles and the base plate effect the tone a lot ie  have you got brass saddles on a steel base plate , or brass saddles on a steel base plate, for example.

Do the saddles rest on the plate ?       I'd have said the grub screws were point of contact.

 

After owning easy 130+ basses I doubt there's a bridge type I haven't experienced. Simple strips of Corian, bone, 2 saddle bakelite all the way to brass/aluminium ABMs and Hipshots.  Others being the 2-Tek, Gotoh,Babicz, Badass etc.

 

Ease of use, adjustable string spacing, better looks. All valid.  Better tone ? Not that I could ever tell.

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Just now, Beedster said:

I suspect you have better ears, or better amplification, than I do :)

Yes, all this with the proviso that we're talking about nuances, not huge changes in tone. But if you put  say a Warwick  or Alembic bridge on a Fender you would hear a difference in  the overall sound of the bass. 🙂

I am a big fan of the Badass on  just about any bass, but I don't think it sounds any better than the BBOT, just a bit different in a good way, if you see what I mean. Its' biggest appeal to me is its' stability compared to the untracked saddles on the BBOT.

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4 minutes ago, kodiakblair said:

Do the saddles rest on the plate ?       I'd have said the grub screws were point of contact.

 

After owning easy 130+ basses I doubt there's a bridge type I haven't experienced. Simple strips of Corian, bone, 2 saddle bakelite all the way to brass/aluminium ABMs and Hipshots.  Others being the 2-Tek, Gotoh,Babicz, Badass etc.

 

Ease of use, adjustable string spacing, better looks. All valid.  Better tone ? Not that I could ever tell.

Well I would contend that whether you were aware of it or not, the bridge was often a significant factor in the overall sound of the bass. Every note you play is anchored to the bridge. A wooden bridge with wooden saddles sounds different to a BBOT. 

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18 minutes ago, Misdee said:

I would be perfectly content with the BBOT if only it had tracked saddles!

Me too. On Mex Fenders & Squiers I usually change the baseplate to a Gotoh 203, retains the look but just that little bit more stability, plus you keep the original saddles/springs from the stock BBOT.

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3 minutes ago, Misdee said:

Well I would contend that whether you were aware of it or not, the bridge was often a significant factor in the overall sound of the bass.

That's something we'll disagree on.

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49 minutes ago, Misdee said:

..... I would be perfectly content with the BBOT if only it had tracked saddles!

Peavey Bass Guitar Bridge Original Black Bridge PlateA

As fitted to various Peavey basses.  The front screw holes are good though wonder why no holes in the middle though (6 in total). I could also envisage a BBOT with folded ashtray edges (think Telecaster bridge) which would retain the saddles.  Two days into new Lock down in Wales and this is what I am reduced to :) 

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This is the sort of thread that makes me want to take all of my Badass and similar bridges off my basses in protest at the rubbish people talk about them :)

All joking aside, I've high-mass bridges on three of my basses and I'm quite happy to say that they make little difference that matters to me. I suspect that on my two FLs there's a possible positive effect on sustain, but I'm not convinced, and even if it is the case, I doubt it makes any difference to my tone or my playing. As per the 'Bassists Obsessed with Sustain' thread, my old Wal FL didn't sustain at all, and it sounded glorious, snarlier than a Rottweiler in a cat farm :) 

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4 minutes ago, 3below said:

Peavey Bass Guitar Bridge Original Black Bridge PlateA

As fitted to various Peavey basses.  The front screw holes are good though wonder why no holes in the middle though (6 in total). I could also envisage a BBOT with folded ashtray edges (think Telecaster bridge) which would retain the saddles.  Two days into new Lock down in Wales and this is what I am reduced to :) 

You need to get out more mate. Oh...... :)

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34 minutes ago, Beedster said:

This is the sort of thread that makes me want to take all of my Badass and similar bridges off my basses in protest at the rubbish people talk about them :)

All joking aside, I've high-mass bridges on three of my basses and I'm quite happy to say that they make little difference that matters to me. I suspect that on my two FLs there's a possible positive effect on sustain, but I'm not convinced, and even if it is the case, I doubt it makes any difference to my tone or my playing. As per the 'Bassists Obsessed with Sustain' thread, my old Wal FL didn't sustain at all, and it sounded glorious, snarlier than a Rottweiler in a cat farm :) 

The fact that the Wal didn't have frets probably explains the lack of sustain .  A string anchored between the bridge and  fingerboard and finger  is likely to be more muted than a string anchored between a metal fret and metal bridge . It's a big part of what makes a fretless sound like it does. 

 

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12 hours ago, Misdee said:

 

 

The fact that the Wal didn't have frets probably explains the lack of sustain .  A string anchored between the bridge and  fingerboard and finger  is likely to be more muted than a string anchored between a metal fret and metal bridge . It's a big part of what makes a fretless sound like it does. And yes,  the obsession with sustain is a very dated preoccupation. It's so 1980's.

Edited by Misdee

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8 minutes ago, Misdee said:

The fact that the Wal didn't have frets probably explains the lack of sustain .  A string anchored between the bridge and  fingerboard and finger  is likely to be more muted than a string anchored between a metal fret and metal bridge . It's a big part of what makes a fretless sound like it does. 

 

So fretless basses don’t sustain? 

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12 hours ago, Beedster said:

So fretless basses don’t sustain? 

Well, according to you your fretless Wal didn't.  Some fretless basses will sustain more than others. 

I think it's fair to say that fretless basses sustain differently to fretted basses. That is a pretty safe assertion. 

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13 minutes ago, Misdee said:

Well, according to you your fretless Wal didn't.  Some fretless basses will sustain more than others. 

I think it's fair to say that fretless basses sustain differently to fretted basses. That is a pretty safe assertion. 

My Wal was the unusual exception, which is why I mentioned it. You said above that it didn't sustain because it didn't have frets. No the case at all.

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14 minutes ago, Beedster said:

My Wal was the unusual exception, which is why I mentioned it. You said above that it didn't sustain because it didn't have frets. No the case at all.

I can't comment on your Wal, having no knowledge or experience of that particular instrument. I am genuinely intrigued to know how would you would  know categorically that  the lack of sustain wasn't caused by the absence of frets?

I am well familiar with Wal fretless basses (oh,  how I wish I had  bought one thirty -odd years ago🙁! )and I know how the typically perform. At the risk of sounding facetious( but really meaning to be so), fretless basses sound different because they don't have frets, and one contributory factor to that difference in sound is the change in the attack and decay of note ie the sustain. 🙂

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55 minutes ago, Misdee said:

I can't comment on your Wal, having no knowledge or experience of that particular instrument. I am genuinely intrigued to know how would you would  know categorically that  the lack of sustain wasn't caused by the absence of frets?

Because my other Wal fretless sustained very well, and it didn't have frets (and of course, relevant to this thread, both had the same very robust bridge)

So, from this there are two conclusions

1. That the absence of sustain had nothing to do with the absence of frets

2. The absence of sustain on that bass but only that bass was the result of not having frets

Having played a lot of basses, I know it's answer 1, simply because some basses do resonate and sustain well, others don't, and this was the latter. I can nearly always get more sustain of of a fretless because my left hand is able to put energy back into the string to a greater degree than if there was a fret between it and the bridge, in many respects you're massaging the note on a fretless, so I'm pretty good at identifying a bass that will or will not ring out in that context. But of course we can't discount answer 2 because we don't know what would have happened had we fretted the bass, and so  it remains a possibility :)

But either way, both options to a degree highlight that every bass is different, largely because of differences in wood (even within the same species of course), sometimes in engineering, but always because the wood, the engineering, and other factors form a unique enclosed system, one in which marginal gains such as changing the bridge might be made, and in which just occasionally such a change proves to be more than marginal. But I can think of only one or two basses I've owned in 30 years on which changing the bridge did anything more than make it easier to set up or play, only very rarely has the suggested change in tone or sustain materialised, and even then it was sufficiently small to be measurable but not really important. I've often changed necks - I play Fender bitsas mostly - and that can really change the substance and sustain of a note*. But I've owned basses with cheap BBOT that rang out for hours and produced beautiful piano-like tones, and basses with Badass or similar that didn't ring out and which produced less clear notes, notes that appeared to contain mechanical artefacts before they even reach the PUPs 

In short, I just don't buy the idea that changing bridge will de facto change one or more parameters on all, even most basses. It'll do so if the existing bridge is somehow the rate limiter of that parameter, which in my experience is a lot less often the case that we might believe.

 

* And of course, swapping items such as PUPs and circuit lead to significant changes, but these are signal path not mechanical changes affecting the note itself

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1 hour ago, Beedster said:

In short, I just don't buy the idea that changing bridge will de facto change one or more parameters on all, even most basses. It'll do so if the existing bridge is somehow the rate limiter of that parameter, which in my experience is a lot less often the case that we might believe.

De facto it will have changed one parameter, the cost of the bass :).  Any sonic parameters that might be changed by bridge replacement would seem to be highly variable since there are so many other factors in play from one bass to the next.  Even two mass produced basses in the same production run can sound and play differently  I also find that when playing live any subtle bass changes are lost with the effects of amplification, speakers and the venue.  These days I just play the thing as it is. 

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You putting sustain into the bass is not the same thing as the bass having natural  sustain . If it had sustain you wouldn't need to put sustain into it with whatever technique. You could, by the same token,  add sustain with a compressor, but that would not change the fundamental sound of whatever bass.

And, for the reasons I have already stated,  taking the frets out of a bass will most likely  diminish the sustain of fretted notes. Your perception  may differ from that, but such judgements are highly subjective. Steel frets are likely to  enable a note to resonate longer  in a more linear fashion than when the note is trapped between wood and finger. That's a big  part of the sound of a fretless . Yes there are various things you can do to compensate on a fretless - vibrato, compression, coated fingerboard et al- but all things being equal in general terms, a fretted example should sustain more. But we've already decided that sustain isn't that important anyway. My fretless has an acrylic-coated board, but I haven't really noticed a profound increase in sustain over non-coated fingerboards, it has to be said. , 

I am equally confident that bridges can a very significant influence on the sound of a bass, some bridges and some basses more than others. I could give my own anecdotal evidence, but it would be a lengthy process . I have had more basses than I can count over the last 40 years or so.  I used to hate the BBOT but I have come to learn its' value in terms of the classic Fender tone. It's a shame it isn't just a little bit more ergonomic and  mechanically stable. That's all I am saying, really🙂.

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