Matt Schmill on Bass Parts & Accessories

Aftermarket Bass Parts and Accessories

Matt Schmill, FBB Custom


Nothing can wake up a tired old bass like a littlesupercharged upgrade. Whether you're looking to upgrade old faithful,or you're looking to supercharge the new custom bass you're ordering,there are a lot of parts and accessories to choose from. Over the past6 or 7 years, I've been building my own basses and I've had a chanceto try a bunch of them and form my own opinions on the pros and consof them. On this page, you'll find my feelings on bridges, tuners,straplocks, and more.



Bass Bridges

Hipshot

There's a lot to like about Hipshot. It's an american company with great people making solid bass bridges. They offer three designs withsome interesting options. Of the many quality bridge manufacturers,Hipshot is my favorite.

Their "A" bridge is adjustable in three dimensions, and isavailable in a variety of default string spacings (the "A" design hassome adjustability in spacing as well). This design is available inaluminum or brass (aluminum will save you precious ounces if you arelooking to lighten your load) and are drilled forstring-through-the-body if you choose to use it. This is a very solidbridge design which I like very much. These bridges are available insatin chrome as well. A cool option for a different look.

Their "B" bridge is like a beefed-up vintage bridge, with the barrel-type saddles. The tailpiece is reinforced, and the bridge hassidewalls for extra support. Like the "A" bridge, this design isavailable in alunimum or brass, and the satin finish isavailable. These bridges are adjustable for heigh and intonation, butnot spacing, though they are available in multiple stock spacings.

Hipshot also makes a vintage "bent metal" bridge in brass. This bridge is not available in aluminum or with the satin chrome finish.

Each of these bridges is adjustable for height using set screws inthe bridge saddles and intonation using long machine screws threadedthrough the tailpiece and into the saddles. All Hipshot bridges arequick-load bridges (the strings release withouth threading themthrough any eyelets in the bridge).

ABM

ABM is a german company that makes a very adjustable, solid brassbridge that is available in the states and Europe. There also seems tobe an asian knock-off of this bridge design that is available for adiscount, but beware: the finish of the knock-off is inferior to ABM'sown.

This all-brass bridge is heavy and reliable. The saddle piecesinclude grooved metal slugs on which the strings sit and are fittedwith set screws for heigh-adjustment. The slugs lock down provided youdo not adjust them so high that they move beyond the set screws usedto lock them down. The slugs can also move a bit in either directionfor minor adjustments to string spacing. ABM manufactures two versions- a normal version and a "wide" version for all its 5+ stringbridges. The saddle pieces also lock down, and intonation adjustmentscan be made by unlocking the saddle pieces and moving them back orforward in the machined slots they sit in. ABM bridges are thequick-loading type.

Schaller

Schaller is another german company that makes two main bass bridgedesigns. Schaller is one of the first bridges I used on a regular basis.

The first design, and the one I am most familiar with, is their"roller" bridge. It is interesting in that it has a radiused baseplate. This is a welcome feature to anyone who has used a bridgewithout it - especially when you are putting it on a bridge with 6 ormore strings. The bridge is not quick loading - strigns must be fedthrough eyelets in the tailpiece. The saddles are attached to thetailpiece by machine screws that allow you to adjust for intonationand as is usual there are set screws that allow you to adjust forheight. The string sit on little grooved wheels that sit on threadedaxles and this allows you to dial in different stringspacings. Overall this is a solid bridge with good adjustability. Theyusually come with a brass riser plate so you can use them in a numberof situations without worrying about it being too high or too low.

Schaller also makes a newer design that features a stainless steelbent metal base plate. The tailpiece to the base has slots along itsback and relatively intricate saddles can be mounted on the slots viahex-cap set screws. The slot/screw combination allows you to slide thesaddles from side to side for what is probably the best string spacingflexibility of any bridge in production today. The saddle piecesthemselves are a weird kind of telescopic unit that allows for prettygood intonation adjustment and string height is handled via thefamiliar set-screw-in-the-saddle mechanism. This design is quickload,and though quirky, is pretty adjustable and has a unique but cleanlook to it.

Leo Quan

I give Leo Quan credit for making the bridge with the coolest nameout there: the BadAss and the BadAss II. The BadAss is basically abeefed-up bent metal bridge that replaces stock Fender bridges. TheBadAss II is a more adjustable model that is not a stockreplacement.

Lots of people love these bridges, but I am not a fan. For a stockreplacement of a Fender bridge, the BadAss does a nice job. But theBadAss II is not clean looking enough, it's not a quick-loadingbridge, and the saddles must be slotted at install. These are brasssaddles that ride on grooves slotted in the base plate. The ability tocustom slot your bridges buys you some flexibility, but also gives youthe opportunity to screw up the saddles.

Wilkinson

Wilkinson is an american company that went under a few years agobut built many bridges, most notably for Carvin, for many years. Thebridges were basically steel base plates with individual string tailpieces mounted in a groove along the back of the base. These tailpieces could be slid side to side along the groove to provide stringspacing adjustments. Saddles were attached to the tailpieces via longmachine screws and could be adjusted for intonation and height by setscrews in the saddles. String retainers were machined out of the tailpieces and this was basically a quick load bridge.

Wilkinson bridges all had a black base plate, although you couldget the tail pieces and saddles in chrome or gold. The retentionsystem caused problems for some folks and although it was a veryadjustable bridge at the time, better bridges with greater reliabilitypopped up and as a result, Wilkinson is no longer producing bridges.

Kahler

People most often link the Kahler name with their old-timey tremolobridges. Well, they also made a hardtail that was very unique. Thisbridge featured a angled bass plate with rails upon which saddlepieces could be attached. The saddle pieces floated freely on therails until locked down, allowing adjustment for string spacing andintonation. Each saddle piece has a large grooved set screw that thestring sits on and can be screwed up or down to adjust for stringheight.

This bridge is certainly unique, and very adjustable. It can be apain to adjust. It is also a very "high" bridge meaning that moreoften than not, the base plate had to be countersunk into the bassbody to get the action under control. Furthermore, the gold finishthey were using wore down to a dull chrome very quickly. Kahler is no longer making this bridge to my knowledge.


Bass Tuners

Gotoh

When it comes to bass tuners, you've got two basic types: sealed,and unsealed. As the title suggests, the unsealed type have exposedgears in the back and the sealed ones are concealed. Old Fender-styletuners are the unsealed type. The main player in the sealed market isGotoh.

I'd be willing to guess that most of those out there using sealedtuners are using Gotoh minis. They are quality, reliable tuners, andthe plating holds up well. They are also pretty costeffective. Schaller and some others make competing products, which aregenerally more pricey, and there are also cheaper knockoffs of theGotohs, but I understand that reliability may be a problem with theknockoffs.

Hipshot

Hipshot actually produces two kinds of bass tuner. One is a stockFender replacement. I have no experience with those tuners. The otheris their "Ultralite" tuner. As the name suggests, these tuners aredesigned to be lightweight replacements for either the stock Fendergears or the smaller Gotoh-style tuners that sit in a 9/16" bore.

Ultralites are unsealed tuners and they are, as advertised,lightweight. These tuners can be had with a Y or elephant shapedtuning peg, and come in satin finishes (like the Hipshotbridges). These tuners are also reversible, which comes in handy. Attimes, these gears can be a bit gritty feeling to turn, but they arevery reliable. While they are a bit pricey, when saving weight is anissue, these tuners are worth the cost.

Sperzel

Sperzel makes a sealed tuner that has a unique feature: the postsare locking, meaning that you do not wrap the string as much andinstead you use a thumb screw to retain the string. I owned a Carvinbass with these tuners. My recollection is that these tuners have asatin finish (like the Hipshot Ultralites), they are slightly smallerthan the Gotohs, and that they are perfectly good tuners. If the ideaof locking down your strings instead of wrapping them appeals to you,this is about the only way to go.