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Saddle/Nut make difference in sound?


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  • Saddle/Nut make difference in sound?

    Hi all,
    So I picked up a used Taylor recently and the more I play I feel the base isn't as deep and the sound feels a bit damp. I know Taylors generally tend to have the sharper sound (versus say a Martin, or a Guild, or a Gibson) but the guitar doesn't feel like a 7 series ... if you know what I mean.


    I plan to visit a local guitar shop to get an opinion but looking at the saddle and nut, they look really old. It is possible the guy never replaced those (the guitar is 16 years old) and looking at the those closely, they look a bit yellowish. The end pins are ebony and feel too plasticky. Wondering if the guitar just needs some pump on the accessories



  • #2

    Normally the nut and saddle don't need to be replaced. When you say they look "old," what do you mean besides the fact that they're yellowed? Are they damaged somehow? IMHO, replacing the nut will have minimal effect. You can replace the saddle with bone and, if you want to go hog wild, you can experiment with bridge pins (bone, plastic, TUSQ, brass, etc.) Before you go to that much trouble, how old are the strings? What brand and gauge? Does the guitar show signs of being dry? Wet? Here's a link to Taylor's "dry guitar" article: http://www.taylorguitars.com/global/pdfs/dry_guitar.pdf. Here's another to Taylor's "wet guitar" article: http://www.taylorguitars.com/global/pdfs/wet_guitar.pdf.

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    • racoustic
      racoustic commented
      Editing a comment

      Thanks all for responses. I have put brand new string on the guitar (that is the only thing I changed since picking up the guitar - used). I always use Elixir nanoweb 12 gauge/light string.

      So, if the nut/saddle don't make a big difference in terms of sound, wondering if a professional setup would help clean up the sound a bit. The neck angle seems fine though. I will take it to a guitar shop and see what experts say about it.

  • #3

    Maybe try heavier strings?


    • Freeman Keller
      Freeman Keller commented
      Editing a comment

      I build guitars and do setups on them - and use plain old cow bone in everything I build.   Taylor uses Tusq(tm) or another synthetic that they can mold and cnc mill - with bone you need to do some hand work.    I once replaced the stock saddle in my 314 and frankly could not tell any difference,  however there are people who believe that they make a big difference.   Saddles are relatively easy to replace but will require some sanding to set the action height.

      I did do a comparison test once a long time ago on different pins and posted clips on this forum (same guitar, strings, mic, pick etc) - some people did say they could hear a difference - ebony was slightly darker, bone slightly brighter, brass brighter still.   The most liked in my D18 were the stock Martin plastic pins.   Pins are cheap, feel free to experiment - your Taylor will use a size 1 or 1T which is a 3 degree taper.

      I personally think nuts have the least effect, and certainly they are the most difficult to replace.   They usually require a lot of hand fitting and small differences in slot depths can have a big difference in playability.

      Strings, on the other hand, do make a difference.   Different compositions affect tone, as well as coatings and age, string gauge affects volkume and playability.   I also posted side by side clips of different strings on the same guitar - I would suggest getting a couple of sets of 80/20's and PB's (start with uncoated) and see what you like.   Your Taylor would have shipped with Elixer (probably polys in 1995) phosphor bronze.

      I don't play with a pick, but if you do they make a lot of difference.   Experiment with materials, thickness and attack.   If you play with flesh and nails, experiment with how much of each you use.

      Last thing that affects the tone of a guitar, of course, are the selection of woods that it was built from, the type of bracing, and the body size and shape.   Your rosewood dread with (probably) a sitka top will be biased slightly towards the mellow side with strong bass and complexity..   Over the years Taylor changed their bracing slightly (don't remember when) and recently has started routing a little groove around the edge of the top to free it up a little.

      My suggestion is to try different things starting with strings - record each set brand new and compare the recordings.   When you find string that you like then go ahead and change the pins, but leave the same saddle in.   Or try a new saddle, but leave the pins.   Then the other, finally the nut if you are so inclinded.   As you are doing this, optimize the setup for your playing style.

      Report back - these are topics that we love to argue, er, discuss.

  • #4
    Is the guitar an acoustic-electric? My experience is that they tend to get built a bit less resonant on purpose so that they don't turn into howlers onstage. If so, use the PA to boost the bottom.

    If you need a big fat purely acoustic sound I'd recommend getting one that does that right out of the box, like a Martin dread or similar.


    • #5
      If I were to let my guitars sit out of their cases without a dehumidifier here they'd sound like fresh cut pine.