If you have a Les Paul or any guitar with a separate tune-o-matic-style bridge and stop tailpiece, you’ve probably discovered that the simple act of changing strings can turn into a disastrous task, especially when you want to take all of the strings off your guitar at once. If you remove all the strings together, there are two very common scenarios; the tailpiece can slide off the studs, or the bridge can fall off. Either can easily result in an unattractive scratch down the face of your prized instrument.
But even worse things can happen, from a technical perspective. If the bridge falls off, determining the direction to replace it can create a real mystery (do the saddle screws face the neck or the tailpiece?). And to top things off, you might bump the thumbwheels while you’re cleaning between the posts, ruining the great setup you just did. If that happens, you’ll not only have to deal with resetting the action, but you’ll have to recalibrate the intonation. If you recently paid your local repair shop to do the work, then you’d unfortunately have just tossed your money away because you’ll need to have everything reset. And all you were trying to do was change your strings!
For non-technical players who don’t do their own setup work (and even those who do), this kind of frustration can be enough to make you pull your hair out, or worse, cause you to get violent on your beloved guitars.
Well, one small company has developed a very simple solution.
TonePros was started by a group of players and repair people who were sensitive to the problems guitarists encounter when maintaining their instruments. As a result, TonePros System II hardware was conceived.
What makes the new TonePros hardware different from typical tune-o-matic-style bridge/tailpiece setups is the addition of a pair of set screws. The bridge and tailpiece use set screws on both sides, to hold the components onto the posts and studs to keep them in place. What a novel idea!
The use of set screws in guitar hardware is not revolutionary, but this is a different application. Gibson uses set screws on each side of the wraparound bridge/tailpiece (like on a Les Paul Junior), to adjust the angle at which the bridge is placed so it can be adjusted for better intonation. However, the set screws on a wraparound bridge don’t keep it attached to the guitar.
The sample sets we received had Nashville-style bridges, but the company does make ABR-1-style, as well (maybe wraparound bridge/tailpieces are in the works?). TonePros is a small company, so it will likely will develop things slowly and carefully.
We tested the System II components on a familiar Les Paul Standard, replacing only the bridge and tailpiece. We used the original posts and wheels from the bridge, and the stock tailpiece studs. The TonePros hardware fit without any trouble. I used the Allen wrench included to secure the components in place, then strung up the guitar with a fresh set of D’Addario .010-.046. I did have to cut the saddle slots, since they did not come pre-cut (if you’re not experienced in cutting saddle slots, leave it to a qualified tech – improperly cut saddles can affect the guitar’s tone and performance). The height-adjustment wheels on the bridge hadn’t moved much from where they were set with the original hardware, so we fine-tuned the action a bit. Then once the bridge was intonated, the guitar was ready to go.
As for the guitar’s tone with the TonePros System II hardware, we didn’t notice a drastic difference in the guitar’s sound. The attack of each note was clear, and the strings sustained in the same way.
TonePros System II components can be installed as new equipment, or they’ll retrofit existing bridge posts and tailpiece studs on a guitar with the same type of hardware. Components are available separately or can be purchased in sets. Quantity discounts and OEM pricing are available. Pawar, Suhr, and Baker are using TonePros hardware as stock equipment. The components are available in gold and chrome finish with standard and metric Allen screws, designed to fit most U.S. and imported guitars.
For more information, check out www.tonepros.com.
TonePros System II Components
Type Of Accessories: Customized tune-o-matic-style bridge and stop tailpiece
Features: Allen screws to hold the components in place
Price: Chrome Set: Bridge $62.75 + Tailpiece $50.50 + Adjustment Tool $3.50 = $116.75; Gold Set: Bridge $66.95 + Tailpiece $61.75 + Tool $3.50 = $132.20
Contact: TonePros Sound Labs International, 1449 East “F” Street, Suite 101E #205, Oakdale, CA 95361, (209) 848-4966, Website: www.tone pros.com
This review originally appeared in VG‘s Dec. ’00 issue.