Adjustable Saddle Anyone?

TerryM

Santa Cruz
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This maybe a solution looking for a problem, but here is a design I haven't seen on an acoustic uke - the adjustable saddle. Pretty neat idea. I wonder how stable and buzz-free they are.

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The brand is the Japanese luthier Kakumae, and it and others are listed on Reverb.
 
Lanikai had a model with a tunauke bridge. Now discontinued, there's still a few used ukes around. It wasn't a screw adjustment like this Japanese builder which is much more accurate. The problem with the Lanikai's was they were cheap builds, mostly laminates. The saddle just slid up and down in a channel. It was a decent approach to adjusting intonation. There's some models in their discontinued ukes in this link.

 
I really like that adjustable bridge. I've contemplated making something like that using existing parts, but never followed through. I think that could be a great licensing play to all the uke companies. It could use set screws that raise and lower each saddle like on electric guitar bridges, giving full control of intonation. Though that could be accomplished with a little effort by putting shims under each saddle.
 
Not sure what became of these:


 
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This maybe a solution looking for a problem...
I guess that's a good resume.
  • Most decent ukuleles could suffice with a compensated saddle if there is a problem with intonation.
  • Intonation tends to pop up mostly with big changes in string diameter and/or tension. In that case, why not change the saddle while you also work on the nut?
    • Most saddles come out quite easy
    • Blanks are easy available and can be tuned
    • When changing back just put in the other saddle
Note that intonation should be seen as not induced by the way you play, but as a technical / mechanical issue inherent of a stringed instrument.

Besides that, it raises some mechanical questions with me as well. Would love to hear a more elaborate "how" this is built...
 
More moving parts = more things that wear out and fail over time.

Electric guitars have been using this kind of tech for decades being gigged all over the world. Adjustable saddles and bridges have never really been an issue.
 
Being my cynic pragmatic self: if it really was a big issue, why hasn't someone come up with a solution in the last couple 100 years, that could be seen as viable, and for the industry (or a luthier) taken into account: production, cost, lifecycle. All vs. objective measurable gain.

Don't take electric steel string guitars as a reference.

Know what? Ask in the Luthiers Lounge why there are no such things on acoustic instruments like the ukulele or acoustic guitar.

Every now and then, there's an alchemist who thinks he invented the new wheel.

Like those "True Temperament" fretboards.
Yes they seem to work.
No, you don't really need them.
 
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Electric guitars have been using this kind of tech for decades being gigged all over the world. Adjustable saddles and bridges have never really been an issue.
Yup, and what are they made of? All solid metal on metal contact only, and easily swapped out due to a plethora of spare generic parts.
Electric guitars don't have to preserve acoustic sound, so they can have bridges comprising of metal plates and screws.

A better comparison is classical and acoustic guitars.
Funny how this isn't mainstream tech on classical or acoustic guitars despite being gigged all over the world for centuries.

I'm not dissing the concept. It's a neat idea for improving intonation, in theory.
However, it comes at the cost of extra labor to make what appears to be bespoke parts and is potentially adding complexity to an otherwise very low maintenance system.
 
Classical guitars don't need as much help in terms of intonation compared to a shorter scale instrument.

I think you're blowing the whole maintenance thing out of proportion. Spare parts for this won't be readily available but then again I don't really foresee any problems with it either.
 
Classical guitars don't need as much help in terms of intonation compared to a shorter scale instrument.

I think you're blowing the whole maintenance thing out of proportion. Spare parts for this won't be readily available but then again I don't really foresee any problems with it either.

The wood is in contact with metal screws that are only partially screwed in under constant tension.
Over time, the grip is going to loosen and slip.
Or lets assume that the holes are reinforced with a metal hollow threaded tube to receive the screws (not visible from the photo), but the metal screw heads are clearly resting against the bare wood of the bridge, which will indent and wear on that part too over time.

Furthermore, there's a reason acoustic instruments don't typically introduce complex metal parts to their bridge as they take away from the resonance of the instrument. Although it could be argued that having a few screws there won't have a significant effect, it's also true that the ukulele is a small nylon strung instrument that has a relatively smaller tone compared to other instruments in the first place. It would be more sensitive to added complexity and mass on its bridge compared to a larger guitar.

Also, string changes seem like it'll be annoying (some sort of through arrangement requiring ball ends or knots?).
It would also make the setup process a bit more challenging and risky. If I sand one of the saddles too low, instead of just chucking in a replacement saddle, I would have to cut an existing saddle into these shapes and sand each one down to the appropriate heights.

It would not be possible to install a conventional undersaddle piezo pickup, which is an important factor for some.
Perhaps a soundboard transducer might be the only viable option.

I'm not necessarily saying this is a bad idea.
Heck, I would not mind having an instrument like this in my collection.
However as someone who prefers simple designs that are easy to setup and service, this comes across as adding a whole lot of complexity for something not a whole lot of people complain about on ukuleles. Pro players certainly have not turned to this design in crowds.
 
Classical guitars don't need as much help in terms of intonation compared to a shorter scale instrument.

I think you're blowing the whole maintenance thing out of proportion.
Then how come most acoustic guitars have a compensated saddle, while that is not the case with many if not most ukulele's?


I think you are missing the point a bit: what is the main cause of intonation problems? Go back to the root of the problem for a solution...
  • if it's your fingers: mechanical corrections on the instrument won't help;
  • if it's the instrument: than it's a problem of construction and correct measurements. That can be corrected with a compensated saddle (assuming that it's not because the frets are misaligned or that the bridge is way off).
What is the added value of being able to adjust intonation "on the fly"? Like I earlier said, changing string diameter / tension maybe, but then again, that can be corrected with the saddle. Within reasonable margins, yes, just like the string gauges and tension you can use before your soundboard dips or your neck gets bent out of shape (hey Mister Trussrod!).
But you have to get things dialed in just once. Even with electric guitars... When things creep up to wonky, that means that there is some other cause that needs to be adressed (hello Mister Neck-Reset!).

Or am I missing something here? Always willing to learn.

On a side note: I have a Lanikai LU-11 that's 12 years old. Cost me about $50 back then. I may have been lucky, but that thing has a better intonation than my Martin (tenfold that).
Edit for clarification: that Lanikai does not have the "tunable bridge / saddle" (which they ditched pretty quick. I wonder why...)
 
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Functionally, I'd love it. Aesthetically, that design looks pretty good but there is also something weird about it. I was trying to find a good string match for a couple ukes and just couldn't get the sound AND intonation without cutting a new saddle once I found a good sounding string for the particular instrument. Even different brands of same material strings were giving me different results. It would be off up to 20-30 by the 12th fret.
 
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