Do the new Titanium saddles really give significant improvement in tone?
Absolutely, and more so than you might imagine; especially on a very well made guitar -- one that really can "hear" subtle nuances. Please read over our notes and comments in the Titanium Section of this site for more complete information.
It's our belief that the metal parts of an electric guitar should have a reserved presence of their own.
The most desirable tone comes from bridge saddles made of metal with a low internal damping factor. This quality transmits sound with higher efficiency than metals without it. We learned that of all the possible metals (and other materials) that Titanium has the absolute best of these sonic-friendly properties. And after careful and extensive experimentation we chose Titanium as the the clear choice for our bridge saddles.
Titanium's low internal damping factor is one of the most outstanding features as good sounding metal. This is because the majority of the wave motion created by string vibration is transferred to the guitar body without being absorbed by the metal material. This happens because of a unique hexagonal close-packed crystallization structure of Titanium -- which also stabilizes strings vibration.
In addition, a metal which has less ratio of "E (traverse coefficient) / p (density)" usually has better vibration transmission properties. In other words, a light metal that is hard to bend has naturally better tonal properties.
When you install DeTemple Guitars' Titanium Saddles on your guitar you'll hear an immediate and obvious improvement in its sound. Not because the metal gives you a completely different sound, but because it brings out the beautifully rich wave motion inherent to your guitar. This means that you'll still get the essential sound of the instrument, especially if you use our saddles on a vintage-style guitar.
Thanks to the distinctive sound quality of titanium and our unique processing technologies (Titanium is extremely difficult to work with) we've created new bridge saddles that we believe blow-away the tone of conventional versions
In addition to the DeTemple line of guitars I have installed many sets of Titanium saddles on all sorts of guitars from $100.00 copies to multi-thousand dollar custom shop guitars, and without a doubt they have all benefited greatly with the modification. One of the most amazing transformations occurred on a secondhand, made in Mexico, Strat®. Along with Titanium saddles (on the vintage style bridge) I added a set of my SweetSpot Alnico 2 pickups – the result was a guitar that sounded as good as any custom shop instrument you will ever hear.
In my experience, a definite yes. These saddles are made so uniformly, and of such a hard material, that even with a lot of hard playing you shouldn't get any unwanted grooves in the tops of the saddles (which I have found to be a contributing factor in breaking strings). Titanium saddles will also let you hear poor fret work a lot easier, so make sure you have a good fret dress before installing them.
I don’t think it is going to make any difference if you have the titanium or the steel block when it comes to the bending. There are two ways to set up a vintage Strat-style trem:
The way it was designed with the back of the top plate floating off the top of the guitar by about 3/32", or
To have the trem springs pulling harder than the strings causing the top plate to lay flat on the top of the guitar.
If you set up with the floating method the whole concept is to have the string tension match that of the spring tension so that the whole trem assembly returns to its neutral (floating) position. As far as the mechanism is concerned it doesn’t matter what material the block is made out of as long as it is stable.
If you chose the second method of set up you can adjust the springs just tight enough to hold the top plate down on the top but still allow it to move when you bend or you can adjust the springs tight enough to not allow any movement even on the biggest bends.
Even though the vintage style tremolo is 50 years old it really can be set up to be very sensitive and always return in tune.
I have used the cold rolled steel blocks by Bill Callaham for a few years find them to be of the highest quality. But after I developed the Titanium Trem Block, and put it in my guitar, I would never go back. The tonality, touch sensitivity, clarity, sustain and definition are all greatly enhanced. When you plug in to your tuner it really “sees” the difference as well. To me, the titanium block and saddles are one of the greatest evolutions to ever happen to the Strat.
If the bridge doesn't have enough mass/inertia then energy from the vibrating string is quickly adsorbed into vibrating the bridge and sustain is lost. If this is so then it wouldn’t a lightweight block like yours be more likely to kill sustain than to improve it?
If pure mass was the only criteria for sustain and transference of energy then Leo Fender would have possibly chosen lead as the best material for the inertia bar/block. I am being a little facetious about the use of lead but I think it brings home the point that it is not just mass but other factors as well that can improve the qualities of tone we are all looking for. Today many of the steel blocks being made are hot-rolled steel which contains lead. If you play that block next to a cold-rolled steel block that is almost identical in weight you will hear an improvement in clarity and definition over the hot-rolled steel block.
Titanium has a lower internal damping factor than steel, brass or aluminum. It allows the string’s natural vibrations to last longer. I also find the definition from string to string is drastically improved. A one-quarter pound difference in the weight of the guitar is nothing to take for granted either! I have tried so many different materials over the years for bridge, saddle, block, nut, and string tree fabrication. When I eventually tried Titanium the superiority I heard was so apparent that I knew immediately I had found a very important part of the equation that had been missing for me. I did not make all of the parts of the bridge out of Titanium to start with but tried the saddles first. I first tried them for the Strat. Next, for the traditional Tele bridge, I made the compensated three barrel models. I also made the bridge plate out of Titanium but found the hardened steel bridge plate in combination with the Titanium block and saddles was the sound that best suited what I was looking for.
I generally prefer a warm, rich tone and I'm afraid Ti might sound brittle compared to steel saddles.
I have been developing my titanium parts through trying to improve and elevate the quality of the guitars I build. I have found that the use of both saddles and trem block (on Strats and Strat-like guitars) made of titanium exceeds the use of just one of the component changes alone. Out of the approximate 1,000 sets of saddles we've sold so far, only had 4 or 5 have come back. An even lower percentage of blocks has been returned -- and yet an even lower percentage of complete bridge assemblies returned.
Interestingly, one guy who returned a bridge assembly played with .009- .038" strings and set his action very, very low. In this case the titanium was amplifying the shrill highs that come with fret buzz. Titanium will "hear" bad or rattling fret work more so than steel saddles. Titanium will duplicate the untrue tonal signals caused by metal-on-metal instead of the pure string vibration and acoustic resonance from the wood itself. Titanium is much less forgiving of poor set-up work. If you play with a guitar that is set up to play cleanly I feel the titanium will provide an expanded harmonic palate. In addition, the clarity and definition are improved along with the touch sensitivity. With the addition of the titanium parts you are making a change to your guitar and in so doing a pickup adjustment is a must. You may find that a slight adjustment to your pickups will "marry" better with the addition of the titanium parts on your guitar.
Remember, if you don't like how our titanium components make your guitar sound, just send them back. We have a 10% restocking charge. It may be easier to just drop the whole trem assembly in your guitar than taking everything apart and going through a complete re-set up. If you don't like what you hear you can drop your old assembly back in and be up and playing in no time.