Modern bridges and the Sorcerer's Apprentice syndrome
Some players find the outside E strings too close to the edge of the fretboard on vintage Stratocaster’s, Jazzmasters and Jaguars and play carefully to avoid them slipping over the end of the frets. So at first glance the idea of a bridge that has it’s saddles a little bit closer together (saddle spread) and positions strings further in from the edges of the fretboard seems like a good one, right?
But there is the Sorcerer's Apprentice Syndrome when every problem you solve causes two or more new problems to appear.
Bearing that in mind there are other things to be considered and one is string-over-magnet alignment for the pickups. To achieve balanced string levels the strings must align within the perimeter of the magnet or else progressively worse drop-off occurs the further out of alignment with the magnet that the string is. We find it amazing that guitar, hardware and pickup makers seem to be oblivious to this problem.
When Fender launched their modern twin pivot Stratocaster bridge way back circa 1990 did they fail to notice that one of the outside E strings was missing from the neck pickup’s sound? It’s pretty obvious after all. But they started a trend which resulted in every hardware manufacturer in the world now producing narrow spaced bridges.
One has to wonder why millions of American Standards and other models fitted with their modern Twin Pivot bridge and standard pickups were produced for something like 30 years with such a glaring defect. And more recently Mastery and a raft of other brands followed suit and players everywhere are unknowingly losing their E strings. https://forums.fender.com/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=86756
The owner of this American Standard reports “My E strings are completely off the pole piece of the neck pickup, they're off to the inside. These two strings give a lot less sound than the other strings. I know they should give more sound, because when I bend them until they're above the pole piece of the neck pickup, they sound a lot louder”
We here at Kinman knew about this issue all along and circa year 2000 we provided a solution when we launched our Strat pickup for the neck position that had narrow spaced magnets. This seminal innovation restored the E string on American Standards and the many other guitars at that time. But however wonderful getting the E string back was, it turns out that the performance of the pickup is degraded somewhat when magnets are spaced closer together and the length of coil wire is shortened. This loss of dynamic range compromises clarity when notes tend to disintegrate under strong pick attack and go unpleasantly fuzzy / farty.
When we first noticed this loss of performance we thought, well, we’ll just add a few more turns to the coil to restore the coil to it’s usual length. Simple solution, right? Nope! It turns out the loss of performance is far more complex than the shortened length of the wire in the coil and simply adding more turns of wire to the coil caused an increase of parasitic capacitance and that makes the sound muddy and failed to solve the first problem anyway. We will probably never know if Fender or any other pickup maker also discovered what we knew (we doubt it), all we know for certain is Kinman is the only pickup manufacturer that was interested in doing something about it.
The solution wouldn’t be discovered until circa 2016 when our perpetually driven boss, Chris Kinman, became seriously serious about this quest and applied his huge understanding of pickup electrical engineering and his innovative thinking to our narrow and intermediate spaced Strat pickups. The solution is a proprietary secret of Kinman and we will not divulge it’s nature or it’s workings but suffice to say that other pickup makers, even if they understand it and even if they could source the difficult-to-find and costly special materials required, will find the extra effort unpalatable and too costly to incorporate in their products.
And yet we sell our Intermediate 51mm and Narrow 49mm spaced Strat pickups packed with our obscure technology at the same price as our Standard models and you’ll receive the optimum magnet spread that is suitable for the particular bridge on your Stratocaster, Jazzmaster or Jaguar as well as P-90 Hx and Humbuckers.
We aim to give you one more reason for us to be your number one favorite pickup maker.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice syndrome stopped right here in 2016. All the new problems caused by the first solution (the narrow bridge) were finally solved ….. by Kinman ... and only Kinman.
Do you have a modern narrow spaced bridge by Mastery, Gotoh, Fender, Floyd Rose, Tune-O-Matic or one of the numerous other brands? And you have pickups with individual magnets or poles, then you might want to check the alignment of the E strings over those magnets. Chances are you’ll be horrified to see the string aligns outside the perimeter of the magnet like in the above picture. Not to worry, you now have a solution. You can have your cake and eat it too.