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Highwood Contoured Vintage Strat saddles review

Dana Olsen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,902
Highwood Guitar Parts offered up some of their Contoured Vintage Saddles for beta testing/ review at the end of 2013. I received these Highwood Contoured Vintage saddles a few weeks ago, just before NAMM. TGP's Seljetnoma favorably reviewed these same saddles month ago. Thanks Seljetnoma - excellent photos (link to his review: https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/1367532&highlight=highwood

Here's what you get: 6 of these beauties - they all look just like this one. Impressive finish/ polish on them - look like jewelry, lovely machining. I have to say they made the stock saddles on the Gotoh 510 series on my Lentz SSL look ... well, look not as good as the Highwood side by side.

Here's stock:


Can you see that the saddles are bent opposite direction of stock saddles and that the height adjustment screws are threaded into the bottom of the saddle while the hole on top of the saddle turns into an access point to reach the adjustment screw with an allen wrench?

Here's how they look installed: (Pics grabbed from the Highwood website - their macro is better than mine)



Installation was a breeze, as was setup - no problems, the machining on all the intonation adjustment screws and height adjustment screws feels solid and they are clearly precision made. On my SSL the slots in the saddles, which by the way are polished and smooth as can be seen in the pic above, align the outside E strings in from the edge of the neck and the other strings align dead center over the neck. String spacing was fine for me - I wouldn't like it if the E's were any closer to the edges of the neck than they are, but the strings sit perfectly well, exactly where they sat with the stock saddles.

Also, the slots in the saddle are so smooth there's virtually no chance of breaking a string at the saddle due to a burr.

So, how do they SOUND? They sound great, and more, they FEEL great. At first strum unplugged I was hearing so much fundamental pitch that I thought maybe there wasn't as much "air" around the notes as I was used to hearing. WRONG! As soon as I plugged into the amp, BFVR w/ 2x Celestion Gold 10's, there was plenty of air, but more fundamental pitch than on the stock saddles. The attack feels faster, but I don't think it is - there's just more fundamental pitch than the stock saddles. That may take a little getting used to at first, but it sounded normal and vintage to me within minutes - just sounded like a great Strat.

I've since played a couple of sets at gigs with them, to insure that they sounded "right" to me in a band setting, and they do. They sound good through stomp boxes too - no weirdo high overtones or anything, no 'ping' on the attack.

They look great, they feel great, and YES - they TOTALLY solve the problem of exposed height adjustment screws shredding your palm! We all know that stock units have different 3 different length adjustment screws and that the palm shredding problem can be mitigated/ made manageable with careful selection for length, but the Highwood saddles just solve the issue better.

Case in point: I have a CIJ Fender Strat with height adjustment screws chosen selectively to make it feel as good as it can viv-a-vis palm shredding, and it's not bad at all: However, the Highwood saddles are better.

Did I mention they sound great? They sound great, fantastic actually. Palm muting is slightly different - took me almost a full minute to adjust my right palm technique (GRIN).

To sum up:

PROS: Look great, sound great, and feel great. The machining is precision, the plating is beautiful, fit and finish are excellent.

CONS: None, none at all.

They are available at:http://www.highwood-guitarparts.com/

Thanks, Dana O.
 
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shallbe

Deputy Plankspanker
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
11,545
Brilliant design and execution. Thanks for the review.
 

rhinocaster

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
23,135
This is the second review that makes me want these....

Thanks for the great review Dana. :)
 

Fons

Member
Messages
518
Wow, these are something. Wonder if Fender reads this :)
Thanks for the wonderful review Dana. Really considering these !
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,711
Thanx for the review Dana. It looks like a nice product. In past few months, I've experimented with Fender, Gotoh and Raw Vintage and they're all fine for me. I personally don't want a notched saddle, because sometimes if I want the E's in a bit more, I can move them. (and yes they stay put!). Also, like to feel the saddle screws a bit as I like to vary my touch. Light, med, or heavy muting is easy to do as my hand rests on the screws. I know some guys say they have a problem with sharp screws, but that's easy to address.

I do like how nice and tight these along with the Gotoh and Raw Vintage sit. The Fender full size saddles have a lot of slop and don't really sit tight. I don't like how the E string saddle just kinda sits out there and wobbles around.

These look like good, high quality saddles for those looking for those features.
 

Lewguitar

Member
Messages
5,667
Question: do the allen screws thread into both the top and bottom of the saddle...or just into the bottom of the saddle?
 

Dana Olsen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,902
Question: do the allen screws thread into both the top and bottom of the saddle...or just into the bottom of the saddle?
Actually just the bottoms, Lew. The top is just an access hole.

I'll go home and look to make sure. They fit well, but I don't think the top portion is threaded.

Thanks, Dana O.
 

Lewguitar

Member
Messages
5,667
Actually just the bottoms, Lew. The top is just an access hole.

I'll go home and look to make sure. They fit well, but I don't think the top portion is threaded.

Thanks, Dana O.
Thanks! That would make sense if the goal is to avoid the screw heads sticking up and scratching your hand.
 
Messages
60
Question: do the allen screws thread into both the top and bottom of the saddle...or just into the bottom of the saddle?
Thanks for your question. Top and bottom holes are threaded, like Harry said. The stainless screws never stick out to begin with.
@ buddastrat: our saddles can be set inwards too if you so want.

Regards,
Piet
 
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woof*

Member
Messages
7,493
Is really like a "shootout" between these, Raw Vintage and Callahams.
I know I hate the Callaham, I know Phillip Sayce loves Raw Vintage. These here are new to me. The Callahams I have are too bright.
 

Dana Olsen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,902
Thanks for your question. Top and bottom holes are threaded, like Harry said. The stainless screws never stick out to begin with.
@ buddastrat: our saddles can be set inwards too if you so want.

Regards,
Piet
Yup - I eat my words. Went home and looked, this time with my 2x readers. With the readers I can clearly see the threads in the top portion.

Without the readers, hard for me to see. (SIGH)

Well, I get to gig 'em again Friday night - should be fun, with lots of fundamental (GRIN).

Thanks, Dana O.
 

DavidG

Member
Messages
2,808
" Palm muting is slightly different - took me almost a full minute to adjust my right palm technique (GRIN)"

Lol, ok that made me GRIN. A whole minute eh? Haha, great review Dana..as per usual. I'm ordering a set of these real soon. Thanks.
 

Dana Olsen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,902
I'm just bumping to say at the gig last night I was again impressed with the initial build quality of the of these saddles - very shiny (GRIN). What I mean is that the finish is very nice.

And they sounded good last night too. I did still hear a bit more fundamental pitch, so I'm sticking with my initial impressions.

Damn nice product, and they completely and elegantly solve all the palm muting issues. Any change in right hand technique needed is IMHO easy and fast to adjust to - as I wrote before, took me about 1 minute. I tried changing things up a little last night vis a vis palm muting, and I conclude I could easily manage any type of palm muting that I can imagine. There's probably techniques I'm not familiar with for palm muting, but I find these saddles really easy to gig with.

Boris, maybe you're right that these saddles will slow the flight of Strat players to Teles ... but I still get along better with Teles than I do with Strats, even with great saddles (GRIN)

That's all, thanks, Dana
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,711
I'm just bumping to say at the gig last night I was again impressed with the initial build quality of the of these saddles - very shiny (GRIN). What I mean is that the finish is very nice.

And they sounded good last night too. I did still hear a bit more fundamental pitch, so I'm sticking with my initial impressions.

Damn nice product, and they completely and elegantly solve all the palm muting issues. Any change in right hand technique needed is IMHO easy and fast to adjust to - as I wrote before, took me about 1 minute. I tried changing things up a little last night vis a vis palm muting, and I conclude I could easily manage any type of palm muting that I can imagine. There's probably techniques I'm not familiar with for palm muting, but I find these saddles really easy to gig with.

Boris, maybe you're right that these saddles will slow the flight of Strat players to Teles ... but I still get along better with Teles than I do with Strats, even with great saddles (GRIN)

That's all, thanks, Dana
Yes, the Wilky trems I had were like that, no protruding screws. It's more all or none. I just got used to the screws so the palm doesn't sit directly on string/saddle unless I want it to. It lets some notes sneak thru a bit while resting the hand, and I liked that more than the smooth saddle feel/sound. I like a bit o' pain I guess. Just a bit...
 

Fons

Member
Messages
518
These images are from Highwood's facebook account from a guy by the name of Steve Hammond.

I totally see what Dana means if he says these are like fine jewelry.





 




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