Is it really worth it to upgrade your guitar hardware, nut, etc?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by megatrav, Jun 11, 2019.

  1. darkwaters

    darkwaters Member

    Messages:
    607
    Joined:
    May 12, 2013
    Location:
    Newfoundland
    The Tele in my avatar is a 10 year old MII Squier Standard. I first upgraded the nut to bone as soon as I got it. I upgraded the saddles about 5 years later and the pickups last year. The tuners still work fine, so I left them alone.....for now. I liked the guitar when I bought it, but now I love it.

    So, my response is: "Yes, it's worth it if it makes you happy !"
     
    megatrav likes this.
  2. C-4

    C-4 Member

    Messages:
    11,013
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2009
    Location:
    I love Red Bank, NJ! Florida now Europe later
    When making a decision to upgrade parts on a guitar or leave it as is, and maybe just do some inexpensive upgrade, such as changing out the nut, I don't look at the cost of the guitar as much as I look at whether or not I truly like the guitar enough to want to play it out at work, and not trade it away.

    If these two things align, then I would do hardware changes, IF NEEDED, maybe pickup changes, but more then likely not change out the entire electronics. Most likely, I would think about this and whether I would change out everything or just maybe one pickup, as an example.

    If I like the guitar they way I got it, then most likely, I would leave well enough alone and only change out a part that needed it.

    As an example, I just bought a low level Les Paul Tribute. I ran the racks for it and found it better then the other, slightly higher priced production LP's.

    Right now, there is nothing I would do to this guitar, such as upgrade the parts with Faber, or some other brand. The only thing I do not like about it is the toggle switch, which is cheap and almost too loose feeling. However, I am not going to change that out until it breaks, and then I would upgrade it to a Switchcraft.
     
    megatrav likes this.
  3. Will_Pancake

    Will_Pancake Member

    Messages:
    131
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2018
    A proper bone or Tusq nut, and some new tuners/bridge can turn a mediocre guitar into a great one. The best parts to upgrade in terms of hardware are the ones that are I. Contact with the strings. If you put your money into them, you’ll see an exponential increase in sustain and tuning stability. These factors are of course what cheap guitars typically lack. Although if you’re not handy with tools, or have never done it, I highly advise taking it to a guitar tech. Changing a nut is a tricky process even it’s a preslotted one. Do these things if you want, but know that you could ruin your guitar pretty easily if you don’t know what you’re doing!
     
    megatrav likes this.
  4. Ron Kirn

    Ron Kirn Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,494
    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2006
    any change can ONLY be a lateral move.... YOU have to like the results for it to slide into the upgrade column... that means a 20.00 OEM Fender Tele Bridge, may well be a better choice on a Telecaster than a 175.00 Boutique bridge..

    The guitar doesn't know if the stamped mild steel is better, worse, or the same as a precision machined Titanium whatever... However.. the difference in cost infects your thinking, and cognitive bias-itus sets in and you think the more costly part is superior.. which is why to "test", you should let someone familiar with your guitar play it without telling them what's up... that way ya get an honest opinion..

    also and Damn, you guys . . . only make one change at a time... and live with that change for a while.. that way you know what did what ..make more than one and you have no idea what is responsible for what ever you'e hearing...

    That concept really shouldn't ;lt be that hard to grasp.. but think about it next time you order 500.00 worth of parts from Stew Mac and sit down with a screw driver, a soldering gun and whatever else you think you need.. Leave yourself a "road-map"so you can back out..

    rk
     
    pats, Tony Done, rwijaya and 4 others like this.
  5. Jim85IROC

    Jim85IROC Member

    Messages:
    903
    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2008
    Every one of those guitars that I've played has been fantastic, and I wouldn't change a thing. I really, really like those RS502s. It's one thing if you're talking about a bottom-tier $100 import guitar, but on a guitar as nice as that Yamaha, I can't see how changing any of that hardware will really amount to an "upgrade" so much as just a change.
     
    Gclef and megatrav like this.
  6. DonP

    DonP Member

    Messages:
    1,413
    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2005
    Location:
    Cincinnati, OH
    Do what makes you happy.
     
    pats, Coolidge, woof* and 1 other person like this.
  7. megatrav

    megatrav Supporting Member

    Messages:
    622
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2014
    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    Thank again for the replies.
    So far the only upgrades I'm looking at are a $10 Tusq nut.
    I expressed in a previous post why I wanted to change the bridge, but I'd be looking at about $120- $150 upgrade, so I might hold off on that for just a bit.

    I don't really think the tuners need to be upgraded. In my experience playing and working on guitars, the tuners typically have less impact on the tuning stability than the nut does.
    This is a preference/option thing, but I've had guitars with bone and I've had guitars with Tusq/graphite and I honestly prefer the Tusq stuff. A big reason is because its self-lubricating.

    If I were to change the pickups, I would go for something really nice and different. I'd put true 60s Firebird pickups clones in it.

    My only complaint about the electronics (pots and switch) are the pot taper on the tone control is too "fast" like a Bournes pot.
    But, the change would only be to test out different values with the current pickups in it, since pots are about $10-$15 whereas quality pickups are going to be significantly more.
     
  8. Hugh_s

    Hugh_s Member

    Messages:
    3,487
    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2013
    OK, but you didn't mention it beyond fret filing, though that is also fine. You never said there was anything wrong with your guitar - so I'm operating under the assumption this is just a "should I upgrade" for the sake of upgrading; as in, is there any real value to putting fancy saddles or a new nut on a guitar.

    If that's not the case and there is some issue you're trying to resolve, then my post isn't really applicable. But changing things like nuts and bridges may or may not have any value added in a 'playability' sense and may not make any noticeable difference in the tone. I do not believe that there is anything wrong with plastic nuts. If the tuners aren't the ratio you prefer or have some play or slip you do not like, then by all means replace them. Personally, I've had good luck with even cheap guitar hardware and have not needed to replace the tuners on my epiphones. I have replaced a robot tuner on a Gibson, though and I'll need to address the worn out ones on my PRS at some point.
     
    megatrav likes this.
  9. Guitarworks

    Guitarworks Member

    Messages:
    8,758
    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2007
    Location:
    Wisconsin
    Upgrades are worth it when you're taking out stuff that most player/tinkerers would prefer to not have anyway. I'm talking about replacing dime sized pots with full size CTS pots, replacing plastic inline terminal switches with switchcraft side-by-side terminal switches, replacing ceramic single coils with alnico single coils, replacing 5-dollar snap-cover budget tuners with sealed tuners or mostly-sealed vintage style tuners, replacing a narrow zinc block with a thick steel or brass inertia block, etc. Does all that lesser grade factory stuff work fine? Yes. But it was chosen to keep the retail price of the guitar down. All things being equal, most people would rather their consumer good have better grade parts than lower grade parts, particularly if that's what it originally came with.
     
    megatrav likes this.
  10. Gclef

    Gclef Member

    Messages:
    1,288
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2010
    I have a 502t. Great guitar!

    The only thing I have had to do on mine was to sand down the nut as it came way too high from the factory.

    As long as the hardware is servicable there is no need, especially with a Yamaha. Hardware makes a negligible impact on sound for the price.

    You did the nut. Good. This is the one weak area IMO.
    Tighten up the little screws on the end of the tuner buttons to create a little friction on the tuner. Holds tune better.

    Your bridge is built for Yamaha to Yamaha's specs. Individual height adj. is how all strats, etc work. Once set, you never have to touch them, unless you want to of course.

    Yamaha p90s are no joke. I think you have the hotter set, while I have the regular one.


    Edited to add: the Yamaha hardware finish (satin chrome) is also unique to Yamaha. Any hard parts won't match all that well.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
    megatrav likes this.
  11. HesNot

    HesNot Member

    Messages:
    1,378
    Joined:
    May 10, 2017
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC
    I have a 502 (non T) so yes the slightly hotter P90s. The only upgrade I would ponder is the nut - which is fine but a tusq nut might be a nice upgrade. Other than that I don't have any particular issues with the bridge, tuners, etc... or the pickups/electronics. The bridge is adjustable for height and intonation individually - I had to slightly adjust the g string ... and seems quite usable. I adjusted the overall bridge height slightly and didn't notice the studs being that poor but didn't make a close inspection - they worked as designed it seemed to me.

    I guess that's a long way of saying that I personally have not been motivated to upgrade any of the components save the nut perhaps.
     
    megatrav likes this.
  12. megatrav

    megatrav Supporting Member

    Messages:
    622
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2014
    Location:
    Louisville, KY
    I really appreciate you guys with the Yamaha's chiming in!

    The nut has shipped and should be here Friday. I will pop that in sometime this weekend and report back any changes.

    The pickups are great, I am curious about how they would sound with 300k or 500k pots for a brighter tone and would be the only mod I would do. The switch and jack feel fine to me too.

    The bridge- It is difficult to find satin chrome, but the higher end Revstars with wraparounds use TonePros. Also, another TGP member had success swapping to a Schaller satin chrome wraparound. They also still have the ability to adjust the intonation on each string, but have a set radius/saddle height, which seems like it'd be a lot easier.

    Also, the saddles move some and I think any strat players here know what I'm talking about when your saddles aren't touching, it causes issues. Maybe I'm crazy (?)
     
  13. ToneGrail

    ToneGrail Member

    Messages:
    1,487
    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2005
    I got mine for the same price on CL. It's an Affinity Strat. The only thing I had to change was the bridge pickup. Otherwise it sounds and plays great.
     
    Machew and megatrav like this.
  14. Ron Kirn

    Ron Kirn Gold Supporting Member

    Messages:
    5,494
    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2006
    resist...resist...resist... do them one at a time......

    r
     
    rwijaya and megatrav like this.
  15. Jason UP

    Jason UP Supporting Member

    Messages:
    1,055
    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2008
    Location:
    HR, VA
    i upgraded the nut on my R6 because one specific string kept getting out of tune after a couple bends, and it solved the problem instantly.
     
    megatrav likes this.
  16. rwijaya

    rwijaya Member

    Messages:
    2,443
    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2006
    Location:
    SoCal

    The nut upgrade will be great for an indonesian built guitar since they are usually come with plastic nut. However you have to pay more attention on if the parts on your guitar lined up properly. I just had recently did a setup on a indonesian fender squier and the way the bridge align with the nut is a bit misaligned. its small thing like this that you might not notices until you take a measurement on the guitar. if this is the case with your yamaha, It wont be worth upgrading. sell or fix it before upgrading.

    if everything is okay with the guitar measurement and how everything is align is right, the best bang for the buck imho is upgrading the electronic on any import guitar. it outweigh upgrading hardware quality. hardware upgrade wont be as noticeable as upgrading pots , better wiring, and maybe new pickup although keep this in your mind, get to know that cheap pickup first, you might be surprised how good it sound

    and resist upgrading for now, play the guitar and so you get the feels of what is lacking, then you decide if its worth upgrading or not and like ron kirn said, upgrade one at a time.
     
    megatrav likes this.
  17. customguitars87

    customguitars87 Member

    Messages:
    2,531
    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2009
    Basically it all comes down to two things: how much you like the guitar in general pre-mods, and whether you're OK with either keeping it forever or eating a large percentage of the cost of the upgrades when you sell it (or undoing them and selling the guitar stock). You're not going to take a guitar that's a hunk of junk and suddenly turn it into an incredible monster with a couple of mods. You can however take a guitar that's already "good" and make it "great".

    If the guitar is well built generally and is just lacking in terms of the pickups, tuners, etc...go for it. I really don't understand the people that take a $100 guitar and sink $500 into it, but beyond that go nuts and have fun. I have a bunch of expensive guitars and a bunch of cheap ones too, a few guitars that I purchased for around $200-$300 were fantastic instruments and a quick pickup swap really took them to a level where they can stand toe to toe with much pricier instruments that I own.

    Plus, modding is fun and making a guitar your own can be a really neat adventure.
     
    megatrav and rwijaya like this.
  18. truckin

    truckin Supporting Member

    Messages:
    803
    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2016
    I disagree with the "if it ain't broke don't fix it" type of mentality here. If you have a lifer and want to mod it/change some things up.. by all means. In my experience it's usually worth it, I know I've been happy doing it in the past. The only catch is if you're putting top dollar Throbaks or something into an import Les Paul... mind as well just buy a nicer guitar then. But into a Gibson? Hell yeah, it's not like any of these changes are permanent. You can always go back. I'm not a tweaker by any means, but sometimes instead of buying another guitar I'll just change things up instead. Hell, I'm having SS frets, new electronics, and new pickups installed on a Gibson historic RI as we speak. The guitar already played effortlessly and many who have picked it up have said it's one of the best/most memorable 335s they've played. Why would I make such drastic changes? Because I want to and I know I prefer SS frets and a better volume taper on guitars for a long list of reasons. It'll simply be more suited to me.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2019
  19. fjblair

    fjblair Silver Supporting Member

    Messages:
    11,830
    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2011
    Location:
    NC High Country
    I've owned a bunch of electric guitars and have rarely made an "upgrade" to any of them. Other than setups and an occasional pickup swap stock gear has suited me fine.
     
  20. ahhlou

    ahhlou Member

    Messages:
    644
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2012
    Location:
    Moncton, New Brunswick
    Be careful of post spacing. Chinese bridges have a different spacing compared to American ones. If your intonation and sustain is good then replacing the bridge will not gain you much.

    The nut is a good upgrade and as others have said, a good fret level and polish and setup will help play-ability. Get to know it first before any major mods...
     
    megatrav likes this.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.
    Dismiss Notice