Going Down The Gibson ABR Rabbit Hole: Part One

By Scott @ BMF Effects

Back in 2019, I went down the ABR rabbit hole and posted my thoughts and findings on Facebook. I'm adding them to Solder Fumes so that they can be found in one place.
My dad sent me this video shortly after it came out (February 2018) and while I do not like conceding to mojo, I definitely heard a difference between the two bridges.
Now if you haven't looked lately, real deal vintage no-wire ABR's are north of $500 and that's if you can find one (there are three on Reverb right now...$649, $995 and $1395). So, I did some research and found out that late 50's to mid 60's ABR's have a foundry mark on the underside of the bridge and as best as I can tell, they used the same foundry during that time. If you look at ABR's from the mid 60's on, they're missing the foundry mark which would lead me to assume/believe that Gibson switched foundries, started making the bridges themselves, etc. Now in a perfect world, let's say the foundry used the same formula for the zinc used in the Gibson ABR's which would mean that a '59 ABR would have the same makeup as a '64 ABR. One would be nickel plated and the other chrome, but the base metal composition "should" be the same.

Still with me?

Since I wasn't going to spend $500+ on a used ABR that may or may not be in working condition, I started looking at 60's ABR's with the retaining wire and there was a significant price difference. Nickel plated ones fetch more than the chrome plated but if you look, they can be had for under $200 and even less if they don't have the original saddles. I picked up one nickel plated and two chrome plated patent number ABR's for less than $80 each and for that kind of money I was willing to take a chance. One was missing all the saddles and screws, the other two had most of the nylon saddles and some of the screws so the plan was to lift the factory saddles out of my R9's bridge and move them over. Well smack my ass and call me Mary, the video did not lie. I was happy with my R9 as is but there's definitely a difference between the Gibson Historic ABR and the vintage one. The string response is snappier with a faster attack and the overall sound is livelier. I wish I could say it was all in my head but I swapped the bridges three times and I'm stickin' to my guns, they sound different. Will you hear a difference if you swap yours out? I have no idea; your mileage may vary but for me there was mojo to be had.

Stay tuned for Part Two!

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