Wine appreciation, as they say, is all about what you like. And so it is with our instruments and the parts thereof. Undoubtedly, bridges have an effect on the tonal qualities of an instrument, but whether that is better or not is completely subjective.
The KSM bass bridge has a number of interesting features and is very well made. For those with tight weight budgets, the lightness in weight will be very welcome. If the desire is for a more positive and larger surface connection in the bridge and saddles, from body to string, then the bridge from KSM is something to be looked at in more detail.
The bridge was supplied well packaged and came with everything one would need both for assembling the bridge on the bass and passing on to the players. The Allen keys needed to set it up are always welcomed by makers and players. My first task was to take the bridge apart out of curiosity. It came apart easily enough, showing the degree of finish.
The saddles sit in a frame on three sides. Strings can pass through the body or can be retained at the end of the bridge - I like to give the option to the player unless they say otherwise. One side is fixed and the other is on an angle such that tightening the screws locks the saddles in place by forcing the upper side section against the saddles. This should be done with the strings tensioned to ensure the saddles are held down firmly. Each saddle is in two parts with a dovetail slide adjusted with a grub screw. The saddles are 11/16“ by 3/4“ wide with the slide being full width. The height adjustment screw is offset from the center so that adjustment can be made while strung, an oversight in an earlier incarnation. The other observation is the lowest string height (30/64“) should be noted. While neither particularly high or low, a luthier should be aware of it in case a recess in the body, neck back angle, or a bit of both are required. There is also the option to deepen the string groove safely by a 1/16, and that 3/32 will take the groove to the adjustment screw opening.
Available in 5- and 4-string versions, the 4-string spacing is standardized to Fender Precision spacing, which is pretty common for bridges. They are made in high-grade "aluminum" and currently available in black.
In common with other bass makers, I had concerns initially with the set-and-lock scheme. Many set-and-lock systems are often either too stiff to set easily or so sloppy that the locked setting is different from the set when not locked. Neither is the case here. Loosen two screws on the edge piece, the five at the back, and the bridge becomes fully adjustable.
So the proof of the pudding, as always, is in the eating. With the bridge freshly installed (a breeze with a simple multiple screw mounting), it was time to set it up. I elected to set height first since the adjustment being on a slope would mean adjusting the height would change intonation. It is nice to be able to set string height without having to take all the tension off the string.
The intonation was then set. This could be done with partial tension like many other bridges. It didn't take too long to do. With all locks applied, the saddles were very solid. Changing the setting subsequently is basically a repeat of the above process. Having said this, the whole process is a lot less eventful than it reads.
I'd like to commend KSM service as part of the bridge offering. They have said what they would do, and done what they said, and have responded extremely well to my queries in a timely manner. What more could you ask? Great job guys.
And now the sound? Well, that brings us back to wine, doesn't it? I could have done a double-blind A/B testing against, well, something else, but it's all too subjective. The bass sounded great and the bridge did not introduce any unwanted side effects under a variety of playing styles. Compared to many unbranded or mass-produced bridges or bridges where the saddle-to-bridge junction is screw based, this bridge should result in a brighter tone and extend sustain, and there seems to be plenty of anecdotal evidence to support this. However, compared to other well-made bridges, I feel it would be very difficult to quantify.
In summary: sturdy and well built, light, lots of contact area and straightforward to set up. Certainly worthy of consideration for that next build, and I would use this bridge again.
- Veronica Merryfield