Player and Magazine Reviews
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Raul Amador takes a closer look at the KSM Foundation Bridge. Join us on the journey where we change bridges and discover the differences.
"My KSM bridge is rock solid with great tone. There's not much more you can ask for in a bridge!"
Garron DuPree is a bass guitarist and recording engineer from Texas. DuPree began his career as a professional musician in 2005 at the age of 15 as the bassist for the group Eisley, and became the bassist for Say Anything in 2013. Garron DuPree is also a recording engineer as well as a session musician.
Jeremy Nivison shares his history with our bridge and explains why The KSM Foundation™ Bass Bridge is the #1 bass bridge on the market for string-to-body contact.
"I currently use it on my custom 5-String bass, and I love how rock solid it is once it's clamped down. I also love the complex tonal characteristics, punch and harmonics that it offers. I've compared it with the Leo Quan/Badass, Neuser, Schaller, Hipshot, as well as various OEM bridges, and the Foundation sounds as good or better than all of them that I've tried. I love it!"
- Rich Hansen, Mile Marker 6
Rich Hansen is a veteran bassist from Los Angeles, formerly with Sundown Recording Artist Asa Cruz, Zero recording artist Takara, and Retrospect recording artists Graven Image. He is a former student of jazz bassists Jeff Berlin and David Friesen. He is currently the bassist with northern Utah country artist Mile Marker 6, the jazz group Creative Tension, and Gospel Group Joyful Noise.
Mile Marker 6 Website: milemarkersix.com
Now that we’ve looked at how different bridges are constructed [“Exploring Bridge Designs,” June 2014], let’s focus on several specialized designs that aim to enhance tone. For decades, the strings on an electric bass have essentially rested on two or sometimes three tiny screws. This has been true from the very first Fender right up to recent high-mass locking bridges. Though these bridges may look different and vary mechanically, they all have one thing in common: Small saddle-height adjustment screws take all the force from both a string’s downward pressure and its vibrations.
Even though we all can agree the bridge is one of the instrument’s essential components, we don’t often hear it described as being crucial for tone. The argument for a high-mass bridge is basically “Let’s not lose any vibration in the bridge,” while the opposing argument is typically “Jaco only needed a traditional design and this vibrational loss is part of the mojo.”
There are many forum entries by modders who’ve swapped out bridges and describe rather subtle differences in tone. Could this be because these bridges share those tiny screws at a crucial position? It’s true that most lockable bridges have a better resistance to side movement than those with simpler bent steel saddles, but despite the “more mass is better” argument, it still boils down to the small screws being the essential connection to the bridge base plate and ultimately to the body.
As you’d expect, a few creative minds try to find a different path. Let’s look at two bridges that are engineered to enhance tone by enlarging the contact area. Here’s the basic argument: A larger contact area will enhance tone by maximizing the transfer of string-to-body vibrations. (For now, let’s not discuss if this is what we really want, as there are also reasons why we might want to keep the vibration in the string!) With expanded contact, a string’s downward pressure spreads across a larger area. This means less pressure per area, but on the plus side, a larger contact area can reduce side movement in the saddles.
If string vibration gets lost within the bridge, we can expect a different tone because this is the only vibrational orientation a magnetic pickup is able to track. (A short reminder: Our strings induce a current when they cross the lines of the magnetic field, but do nothing when they move along these lines. For more details, read Gregg Stock’s “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer of the Gods” in the February 2012 issue.)
To my knowledge, there are only two designs that pursue this route of enlarging the contact area: the KSM Foundation Bass Bridge and the Babicz Full Contact Hardware bridge. Both use classic screws to slide the bridge forward or backward to set intonation. While each design replaces the height adjustment screws with a full contact area, the central bridge part differs vastly.
The Full Contact Hardware bridge uses Babicz’ “eCAM” technology with an asymmetrical hyperboloid in its center that moves the string up and down. Not into hyperboloids on a daily basis? Take a look at Babicz web video to see how it works. This technology is available in 4- and 5-string units with a base plate and also as an individual single-string device, the FCH-1 Solo Rail.
The KSM offers adjustment via a sliding mechanism. The main bridge element is angularly cut into two pieces, so that any movement along the strings changes height. This is tricky to describe, but KSM has a video with a clever mockup to illustrate this two-piece “ramp-and-saddle” system. One aspect of the ramp slider mechanism is that any change in height also changes intonation. No problem, as long as you finish height adjustment first and then proceed with intonation and avoid quickly readjusting string height onstage. The Foundation bridge also has an elongated string contact zone that will help to enhance vibrational transfer even more.
And finally, there is one bridge that only partially fits into our discussion—the Transmission Bridge by ETS. The real kicker here is how you set the intonation. Each bridge part has its own gearing mechanism, which moves it back and forth in full contact with the base plate. That said, each saddle has those two small screws for height adjustment.
Okay, everybody wants to know what’s best, right? Although I’m not a fan of the “let that vibration travel anywhere” theory, the answer depends on too many other parameters to declare what will work best for you. A stiff construction certainly helps you achieve a focused and strong tone. Also, not losing any of the vibrations within the bridge will yield a richer tone, but we can only speculate whether this provides the character you’re looking for and how the sound will blend with the rest of your hardware.Read more at Premier Guitar
"I thought the difference would be subtle compared to a stock "classic" bridge. I was wrong! Instantly noticeable, notes have more clarity and far better sustain. This combined with locking in my intonation and action, I'm sold on KSM!"
- Scot Alexander, Dishwalla
The Santa Barbara, CA, band Dishwalla made a big splash in 1996 with their catchy pop single "Counting Blue Cars." With the gritty heart and soul of those who came before them, Dishwalla's hard rock sound was enough for fans to make "Counting Blue Cars" one of the most-requested songs of that year. The song also garnered the band a Billboard award for Rock Song of the Year and allowed their debut album, Pet Your Friends, to sell more than a million copies.
Facebook Page: Dishwalla
Kevin S. Moore from KSM Guitars explains the journey of a bass guitar that was shipped to Florida. The harsh environment corroded all the bass components, but The KSM Foundation™ Bass Bridge looked new, like the day it was installed.
KSM’s Foundation Bass Bridge KSM Foundation Bass Bridge is the latest in a small group of bridge designs meant to improve electric bass – an instrument still young enough to benefit. KSM even has a couple of patents, meaning it really brings something new to the table. Working with two new Fender Precision basses, we tested the KSM in near-ideal conditions for an A/B comparison. The instruments were identical except for the bridge – stock (barrel type) on one, KSM Foundation on the other. New strings, well-set intonation, and good setup rounded out the “test bed.” The Foundation Bass Bridge is designed for retrofit or “new construction”; installation on an existing instrument is best left to pros, but you can watch a couple of videos online that make the switch look easy. It has holes in the base for through-body stringing, and is available in four- and five-string models, in one color – black. Even if installation requires drilling new mounting holes, if you decide to put the original bridge back on, they will be covered, so you won’t be messing with your bass’ appearance. Doing a visual inspection, there are obvious standout characteristics on the KSM. Most bridges have tensioning springs wrapped around long screws used for setting string length. Because the saddles are not going forward or backward unless you release them, there’s no need for springs. Also absent is a gap between the saddle and the bridge plate. In stark contrast to many bridges that have screws through each saddle to set its height and serve as tiny contact points, this one is a snug fit. Greater contact area means more energy transfer. The third thing you notice is that the saddles are beefy, yet machined with nice, smooth edges, and far removed from the barrel-type saddle used for over half a century. Finally, the saddles are so close together they couldn’t move more than a few thousandths of an inch left to right. This is a key point: if a saddle can move off its intended axis, it messes with the intonation. It’ll never happen here. Every part of the Foundation Bass Bridge locks down tight with hex screws, allowing it to transfer a great deal of energy through its high-grade aluminum. When you adjust this bridge, you set the string height, tweak the intonation, then lock everything down. Unless you’re always changing string gauges, you may never have reason to loosen anything and re-tighten. Plugged into a recording setup and with its signal passed straight through to the speakers (no added EQ or compression), we listened to the basses using a couple of amps. Switching between the two basses, we could tell an immediate sonic difference, and to our ears, it wasn’t subtle. The Foundation-equipped P-Bass delivered a bit more thump in the bottom, but it also provided dramatically greater upper-midrange and high-end definition. We’re not talking “shrill” or “brittle” here, though. It’s a sharper focus. This was most apparent when slapping or playing with a pick – even fingerstyle, there’s more of the airy richness and clarity you hear in the lower strings of a good piano. If you need a darker tone with less top, you can always roll back a bit of treble. We were pleasantly surprised the KSM Foundation Bass Bridge does so much, and without mucking up the way the bass looks or feels. If you’re considering a modification, this might be an excellent way to take your tone and sustain up a notch without depleting your wallet. – Tom Mulhern
"Sustain is not always a good thing, sometimes it sounds brittle and harsh. Because of the Foundation Bridge, the sustain gives the Model 358 Guitar great tone acoustically. Which in itself is really important to have. The energy transfer from the unique bridge system is definitely vital because of how this guitar is able to sustain so well. The KSM Model 358 Guitar has smooth, full, and incredibly long sustain."
- Lynn Wheelwright, Vintage Guitar Magazine, Writer
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
Award-winning multidisciplinary artist, Kobè Aquaa-Harrison, the man who coined "jungle booty" and created "funky African hip-hop jazz” giving us a great perspective on the quality of musical gear and the player's tone.
"KSM Guitars sent me their new aircraft-aluminum bridge to check-out. I don't like aluminum frying pans, why would i like this? Steel is real. Compared to stock & Badass bridges on my Peavey Millennium BXP4 and my Squier Vintage Mod. Jazz fretless - the diff was NOT subtle."
VINTAGE GUITAR | MAY 2009
A Better Mousetrap
After repairing guitars for years, KSM Guitars founder Kevin Moore became increasingly dissatisfied with what he describes as "the weak links” in many guitars; no one axe had the best of everything. So he decided to do something about it; the end result is the KSM 358. Made of mahogany with a figured maple cap, the 358 has a C-shaped neck with a 14" radius neck, 22 polished medium frets and a 24 3/4"-scale rosewood fingerboard. The modified-hourglass headstock hosts Grover tuners and a cool brass bell plate engraved with the company`s logo lying in a bed of ivy. It ships with a Seymour Duncan SH-S humbucker in the bridge and an SM-3N mini-humbucker in the neck with individual Volume and Tone controls. The guitar’s pickup selector is located just behind the bridge, inline with the B string.
Though the 358`s double cutaway body is fairly conventional, its deep carves are striking. Moore offers several striking finish colors in polyurethane high-gloss. Inside the KSM's control compartment, we found individually routed component cavities giving each pot and switch the ultimate in shielding. Such features may be conventional boutique-guitar fare, but dig a little deeper and you’lI find the KSM is a much more complex instrument...
Arguably, the most unique feature of the 358 is the six-degree pitch-back of its neck. Most obvious when viewed in profile, it allows for the guitar to have its deep body carves and provides for its neck-through-top feature - the neck extends through the body and out the top of the guitar at the bridge, which actually screws into the neck. This, Moore says, increases sustain.
Another unique feature is Moore’s own Foundation bridge. Made up of separate pieces of aircraft aluminum clamped together to mimic a solid mass, its design eliminates the space between where the string seats in the saddle and the top of the guitar. The machining is tremendously precise, at first glance, the bridge does appear to be a solid piece. But in fact it`s made up of a saddle and a ramp for each string, with a base plate and two clamping plates one to lock the saddles from front to back and one to prevent movement once intonation and string height have been set. The saddle’s semi-circular shape allows for nearly an inch of string contact, providing even more sustain. And sustain it does! Acoustically, this is a very Iively guitar, almost as loud as an archtop, but with less midrange its notes are well-rounded and distinct, chords rich and full.
Plugged into a 6L6-based 60-watt amp, the 358’s humbucker does a very good job of relaying the guitar’s rich tones. Highs are distinct without being brittle, while lows are warm and thick. With the neck-position mini-humbucker engaged, the guitar cleans up nicely and would be welcomed on any jazz stage. Through an 18-watt/EL84 amp, the 358 is a very expressive guitar and responds exceptionally to a player`s nuances. Pick dynamics come through beautifully. The slender (1 5/8" at the nut) neck is fast and comfortable and, if you don’t look, the bridge feels very much like a conventional bridge under palm, so muting is no problem. Controls are in comfortable positions, with the bridge pickup`s closest to the bridge (and close enough to grab with your pinky for volume swells). While this certainly isn't your daddy’s guitar, its innovations don’t interfere with its playability. Nor do they make the guitar look weird or “out there.” Indeed, one must take a very close look at the guitar to fully notice (and appreciate) the pitched-back neck or Foundation bridge. Overall, the 358 is well-constructed, and delivers unconventional features in a package that’s a dream to play and a pleasure to look at.
- Julian Bartell
"I can not praise this company and staff enough. I live in Alaska and hate ordering online and shipping is a nightmare. KSM guitars blew me away with making everything so simple and easy. Very friendly and will have all my future business. Love you guys!!"
- Luke Kulish
"Just installed it on my Fender jazz bass I love it looks Bad Ass !!!!"
- Ray K K Formoso
"An amazing and reliable product! I've bought several for multiple instruments. Great customer service, too!"
- Johnny Albery Abel
"Fast shipping...awesome bridge...best I've ever used period."
"Great tone, have one on my EUB, killer. Fast ship, thanks Kevin!"
"Fast and exact! What a treasure!"
"Great company with a great product! Will do more business with in the future..."
"The best bass bridge money can buy!"
"Simply the best bass bridge ever!"
"As this is the third KSM bridge that I've ordered, it arrived just as quickly!"
"Great communication, lightning fast delivery, thanks Kevin, killer bridge!"
"Solid bridge, monster tone!"
"Beautiful bridge! Easy to install/adjust. Zero problems. Very happy. A+"
"5 Stars in all categories..Product, Communication,Shipping = Excellent!!!"
"Great product , looking forward to doing business with again"
"AMAZING customer service! Very Helpful, fast shipping, quick response! A+company"
"Excellent product !!!! Thumbs Up"
"Thank You For Your Purchase, prompt payment, valued customer, highly recommended"
"Amazing product! Exactly what my bass needed!"
"Awesome quality, fast ship, great product."
"Added this bridge with the WSB neck system to my aluminum necked Pbass-sustain!"