Fossilized Walrus Ivory Bridge Pins
- reviewed by Todd Stuart Phillips
Bridge pins can be an inexpensive way to alter or improve the tone of an acoustic guitar. When I first heard this I was skeptical. I have since learned it is true and I have experimented with a variety of pins made from different materials. I recently acquired a set of Fossilized Walrus Ivory pins from Maury's Music and I could not be happier. They have improved the sound as much as the looks.
Since I was upgrading my Martin OM-28VR I chose a set of pins with the tortoise dots in the top, similar to those used on the OM-28s from the 1930s. The ivory itself almost looks like marble - creamy white, figured with tiny veins of gray and pale orange and some of the pins have just a blush of tannish hue reaching up around the shoulders of the pin head. Others still have more noticeable swaths of color. The dots are a dark, brick red with some figure in it as well. They add considerable aesthetic charm, authentic detail and along with my new Greven Tor-Tis pick guard, make my vintage reissue look like it cost as much as the genuine article.
Changing to bridge pins of a different material is not going to change the sound of a guitar to the degree that changing saddle or nut will. And it will not make a guitar topped with Sitka spruce sound like one made with Adirondack spruce. What it will do is offer fine tuning to the inherent voice of the guitar that can still make a nice difference. Some pin materials will mellow out the highs or filter out certain frequencies. Others will do the opposite and add sparkle and promote certain frequencies to the forefront of the voice. Finding which pins are right for a particular guitar will include some trial and error and ultimately is a matter of personal preference.
When I put in these FWI pins I found a noticeable increase in volume and a dramatic increase in the sustain following a chord or a hammer-on at the end of some individual notes. When I would play such things and then let the notes resonate for as long as they wanted, it would ring louder but then also remained louder for a longer time span, out over the sustained harmonics and undertone. The details I heard in the original chord or that hanging note and its sympathetic harmonics would not degrade and fall away, but retained their identity even as the sound died off.
I also experienced greater warmth in the lows and enhanced ring in the unwound, treble strings. That ring was like someone increased "umph" dial in the trebles. It was more "sounding ship's bell than "music box chimes". It has presence and distinction in the fundamental notes and that carried over into that delicious, increased sustain. Over all I think Fossilized Walrus Ivory bridge pins just might afford the most bang for the buck when it comes to how noticeable a difference they bring to a good guitar. I bet they would do even more for budget models that can use all the help they can get.
If you are switching out plastic pins for FWI my guess is you will experience a similar effect and reaction. If you are switching out from something like bone pins or vintage pins made from elephant ivory you will notice a slight increase in volume and sustain, a noticeable addition of warmth and color in the mids and lows and fatter trebles that do not have quite as much gossamer purity, but instead arrive with authority and have more presence in general.
I think many people will find FWI pins are quite a value for what they add in elegant aesthetics and tonal enhancement. They are among the most worthwhile upgrades I have made to my acoustic guitar.
Out of a possible 8 Notes on the T Spoon Scale of Guitaracity, I give Fossilized Walrus Ivory Bridge Pins a classic and ringing 7 Notes.
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