String gauges and balanced tension sets

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rsdio
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String gauges and balanced tension sets

Post by rsdio »

Is it reasonable to expect Steinberger TransTrem performance from a Parker Fly Vibrato with D'Addario Balanced Tension strings?

I installed the official D'Addario .009 > .042 string set on my Deluxe, and then a set of balanced tension .009 strings on my Supreme. Both guitars suffer from chords that go out of tune when the vibrato is used. I expected a much bigger difference between the standard set and the balanced tension set, but I can't seem to tell a difference. Is there maybe a trick to this?

Brian
Fly Deluxe '97, Fly Supreme '98
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vjmanzo
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Re: String gauges and balanced tension sets

Post by vjmanzo »

Hi @rsdio; I moved this thread to the Fly "Tech Talk" section as we might get better insights from others here than in the General Info section.

Ned Steinberger has worked with our lab on a few projects related to his current work and we discussed the Trans Trem at length. You may know this, but the Trans Trem is a very unique vibrato system in many regards, most notably, that it allows for pitch changes of strings at different rates; that's the real novelty here. In that regard, it's a very different animal than the Fly vibrato, which is also quite excellent, but different.

The Trans Trem also has the ability to notch and lock the bridge at different positions and, in effect, makes the entire guitar transposable; holy moly! This primarily works because of the Trans Trem's ability to change pitch change at different rates for each string. The Fly vibrato has no features like this at all. Of note: when the Trans Trem is transposed up or down, the tension isn't really compensated, so the feel is not the same.

The locking nut on Steinberger guitars (and Floyd Rose-equipped guitars) plays an important role in tension and feel. Flys are fundamentally different in this regard and, in my opinion, feel better because of 1) the inline position of the tuners on the headstock and 2) the locking tuners by Sperzel. According to Ken (and others), although it doesn't impact the tone at all, having "after length" behind the nut (the string length between the nut and the tuner pegs) will make the guitar feel more "stretchy". The thought here is that, to put it simply: if you put a locking nut on a Fly, for example, that act alone will make your Fly not feel the same. The tension doesn't change; the tone doesn't change, but the feel absolutely will change.

Having said all of that, if you can get the balancing act of the Fly vibrato set up properly, you can bend up and down all day long without any issues returning to pitch and zero. The Fly spring is matched to specific string gauges and, thus tensions, so as long as you don't deviate from what's specified in the manuals, you won't need a different spring.

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Re: String gauges and balanced tension sets

Post by mmmguitar »

Just to add to that: If what’s being asked is if a “balanced tension” string set could lend itself to bending fretted chords up and down in harmony (as one would with a TransTrem):

The short answer is, unfortunately, no. If I may be forgiven for piggybacking on VJ’s explanation: The Fly trem was never intended to do much more more than smoothly pivot on bearings, from a pivot-point more-or-less under the saddles; so that 1. downward pressure on the saddles and piezo elements can be maintained, and 2. there was ample pull-up range that would not pull the strings down into the fretboard the way a front-pivoting trem (such as a Floyd Rose) does.

The math of how string elasticity and tension-dictated resistance (as in, the tension dictated by gauge, scale length, and pitch) relate is messy. Regardless of what small deviations from typical string gauges one uses to affect tension at standard tuning, the elasticity (as well as the tension at which the string core breaks at that particular scale-length) remain effectively the same: The G is going to detune with the widest range of pitch, the high E is going to detune the least, and any gauge string will probably make it to a G# or A above the high e before the core breaks under the tension.

The TransTrem system compensates for these differences in elasticity by (in the most optimal of conditions) controlling variables of the string length beyond the anchor points that dictate the scale length (via the adjustable jaws at the pivot point beyond the saddles, and specific lengths of TransTrem-“calibrated” double-ball strings produced by Daddario and Bela). This very specific approach to controlling the relative elasticity between strings of differing tension as a means of dictating an effective “rate-of-change” when using the trem is so far beyond the ambitions of every other trem on the market that it’s unfair to even hope for similar functionality from other trems. I’d go so far as to claim that the TransTrem has dictated the resale market prices of Steinberger guitars more than any other factor (including the recent 80s-revival).

Additionally, the manufacturing tolerances are so tight that, despite the patent having expired, no one is manufacturing either reproduction TransTrem hardware or new hardware intending to compete anywhere near that level of mechanical sophistication. Last I heard, Korean Steinberger-catering brand JCustom didn’t have faith they could get a mass-produced TT-derivative working as well as their prototypes. The Floyd Rose Speedloader hardware and strings were nowhere near as ambitious in intended function, but failed spectacularly due to production logistics plaguing both.

All this is why I own a TransTrem-equipped Steinberger in addition to the Vigier, Strandberg, Parker, and Floyd Rose trem-equipped guitars I have: It does things they cannot.
Summary of the current Parker Guitars market: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greater_fool_theory
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vjmanzo
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Re: String gauges and balanced tension sets

Post by vjmanzo »

This is great info, @mmmguitar; thanks for sharing all of that. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve spoken with Ned Steinberger about the Trans Trem and he asked the very question you’ve articulated here: “the patent for the Trans Trem has expired, why hasn’t anyone run with it?”

I’ve wondered it myself, and, just daydreaming, have thought about exploring the idea of integrating a TT into a Fly design. I’m not much of a vibrato-player myself, but it’s an interesting area to explore. I’m sensing your enthusiasm for the TT, so I’m wondering if you (and others?) would see that as an improvement to the Fly—it would almost certainly add some weight. You make an interesting point about the allure of Steinberger guitars being connected to the Trans Trem. A short while back, I was looking at buying a Steinberger just to better educate myself about the Trans Trem.
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