Review: AST Titanium Bridge Pins

AST Titanium Bridge Pins


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Titanium pins were released a few months ago by Kevin Ryan through Advanced Shell Technology. The feedback has been very positive and Kevin very kindly sent over a few sets for the guitarbench team to review.

Firstly, here’s what Kevin has to say about the pins:

“We have a two-tone plasma coating on the head that approximates a black chrome finish, a recess that further reduces weight (and also accommodates a 4mm shell dot inlay if desired) and a low-profile head that is very pleasing to the eye. Now that we have been sending them all over the world, we are getting wonderful reviews from folks as they find even more nuances in the pleasant tonal change with these titanium pins. Several folks are also finding a lovely shimmer on the top end of the notes as well. (I am told that one of the characteristics of this amazing material is its incredible sound transmission property).”

These bridge pins are actually made by Tisonix to Kevin’s proprietary design and specifications. They are available in a single size with 5 degree taper with several aesthetic options: plain recess | Paua | Blue Paua | Green Sea Snail | Mother of Pearl | Black Tahitian Pearl and Gold Pearl.

The samples

We received a few sets of titanium pins with various inlays- paua, black pearl and fossil ivory as well as a set of ebony and of fossil ivory pins for comparison (pictured above-from left to right: Mammoth, Ebony, Titanium) . All came in a great protective plastic casing with foam padding. No complaints there- the box is light, strong and the pins are well protected.

The looks

As you can see from the photo below, the matt chrome finish makes for a very appealing aesthetic. In fact because the pins are machined precisely, the overall look is of a sophisticated modern elegance. The low profile heads also enhance this. Our favourite inlay materials are the Black Pearl and Fossil Ivory (both pictured below).

The sound

These pins were trial-ed as replacement pins for ebony, Fossil Ivory, Fossil Walrus and Ivoroid. Guitars tested included Goodall Royal Hawaiian (all Koa), Dudendostel D-21 style (Adirondack/Brazilian), Greven Travel guitar (Adirondack/Maple), Greven OOO28 (Adirondack/Pao Escrito), Greven D18 styles (Adirondack/Mahogany and Stika/Mahogany), Lowden F35 (LS Redwood/Black Walnut), Wren concert (German/Cocobolo), Brondel B3 (all Port Orford Cedar).

Across all the styles of guitars and all the woods, I noticed a consistent change in the tone. This was subtle but noticeable. The tendency was to even the balance of string volume and enhance the sustain. The overtones and trebles became more crystalline, more precise. It was an appealing change on the Rosewood guitars as well as on the Lowden. The Brondel is really a Jazzy, midrange box which gained more focus and allowed more folk focussed playing.  Overall, a worthy tool for me, but more on that later on.

The benefits

Having modified guitars to achieve tonal goals, I truly appreciate the sonic option these pins afford me. Previously to increase sustain, one of the options was to use brass pins which are very heavy. This resulted in a loss of sparkle and clarity and a midrange heavy instrument. With titanium pins, the sustain is there, but without the weight and hence dampening of the upper registers. Plus, the elegant aesthetic tends to fit in with modern guitars, which is always a big plus!

Sonic advantages aside, I really appreciate the toughness of the pins. Unlike plastic or softer Mammoth ivory, ball ends of strings do not chew into the shaft of the pin. With the softer materials, I’ve seen the ball end eat into the tapered end of the pin and work it’s way up into the slot, or even worse, into the bridgeplate.

Usually this is easy to avoid with careful attention when restringing, but softer pin materials will always pose a risk. With the titanium pins though, I don’t have to worry and whilst I still pay attention when I restring to ensure the ball end sits appropriately, I know that the pin isn’t going to be gouged out.

The Verdict

These pins are the perfect solution if you are looking for tonal modification or find your old pins being chewed up by ball ends. The aesthetics of the pins are truly excellent and wouldn’t look out of place on a modern fingerstyle guitar or on a vintage instrument- the plasma coating on the low profile head resembles ebony until the observer is close enough to appreciate the texture of the materials.


 

Guitar Database

Pictures By Kevin Ryan & T Tan
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