Have been in the business of making superb instrument hardware for almost thirty years, the Hipshot name is synonymous with refinement, high quality and experience. Most importantly Hipshot maintain friendly two-way customer contact which - being fed back into the products - ultimately makes the products the result of players, luthiers and of course the expertise of guys at Hipshot. Products are manufactured and personally inspected at each and every process rather than dropping off the conveyor into the box. Aside from certain specialised processes such as gold plating, every process from the cutting of bar stock to final shipping is carried out in-house at Interlaken, NY. One of the more recent products in their line-up is this classy bass bridge system which co-mingles comprehensive adjustability, distinctive looks and solidity.
The D style bridge is a two-part system consisting of a solid lockable bridge and tailpiece. The system is available with a range of common string spacing options, high quality finishes and in both four-string and five-string versions. Additionally the bridge itself can be bought as a standalone unit sans tailpiece for instruments using only string-through-body or alternative methods of string retention. Packaged, the system comes complete with all adjustment tools, threaded body inserts, mounting posts, through-body stringing ferrules (front and rear), nylon washers and alternative-length saddle intonation screws.
All components (other than screws and springs of course) are machined from solid brass resulting in a feeling of substance straight out of the box. The noticeably weighty bridge sits on two height-adjustable posts which in turn are mounted to the body via two threaded inserts pressed into the body. Subsequent to basic height adjustment the body is then locked tight to the mounting posts via two hex nuts. Nylon washers ensure that these nuts remain secure. The tailpiece simply screws tight to the body using the finish-matched screws supplied.
The design uses the familiar individual saddles found in other Hipshot bass bridges. Each saddle is adjustable in three dimensions; intonation, height and spacing. Intonation range is more than ample at a hair under 12mm/0.5" and is set from the rear of the bridge using a simple Philips head screwdriver. Unlike many other bridges the intonation screw is offset from the centre of the saddle, resulting in adjustment that doesn't require finagling around obstructions such as the string you are attempting to compensate! Two set screws either side of the string allow the saddles to be adjusted from flat up to a radii tighter than those found on vintage Fenders. Located towards the rear of each saddle is a third set screw for locking/unlocking the string witness point barrel. Unlocking this allows relocation of the barrel by pushing the string from either side giving additional control over string geometry should the player prefer equal string spacing centre-to-centre or string-to-string.
It is more than likely that the initial intention for the D style bridge was specifically for custom instruments. It is however not unrealistic to expect it could be retrofitted onto existing instruments with a little modification work requiring nothing more than a ruler, hand drill and screwdriver. Given the comprehensive adjustment and setup range available, the system would happily work as a retrofit part upgrading the hardware on many standard basses. The unique appearance of this bridge sets it apart from the vast majority of bridges available to the custom builder/modder with the closest equivalent being the perhaps less elegant Warwick bridge, which of course screams "Warwick" and requires very specific surgery to install.
The instrument onto which this bridge was installed was a long-scale Mahogany and Wenge set-neck 5-string bass with the pickups styled after the classic Music Man Stingray. In use the bridge is physically unobtrusive for what is undeniably a substantial item. I rarely play close to the bridge on my basses for pick or finger styles; I either anchor on a pickup, palm a little further forward than the bridge itself or thump/pluck/strum anchored closer to the neck. Forcing myself to palm ON the bridge whilst picking didn't reveal anything sharp, pointy or catchy. The only discomfort came from the weirdness that playing over the bridge gave me!
Played acoustically with relatively old strings (to remove traces of "new string joy") the bass feels alive and open. I felt none of the "disconnect" normally found on instruments loaded with cheap/badly coupled hardware, bad neck joints or other weak links in the chain. On that basis the bridge definitely ticks the box as far as being "a solidly anchored resonant bridge" is concerned. Amplified and run open (pickup temporarily wired straight to a vol pot and parallel/series switch), the bass possesses a great deal of characterful growl when I dig in with fingers Burton style or hammer away a la Larry Graham. Mighty tone for such a basic circuit! The contribution that the bridge adds to this mix is difficult to quantify without a basis for comparison. Unplugged it definitely aligns with how the Aria Pro II SB-1000 feels, itself with its own high mass brass bridge. Notes "fill" the instrument if that makes sense? I am highly tempted to follow suit with the Aria on this bass and fit a brass nut....
Top shelf hardware naturally goes hand-in-hand with higher price tags, hence results always need to justify the expenditure. Bargain basement hardware is always a false economy for anybody wanting to imbue their bass with solid characterful tone. The bridge will more than satisfy the needs of the casual builder, repair/setup guy, pro luthier and player alike. The ease dialling in the perfect setup is akin to shooting a shotgun at a barn door and I managed my own within five minutes including a coffee break! This ease allows simple incorporation into instruments with all kinds of geometry whether one prefers a stepped body, high bridge, a larger neck angle for digging in or the flatter feel close to the body.
The Hipshot D bridge system certainly satisfies my personal fondness for resonant brass hardware "in the chain"; this was again borne out after the first test string-up of the bass this bridge was fitted on; live and loud throughout the body (and my own body though my hip!) even before it got anywhere near being plugged in. That to me makes the mark of a mighty bass sound before any electronics even hit the instrument.
Overall, the Hipshot D style bass bridge is an excellent option for a bass design with a head-turning unique look and flexibility to match. The units are available from numerous resellers worldwide or direct from Hipshot Products' website.