For as long as I've been building guitars and basses, the classic Hipshot hardtail bridge has been the mainstay for builders needing a friendly, easy-to-implement 6, 7 or 8 (and now 9!) string hardtail bridge. This classic hardtail became synonymous with single-scale extended range instruments, gracing guitars by both amateur and boutique custom-builders alike. You could even suggest that it played a pioneer role in driving the development of these instruments and it's still just as popular over ten years later, regularly appearing on member builds here on ProjectGuitar.com. Hipshot have released a new alternative to the classic hardtail, adding a compelling new tool to a builder's armoury!
The Hipshot Ibby HM is a part-for-part retrofit for the Ibanez Gibraltar Standard I and II, with a range covering the 6, 7 and 8 string versions in chrome, black and gold finishes. As is the norm for Hipshot, the bridge's baseplate is milled from a block of solid billet stock; in this instance brass. All one has to do is unscrew the existing bridge and drop in the new part with zero modification required.
High mass components are part of a tone chaser's armoury of tricks in perfecting the sound of their instrument. Whilst some advocate lightweight or other specific materials for dialling in or restraining certain aspects, the visceral sonority that brass add to a guitar or bass's timbre is the strongest draw for most. In its intended form of being a retrofit for Ibanez Gibraltar bridges (cast zinc alloy?) the use of a heavy brass baseplate unlocks aspects to an instrument's tone that simple die-cast materials don't. Fine as many Ibanez instruments can be off the shelf, basic upgrades such as this only make them finer.
However....if you're reading this then the chances are you're not interested in this unit as a retrofit item, and want to know how it fares as the basis for a custom instrument. For the most part, the same things apply. Brass is a fantastic material for a bridge, and a great choice to spec in from the outset.
Fundamentally, the bridge is a simple string-through-body unit fitted individual steel saddles. The baseplate is patterned to match the string-through holes of the Gibraltar bridges it is intended to replace, with six in-line holes and additional staggered holes at either side. These staggered holes allow the saddles for lower strings to intonate further rearwards (lower strings) without creating a sharp break angle over the witness point. Staggered holes feature on both sides of the baseplate, allowing it to be used in both a left and right-handed context. As with any string through body setup, the instrument will require a set of ferrules or a string retainer block to be fitted at the rear of the instrument. For instruments that refuse to co-operate when intonating, Hipshot also include additional adjustment screws of differing lengths to ensure you can dial it in just so.
ProTip: Use the bridge itself to mark out ferrule locations on the rear of the body....just remember to get the staggered holes on the correct side!
The saddle height adjustment range is broadly similar to the classic hardtail, with a minimum saddle adjustment of 0.33" (8,4mm) from the face of the instrument through to 0.5" (12,7mm) max. This falls almost exactly in between the ranges of the 0.125" and 0.175" base hardtails. Intonation is readily-accessible from the rear via six screws. String spacing is an even 10,7mm (0,423") centre-to-centre for 6, 7 and 8-string models. This slightly wider spacing may require the use of an F-spaced pickup (DiMarzio term) or trembucker (Seymour Duncan) pole spacing. In general it is right on the margin, so either pole spacing should work fine. This is slightly wider than the classic Hipshot hardtail bridge (10,5mm/0,416"), which I presume is down to the spacing on the Gibraltars.
The bridge mounts to the body using two finish-matched screws (supplied). For additional bridge-to-body coupling (a tone-chaser's favourite) these could easily be swapped out for a pair of machine bolts (M4 or 5/32") with threaded inserts sunk into the body, or even through to a custom-made string retention block at the rear of the instrument.
The fit and finish is what we have come to expect from Hipshot; the "show" faces are carefully milled and mirror-smooth with little in the way of machining marks or tool artifacts visible in the unseen areas. All hard edges are broken nicely resulting in a comfortable-feeling unit against your hand. Additionally, the string through holes in the baseplate have a softened lead-in to eliminate string breakage. The plating is consistent and clear, with those nicely-broken edges ensuring durability. Overall the unit is smooth and unobtrusive. The 6-string chrome version reviewed clocks in at a whopping 195g/6,9oz; around a third heavier than some zinc alloys! My only gripe is that the outermost saddle adjustment screw's clearance clips into the otherwise smooth internal curve out of necessity to the design. Certainly no issue beyond a minor point of aesthetics.
It's maybe true that you can have too much of a good thing. The classic Hipshot hardtail bridge is still as relevant as ever, but ubiquity often makes it difficult to find something that looks different to everything else. Outside of its intended retrofit purpose, the Ibby HM delivers just that; a familiar drop-in format with a fresh alternative look on top of the consistent standards expected of Hipshot.
The Hipshot Ibby HM bridge range is available directly from Hipshot (hipshotproducts.com) and via distributors worldwide.
Watch our for the bridge appearing in one of our Season One YouTube build videos!
Hipshot Ibby HM hardtail bridge by Carl Maltby is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
You are free to:
- Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format
- Adapt — remix, transform, and build upon the material
Under the following terms:
Attribution —You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
NonCommercial — You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.
- No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.