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Squier Affinity Tele Upgrades


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Hey.

I purchased an Affinity Tele last year. It was $200 new, seemed like a good deal.

I have a couple of "issues" though, and was wondering what would be some good upgrades.

I find the guitar a little "flat" sounding. Not in the tuning sense, but in tone.

There's basically no sustain, and there's a terrible buzz when any overdrive is applied. I've owned Teles in the past that had practically no buzz.

I know that Teles aren't exactly built for overdrive or distortion. I mostly wanted it for its clean tones anyway, but I wouldn't mind adding a bit of dirt every now and again without that terrible buzz.

I've done some searching, and the most common upgrades seem to be the nut and bridge/saddles.

The guitar has the 6 saddle configuration currently.

What are my best options?

Here are a few of my questions...

1. What type of nut should I get?

2. Should I stick with the 6 or go to 3 saddle config?

3. What saddle material or brand?

4. Should I replace the pups?

5. The tuners seem fine to me, but should they be replaced?

6. Should I replace the string tree?

7. Are the stock electronics ok (pots and such)?

Sorry if these are bonehead questions, but I dont' know much about guitar modding or building...I'm trying.

Thanks for all your help.

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In my most humble of opinions... :D

1. Bone or if do a crapload of bending, graph-tech works well (keep in mind you may have to trim this down a bit and make it fit correctly)

2. 6 if you're super **** about intonation, 3 otherwise (worked for NUMEROUS musicians)

3.Wilkinson and Fender make decent parts for this, the trick is getting the correct measurements, or being ok with drilling holes in the body to mount the bridge. most of them are steel or brass. I like brass saddles on a tele, but that's just personal preference. Also, make sure you get a top load bridge unless you have a string through. Sounds obvious, but happens frequently.

4. Yes - Check out Guitar Fetish if you're budget conscious, otherwise there are numerous tele replacements out there that will probably provide more of what you're looking for

5. If they're working fine, leave 'em

6. Nope

7. The stock electronics are the cheapest possible mass produced stuff they can get. It's always a good idea to make sure you have quality electronics (like from CTS) in there.

You may also check out tdpri.com for more info about modding Teles in particular

Hope this helps :D

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Installing a string through body bridge in a guitar that is not set up for it is not a job to get your feet wet in modding guitars unless you are an experienced wood worker with access to a drill press.

If you want to go from 6 to 3 saddles, you will have to replace the bridge.

A good setup can do a lot to improve a cheep guitar. Other than adding that I think Kpcrash had it on the nose.

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I have recently done some extensive work on a Affinity Tele. It was pretty much exactly the way you describes it; Flat, dead, without any resonance.

New Wilkinson string trough bridge (WTB model) with steel base with three compensated saddles (better intonation), new custom wound bridge pickup and a new switch. Difference? Well the new bridge made it all into a completely new guitar, even played unplugged. Ringing sustain, deeper tone and generally much more resonance. Was the difference coming from the strings going through the body or from going from six to three saddles? I dunno, but I sure know that changing from a generic string through, six saddle, steel plate Tele bridge to a Wilkinson WTB on another guitar made a quite big difference in sound on that one too, but not as huge as on the Affinity Tele. If you are going to do anything on this guitar at all, change the bridge to a string through! If you don't think you can do that yourself, well don't even think about changing the nut. Especially as changing the nut will not make half the improvement in sound compared to going to a string through bridge. I'm sticking my neck out here, but this is my personal opinions based on a recent very successful upgrade on a customers Affinity Tele. After the finished upgrade, including making a new bridge pickup (even GFS will be a huge step up compared to the crappy, crappy original pickups, drop me a PM and I'll give you a price on a custom made set), we made a side by side shootout between the customers Affinity Tele and his brand new American Standard. The winner? The upgraded Affinity, by far. Great body and still a serious amount of twang. The American standard was just ear piercing ice picking...

If the nut works, leave it. If the tuners work, leave them, If the string tree work, leave it. If the electronics work, leave them alone. None of those upgrades will get you were you want. Change the bridge to a decent grade string through steel bridge with three (compensated or similar) saddles and a good replacement set of pickups. Less complicated than changing the nut and a much better pay back compared to some other of you suggested improvements. Once again, all this is IMHO...

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Just to be clear, I agree that a good string through bridge would be a good way to go. However, the OP said he was new to guitar modding and I suggested caution as this is not an easy job for a beginner. I have huge respect for the work SwedishLuthier does and for his opinions.

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Hey guys.

Thanks for all the suggestions, I'm really grateful.

I'm definitely NOT going through the body...haha. Definitely not until (or if) I get more practice.

This is what I'm gonna try:

Bridge: http://www.guitarfetish.com/Wilkinson-Compensated-Tele-Bridge-Brass-Saddles_p_873.html

Nut: http://www.graphtech.com/product-590-2/

Tuners: http://www.guitarfetish.com/Wilkinson-EZ-LOK-locking-Tuners-6-inline-for-Fender-Headstocks_p_881.html

I have no idea about pups yet. I'm not totally sure if I wanna go for the totally vintage sound, or go a bit hotter. I'm leaning toward vintage, because that's why I got it!

As for electronics, I have no idea. I've been reading up (or at least trying to) and it's confusing to me haha. 250k, 500k, even 25k, it's all confusing to a noob.

I'm also questioning the nut a little bit (insert joke). There's flat and curved bottom...what's the diff?

Again, thanks a bunch for the comments and suggestions.

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Bridge is fine, tuners are fine. Keep in mind even with a pre-slotted, curved (12 degrees probably or 9.5) that you may still need (or have someone) make sure it fits correctly and the strings lie correctly in the slots.

The difference in flat and curved typically refers to the nut either being completely flat (allowing you to create the radius to match your neck) or curved to match an existing common radius measurement (Fender typically uses 9.5" and 12", but it's easy enough to get Erlewine's book which is a good idea anyway, and use the free gauge in the back to measure your radius).

As for the electronics, typically a strat has 250k pots. Feel free to search on here and read to your heart's delight about the difference in 250-500, etc and what it does, doesn't do and voodoo.

The pickups - if you want vintage - keep it vintage. Getting pups that are too hot when wanting a more vintage sound may produce too many highs coming through that you'll be using the tone knob to get rid of perhaps.

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Curved/flat nut refers to the underside of the nut, not the top. Check your nut slot to see if it's straight/flat or curved.

Also, consider that out of 132 open/fretted note possibilities on your guitar, only 6 of those notes are open strings, and thus the other 126 notes don't care tone-wise what your nut is made from because they're vibrating between the fret and the saddle. The bridge and the pickups are a part of Every note, so as SwedishLuthier suggested, that should probably be your first point of attack.

Regarding pot quality and tone: electronically speaking, there should be no change in tone quality from one pot to another, because they're (largely) all made with the same resistive materials and they all function in the same manner. Mechanically speaking, you will notice a big difference between a cheap pot and a good one in terms of feel, durability, and overall lifespan.

Tuners/string trees: tuner mass could have a subtle effect on sustain, in that more mass at the headstock can improve sustain (but there's no guarantee that it would be noticeable). Beyond that, I don't think that either part will affect your tone quality/character in any measurable way.

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I've been reading up on this, and a lot of people say that the big difference between top loading and string through is the tension of the strings and sustain.

The sustain seems to be better on the string through, but the top loader is easier to play.

I bend quite a bit, and like looser, slinkier strings.

I guess it's a double edged sword, and I'm unsure which direction to take this haha. I want both!

I may hold off on the tuners then, if it seems I don't really need them. The stock ones feel fine to me.

From what I've been reading about electronics, the lower the value, the "warmer" it is.

From what I've read, the pots are 500k anyways, so I should be fine there.

As for pups, I'm looking for suggestions.

I want that Tele "twang", and I would like to be able to add some distortion or gain without that God awful "buzz".

Suggestions?

Thanks again guys, really appreciate all the help.

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I've been reading up on this, and a lot of people say that the big difference between top loading and string through is the tension of the strings and sustain.

The sustain seems to be better on the string through, but the top loader is easier to play.

He, he, told you. :D Just to be clear; If changing the bridge is out of your league, don't plan on changing the nut. Changing nuts are quite a bit more crucial to how the guitar will play after the surgery, compare to changing the bridge. I don't mean to be hard on you, but as you have little experience in modding guitars, do you have any idea of the work involved in changing, and adjusting a nut? you cannot just pop the old one out and glue the new one in. Every string slot need to be fine tuned, preferable with specialized nut files (can be done with inexpensive triangular files too...), to the exact right depth. Going to deep will make the guitar unplayable, leaving them to high will make the guitar hard to play and even prune to go out of tune when playing on the first few frets. So back to my original opinion; if changing the bridge to a string trough is to hard, you should really take your time, read up on the technique and theory on changing nuts and carry on with caution. It can be done, but (OK I'm being a nag here...) it is actually harder than making the bridge into a string trough.

A short mini-tutorial on changing that bridge:

-Remove the neck and all other hardware from the body

-Take the new bridge, place it on top of the guitar so that the screw holes align (check so that they seem to be at the same place, if not this shouldn't be aplied...)

-Carefully drill small pilot holes through the e-string holes in the bridge, making sure you don't mare the chrome.

-Extend the pilot holes through the body. Flip the body

-Place masking tape between the two pilot holes, draw a line between them and carefully mark the places for the other four holes

-Using modern protruding ferrules you drill the six holes to the correct diameters using a big drill. This is a bit unorthodox as you usually have a smaller hole going through the body but this is better if you don't have a pillar drill (you won't miss the hole in the bridge if you drill a reasonable straight larger hole).

-To ensure the holes are aligned, drill the two outer holes first, pop in a bit a round steel stock (right name???) in those two outer holes, prop up a piece of flat steel stock against these and use that to help align the rest of the holes. And remember to protect the finish with masking tape or similar.

-Pop the ferrules in the body and if needed use a drop of super glue to hold them in place, screw the bridge in place and you are there.

No special equipment needed, just a bit of patience and cool planning ahead and it can be done with a hand held power drill. However if this seems to much, just use the bridge as a top loader. BTW, that is exactly the same bridge I praised earlier, great choice.

Re pickups; every available pickup that follow the traditional Telecaster design concept (magnetic rods, steel base plate, fiber top and bottom) will (IMHO) get you a better sound than the original pickups. Cheepo GFS? For sure!

However, the OP said he was new to guitar modding and I suggested caution as this is not an easy job for a beginner. I have huge respect for the work SwedishLuthier does and for his opinions.

No problem man, a good discussion that doesn't get out of hand is always nice.

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I've been reading up on this, and a lot of people say that the big difference between top loading and string through is the tension of the strings and sustain.

The sustain seems to be better on the string through, but the top loader is easier to play.

Just consider the physics of the two methods:

The string tension in the top loader is directly attached to the bridge which it is trying to pull out of the guitar. Well most of the force is horizontal but there is a vertical component to the force too.

The string through takes all the tension directly into the body and the strings loop over the bridge saddles. There is very little tension on the bridge horizontally ie in the plane of the strings BUT the vertical (90 degrees to plane of strings) is down into the body thereby pushing the bridge plate tighter against the body.

For the same scale length and string gauge the string tension will be the same. It is the direction of the force vectors which make the difference on the bridge. So I don't see top loading being easier to play, there being very little difference between the overall string length between mounting points.

Keith

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+1 to KeithHowell's comments Re string tension and the bridge. The string tension on the playable part of the string will stay the same. The only difference is how that tension is acting on the bridge itself.

Yes, some people say that the top-loader is easier to play because it may add some string length on the non-active side of the bridge saddle, but how many of them came to that conclusion on their own instead of hearing it from a fellow tele-player? Human perception can be a tricky thing when you've already made up your mind about what you want to hear/see/touch/etc. http://www.liutaiomottola.com/myth/perception.htm

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Ok, so the general consensus here seems to be through body.

Ok, I can try that haha.

One little concern though...

SwedishLuthier says to place the new bridge on the body so the holes line up...

The bridge on there now has 3 screws on the bottom of the bridge, and two at each side on the top.

From my searching, I can't find ANYTHING that has that same config. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places...

Some have 4, one in each corner, some have 4 at the bottom only.

Are there any replacement bridges that would have the same hole config. as my current bridge?

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Ok, so the general consensus here seems to be through body.

Ok, I can try that haha.

One little concern though...

SwedishLuthier says to place the new bridge on the body so the holes line up...

The bridge on there now has 3 screws on the bottom of the bridge, and two at each side on the top.

From my searching, I can't find ANYTHING that has that same config. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places...

Some have 4, one in each corner, some have 4 at the bottom only.

Are there any replacement bridges that would have the same hole config. as my current bridge?

Is it anything like the one here? http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=180585324396&ssPageName=STRK:MEWAX:IT

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Some pics of the existing bridge will help

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OK, you will need to plug the old holes and drill new. Before you do that, lift the old bridge, cover the bridge area with masking tape, screw the bridge in place, draw around the bridge, rough-mark the position of the bridge saddles on the outside of the bridge (still on the tape), remove the bridge, line the new one up aligning it with the pickup route, the outline of the old bridge and the intonation marks from the old bridge. If everything seems to line up you can go ahead with installing the new bridge, whether you decide to use it as a string through or not. Now plug the hoes of the old bridge, all three if the outer once doesn't line up or only the middle one. Best is to drill a clean hole and use a perfectly matching dowel of some hard wood. The easier way is to glue a bunch of toothpicks in there. It works, but it isn't the best method and it shouldn't be used for critical holes that need to be re-drilled at the same location. Trim the plug/toothpicks even with the top of the guitar and you can mark for new mounting holes and possible for the string trough holes

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Well, if that sounds like a huge job, maybe you should stay away from making it a string trough. I'm not saying it to patronize you, but to be very honest with you. However I still maintain my opinion that making it a string trough will unleash its true potential...

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