Do compensated saddles really work? I'm glad you asked.
The quick answer is yes, they will improve your intonation. Period.
Now for the long nerdy overly detailed explanation concerning why you need them:
You need compensated saddles because vintage style 3 barrel saddles can’t give you proper intonation. Proper intonation means every note on every string up and down the fret board is in tune (or close enough that you can’t hear the difference).
Many factors contribute to a guitars intonation. For example; the quality of the nut slots, the placement and roundness of the frets, the grip of the player, the age of the strings, the height of the strings off the fretboard (action), and my main topic today, bridge/saddle compensation.
View the bridge on almost any guitar; the saddles aren’t arranged in a straight line perpendicular to the strings. Instead they’re slanted with the Low E saddle furthest from the fretboard, and the high E saddle closest. The position of the saddle determines the vibrating length (from nut to saddle) of each string. This length is critical, and it’s different for every string, here’s why:
A longer string creates a lower note than a shorter string of the same thickness and tightness. With your guitar in tune you can pluck your open 6th string and it will make an E. Then if you pluck it again but hold the string down at the 8th fret it will make a C. It makes a higher note because you shortened the vibrating length of the string the correct amount to produce that C.
But what if the saddle is moved back 1/2 an inch? You’ve now increased the vibrating length and 8th fret won’t give you a C anymore. Because it’s the vibrating length (fret to saddle) of the string, not the fret itself, that produces the note.
Now, when your string lengths are only slightly off your notes might sound just fine in the first or second position, but as you play further up the neck your notes (and especially your chords) will start to sound off.
Setting intonation means making sure the total vibrating length (nut to saddle) of each string is correct so all of your frets can shorten the string by the right amount, and produce notes that are in tune.
So what about a vintage style telecaster?
Once you understand everything I’ve explained above, take a look at a vintage style telecaster bridge. Instead of 6 individual saddles, or a slanted 1 piece saddle like an acoustic, it has 3 straight cylinder shaped “barrel” saddles with 2 strings on each barrel, the EA, DG, and BE.
See the problem here? Each string needs its own specific length, but on these 3 barrel saddles the two strings on each saddle will always be exactly the same length. So if you adjust the first saddle so it’s just right for the E string, the A string will be off, and if you fix the A string the E will be off.
At best, with a vintage style 3 saddle bridge you can sort of compromise with each saddle and go for a somewhat in between position, so both strings are slightly out of tune...
No thank you.
This is where compensated saddles come in. They have the same look and feel of traditional vintage saddles, but the contact points are shifted to compensate for the intonation problem.
For your EA saddle the E contact point is shifted back slightly, and the A contact point is shifted slightly forward. Same for the BE saddle. The DG is reversed due to the shift from the wound D to the unwound G.
With compensated saddles and a good setup you can achieve “perfect” intonation (by perfect I mean close enough that your ears wont hear the problem anymore) and still have a guitar that looks, sounds, and feels like a vintage telecaster.
Whether you buy from me, or any of the other great hardware manufacturers, realize that until you get compensated saddles you’re missing out on how good your guitar can sound.
Wow did you read this entire thing?!? Thanks for your time, have a nice day