Is a Tusq Saddle Better Than Bone?
You may be wondering whether a Tusq saddle is better than a bone saddle. Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer as it depends on the particular guitar and guitarist’s tastes. Generally speaking, though, Tusq will produce an overall brighter tone. Conversely, bone will produce a warmer, richer tone. There are other differences, too, as detailed below.
Tusq saddles are made from a high-quality polymer, formed by high levels of heat and pressure. Every single Tusq saddle will be exactly the same, which provides benefits for guitar manufacturers, particularly those producing a large number of instruments.
Conversely, bone is an organic material and, just like your guitar’s tonewoods, each bone saddle will be subtly different. However with quality bone saddles, that variance will be lessened from piece to piece. Inexpensive bone saddles will see a greater variance from piece to piece because the selection of bone and quality control processes are less demanding.
As mentioned earlier, Tusq produces an overall brighter tone, whereas bone saddles will produce a warmer and richer tone. Which is better? This depends on the specific guitar and individual preferences. In our experience, many Taylor guitar owners like their Taylor models because of the clean, bright tone. A Tusq saddle accentuates that tone. Indeed, on rare occasions we’ve even talked customers out of buying one of our bone saddles and going with Tusq instead because it would provide the tonal properties they’ve described. However, we have found that some Taylor owners want to warm up their guitars a bit, and a bone saddle does this well. On the other hand, with Martin guitars, people almost always prefer bone to Tusq. Bone saddles will emphasize the warmer, richer tone for which Martin Guitars are known.
Tusq saddles and quality bone saddles are roughly the same price, although Tusq tends to be a bit less expensive. Tusq saddles typically cost about $12 to $15 per saddle, whereas quality bone saddles typically cost anywhere from $20 to $30 per saddle.
Note: You might see inexpensive bone saddles on eBay and Amazon for as low as $5. If so, first check the saddle’s dimensions versus what your guitar requires. You may find that the inexpensive saddle has a different top radius from your guitar’s fretboard radius. Another common problem is that those inexpensive saddles have a 3.0 mm thickness whereas your guitar’s bridge slot may be 3.2 mm thick. Also consider how the bone is produced. The saddle may be made with overly porous bone and/or bone processed with harsh chemicals. This will expedite the bone processing time and result in a lower price. However, this also produces weak bone and poor tone. Those inexpensive bone saddles might sound better than your factory plastic saddle will. However, they will not compare to the tone of a quality bone saddle and are unlikely to last long.