What Is the Best Acoustic Guitar Saddle Material?
Wondering what the best acoustic guitar saddle material is? No universal ‘best’ guitar saddle material exists as different guitars will have different tonal qualities that you might wish to highlight. You may find that you like one saddle material on one guitar, but another material on a different guitar. Let’s review the common saddle types and their pros and cons.
Inexpensive Plastic Saddles
Although there is no universal best, there is a universal worst. Inexpensive plastic saddles will often appear on guitars under $300. These saddles produce less volume and clarity. Furthermore, they will not last long, and can easily form string grooves on the saddle, which produce a lower action height. If you have an inexpensive plastic saddle, you will most likely notice a tonal improvement by replacing it with a saddle made of any of the materials discussed later in this article.
On a side note, inexpensive plastic saddles oftentimes will not match the guitar’s fretboard radius. This can produce buzzing and/or playability problems. Check with your guitar manufacturer for your model’s fretboard radius. Another option is to print radius gauges and then check for a match between your saddle and fretboard. If your saddle and fretboard radius do not match, please contact us and we can suggest a saddle with a matching radius.
Billed as a synthetic bone substitute, Micarta is nevertheless softer than bone, and this can result in string grooves. A key benefit of Micarta is that it provides consistent density, which works well with undersaddle pickups. You will find those who consider Micarta to emphasize the upper register or produce a compressed sound.
Produced by GraphTech, Tusq is a proprietary organic material, although it does not contain any oil or animal by-products. Tusq saddles deliver a bright tone, and as a consistent material, works well with undersaddle pickups. You will find a number of opinions online stating that Tusq produces a superior material to bone. For more information on the difference between Tusq and bone saddles, please see our article, Is a Tusq Saddle Better than Bone?
Also produced by Graphtech, Nubone is a derivative of Tusq. Graphtech states that Tusq is a “slightly harder” material and produces a “slightly brighter” tone, although some people may not hear the difference. Please see this link for a video demonstrating the two materials.
Bone produces a warm, rich tone that many people seek with acoustic guitars, particularly with Martin guitars. Most higher-end guitars come with bone saddles, which leads many to believe that bone is necessarily the best saddle material. However, just as with guitar tonewoods, you may find that you prefer the tone of another saddle material. Bone also can be inconsistent, which can cause problems with undersaddle pickups, but with higher quality saddles, this is much less likely. For more information on bone saddles, please see the following article: What Are Bone Saddles?