Taming the Stringbuzz
Update: A few weeks later, Nate has revised his opinion on the buzz-stop, so here’s the updated version
Hey everyone- bear with me, this is going to be a long post, but I hope it will be worth your while reading it ;)
I wanted to give everyone an update and share my experience in trying to solve my AVRI 62 Jazzmaster buzz problem. Keep in mind this is just my experience and opinion for my particular style of playing, so it might not work for everyone. I play pretty aggressively and mostly play Classic/ Alternative Rock, so I'm not in the Surf vein that many JM owners are.
After getting the guitar shipped from Fender, it arrived with a pretty nasty buzzing issue. I then had it set up by a pro luthier, and had him install a buzzstop, which at the time solved all buzzing issues and gave the guitar more sustain and an overall more "normal guitar" feel, which I liked at the time.
After about a week and a half, the buzz returned. Thanks to the help of people in this forum, I found some temporary solutions for the problem. The buzz was coming from the small individual string height adjustment screws on either side of each string saddle coming loose and rattling. This was simultaneously lowering the action as well. I followed the advice I received here, and used loctite on each of the screws and got them to a good height where there was no buzzing.
Throughout this process, I found that there really was no set position where the screws would stop rattling. I would sometimes have to tighten a screw to eliminate the buzz, but some screws actually required loosening to eliminate it, and this was also adjusting the action of each string in the mean time. This was a tedious and stressful process as I also had to finish all adjustments before the loctite bound to the threads. After finishing the procedure, my guitar played great and buzz free for a couple of days before the buzzing returned. Perhaps it was from my hard style of playing, but either way the loctite did not end up being enough to stop the screws from loosening.
After reading some more responses from this forum, I decided I needed to make some changes and ordered some Mustang style bridge saddles for $25 from Allparts.com. This was half as expensive as buying the whole bridge, and after having installed it, I can vouch that they fit perfectly and the stock bridge piece is identical to the one you would get with the Allparts bridge if you ordered the whole thing (some have said that the allparts saddles are a bit narrower than genuine Fender parts, but I had no problems with the allparts models). The saddles also allow the guitar to play properly because they are both designed for a 7.25" radius.
Changing the saddles was a very easy process- this was my first time doing any sort of work or modification to a guitar, and it went without a hitch. I didn't even have to change the strings (they were still pretty new)- once you loosen the strings almost all the way, you can scoot them to either side of the bridge and pull it right out, making it very easy to work on (capo the 1st fret so you don't have to stick the string tips back in the tuner holes when you retension). So long as you have had your guitar recently set up, or know how to set it up yourself beforehand, there shouldn't be any issues performing this procedure.
After installing the saddles, all I had to do was put the bridge back in and re-tighten the strings. I then had to raise the action a tiny bit using the allen wrench holes on each of the two bridge posts (I had some of the original JM saddles set a bit higher than where the Mustang ones lie), and set the intonation of each string (which was also surprisingly easy), and Voila! No buzz whatsoever and the guitar felt great. I also haven't noticed any difference in tone from only having one saddle over the pickup vs. the multiple saddles to choose from that the stock JM threaded rod ones offer.
After having my guitar set up like this for a month and a half, I decided to try it out without the buzzstop after reading some posts about the difference in sound at the offsetguitars.com forum. I had only tried the mustang saddles with the buzzstop on and wanted to see if I liked the feel of the guitar without it, and whether or not removing it brought back any of the buzz problems I had experienced before.
After removing it, I found several differences in sound and feel, some good, and some bad. The first thing I noticed was the difference in tone. Without the buzzstop, the strings were able to reverberate much more behind the bridge, adding a cool very subtle reverby effect to the sound of the guitar, both unplugged and through an amp (which many people believe contributes to the classic JM sound). The other things I noticed were that the strings were easier to bend and the tremolo system was much smoother.
I had also experienced a rarely occurring buzz with the buzzstop on due to the strings making contact with the intonation screws behind the bridge, which disappeared once I removed it. With just the Mustang saddles on and no buzzstop, I didn't experience any of the intense rattling I had gotten from the original JM saddle's individual height adjustment screws, and almost all buzzing was still tamed. Another plus was that the bridge sat more upright in it's housing after removing the buzzstop (the bridge had been angled forward toward the pickups from the added tension behind caused by the buzzstop). I also was able to set up the trem-lock feature, which was previously inaccessible with the buzzstop over it. This is a great feature if you gig a lot with your JM and tend to break strings regularly.
The changes I didn't like were that the low E string would pop out if I tried hard enough, and sometimes big bends around the 12th fret on the high E string would be choked off immediately by the string sliding a bit out of it's saddle. Not having the buzzstop also created a buzz in the bridge housing, which I later cured by wrapping the bridge posts in a couple layers of gaff tape (electrical tape would also work).
Overall, I think some people playing heavier music will enjoy the feel with the buzzstop, it does give the guitar more sustain and makes it feel more like a normal guitar with a steeper string angle over the bridge. However, I ultimately decided that the benefit of the added reverby sound without the buzzstop, the slinkier feel of the strings and tremolo system, and access to the trem-lock all outweighed the annoyance of the string jumping and choking issues, and decided to keep the buzzstop off. The jumps and chokes occur very rarely, and mostly when you are playing overly hard and aggressive.
If you are looking to eliminate buzz and want to have a more reliable, consistent bridge, the Mustang saddle modification worked great for me. I also tour a lot, and having a low maintenance bridge that doesn't buzz or loosen is going to make my life a lot easier. Whether or not you decide to use a buzz stop is a matter of personal preference, and it may solve some additional buzz problems for really aggressive players. Hopefully my experiences of the differences of the two will help you decide what's best for you, but the best way may be to try both ways out.
Thanks again to everyone here for helping me out and answering my questions–hopefully this in turn can help someone else out!