Most of the better machine heads on the
market these days use a standard .375" headstock hole, so swapping tuners isn’t that hard to
do. The problem comes with the mounting at
the rear of the peghead. Luckily, if you use the
type that screw down from the front side with
a nut and washer, you can swap and test before
you drill additional mounting-screw holes.
To illustrate the potential variances in
weight that one can expect with different
tuners, I rounded up three of the most common choices and threw them on my shop
scale. You can weigh your current machines
to compare. Be sure to weigh all the hardware—screws, nuts and washers—because it
all comes into play. (All weights are in grams.)
The lightest of the bunch are minimalist Sperzel tuners, which look pretty sci-fi.
They clocked in at 138 grams (Fig. 15).
Well-made and beautifully finished, the
Sperzels use a pin-mount on the back
instead of wood screws—further reducing
weight. This can be a game-changer if you
have a substantial headstock.
Next up are the wonderful vintage
Kluson reproductions by TonePros (Fig.
16). These are some of my favorites, and
they weigh in at a moderate 186 grams with
all hardware included. For many of my
builds, the characteristics of these tuners are
ideal. I enjoy the modern engineering these
tuners hide within their vintage-styled exteriors, and the weight is almost perfect.
Unabashedly brute class, with typical
German overbuilding, the Schallers shown
here are the Incredible Hulk of the bunch
(Fig. 17). At a hefty 272 grams, they have
the might to get noticed when you fasten
them to your axe. If you have a guitar with a
tiny headstock, you’ll hear and feel a difference with the Schallers. Whether or not you
like the change is subjective, and it depends
on the makeup of the rest of your guitar.
Sweat the Small Stuff
As we’ve shown here, a lot of relatively
small—and inexpensive (many are practically
free)—tweaks can hot-rod your tone and
maneuver it to an array of differing ports of
call. In some ways, it’s like tossing a handful
of dice instead of just two—because the way
small tweaks interact can lead to exponential
changes in sound. For that reason, my advice
is to take it slow and only make a single
change at a time to understand what it delivers. Besides, it’s more fun (and less stressful)
that way, anyway!