Compensated Saddle

Why Use Saddle Compensation?

Resonator guitars are infamous for having intonation “challenges”, meaning that the guitar does not play in tune consistently up and down the neck, even though it may have be  tuned correctly when played un-fretted in an “open” (unfretted) position. 

In addition to production variations that frequently and subtly varied the strings’ scale length, the internal resonator sound wells are often “generous” in dimension regarding their diameter, and may provide for a good amount of movement in the final positioning of the resonator assembly. This allows some flexibility in finding the best intonation location, but also can let the resonator assembly shift or move out of the best intonation position (especially if the strings are fully loosened when changing strings). 

Unfortunately, the nature of the resonator bridge and saddle assemblies do not lend themselves easily to the modern fine tuning and adjustable methods later developed for electric guitar bridges and saddles, so the resonator guitar has remained a difficult issue for intonation.

“Dobros have always been a sloppy fit,” says Replogle. “The soundwells are usually a little oversize to allow some room for adjusting the position of the resonator. This way the saddle could be positioned at the correct scale length, but there was no provision for compensating the intonation of the individual strings like a modern electric guitar bridge has. The best we were able to do was to rotate the cone a little counter-clockwise, so that the saddle would angle with the treble string slightly shorter and the bass string slightly longer. This helped the intonation a bit on the 1st and 6th strings, but didn’t do much to help the other 4 strings stay intonated.”

“Using a variation of an acoustic guitar’s compensated saddle actually helped the intonation of all strings greatly.” Mike Replogle explains, “Carving the saddle under the first two strings, and smoothly angling the other four strings greatly improves the intonation. I debuted this innovation on the Jerry Douglas Signature Dobro® that I designed back in ’94, and it works great.”

The compensated saddle brings an advantage of modern technology to the traditional resonator guitar, with great results!