Steel-string acoustic guitars use either string-pin or pinless bridges to secure the strings. There are varying schools of thought on which bridge type is best, and guitars of every price range use either bridge type.
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String-pin bridges employ holes drilled through the bridge and guitar top for string insertion. After the string is inserted, tapered, slotted string-pins are used to hold the string's ball-end in place.
Pinless bridges, also called a "string-through" or "top-loading" bridge, do not require holes drilled through the guitar's top. Strings are inserted directly through holes in the bridge, which are small enough in diameter to prevent the string's ball-end from coming through.
Changing strings on a string-pin bridge requires the pins to be removed after the strings are loosened. Pinless bridges do not require this additional step, and allow strings to be removed by simply pulling them through the bridge after loosening.
Sound quality of both bridge types is highly subjective and speculative. Although string-pin bridges allow the player to experiment with different string-pin materials to add or take away bridge mass, its affect on tone is largely dependent on the player's perception.
String-pins are made of plastic, bone, brass, or hardwood, and may be embellished with abalone or other materials on the top of the pin for aesthetic purposes. Since the string passes over the bridge saddle for suspension over the guitar body and neck, any tonal properties the chosen string-pin material may provide is negated by the saddle. Materials are chosen primarily for looks and added bridge mass rather than direct tonal characteristics.
Aside from guitar maker and player opinions and claims of tone, looks, and structural advantages of both bridge types, pinless bridges offer the distinct advantage of easier string changes. There are no pins to remove, or potentially lose or break.
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