Whether you are a professional player or not, having a solid set of tuners is very important. Being a hobbyist with a little time to play, I don’t want spend that short time I have for guitars tuning them. Performing artists have even more reasons to have stable tuning. It’s not surprise that many people opt for tuner upgrade, especially on cheaper guitars that don’t come with top of the line tuners from the get go. More recently, locking tuners seem to be picking up momentum. They improve tuning stability by locking the string to the post to prevent any slipping. Also, to me, they speed up string change routine because they do not require having several turns on the post. You just pull the string through the post, stretch, lock, and tune to pitch – done.
I’ve never been a fan of Grover tuners as they didn’t feel like that big of an upgrade from most standard tuners. Gotoh tuners are pretty decent, but they don’t seem to offer locking models and their top of the line model 510 is rather expensive. Schallers are great, but also relatively expensive. Waverly’s are in the league of their own and I would seriously consider them only for a really, really expensive acoustic guitar. On my quest for good locking tuners that won’t break the bank, I stumbled upon Hipshot Grip Lock Open Gear tuners that combine the traditional open gear look with modern locking capability. They are assembled and inspected in USA with parts machined in Korea, making a nice compromise between quality and price – they cost less than a set of non-locking Schaller tuners! On paper, they seemed to be the perfect match for my Taylor GS Mini, so I had to give them a try.
Hipshot offers a couple of base models – open or closed gear construction, with or without the locking mechanism. All these models can be had in several different finishes – chrome (satin or polished), black or gold. Their default tuner buttons are modernized, smaller keystone shaped that look very retro-modern cool, but in case you need something else to match the guitar better, they do have a bunch of replacement buttons of all shapes and colors. Since I intended to put them on my Taylor GS Mini, I stayed with default buttons as they match the Taylor headstock shape nicely.
- 18:1 gear ratio
- 10mm mounting hole
- Minimum 24mm hole-to-hole spacing
- Weigh 32 grams each (Schaller M6 Mini weighs 33.83 grams, Grover Rotomatic weighs 33.73 grams)
There are two ways to install these babies – using a set screw, like most tuners, which in most cases requires drilling the headstock, and sometimes even filling the old pin holes if they are left exposed after the new tuners are installed. However, Hipshot offers another, somewhat revolutionary way of installing the tuners. You can get their UMP (Universal Mounting Plates) that are mounted between the headstock and tuners and are shaped in a way that prevents tuners from rotating without having to screw each individual tuner into the headstock. In case of 3+3 tuners, you get a set of four plates, two per side. Each plate has one round and one oval hole. Oval holes are there to fit the plates to various different spacing between tuners. Using UMPs, installation comes down to aligning the two plates with holes on the headstock, inserting the tuners through the holes and screwing the nut from the other side. It’s really that simple and takes no more time than taking the strings off and back on. And they are very light, so no significant weight is added to the headstock.
I got exactly what I wanted with these tuners. They provide rock solid tuning stability, turn very smooth and 18:1 ratio is very, which comes in handy for thicker strings which change pitch too quick with lower ratio tuners. And I love the looks, from players perspective they look amazing with those open gear giving them cool retro/industrial look. From the front, the modernized keystone buttons go really well with Taylor headstock and pretty much any 3+3 headstock. And being open gear, even with the locking mechanism they don’t weigh more than standard tuners, so even with UMPs installed they will weight about the same as regular tuners.
I hope Hipshot tuners get the attention they deserve from guitar players, both acoustic and electric. They combine excellent build quality and tuning stability with precision and great looks. Add simplified UMP installation and affordable price to the mix and we have the winner!