I’m a big fan of locking tuners and try to have them on all of my guitars where possible, so when I recently received my new Gaskell AllRounder the very first thing I did was to upgrade the standard stock tuners. D’Addario were kind enough to send out a set of their Planet Waves Auto-Trim Tuning Machines, and I was only too glad to give them a test drive!
These tuners are a little different to most in that they negate the need for string cutters by incorporating a trimming mechanism directly into the tuners themselves. The design is so simple and innovative that they really don’t look any different to any other locking tuner on the market. They come in either a 6 in-line set or a 3+3 set in a variety of different finishes. Read on to find out how the magic happens…
What’s In The Box?
Inside the beautifully designed packaging, the tuners are artfully displayed in their cardboard mount. Underneath you will find six screws, and your nuts and washers, as well as a brief information pamphlet which details how the tuners function.
The packaging is a very elegant affair, clearly Planet Waves has also put a lot of thought into the smaller details such as this. The tuners themselves are incredibly solid and feel very well made – they also look fantastic!
Locking Tuners? What Are They?
For those of you who are new to guitar and perhaps haven’t come across locking tuners yet, let me tell you that they are a godsend! A large screw on the bottom of the tuner controls the height of a clamping pin inside the post where you thread your string through. So the idea is that you thread the string through, pull it tight, and then tighten the screw to clamp the string firmly in place.
This negates the usual need to wrap the string around the post several times, resulting in better tuning stability through eliminating string slippage. Another advantage to locking tuners is that they greatly decrease the time and effort needed to restring your guitar. Restringing a guitar with standard tuners will take a significantly longer time, especially if you don’t have a tool such as the Planet Waves Pro String Winder! ;)
Problems to Overcome
Okay, so first thing’s first – problems! As always, being a left handed guitarist throws a spanner in the works and makes things slightly more thorny. Planet Waves do not produce these in a left-side in-line package, so the box I received included six right-side in-line tuners. This meant having to install the product back to front – no big deal, but something to keep in mind!
If you’re a lefty with a reverse headstock this won’t be an issue. However in the same situation as me, with a little bit of careful planning ahead you could easily avoid this problem. As I mentioned above, this product also comes in a set of 3+3 which features 3 left-side and 3 right-side tuners. So find a right handed friend, buy two sets of the 3+3 model and take the left handed tuners, leaving them with the right side. Voila!
Installation is simple – if you’re lucky the only tools you will need are a small Phillips-head screwdriver and a spanner. However, as I had to install the tuners back-to-front I also needed a drill to create the new screw holes.
Remove the old tuners by taking out the mounting screws on the back of the headstock, and then unscrew the nut on the front. The new tuners will then go back on in exactly the same way – easy! Take a look at the image below which shows the Planet Waves tuners compared side by side with the old ones. They create a noticeably different appearance on the front of the headstock as the posts are black in color, and the washers and nuts are also substantially larger in size.
As you can probably imagine, the auto-trim feature makes stringing up a little different. For example the string has to be inserted through the post in a specific direction. You’ll notice in the close-up image near the top of the page that one side of the post has a small chrome protrusion – this is the side you must insert the string from. Pull the string tight, operate the screw to clamp it in place and then the magic begins – auto-trim time!
The way the auto-trim feature works is actually so wonderfully simple that you’ll wonder why someone else hadn’t come up with it before. As you tighten the machine-head, the end of the string is forced past a raised hardened steel part of the peg which cleanly snips a perfect cut. See the photos below for a detailed look at how the mechanism works. I’m not sure what kind of wizardry I was expecting from the auto-trim function, but it just goes to show that the simplest of designs are often the best!
Easy to install, look great, function perfectly. My guitar has been enjoying these for nearly 3 weeks now and they have been a pleasure to use. They have a silky smooth operation and keep the guitar in perfect tune. It would be nice if they came in a left-side only version as well, but this is a minor annoyance which is easily overcome.
The auto-trim feature is fantastic and practical. Usually when trimming a string with cutters you are left with a sharp end sticking out of the post, which can easily give you a nasty cut or prick if you aren’t paying attention. With these tuners you never have to worry about that problem again. Thoroughly recommended! :)
They are available in a choice of gold, black and chrome finishes and come in either 6 in-line or 3+3 packages.