#1
I'm currently pretty happy with my tone, a delay pedal and everything will be fine. However, my Explorer seems to suffer from pretty poor tuning stability. It wasn't expensive to begin with, so I'm guessing the machineheads aren't the best quality and the nut is probably cheap plastic.

What should I look at upgrading in order to boost the stability, and possibly sustain? What is a decent nut/set of machineheads to get?

Thanks.
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#2
Sprezel Lockers and a Roller nut. Seems to be a favourite at the local Long and McQuade
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#3
Get a good nut first. Then locking tuners are always great.

Graphtech is good for nuts, and Sperzel are good tuners.
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#4
Locking tuners aren't really necessary. If you're restringing the guitar properly then you'll be locking the string against itself anyway. In fact, most tuning problems are caused by whoever is maintaining the guitar restringing it incorrectly, not because of anything wrong with the guitar. Hell I've had crap Squier Strats that stayed perfectly in-tune even with excessive vibrato use.

So the first thing to do is to go make sure you're actually restringing the guitar properly. This includes stretching the strings properly, selecting the right string gauge for your scale length and tuning and how to wrap it through and around the tuning post correctly. There are various stickied threads on this forum that explain the correct procedure.

If it turns out you are restringing it properly and it is still going out of tune, you need to work out where it is going out of tune. Is it that the tuners are actually slipping? Is it that the nut is poorly cut and the strings and binding? Are the strings binding in the bridge saddles? Are the strings moving in their anchor (e.g. stopbar, string-through ferrules, etc)? Once you've worked out where it is that the strings are going out of tune, then you can select which parts you need to upgrade.

Generally, I would recommend Gotoh vintage style or Planet Waves locking tuners and Graph Tech String Saver parts for everything else if you want to get the very best from your guitar. So long as your tuners have a gear ratio higher than 14:1, they'll be alright - aim to get tuners wih a gear ratio of 18:1 if you can. Any known brand will do, the most important thing is to find out which tuners will fit the existing peg holes because having to drill the holes larger or fit bushings to make the holes smaller is pointless extra work if you could just buy another set of equally good tuners that drop right in; don't get too fixated on a certain brand. Also be aware that straight headstocks can benefit greatly from staggered tuners while tiltback headstocks are best with even tuners.
Graph Tech String Saver parts are very high quality and will help your guitar's sustain too, though they will also warm up the tone a little which you may not want. Their tuning stability and general construction is unmatched though. A set of Graph Tech String Saver saddles and some String Saver string retainer tees will keep even the most awkward Strat bridge in-tune, even with a stock plastic nut - if your guitar has a fixed bridge, even better. Graph Tech graphite compound nuts are also a great idea if you have a vibrato bridge; if you have a fixed bridge then they won't be such a big deal, though any well-cut nut can be an improvement over the stock plastic nut. Bear in mind though that replacing the guitar's nut seems like a simple task but if you are off by even 0.1mm it can ruin the guitar for good. You should take the guitar to a qualified luthier who has a lot of experience with replacing the nuts of electric guitars to do the work for you; be aware that this can become costly. Also make sure that whatever nut you buy that it is a solid nut, many replacement nuts these days, especially graphite compound nuts, are made hollow to save money and make the nut affordable. This causes many more problems than it solves though as it limits how much the nut can be trimmed and adjusted to fit the guitar and it sucks sustain and tone. Replacing the nut with a top-quality graphite nut properlly cut and fitted by a good luthier can become somewhat expensive but it's worth getting it done right.
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#5
Cheers guys, especially MrFlibble. I think the problem lies in the nut/machinehead area. The tuners themselves have some play before there is any rotation, so evidently there's something slipping there and the nut is just basic plastic. I'm fairly certain that it isn't cut right for the 10-52's I use as they sit a little higher in the nut than they do on my SZR, which holds tune fine.

I was thinking of going for an Earvana compensated nut and some Grover rotomatics is they would fit - does that seem right?
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#6
I have 18:1 grovers on my epi and ltd and they work fine,

if you could get a set of grover mini's second hand you could save a good bit of money there, a decent nut would help,

though the earvana nuts are only really needed if your having intonation issues i thought. a decent graphtech one like MR F is suggesting would be a good place to start mate

1977 Burny FLG70
2004 EBMM JP6
2016 SE Holcolmb
#7
Cheers guys - where's the best place to get stuff from in the UK? Thomann only have a few nuts and that would be my usual goto place.
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Please, I eat gays for breakfast...

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#8
where abouts in the UK are you?

1977 Burny FLG70
2004 EBMM JP6
2016 SE Holcolmb
#9
North hampshire.
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Please, I eat gays for breakfast...

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I must be even further in the closet then
#10
Axesrus and WD Music are who I use. Axesrus are cheaper for most parts and they do free postage but they don't stock many really high-end parts other than official Fender parts. WD Music stock a wider range of high-end stuff but of course, they do cost more.

As far as compensated nuts go, I adore the compensated nut on my LTD and I find it really unpleasant to play on a guitar with a normal nut these days - I'm now really aware of just out out of tune notes and chords are at the first seven frets on a standard guitar. Definitely get one if you're sure your guitar's fretboard is the right width/radius/scale/fretsize/etc for it.
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#11
On the Compensated nut idea, I have one observation. There are really two types, one that requires slight trimming on the fretboard end to accomdate the offsets and one that is a drop in type with a shelf that sits over the fretboard end. The first one is usually found on the factory fitted nuts and seems to be superior. You can get it installed afterwards but it definitely requires skill and accuracy as there's no going back once you've trimmed some of the fretboard off so I'd go to a good tech for this.
The second one which I bought awhile ago can supposedly be installed by someone with due care as it requires no fretboard alterations. I did not like this nut and threw it out. The nut has a pre-determined radius and string spacing and all you need to do is sand down the base till the overhang of the shelf part rests properly on your fretboard. However, if not resting solidly some strings buzz as the nut itself vibrates. To make matters worse, the string height is fixed by the depth of the shelf which was too high IMO and to tweek it better you'd need proper nut files to deepen the slots.
So if it was me I'd go for the first type and pay for a pro to do it if a compensated nut is what you want.
If not a good tech can correct your current nut slots to accomdate the larger strings and add some nut lube to help with string binding.
Moving on.....
#12
I've been looking into the Steinberger tuners lately, they're apprantly allow for incredibly accurate tuning, with a 40:1 ratio. None of the drawbacks of traditional tuner design either apparantly.
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