Keeping whammy systems in tune has been an issue since, well, the advent of whammy systems. We all remember how Floyd Rose built an empire with his double-locking solution to the problem, but we also remember how getting Floyded came at a price — namely an invasive mod that changed a guitar’s look and sound. While huge numbers of players jumped on the Floyd bandwagon, others resigned themselves to doing the best they could do with their trem’s tuning anomalies.
Tony Artino has spent decades trying to crack this code, and he thinks he’s done it with his Guitar NutBuster. The device doesn’t require any modifications to your instrument whatsoever. NutBuster doesn’t even come in contact with your guitar — it attaches directly to the strings and floats just behind the nut, where, according to Artino, it delivers “significant control over the most common tuning problems.” That claim got my attention, as did Freddy DeMarco’s video demo on the Guitar NutBuster site.
So how does it work? The majority of trem tuning problems occur at the nut. Due to their differing tensions, the strings pass over the nut at different rates during whammy use. If they get hung up in the nut, they’ll go out of tune to varying degrees.
Enter the NutBuster, a 2.2-ounce, solid tool-steel device with three clamps and six fine tuners. The concept behind it is that, once you’ve clamped the strings behind the nut, you’ve combined their individual tensions into what Artino calls a “collective and unified tension.” This causes the strings to play nice with one another and return more reliably to their equilibrium point.
I tried the Guitar NutBuster on my beloved Super Strat, which has an old floating Floyd Rose bridge but no locking nut. I’ve always been good at keeping this guitar in tune, but checking with a strobe tuner after some radical whammy work proved there was room for improvement. I took off the old strings and, with the NutBuster resting on the fretboard, fed all six new strings through it and got just a bit of tension on them. I then moved the NutBuster up and over the nut, so it was suspended on the strings, just behind the nut but not touching it. Then I went through a normal tuning/string stretching/retuning process and clamped the strings down with the included Allen wrench, which resides right on the magnetized NutBuster top. From there, I used the fine tuners to correct any minor discrepancies from the clamping and was in tune and ready to go.
I performed dive bombs, vibrato yanks, siren noises and other extreme string bends. Then I gave the bar a gentle wiggle (more on that later) and hit a chord. I was in tune. I checked against a tuner and, sure enough, the Guitar NutBuster had done its job. When intonation issues did occur, they were subtle and remedied quickly and easily with the fine tuners. An added benefit was increased sustain and resonance from the mass of the device. (Anyone remember the Groove Tubes Fathead?)
Because the Guitar NutBuster is a noninvasive, nonpermanent mod, there’s no downside to putting one on your guitar. That said, it does take a little getting used to. Though the installation is simple and well explained in the accompanying literature, it needs to be done properly. The fine tuners are close enough to one another to make quick adjustments a little tricky. Getting the system to come back in tune reliably is contingent upon you performing what Guitar NutBuster calls the “tremolo reset action,” a quick downward dip of the bar done prior to the initial tune up and before any retuning. This will be familiar to anyone who plays floating, nonlocking trems. It’s about getting the strings back to the equilibrium point I mentioned above after using the bar. My move is a gentle wiggle above and below pitch, but it shouldn’t matter which move you do, as long as you do it the same way every time. A guitar with a properly slotted nut will come back fairly accurately. A guitar with a NutBuster will come back very accurately.
Guitar NutBuster is an effective means of solving an age-old problem. You can even use it on non-trem and acoustic guitars and benefit from additional sustain and fine-tuning capabilities. Well done!
WHAT IT DOES Improves trem tuning stability without requiring a locking system
INSTALLATION No routing, drilling or screws. Attaches directly to the strings and floats just behind the nut
KUDOS Seamless integration. Very effective
CONCERNS Subtle learning curve