1. Wilkinson have always strived to create products that solve issues that players have whether these be on tuning stability, intonation or tone, with this in mind which Wilkinson product has you feel been of the biggest benefit to the instruments Yamaha create?
I remember in the early 90’s that the Wilkinson VS100 was the most popular 2-point fulcrum bridge because it was so smooth and stayed in tune. It was also designed to float while parallel to the body and had the ability to raise and lower the bridge plate as well as the saddle height, this allowed many companies the ease of installation. The VS100 was the solution for so many players that did not want to navigate a locking style vibrato and locking nut set up.
DM: In 2011, we released new Pacifica 500 and 600 models, which featured the Wilkinson VS50-6 bridge along with components from other premiere manufacturers. The Pacifica series was originally designed with Yamaha Guitar Development in Los Angeles, informed by the customizations they were doing for artists. The upgrades on those 2011 models brought the series back to its custom shop roots, and arguably launched the modern era of Yamaha electric guitars. I bought two of them myself!
2. The timbre (tone quality) of a guitar/bass is derived from the combination of woods, pickups, hardware, strings, and overall construction quality, what percentage do you feel is derived from the choice of hardware (bridge, Vibrato, machine heads).
I believe that the selected materials and weight used for the bridge plate, block and saddles play a bigger a role on the character of sound compared to the tuners.
More than almost any other instrument, I believe electric guitars offer players the opportunity to truly personalize their sound. Everything from your pick through to your speakers contributes to your tone. Strings and tone-woods are among the most important elements, and while it would be a challenge to pick a percentage, every point where those two meet – like the bridge or the tuners – has to be a key factor.
3. What qualities do you look for when choosing hardware for an instrument?
If Yamaha has a single guiding principle across our entire music and AV divisions, it might be “does this sound better?”. There are always logistical and practical factors. Is the hardware appropriate for the instrument? Do we already make something that will do the job well? Should we design something new, or look to a partner like Wilkinson who might already make the perfect component? We always want to make the best possible instrument. Performance, reliability, and value are important, but I think the most critical factor will always be the sound.
I would only add a couple of things to what Dave already covered. When considering any hardware, we look for performance, reliability, and added value for players. Aftermarket companies offer their own unique innovations, as well as the status and popularity of their brands, so we hope guitarists will be interested in our collaborations.