Up to this point my experience with guitar benders has been with the Hipshot B and G bender with low E toggle. Pickers either love or
hate the Hipshot benders. I love mine! The bends are precise and have very positive stops. Installation is easy, the cost is low and you
gain the added benefit of a low E to D toggle. Click Here to see my install
of a Hipshot B/G bender on a Fender Squier Classic Vibe 50's tele. I added a few extra screws to make the bender more stable. If you prefer
to play while sitting down, the Hipshot may be the best option for you.
This brings me to my beloved 60 anniversary Fender Nashville Tele with the sweet red finish. I decided to opt for the B&W bender on this one as the cost would be a bit less than the benders that require extensive guitar routing. The function is the same however with the B bend out of the bout where the strap hooks on and the G bend with a belt buckle hook out of the neck plate area. As you can see from the pictures, the install, performed by Bill Warford at B&W, is real clean with no extensive routing. There are two knurled knobs below the neck heel that tune the B/G string pulls. The G tension is fixed but the B tension (neck strap pull force) is adjustable by turning a screw located just above the guitar input jack. There are only slight modifications to the original bridge and all intonation and height adjustments remain usable. Check out the B&W web site: Click Here
How does it work and how does it compare to the Hipshot? Well, despite Bill's excellent install, my bender developed a horrible squeak a few hours into playing it. After removing the pickguard and bridge plate I traced the squeak back to the adjustable B pull return spring assembly. After pulling this assembly out of its shaft and applying some Tri-Flow teflon based lube to the spring and tension rod, it became totally silent and has stayed that way so far for a few days. Since I had all the covers off, you benefit by seeing pictures of the inner workings of the bender!
Overall I think this is a great bender system. The pull stroke lengths are fixed (at the factory, you can specify your desired stroke at the time you order it) but the pitch adjustments are easy and fast as is the B tension adjustment. It takes some time to find the guitar strap length and belt buckle hookup location that yields easy pulls and returns without hindering your normal playing. It can be played sitting down but of course standing up is easier and the pulls are faster from that position. Adjusting the B tension to counterbalance the weight of the guitar does leave you with a fairly stiff pull on the strap/top of the neck. I ditched the 2" strap I started with in favor of a 2.5" strap to spread the force out across my shoulder more. I also swapped in a pair of Dunlop strap locks. The bout strap button unscrews and you can install your own button style as long as you have a 10-32 thread on it and allow for at least a 4 thread penetration into the bout receiver. The nice thing about the Dunlop strap locks is that you can use a regular guitar strap directly on the buttons without having a quick lock adapter on the strap! I had my machinist friend turn down a 10-32 nut and insert it into the Dunlop strap button which then receives the 10-32 threads from the B&W B bender post. The last two pics below show the Dunlop system installed on the B puller. Since the strap attach point effectively extends the pull arm length, I had to increase the tension on the B Bender a slight amount and it makes the pull a tad bit longer but less stiff. The Final weight of the guitar with all hardware intalled (but no strap) is 8.8 pounds.
Check out an original tune I recorded called "Fender Bender" using this bender. It also includes some fiddle and pedal steel guitar played by me. The guitar setup used a Hall Of Fame reverb and a black face Fender Princeton Reverb amp into a Shure SM-57 mic. I can't detect any differences in sustain or tone after the bender modifications. The changes made to the guitar seem to be sonically transparent. Strings are a set of D'Addario .009" to .042" and stay in tune nicely. Both B and G strings are pulling a full tone (2 frets). The guitar solo below give you a flavor for the tone of the guitar by itself.