PRS SE Locking Tuners Upgrade

One of the worst things about playing guitar is changing the strings. Specifically spending what feels like a million years winding the strings off of and on to the post. Even with a winder it’s still a chore meaning I don’t change them as often as I should.

The solution: Locking tuners.

Gotoh locking tuners

These allow you to feed the string through, a mechanism locks the string in place 1 and then you just tune to pitch in less than a single turn of the post.

After a lot of careful checking I chose a set of Gotoh SG381 Chrome Magnum Lock tuners from WD Music. These looks near identical to the factory tuner with the same shape and size key, and they should fit the factory holes for the original tuners. Chrome was chosen to match the factory fitted items. Whilst the PRS Specs say nickel hardware it was clearly chrome but with nickel screws, you can see the screws are more yellow when you look closely. Though check your own guitar first, don’t just take my word for it.

Perfect fit

Fortunately my research was correct and the tuners fitted perfectly. The posts fitted nice and snug and the screw holes lined up exactly leaving the tuners at the same angle as the factory ones.

Under one of the original tuners I did find some crud but this cleaned off with a finger rub. There was a small mark left but this was covered by the tuner. The old tuners did leave a small indent where they were fitted, however the rear of the new locking item was slightly bigger and covered these nicely.

Hidden finish flaw

Fitting took about 30 minutes. Most of which felt like it was unwinding the old strings 😒. It was simply a case of:

  • Remove the strings from the old tuners
  • Remove the small screw on the back with a PH1 (Phillips) screw driver. This is important, use the wrong size or use a Pozidriv and you will wreck the screws! Buy a decent one if you can, I like Wera ones.
  • Unscrew the collar from the front using a 10mm socket. You could use a spanner but I found a socket in my fingers was easily enough and stops the temptation to over do it when reassembling.
  • Swap the old and new tuner and reassemble. When reassembling I left the collar loose until the location screw was fitted then finished by snugging the collar up. Remember you don’t need much force here.

Whilst the new tuners came with a set of nice new chrome screws, I reused the factory nickel ones. This removes any chance of the threads being different making undoing things harder by ruining the hole, or the new ones being larger and snapping by over torquing them.

I also re-used the old strings. They were reasonably unused and meant that if I made a mess of things tuning up for the first time I didn’t waste a new set! The wraps from the old tuners left enough slack for me to pull them taught in the new tuners when re-fitting.

Before and after

This is a Photoshop, doing half then taking a photo was apparently not a smart thing to do 😒.

You can see the new tuners are ever so slightly larger. The large knob is the locking mechanism, be screwing this in or out you can clamp or release the string. The color match in reality is near perfect, these photos were taken at different times and the white balance changed, so the new side looks slightly warmer.

The other change worth noting is the new tuners are very short on the front face of the headstock. As you don’t need the post height for the string wraps they can be shorter.

Shorter posts

I can’t really comment on how good or not the tuners are as I’ve only had them 2 days. Tuning up was easy, though I need to pull the 1st string a fair bit tighter before locking as this needs more turn to get to pitch. The lower strings need less pull to get to pitch so this isn’t an issue. I am sure I’ll get the hang of this after a string change or two.

I am also very happy with the general quality and feel of the tuners. They feel more solid and well made than the Factory PRS SE items but maybe by less than I expected. That probably says more about the high quality of the PRS SE than it does about the Gotohs.

The service from WD Music was excellent though, they really provided a lot of help selecting the right tuners, and then delivered them quickly. I’m sure I’ll use them again when I need parts.

  1. Different tuners do this in different ways. Some use an internal mechanism, others a simple thumb screw on the top or bottom of the tuner.