Regular vs. stainless frets on a Melancon or other guitars

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by john b, May 16, 2008.

  1. john b

    john b Supporting Member

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    I'm about to order a new Mel and am trying to decide between regular or stainless steel frets. I have two other Mels with regular and have never played stainless before.

    Is there a difference in feel and sound? Why do folks like one over the other?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Wildwind

    Wildwind Silver Supporting Member

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    Hey John - I posted an answer to your post on the Melancon forum.

    Greg
     
  3. Pa'ani

    Pa'ani Supporting Member

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    +1 for Melancon. Excellent instruments and Gerard is a great guy!
     
  4. mbrown3

    mbrown3 Member

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    This has been talked about ad nauseum here. Some folks insist that they can hear a difference, others say no way. I know one thing: stainless frets last forever and I'll never use another nickel fret. I have a Mel incoming next week with stainless. Different luthiers use stainless fretwire from different sources (Tom Anderson uses some from Germany, made to his specifications), so there may be some variance too, but generally I much prefer stainless over nickel. Can't go wrong with a Mel, either.
     
  5. john b

    john b Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the info, greatly appreciated.
     
  6. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    Go for stainless. I can't think of a single good (valid) reason not to.
     
  7. jcground

    jcground Member

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    Not to start a war, but stainless frets sound brighter to me. It's not night and day, but its not snake oil to hear the difference. If you can, try playing some and see if it matters to you. It might or it might not. Of course, subjective stuff like this will also depend on other design choices in a custom guitar.

    True that stainless frets last and last. They're also more difficult to work with due to their hardness, and some luthiers don't like them for that reason. If you're not hard on nickel frets, I don't see the harm in sticking with them either. They're still the standard.

    I've never heard anything but good things about Melancon.
     
  8. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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    If you are having a guitar made, go with stainless. Slicker feel, no tarnishing, longer life. No negatives for me---and yes, I have had some other guitars refretted with SS, adn heard no difference. But I certainly felt it!
     
  9. PFCG

    PFCG Member

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    There is really no way to A/B the difference

    Unless you have a guitar that has some stainless frets and some nickel frets you cant tell unless you refret the same exact guitar with stainless wire.
    I personally love stainless fretwire because it makes bending so damn easy and they stay pristine for a long time.
    The frets on my Parker Flys look new as the day i got the guitars.
    Other than the small percentage of people who say they are brighter, there is absolutely no reason not to get them. Yes they are harder to file and things by the luthier, but that is not your problem, and most of the time they are a slight upcharge, but they are truly the best thing to hit a guitar in a while.

    I say go stainless and never look back, youll thank yourself in the long run.
     
  10. Kborg

    Kborg Silver Supporting Member

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    You beat me to the post!! but I agree 100%

    STAINLESS:D. To me it's a no brainer. They may be brighter, if they are the difference is very subtle. Everyones ears are different and hear different things. :BluesBros

    I just don't see how anyone can make that statement with any certainty without using very controlled conditions such as recording a guitar with nickel frets and then refretting it with stainless and recording it again, making sure EVERY detail is identical in the recording process and then A/Bing the recordings. There are so many factors that effect the perceived brightness of a guitars tone and I don't believe the human's audio memory is strong enough to acurately retain and recall the difference between fret jobs. :jo

    Just my thoughts for what ever they are worth.

    I put stainless on all my guitars and have no regrets. They last forever and play like glass!
     
  11. jcground

    jcground Member

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    While I think stainless sound brighter, I'll also say that's not necessarily a bad thing. I just wanted to point out that I don't think it's bogus to hear the difference.
     
  12. mbrown3

    mbrown3 Member

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    Perhaps not, but I doubt most folks who think they can hear a difference have had circumstances to prove that observation. In other words, I think you'd have to have stainless and nickel frets on the same guitar to be able to tell a difference in tone and know for sure that what you're hearing is relative to the frets, and not some other factor(s). With two separate guitars, even (which I doubt many people have compared), even accounting for identical specs, there is no way to definitively say that the tonal difference is due to the frets.
     
  13. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    Yeah, I'm not convinced of the stainless is brighter argument. And even if there is a slight (ever so slight) shift in brightness it's going to likely be handled by a hair sized adjustment on the guitar's tone knob or on the amp's settings. Even while talking to Phil Jacoby who does lots of refrets in nickel and stainless he seemed to downplay the significance of the difference. And if anyone's heard a guitar before stainless and after, it's probably him.

    So I still say that, for me, there's absolutely no good (valid) reason not to use stainless if you have the choice -- unless you want to save on the $50-$100 upcharge.
     
  14. Dave

    Dave Member

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    There you go, exactly. ;)

    Even if they are a little brighter(and I'm not convinced they are), is that necessarily a bad thing? You could just as easily turn it around and claim that nickel silver frets are a little dull and lifeless compared to SS.
     
  15. Kappy

    Kappy Member

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    Yeah, and the silky vibrato feeling on stainless is also another big plus. Way smoother bending/vibrato!
     
  16. BluePowder

    BluePowder Member

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    Are there any specialized tools to work with SS frets?

    I would really like to have them on all my guitars, I wear out the usual Nickel Silver frets really quickly. Perhaps it's the strength in my fretting hand since I'm a left-handed fella playing a righty guitar. I can see slight signs of fret wear after maybe even a year plus of playing! It bugs me a whole load.

    To the best of my knowledge none of the local guitar techs here in my country work with SS frets, most give the reason that it wrecks their tools; which of course I completely agree with.

    Perhaps one day when I come visit in the states, I'll check in all my guitars for SS refrets! :D
     
  17. Iceman8.6

    Iceman8.6 Member

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    I was wondering about this too....if I wanted to have a guitar re done with stainless fret wire where would I send it to?
     
  18. fullerplast

    fullerplast Senior Member

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    You really should do a search on this topic....it's been discussing in some detail a number of times.

    I have and use both, and given the choice I would always choose nickel-silver over SS for a refret or new guitar. Except for certain things, I don't like what they do to the high end, and I don't like the slippery feel. Longevity is of course their big advantage.

    Note that there are plenty of luthiers that won't use them for tonal reasons, and there are virtually no acoustic guitar builders that use them. Very few players will refret a vintage instrument with them. There are plenty of players that don't like them. Some have had instruments refretted with SS and then paid for another refret to have it changed back to NS. Tommy at USACG doesn't like them, and he sells them. For some strange reason, the proponents of SS frets often seem very militant in their claims that nobody can hear a difference, yet it is universally accepted that refrets with various size frets make a huge tonal difference and brass saddles sound quite different than steel saddles. If you tap a piece of nickle silver and a piece of SS...they ring differently. That same metal inserted into your fretboard will do the same thing.

    Everything makes a difference.
     
  19. localmotion411

    localmotion411 Supporting Member

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    I don't think nickel and SS frets sound the same, and not sure if one sounds better than the other, but my guitars with nickel frets sound great and my Suhrs with SS frets sound great. I think they are both fine. I love the slick SS and think they sound great, and I dig in when I play and kill nickel.
     
  20. billyguitar

    billyguitar Member

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    I think I hear a different ping on the attack of a note with SS but as mentioned earlier, turn the treble down a hair and they are equal.
    Techs don't like them because they're harder on their tools and take more time to polish. I think that's where a lot of the negativity started.
     

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