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SS frets vs standard nickel frets?

tele_jas

Member
Messages
3,810
Is there REALLY that much difference in standard nickel fret wire vs stainless steel frets?

I know the SS frets would last a lot longer, but I'm looking at getting a new neck..... I found two identical necks I want from Warmoth, one has regular frets and the other has SS frets and is about $50 more.

Is it worth $50 more for the SS frets?

If it helps to know my "history"....I'm almost 45 and I'm just a weekend warrior. I'm the lead guitar player and we usually play out an average of 3 nights per month (3-4 hours per gig). I practice just a couple nights a week, alone, 1-5 hours a week (give or take an hour or two). My other two guitars have stock Fender necks... One I've had for just over 2 years and it's starting to show some wear on the first 4 frets, but not much. The other guitar I've had for 11 years and just replaced the neck, because I didn't like the original neck - love the new MIM neck, it has a 12in radius and narrow/tall frets.
 

jzgtrguy

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,668
I'm considering that option myself. I want to re-radius my neck and re-fret it. I've heard that the SS frets are harder on the strings if you use pure nickle which I do. Probably not going to be a problem with SS strings.
 

tele_jas

Member
Messages
3,810
I'm considering that option myself. I want to re-radius my neck and re-fret it. I've heard that the SS frets are harder on the strings if you use pure nickle which I do. Probably not going to be a problem with SS strings.
Heck, I change my (nickel) strings every 2-3 shows anyways on my main guitar?? Not sure that would make a difference?

They can make the guitar brighter.
I am worried about this, being a Telecaster with an AC30 style amp.
 

HTSMetal

Member
Messages
1,430
It is absolutely worth the extra money for wear reduction and sheer playability. They aren't harder on strings, at least in my experience, and they're unquestionably one of the best innovations in electric guitar that have been made since the outset.
 

71strat

Member
Messages
9,540
Tommy at USA Custom Guitars doesnt recommend SS

He sells them too, and will make anything you/someone wants, but he says he is hesitant to change anything about the original design, unless that's what someone wants. Hes also likes money like anyone else, and recommended to me not to do it, and it also states on the USACG site that they don't like to mess with th design principle. But of course everyone wants what they want, and the frets do wear like iron.

Another tid bit he confirmed to me, and what Ron Kirn here on the forum will also backup, and has said many times. Qsawn on a guitar neck makes no difference either. I'm also not trying to start a SS vs Nickel ect. Its all good if that what someone wants.

Tommy aint much on mucking with the original formula.

Not being a USACG agent or anything, but I myself would check out USACG for necks. Especially the fret jobs/edges right out of the box. USACG frets are as good as it gets straight out of the box. While any neck needs final tweaking, after a nut install, neck installation ect. USACG is second to none, and also offer physical design features that you cant see, and that other neck manufacturers dont offer.

Tommys necks offer these features you wont get in other necks.

Tommy was also #1 guy at Warmoth for the 1st 15 years, and is responsible for the name recognition they have today.


A number of unique features differentiate our necks from those of our competitors. In fact, it took nearly 2 months to design our neck construction method. We knew that if we were going to do it, it had to be done the RIGHT way, not the quickest or cheapest. We are truly proud of our design and we hope you feel and hear the difference.
  • Fretwire slots are cut at the same curve as the fretboard radius, and not just with a straight bottom, as it would be if employing a gangsaw. When the frets are pressed in, there is minimal space (if any) between the fret bottom and the fret slot, creating a stiffer neck.
  • We use a slight amount of “fall away”, which is where the fingerboard is sloped down below the 12th fret. Every neck we’ve made from day one has employed the use of “fall away” which is virtually undetectable to the eye – the only thing you’ll notice is a great playing neck with cleaner string bending in the higher registers.
  • Truss rod channels are routed with a bullnose bit which creates a round-bottomed channel. This keeps the truss rod well seated inside the neck, for better stability. Thicker necks have deep set truss rods, enabling you to exert more pressure for greater truss rod adjustment.
  • Our truss rod ends are double welded, and not peened (hammered together with a ball-peen hammer), so there’s no need to worry about the rod breaking inside the neck. In fact you’d probably strip the screw before breaking the rod!
  • All of our heel adjust necks use a stainless steel adjustment nut (or as we like to call it a “butt nut”), to prevent it from rusting out over time.
  • We bevel the fret ends and roll the edges of the fingerboard for a more comfortable feel. This is a standard feature on all necks, so if you don’t want this done please specify when ordering.
  • We use a .208″ thick fingerboard (thickness before the radius is milled) on our 2-piece construction guitar necks. It is a more time consuming and more expensive approach than just slapping on a .25″ thick fingerboard to avoid the extra work of using a filler strip like some other parts manufacturers. We feel it is worth the effort because of the tonal benefits of a thinner fingerboard.

A note from Tommy about stainless steel frets (in case you were wondering)…

Quite honestly they look great and they wear great, but I am a little old fashioned and think they will affect the overall tone of the instrument in a bright way – kind of like a big truss rod. Some things are just magical and shouldn’t be messed with. We really feel they would change the tone of the parts we so carefully make for you – we have formulas that we know work well for parts. Sometimes it’s scary to mess with a good formula. -Tommy

We still stand behind our comments above, but also know that many of you have your own “tone formulas” that may be best achieved by using Stainless.
 

cap10kirk

Member
Messages
8,831
I will never have another guitar with nickel frets, stainless is the way to go for me. I recently refretted my Les Paul with Jescar jumbo stainless frets, it only made it more playable. My strings aren't wearing any quicker (nickel wound uncoated D'Addarios, I don't change them until they're absolutely worn out because I don't like the tone of new strings). And the stainless frets didn't change the tone of my guitar at all, it's not any brighter.
I like stainless enough, I'm going to refret my acoustic with the same jumbo stainless Jescar fret wire tomorrow, since I don't have anything else to do. Not that it needs frets, but I have enough wire left to do it, and it's just that much better imo.
 

VaughnC

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
18,307
IMO, it's a personal issue...so I'd suggest trying out a guitar equipped with stainless steel frets before changing yours. Some, like me, hear a strange artifact on the front end of the notes, some don't...some say ss is brighter, some say it isn't. So, it appears to be in the ears & hands of the beholder ;).

I'd rather have nickel/silver over SS...but, since finding the gold EVO wire, my guitars get EVO gold when they need refretted. It feels & sounds closer to NS but is almost as hard as SS.
 
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Jim Soloway

Member
Messages
14,624
Ask yourself a simple question. How hard are you on frets? If you put a lot of wear on your frets then Stainless is probably a good idea. If you're really easy on frets then you probably won't get the benefit from your $50. I've been playing for a really long time and I've never even needed my frets levels, never mind replaced on the other hand, I've seen nickel/silver frets worn almost to the wood in a year in someone else's guitar. If that describes you (or even comes close) then the $50 for an upgrade to stainless frets could be one of the great bargains you'll ever get.
 

fr8_trane

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
7,105
Any tonal difference would be minimal and easily compensated for by the tone knob on your guitar or amp. Aversion to SS frets for this reason seems superstitious to me. SS frets make bending easier and on my favorite guitar they have not worn at all in almost 3 years.
 

Don A

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,391
My strings aren't wearing any quicker (nickel wound uncoated D'Addarios, I don't change them until they're absolutely worn out because I don't like the tone of new strings).
Same here. I have two Carvins with ss frets and notice no extra string wear.
 

Bogner

Senior Member
Messages
6,668
IMO!!!!!........picks, pickups, strings, cables will make far more of a difference than the frets regarding tone. Throw in the dynamic of tubes in an amp and speakers in a cabinet and you have far more impacting tidbits than fret material. Maintenance, wear life, etc are important to me so I tend to like the SS frets.
 
Messages
1,852
I've played both. I found no benefit to SS. I've never needed a refret on a guitar, but when I do, it's not going to be the end of the world.
 

mikebat

Member
Messages
11,561
I recently got a guitar with SS frets. If anyone doesn't think they add something to the sound of the guitar acoustically....they are tone deaf.

That said, through the amp, it is hard to say. The reason is that I did not have nickel frets on that guitar previously. The SS fretted guitar has an articulation that is really impressive. On the other hand, I get get it to be dark and swampy if I need to, not a problem.

The biggest difference to me, the feel SS frets are MUCH silkier. Bends are smooth. Very cool. It just feels like a much more expensive guitar.
 






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