Stainless Steel vs Nickel Silver

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by macmax77, May 7, 2017.


  1. macmax77

    macmax77 Supporting Member

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    Which one, why?

    Eddie Van Halen says there is no difference in tone.
    Sadowsky says there is.

    What say You?
    Why would you choose one over the other?

    My Ultra has SS and has been going since 1991 with a small crowning and that is it.
    How long till you change Ni? Playing close to 2 hours a day.
     
  2. MartinCliffe

    MartinCliffe Member

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    I have two identical guitars other than the fret material (2013 Suhr S4s) and I can't hear any difference plugged in. I have a video on my channel comparing them. The SS one is very slightly brighter acoustically. It's pretty insignificant though IMO.

    Given the choice, I'd have SS frets in all my electrics, but nickel frets wouldn't stop me buying a guitar I liked. When I get them refretted I'll go for SS though (I have 2 guitars needing a refret at the moment, but they'll have to wait until I'm back in the UK. Got 10 years of solid play out of them before I bought other guitars though, so they don't owe me anything)
     
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  3. cap10kirk

    cap10kirk Member

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    I prefer stainless. I've refretted all my guitars with stainless frets, except for my Reverend, because it's still relatively new.
    I can't hear any tonal difference between nickel and stainless. I prefer the feel of stainless, and how much longer it lasts. I haven't found a single drawback to having stainless.
    As far as how much life I get out of frets, I've never kept frets as long as I could. The frets on my Les Paul still had quite a bit of life left in them. But with having to do a level crown and polish a couple times, they were smaller than I like, and I was feeling way too much of the fretboard under my fingers, so I refretted it. That was with about 3 years of use as my #1. If/when I wear the stainless frets enough to need a level and crown, I'll just refret it again to keep from ending up with smaller frets.
     
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  4. LReese

    LReese Member

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    There a demo out there with a demo of Stainless vs Nickel silver on an acoustic. The difference was apparent even on the youtube video.

    Still it would not stop me from using stainless.
     
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  5. korus

    korus Member

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    SS is harder than NS. It has 3 relevant direct consequences:

    1. SS has a bit brighter tone for the same size. And difference exists, but not everyone will hear.
    2. SS frets last longer.
    3. SS are not preferred by techs/luthiers as they require longer work hours for the same job and wear tools faster. Hence higher cost.

    A player will have personal preference only once he/she replace one with the other in the same guitar. There are 3 options, obviously : NS. SS and no preference.

    That's all.
     
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  6. cap10kirk

    cap10kirk Member

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    Buy good tools, and stainless won't wear them quicker. Doesn't really take any longer to do a fret job with stainless either, I can do a stainless refret in the same time as a nickel refret. And personally, if I were making my living doing refrets, I wouldn't charge extra for stainless. I can't justify the upcharge.
    And the alloy of stainless that fret wire is made from, in reality, isn't that much harder than nickel silver fret wire. It's nowhere near as hard of an alloy as kitchen knives are made from, for example.
     
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  7. cosmic_ape

    cosmic_ape Supporting Member

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    Difference in feel? Definitely. In sound? Unplugged, yes. That "plinkiness" doesn't make it out once plugged in, though (to my ears, anyway).

    Also, SS is great for bending!
     
  8. LBXPDX

    LBXPDX Member

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  9. Bluesful

    Bluesful Member

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    In between SS and nickel, right?
     
  10. Unexplainedbacon

    Unexplainedbacon Member

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    SS. I'd prefer to have SS on every guitar from here on out. To me there are no disadvantages and the feel is far superior. After a few min and a couple sloppy bends you get used to the feel and then playing nickel frets seems off
     
  11. stratamania

    stratamania Member

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    I've got guitars with both. I prefer SS for bending and the smooth feel.
     
  12. Ron Kirn

    Ron Kirn Gold Supporting Member

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    every part presents it's own metrics to the consortium, thus each has it's own "sound", frets included. However, the vast majority of those considerations fall way below the threshold of any significance.. the change in sound is so very subtle as to go completely undetected in all but the most controlled environments.. Makes for good "arguments" though.

    However, since we all hear differently, some more acutely in specific ranges of the audio spectrum, it's not inconceivable that there are those that can actually hear some of those differences... however, it the real world of standing on stage cranking it out, that would be extremely rare, and with the presence of all the other "noise" it would be impossible to "locate" the origin of any sonic anomaly.

    in my experience.. no one, that I have ever refretted a guitar to Stainless, has ever even mentioned a change in sound.. not one.. so ether my client base all have deficient hearing, or the difference between Nickel Silver and Stainless is so very slight, if present at all, that it goes completely unnoticed by some very accomplished guitarists. My office, where clients try their guitars, is acoustically "treated" to minimize spurious sonic reflections, so subtitles CAN be heard.

    What is a reality is that it's unlikely "you" will ever require a neck to be refreted again, once done in stainless... is that worth any thing to ya?

    Also note, the Stainless alloy used in frets is NOT the same Stainless as your CuisineArt cook-wear... the Chrome on your '64 "goat"..the blade on your Case hunting knife...or the Barrel of your M92FS INOX .. the alloy is created specifically for frets is only marginally harder than the Nickel Silver....

    to me this is like the juncture in "Tire tech evolution chronology'" where, in the late 60's, the Radial tires were replacing the Bias Ply tires..... Traditionalists were decrying the disadvantages of Radials... and insisting on the superiority of the older design.... well, try to find a set of Bias Ply tires to fit your Porsche today.... it's gonna happen to the frets too... Although I can't imagine what driving a Porsche with fretted tires would be like..:rolleyes:

    Time will come when Nickel Silver will be seen on vintage, and vintage recreations, for historical accuracy only, and seen as an absolute negative on any guitar being used contemporaneously as it was intended... Kinda like a neck with no truss rod...

    and I always interject this because so many unfortunate tech see the opportunity to take advantage of people... STOP IT... Also I love the charming eMails I get from some tech calling me anything but Old, Fat and Bald...

    the difference in the cost of enough fret wire to do one neck is about 2 bux...retail... a tech buying a couple of pounds, (enough for a boat load of necks) will pay less... Stainless is NO more difficult to install, work, or other wise, than nickel... and unless the tech is buying his tools off eBay or one of the Chinese (Amazons) the Stainless is no more problematic or destructive for tools... If a tech asks for anymore than a few bux for Stainless, I'd be looking for a new tech. If he tells ya the Stainless ruins his tools, he's using cheep tools....

    I do not charge any differential should "you" choose Stainless... I would encourage others to follow...

    rk
     
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  13. K-Line

    K-Line Gold Supporting Member

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    I myself hear a difference in tone or should I say presence. Tools? I use top of the line tools and it does wear them more quickly. But hey, this is TGP, if we all agreed then it would fail to be relevant and would drift off into inter web heaven.
     
  14. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

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    I'm one of the unfortunate one's that hears a little zing/ping artifact on the front of notes with SS frets...so I prefer NS. However, when I refret my personal guitars, I use EVO gold wire as it has the wearability of SS but without that little annoying zing I hear from SS. But you may hear it differently and that's ok too.
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2017
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  15. JeffK

    JeffK Member

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    Can this magical day come tomorrow? The sooner more manufacturers offer stainless, the better, IMO.
     
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  16. Ron Kirn

    Ron Kirn Gold Supporting Member

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    hearing a certain "quirk" in a guitar will often be the result of a hearing anomaly in the audio spectrum... the results can sound to the one owning the ears, much like a "wolf" note or a dead" note...

    for instance, say your hearing is more acute at .. say, 5000 hz... (approaching the upper limits of most guitar gear) what CAN happen is any sound that is sympathetic to that frequency can sound, to "you".. more intense than others... conversely, if you have a hearing deficiency as some frequency, any sound sympathetic to that frequency can sound dead... to you..

    So if someone is hearing a ping... he may well be... and the very next guy, will be saying, "Huh, what ping?"

    If you are in anyway concerned about it.. no one, me included, can tell you what you will hear. That will be determined by a blind test... BLIND only...

    and, the above is also why some guitars or some hardware/pickup/etc., suck to you, and sound great to others....

    rk
     
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  17. Chrome Dinette

    Chrome Dinette Silver Supporting Member

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    I like and prefer stainless myself.

    There are, however, a lot of very good players, many of whom post here, who don't like stainless at all.

    It's really a matter of individual preference. Try to play a guitar with SS frets before you buy or buy used so you don't lose out if you have to flip the guitar.
     
  18. atquinn

    atquinn Supporting Member

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    Stainless steel all-day everyday for me. I won't let it stop me from buying a guitar if it doesn't have SS frets, but if I have a choice between a guitar with NS frets vs an analogous one with SS frets, I'll go SS.
    -
    Austin
     
  19. Bob Arbogast

    Bob Arbogast Supporting Member

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    The older I get, the more I don't like it that things wear out.
    I'm wearing out; does everything else have to?
    Besides the finish (who cares!?), the only thing that wears out on my guitars is the frets.
    That's why SS frets appeal to me.
     
  20. monty

    monty Member

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    SS for me too. Bends feel like butter and any tone changes can be dialed out on the amp.
     
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