Stainless Steel vs Nickel Silver, Do You Hear A Difference

Do you hear a difference between stainless steel and nickel silver frets wire?

  • Yes

    Votes: 9 16.7%
  • No

    Votes: 31 57.4%
  • Banana

    Votes: 14 25.9%

  • Total voters
    54

dspellman

Senior Stratmaster
Mar 24, 2013
1,450
Los Angeles
Do you have any guitars with stainless steel frets? Do you hear a difference between stainless steel and nickel silver?

I have one guitar with stainless steel frets and I don't hear a difference.
When they first began to show up, some folks thought they had a slight "ping." I now have a small stack of guitars with stainless frets, and they show up on cheap....er...inexpensive guitars these days all the time. If there's a difference, my ears haven't made note of it.
 

StratoMutt

Dr. Stratster
Gold Supporting Member
Mar 15, 2019
13,636
SE Pennsylvania
Here's a Warmoth comparison video, back to back. Try listening to it blind, with headphones. He doesn't identify which neck is which until the end.

I did a blind test and I thought there was a difference. I was able to identify both necks. That actually surprised me. I didn't expect to hear enough of a difference to be definitive.

But, it is small. Like many of these tests I don't think you call it out unless it was back to back.


Good video. I am barely able to tell a difference, but it is there. Itsy-bitsy.

There should be more banana options.
Banana llama?

BananaLlama.gif
 

TimJ

Strat-O-Master
Aug 5, 2012
769
London
The clue is in the name, stainless steel frets sound clearer because they are free from blemish and pure from the darkness and corruption that can infest this world.

Whereas nickel frets were of course invented by Nickelback, and if there’s a greater mark of inferiority in this world then I have yet to hear of it.

They wrote that dirge “How You Remind Me” from the point of view of a set of their own nickel frets, distraught at their own inferiority vs the clear sparkling purity of the stainless steel community.

“And this is how you remind me
Of what I really am
This is how you remind me
Of what I really am”

Clearly a plaintive lament from nickel frets that have just been subjected by an elite sniffer of corks to a brutal yet comprehensive A/B tonal test against a set of stainless steelies.

And yet still you persist with your banana.
 

karlx

Strat-Talk Member
May 6, 2021
10
America
Every comp video I've watched, the difference between SS and NS is nothing at all compared with the difference between, say, a series/parallel switch on a humbucker. It's basically nothing to concern yourself with in light of the fact that, with SS, you literally never need to touch the frets for as long as you own the guitar. Why on earth would anyone cling to old ways of doing things except for irrational, sentimental guitar guy reasons?

With soft frets I'm addressing 1 or 2 frets multiple times a year. If you play with high action, it probably doesn't matter. The reason why people say things like 'nickel frets have been fine for 50 years' or 'I never had to re-fret' is because they like high action and high action hides all those imperfections. I want the guitar to perform and I need level frets that will stay level, and it has to be SS, period.

As far as tone is concerned, the string alloy just utterly eclipses the fret alloy. The vast majority of people as far as I can tell prefer some kind of high carbon steel string that produces a strong, bright, crisp sound. I'm a 'pure nickel' guy, they just feel softer and don't sound harsh. I don't like nickel plated steel strings or any space age alloy. All non-nickel strings wear out frets pretty quickly. Frankly even nickels put dents in frets way too quickly for my tastes. Nickel-silver is an objectively subpar and inadequate alloy for this purpose of making frets. It didn't 'always work.' It always sucked, and people just put up with it, either because they don't notice or are too sentimental to advocate for a superior replacement. When it comes to guitar brands like Fender, they want to relegate SS to a luxury product. It's amusing that their most expensive or 'best' production guitars have a flat radius and SS frets. That's precisely what I want, but probably never at 2500 dollars. If Fender put SS on Player Plus, I'd probably buy 2 or 3 of them just to have different colors and pickup combos. Harley Benton and Yamaha put SS on 3-digit price guitars, it's not a luxury product, it's the right metal for the job.
 
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Torren61

Strat-O-Master
Dec 28, 2008
607
Humboldt County, CA
I've been using Ernie Ball Super Slinkies and recently swapped over to Ernie Ball Extra Slinky Classic Nickel strings. I wonder if it's going to offset the stainless steel frets on my Strat when I get it back? :p
 

Fenderbaum

Senior Stratmaster
Aug 11, 2020
1,813
Bergen, Norway
Maybe they sound a little pingy unplugged. But i like pingy strings, or have nothing against them.
For string benders, they are a smooth joy to play. Refret and forget.
Down the line when you are six feet under, your grandchild might need to give it its first level.
 

EC Strat

Senior Stratmaster
Gold Supporting Member
Dec 16, 2018
4,672
Louisville Kentucky
I far prefer SS to NS. Just a superior material. The tone differences are inconsequential.

I do have guitars with NS and there’s nothing in the world wrong with them. But each refret will be with SS
 

Butcher of Strats

Senior Stratmaster
Feb 28, 2022
4,468
Maine
I have to accept that while many take offense at the idea we may not all hear the same, I think it is true.

Some players have a legit overly sensitive ear, and not always to the same thing.
Aside from players who think a kung fu grip is more manly and crush cowboy chords out of tune, some players really do seem to cringe at minute intonation issues the rest of us just cannot even hear never mind be bothered by.

As for tone nuance, I think one group may be more tone sensitive, then another group which I am in uses mostly or only the bridge pickup and depends more on touch and technique for tone shaping, than on cutting treble across the board to ensure warm tone.

I have no issues with the intonation of typical guitars, and my hearing is not overly sensitive, pretty shot really.
But I set my gear bright, so that I can get both bright and dark tones from one note to the next without having to twist any knobs.

I cannot imagine the burden of depending on knob turning for my tonal variation.


All you knob tweakers who constantly play with your knobs?
You Funny!
Year after year I read that no shrill guitar issues should bother any player because you just need to roll back the guitars tone knob.

Yeah well thats just like your opinion man!
 
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