Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

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Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby Progrockman » Sun Nov 26, 2017 9:42 pm

I first heard about stainless steel frets watching a video of Eddie Van Halen pitching one of his signature guitars. He claimed that the frets showed no wear after one leg of a tour, and that you are "crazy" if you think they sound different from standard frets.

However, a little internet research soon revealed that 1) luthiers hate them (they need special tools to work with them), and 2) they wear out your strings faster. The second one makes perfect sense--something has to give. (Not a problem for EVH who has a roadie changing strings after each gig!)

Then I heard about gold frets watching Greg Howe's video for the GH24. He confirmed that luthiers hate stainless steel, and seemed to imply they would hate gold frets less. Is this the case? Also, will gold frets also wear out strings quickly, assuming you are using nickel plated wound and plain steel strings?

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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby amayce » Mon Nov 27, 2017 6:08 am

I have a SCB6 with the EVO Gold frets. For what it's worth, they're not actually gold or gold plated, they're some sort of copper alloy. Real gold would ding super easy and is easy to bend, that's why most gold hardware is plated. From what I've found researching EVO gold frets are harder than nickel but not as hard as stainless. I've played mine pretty regularly for two years now and I don't see any wear, but not of my guitars have a lot of fret wear, I'm not that frequent of a performer. I'm also a cheap/lazy restringer, and I've had the strings on my SCB since I think July and I don't see any wear spots on the strings. So I hope that helps!

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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby Progrockman » Mon Nov 27, 2017 11:16 am

Thanks for the tip!

I sent an email to the luthier I use, asking if evo gold frets would drive him crazy. :)

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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby ioneater » Mon Nov 27, 2017 1:48 pm

Just gotta ask, who are you buying this guitar for, your luthier? What do YOU want? Are you anticipating needing fret work soon for some reason? The stainless are very resilient, doubtful they will cause abnormal string wear beyond when strings need replaced due to funk anyway. Evos are nice and slippery as well. Get what YOU want!

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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby arahobob » Mon Nov 27, 2017 3:52 pm

Progrockman wrote:However, a little internet research soon revealed that 1) luthiers hate them (they need special tools to work with them), and 2) they wear out your strings faster. The second one makes perfect sense--something has to give. (Not a problem for EVH who has a roadie changing strings after each gig!)


1. Some do. My guy thinks they're amazing - the cost to put them on the new guitar is worth it in his opinion (they'll last so much longer) The tool stuff is mainly and issue (in his opinion) if you don't know what you're working with up front.

2. In my experience not at all. Weather and usage is the only thing that wears mine out. The strings on my SCB6 (STF) are way too old to sound and feel that good. I've used it for two or three outdoor gigs and played it a ton. The Elixirs are holding up.
Zero fret vs string issues with multiple C/K guitars.


I'd go with STF just on feel alone. It's that good.
Maybe gold if it would look cooler on the build.
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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby Progrockman » Mon Nov 27, 2017 6:55 pm

ioneater wrote:Just gotta ask, who are you buying this guitar for, your luthier? What do YOU want? Are you anticipating needing fret work soon for some reason? The stainless are very resilient, doubtful they will cause abnormal string wear beyond when strings need replaced due to funk anyway. Evos are nice and slippery as well. Get what YOU want!


Advice noted. :) I'm lazy when it comes to changing strings, so wearing out strings prematurely is my main concern.

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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby ioneater » Tue Nov 28, 2017 9:43 am

They're both awesome to play on!

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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby brento73 » Tue Dec 12, 2017 6:40 am

Progrockman wrote:
ioneater wrote:Just gotta ask, who are you buying this guitar for, your luthier? What do YOU want? Are you anticipating needing fret work soon for some reason? The stainless are very resilient, doubtful they will cause abnormal string wear beyond when strings need replaced due to funk anyway. Evos are nice and slippery as well. Get what YOU want!


Advice noted. :) I'm lazy when it comes to changing strings, so wearing out strings prematurely is my main concern.


I have stainless steel frets and have had the same strings on for over a year. If you like the look of gold, get those, otherwise get stainless.

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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby Don » Thu Dec 14, 2017 5:51 am

Progrockman wrote:Advice noted. :) I'm lazy when it comes to changing strings, so wearing out strings prematurely is my main concern.


Stainless steel frets do not cause increased string wear over nickel silver frets. This is a myth.

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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby UnexplodedCow » Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:37 am

I've not noticed any increase in string wear with stainless frets, and don't seem to notice any sound difference. What I have noticed are:
1. Smoother finish on the fret, which leads to easier string bending.
2. Little to no tarnish, which can gunk up the strings (and fingers), so less maintenance
3. No discernible wear. I'm sure they are on the microscopic level, but nothing visible or that I can measure with calipers.

Stainless frets are considerably harder (while still soft as far as steel is concerned) than the "nickel silver" copper-based ones. I think it's a great investment to have them on a new guitar, and if re-fretting, eating the cost of having them installed, as the lifespan is vastly improved in my experience, as well as the more a fretboard is re-fretted, the greater the chance of chipout and having to use filler, which can cause other issues later, though this part greatly depends on luthier skill.

EVO frets are still copper based, but a different alloy. Jescar makes great frets, and even their standard fretwire seems to wear better than others (Dunlop for example). A really good test of any fret is with a vibrato, since round-wound strings will act like a file on the fret. I've also seen strings indent into a fret from sitting in a case with high pressure over time. These issues just don't happen in my experience with stainless.

I doubt I'll ever buy a new guitar with anything but stainless again, and probably re-fret them all to have it. As far as an acoustic guitar, some claim the frets make a difference. I can't say anything because I've never heard one vs. the other, but would love to hear it.
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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby spudmunkey » Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:10 am

Stainless frets also make your guitar an option for those with nickel allergies. The same number of left-handed people in the world have some sort of metal allergy, with Nickel being the most common. And while interesting, an expanded resale market would be a ridiculous reason to use to justify stainless frets unless you're one of those with an allergy. :laughhard:
Last edited by spudmunkey on Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby UnexplodedCow » Thu Dec 14, 2017 8:38 am

That would need to be a considerable nickel allergy, and the player would like have to use stainless strings as well, since the finger is in contact far more with the string than fret. Another reason to buy stainless strings, too.
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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby Progrockman » Fri Dec 15, 2017 6:41 pm

Don wrote:Stainless steel frets do not cause increased string wear over nickel silver frets. This is a myth.


Thanks, Don.

I probably need to change my strings more often anyway so I get around to conditioning my fretboard.

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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby relias7505 » Wed Dec 20, 2017 11:27 am

Out of my whole collection I have a mix of stainless and nickel frets. The stainless steel is very slick and slightly brighter and require less maintenance. I will say my nickel fretted guitars required a little polishing every once and awhile. But like someone said before get what you want man! Its you money and passion.
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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby tbonesullivan » Tue Dec 26, 2017 11:24 am

The EVO Frets are around the same level of hardness as the SS frets, if I recall. More than anything, that is the real difference that you get from SS frets aside from the lack of corrosion.

You can make Stainless in any variety of hardness levels, so you could actually make it the same as Nickel Silver, but then it would wear just as much. So, it was made harder, and that is part of the reason for the slick feeling. The other is lack of oxides.

Also "nickel silver" is actually a mixture of Copper, Zinc, and Nickel, usually 60% copper, 20% nickel and 20% zinc. There are some "softer" and "harder" N/S/ fretwires, particularly those used on classical guitars, which use the softer alloy.

If anything makes strings "wear" it would probably be the nickel oxides on N/S frets, which are actually quite hard.

As for sound, well, people talk about how much of a difference that the nut material makes, how much of a difference slide material makes, how much of a different bridge material makes, how much of a different string material makes, etc. So, either all of it is BS, or SS frets affect the sound somewhat. Then you also can look into mechanical interface between the two metal, as it is different between metals of similar hardness and those of different hardness.

Anyway, go with what you like. I've had SS and N/S on guitars, and liked it. I did NOT however like a bass with SS frets. But for most people, they will not be doing the same level of bending, tapping, etc that really wears down the N/S frets.
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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby UnexplodedCow » Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:23 pm

tbonesullivan wrote:The EVO Frets are around the same level of hardness as the SS frets, if I recall. More than anything, that is the real difference that you get from SS frets aside from the lack of corrosion.


What information I could find online, the Evo frets are rated (vickers scale HV5) around 250. Stainless is HV5-300. Regular NS is, at best, HV5-200. I'm more familiar with Rockwell C and B scales when it comes to knives. Most blade run between 50-60 HRC, unless they're considered soft, in the 40s. Vickers 300 equals to around HRC 33 (HRB of 107). A 250, that's about a 25 HRC (falls more into HRB of 101), and V-200 is around HRC 17, or HRB 93. Other fretwire falls to around V-150 falls off the HRC scale completely and onto the HRB scale around 82. A change of 5 on the Rockwell scale is fairly significant in the world of hard steel. Frets, by comparison, are pretty soft and elastic. They could be much, much harder, and wear even less if heat treated. HRC 33 is basically in an annealed state, and around the bottom of a good stainless. Evo frets aren't really all that close in hardness, though with the work hardening aspect of the copper alloy, they may wear well enough to act like stainless.

tbonesullivan wrote:You can make Stainless in any variety of hardness levels, so you could actually make it the same as Nickel Silver, but then it would wear just as much. So, it was made harder, and that is part of the reason for the slick feeling. The other is lack of oxides. If anything makes strings "wear" it would probably be the nickel oxides on N/S frets, which are actually quite hard.


Stainless really doesn't get as soft as a NS, unless it has a ridiculous amount of chromium, and almost zero carbon, in which case, it's not much of a steel. However, adding chrome toughens up the steel, and improves abrasion resistance, along with plasticity, if not actually hardness (which may or may not improve the other two aspects). It would be interesting to see a study done on micro-oxidized guitar strings causing additional fret wear. Really, I love that sort of deep-dive.


tbonesullivan wrote:As for sound, well, people talk about how much of a difference that the nut material makes, how much of a difference slide material makes, how much of a different bridge material makes, how much of a different string material makes, etc. So, either all of it is BS, or SS frets affect the sound somewhat. Then you also can look into mechanical interface between the two metal, as it is different between metals of similar hardness and those of different hardness.


I think many of those people have a placebo effect, or mental bias confirmation going on in their hearing. We have to process the data we receive, and sometimes it becomes affected by our own biases and experiences. Additionally, have those people stated exact specs of the electronics in a guitar, the setup and intonation? Without noting that, what people say is going to be anecdotal at best, and at worst, probably a bit of misguided ignorance.

tbonesullivan wrote:Anyway, go with what you like. I've had SS and N/S on guitars, and liked it. I did NOT however like a bass with SS frets. But for most people, they will not be doing the same level of bending, tapping, etc that really wears down the N/S frets.


Never tried them on bass, but I'd be game, just like playing fretless (guitar or bass). Music can be made in any case.
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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby Omsong » Thu Jan 04, 2018 5:04 pm

FWIW - I don't hear the same degree of ping attack when fretting the unwound strings with EVO frets that I heard with SS frets on another guitar (both had BE maple fretboards). But there are so many other variables, who's to say for certain.
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Re: Gold vs Stainless Steel Frets

Postby Quivering Wrist » Sun Feb 18, 2018 5:31 am

From what I have gathered the ping from stainless is no issue at all on electric but for an acoustic guitar it is possible to hear a differnce. There is a video on youtube of a player replacing the 1-5 or so frets with stainless and you can hear an increase in brightness with a little ping to it.

but to answer you directly I have both EVO and stainless and hear no differnce on electric. Take note people say EVO is in between stainless and nickel hardness wise. I swear EVO is as soft almost as nickel because I have worn my EVO up some with clear wear marks where as the stainless look new still.


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