Stainless Steel Frets: The Pros and Cons
by Joe Norton 05/09/2023
Stainless steel frets are all the rage these days, but what are they exactly and why are they so popular? In this article, we will give you the lowdown on stainless steel frets and how they compare to the classic nickel/silver frets. We will also help you figure out if stainless steel frets are a good fit for you and your guitar.
What are stainless steel frets?
Stainless steel frets are made of a tough metal mix that has chromium, nickel, and some other stuff in it. This makes them last longer and stay shiny better than nickel/silver frets, which are made of a blend of copper, zinc, and nickel. Stainless steel frets are also harder and stronger than nickel/silver frets, which means they don’t corrode as much. Plus, they are much more resistant to playing wear, so they can handle a lot of bending, hammering, and tapping without losing their shape or shine.
Stainless steel frets have several benefits for guitar players, such as:
Stainless steel frets can be polished to a mirror-like shine and a smooth-as-glass surface that keeps its feel for years. This makes them ideal for bending, sliding, and vibrato techniques, as they reduce the friction between the strings and the frets. Many players report that stainless steel frets feel like butter under their fingers.
Stainless steel frets have a slightly brighter tone and a sharper attack than nickel/silver frets. This can enhance the clarity and definition of your notes, especially on high-gain settings. Some players also prefer the extra zing and responsiveness that stainless steel frets provide.
Stainless steel frets are much harder and wear down, meaning that you will rarely (if ever) need to refret your guitar. This can save you money and hassle in the long run, as well as preserve the original feel and sound of your instrument. Stainless steel frets are especially suitable for metal guitarists who play with heavy strings and aggressive styles.
Stainless steel frets are not without drawbacks, however. Some of the disadvantages of stainless steel frets are:
Stainless steel frets are more expensive than nickel/silver frets, both in terms of material and labor. This is because stainless steel frets are harder to bend, file, and polish than nickel/silver frets3. This makes them more difficult and time-consuming to install for manufacturers and luthiers/techs. Expect an upcharge for stainless steel frets if you want to upgrade your guitar or order a custom one.
Some people may think that stainless steel frets can wear down your strings faster than nickel/silver frets. This may affect your tone and tuning stability, as well as make you change your strings more often. However, this is not a major issue for most players, as the difference in string life is not very significant. Besides, you can always use coated or stainless steel strings to make them last longer with stainless steel frets. These types of strings also have other benefits, such as better corrosion resistance and tone quality.
Stainless steel frets have a slightly different feel than nickel/silver frets, which may not suit everyone’s preference. Some players find stainless steel frets too stiff or solid, lacking the organic or warm feel that nickel/silver frets have. Others find stainless steel frets too slippery or slick, making it harder to control their intonation or expression3. Ultimately, the feel of stainless steel frets is a matter of personal taste.
Stainless steel frets are a great option for guitar players who want smoothness, brightness, and longevity from their frets. However, they also come with some trade-offs in terms of cost, string life, and feel. Whether you choose stainless steel frets or not depends on your budget, style, and preference. The best way to decide is to try both types of frets on different guitars and see which one sounds and feels better to you.
Stainless steel frets are one of the most common topics that we get asked about at Guitar Anatomy. We hope this article has cleared up some of the myths and facts about them. If you are interested in trying stainless steel frets for yourself, you will be happy to know that we offer them in many of our neck models. You can check out our range of necks with stainless steel frets by clicking here. If you have any questions or feedback, please don’t hesitate to contact us by clicking here. We are always ready to assist you with your guitar needs. Thank you for reading!