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Thread: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

  1. #26
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    According to Axiom's website:

    1 lb. of .080" x .043" fret wire contains 67 feet of wire whether the alloy is 18% nickel-silver or EVO.
    Both wires are identical in all dimensions.
    No difference in weight.

  2. #27
    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    My favorite 'cafe thread subject...again!!! A bunch of half deaf old geezers arguing about what they can & can't hear! Loar fairy dust and unicorns will be next!


    "No difference in weight."

    Ever take a science class in middle school? Two different alloy compositions will almost always have different weights and structural characteristics. But, they are close enough that there is no difference in weight or volume based shipping charges.

    I can hear and feel a difference, and like both the tone and the profile shape enough that I put evo mandolin fretwire on one of my Les Pauls....

  3. #28
    Registered User Frankdolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    I read years ago that Taylor tried stainless frets and found them too bright and tinny. They're a pretty progressive company always searching for better tone so... Myself, in 60 years of playing fretted instruments have never even replaced a fret.

  4. #29
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    A fret is just a nut up the neck, right? Well, except it has no groves. But I would think if you believe nut material could have an effect on tone, then a fret material could also seem to. I've often wondered this same EVO question. It seems plausible that harder materials could have a brighter or tinnier tone than softer ones...but then again who knows if its audibly significant? I have played an electric guitar with stainless frets and it was indeed harsher sounding in tone but thats of course a bit of apples and oranges. But that experience gave me enough pause to wonder if it would effect a mandolin.
    No matter where I go, there I am...Unless I'm running a little late.

  5. #30

    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    I'm a fan of EVO frets. I play for a few hours every day and standard nickel silver frets wear too quickly. When I need a refret on an instrument, I get EVO medium. If I have an instrument built for me I request EVO from the start. I have yet to wear a set out.
    As far as sound, I prefer to have unworn frets that maintain their intonation over time. Tonally, setup, string and pick choice make far more difference than fret choice.

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  7. #31

    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    I too had EVO frets replaced, I had a custom built F5 made and for some reason (too much internet) I thought EVO frets were an "up grade" in fact they did add cost to the build and the mando looked better with the gold wire but after a few months of playing it I sent it back and had them replaced with standard fret wire. I didn't notice any tonal differences but there was a big difference in how the mando played. With the EVO's it just seemed kinda stiff/rough I just didn't enjoy playing it much, the fret board size & shape were a copy of my Weber that plays really really nice so that wasn't the problem. I know it's all personal preference this was just my EVO experience.
    Lou

  8. #32
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    I spend more time in the guitar world forums than mandolin (for better or worse, and the consensus there seems to be that EVO frets don't change the tone or feel of the guitar noticeably, but stainless steel frets do. Many say stainless frets have a bit brighter sound, they can feel hard and/or slick, and in some playing and recording situations you can hear the string hit the fret with a slight "ping". Both EVO and stainless frets are reported to long outwear the nickel silver frets. I don't have any personal experience though, all my instruments have nickel silver. But based on reports of users I'd have no hesitation to use EVO on an instrument I intend to keep for a long time, but I'd stay away from stainless steel.
    Last edited by PaulVA; May-30-2020 at 9:49am. Reason: Added an additional relevant thought.

  9. #33
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    If string material makes a tonal difference, and I don't think anyone would argue, it doesn't seem like much of a stretch that fret material would also. I have no idea, but it would probably be pretty subtle. An extreme example-fretless vs fretted electric bass?

    But there's lots of snake oil on the market. Many saxophone players believe that a heavier screw at the neck joint makes an audible difference, and some think that different finishes on the screw make a tonal difference. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

  10. #34
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    If string material makes a tonal difference, and I don't think anyone would argue, it doesn't seem like much of a stretch that fret material would also.
    Strings move (vibrate) when we pluck or bow them, frets don't (OK, every part of an instrument moves a little) to speak of. String movement is what drives the instrument to make sound. Frets simply stop the strings.
    String stiffness and density are the two main things that affect what the string will sound like because the string is moving. The wire in a non-wound may be stiffer or less stiff and may sound different accordingly. As for wound strings, the core wire can be relatively larger or smaller, stiffer or less stiff. The winding wire doesn't really affect stiffness of the string, but it can affect density of the string significantly when alloys of different density are used.
    None of that goes on in a fret.

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    An extreme example-fretless vs fretted electric bass?
    When we stop a string on a well shaped fret we get a fairly definite stop. When we stop a string against a fretless fingerboard the stop is less definite. We have a soft finger holding the string against a wooden surface. There is a little bit of buzz and in general the sound that is produced is different from a fretted string. There is virtually no mechanical difference between the tops of well shaped metal frets of any material.

    Somehow, I'm not surprised about the sax players although I didn't know that.
    (My money would be on them not being able to reliably pick out which screw was which in a double blind test.)

  11. #35
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    Strings move (vibrate) when we pluck or bow them, frets don't (OK, every part of an instrument moves a little) to speak of. String movement is what drives the instrument to make sound. Frets simply stop the strings.
    String stiffness and density are the two main things that affect what the string will sound like because the string is moving. The wire in a non-wound may be stiffer or less stiff and may sound different accordingly. As for wound strings, the core wire can be relatively larger or smaller, stiffer or less stiff. The winding wire doesn't really affect stiffness of the string, but it can affect density of the string significantly when alloys of different density are used.
    None of that goes on in a fret.



    When we stop a string on a well shaped fret we get a fairly definite stop. When we stop a string against a fretless fingerboard the stop is less definite. We have a soft finger holding the string against a wooden surface. There is a little bit of buzz and in general the sound that is produced is different from a fretted string. There is virtually no mechanical difference between the tops of well shaped metal frets of any material.

    Somehow, I'm not surprised about the sax players although I didn't know that.
    (My money would be on them not being able to reliably pick out which screw was which in a double blind test.)
    I'm sure that's correct.

    As for the sax players, no they can't even pick the material the saxophone is made from in a double blind test. Nevertheless, many claim they can hear the difference in finish plating, right down to the neck screw, and manufacturers do not help.

  12. #36
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Some people say LL had a special batch of fretwire made that enhanced the tone generation. I don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve heard he left Gibson when the supply got too low to make another batch of F5s.
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Quote Originally Posted by PaulVA View Post
    ... Many say stainless frets have a bit brighter sound, they can feel hard and/or slick, and in some playing and recording situations you can hear the string hit the fret with a slight "ping"...
    In the case of my main playing banjo, recently refretted with Evo, this is an extremely loud banjo that amplifies every sound (including technique if I'm not careful). When I had the refret done I intentionally had the luthier keep the existing strings on, so I could compare tone as accurately as possible. When completed, I could immediately hear a recognizable brightness difference and a very subtle ping and I still hear that whenever I play the instrument. It's a difference I really like, just adding to the ability of the instrument to cut through (especially in jazz among horns).

    I don't pick up the ping on my mandolin, but I do still pick up the brightness.

    That said, I'll easily admit that everything related to hearing is subjective, and additionally there is a known "I just changed this and it sounds so much better" effect.

    BTW, in bluegrass banjos, it's a well known fact that a player can get better tone from a gold plated tone ring than from a nickel plated one.

    -- Don

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  14. #38
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    My favorite 'cafe thread subject...again!!! A bunch of half deaf old geezers arguing about what they can & can't hear! Loar fairy dust and unicorns will be next!


    "No difference in weight."

    Ever take a science class in middle school? Two different alloy compositions will almost always have different weights and structural characteristics. But, they are close enough that there is no difference in weight or volume based shipping charges.

    I can hear and feel a difference, and like both the tone and the profile shape enough that I put evo mandolin fretwire on one of my Les Pauls....
    Does Stew Mac sell Loar fairy dust? Asking for a friend.....

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  16. #39

    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Sunburst - when we play mandolin, our fingers come on and off the strings at different speeds, depending on the piece of music. Rarely do we just hold a string down on a fret for very long, but often our fingers are flying on and off the frets in fractions of a second. What I'm getting at is this: often the string doesn't get pushed down quite hard enough to not bounce a little bit on the fret. This little bounce on different metals could give a slightly different color to the tone.
    It's a little hard for me to believe that all the people who say they hear a difference are imagining it, which seems to be what you're saying. Human senses are pretty amazing at being able to detect very small differences in appearance, smell, feel, taste - doesn't seem like that much of a stretch to be able to hear the difference we're discussing here.
    Thanks to all for posting - pete

  17. #40
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Quote Originally Posted by bgpete View Post
    ...It's a little hard for me to believe that all the people who say they hear a difference are imagining it, which seems to be what you're saying...
    That's not what I'm saying, and even if it was I wouldn't say "all the people".
    What I'm saying is: it is awfully easy to fool ourselves and so I am skeptical any time someone claims to hear/feel/taste/see something that hasn't been demonstrated to be there.
    I've had customers who hear things that I can't. I've seen Jerry Douglas mention hearing something that I, the sound man, Sam Bush, Edgar Meyer and others didn't hear. I don't doubt that some people hear better than others, but going back to the Paris violin study, for example, when people who are high level musicians, trained from an early age, who have "eaten, slept and breathed" violins their entire lives get it wrong in a double blind test it makes me wonder how much of what we think we hear is real and how much is psychological or otherwise filtered through our human selves. In fact, I don't fully trust my own ears. I'm a human being and thus admit that I must therefore be susceptible to the same human filters as others.
    If a mandolin feels different might we perceive a sound difference? If a mandolin looks different might we perceive a difference in feel? in sound? I don't know...

    Furthermore, I'm not saying that you don't hear a difference. I'm just not surprised that the responses here vary from reports of hearing difference in fret wire to hearing no difference. From liking nickel silver better to liking Evo gold better (preferences are a different topic really, but in order for there to be preference there must be a perceived difference).
    "Perception is reality" as they say, and even if someone perceives a difference that cannot be demonstrated, it is real to that person and said person is fully entitled to his/her preference.

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  19. #41
    formerly Philphool Phil Goodson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    I can tell one difference between Nickel-Silver, EVO, and Stainless Steel:

    Nickel-Silver frets last (ham-handed) me about 1-3 years between dressings or refrets,
    EVO frets last me over 8 years,with a barely noticeable dent.
    Stainless-Steel frets last me over 10 years with no more than a scratch on the fret.

    I've had 3 mandolins with SS, 4-5 with EVO, and 8-9 with NS. Never noticed any change in tone, volume, playability when the refret changed to another type.
    Maybe I'm just lucky to have bad hearing.
    Phil

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  21. #42

    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    "Half-deaf old geezers.." - harrumph! I resemble that remark ;-) !
    Sunburst - sorry, didn't mean to put words in your mouth. I agree with everything you say, just maybe with a little different emphasis. As I posted before, many years in the sound business showed me how easy it is to deceive ourselves about the quality and quantity of sounds. I'll confess that more than once, behind the mixing console, I pretended to turn up the gain on an already-way-too-loud monitor mix, and had the listener say "yeah, that's better".
    I really want to like EVO frets! The idea of not needing fret work every couple of years is incredibly appealing to me. But after changing back to nickel-silver, I realize there's something about them (whatever it is) that I prefer. There's that "preference" thing. I agree with you that the mechanism of difference, if there is one, hasn't been demonstrated, and is certainly open to skepticism.
    Now my Mr-Fixit brain (that's what I did for the last 15 years - repair audio gear) is trying to devise a method to analyze this question. I guess it will involve a spectrum analyzer, a camera/microscope that can take a close-up video of the string/fret junction, and a mechanical string plucker to have repeatability. Anybody have chops like this?

  22. #43
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Quote Originally Posted by bgpete View Post
    ...a method to analyze this question...
    The answer is...
    Money!

    All we need is a collection of mandolins, some high level players, some high level listeners, some average players and listeners, some luthiers and a bunch of fret wire.
    Then someone to set up and run a double blind listening/playing test and see if we can pick out which mandolins have which frets at a rate significantly better than random chance.
    Then, when we get results, if history is any indication, many folks who disagree with the results will claim that the test was flawed and that they are still right.

    I suspect the debate will not go away.

  23. #44

    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Yeah, too much human element in that scenario! Debate would never end...
    That's why I vote for the mechanical rig - you can reduce the opinion factor down to a very small slice.
    Back in the '70s I was friends with a fellow who was the head engineer at Ovation Instruments, a brilliant guy (and incidentally a devotee of Monroe and bluegrass in general).
    One day at the factory he demonstrated for me a machine they had devised to test the frequency response of guitars. It applied a vibrating probe (hooked to a sweep oscillator) to the bridge of a guitar. An analyzer then graphed the response curve of the guitar - pretty cool! They had built this at the behest of Charlie Kaman (then the owner of Ovation). He was a fine guitarist (as well as a pioneer in the helicopter business) and wanted to see if he could build a guitar that would approach the quality of a legendary Martin owned by my engineer friend (it's on Tone Poems - some of you know who i'm talking about). This was well-known in the guitar business at the time, as Ovation then was being fiercely marketed, and played by many stars, making the other companies nervous about their market share.
    It makes me wonder if any of the larger makers have any such testing programs, which might have the ability to look at different fret materials.
    Anybody hear of anything like this?

  24. #45
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post

    "No difference in weight."

    Ever take a science class in middle school? Two different alloy compositions will almost always have different weights and structural characteristics. But, they are close enough that there is no difference in weight or volume based shipping charges.
    If it will make you happy, I will amend my statement to say "no significant difference in weight."

    Percent difference would be less than +/- 1% difference in weight between the two materials. Otherwise, the vendor would have to adjust the number of feet of wire shipped to avoid problems with the purchaser over the quantity of wire shipped, or the carrier over weight of the parcel. That's calculating the percent difference of adding or subtracting 1 foot of wire to or from an order to make it as close as possible to one pound of weight without cutting a length into fractional sizes.

    In college level engineering, students are taught the difference between "ideal" and "practical" results. +/- 2% difference between the practical and the ideal is considered acceptable for most applications in mechanical and electronic engineering. We are also taught the scientific method, which often is lacking from many of the discussions I see on these forums.

    Are you happy now?


    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    I'm interested to see whether EVO wire will stand the test of time, or whether it will turn out to be just another trend that fades out, like the tuner of the month, or the guitar capo of the year, or the luthier of the year.

    I get the impression that stainless steel fret wire is starting to fade in popularity.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    bgpete, use what you like, and may you enjoy your mandolin for many years.
    Last edited by rcc56; May-30-2020 at 2:46pm.

  25. #46
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    The answer is...
    Money!

    All we need is a collection of mandolins, some high level players, some high level listeners, some average players and listeners, some luthiers and a bunch of fret wire.
    Then someone to set up and run a double blind listening/playing test and see if we can pick out which mandolins have which frets at a rate significantly better than random chance.
    Then, when we get results, if history is any indication, many folks who disagree with the results will claim that the test was flawed and that they are still right.

    I suspect the debate will not go away.
    I volunteer for one of the high level listening spots, if hearing aids are OK.

  26. #47
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Well, for a "perfect" test, you would have to have a way to change the frets back and forth on one mandolin instantly.
    And then have it played over and over by a very well calibrated robot.
    And that ain't practical.

    And I, for one, wouldn't enjoy listening to any music performed by a robot.

    18% nickel silver wire works. It is fairly easy to install well by someone who has developed the necessary skills.
    EVO works also. It is apparently more durable, and is somewhat more difficult to install well.
    Stainless works also. It is very durable, and, according to many accounts, is much more difficult to install well.
    Brass wire works also, but it has been abandoned because of its low durability.

    An essential requirement for an instrument to sound and play its best is a tight and accurate set of frets, no matter what the alloy. Add a well adjusted bridge and nut of good quality to the equation, and a set of strings that is suitable for both the instrument and the player.

  27. #48

    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Quote Originally Posted by lowtone2 View Post
    I volunteer for one of the high level listening spots, if hearing aids are OK.
    I volunteer to house one of the high end instruments for "testing"

  28. #49
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    OMG, so much myth in one thread....
    Considering one fret material better than another judging by (finally good) refret of poorly setup mandolin is downright silly IMHO.
    Many makers (well probably majority, especially th ebig producers) need some marketing stuff so they find their "stories" to support why their product is special. Pure marketing psychology. Some will claim the most advanced materilas make their guitars sing like never before, others try to claim the "good old way" has always been better etc.
    My take is whenever you can find on internet some completely opposing opinions they are jus VERY subjective opinions and not really relevant to anyone else. We can talk all day here but still they are just OPINIONS.
    BTW, I swithecd to SS wire few years ago (both my new builds and refrets) and can hear no difference other than result of good setup. I've heard the same difference when I refretted mandolins I made or fretted before with exactly the same wire (and even on partial refrets). Always the new work sounded better (for obvious reasons).
    Too much snake oil in everything these days. Internet marketing BS is spoiling sense of reality of way too many folks.
    Adrian

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  30. #50

    Default Re: Changed back to nickel-silver frets

    Hogo - that's all I was looking for with this thread - opinions from people who have tried different fret materials, not judgements that one material was definitively "better" than another. I have no axe to grind re one versus another. As I said, I wanted to like EVO because of its clear wear advantage, but changing back, I find the sound more pleasing with nickel-silver. This lead me to wonder if others had the same (or the opposite) experience.
    Everyone hears with their own ears, and instrument tone is subjective to a very high degree.
    Without good objective data, differences and preferences are just opinions, as you say.
    Marketing has been messing with reality for centuries - we've all survived so far. :-)

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