What I am missing with semi-hemi ball fret ends? - Jemsite
All Other Guitars (including Prestige) Discussion about other Ibanez Guitars not covered in the above topics. Includes J-Custom, USA-Custom, Prestige subforum.

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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-28-2020, 03:18 PM Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Feb 2019
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What I am missing with semi-hemi ball fret ends?

Apologies in advance for the lengthy first post... I have been a regular lurker here for many years, and I always found the information and the forum community super valuable and helpful.

Here is the story: Iíve had many Ibbys - the first one back in 1981. I still own, love and mostly play an RG3520Z, RGT320Z and RGA420Z. I never really considered getting a higher-end Ibby, primarily because I couldnít justify the $, when compared to the quality and playability of my RGs. That is until Ibanez finally came out with a production J Custom RGA - I am partial to carve tops. The RGA8420ís specs are great: mahogany body, flamed maple top, J Custom wizard HP neck, rosewood fretboard, tree-of-life inlay, fusion PUs, Lo-Pro Edge, coil-split switch... But I gotta confess that what attracted me the most attracted to and infatuated with (aside from the carved top), was the perfectly rounded semi-hemi fret ends. I had never owned or even played a guitar with ball fret ends, and had been GASing for years for one. I even looked into having some of my guitars refretted with semi-hemi ends, even though they didnít need a fret job. I think the rationale fueling that obsession went something like this: if the RG Prestige frets ends felt so smooth and comfortable, there was something about the way those perfectly-rounded-semi-hemi-and-shiny fret ends looked, that inferred a much higher degree of comfort, surreal playability, feel and luxury that I just had to experience. Otherwise, why would the builder/luthier go through the extra trouble and investment of time and effort, and have to charge a premium for it? Why would so many players longed for them and be willing to pay for for it? Most of the posts I read across several forums supported that view. I finally pulled the trigger.

The RGA8420 arrived, and I was blown away by its beauty, quality, fit and finish... ahhh, and those gorgeous ball fret ends contrasting against the flame maple binding and rosewood board. I could not wait to play it. Work duties kept me away until that night...

Beverage in hand, low lights, washed hands, tube amps nice and hot, all the excitement, years of GASing, obsessing... quickly went out the window when to my surprise, I could now actually FEEL the fret ends. Not even close to the higher degree of confort I was expecting. It actually felt as if I was running my fingers over a micro washboard. Not a good feeling at all. How could that be? At first I thought something was wrong. Perhaps a defective neck? Or longer frets than standard. Perhaps neck shrinkage due to low humidity?... But nope; thatís by design the way they feel because those ball ends physically extent fret material higher and further than with normally angle-terminated frets. Probably the way my hands are built or my technique, but certainly not a feel I enjoyed at all.

I decided to give myself time to adjust. After all, it is a fantastic guitar and itís not like I am unable to play it. But after several months, unconsciously the RG8420 gets less action than the rest of my Ibbys. I guess I am just not as excited to play a guitar that doesnít feel as confortable as the others. The crude realization that for me, the best fret ends are the ones that I donít feel at all.

And so here I am, after a looong post, asking: what are your experiences with ball fret ends? What I am missing?

I am now seriously considering selling my RG8420... canít really justify keeping expensive gear if itís not gonna get played.

Thoughts?
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-28-2020, 03:29 PM
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Re: What I am missing with semi-hemi ball fret ends?

I always considered ball ends to feel "lumpy" for the same reason, there's no bevel on the edge so they're the full width of the fretboard. I've always done alot of ball ends on Prestige, but they still feel a little lumpy to me. I always preferred just straight Silver, nice rounding on the edges without going full round. Very comfortable.
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-28-2020, 06:55 PM
 
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I agree, the "premium edge treatment" is what I heard it called. I never knew they were called ball fret ends. But I had a JS ibanez with them. They are definitely really luxurious looking. But when the guitar needed frets... The luthier didn't do the ball end treatment and I actually like it better.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-29-2020, 02:06 AM Thread Starter
 
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Re: What I am missing with semi-hemi ball fret ends?

Rich - thanks. That makes a lot of sense - a nice rounding on the edges, without going full round.

jsxline6 - Thanks for the reply. great to know I am not alone on this.

I still then wonder - why the lure then? If they feel lumpy and have no playability value (and to some extent, a detraction), us guitar player would still want them only for the look?
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 11-29-2020, 02:14 AM
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Re: What I am missing with semi-hemi ball fret ends?

Everybody has a different opinion. Some absolutely love them
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-17-2021, 04:36 AM
 
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Re: What I am missing with semi-hemi ball fret ends?

Nothing wrong with not liking the ball ended frets. I personally love them, and wish they were on ALL my guitars. Kind of an expensive lesson to learn unfortunately, sorry bout that!
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-17-2021, 03:56 PM Thread Starter
 
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Re: What I am missing with semi-hemi ball fret ends?

Thanks for the reply. I absolutely understand that some players love them. Every player is different, thankfully. I would assume that technique also plays a part on player preference; for example, those that play with their thumb over the neck will probably have a tendency to feel the washboard effect more than those that play with their thumb behind the neck, since their fingers would probably be further apart from the fret ends. I personally love they way ball ends look, and to be fair, I decided to keep my RGA8420 and give it a better chance. Now I am not as bothered by the washboard feel as I was before. But having said that, I have been playing since the early 80ís and at this old stage, playability and confort are more important to me.
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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-17-2021, 07:49 PM
 
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Re: What I am missing with semi-hemi ball fret ends?

I feel like they are more cosmetic than anything. Properly leveled, crowned frets that are flush with the fretboard and have the corners rounded will perform just the same. Who spends time looking at their fret ends anyway? And you better be sure that your neck is as dry as it'll get or else your pretty fret ends will have to be filed down flush with the fretboard and just look normal and functional.. the horror.

It's also ironically used to up sell cheaper import guitars("premium" guitars). 'Cause looks sell. And no doubt, hemi fret ends look great.

They won't make you play better or sound better, and really it's a feature that only the player will visually notice as well. I just don't get it, but that's me, others are free to enjoy. I get distracted by enough other crap that keeps me from playing guitar, I don't need to add fret ends to that list haha
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 02-17-2021, 09:31 PM
 
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Re: What I am missing with semi-hemi ball fret ends?

Quote:
Originally Posted by aesthyrian View Post
I feel like they are more cosmetic than anything. Properly leveled, crowned frets that are flush with the fretboard and have the corners rounded will perform just the same. Who spends time looking at their fret ends anyway? And you better be sure that your neck is as dry as it'll get or else your pretty fret ends will have to be filed down flush with the fretboard and just look normal and functional.. the horror.

It's also ironically used to up sell cheaper import guitars("premium" guitars). 'Cause looks sell. And no doubt, hemi fret ends look great.

They won't make you play better or sound better, and really it's a feature that only the player will visually notice as well. I just don't get it, but that's me, others are free to enjoy. I get distracted by enough other crap that keeps me from playing guitar, I don't need to add fret ends to that list haha
Oh for sure! I'd argue its *entirely* aesthetic really. I dont really rub my fingers up over the frets when I slide up and down, so the "feel" of them is kind of a non factor (unless they protrude, and well we all hate that lol). While effective, I think slamming a file at some acute angle up and down a few times winds up looking "cheap" (hyperbole here lol). the ball end frets take time and require finesse and elegance to properly perform. Ive actually never entertained them being an issue for anyone before in terms of playability. Different strokes I suppose. I've never complained about prestige fret treatment either so, probably the happy middle ground there perhaps lol.
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