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.