Gibson Cryogenic Frets

The 2014 guitars introduced cryogenic fret treatment, and the positive results were so dramatic that the 2016 model year guitars (both Traditional and High-Performance versions) retain this innovative feature.

Cryogenic treatment makes metals stronger without being harder, so they have the same “feel” as standard frets. Although it may seem puzzling that metal can be stronger but not harder, it’s sort of like someone who works out—the skin on the surface is the same, but the underlying muscle is a lot stronger. Cryogenic frets are also more resistant to abrasive wear so when you bend strings, you’re not grinding the fret’s metal.

Cryogenic treatment was developed by NASA after the space agency discovered that subjecting metals to the hot and cold temperatures of space improved them, and now cryogenically treated metals are common in brass instruments and guitar/piano strings as well as engines, motorcycles, saw blades, automatic transmissions, and more. So while Gibson was the first company to apply cryogenic treatment to guitar frets, the technology has been proven effective for decades.

Cryogenic treatment is neither simple nor inexpensive. The frets are subjected to temperatures below -300 degrees Fahrenheit (colder than Saturn!) for an extended period of time, then allowed to return slowly to room temperature. But because the process is so beneficial for guitars, Gibson decided it was well worth the extra effort to treat frets cryogenically.

So does it really make that much of a difference? To settle that question, Gibson’s technicians invented a machine that automated string bends, and applied bends to both standard and cryogenically treated frets. After 277,000 string bends, standard frets wore down four times more than cryogenically treated frets—0.008 inches compared to 0.002 inches.

This means that your 2016 model year guitar will probably never need a fret job, so you won’t have to worry about some tech tearing up your fingerboard just so you can keep playing your favorite instrument…feel free to bend away.