AHEADSET for me is far better:
~ Comes loose far less often
~ Far easier to adjust tension
~ If parts strip threads, (i.e. Star nut washer, bolt and stem) then these can be replaced pretty cheaply.
I know the older conventional nut headset, can be good, I had a 1 1/4" conventional nut headset on my rigid Cannondale M700, it was smooth for years, hence when it works why mess about and replace it, but when you have a naff setup it's really annoying that you end up throwing money at.
Anyway my Cannondale's conventional nut headset, I replaced with reducer cups (1 1/4" to 1 1/8") & aheadset, just so I could have suspension forks at the time, Marzocchi Bomber's, as then, no manufacturer or bike shops did any sus forks in 1 1/4". My initial reservation about using reducer cups, is this might be a bit of a bodge, but it wasn't no creaking, sweet.
Anyway back to conversation about bearings. I bought standard 5/32" bearings in a race from HALFORDS for my 1 1/8" aheadset.
THE TOP RACE WAS A GOOD FIT
THE BTM RACE WAS A BAD FIT, SO I USED my old top race that was a perfect fit.
(L/H) HALFORDS 5/32" BEARING RACE top of AND (R/H) MY ORIGINAL 5/32" BEARING RACE top of:
(L/H) HALFORDS 5/32" BEARING RACE btm of AND (R/H) MY ORIGINAL 5/32" BEARING RACE btm of:
Of course I could have justed packed bearings in with lots of grease without a race, but I'm not keen on this idea, as bearings could become dislodged more easily on final adjustment OR riding.
Giant Trance x1 ~ 2008