A guide to what's currently available on the strings market.
Although easily dismissed in the world of tone when compared to amps and instruments, the importance of picking the right strings can often be overlooked. This month, MI Pro takes a look at some of the most noteworthy ranges on offer…
0191 300 3000
One of the world’s largest manufacturers of MI accessories, D’Addario distributes its products in 120 countries worldwide. The firm’s most popular electric guitar strings are its XL Nickel Wound strings, which are precision-wound with nickel-plated steel onto a hexagonally shaped, high carbon steel core.
Meanwhile, the recently launched XL Nickel Wound Balanced Tensions strings have been optimised to have a comparable tension string to string, allowing for greater dynamic control and a more evenly balanced effort while fretting, bending or strumming.
There are six sizes of Balanced Tension strings sets available: three for electric guitar (RRP £6.99) including the EXL120BT (9-40), EXL110BT (10-46) and EXL115BT (11-50) as well as three for electric bass (RRP £23.49) including the EXL220BT (40-95), EXL170BT (45-107) and EXL160BT (50-120).
For acoustic players, there’s the EXP range, which features EXP Coated technology that produces strings with the tone and feel of uncoated strings.
Every spool of wire is tested with a digital micrometer, which measures the concentricity of the coating thickness to 2/10,000 of an inch, reducing the coating thickness by up to 50 per cent.
Westside Distribution - 0141 248 4812
Strings & Things – 01273 440 442
Elixir’s range of strings offer a full range of gauges for acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, banjo, and mandolin. Among the key elements that go into creating Elixir’s renowned range of strings are the microscopically thin NANOWEB and POLYWEB fluoropolymer coatings, which form a long-lasting shield that is designed to protect the entire outer surface of the string from the usual concoction of oil, sweat, dirt and debris. This ensures that the strings’ tone remains in pristine condition. Furthermore, the firm’s anti-rust plated plain steel strings are engineered to prevent corrosion for the plain steel, providing a longer tone life for the entire set.
Tanglewood 01959 571600
In production collaboration with one of the world’s largest string manufacturer’s,Tanglewood Guitars has developed a string range with gauges specifically roadtested over many years to be comfortable and practical for every style of player.
Processed from fine metals and alloys and finished in a delicate Fibreflex Polymer Coating to resist rust buildup and enhance each strings vitality and performance lifespan.
Gauges available include the IBT 10 Extra Light (.010 - .047), IBT 11 Custom Light (.011 - .052), IBT 12 Light (.012 - .053) and the IBT 13 Medium (.013 - .056). RRP £12.95.
0845 270 2411
Boasting a string range that spans acoustic, electric and classical guitars, along with a number of different gauge options for each instrument, Chord’s guitar string offering caters for all manner of guitar players. For acoustic guitars, there are the WG1152 extra-lights (11-52) and WG1253 lights (12-53), which are both 85/15 bronze wound strings that retail for £3.99.
Meanwhile, for electric guitar players, there are the EG0942 super-lights (9-42), EG1046 custom lights (10-46) and the EG1149 lights (11-49), all available for £3.99.
Lastly, the firm’s classical guitar string offering features the CGS-NT normal tension (28-43) and the CGS-HT high tension (28.5-44) string sets, which are now available for £4.49.
0141 248 4812
C.F. Martin recently crafted the Tony Rice Signature Monel Strings (SSP £8.99) to the exact specifications of the legendary guitarist. Made with a long lasting, nickel-based alloy, these strings are designed to quickly mellow to a warm, vintage tone that brings out each acoustic guitar’s unique sound. Also from Martin are the SP Lifespan acoustic strings (SSP £15.49). The SP core wire is engineered to hold tunings and resist breaking, while providing a rich, full tone with responsive attack. The strings are also treated with Cleartone proprietary technology for longer life.
0191 414 9000
Featuring black nylon trebles and Golden Alloy wound basses, La Bella’s 830 Folksinger (RRP £9.50) strings are suitable for both Spanish-style folk and classical guitars, sporting special balls attached to one end of each string to eliminate the need to tie each nylon string to the bridge.
Elsewhere, the HRS Series strings (RRP £5.25) offer very bright and long lasting tone. The nickel-plated, steel round wound strings are engineered to be extra-flexible for bending and sustaining notes.
When it comes to bass strings, La Bella’s Deep Talkin’ Bass Stainless Steel Flat Wounds (RRP £45) have been the strings of choice for a number of professional bass players since the 50s and 60s and are recommended for fretless basses.
Lastly, the Phosphor Bronze sets (RRP £5.45) are made from La Bella’s specially formulated bronze and tin alloy, which produces a bright tone while providing a long string life.
The Dean Markley Helix Series are the electric guitar strings of choice for a wide range of professional players, including Breakthrough Guitarist of the Year 2010 winner, Orianthi. Helix strings feature a ‘Hyper-Elliptical’ compressed winding process that allows for an increased number of wraps across the length of the string without altering its diameter, resulting in fuller tone, sustain, output, and an increased life span. The strings are available in five gauges, ranging from light (.009 - .042) to medium (.011 - .052).
Rickenbacker guitar strings have a number of options that are all designed to put the jangle back in your guitar. For short scale guitars, there is the 95106 nickel 12/54 gauge set (RRP £9.95), while, for standard six and twelve strings sets, there is the 95403 (RRP £9.95) and 95404 (RRP £19) compressed round-wound 10/46 gauge sets.
For bass players, there is the 95511 four-string 45/104 gauge (RRP £35.75) and 95518 eight-string 20-90 gauge (RRP £44.95).
Rosetti also makes its own brand of strings for electric and acoustic guitars and basses, as well as classical and ukulele. For electric guitar, there are 9/42 and 10/46 gauge sets (RRP £2.49) to choose from and, for acoustic, there are 10/47, 11/50 and 12/53 gauge sets (RRP £2.49), as well as a 10/47 12-string set (RRP £3.99). Rosetti also offers 40/95 and 45/105 (RRP £6.49) sets for bass players, along with a 45/105 acoustic bass set (RRP £6.75).
There are also sets for classical guitar (RRP £2.49) and ukulele (£1.99).
Rotosound’s British Steels (RRP £7.95) are based on the firm’s original Stainless Steel Electric Guitar Strings from the 1960s. Available in 9/42w (BS9), 10/46w (BS10) and 11/48w (BS11) gauges, the firm’s British steel strings are designed to have the highest possible iron content and to offer a clear, punchy sound, positive grip and plenty of twang.
For acoustic players, the Rotosound Tru Bronze (RRP £6.95) strings are hand made in the firm’s Sevenoaks factory., featuring brass wire covers for resonance, clarity and tone. Available gauges include 10/50w (TB10), 11w/52w (TB11) and 12/54w (TB12).
The Pure Nickels set (RRP £8.95) are Rotosound’s top of the range electric strings and feature solid nickel covers for increased magnetic response, volume, clarity and tone. Gauges available include 9/4w2 (PN9), 10/46w (PN10) and 11/48w (PN11).
Strings & Things - 01273 440 442
Engineered to maximise output and clarity, Ernie Ball Cobalt Slinky Guitar Strings are designed to provide guitarists and bassists with a new voice. The strings offer an extended dynamic range, with an optimised harmonic response, increased low end, and crisp, clear highs, prompting guitar legend Slash to comment:
“These strings sound and feel better than anything I’ve ever played.” Furthermore, the Cobalt range of strings is also engineered to deliver a stronger magnetic relationship between pickups and strings than any other alloy previously available. Meanwhile, you may wish to keep an eye out for the new Ernie Ball M-Steel range of strings, which will be available later this year.
JHS 01132 865 381
Westside 0141 248 4812
Accessory king Dunlop boasts an array of strings for guitarists and bass players, including a host of signature sets made in conjunction with such guitar heroes as Kerry King (£7.99) and Zakk Wylde (£6.99), with bass signature strings from Lemmy (in his custom 50-70-85-105 gauge, £29.99) and Rob Trujillo (£29.99). Dunlop's standard electric strings range from £5.99-PLUS and are available in a variety of gauges, from the extra light Rev. Willy's Mexican Lottery Brand (designed in collaboration with ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons) to the Heavy Core series that go up to 12-54s! They also cater for acoustic players - with different gauges available in brass from £6.49 and phosphor bronze from £7.99 - and classical players (nylon-strung, from £6.99). New for 2013 are Dunlop Acoustic and Electric Gig Packs, which feature a set of strings plus a number of additional accessories.
Meanwhile, Encore and Guitar Tech's string ranges feature electric, acoustic, bass and classical sets, with single replacement strings also available from Encore. Made from top quality materials, these strings are durable and bright sounding, with Guitar Tech sets available from £4.49 and Encore sets from £4.99.
Also from Dunlop, the Heavy Core Bass Strings (SSP £20.99) are designed to allow bass players to down tune without needing to modify their instrument or playing style. The specially designed core-to-wraps ratio delivers a balance of tone and tension that provides a natural feel and punchy sound when tuned below E standard.
Thomastik Infeld Strings
Barnes & Mullins
01691 652 449
Credited with inventing the steel string in Vienna 1919, Violin Maker Dr Franz Thomastik and engineer Otto Infeld caused something of a paradigm shift in the string world. Since then, Thomastik Infeld has garnered a reputation for innovation. This is due in no small part to the Dominant String set. Invented in the 1960s, the Dominant String range is aimed at delivering the feel and tone of a gut string without gut’s inherent disadvantages. The firm’s Dominant Violin Strings (£52.35), which are available in fractional sizes, are now considered the string of choice for many a violinist, be they student or acclaimed virtuosi.
01634 241 213
Based in Jersey City New York, Kerly Music offers a selection of pure nickel, stainless steel and phosphor bronze strings. All sets are designed to deliver optimum tone, bendabilty and longevity. Sets available for 6/12 acoustic, nylon classical, 6/7 electric, lap steel and 4/5/6 string bass guitars include, Kerly Kues, Kerly Sinister, Kerly Sinister 7, Medieval and Earth Tones. RRP£7.99 - £31.99.