Strings! Can’t live with ’em…..well, of course you can. But after decades where string technology seemed pretty inert, the past few years have seen some interesting developments. I went from being a firm Ernie Ball fan to loving Elixir nanoweb strings – they sounded great on a range of guitars and they lasted really, really well.
And being essentially conservative in my choice of gear,(like most guitarists, when I find something that works for me, I tend to stay with it), it takes something special to make me rethink my choices.
And in D’addario’s fascinating NYXL 10-52 (light-heavy) set I think I might have found it. First a little background, D’addario have redesigned their wire winding design and reformulated their nickle plating to give more output, more tuning stability and a greatly enhanced playing life without the use of the sort of coatings other manufacturers have developed.
So compared to my old set of Elixirs on my lovely 1982 Ibanez Roadstar, what have I got? Well the unwound strings have got the same sort of snap that really goes with the maple neck and single coils the Ibanez has and there is a really strong percussive character to my inept chicken-picking. With the volume and overdrive revved up, there is a clear, ringing solo tone. It also suits the character of this guitar and on the treble side I’d have to put the NYXL right up with the Elixirs.
This is a hybrid set, so the bass strings are a touch heavier, but there is still a focused clarity to them that really comes into play when I tune the guitar down a step. Clean, it’s a lovely, dense, chewy tone with a lot of dark twang, it works very well with neck-single coil Hendrix and SRV lines. With the guitar going through the 5153 model on Jamup, that lowered tuning really brings out a rich, warm grunt – It’s a long way from Hank Marvin and I suspect that this heavier gauge may slightly favour humbuckers. For earthy blusey tones to Metal, I think the bass side of the NYXL set have the edge here but I’d favour the Elixirs for very clean single-coil tones.
One note on tuning stability – the NYXLs were very stable. I’ve been meaning to sort out the slightly flaky trem on this Ibanez for ages but the NYXL held the tuning much more efficiently than I’ve been used to.
So it gives you a great tone and tuning stability – at £10.99, this is a more expensive set than most out there, but it is well-made (in New York), well designed and does what the advertising tells you it will do. There is no gimmickry here, just a great set of strings. They are well worth a look for your next set change.