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 Post subject: Coated strings
PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 2:21 pm 
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Koa
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Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2017 11:09 pm
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Location: Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada
First name: Conor
Last Name: Searl
City: Duncan
State: British Columbia
Zip/Postal Code: V9L 2E5
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I was wondering what people's general thoughts are on coated strings.

As a player I never trusted them, I can be a pretty ham-fisted hard hitting acoustic guitar player, I break strings, doesn't matter if they're coated or not.

Having said that, as a tech I've had a few run ins with coated strings over the last little while. First was a coated bass string, where the coating insulated my hand from the the string so there was a persistent ground buzz regardless of anything I did. Secondly I've been wrestling with intonation issues on a clients guitar, the guitar sets up great, the issues go away, and then several months later the guitar comes back for another set up, and the client is complaining of intonation issues on the 3rd fret of the low E string again. There's always lots of work to do his guitars so I never spent a lot of time chasing only that one issue. But this time his guitar is fine, and doesn't really need much. That low G note measures about 15 cents sharp, the 12th fret measures 3 or 4 cents flat, the nut slot is as low as its going to go, the rest of the frets seem fine intonation wise. Changed the one string for a new one, everything's fine again.

So, the wisdom of new strings first has been well established, but I wanted to get some feedback from people with more experience than I before I go spouting off my own theories about coated strings to my customers.

My theory is basically that yes the coating on strings helps strings sound brighter longer than other strings, but it does nothing to mitigate the physical wear and tear of being ground into a fret, and hammered by the palm of a hand while held under great tension. And so a coated string is as susceptible as a non coated one to the effects of everything that doesn't have to do with moisture in the air and the oil on our fingertips.

Is this my imagination?


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 Post subject: Re: Coated strings
PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 4:38 pm 
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HATE THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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 Post subject: Re: Coated strings
PostPosted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 5:11 pm 
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Koa
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First name: Freeman
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A long long time ago I did a little experiment - I strung my old D18 with about every brand and type and composition of acoustic string that I could lay my hands on. The one thing that I held constant was the gauge - always 0.012 to 0.053 or 4. I played the guitar and recorded it with the same mic, pick, recorder settings - yadda yadda. The two most popular coated strings at that time were Elixer poly and nano webs, but I also tried several DR's and several of Martin's and some D'Addarios.

I played those recordings back to back to back and formed my own opinions about which ones I liked the best, which were acceptable, which I HATED!

The second part of this whole experiment was to take the ones that I thought were acceptable and string several guitars with them, trying to play them about the same amount of time for the same period of time. I made a seat of the pants decision when I thought they needed replacement.

Last part of this is that I currently have about 12 acoustic and 3 electric guitars. The acoustics range from low tuned twelve strings to resonators to "normal" guitars. I do not want to buy and stock a different gauge set for each guitar, yet I use different gauges on different guitars. I have found that I can cover most of the needs with a set of standard "lights", a set of standard "mediums" and a few singles.

My strings of choice are Elixer Nanowebs on all the acoustics (I prefer phosphor bronze), D'Addario's on the two electrics and Thomastik flatwounds on the jazz guitar. Your mileage will vary and it should, but at least I know how I got where I am.

ps - I'm going to add that life is as important as initial or final sound. The idea of changing strings weekly or before every gig or whatever just isn't acceptable. I pulled the Weissie out last night - it probably hasn't been restrung in a year - sounded pretty darn good (Elixer mediums with an 0.016 on top, 0.020 second. Tuned to open D)

pps - I hate string squeak.



These users thanked the author Freeman for the post: Conor_Searl (Sat Sep 21, 2019 12:22 am)
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 Post subject: Re: Coated strings
PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2019 12:34 am 
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Koa
Koa

Joined: Fri Feb 10, 2017 11:09 pm
Posts: 585
Location: Cowichan Valley, BC, Canada
First name: Conor
Last Name: Searl
City: Duncan
State: British Columbia
Zip/Postal Code: V9L 2E5
Country: Canada
Status: Semi-pro
Yeah Freeman, I hear you for sure. My gripe is generally not with the sound of the strings, and probably gripe is an overstatement. My preference is to not overpay for something that will break as easy as the cheaper alternative. I should mention that in my "old" age I probably haven't broken a string at all for several years.

I can appreciate the desire for the "new" bright sound to last. And I definitely appreciate that for a guitar that is played only occasionally, or like in your situation where having many guitars means no one guitar is going to get all the hours of use, these are an elegant solution. But in my customers situation, he was operating under the assumption that coated strings meant he could get a month out of a set of strings, playing daily and gigs every weekend. The strings still sound good to his ear, but the reality is that they were still worn out, even if they didn't sound so old (this is the hypothesis that I wanted to confirm). My advice to him was basically that strings do in fact wear out apart from just sounding dull, and this is where his intonation issues lie, in his situation when his G chord sounds out of tune its probably time to change the strings. An obvious conclusion, but one that seemed like a revelation to him.

My post was more about wanting to confirm my own suspicions, that there are other factors involved in guitar strings wearing out that coated strings don't protect against, and probably were never intended to act against. That is, the intention of coated string manufacturing is that strings sound new for the the course of their lifespan, not that they last forever. Again, probably obvious but sometimes I don't find the obvious things so obvious.


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 Post subject: Re: Coated strings
PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2019 2:26 am 
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Cocobolo
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Yeah. Coated strings deteriorate really slowly. . .Which means they stay sounding horrible for a really long time...


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 Post subject: Re: Coated strings
PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2019 3:23 am 
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Quote:
Yeah. Coated strings deteriorate really slowly. . .Which means they stay sounding horrible for a really long time...


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These users thanked the author Chris Pile for the post: Bosco Birdswood (Sat Sep 21, 2019 5:32 am)
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 Post subject: Re: Coated strings
PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2019 4:40 am 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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Location: Ann Arbor, Michigan
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Connor we just ran into that persistent ground buzz issue with coated strings on a base for a client who I can't name publicly but we've all seen him on TV late at night some years back. :). Turns out it is the black, coated strings.... causing the ground issue. Sheesh.

We're not fans of coated strings mostly because of the value proposition and some issues with one variety from a leading provider. I agree that tonally I'm not a fan either and liked the line from Mike that lasting longer can mean sounding lousy longer too.

I've installed a lot of Tomastiks and used them myself. I really like the tone and feel but do not like the very high price... They can be depending on where you get them more than six times the price of D'Addario EJ-16s which are my and our goto strings of choice.

In addition if you have never installed Tomastiks be ready to get your bridge slotting saw and files out. The colored thread wraps are so very thick that these strings often require the bridge to be modified so that the pins go all the way down. Who needs that?

We recently added Pyramids to our **** list of strings we think suck. One of our 12 string RIK clients wanted us to use them and one string was bad with crushed windings. As you may know these are nearly $40 strings... Anyway the lack of availability of these strings and a poor replacement time from the maker (Europe) had his guitar out of commission for nearly a month and for a ***** string.... Again we've never had any issues with D'Addario.

My favorite coated string if I wanted to use them and I don't.... would be EXPs from D' Addario. Their similarity to EJ-16/17s makes me a fan.

You know too and I often bring this up to our clients being the nag that I am if folks kept their instruments for the most part when not gigging in a proper RH environment stings last longer too at 40 - 50% and when not kept in higher than 50% RH.

Lastly as the guy who set-ups guitars all day long intonation is important to me and our clients and I spend a lot of time on it. You would be amazed at some of the differences between say two different brands 10's when it comes to intonation. You would also be amazed at how the saddles can be WAY out of wack with DR strings, our least favorite. With this said we religiously advise clients when they have us working on their ax to be specific about the strings that they intend to use because it can make a huge difference on the intonation settings AND the differences if not addressed can be easily heard.

Oh did I mention that we hate DR strings.... :)

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 Post subject: Re: Coated strings
PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2019 7:02 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Guess living 5 miles from the beach leaves me a slightly different impression... Uncoated bronze strings don't live long here weather played or not. When I lived in Pennsylvania I thought as most of you do..... waste of money. Plus I don't like the feel personally.

But since moving I have come to appreciate them and learned to deal with the way they feel under the fingers. All brands are not equal though, and I find Elixers to be among the worst. I recomend and use the EXP D'Addario strings. The tone is good , they do not oxidize and at a cost for value thing..... I sell reg strings at about $10 a set and coated for $18. The coated ones will last 3X as long easily .

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These users thanked the author B. Howard for the post: Hesh (Sat Sep 21, 2019 8:02 am)
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 Post subject: Re: Coated strings
PostPosted: Sat Sep 21, 2019 8:02 am 
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Old Growth Brazilian Rosewood
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B. Howard wrote:
Guess living 5 miles from the beach leaves me a slightly different impression... Uncoated bronze strings don't live long here weather played or not. When I lived in Pennsylvania I thought as most of you do..... waste of money. Plus I don't like the feel personally.

But since moving I have come to appreciate them and learned to deal with the way they feel under the fingers. All brands are not equal though, and I find Elixers to be among the worst. I recomend and use the EXP D'Addario strings. The tone is good , they do not oxidize and at a cost for value thing..... I sell reg strings at about $10 a set and coated for $18. The coated ones will last 3X as long easily .


Living near the beach is an excellent reason to use coated strings. I hadn't considered that. :)

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 Post subject: Coated strings
PostPosted: Sun Sep 22, 2019 9:32 am 
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Koa
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Location: Shefford, Québec
First name: Tim
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Having a previous background in car racing (performance rally) I often compare selecting guitar strings to selecting car tires. No other mod has a bigger impact on performance ... but one needs to be aware of the inherent compromises.

For acoustic guitars, I gravitated personally to the Martin Studio Performance series 80/20 SP. Perhaps because of declining high-frequency hearing, I prefered the brighter sound of the 80/20 alloy. Many customers commented on the bronze electroplated plain strings and core wire, because they look cool. I used them on all my own builds. They were also (relatively) inexpensive, so I stocked a good supply. The downside is that their life is shorter than pretty much anything else I ever tried — same usually applies to high performance tires. They would still be my first choice for studio recording. Unfortunately, Martin in its wisdom revamped their string line and dropped the old SPs.

For many years, I really didn’t like anything about coated strings of any brand. Now on my own guitars, and those I use as demonstrators, I use Elixir “Nanoweb” (quite different and infinitely better IMHO that their older “Polyweb” coating). I don’t think they sound as good as the SPs, but they sound pretty good and have extraordinarily long life and that for me is an attractive compromise.

The questions I always ask my clients is “how often do you want to change strings?” and “is price a major factor?” For students and those on a tight budget, we’ll put a set of uncoated Dunlop or GHS. (Nothing in Canada is less expensive than D’Addario EJ16’s, but for pragmatic reasons described below, I rarely use my D’Addario account). As Brian said, Elixirs are twice the price, but last at least 3 times as long. At least 80% of guitars leave my shop with a set of Elixirs.

For electrics, I’ve had really good feedback on the newer Elixir “Optiweb”. A dollar or so more expensive, but once players try them, they rarely change back. I don’t recommend any coated string for playing with a slide — they just don’t stand up to the abrasion.

Most of my professional clients are using Elixirs. Some were using them when they first visited, others tried them and never went back.

I have access as a dealer to a wide range of string choices, but I only stock what I’m prepared to recommend, and only for steel string, electric and classical guitars. Most new clients expect that I will be able to recommend and supply strings, so I do. Clients always have the option to supply their own — bass players have no choice, unless they’re prepared to wait for my next stocking order. My pricing is aligned with Amazon.ca. I could make a bigger markup on strings, but this way I know my clients will never feel like I gouged them.

In Canada, many string brands are available through general distributors who also carry many other items — cases, pedals, pickups, whatever. While they generally have minimum total order restrictions, there are no minimum quantities of any given string type. Such is not the case with D’Addario, or recently with Martin (the latter moved their string line back to their instrument distributor a couple of years ago). I’m not going to order a 10-pack of some odd-ball string type, but from my other distributors I can order a single pack of any type from several other brands, and add it to an order of something else. That fits my business.

But, if Martin were to bring back the former SP line ...


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These users thanked the author Tim Mullin for the post: Barry Daniels (Sun Sep 22, 2019 7:39 pm)
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