Guitar String shoot out!
I have been testing different brands of strings for my two workhorse guitars, which are a 1996 Tom Anderson Drop Top and 1999 Steve Morse signature. The companies I tried out are all excellent. I was going for versatile tone for each guitar. I have all the gear to get the tones I was after, however the guitar string tones were lacking. The brands I tested: D'Addario, Curt Mangan, Erine Ball, La Bella, Gibson, GHS, Thomastik-Infeld Power Brights, Dean Markley and Infeld. All gauges are round wound 10-46, except the Power-Brights, which are 10-45
First we will start off with my 1996 Tom Anderson which has two John Suhr custom single coils and a Rio Grande Texas Humbucker with chrome cover in the bridge. The tones I was after. Hendrix, Clapton, Michael Landau, Steve Lukather, Mark Knopfler, Larry Carlton strat tones, Robben Ford and Jeff Beck.
First I started off with pure nickel strings by Curt Mangan and D'Addario. Wonderful sounding strings, real warm tones. The bass strings got to much bottom end and lost the glassy clean tones. Next I tried the GHS boomers, the bass strings again got to much bottom end, and the treble strings are nice and gave me the glassy top end I was after. Still not hundred percent what I was after tone wise. The next set was Ernie Ball RSP, excellent strings, nice bottom end on the bass strings and nice glassy highs on the treble strings, I was getting closer to my quest however still not versatile as I would like. Next was the Gibson Brite Wires again wonderful tones, clear bottom end from the bass strings, glassy highs from the treble strings, however when using a lot of effects and OD pedals the treble strings overtones were not happening for me.
Next set was the Thomastik-Infeld Power-Brights. Guitarist Carl Verheyen turned me on to them. These strings had all the tones and versatility I was looking for. Round bass tones, glassy treble tones, able to get all the tones from my studio rig and pedals from the guitarist I mentioned and my own signature sound. However $19.00 a set I could not deal with. So the shoot out continues. Next tested Dean Markley Helix, These were very close to the Power-Brights, Bass strings dead on, treble strings were close not as glassy or versatile as the Power-Brights for me though. Next were the Infeld, these got the same tones as the Power-Brights and the versatility. However $13.00 a set couldn’t deal with since I’m playing a lot and change strings often. Next set were the D’Addario EXL110 and the NYXL, the EXL110 got the tones, versatility and glassy highs, however the bass strings didn’t have as much punch as the Infeld and Power-Brights for me. The NYXL were too bright for my Anderson Drop Top.
Last set was the La Bella Electric EL-R. These are the winner! Same tones as the Power-Brights and Infield, same versatility in tones, glassy highs when tone pot on the Anderson Drop Top is all the way up, mellow, darker tones when rolling off the tone, Bass string very even with punch. Mellow, darker tones when rolling off the tone on my Tom Anderson Drop Top. When rolling off the Tom Anderson Drop Top volume with overdrive from my Bogner 101B and my custom VVT-X40 D-style amp and going after Hendrix, Clapton type tones the La Bella’s clean up nice, cut through the band, mix when recording and gets nice Jazz/fusion tones. All the tones I was after from my favorite artist mentioned.
The La Bella’s EL-R made the grade. These work for me and can handle $6.25 a set.
Guitar String Shoot Out Cont:
Now that I got my 1996 Tom Anderson happening, next challenge is my 1999 Steve Morse Signature model. The pickups in my Steve Morse are. Neck humbucker is a custom Lindy Fralin Unbucker, neck single coil is a Tom Anderson SD1, bridge single coil is the stock Steve Morse, and bridge humbucker is the stock Steve Morse. On this guitar I wanted to go from Jazz Pat Metheny tones, Fusion Dixie Dregs/Steve Morse tones, Country, Blues, Rock and Heavy Metal tones. Again I have all the gear to capture these tones.
The string choices are the same as with my Tom Anderson. Went through the same process also. The Steve Morse Signature was quite a challenge due to the different pickups. I started with Pure Nickel was good for the Jazz tones however the lacked for me in the other tones. Too much bass and lacked the top end. GHS boomers were real nice, got the bottom end I was after from the bass strings and round highs from the treble strings, however were not glassy enough for me for strat and country tones. The next set was Ernie Ball RSP, nice bottom end on the bass strings and nice glassy highs on the treble strings, not versatile enough. Gibson Brite Wires again wonderful tones, clear bottom end from the bass strings, glassy highs from the treble strings, however when using a lot of effects and OD pedals the treble strings overtones were not happening for me. Next were Thomastik-Infeld Power-Brights. These strings again had all the tones and versatility I was looking for. Round bass tones, glassy treble tones, able to get all the tones from my studio rig and pedals from the guitarist I mentioned and my own signature sound. However $19.00 times two guitars not happening for me. Dean Markley Helix was not happening on this guitar for myself. They were to bright due to the different pickup configuration.
The Infeld, got the same tones as the Power-Brights and the versatility. However $13.00 times two guitars again not happening for myself. Next set were the D’Addario EXL110 and the NYXL, the EXL110 got the tones on the Bass strings however on the treble strings lost the highs and glass. The NYXL were nice however on this guitar the harmonics were not happening. The La Bella Electric EL-R was excellent, however the bass strings stood out more then the treble strings and the harmonics were not even on the Steve Morse signature guitar.
Now I’m out of answers. So I took the two sets that worked the best. The D’Addario EXL110 and the La Bella Electric EL-R. I took the Bass strings of the D’Addario EXL110 and the treble strings of the La Bella Electric EL-R and gave that a shot. That was the winner for my Steve Morse signature guitar. I now got the warm Jazzy clean tones of Pat Metheny from the Bass strings of the D’Addario EXL110, also the other tones I was after as mentioned. The La Bella Electric EL-R treble strings got the highs I was after. The best part is that with the La Bella Electric EL-R they give you an extra high E string and B string, which means since I use the La Bella on my Anderson I have 2 free strings for my Steve Morse guitar. So I buy single strings. La Bella G, and D’Addario EXL110 D, A E strings. Cost for a set. $5, which I can deal with. I would have paid $40 for two sets of strings with the Power-Brights. Now that I have found the same tones I pay $11.25 for two sets, savings of $28.75, which is a lot of savings for a working guitarist. Worth doing a shoot out, in the long run will save a lot of money. Good luck in your shoot out.
As always thanks & keep rockin,
Chris Nashvillerocker® DiMella
Guitar String Shoot out!