by Adam Roberts
The guitar string is often an overlooked part of the guitar.
They are not just a replaceable inconvenience that if left unmonitored could snap at the climax of your face melting solo, they are actually one of the most important things attached to your instrument. It is hard to see why strings are not at the forefront of every gear discussion when you truly appreciate their importance. The humble guitar string is the fundamental sound source of the guitar. No string. No sound. They are the vocal chords of your instrument, so their DNA will play a signiﬁcant role in the overall tone.
Yes, you will most likely be sending this sound source on a sonic escapade through jungles of analog sorcery, but the initial breath of sound created is just as important as the ﬁnal product. Not only do they play a huge role in the sound created, they are also where the most focused contact with your instrument will occur. Many factors of the guitar string’s make up will change the feel of your instrument completely.
As guitar players, we are not short of choice. With many brands offering many different series in an ever growing landscape of gauges, there is a lot of noise to ﬁlter through before ﬁnding a pack of strings that is right for you. If you have been using the same strings forever, then maybe take advantage of this lush array of options and try something new. So where should you start?
Certain brands have dominated this market and are a trusted name amongst musicians. One of the major players is D’addario. D’addario is a company that seems to have been around since the dawn of time and as a musician it is extremely diffcult to go about your daily business without coming into contact with one of their products.
It would appear that you can’t have a music shop without stocking something D’addario. Suffce to say, they are a trusted name amongst many top class performers around the globe and they have been recorded on an unfathomable amount of records over the past few decades alone. So, it is always exciting when they have something new for us to indulge in. Introducing the XT Series, available for electric guitar, acoustic, bass, banjo, mandolin and classical.
We will be focusing on the electric guitar strings but the technology deployed should be consistent throughout the range. What sets this new pack of strings apart from the copious amount of options already available? D’addario have been pushing the boundaries of string manufacture, boasting many technological advancements in the ﬁeld. Their most sophisticated string to date is the NYXL series. NYXL have a higher carbon content in their core which increases their break resistance and improves their ability to bend.
They also last longer than a standard set of XL’s due to their thicker nickel plating on the wrap wire. However, D’addario wanted to push this notion further. Many manufacturers have been putting out strings that are treated or coated, offering a string that sounds fresh for longer. Now it was time for this major player to try its hand. Imagine combining strings that sound better for longer, with strings that last longer, and achieving all of this without sacriﬁcing the quality of the sound. This is where XT have the edge.
D’addario are stepping into the coated string market with a revolutionary new string treatment. Using a hydrophobic coating to repel moisture, the strings will now last longer than any of their previous ranges. The absence of moisture means the strings are less prone to corrosion as it takes them longer to react with the air around them. They may even stand up to players with the acidic type of alien sweat that seems to melt strings away after every gig, but that may be one you have to test out for yourself.
The coating is remarkably subtle and unlike other coated strings it is extremely hard to detect through feel. The string’s core is one of the biggest factors that determine durability. Not every core is made equal. All the cores in this new range are manufactured in D’addario’s own facility in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York. Starting out as thick wire on a huge spool, it is reduced in size via a process called drawing. Some companies outsource this process. The problem with this is that guitar strings make up such a small amount of the market for wire that no manufacturer can dedicate the required time to improving what the guitar string could be.
D’addario made the bold decision to bring the drawing process in house which allowed them to pay inﬁnite attention to detail and evolve the string to what it is now. The NYXL range was a result of all the research that had gone alongside bringing this process in house as well as their use of custom spec machines. Safe to say the XT series would not be here if it was not for this massive move. Not only does the material and manufacturing process change the string’s performance but the shape of the core also plays an important role. During the drawing process the cores are made into a hexagon shape. The purpose of this is to improve the bond between the wrap wire and the core.
Maybe the science is lost on us. Different woods and their sonic characteristics seem easier to follow than different manufacturing techniques and alloys but D’addario’s persistence and the minute tolerances they work within is something to be admired.
D’addario are coming to town on the 26th November with artists Yvette Young and Mike Dawes in association with Guitar Guitar at the Academy Of Contemporary Music Birmingham Campus.
Contact Guitar Guitar Birmingham for details and tickets.