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Mark WilliamsSteve Cowley
Ernstjan van Geest
Soaking sets in alcohol, boiling the buggers, scrubbing 'em after every session - tone tweakers can get carried away making sure our beloved bass strings stay bright as the day we first plucked, picked, pounded, or popped them...
BY BRIAN FOX
Originally printed in the May 2012 issue of Bass Player. Reprinted with the permission of the Publishers of Bass Player. Copyright 2008 NewBay Media, LLC. All rights reserved. Bass Player is a Music Player Network publication, 1111 Bayhill Dr., St. 125, San Bruno, CA 94066. T. 650.238.0300. Subscribe at www.bassplayer.com
Soaking sets in alcohol, boiling the buggers, scrubbing 'em after every session - tone tweakers can get carried away making sure our beloved bass strings stay bright as the day we first plucked, picked, pounded, or popped them. When Elixir introduced the first coated bass string in 1997, it brought welcome relief to those who would rather spend time and money in more productive ways. By glazing each string in polymer, thus covering the crannies where vibe-dampening detritus doth go (we're talking dirt, dust, dandruff, and other mucky stuff), Elixir hit upon a formula that prolonged string longevity in a pretty profound way.
Elixirs have long been a top choice for bassists going the processing their feedback, the company is expanding that low road in a big way. Elixir's comprehensive bass string redesign involves changes in construction (winding formulas), composition (now in both nickel and stainless steel), and coating (new Nanoweb for Bass). To get hip to Elixir's new trip, we checked out a medium-gauge set of its new stainless steels (.045–.130).
The new coating gives the stainless steel Elixirs a feel that's smooth, but easy to grip. String tension on the set I put on an active 5-string felt familiar and comfortable. Uncoated stainless strings can feel rough to my tender tips, especially when I play slapstyle; after several hours of play, the Elixirs felt no more punishing than non-coated nickel-plated strings. Sonically, the Elixirs have a little less bite than uncoated steels, but still maintain a satisfying toothiness that cuts through clean and clear. Notes sounded fat-bottomed and well endowed with upper partials, and the strings rang clearly all the way down to the open B. After about six weeks and approximately 20 hours of play (30% of which with a pick), the string coating showed no signs of flaking, a testament to the set's durability. Throughout testing, changes in the strings' sound and feel were negligible.
The issue of string construction and composition poses a Goldilocks-like conundrum for many players: stainless steels sound bright, but feel rough to the touch; coated strings last a long time, but many have a peculiar finger feel and muted highs; standard nickelplated strings are "just right"” to some, but have short, dull lifespans in the opinion of others. Perhaps there'll never be a string that satisfies every bass player's thirst for tone. But by creating a long-lasting coated string that sounds lively and feels smooth, Elixir has hit on a recipe that's sure to thrill throngs of thumpers. Cheers to that!
ELIXIR® STAINLESS STEEL STRINGS
Street: 5-string, $45; 4-string, $40
Pros: Bright sound, smooth feel
MAY 2012 BASSPLAYER.COM
Excerpt from Wood & Steel Magazine - One sign of a great guitar is its ability to sound like the same instrument from the lowest note to the highest note. In Bob Taylor's view, Andy Powers has a natural instinct for how to create that in a guitar, as demonstrated by the uniformity of character in the notes of the Grand Orchestra. A guitar's type and gauge of strings can play an important role in helping to express this...
One sign of a great guitar is its ability to sound like the same instrument from the lowest note to the highest note. In Bob Taylor's view, Andy Powers has a natural instinct for how to create that in a guitar (see sidebar), as demonstrated by the uniformity of character in the notes of the Grand Orchestra. A guitar's type and gauge of strings can play an important role in helping to express this.
For the 800s, Andy began by switching from Elixir Acoustic 80/20 Bronze Strings with NANOWEB® Coating, which we've been using for years, to Elixir Acoustic Phosphor Bronze Strings with NANOWEB Coating.
"The phosphor bronze strings have a nice, rich shimmer on the high end, with a richer, broader warmth overall," he says.
Andy and the rest of the product development team liked them so much that they made the decision to install the Phosphor Bronze sets on all of Taylor's steel-string models for 2014.
More specifically, as Andy looked to optimize the tone for each body shape within the 800 Series, he explored alternative string gauge options, particularly for the Grand Concert and Grand Auditorium. Andy felt the overall articulation could be enhanced by creating the right tension profile at the bridge. Or, as Bob put it: "He wanted more guts out of the high end."
"One of my favorite tricks in the past was to make this custom, hybrid set," Andy explains. "I'd use medium-gauge for the top two strings, blended into a regular light set on the low end. It gave me the bold quality that I wanted on the treble notes without overloading the soundboard with a lot of extra tension. I ended up with a little louder guitar that was also warmer on the low end."
While Andy was able to get close to what he wanted with his hybrid set, he wanted to fine-tune the calibration even more. A phone call to our friends at Elixir Strings led to some productive collaboration, and ultimately, an ideal solution. The result is a unique set, named HD Light, that blends Elixir light- and medium-gauge strings with a custom .025 gauge third string (a standard light-gauge G string is a .024; the medium is a .026). The specific gauging is: .013, .017, .025, .032, .042, .053.
The custom gauging serves to complement the construction of the Grand Concert and Grand Auditorium and creates an ideal tone profile across the bridge, as Elixir Strings engineer Justin Fogleman explains.
"The increased tension of the treble strings improves their articulation, balancing their voice within the mix," he says. "The interaction of the tension profile with the soundboard also adds to the harmonic content of the bass strings, creating a warmer, fuller sound."
Andy says the new sets are perfect for these shapes.
"The hand feel is incredibly balanced," he shares. "And knowing that I was going to get to use this string set influenced the way I braced and voiced the guitars."