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New Strings Roundup: Six New Designs Redefine String Science

If you want to improve your guitar’s tone, the best place to start is at the source—the strings. In recent years, almost every major string manufacturer has made enhancements to its products—from more precise windings to advanced coatings—that can make your guitar play and sound like an entirely new instrument. Here are six recent product breakthroughs worth checking out.

Cleartone Monster Heavy Series

Designed for guitarists that tune down one or even four whole steps, Cleartone’s Monster Heavy Series feature heavier gauges and extra tension to keep your sound tight and in tune. The series includes five six-string sets ranging from .010–.052 to .014–.080, as well as two seven-string sets in .009–.052 or .010–.056 configurations. Each set features Cleartone Treatment to extend string life by three to five times.

D’Addario Balanced Tension Set EXL111

Introduced in 1974, D’Addario EXL110 strings have been the choice of many guitarists. The new EXL111 Balanced Tension Regular Light 10–46 strings deliver the bright tone, excellent intonation and long life of EXL110 strings but with consistent tension from string to string that significantly improves the guitar’s feel and playability, particularly on the A, D and B strings.

Dean Markley Carl Verheyen Signature Balanced Bridge Helix

L.A. session ace Carl Verheyen developed this set for Strats with floating synchronized tremolo bridges to ensure perfect tuning when the bar is released. Dean Markley’s Helix strings feature a precise elliptical winding that increases the number of wraps on a string to maximize mass without changing diameter, resulting in fuller tone and a smoother feel.

DR Strings Neon

Coated to last three to four times longer than typical strings, DR Neon strings are available in neon green, orange, pink or yellow colors (with blue and red coming soon). They glow dramatically under a black light and look dazzling and brilliant even in broad daylight and normal stage lighting. If you own a neon B.C. Rich, Ibanez or Jackson guitar from the Eighties, you need these strings, preferably in a contrasting color.

Ernie Ball Cobalt

Ernie Ball Cobalt strings are the first and only guitar strings made from an alloy of cobalt, a ferromagnetic transition element that produces an extremely hard and lustrous silver-colored metal. These are the most magnetic strings available (22 percent stronger than nickel-wound strings), providing boosted signal output that improves clarity while making the guitar’s overall tone bigger and bolder. The strings’ low-tension slinky feel makes bending notes easier.

GHS Burnished Nickel Rockers

The first-ever GHS “low-friction” string, the Burnished Nickel Rockers receive a light polishing during the winding process, making for a smoother and faster-playing string than the regular GHS Nickel Rocker sets. Available in extra light (.009–.042), light (.010–.046) and medium (.011–.050), the Burnished Nickel Rockers are designed for lower tension and easy bending, and their mellow sound makes them perfect for vintage blues and country playing.

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Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.