Sound: For the purpose of this review, the Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt strings were tested on a Paul Reed Smith McCarty guitar, and setup in typical fashion for .09-.42 string gauges. The guitar was first tested with standard Ernie Ball Slinky's in the same string gauges, followed by the Cobalt strings. The guitar was plugged directly into a Marshall JVM410C combo amplifier using a variety of tone and gain settings. All tones were tested with both the neck and bridge humbuckers, as well as using split-coil configurations to simulate single-coil pickup tones.
Starting with a very clean tone, the difference was noticeable, both in touch sensitivity and volume. Particularly with a single-coil sound, the guitar sounded more alive, with a bit more depth to the tone, and higher output, when setup with the Cobalt strings. The difference was the same when chording or playing runs. The difference in sensitivity was less when played with humbuckers, but the volume difference was still there.
Moving up in gain levels, the characteristics changed. As the gain increased, the difference in touch sensitivity was less apparent. However, there was still a bit more clarity with the Cobalt strings, not unlike the difference between using a PAF-style pickup versus a more modern pickup where the first allows you to hear each string a bit more clearly, even at higher gain levels. However, the Cobalt strings also retain the higher output at higher gain, allowing you to push the preamp harder (rock and metal players particularly would enjoy this!).
After the guitar tests, another set of Cobalt bass strings was tested on a Fender Mustang Bass. Once again, the difference was clear where the bass sounded louder and clearer with Cobalt strings, compared to typical bass strings. // 9
Overall Impression: Guitar strings aren't the first thing that come to mind when you think about innovation. Yet, that's what Ernie Ball has done with the Slinky Cobalt strings. They offer a unique difference in tone and volume without sacrifice, with a proprietary metal alloy that can't be found anywhere else. // 10
- Shekhar Dhupelia (c) 2012