Features: Planet Waves Renew is a patented string cleaner, meant to clean off the dirt and grime generated by the oils and dirt on a player's fretting hand. This, in turn, is advertised to help prolong the new string tone and reduce the number of string changes that are necessary over a long period of time. The kit comes with two cleaning tools, 12 cleaning pads and the cleaning solution.
One of my first guitar teachers was also a luthier, and would ask his students to bring our guitar in for a setup during the first lesson, to make sure we would have an easy time during practice. He chastised me for having old strings on the guitar I brought to him, and told me that changing strings is as important as changing underwear, and they get just as dirty. Maybe a little overkill, but that lesson always stayed with me.
As this kit requires cleaning pads and cleaning solution, it's the type of product you'd have to buy again and again if you continue using it; that said, you get a lot of cleaning material for a very low price. // 9
Sound: To test Renew, I pulled a Gibson Slash Signature Les Paul Goldtop out of its case. I played the guitar heavily for several weeks when first acquiring it, on the original strings that came factory-installed, and then put it in its case and hadn't played it in over a year. Upon close inspection, I could see that the strings were dull and didn't have the luster of new strings.
Using Renew is incredibly straightforward; I installed the cleaning pad and solution onto a cleaning tool, and ran the tool up and down the length of the fingerboard, making sure to cover the full playable length of the strings. I had to be careful not to tug on the strings too hard, as I was afraid of breaking the strings based on their age. I can see this being a clumsier operation for someone with larger hands, but I had no trouble understanding how to use Renew. // 8
Overall Impression: It's difficult to understand exactly which type of consumer would benefit from Renew. There seemed to be no difference in tone from the string cleaning, so it would be difficult to recommend this to tone snobs' that worry about every last detail in the signal path (including their strings). Further, a package of Renew costs about the same as two packs of typical guitar strings. The Renew process should keep your strings and your hands cleaner, which in theory should reduce rust and corrosion, and therefore extend the life of the strings. But for a gigging guitar player, who wants to avoid string breakage at all cost, it seems like the best route would still be to put on fresh strings prior to a gig, simply for piece of mind.
In the end, it seems the consumer best suited for Renew is the one who simply dreads string changes, and avoids doing it themselves whenever possible. For them, this cleaning process should help them maintain their existing strings for longer, and allow them to stall longer between the inevitable re-string. // 4
- Shekhar Dhupelia (c) 2010