Poll: What do you think?
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View poll results: What do you think?
I prefer A, but B has new strings
4 7%
I prefer A, and A has new strings
3 5%
I prefer B, but A has new strings
1 2%
I prefer B, and B has new strings
38 67%
I can't tell any difference
10 18%
Voters: 57.
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#1
Hey everyone,

Before you start panicking - this is not another long-winded thread I'm creating, and I will actually finish this one too (my guide to self-production might get finished in the next month or so if I find time, but I've said that for roughly a year now!).

I decided to try out the new, and much-hyped, Ernie Ball Cobalt strings... without going into too much detail, they were released as some major advance in string technology, and marketed like no other set of strings I've ever seen/read about. In short, Ernie Ball claim they are the biggest thing to happen to guitar strings since some bright spark found a way of winding metal alloys around a stronger core material at ultra-high tension and attaching it to a plank of wood with a series of magnets arranged in rows

So I'm switching the strings on my LAG from these:


to...




Now, apart from me being intrigued by the marketing, and wanting to find some strings that had the great durability and feel of my beloved Elixir's, but at a price more like the Ernie Ball Slinky's I often use instead... I decided it would be a good idea to test the claims about the tone too.

That leads me to this thread - I will attempt to be as scientific and accurate as possible and have devised a way of seeing just how much of the claims are backed up, and how much of it is placebo effect.

I'm going to record a short passage with the current strings on my guitar (no older than 4 months) that are played in but far from the end of their life. In fact, I've probably played them a total of 15-20 hours so far. I'll then record the same passage with the new strings on, and upload the results. Each version will be double-tracked (two takes; one panned hard left, one panned hard right). The catch is, I won't label them with which recording is which, and I'll let people decide for themselves which they prefer and which they think is the new strings.


Test Gear


Guitar: LAG Arkane Master Series (AP2000BSH); 24-fret maple neck w/ rosewood fingerboard, mahogany body w/ flamed maple finish, Official Floyd Rose, EMG 81 (Bridge), EMG S (middle) and EMG 89 (Neck).

Cable: Planet Waves Circuit Breaker

Interface: Apogee Duet (Original); 24-Bit, 44.1kHz (for this test), FireWire 400.

DAW/Test Machine: Logic Pro 8 running on a 2008 iMac 20", 2.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo w/ 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM.

Other: All tracks ran direct into LePou LE456 > Space Designer (Logic conv. reverb) running 'Catharsis s pres-high' impulse response.
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Last edited by DisarmGoliath at Apr 8, 2012,
#2
Ok, decided to upload the original recording of the section I'm using to show how the song sounds on the official release - the passage is taken from the verse of a song called Cry Of The Banshee, from my band's new album (out April 23rd ). This was recorded with the same guitar as the strings test tracks, albeit played through my Hughes & Kettner Switchblade, for the guitar panned left; and the guitar on the right is the other guitarist playing an Epi Les Paul Zakk Wylde into the same amp.

Here's how it sounds, with the vox removed: Link

And with the vox, for context: Link


Obviously I'm not gonna get the exact same tone, but I've gone for a quick approximation of the tone for the string tests. The main difference is likely to be that I'm playing both sides of the recording for the string tests, rather than just the one, but they're the same part and we're fairly tight in the main song for two separate guitarists (I'd like to think!). All original tracks were mic'd with a '57 off-axis, an inch off-centre, and a Sennheiser e906 on-axis, where the cone meets the cap into the same rig as above (Duet into Logic etc.)


Test Recordings

Recording A: Link

Recording B: Link



So then... which do you prefer, and which do you think is the new strings?
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Last edited by DisarmGoliath at Apr 8, 2012,
#3
Must... resist urge...to vote... before hearing samples...

I think people really put too much thought into strings when the AMP and PUPS are 99% of the sound.
Still I am intrigued, are there any other benefits? How much more are you paying for them?
On playing the Paul Gilbert signature at the guitar store extensively, my missus sighed:
"Put it down now, It's like you love that guitar more than me!"
In Which I replied.
"Well it has got two F-Holes!"
#4
Quote by Nameless742
Must... resist urge...to vote... before hearing samples...

I think people really put too much thought into strings when the AMP and PUPS are 99% of the sound.
Still I am intrigued, are there any other benefits? How much more are you paying for them?

Well, going to (hopefully) find out whether it really is worth the difference in price (assuming there isn't a major difference to the feel) but most people swear by replacing the strings before a recording session, and most major bands will do so for each song in a session... I just wanna see how much of a difference can be heard in the final outcome.

And the Ernie Balls I tend to use at the moment are £5 a set; the Elixir's I like are £10-15 a set, and these cost me £12 with delivery because they're in demand, so hard to find other than online


Also, samples will be up in a few hours as girlfriend is insistent that we watch a film right now Will bump the thread myself when the samples are here!
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Last edited by DisarmGoliath at Apr 6, 2012,
#5
I will be interested to hear these later.
What?! There's a clean channel on my amp?!

Quote by GoodOl'trashbag
omfg i totally forgot about that, you sir are jesus christ.
#6
Sounds like a great idea as I am to curious and unlike some people above I find strings make a huge difference personally probably more than the pick ups
#7
i want to hear it. curious........
.
Internet trolls are like sap in trees. sticky and annoying, but good on pancakes.
#8
Definitely interested to hear.

Engineers swear by using new strings, but personally, I usually don't change the strings on my guitars, unless they break ROFL

For me, it's more about the feel; I hate how new strings feel. I'm sure new strings sound better, but comfort bending and playing notes are more important to me, as a guitarist, than the minimal increase in sound quality I've noticed before. I still tell people I record to put new strings on, though, because I hold my mixes to a higher standard, when someone's paying me

Maybe your shootout will change my mind for my own uses, though. We'll see!
Quote by Dave_Mc
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Quote by jj1565
maybe you're not saying the right things? an amp likes to know you care.





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#9
Don't like the way they feel till they're broken in... but new strings are much more crisp and make quite a difference imo. Curious to see how this works out though!
#12
Quote by Odirunn
There are no clips. What is this.

Note to self: make text telling Adam the samples will come soon a bit bigger... wait
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#13
Make sure you're giving your strings a really good stretch, will help with breaking them in...
I change my strings every 3 months or so, they really sound horrible. Body Chemistry and string care is a lot to do with the deterioration. I sweat a lot and don't often wipe the strings.
On playing the Paul Gilbert signature at the guitar store extensively, my missus sighed:
"Put it down now, It's like you love that guitar more than me!"
In Which I replied.
"Well it has got two F-Holes!"
#14
Yeah, that's why it's taking a while - floyd rose means longer to settle strings. First clip is done, should be able to do the other shortly and will upload them once that's done.

Edit: Will record new strings clip tomorrow and upload as I have a headache now and need to be up for work at 7am (20 to 1am now lol).
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Last edited by DisarmGoliath at Apr 6, 2012,
#16
Awww, some dufus (probably Mr. Odirunn ) has voted on the poll lol. Anyway, uploaded the passage that the test tracks will be copying, to either add to suspense or annoy Adam... not quite sure
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#19
I actually didn't vote. But because there is nothing to vote on. I'm voting.
Let's party.
#21
Using old strings that don't even stay in tune or intonate properly is a bad thing, before you even start worrying about tone you have to make sure the thing is in tune! You can't fix that with EQing

Beyond that, new strings feel like sex but in my opinion the tone on fresh strings is just too wierd until it looses it edge after a day or so.
#22
Recordings coming up shortly, just returning from hangover-state to 'I-can-now-look-at-the-screen-without-pain'-state Got dragged out after work by the girlfriend, so the put paid to me doing the new strings one yesterday. Also, the belief that six double JD and cokes has enough alcohol to kill the bacteria and heal a sore throat is just an urban myth unless anything changes in the next few hours
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#24
Quote by FireHawk
Excuses....excuses....excuses....

On a side note I trerrbily dislike Ernie Ball strings. They seems as they always drop out of tune fast.

Tuning stability is more than likely your guitar(s)' setups... on this guitar, if I wasn't bothered by being a tiny bit out at the end of a 45-min set, I could easily go without tuning it for months (one of the perks of a good double-locking tremolo) and between rehearsals only tune if I hear it go out in any way. Strings usually last me a few months unless we're gigging heavily, but if I'm honest I don't play at home very often anymore other than recording or if I'm working out a song.
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#25
Quote by DisarmGoliath
Tuning stability is more than likely your guitar(s)' setups... on this guitar, if I wasn't bothered by being a tiny bit out at the end of a 45-min set, I could easily go without tuning it for months (one of the perks of a good double-locking tremolo) and between rehearsals only tune if I hear it go out in any way. Strings usually last me a few months unless we're gigging heavily, but if I'm honest I don't play at home very often anymore other than recording or if I'm working out a song.

I feel I never have problems with D'Arrido's going out of tune, but idk :/ I do think D'arrido's keep a better tone than Erine Ball as well. I usually keep my strings on for about 6 months before changing (I don't really play except adding rhythm guitars to some of my songs).
#26
Clips now up - get listening and deciding people!


Quote by FireHawk
I feel I never have problems with D'Arrido's going out of tune, but idk :/ I do think D'arrido's keep a better tone than Erine Ball as well. I usually keep my strings on for about 6 months before changing (I don't really play except adding rhythm guitars to some of my songs).

I can't say I've ever really noticed much of a difference in tuning stability... maybe there is though, you could be on to something I personally found that Elixir's were my favourite strings for a long time, up until the point where their 'nanoweb' coating starts to scratch/peel off from pick attack. It takes at least a few shows of average length for that to happen, but as soon as they get to that point I would chop them off as they were horrible from then on... and that was costing me a lot in strings.

Haven't played these new Cobalt ones enough just yet, other than getting the tuning stable and recording the 'new strings' track, but will report back with any differences I notice in feel (if any).


For the record, three people have voted "I can't tell any difference" right now (just after clips were uploaded), and while I forgot to check, I imagine these were before I'd uploaded the clips... can you tell when votes were cast as well Matrix?
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Last edited by DisarmGoliath at Apr 8, 2012,
#27
Strings are not going to make that much of a difference what ever you use, apart from the obvious months of use dulling the tone. So one question would be do the cobalts have any advantage play ability wise? And another would be about how long they last, but that will take a while.
Gear:

Gibson 2005 Les Paul Standard
Fender Road Worn Strat w/ Noiseless pickups
Marshall JCM 2000 401C
Marshall Vintage Modern 2266
Marshall 1960A cab (Dave Hill from Slade's old cab)
Ibanez TS9DX
EHX Little Big Muff
Freshman Acoustic
#28
Quote by ProphetToJables
Strings are not going to make that much of a difference what ever you use, apart from the obvious months of use dulling the tone. So one question would be do the cobalts have any advantage play ability wise? And another would be about how long they last, but that will take a while.

Will comment on that when I've had a chance to play them in more and get a feel for them, so far the main difference is just the same as with any pair - going from old to new, and feeling the slightly scratchy, twangier feel with pick attack, and the newer coating against the fingers.

As for durability - I tend to change my strings before they break anyway every few months to get the best from them for each gig and to be less likely to suffer a string breakage on stage (haven't had one in a couple of years, touch wood, so it appears to be working).

Also, I'm not voting on the poll but the few results so far are certainly interesting.
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#29
Sorry Matrix and Chris, bumping this once to give anyone else that posted/wanted to vote a chance to before I announce the details tonight You have less than 24hours people.
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#30
B sounds best.

Also, imo, this test would be better/more revealing with passive pickups instead of EMG's.
#31
Quote by xFilth
B sounds best.

Also, imo, this test would be better/more revealing with passive pickups instead of EMG's.

Could repeat the test with my Les Paul, but at the end of the day I think unless everyone is copying each other to go with the majority and not risk being in a minority of opinions, most people are making the same judgement with their ears, so there must be some discernible difference between the tracks regardless of whether the majority are correct or not
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#32
Ok, I've decided to reveal the results then, and as the vast majority believed (and all of those who claim to notice a difference)...




Recording B was indeed the recording with new strings!



So what can we surmise? It would definitely appear that there is a noticeable difference between using new strings and old strings through the same setup. What did it do? I'm sure others agree when I say that the new strings do sound much brighter (just as they sound unamplified) and the attack is also noticeably sharper and faster to my ears.

Is it something you couldn't EQ in? Well - I think the main advantage here is about keeping the signal path as pure as possible to the end, reducing the amount of processing artifacts and phase anomalies that can be introduced. You probably could get a similar effect by boosting the presence of the track, but would you get the same clarity?

I will also add that while I haven't had a chance to really put the strings through their paces yet (turns out the hangover may have just been a migraine brought on by the dehydration as I was in bed most of yesterday and today to try and sleep it off!) but even in my less-than-ideal state when tracking with the new strings, I felt like they were much more dynamic and responded well to the nuances in my playing and I think they definitely produced a more defined sound.

Finally - it's also a matter of opinion as to what is better; some people prefer the feel of older strings (I definitely used to until I got used to playing younger strings more often) and a couple even preferred the more mellow sound... maybe older strings are the way to go for a rolled-off, smooth jazz tone?


Hope this has at least partially proved how much of the adage of always using new strings is myth and how much is a reality.


Steve
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Last edited by DisarmGoliath at Apr 9, 2012,
#33
Didn't read all the thread but Ernie Ball, IMO definitely can't keep good sound more then 1,5 months maximum! New strings are always brighter

Such test could make sense if you compare two new string-sets. Also different strings change their sound after some time in different ways.
Last edited by sirFlyingV at Apr 10, 2012,
#34
Pretty cool

I wouldn't track anything serious with strings that have been played for more than a couple of hours. And it's even worse with bass strings. They lose that nice crisp high end so fast it's not even fun.
#35
Quote by sirFlyingV
Didn't read all the thread but Ernie Ball, IMO definitely can't keep good sound more then 1,5 months maximum! New strings are always brighter

Such test could make sense if you compare two new string-sets. Also different strings change their sound after some time in different ways.

You should probably have read the thread a bit more clearly then... this wasn't just about comparing the Cobalt's to normal Ernie Ball's - that was something I was personally curious about. This was mainly to show whether putting a brand new set of strings on has a beneficial, and even noticeable, effect on the recording - everyone has heard it from all over the place, I thought I'd try and get some decent evidence to show whether it really does make a big difference, so the people using this site can see/hear for themselves instead of just going by someone else's word.

As for the bit about Ernie Ball not keeping their tone well - they're used by millions of people; if they had a noticeably major loss of tone compared to other brands I imagine more people would preach about that on here and encourage people to use other strings. Anyway, I'm not here to argue and you can't quantify the time strings take to dull for everyone because it depends on many factors other than age (how heavy the player digs in with the pick, how often they are played over that time period, how much the player sweats and if they wipe the sweat away after, what extremes of temperature the strings encounter and even the set-up of the guitar).


Quote by xFilth
Pretty cool

I wouldn't track anything serious with strings that have been played for more than a couple of hours. And it's even worse with bass strings. They lose that nice crisp high end so fast it's not even fun.

Cheers, hope it's proved useful to some people anyway. Though I admit the post above yours annoyed me after missing the point and commenting on the brand of strings!
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Last edited by DisarmGoliath at Apr 10, 2012,
#36
Amazing how much difference there is, I'll definitely change strings more often now.
Speaking of which, is it me or do Ernie Ball strings rust quickly?
I'm talking a few weeks here.
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#37
Quote by Rubixcuba
Amazing how much difference there is, I'll definitely change strings more often now.
Speaking of which, is it me or do Ernie Ball strings rust quickly?
I'm talking a few weeks here.

I haven't had the rusting problem personally, but if you are getting rust on your strings start wiping them down with a cloth/towel after you play and see if that helps. I don't normally at home, but after every gig I run the little cloth that came with my LAG down the strings of both the guitars I gig with (even if I don't use the backup, as the atmosphere in a venue can be quite humid after a few hours!).
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#39
Quote by sirFlyingV
OK! I knew it before, but decent audio evidence of it is really good idea

No probs, I'm a bit irritable because I'm hungry
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#40
Few things to say:
1) I forgot about this thread, and saw result before hearing

2) You can tell B is a lot more crisp, but I prefer A myself.

3) I am with sirFlyingV on Ernie Ball seem to go bad faster...

Good post Disarm I find threads like this very interesting.
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