M-Steel Slinky Review

manufacturer: Ernie Ball date: 04/01/2014 category: Others

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Ernie Ball: M-Steel Slinky
Ernie Ball have managed to create a louder, tougher string that feels as natural and plays as easily as its Regular Slinky strings.
 Features: 8.5
 Sound: 7.5
 Reliability & Durability: 6
 Ease of Use: 6.5
 Overall Impression: 6
 Overall rating:
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 Users rating:
reviews (2) pictures (2) 42 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 10
M-Steel Slinky Featured review by: UG Team, on april 01, 2014
2 of 13 people found this review helpful

Features: Powerful, responsive and reliable. Ernie Ball's patent-pending M-Steel strings are distinctively different through and through. They've managed to create a louder, tougher string that feels as natural and plays as easily as its Regular Slinky strings. M-Steel Slinky strings are robust and bold sounding across the entire sonic spectrum. // 10

Sound: Whoa! The M-Steels were surely louder, had more pop, more bite, and more sizzle - especially on the thicker strings - than the Regular Slinky set. The harmonic slaps really popped out. When I dug into some single-note lines using a Dunlop Jazz II pick, I noticed more zest. The M-Steels made me want to hold notes as well because the sustain lingered nice and long. I was compelled to hang onto a note for a while and then bend the pitch up and down without re-picking.

The M-Steels really did affect my playing in a musical way. From a purely tonal standpoint I wouldn't say the difference was radical - simply more low-end sizzle, high-end ping, and overall clarity. Most of all I wanted to keep playing, period. Nothing against the Regular Slinky set, but I had no great desire to switch back. Actually, I realized I had probably put them on the wrong guitar. The dual-humbucker Gibson ES-339 has hotter pickups than the Godin Montreal Premiere or the Fender Strat I have in my gig arsenal. It would make sense to put the louder strings on guitars with lower pickup output in order to strike a better balance. I'm going to need more sets of these powerful new strings. // 10

Reliability & Durability: These strings feel like they could hold up the Golden Gate Bridge! I could immediately tell something unique was in play.

Ernie Ball M-Steels are made from a defense-grade alloy known as Maraging Steel, an alloy known for exceptional strength and durability while still maintaining malleability. The word "Maraging" is a combination of "Martensite," a type of alloy named after turn-of-the-last-century metallurgist Adolf Martens, who studied the crystalline structures of the hardest steels, and "aging," a heat-treatment process that forms "hardening precipitates" for even more super-powered durability.

Ernie Ball says their patent-pending production process increases strength and durability compared to traditional guitar-string wire, and amounts to the first true innovation in guitar strings since the 1800s. M-Steel wound strings consist of a cobalt alloy wrapped around a Maraging Steel hex core wire. The plain strings feature a black enameled steel winding around the ball end designed to help the string stay put, stay in tact, and stay in tune better than conventional plain strings.

I put the M-Steels through all the tests I could conjure during the week when I conducted this review. First, I stretched them as far as I could multiple times. Next, I abused used them in rehearsal. Finally, I played them hard on a high-profile gig with A Spirit Hustler at San Francisco's Brick and Mortar Music Hall, where I trusted them enough to go from standard tuning to open G on the fly. My trust was rewarded. They held each tuning well, even on a song called "The California Hustle" where I repeatedly bent the second and third strings significantly upward at the 7th fret and again at the 19th fret in order to emulate a train sound. I also did some serious slapping and popping for a funky kind of chicken picking effect. No strings broke. // 10

Ease of Use: Even though they feel heartier than a set of Ernie Ball Regular Slinky strings, M-Steel Slinky strings are just as easy to put on and to play. The overall feel was a bit like playing a heavier gauge set; it wasn't harder to play, but there was a meatier feel on the frets. Interestingly, playing freehand didn't feel any harsher. In an odd way, it was almost smoother. The M-Steels felt somewhat grittier, but in a smooth way - like fine sandpaper. All of my tricky freehand techniques felt fine - slapping and popping, flamenco-style flourishes, and harmonic slapping using my thumb an octave above the fretted chord. // 10

Overall Impression: To get a baseline, the first thing I did was put a set of .010-.046 gauged Ernie Ball Regular Slinky strings on a Gibson ES-339. I played it for a while to soak in the sound and feel. Next, I changed only the thickest two strings. When I took the E string out and held it in my hand, it clearly felt heartier and grittier than any string I'd ever encountered. I would have sworn it was a 50-gauge string. Once the E and A were secure, I played for a while to see how they felt compared to the Regular Slinky strings. With the D string, the difference was especially obvious. The M-Steels had more overall moxie, and they definitely had more pronounced sound. A slight color difference was apparent too. The M-Steels were a bit darker with a hint of blue in their otherwise grey color.

As I fed the G string through the whole in the tuning peg I noticed a powdery substance flaking off onto the headstock. I rubbed the string back and forth a bit through the hole and, sure enough, more flaked off. There was less of it on each successively thin string. I surmised the powder was the aforementioned "hardening precipitates." I simply blew it off. The moment of truth came when I played the whole set. // 10

- Jimmy Leslie (c) 2014

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overall: 3.8
M-Steel Slinky Reviewed by: Dannyboyeee, on april 18, 2014
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Features: The much-anticipated Ernie Ball M-Steels are finally here. The M-Steels are supposed to be a leap forward for strings, with cobalt wrap wire, reinforced ball ends, and special steel core wire. Sounds fancy, right? They look cool, too - black ball ends on the wound strings, silver balls on the plain strings with a little bit of black silk around the twists. Technically, there are a lot of features to these strings that other strings don't have. Whether or not they're effective is a different story. // 7

Sound: When I first put these strings on, they admittedly sounded very good. They had the higher output of EB's Cobalt strings, but with a rich, clear low end that sounded particularly nice. However, within about two days the sound quality of the strings started to degrade. After a week and a half, the strings had the feeling of old, dead strings, without any life or snap to them. Sustain suffered, artificial harmonics suffered, and it was time to take my fourteen dollar (!) strings off and replace them. 

So... how do we rate sound quality here? If you don't mind spending fourteen bucks for two days of great-sounding strings, I guess you'd rate it a ten. If you prefer your strings to last a more reasonable amount of time, you'd probably rate a one. I'm going to average things out and give this category a five. // 5

Reliability & Durability: See above. No durability whatsoever. They don't rust or break really... they just go dead. Y'know how strings feel when you pick up a guitar that hasn't been restrung in a long, long time? That's how my M-Steels feel after a week and a half of normal playing. Make sure you start playing em as soon as you're done stringing, because you won't get to enjoy that new string feeling for too long. I'm giving them a two instead of a one because at least they didn't break, although to be fair I generally don't break strings. // 2

Ease of Use: They're strings. You know what to do with them. Put them on, tune them up, and play. They bend easily enough. They feel like regular strings. After a few days of playing, though, the problems with them become quite readily apparent. I've noticed a definite loss of sustain, and I have to really dig in to get artificial harmonics that used to just fly off the strings. It's annoying to deal with, and it was very frustrating to have to change these strings so soon after paying fourteen bucks for them. // 3

Overall Impression: I would not purchase these again. Not for fourteen dollars, not for ten dollars, not for five dollars. There are much better alternatives to these strings at any price point.

I'll give credit where credit is due. They did sound excellent at first. I guess if you're the type of person who doesn't have to worry about money and has someone that will restring your guitars for you on a daily basis, these might be the strings for you. Maybe they'd be worth the investment if you were going into the studio to record for a couple of days and wanted to have the best possible sound. But I would not recommend them for real-world every day usage. // 2

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More Ernie Ball reviews rating category latest review
+ Aluminum Bronze Acoustic 9.1 Others 11/06/2014
+ Slinky Cobalt 9.2 Others 03/01/2012
+ Coated Slinky Acoustic 8.1 Others 07/10/2008
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