We take D’Addario’s latest premium acoustic guitar strings for a test drive on a not-so-premium guitar.
By Stephen Lynch
It’s no secret among guitarists that installing a set of decent quality strings on an old workhorse guitar can often bring out its previously hidden sonic charms. It’s an easy, low-cost upgrade.
I think the same holds true for a modestly priced new guitar—one strung with factory strings. When I was asked to assess the new line of premium D’Addario Nickel Bronze acoustic strings, I grabbed a Fender CD60CE Acoustic-Electric to put that theory to the test. It’s a great guitar at its wallet-friendly price point and I was curious to see how it would respond to having a deluxe set of strings laid on it.
A little backstory: I used to play a different brand of electric guitar strings that will go unmentioned here. I liked them well enough, but they always felt like they were on the verge of snapping during serious bends. That led me a couple of months back to try a set of D’Addario’s new NYXLs on my electric. They were a revelation! Searching for a way to describe them, the term that springs to mind is “elastic.”
What I mean in the case of both the NYXLs and the NBs is that they are elastic in the best sense of that word, always returning to form. They have this nice return to pitch after vigorous string bending that I really appreciate. And at the height of bends there isn’t that disturbing sense that the string is about to snap.
The new Nickel Bronze acoustic strings share the same confidence-inspiring core wire as the NYXLs, so I was keen to give them a shot on that Fender CD60CE. You might be thrown off initially by the silvery appearance of the NB wound strings that gives them a look more reminiscent of electric strings. But as I was soon to discover, appearances can be deceiving.
After stringing the Fender up with an .11 - .52 Custom Light set, my first impression was the evenness of each string’s response—often a weak point among lower priced guitars. The low notes remained articulate, never getting flabby, trebles rang out without brittleness. The overall string-to-string balance and warmth in the mids was impressive. I was able to generate the same projection and volume from note to note without having to adjust my fretting or fingerpicking pressure. The Custom Light set seemed an ideal match for the Fender, bringing out mellow mids while low notes didn’t grow boomy.
When playing single notes, the NBs impart a sense of compression. There was none of that feeling of needing to dig in on certain strings in order to maintain even response across all registers.
I was wowed by the evenness of the response across the fretboard.
Switching to chords, the NBs continued to impress. Articulation, especially given the modest cost of the Fender, was pretty astounding. Again, string-to-string definition was crisp without any shrillness. And the NBs hold tune well.
The D’Addario Nickel Bronze set imparted warmth to this Fender DC60CE well beyond what you’d expect at its modest price.
If you’re an electric guitar player who has fantasized about getting the same sinuous playing feel from the strings on your acoustic, a set of D’Addario NBs could be a life changer. They’ll give you more of that bendy, electric feel while also letting your acoustic’s native tone shine through.
Take a quick trip through the D’Addario time machine—these guys have been at it a while.