Hands-On Review: Cleartone Coated Guitar Strings

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Killer tone, incredible lifespan

By Erica Morgan

I have always had to make a compromise when deciding what kind of strings to put on my guitars. If I use uncoated strings, I get great tone but I have to replace them often. If I play with coated strings, they last longer but I have to sacrifice tone. That all changes with futuristic Cleartone strings. With the thinnest coating in the industry, Cleartone strings give me the tone and feel of traditional strings with the life of coated strings.

Cleartone Strings began with the singular goal of creating a coated string that sounded like a traditional string yet lasted longer. That goal was realized and Cleartone Strings were launched at Winter NAMM in January 2005. After hearing me complain about the string conundrum, my buddy at Musician’s Friend asked me if I wanted to review Cleartone Strings. I’m so glad I accepted—these are the best strings I’ve ever tried.

Soda machines to strings

Cleartone told me their developers discovered a coating that was intended as a replacement for Teflon in situations where Teflon couldn’t be used. Teflon does its job as a non-stick coating, but it’s thick and it’s not very durable. The replacement formula was developed to coat (among other things) the PC boards in soda machines so they would withstand corrosion and work consistently indoors or outdoors in every type of climate. Cleartone adapted this technology for acoustic and electric guitar strings, coining it EMP (Enhanced Molecular Protection) coating. The result is nothing short of amazing. As soon as I pulled them out of the package, I could tell these strings were different.

Cleartone’s phosphor bronze acoustic strings and nickel-plated electric strings feature super-high-tension winding over a hex core to maintain consistent tuning throughout the life of the string. Cleartone dips all the strings in the special EMP formula, including the plain strings. The result is a coating that measures between 500 nanometers and one micron thick (1/1000 of a millimeter). To understand how thin this really is, look at a strand of your hair. The coating is at least 200 times thinner than that. Because they’re so thin, EMP-coated strings feel more natural and sound better than other coated strings. In addition, the EMP formula bonds to the molecules in the metal, so it never feels slippery and it never flakes off, no matter how hard you pick.

Cleartone Extra-Light Gauge Coated Acoustic Guitar Strings Cleartone Extra-Light Coated Electric Guitar Strings

Cleartone Coated Acoustic Guitar Strings Extra-Light

Cleartone Coated Electric Guitar Strings Extra-Light

Making the switch

Before this review I played with uncoated strings, but I’m definitely switching to Cleartone strings after testing them. I can play three to five times longer before I need to change my strings—without sacrificing the tone I love. Cleartone’s innovative coating puts them in a league of their own, so check them out before putting them in the same category as other coated strings you’ve tried. I love the sound and feel and I get up to five times the life for a small price premium! According to one Cleartone beta tester, they’ve lasted a year of playing at least five hours a week.

If you already play coated strings, you appreciate not having to change your strings very often. EMP-coated strings will give you punchier tone with more midrange and treble, plus Cleartones feature EMP coating on all six strings, not just the wound strings as with other coated sets. If you play an expensive guitar, it’s especially important to make the most of its tone. You’ll be amazed at what you’ve been missing when you string up with Cleartones.

If you’re not sold yet, just check out the glowing testimonials on Cleartone’s website, including one from guitar virtuoso Tommy Emmanuel, who says, "I tried coated strings like everyone else; I didn’t like them. Cleartones are so bright and responsive, I forgot they were coated. Bend them in good health." Another user says, "I couldn’t believe how brilliant the sound was, people noticed the big difference in sound and were inquiring about the guitar I was using, I told them 'Never mind the guitar, it’s the strings.'" The excellent ratings on the Musician’s Friend website are further proof that these strings belong on your guitar. I made the switch and I’ll never look back.

Tags: Strings


# Will 2015-09-28 18:34
My interest in coated strings would be that they reduce friction an therefore string noise (squeak). I am guessing that teflon coat will do this bute what about the cleartone process?
ie [blocked]et other supposed benefits are cleartone strings quieter?
# Marc 2015-09-09 06:27
I have to disagree. I just changed out uncoated strings on my Takamine acoustic guitar. I'm by no means a virtuoso guitar player, but I can tell you that the sound / tone did not ring true, as best as I could describe it - muted new string sound. I used the C10's.

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