Extending the Nanoweb revolution to better guitarists everywhere
By Dave Elmer
I never made a survey, but it seems to me that a high percentage of the more advanced acoustic players opt for phosphor-bronze strings. It also seems logical that they would. Perhaps I'm talking about my own preference here, but to my ear, phosphor bronze strings sound so clearly superior to steels that anyone with good sense and functioning ears would choose the bronze. They are warmer. The lows are clearer and stronger, and the high end brighter and more vibrant.
Those who don't like them may have simply judged too hastily. Phos-bronze strings can be too bright at first. You have to put them on, let them finish stretching, and then play them until they settle down. In my case, it takes about half an hour of playing before they mellow into what I call the "sweet zone." Once they do, my guitar becomes a better guitar, and I become a better player. At least for awhile.
Every guitarist wants this sweet zone to last longer. Typically, for me it lasts for about a week—somewhere around 10 to 15 hours of actual playing time. After that the phosphor-bronze strings, like all guitar strings, begin losing their clarity and vibrance, and I begin thinking of putting on a fresh set.
The Elixir solution
I also play electric guitar (steel strings are fine for it) and first heard about Elixir's coated strings in that context. I tried a NanoWeb set and liked the feel and the sound. They also stretched the sweet zone, cutting my electric restringing down from twice a month to once every month and a half. It saved me a few bucks, but the real benefit was that my axe was consistently ready to play and in the tone zone.
I liked the Nanowebs on my electric so much that I decided to try them on my acoustic. but learned that neither PolyWeb or NanoWeb strings were available in phosphor bronze. This was a disappointment, but I wasn't about to change from phosphor bronze just to get more mileage. It doesn't matter how long a set lasts if you aren't getting the tone you want.
Coincidence or small miracle?
Just when I had given up on the idea of coated Elixirs for my acoustic, a funny thing happened—a set arrived in my mailbox. For real. They were phosphor bronze Nanoweb lights, just what I wanted and what I had been told didn't exist. I was amazed. The box was labeled "developmental sample, not for sale," and I learned later that Elixir was developing them and close to introducing them. Elixir was at the stage of soliciting player feedback, and Musician's Friend had asked them to put my name on the trial sample list so I could write about them. I'll always take free strings if they are my gauges and phosphor bronze. And these were the NanoWebs I wanted to try.
I put them on my main guitar. They felt pretty normal but just a bit smoother than regular strings. New strings always change the sound of your guitar, so it's hard to be certain but the NanoWebs seemed louder than other new strings. They also seemed easier to tune. Most importantly, they sounded great. They had that warmth and brilliance that is the reason for playing phosphor bronze strings in the first place. They compared very favorably to other strings that I consider to be good ones.
What was different about the Elixir NanoWebs was that they didn't need the usual breaking-in period. They were in the tone zone right from the get-go, and two days later they were sounding the same as when freshly strung. I mentioned this to my contact at Elixir and he told me the NanoWebs were engineered to sound as if they had already been broken-in. They had to be since the coating keeps them stable. Cool, I thought. This just means the sweet zone starts sooner.
How long can this go on?
Would they continue to stay bright and alive to extend the tone zone significantly? The answer, I'm learning, is yes, but the test isn't over yet. I've been playing for about three weeks now—playing more and stroking harder than usual—and the Elixirs are still hanging in there. They're going to wear out sometime, but they've already lived up to their billing.
I wouldn't presume to tell another guitarist what strings he should use. That's a personal choice. But I will tell the whole world that NanoWebs start out in the tone zone and stay there for a good while. Try ‘em and see.