You may or may not be aware, dear reader, that my usual “go to” strings, for both my cedar and my spruce top guitars, is a good, ol’ trusty set of d’Addario Pro Arté high tension strings. These strings, as I’ve said before on the blog, I find to be very reliable in terms of their tuning and sound quality sticks around for a loooong time too.
Well, the nice people over at d’Addario heard that I was a bit of a fan, so they sent me a new set of strings to try out – Pro-Arté Carbon strings. Yup, carbon. Not nylon.
I’d heard about carbon strings a while ago, a couple of years ago in fact, but not gotten around to trying them yet. Well, here was my chance! And so I’m sharing my thoughts and feeling on the strings for your benefits too folks.
The first things I noticed whilst stringing the instrument (and I chose my main concert instrument, my John Price cedar top, to test the strings out by the way) was the thinness of the treble strings as compared to the nylon EJ46s. Given that carbon is a much tougher material than nylon it figures that d’Addario are able to manufacture the strings using much less material. Environmentally sustainable at least which is definitely a plus in my book!
After having re-strung my guitar with the EJ46FF carbons I was interested to know how long the strings would take to settle into their initial tuning and how they held that.
Well, to be honest, I was a little disappointed. The nylon Pro-Arté EJ46s I’ve always found to settle into their tuning very quickly and holding that tuning well within the space of 24 hours. Unfortunately I didn’t experience that with the Pro-Arté EJ46FF Carbons – the initial tuning took, I’d estimate, around 50% longer to achieve than I’d normally get with the nylons and holding the tuning took longer as well, around 2 to 3 days as compared to around a day for the nylon.
I was intrigued to how the slightly thinner treble strings were going to feel to play, especially the G string which is considerably thinner in the carbon format. It did take a couple of minutes just to recalibrate my fingers to the marginally changed sensation of fingertip on string.
But once I’d gotten around that I didn’t look back! The thinner trebles actually make for easier left hand slurring I’ve found. Similarly with the right hand, slightly less energy input is required through the thinner strings to produce a similar volume in the nylons. The EJ46FFs are an eminently playable set of strings.
The EJ46FF Carbons are great tonally. Quite different to the tones I’ve been experiencing with the nylons, but a good different. The trebles are particularly bright – possibly a little too bright in initial couple of plays for my taste (almost steel string like). This is unsurprising however given that d’Addario rate them as pretty much their brightest set of strings in their classical range. However, they soon mellowed out a touch after a bit of playing in and became more rounded.
Their tonal range sitting on the John Price is pretty good, with a nice spread and choice of colours from the dolce tasto playing area to muted trumpet bright ponticello playing. This is still improving even after around 8 weeks of playing in.
My initial reaction when playing the guitar with the Pro-Arté Carbons on whilst playing with the guitar orchestra I’m a member of was “flipping heck, this is loud!”. I really felt like I had to turn down the volume on my usual playing and level of energy in to the strings to ensure appropriate balance with the rest of the group. And that’s a good thing, as it means I’m using less energy to achieve the same level of dynamic as previously.
I’ve found them to be a very responsive string too. As well as producing a crystal clear and full fortes, in the trebles and basses, the EJ46FFs also produce equally crystal clear and delicate pianos.
At the time of writing I’ve had the Pro-Arté Carbon EJ46FF on my guitar for around 8 weeks, and have played them in a variety of conditions, including a cool practice room, and a stinking hot concert hall. Given that I believe these strings are still coming into their own after 8 weeks (say 4 weeks under “normal” conditions, given that I’ve been travelling around the country here, there and everywhere recently), these are strings with some serious longevity.
I’d not pop them on my instrument within a week of a concert performance as the initial brightness is a little too much for my tastes. The time to settle in is perhaps slightly longer than I’m used to, and that’s probably my one criticism of them. I personally would not use that as a reason to avoid these strings. Quite the opposite in fact. I do think I’m convert to these carbon strings now (so I’ll just have to adjust my re-stringing habits accordingly).
All in all, crystal clear strings that pack a serious punch, require less energy input from you as a players as compared to nylon and great value for money in terms of their lifespan.