I’ll admit it: I don’t like changing strings—for some reason, it always feels tedious—but I prefer the sound and feel of a freshly strung guitar to one whose wires have had a bit of playing time. That’s why I jumped at the chance to check out D’Addario’s new XT series strings, which incorporate high-carbon steel cores, are designed to be less prone to breakage, offer greater pitch stability, and last longer.
XT strings are available for a full range of fretted instruments—acoustic, electric, classical, and bass guitar, plus mandolin and banjo. For acoustic guitar, the series includes phosphor bronze and 80/20 bronze alloys in all the usual gauges. Ever since D’Addario did away with six individual string envelopes in favor of a single package, to cut down on waste, I’ve been a big fan of the company’s thoughtful packaging. In keeping with this tradition, the XTs come in a tastefully minimal black-and-silver cardboard wrapper, and I appreciated that the inner bag containing the strings now offers corrosion resistance and is resealable.
I first restrung a cheap old archtop, a mid-1960s Gibson L-50, with the phosphor-bronze XTs in gauge .012–.053. Making my way from the high E string down to the D, I could already tell that the XT was a winning set. The previous strings on the L-50 hadn’t been on the guitar all that long, but the A string sounded limp and lifeless compared to the new D. With the full XT set on, the new strings seemed to require less tugging than normal to settle into pitch. And they sounded spectacular. The Gibson had slightly more clarity and projection than when previously restrung, as well as a hint more bass response, which I especially appreciated when playing Freddie Green–style chords on the bottom strings. And though the strings are coated, this was hardly noticeable.
Next I tried the .012–.053 80/20 XTs on a new favorite flattop, a Collings OM1A T (that’s Adirondack and Traditional) that has a beautiful growl when driven. As with the Gibson, the Collings sounded and felt even better than ever with the fresh strings, which seemed to highlight the sonic attributes of its Adirondack spruce and mahogany body. Single-note lines felt especially powerful, and strummed chords packed even more of a punch than before.
Several weeks later, after at least a half hour of daily playing time, the strings on both guitars had lost none of their luster. At $12.99 per set, the XTs might cost quite a bit more than, say, the classic EJ16s, but if the strings I tried are any indication, the added the cost is certainly well justified.
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