SonoTone, a small-batch guitar-string company based in Massachusetts, prides itself on design and tone, as well as the pitch accuracy of its handiwork. Developed to faithfully produce authentic vintage tones from the 1950s–’70s, SonoTone’s American-made strings are available in two types for acoustic guitarists: phosphor bronze Symphonic and Concert brass. Both sets promise a bright, sustained, and balanced sound and share similar construction: custom formulated alloys on hex cores. Each is offered in a basic range of gauges: .011–.050, .012–.053, and .013–.056.
For this review, I used a 1934 Epiphone Broadway archtop, on which I have tested a wide variety of bronze strings. It’s a dynamic, expressive instrument and a good baseline, as it is my main performance and practice guitar.
The medium light Symphonics (.012–.053) strung up quickly and easily; once brought up to pitch, the intonation was well within five cents. Some minor, expected finger noise aside, the break-in period was a quite short: three or so days of moderate use with very little loss of string brilliance. The strings were bright without being brash, with a noticeable amount of pleasant, ringing sustain, and individual notes from string to string and up and down the fretboard were balanced as well.
The SonoTones performed well in a variety of contexts: early jazz-style plectrum guitar, hard-driving swing rhythm, and chord-melody playing. Beyond acoustic jazz, the strings were well suited to blues and folk, whether articulated with a pick or fingerstyle. Big pop/rock chords sounded particularly good, making the strings highly versatile. The SonoTones managed to exhibit a great amount of power but also responded well to a sensitive touch. As a player accustomed to round-core, lower-tension strings, my only complaint was that the SonoTones have a noticeably higher string tension. While this tension is not significantly higher than other hex-core phosphor bronze strings, there are lower-tension options available at both lower and higher price points.
Overall, the cost of these strings ($18.99) might be the main sticking point for some working guitarists. But for the studio or home player looking for great-sounding, balanced strings with excellent intonation, SonoTone is a very good option. sono-tone.com
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.
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