Elixir Phosphor Bronze Strings
By Todd Stuart Phillips
I put a set of Elixir Phosphor Bronze on a couple of my guitars. They sound like new, phosphor bronze guitar strings of good quality. And they stayed that way.
That is basically my entire review. The following is just some information about the strings.
Elixir strings are made by the W. L. Gore & Associates, the same folks who make Gore-Tex. Because some of the brainiacs working in their labs also happen to play the guitar they decided to turn to guitar strings as yet another application for their futuristic, synthetic materials. After considerable experimentation they came up with their now famous Polyweb strings, which feature an advanced polymer sheath that encases the strings, keeping possible corrosion and contaminations from reaching down between the windings. But unlike some other coated strings, even the polymer does not invade the area between the windings, which is where a lot of the string's vibrations are transferred and the tone created.
As is well known, such coated strings do not appeal to all guitarists. They can feel waxy or slippery and most important; many players do not like how they sound. Where some players feel they sound warm and round, others accuse them of being dull and toneless. So Elixir came out with their Nanoweb strings, which feature a microscopically thin coating. It continues to prevent contaminants from seeping in between the windings while allowing the texture of the strings to come to the fingers. So it is just as resistant to corrosion but has less effect on tone.
The difference is remarkable. They feel better than any other coated string I have played. I could still feel every groove in the windings and if they are at all slicker, it is subtle and to my advantage when it comes to doing glides up and down the neck.
One of my major complaints about phosphor bronze strings is all the raspy string noise; they just squeak more than 80/20s. These Nanowebs actually have less string noise than my usual 80/20s. But just as important they still impart some noise so they sound like "real" guitar strings.
I had every intention of not liking these strings because of their coating. To be honest, from their sound alone I would have never guessed they were coated if I had not known in advance. They were not quite as flashy and brassy as other brand new strings, but that is a good thing. I have always taken issue with phosphor bronze strings because of their "sonic glare." All new strings sound bright and shiny, but phosphor bronze strings tend to over do it for my ear and the sound becomes all about *NEW STRING* and less about the exquisite tone woods underneath them. These Elixir Nanowebs sound like fresh, phosphor bronze strings, only without that extra blinding sheen that usually adds up to unwanted static. Otherwise they have all the brassy edge and definition that people seek in a quality set of PBs.
One criticism that is leveled at Elixir strings is that they break easier than regular strings, particularly if someone changes tunings often. I have left them one of my guitars for a month. Not only do they sound identical to what I heard when I first put them on, I have not experienced any breakage. But one set on one guitar does not a definitive test make. So I thought I would seek out the opinion of someone with more experience.
I got a hold of Larry Pattis, the fingerstyle guitarist who made his home in super-humid Oregon and super-arid Utah before that. He performs all over the country and has used Elixir strings for many years. Larry has played custom Martins made with a cutaway, in both the long and short scale and has recently added a fine Mark Blanchard 00 to his stable as well. He takes advantage of a variety of altered tunings, playing with a wide range of dynamics and attack across the full length of the fretboard.
Larry told me that he continues to use Nanos, in both the 80/20 and Phosphor Bronze variety. He said that to him they sound like brand-new strings after they have been played for 24 hours and some of that jangly new string sound has burned off a bit. As he put it, "Elixirs have always had a *great* tone to my ears."
That tone shows up well on his latest album, Hands of Time, which was recorded with Elixir Nanowebs and has done very well on the acoustic music charts. You can hear those Nanos in action by stopping by Larry's website and listening to some audio clips or watching him play live at the Kennedy Center, in Washington D.C.
As for my own experience, the Nanoweb PBs I put on my guitars lived up to their billing. They retain a fresh strings sound for weeks on end. They reduce string noise and the harshest aspects of the "new string thing" while retaining the brilliance typically found only in strings less than a week old. But I will confess I wish they did not achieve this quite so well. I am one of those people who actually like the fact strings have a lifespan and change their tone over time. These Nanowebs stay in that new string zone longer than I would wish for. Because of the phosphor bronze sound I also feel they sounded better on my Indian rosewood/Sitka spruce OM than they did my mahogany/Adirondack spruce custom M. But that too is purely a matter of personal preference. I know other people who will be very happy with these strings. They are ideal for someone whose perspiration kills strings quickly.
I would not say they are for everyone, but for a guitarist who wishes strings could last longer and maintain a consistently bright and brilliant tone I think they would do well in trying a set of the Elixir Nanoweb phosphor bronze strings sometime soon. They may not have to try another set of strings for a very long time.
Out of a possible 8 Notes on the T Spoon Scale of Guitaracity I give Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze Guitar Strings a bright and sustained 6 Notes.