Ernie Ball has over 50 years of experience in producing guitar strings that enhance tone and embrace playing style. As the world’s leading manufacturer they have attracted the very best, with their household Regular Slinky strings played by the likes of Eric Clapton, John Mayer and Steve Vai. Optimum comfort, feel and greater specificity are all qualities inherent to the production and remarkable playability of the Slinky range. This overwhelming success, however, hasn’t stopped the Ernie Ball engineers from developing new ways to improve the total tonal and playing experience. Enter the Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt and the Slinky M-Steel – two technologically distinctive sets of strings that each provides guitarists’ with a fresh way to shape their sound.
THE MORE THE MERRIER
Regular Slinky are the industry standard when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll. Nickel-plated steel wire is wrapped around a hex shaped steel core wire, which is made with the intricate tempering of tin plater, high carbon steel. A balanced tone ensures these strings can not only cut through the mix with some added brightness, but also provide exceptional tonal in flection for all playing styles. Cobalt Slinky guitar strings differ in that they are wrapped in a 17% iron-cobalt alloy wire that delivers a deeper magnetic connection between the pickups and the strings. This is a patented in-house innovation that elevates output and produces greater articulation. It’s a game changer as far as string technology is concerned. The M-Steel Slinky is then an extension of the Cobalt concept – enhanced output and response – wrapped in a 27% iron- cobalt alloy wire. The core wire is made from maraging steel – a super alloy commonly used in the aerospace and defence industries. The durability of these strings, as a result, is out of this world.
TRYING THEM ON FOR SIZE
I’m using an 11-48 gauge. What I first notice with the Slinky Cobalt strings is the elongated range and punch. There’s a sophisticated sonic breadth on offer here that is instantly satisfying. When working on the clean channel there’s a rich, liquid gold character that coats the entire tone. The highs aren’t as bright as those experienced on the Regular Slinky strings and instead have a rounder profile. Elevated tonal voicing complex chord structures and noting, as well as the use of deft picking patterns, are articulated with clarity. With the addition of some overdrive the increased lower end of these strings is felt and heard with purpose. The greater low-end presence means the sonic nuances offered by these strings also come to the fore when using hi-gain settings. The elastic feel and gripping grooves of the Cobalt Slinky then allows you to really dial in accurate string bends.
The Slinky M-Steel, conversely, have a much tighter feel underlined by their brute strength and beefy stature. Booming low-end is the favoured domain of these strings. There’s an overarching liveliness that permeates the lows, mids and highs, generating a hard-hitting richness. When playing lead the highs really pop and bounce, driven by a bumped up bass response. Solid chords surge with greater girth and are answered with solid sustain. Not simply for the purpose of high-powered tone, the inner strength of these strings also means that they take longer to fatigue and are less susceptible to slippage and breakage.
THE NEW WAVE
For many guitarists there’s not a lot of thought that goes into choosing guitar strings. With the development of the Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt and the Slinky M-Steel strings – two distinctive tone transforming technologies – Ernie Ball is surely changing this attitude, one guitarists at a time.
For more details, head to cmcmusic.com.au.
Hits and Misses
Expressive set of strings
Extended dynamic range
Are you kidding? This is Ernie Ball we are talking about...