I originally wrote this review on April 26, 2009 – I still use these on 2 humbucker instruments… always great quality…
This is an opinion review, not a religious or fan-boy review… This is an experienced view of a high-quality brand and string… I play MANY brands of strings, including D’Addario XLs – I believe my review presentation is objective…
As a musician, a guitar nut, and a recording artist, I’m always exploring different things to get different sounds. I’m always trying out strings, picks, pickups, electronics, and much more… always looking to see what something sounds like or feels like.
Strings are a fundamental of music with stringed instruments. Just as a stylus is important to the audio output quality of a fine phonograph, strings affect the sound quality of an instrument. Also, the feel of strings is important to the way the musician interacts with their instrument. There are many, many things about strings that are very personal in nature…
So, what do we feel about our strings? It seems as though every musician with whom I speak has a completely different view of their strings. It’s truly amazing. Musicians, from pro to novice, all express divergent views on their strings.
Some folks are so fanatic about their strings that they will spend long periods of time going through identical sets of strings to get just the perfect string or set or pairs or sets of strings. Yet there are others who have the attitude of “it doesn’t matter to me, just make sure they’re nickel-plated 10s” or “I guess I should change my strings – they’re a year old now.”
And yet others are somewhere in between. What’s right? The right answer is, if the strings do what you want, then they’re the right ones.
So, enough about the philosophy of strings… let’s talk about a particular brand and type… I’ll write more reviews about other brands and types down the road a bit. Today, I’m going to ramble about D’Addario XL strings.
Briefly: I don’t beat my strings, nor do I pick/pluck extremely hard or firmly. But, on the other hand, I don’t have the light touch, either. Suffice it to say that I am somewhere in the middle when it comes to being hard on my strings. Also, I do like fresh strings – both from a cleanliness point of view and from a sound point of view. I change my strings when they feel icky or they begin to “darken” my instrument’s sound. I don’t like blackened rough strings or strings that are smelly and dull-sounding… with that in mind, let’s do some exploration…
First of all, I love these. They’re super-consistent quality. I’ve opened, installed, and played hundreds of sets of D’Addario XL guitar and bass strings – and I’ve NEVER had one with a bend, a “funny place”, or with a largely unreliable sound.
D’Addario strings, in general, are extremely consistent and extremely reliable. I’ve never had one break. I’ve never had one “go dull” on me before the rest of the set. I’ve never had one feel strange when I’m playing. The quality is good and consistent.
Here’s one of the main things about strings… how do they sound? Not all strings are the same manufacture, not all strings sound the same, and not all strings are musical in the same way.
D’Addario XLs sound generally bright, whether you’re playing nickel-plate, pure nickel, or acoustic brass/bronze strings. They have a nice growl to them that sounds like freshly wound metal – very nice. I’ve played strings from other manufacturers – strings bearing virtually the exact same specs as the XLs I’ve played. In general, the D’Addarios growl a little more, sing a little more, and produce a mellow tone when played easy on clean.
D’Addario XLs are generally priced within a half-dollar of all of its competitors. I don’t feel that D’Addario XLs are expensive or cheap – they seem priced just right… I feel as though they are the “workhorse” type of string – a brand and type musicians can count on.
They’re a great value and will please a large percentage of the string-instrument-playing population…
D’Addario XLs last a fairly long time. There are other brands and types I’ve used that stay close to “fresh” feel and sound longer than the XLs I play, but not many. I have also played brands (brands that I DO like, mind you) that don’t last nearly as long.
In general, D’Addario XLs seem to last well past average, and are consistently in the top range of long-lasting uncoated strings.
I love D’Addarios. I install them on customer’s guitars very frequently. I have a couple of guitars that get nothing but D’Addario XLs (generally 10s). I REALLY like the phosphor-bronze sets I use on my Ibanez acoustic.
I love the quality and the general sound of them. I like the multi-pack options to save some coin, and I like the way they feel even up to the time when they start to get grimy.
They’re great strings. Give them a try.