The Gravity Guitar Pick Review: Set fire to your sound and your technique!

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The Gravity Guitar Picks Experienced Review

I like to change the sound of my music from one recording to another, and particularly from one album to another (I have recorded 15 albums to date now…). This often entails different instruments, different recording gear (or recording techniques), different ambient work, and different accessories.

Yes, accessories… Strings, Picks, Mutes, and more. This review addresses a great find in the accessory world that makes a big difference in the sound of my recordings – while adding better playability for most of my pick-based technique.

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This review is about the wonderful line of picks from the Gravity pick company. These picks are high-end picks at a moderate price, and have lots of options to make most pick-style players happy. And for those who are prone to floccinaucinihilipilification of arcane terms applied to everyday objects, Perfectly Purposeful Pleasingly Playable Popular Plectrums…

Buy some today. You’ll be very glad you did. To know why I think so, read on!

The pick pictures in this review are of picks I’ve used extensively. The Classic, Razer, Edge, Sunrise, and Tripp have all seen play time in local acoustic gigs and in TWO of my most recent albums Halcyon Lullabies and the yet-to-be-released North by Northwest. To hear the direct influence of some of my favorites, listen to Halcyon Lullabies tracks Maggie’s Tone Poem (my red Razer XL), The Wandering Soul (my orange Sunrise), Evenfall three instruments with different edges of my blue Tripp XL, and Herman’s Song – a Father’s wish (a requiem for Maggie’s dad) for my blue Edge.

Why Gravity Picks are Great! (For the short attention span and executive summary types among us)

They are durable, affordable, and really comfortable.
My Biggest Reason(TM)? They sound wonderful. Since I gig with them and record with them, their consistent quality and consistent sound amongst identical picks is really great. Some premium picks are like different woods in the same guitar shape: you have to try lots of them to get the one that sounds the best. With Gravity picks, the sound is comfortably consistent and reliable. I need that when I flip on the mic pre or the DI.

I haven’t met a Gravity pick I don’t like. I’m hoping to buy a Gold and some new Thins soon so I can upgrade my pick arsenal.

Sound

The different edge finishes give you striking combinations of attack and release – even amongst acoustic and electric guitars. I’ve found that the smoother edge sounds nicer on acoustic, particularly with coated strings. The more course edge gives REAL bite and mix-cut-through for electrics, particularly when you’re playing with low gain or low distortion.

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The sound of these picks is superb. That’s the 75% of the reason why I love them so much.

I can get really great warm sound with the super-thick smooth-edge picks and get nice bright attacks and releases with the thinner picks with the rougher edges. There’s a lot of variety, so there’s likely to be one with which you will fall in love!

Lots of Varieties, Grips, Thicknesses, Finishes, and Colors

The Gravity guitar pick line comes in a dizzying array of options. I’ve not found a type of pick I play that can’t be ordered as a Gravity pick. Now with the new “Thin” line of Gravity picks, you can now get down to .60mm to at least 6mm. Almost all pick varieties, from the basic Thin pick to the lovely acrylic picks to the gold series all come in a variety of styles and sizes. I won’t enumerate them all here, but I’ll bring up a few of my favorites to give you an idea of what I’ve used and what I like about Gravity picks.

Ask Chris at Gravity about pick finishing options. You’ll be glad you did!

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To Grip or Not To Grip. That is the Question

Some players love it when they find a pick with a grip option. There are several grip options with Gravity picks, including holes in the picks and engravings on the pick surfaces.
I vacillate between grip holes and no grip holes. It’s a fun feast of feelings that forever fascinates facilitation of my sound experimentations.
There are ellipse grip holes, single round grip hole, and “little round hole group”” grip holes. I like all of them.

Pick Categories

  • The new Thin Picks
  • Acrylic Picks
  • Gold Series Picks
  • Signature Series Picks
  • and Custom Shop Picks

Most (not all, mind you, but most) of these are offered in a handful of great shapes, combined with excellent size choices

Shapes

  • The Classic (The good old Fender 351-style pick shape)
  • The Striker (Great for three nice easy rounded tips)
  • The Sunrise (A top arch combined with pointy grip edges and a pointy end point)
  • The Stealth (A more triangular pick with three rounded sides, two sharp-ish grip points, and a striking tip similar to the Sunrise)
  • The Razer (One of my often-played favorites, with nice rounded grip points and a nice long sharp-ish striking tip)
  • The Tripp (What a Trip! Deceptive in shape: semi-triangular with three distinctly different points)
  • The Classic Pointed (Like a classic, only more pointy :-))
  • The Axis (My mellow-sound FAVORITE: Three nicely rounded points on a triangular pick)
  • And my absolute go-to Gravity pick
    The Edge (Not, U2’s MR. The Edge, mind you, just “Edge”)

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Sizes

  • The XL ( Great for those arthritis-hand days 🙁 )
  • The Standard (My favorite on three of my different Gravity pick shapes)
  • The Big Mini (A surprisingly nice minor difference to a Standard that feels like a million bucks when I’m playing a Floyd Rose trem-based guitar or a Fender with wide string spacing)
  • And the Mini. I like Mini Coopers (I drive an R59 these days): I like the Gravity Mini, Too.

And there are colors that coincide with thicknesses, too (depending on the style and such)

My personal favorites?

  • Standard
  • Razer
  • Mr. The Edge
  • and Tripp (great for local live acoustic gigs when I need lots of different sounds out of 2 or three guitars)

Currently, my “favorites pick tin” has a Razer with a grip hole, a Tripp without a grip hole, and an Edge with a grip hole. These generally get rotated from my great big giant pick stashes: always a few gravities in the favorites…

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Durability and Ease of Use

Gravity picks have been a real mainstay for me this past year. I still use some of my previous go-to picks (Dragon’s Heart Pure, Dunlops, Claytons, Fenders, and such): still, my wide assortment of Gravity picks has taken over much of my playing. Bear in mind that I am still largely a finger-style player – but great picks make for great sound!

When I play with a pick, I do a hybrid finger-pick style, something close to a claw or chicken-pickin’ approach. I’m comforted with the clear and precise attack of the Gravity pick combined with the sensory input and varieties of sounds I can get in combination of pick and fingers.

Gravity picks last a LONG TIME.

Go to the Gravity Custom Shop page here to design your own combination!.

Price and Quality

The price of all the different echelons of Gravity picks is very reasonable. From the very inexpensive Thin Pick to the moderately-priced but very premium Gold Series – Gravity is a great choice for picks. I think of them as Premium Boutique picks at an everyday price. With so many players entering the Great Pick array, Gravity is in the very sweet spot of Excellent quality and playability at an Excellently low price.

The variety pack at http://gravitypicks.com/products/packaged-deals?variant=1399124483 is an excellent place to start. For about $30 you can get your hands on a bunch (Eight Premium Picks!) of excellent plectrums at a very nice simple price.

Buy some. Play them all. Feel the joy of a great pick that feels great too.

Wishes and Wants

I think it would be a blast for us to be able to upload a graphic to the Gravity site and order a pick with the graphic etched on it. I am aware that there are technical and legal challenges with this approach – it would just be a lot of fun.

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Have fun with Gravity!

The STARFISH and STARFISH+ Sturdy Gurdy Instrument Stands Review

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The D&A Guitar Gear STARFISH and STARFISH+ Sturdy Gurdy Instrument Stands Review

I’m a musician and a professional recording artist, as well as a guitar and bass gear enthusiast. Needless to say, instrument stands have been a staple of my life for as long as I’ve been actively playing guitars, basses, dulcimers, mandos, and more. When one is first starting out, often it is a bit extra money to go ahead and get a stand with one’s early/first purchases. We often skimp on cases and stands because we’re focused on the expense of one’s first instruments. With that said, if we continue past the beginner’s stage with our instruments, we find that certain accessories really become requirements. Stands are no exception. One only has to snap the neck on a guitar once to get an idea that leaning the guitar against an amp or on the couch/bed/chair is not the greatest idea we’ve had. Cases become important for storage purposes, but stands serve a far more daily important use.

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As a recording and performing professional, stands serve three primary purposes in my world: someplace (hopefully safe) to place/hang the guitar while I use the computer, the rack gear, or walk away from the recording desk/jamming rug for a few minutes; a very convenient place to leave out my “current” guitars out of their cases so I’m inspired to pick them up and play them whenever I get a spare moment; and an easy-access place to arrange my instruments when I’m doing a gig ( I don’t currently gig often, but this is still a consideration).

For me as an individual, I see two kinds of stands – the basic tubed variety, and the “sturdy stand.” I used the inexpensive foam-covered tubular metal stands (often selling between $9.99 and $19.99) very early on in my career as my primary stand because they were first and foremost affordable. I used these stands almost exclusively because I didn’t think the more expensive sturdy stands were really all that big a deal.

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Stands weren’t all that big a deal a decade ago – until one of my favorite Jazz Box guitars teetered off one of the tube stands and snapped at the headstock. At the point of the broken neck on my Artcore, that $9.99 stand became a VERY expensive stand. Since my transition to only sturdy stands (active and passive), I’ve not had an instrument fall off a stand since…

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For this review, I’d like to tell you about a wonderful type of sturdy stand I’ve had the pleasure of using for the past many months: The D&A STARFISH stands. I’ve hung LOTS of different kinds of guitars, basses, and other instruments on these particular stands and am VERY pleased. Read on to find out more…

Quick Opinion

Both STARFISH instrument stands are very strong contenders in the sturdy stand market! I wouldn’t hesitate to buy more.
I’ve been using sturdy stands from three prominent stand manufacturers for about the last 7 years. The first one was a major expense for my limited budget at $100 (street) – but in the end proved to be a worthwhile investment (I still have that particular stand). Sturdy stands hold the guitar better than tube stands; and they do a better job of supporting the weight of the guitar. These multi-footed broad-based sturdy stands make the possibility of a fall much less likely. The footing and weight of the sturdy stand world is significantly more substantial than the traditional $10 tube stand. And they are worth every cent more…

My STARFISH and STARFISH+ Active stands are the latest in my now fairly large set of sturdy stands. Both my STARFISH stands have held priceless guitars and cheap guitars alike, and are both in daily, non-stop use. If there was something (even small) that I didn’t like about them, they would never hold my #1 LP Traditional or my Hummingbird acoustic or my Brother’s Blondie (#5) Telecaster Deluxe (just to name three of my most important guitars).

I do not hesitate to put my favorite instruments in my STARFISH and STARFISH+ stands – particularly the STARFISH+ Active stand. I’m quite fond of them and would recommend them to any player, whether they are just starting out or are a seasoned decades-long musician.

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Please read my stand safety note at the bottom of this review.

Durability and Ease of Use

The STARFISH Passive and STARFISH+ Active stands are VERY sturdy. They are VERY well-planted. On my short-pile rug, the stands do pretty well. The stand’s materials feel solid and well-done. My two stands have been in VERY active use for many months and still look brand new. All the joints still work great, despite being carted about and thrown into the boots of cars and wagons. The surfaces still have their coating on them, and even the soft surfaces still feel even and well-made. I have not found a crack or flaw in either of my STARFISH stands at this point.

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I’m not overly rough with my gear, even down to the stands, strap, and picks I use. I like my things to last, so I do tend to be reasonable with my gear. With that said, guitar stands get knocked around A LOT when they’re put in trunks or closets or attics or even put out on the floor with a bunch of active musicians. I must say, both my STARFISH stands have held up VERY well. I’m quite pleased with them!

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StarfishPassiveYokeThe STARFISH Passive stand is very easy to use: just take the instrument by its neck, and place it into the STARFISH’s yoke. Make sure you’ve got it in the right place and let it go. With instruments long enough to touch the padding on the five sturdy legs, just put the guitar close to the padding as you release and the instrument nestles nicely against the padding on the front two legs. For smaller instruments like mandolins, dulcimers, and violins, just hang the instrument carefully from its scroll-stock and let go (with short instruments with ANY yoke stand if you “drop” it into the yoke at an angle and let go, it will swing and touch or hit the main rod of the stand. Whether or not the main rod is padded, short instruments can get dented if you are careless with your instrument.

StarfishActiveLockingHeadYokeThe STARFISH+ Active stand is a breeze, and adds an additional layer of instrument security for a nominal extra cost. The overall stand setup of the STARFISH+ is like that of the STARFISH. The biggest difference is the active, self-closing yoke in the STARFISH+ Active. This stand is weight-activated such that a clear pair of “pincers” runs around the neck of your instrument and makes a closed loop under your headstock/scroll-stock. I like this additional security because it is less likely that the instrument can be knocked out of the stand by running cats, dogs, rabid fans, or children. Although nothing is perfect, this is a really great stand technique – put the instrument down and it automatically puts its sleeves around the neck. VERY NICE. The diameter of the sleeve/pincers is pretty big around. I’ve put many different basses and guitars (both acoustic and electric) in my STARFISH+ stand with great results.

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Price

The price of the STARFISH and STARFISH+ in USD is extremely comparable with its competitors from Ultimate and Hercules. The two STARFISH stands are a very strong contender in this market space. I would definitely consider the price point on STARFISHes when making a decision to buy an Active stand or Passive hang-yolk stand.

You can take a look at the STARFISH and STARFISH+ stands here at the Heydna site: http://www.heydna.com/. The stands are available at major retailers, on Amazon.com, and through the http://www.heydna.com/collections/all store site.

How about this for great?

Some instruments aren’t all that great for working with almost any guitar stand. The STARFISH+ Active stand works with several difficult-to-fit instruments in my library:
• The STARFISH+ is the ONLY stand that I have ever used that will hold my double-neck B.C. Rich guitar. It is sturdy, doesn’t rock left and right, and actually holds the guitar in such a way as to not put undue stress on the neck that is in the yolk. In my case, when my double-neck is not in its case, it hangs by the 12-string neck in the STARFISH+
• Few active guitar stands hold old-school (narrow-headstock) Telecasters very well. Some active guitar stands actually don’t close up enough to hold a Tele at all. The STARFISH and STARFISH+ both hold my Teles quite well.
• The STARFISH+ does a fantastic job holding banana-headstock guitars like Explorers.
• My STARFISH+ comfortably holds my Wonderful vintage Maggie Valley (North Carolina) wormy-maple sweetheart lap dulcimer – even with its odd scroll-stock!

 

A note about instrument safety and instrument stand safety

An instrument stand is only as good as the way it is used. If one is careless about placing an instrument in a stand it is likely that accidents will occur with any stand type or brand. There are always environments where stands can’t protect our instruments – even the really good ones like STARFISH stands. As we move on stage or have kids and animals (is there a difference? 😉 ) bolting through the room, we stand a chance to knock over even the best of stands.
Some tips:
• Always place your stand on as flat a surface as possible
• Always place your stand out of the middle of the high-traffic paths of the room
• Always take the extra three seconds to put the instrument in the sand and make sure it’s all the way in the stand and properly positioned – even active stands can’t do their job when the instrument is thrown carelessly into the stand’s yoke
• Make sure you have a firm grasp on the instrument as you place it into the stand or retrieve it from the stand

In our liability-driven world, I must make a disclaimer: use guitar stands at your own risk. I am not endorsing any particular stand or any particular method of using a stand with your priceless instrument. Ultimately, you are responsible for what happens to your instrument.

D’Addario Chromes Flatwound Guitar Strings Review – Still using these to this day! My favorite flatwounds

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I first wrote this post on May 15, 2009… I still use D’Addario chromes on my hollow-body electric, fretless guitar, and fretless bass. They last a LONG time and sound great! Read on…

Review in brief: D’Addario Chromes Flatwound Guitar Strings

I’ve just recently written about D’Addario XL strings in my reviews. I got some new strings in today to replace some worn-out wires on my Ibanez AF75D hollowbody electric (yes, I still have/love the great Orange Punkin AF75D… forever a fan).

I think strings are a very personal thing, and as I’ve said before, this is not a fanboy point of view. This is a real, objective writing about some really wonderful strings. At some point, I’ll cover other flatwounds… I can’t always change strings every day to write tons of reviews – so I review the things I play and count on just as much as I write about what I like or don’t like.

I use flatwounds on one fretted bass (an Epiphone EB-3 – YOW), my fretless bass, and on two Artcore hollowbodies. Flatwounds have a decidedly warm and smooth feeling to them. Although one can play them through a triple-Marshall-stack on full gain… the best use of them (for me, anyway) is to get that wonderful “mwah” warmth in my tunes.

I do have occasion to use flatwounds elsewhere – combined with good tubes and my trusty Analog Man SD-1 (Silver Mod). They really throw something different into the listener’s ears! If you have a couple of different guitars at your disposal, you owe it to yourself to try some flatwounds.

On my Fender Jazz Fretless, I love and use nothing but Fender Flatwound bass strings. On one of my Artcores (Punkin), I only use D’Addario Chromes. Why? Fender and others make GREAT flatwounds, too… but I have a method and reason for my madness.

With my D’Addario XL Chromes Jazz Light (.011-.050) and D’Addario XL Chromes Extra Light Gauge (.010-.048), I get a SMOOTH third string. In most thicker flatwound sets for six-string guitars, the third string (generally a G string {no puns here}) is a wrapped string and not a plain string.

With Fender flatwounds, the third is a little course in texture, so you end up with an odd experience: 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 feel smooth and silky. 3 grabs at your fingers. It’s a disconcerting experience for me (personally) when I’m playing. I like all 6 strings (and 4/5 on my bass strings) to feel like slippery smooth wonders. NOTE: I do like the Fender flatwounds on my Bigsby-mounted Artcore AFS75T – the not-so-smooth G string has a nice growly sound to it for rockin’ a little harder than my jazzier D’Addarios.

Remember, in my opinion, that strings and picks are integral to both the sound AND experience of playing guitars and basses… So, I go with Chromes on my feel-good Artcore AF75D.

So, where’s the review? Right here:

Quality Every single D’Addario XL Chromes string I’ve ever installed and used has been ultra-consistent and very resistant to breaking. Each string has a profoundly comfortable consistency in wrapping and polishing.

Every single time I install a new set, they feel just like the last set did when it was new. Every single time. Interestingly, with flatwounds (irrespective of brand), it seems my flats last much longer than my roundwound strings… it is as though they don’t trap as much “stuff” in them to corrode them…

In the past 5 years of playing flatwounds, I’ve not had even one D’Addario Chrome string break.

Sound Wow. Always. If you’ve fallen down on your sound and can’t get up, it’s worth the $8-$10 to try a set of Chromes! Each new set is like Christmas (or pick your holiday as your heart desires). I cannot wait to play them once they’re on! Often as not, a new set of Chromes causes me to be inspired and record a new piece or start a new piece. It’s wonderful.

Take a look at info and pricing for lots of kinds of D’Addario strings here at zZounds.com

The sound is decidedly warm and comfy, and definitely jazz-like. It can smooth out even high-gain or distortion tunes, too.

One thing, though: they’re not as brassy and bright as roundwounds, so flatwounds (in general) don’t PUNCH through the tune’s sound as much as everyday roundwounds. You might have to tweak your EQ a little and maybe turn up the volume and/or gain…

Value Flatwounds, of every brand and type, are more expensive than comparable brand and size roundwounds. Most are wound, then polished in one or more extra steps. Some are ribbon-wound. Expect to pay a little more for a set.

But, my flatwounds (particularly my D’Addario Chromes) last as long as coated strings – without having to use coated strings. On average, my Chromes last three times longer than my roundwounds.

The packaging for chromes uses fewer materials, paper, and plastic… that usually means that they’re a little “greener” than some of the other brands and types of strings I use. I like that part…

Conclusion D’Addario Chromes flatwounds are great strings. Try some. You might just get hooked! (BTW, some metal guitarists use flatwounds!)

Wishes None, really. I like them just as they are. I guess the only thing that would be bonus is if I could get them in colors :-).

D’Addario XL (and EXL) Strings – Time Proven Favorites – Great strings for many venues

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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.

There are lots of kinds of excellent D’Addario strings. Read more about them and browse them at zZounds. I like zZounds – they’ve been great for me as a customer.

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…


Quality:
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.

Sound:
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.

Value:
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…

Long Lasting:
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.

Closing opinion:
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.