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Ernie Ball Cobalt Strings

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Ernie Ball Cobalt Strings

Postby Jay Menon » Wed Aug 01, 2012 10:55 am

The blurb from the Ernie Ball website:
Seeking to provide guitarists and bassists with a new voice, Cobalt strings provide an extended dynamic range, incredible harmonic response, increased low end, and crisp, clear highs. Cobalt provides a stronger magnetic relationship between pickups and strings than any other alloy previously available. Cobalt Slinkys are also soft and silky to the touch, making string bending a breeze.

Anybody personally tried these...? Are they any good? Do they resist corrosion and last better than conventional nickel wound strings? Opinions from personal experience most appreciated...
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Re: Ernie Ball Cobalt Strings

Postby Pin » Wed Aug 01, 2012 11:19 am

They're excellent. And especially if you use synths - Roland GK etc.

Here is a thread I started about the Cobalt strings from the VG Forum:

http://www.vguitarforums.com/smf/index.php?topic=5555.0

I don't use anything else now.
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Re: Ernie Ball Cobalt Strings

Postby zenguitar » Wed Aug 01, 2012 1:57 pm

I'm not going to comment on these strings because I've never used them, however it is worth having a conversation about how you go about choosing your strings.

And to start things off... I have a favourite string for electric guitars, but I don't use them. And here's a roundabout explanation why.

There are two sorts of string. Those that are made by the company who's name is on the packet (companies like D'Addario, Ernie Ball, Dean Markley, Rotosound, Thomastik, etc) and those that are produced as commodity items that are sold to companies to be branded (like Gibson, Fender, Elites, and various distributor owned brands). There is nothing intrinsically wrong with commodity strings, some are made by the likes of D'Addario and the rest, but as a buyer you really have no idea whether your strings are made by one of the big names or a budget factory in Mexico or China. And it is not unknown for a distributor to establish an own brand by buying initially from a name manufacturer and then switching to a cheaper supplier a few months down the line. Martin are interesting, they used to make all of their own strings, but over a decade ago they started sourcing their budget strings from Mexico.

So, that's why I prefer the string manufacturer brands. You have a far better idea what you are getting from month to month and year to year.

When it comes to things like gauges and new materials, I have a pragmatic approach. Back in the early 80's I was using Dean Markley F150's, their version of the Fender 150 set that Hendrix used (although I didn't realise the Hendrix link at the time, I just liked the feel of medium treble and light bass). Even living in Central London at a time where there were more guitar shops than now, it was often a struggle to find anyone who had them in stock.

So I apply the 4pm Saturday afternoon test. You are in a strange town at that time and you have an important gig that night with A&R men from 5 record companies expected. You are setting up, and realise that your strings are knackered. You HAVE to get a new set, and you need them now. What gives you the best chance of getting a set of strings that you can use with the minimum of compromise? The answer is, a standard set of gauges from standard materials. If you use D'Addario nickel 10's there is a good chance of finding them in a local shop, and if the haven't got those they will almost certainly have the equivalent set from Ernie Ball or Rotosound and they will be so similar that you won't notice the difference once you hit the stage.

Once you move away from the standards and start looking at unusual gauge sets or different materials/construction you start eliminating alternatives. It gets harder to find strings when you need them, when you break a string fitting a new set it is impossible to buy a single string as a replacement (remember Maxima Gold? Lovely strings, and I've lost count of the number of times I've seen a guitar with 5 Gold strings and a plain steel high E ) so you have to break another set for a spare. Working on guitars you get to see a lot of guitar cases, and it's fascinating to see how many have part sets of strings in the storage compartment.

Once you move away from the norm, it's up to you to carry spare sets. And that means buying in bulk. The good news is that means you pay a little less for your strings, the bad news is that you have to pay up front. And if you use different gauges for different scale lengths, that can soon add up. You may be able to afford to buy strings in bulk this year, but will you be able to afford it next year, and the year after?

So, for those who are interested, what are my favourite electric guitar strings which I don't use?

Everly B52's. I tried them when they were introduced to the UK and loved them. Nickel Iron rather than nickel steel. They feel a gauge lighter, sound great, and I love how they interact with pick-ups. I step up a gauge when I use them.

However, Everly strings are hard to find in the UK. And the UK mail order companies that do stock Everlys don't carry the B52s. So if I want them, I have to buy in bulk from the USA. And the heaviest set they make are 11's. When I am playing regularly I use 10's on Fender scale and 11's on Gibson scale. But with the B52's I want to go up a step to 11's on Fender and 12's on Gibson. So I would have to ask about custom gauge sets to get what I want. Maybe I could compromise and stay with 10's and 11's, but it is still a LOT of money to invest in strings. They aren't cheap, and you have to pay Shipping, Duty, & VAT on top. And they don't offer 12-string sets either

So, by all means experiment with strings. But if you settle on something unusual be prepared to buy in bulk or be disappointed.

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Re: Ernie Ball Cobalt Strings

Postby Guest » Wed Aug 01, 2012 2:23 pm

I've got a set coming tomorrow so I'll let you know. I also have a GK synth and never thought of the benefit, so I'll check the tracking.

As for gauges Zen I've recently read that Billy Gibbons uses as low as 7s and 8s and still gets a meaty sound.
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Re: Ernie Ball Cobalt Strings

Postby grab » Wed Aug 01, 2012 3:44 pm

FWIW, I've just got a set of the Titaniums (they didn't have "regular" Power Slinky packs in DV in Cambridge when I went in there). Be interested to see how they pan out too.

Tried stainless once. Never again. Horrible, hideous, awful feel under my fingers. Tone was maybe a little richer but nothing significant, and going back to regular Power Slinkies was like changing from big clod-hopping boots to running shoes.
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Re: Ernie Ball Cobalt Strings

Postby Stef Andrews » Wed Aug 01, 2012 5:21 pm

zenguitar wrote:... the 4pm Saturday afternoon test...

The precise reason I settled on Roto reds (11s) for all of my electrics, standard/Drop D on my Les Paul, Viper and Strat and D Standard/Drop C on my Ibanez. They feel great, I do buy them in bulk, but when I need to I can rush to the nearest shop and buy either a whole set or something that'll fit right in - at least for a gig!

I'm intrigued by these different strings that you see now and then, but to be honest I've never really seen the benefits to different strings, by way of tone change once they're settled and that 'new string brightness' has worn off, I feel they're so low down the chain of things that affect my tone it's just not worth it.
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Re: Ernie Ball Cobalt Strings

Postby grab » Thu Aug 02, 2012 9:37 am

Stef Andrews wrote:I feel they're so low down the chain of things that affect my tone it's just not worth it.

On electric, I'm inclined to agree. The most important thing for me is playability - if the tone is right from your fingers, then strings are much less significant.

Of course it's a very different ballgame on acoustic guitars, where using the right strings can be almost as significant as the instrument itself.
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Re: Ernie Ball Cobalt Strings

Postby _ Six _ » Sun Aug 05, 2012 8:44 pm

I've stuck with EB 11s and 12s my whole playing career.If it ain't broke then don't try and fix it.
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