ERNIE BALL PAR­A­DIGM SLINKY ELEC­TRIC

STRINGS THAT DON’T BREAK? YOU’RE KID­DING. BY STEVE HEN­DER­SON

Australian Guitar - - Reviews -

Last is­sue, we looked at Ernie Ball’s new Par­a­digm acous­tic strings, which are break and cor­ro­sion re­sis­tant and have a re­place­ment guar­an­tee (break them within 90 days and they’ll give you a new set). I don’t know how they’ve man­aged to make them so strong with­out chang­ing the tone, but they are catch­ing on with pro­fes­sion­als and am­a­teurs alike. As much as I’m a tra­di­tion­al­ist about my gear (es­pe­cially strings), I’ve had the Par­a­digms on my old D-28 for three months now – they’re still go­ing strong and they still sound great. So it was a no-brainer to try the elec­tric ver­sion.

IT’S IM­POR­TANT TO STRETCH

For ob­vi­ous rea­sons, I fig­ured they should be tested on some­thing with a whammy, so rather than use a tra­di­tional Strat, I fit­ted them to a cus­tom Strat built around 25 years ago by Alex Mesker of Al­lam­bie Heights. Mesker did a fab­u­lous job of putting this in­stru­ment to­gether, and it im­me­di­ately be­came – and has re­mained – my num­ber one piece. It fea­tures a Tom An­der­son bird­s­eye maple neck on a Tom An­der­son quilted maple body, EMG SA/SA/89 pick­ups and, most sig­nif­i­cantly, a Floyd Rose bridge. This is the most sta­ble in­stru­ment I’ve ever played. Even when ham­mer­ing the Floyd, it stays in tune and com­pletely rock solid. So, if I’m test­ing strings, any vari­a­tion in tun­ing will be im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous on this gui­tar. From the day Alex fin­ished it to now, I’ve never needed to touch the truss rod.

Now, I know some will say that th­ese strings should be test-driven with some kind of tra­di­tional bridge to put some pres­sure on the ball-end wrap, but firstly, I’ve never had an Ernie Ball string break at that par­tic­u­lar spot, and se­condly, that’s the first place they’d go to strengthen it. I’m more con­cerned with the body of the string. So to the Floyd we go, and after en­dur­ing the pur­ga­tory of a Floyd Rose string change, and then stretch­ing them into tune (and un­lock­ing the clamps, re-tun­ing, re-lock­ing, more tun­ing, more stretch­ing, etc... Then re­al­is­ing that they’re tougher, so I didn’t need to be so gen­tle with the stretch­ing), I dug in for some whammy-fu­elled fun.

A BRIGHT STAR

Im­me­di­ately, just like the acous­tic strings, th­ese Par­a­digm Electrics sound and feel played-in. You know that overly bright sound and overly slick feel you get from a set of brand new strings, and you know how they al­ways sound and feel bet­ter after an hour or so of play­ing? Well, th­ese strings are “right” straight away – they have a bell-like tone, not that “new string” edgi­ness. There’s def­i­nitely a snap to the top end, but it’s round and de­fined; the tone doesn’t thin out after the ini­tial at­tack. Up around the 12th to 15th frets, the tone re­tains body and sus­tain – just like nor­mal Slinkys. In fact, there seems to be no tonal dif­fer­ence be­tween the Par­a­digms and the reg­u­lar, stock stan­dard Slinkys. Us­ing the whammy for ev­ery­thing from sub­tle and at­mo­spheric war­bles, to some se­ri­ous dive bombs and de­pressed whammy at­tacks, the strings stayed con­fi­dently in tune. Pick­ing up the gui­tar by grab­bing the top E (.009) and jerk­ing the in­stru­ment off the bench, the string didn’t snap and still stayed in tune. If only I had some Kryp­tonite

EV­ER­LAST­ING LOVE

The clever en­gi­neers at Ernie Ball have cre­ated a pro­pri­etary wire draw­ing process that in­creases both the ten­sile strength (how much pun­ish­ment it will take right now) and the fa­tigue strength (how much pun­ish­ment it will take over time). On their web­site, you’ll find more tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion on this. But I don’t care how they did it – only that they ac­tu­ally did it, be­cause after six weeks of hav­ing th­ese strings on the gui­tar and play­ing it ev­ery day, they are still in tune right along the fret­board.

And that’s the key: some long-life strings “sound” great, but they be­come hard to tune over time – just like reg­u­lar strings after the same pe­riod. This is be­cause the string is stretched un­evenly along its length, and there­fore, the string mass is un­evenly dis­trib­uted. They are hard to tune and keep in tune, and chords play out of tune.

Th­ese Par­a­digms still sound and feel great, too, due to Ernie Ball’s Ever­last nano-treat­ment that re­duces the cor­ro­sion caused by hu­man and en­vi­ron­men­tal el­e­ments. But again, I don’t care how they did it – it seems to work, and that’s what mat­ters most to work­ing mu­si­cians. If the price is an is­sue, spend the same amount on reg­u­lar strings. Fine. But then you have to re­string the gui­tar three times as of­ten, and chang­ing strings is some­thing that most gui­tarists would agree is a to­tal headache.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

The real is­sue here is longevity. I keep bang­ing on about tone and feel be­cause, in the end, that’s all that mat­ters. The fact that Ernie Ball has cre­ated a prod­uct that does this over a (rel­a­tively) long pe­riod of time is good but peo­ple like Cleartone have done that, too. What Ernie Ball has done is made their strings tough enough to with­stand some se­ri­ous stress over that same pe­riod. The Ernie Ball Par­a­digm pro­gramme demon­strates an ad­vance­ment in string tech­nol­ogy that hasn’t been seen since D’Ad­dario in­tro­duced the hex core all those decades ago. It’s def­i­nitely about longevity: strings that feel great for a long time, sound great for a long time, and stay in one piece for a long time. Ernie Ball has cre­ated the gui­tar string tri­fecta – and ev­ery­one wins.

RRP: $35.95

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