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Strings and Things – Your Guide to Ernie Ball

12/01/2023

The king of the string. Or strings, rather, because Ernie Ball boast a wide selection of electric guitar strings to satisfy every musician’s needs. From the Super-Slinky nickel wounds to the hi-tech Slinky Paradigms, you’ve got different materials, construction methods, and gauge thicknesses to elicit all kinds of sounds and playing styles from your mighty axe.

As there are so many types out there, we’ve put together this little guide to give you an overview of some of the most popular types of strings Ernie Ball offer and which set might be best for you!

How do strings affect my tone?

Ernie Ball Paradigm Skinny Top Heavy Bottom stringsIn a big way! They’re responsible for your guitar making any noise in the first place, after all.

The first thing to consider is the string gauge, or thickness of the strings.

  • Thicker strings often produce a darker, punchier tone but exert more tension on your guitar’s neck. This means you’ll have an easier time down-tuning your instrument. However, things like strings bends and string action require more effort on your part
  • Lighter strings are easier to press down, and so are, therefore, easier to bend and perform vibrato with. They’re great for brighter sounds but require a gentler pick attack, particularly on the treble side.

After that, you’ve got the material construction and coating, or lack thereof.

These will affect the ringing quality, sustain, and durability of your strings to a great length.

So, finding the set that suits your style can greatly benefit your music.

Which Ernie Ball string set is best for me?

How long is a piece of string? (pun absolutely intended)

We’re going to give an overview of each type and provide some suggestions as to what they’re good for. It’s worth noting, though, that this is all highly dependent on personal taste.

Some people might not like the feel or tone of coated strings, whilst others will love the extra-long life they provide. Similarly, some players may opt for higher gauge strings because of their chunky tone and higher tension without down-tuning their instrument (see Stevie Ray Vaughan, who famously used ridiculously high string gauges).

On the Ball

The strings we’re looking at are the Regular Slinkys, RPS, Paradigms, Cobalts, and M-Steel series, which all offer distinctive performances.

Regular Slinkys

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Electric Guitar Strings, 3 PackThe Ernie Ball stalwart. Chances are that you’ve already bought and played these ubiquitous strings, and if you haven’t, then you’ve almost certainly heard them!

Used by six-string legends like Eric Clapton and John Mayer, Regular Slinkys are bright, chimey, and versatile, which is why they’re most guitarists’ go-to strings.

With a classic nickel-plated steel wire construction for the wound strings and tin-plated steel wire for the plains, they produce a balanced tone on every gauge. And speaking of gauges, those come in many variations to suit virtually any playing situation.

That includes packs which vary the string gauge, meaning they might have thick bottom strings for chunky low-ends and regular treble strings for easy playing highs.

The names of the pack will usually give away the kind of playability you can expect.

Regular is your standard gauge, Super and Mega are thicker and heavier, and things like Hybrid feature a mix of either lighter or heavier and standard gauges.


RPS (Reinforced Plain Strings)

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky 2240 RPS-10 Guitar StringsRPS Nickel Wound

For players that love the Slinky feel but want something a little tougher. These strings feature specific gauges and core-to-wrap ratios that grant you a rich tonal response while retaining that regular Slinky character.

The plain strings have a patented winding of brass wire wrapped around the lock twist of the ball end to reduce slippages and breakages, giving you extra leeway when pushing those high-end string bends and strong, picked solos.

Consequently, you’ll enjoy a more stable tuning as the string sits firmly in your guitar’s tailpiece.

RPS Coated Titanium

You’re a rock god. And what’s more befitting of a rock god than Titanium?

RPS Coated Titanium strings have all the benefits of their nickel wound counterparts but with hugely improved durability and tuning stability. That’s thanks to the herculean strength of titanium wrap wire that easily shrugs off even the most vicious pick attacks and wild string bends.

Underneath all this armour you still get the bell-like chime that Ernie Ball’s Slinkys are loved for, so consider these strings if you’re a ferocious, energetic player or if your fretting hand gets quite sweaty when performing.


Enter a new Paradigm

Ernie Ball Paradigm Regular SlinkyWelcome to the future of strings. Ernie Ball have shifted the paradigm with these cutting-edge noise generators, giving you strings that last longer, sound fresher, and have improved corrosion resistance compared to normal strings. And that’s without applying a string coating!

This is great news for players who dislike the tactile feel or tone of coated strings but yearn for the night-after-night longevity they provide.

They’ve managed this technical marvel by using a state-of-the-art plasma-enhanced process to remove defects and impurities from the wire, which are then applied with Ernie Ball’s patented Everlast nanotech once they’re wound.

This changes how the strings react to moisture and oils (like the kind that your fretting fingers produce), causing the strings to stay brighter, snappier, and cleaner for much longer than usual!

This unique build process also makes them highly resistant to breakages from strong pick attacks or enthusiastic pitch bends, so if you’re a passionate player that loves to hit the strings with energy, these are a great solution.


Classy Cobalt

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky 2721 Cobalt Guitar Strings 10-46Seeking a change in tone? Allergic to nickel? These super strings may just be what you’re looking for.

They’ve been engineered to maximise the output, note clarity, and dynamic range of your playing.

Ernie Ball shook up the tried-and-tested string formula by using cobalt in place of nickel. This elicits a stronger response from your pickups thanks to cobalt’s higher magnetic strength.

As a result, you’ll see extraordinarily deep lows and crisp highs because the pickups are extracting every detail of your string vibrations.

They’re soft and silky to touch, meaning they’re excellent for string bends and expressive playing. While they’ll work great with any electric guitar, you’ll see fantastic results when paired with active pickups.

The increased output you get from active electronics really accentuates the extended frequencies the cobalt produces.


The mighty M-Steel

Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom Slinky M-Steel Set, 10-52Maraging Steel. No, not marrying steel – Ernie Ball strings last a long time but they’re no life commitment! Ahem, so anyway, M-steel refers to the super advanced alloy material that’s commonly used in the aerospace and defence industries for its ultra-high strength.

As you might have guessed, a super tough material translates to super tough strings!

Ernie Ball haven’t just used it for its immutable durability, but also for its almighty low-end tone. The metallic ringing quality of these strings is off the scales, giving you a full, detailed response with every pluck of the wires.

They’re made with a super-cobalt alloy that’s wrapped around the hex-shaped M-steel core, so you’ve got the soft, fluid touch of cobalt paired with the chunky sonics of the maraging steel.

And not only that, but M-steel also come equipped with the RPS tech, so they’re reinforced at the ball ends for the same resistance to breakages and tuning slippages – so expect a set of strings that last a long time, produce a mighty roar, and won’t break under the fiercest of playing sessions.

That’s a lotta strings – which one is best for me?

Phew. That’s plenty of wire for one day. There’s a fantastic array of Ernie Ball’s quality strings, but it can be hard to choose the right one for you.

Many of their alternate types boast an enhanced level of durability over the regular Slinkys, so will benefit players that are performing regularly or those who adopt an extra-strong pick attack.

If you’ve got a nickel allergy then the Cobalt and M-Steel strings present a handy alternative, in addition to their other benefits. And tonally speaking, M-Steel and Cobalt are great for high-output genres like metal and hard rock, with the extra bottom-end presence letting your chunky chords hit with an extra thud.

If you want the best of the best and just plain hate string changes, then consider the Paradigms. They’re on the pricier end of Ernie Balls but promise a freshness and tone to match the price tag.

And remember, each type has plenty of variations of string gauges, So, whatever your preferred thickness, there’s an Ernie Ball string set that’s perfect for you. Head on over to our main site to browse our full range, and leave a comment to let us know which are your favourite!

 

Content Writer (Guitars)

Mark has been a guitar aficionado for around twenty years. A lover of all things 6-string, he spends his days putting pen-to-paper about all manner of interesting instruments. From entry level Squiers to the most coveted Custom Shop desires, Mark's written about them.

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