Review of Elixir Coated Stainless Steel and Coated
Nickel Plated Strings -
Elixir completely shook-up the string market when it launched its
polymer coated strings. Now well established, the Elixir range has
just been improved with new coating technology. But can our
resident Bassment dungeonmeister, Dan Veall, tell the difference
between the nickel and stainless versions? We set him the
In issue nine we enjoyed our first bass string review. To be
honest, it was something we were a little unsure about undertaking.
The good news is that it went well and you, dear readers, gave us
much positive feedback! So, when we were contacted by Elixir
Strings about new developments to its coated strings range, we
hopped right on it to bring you a working comparison guide between
the two new types.
Elixir provided us with two identical Ibanez basses, one strung
with the brand new Nanoweb coated stainless steel strings and the
other with the coated nickel strings. Just to clarify, these both
featured the new Nanoweb coating, but the stainless steel sets are
completely new, nickel having always been available from Elixir but
now coming with the new coating.
Given the cost of bass strings, particularly coated premium
quality ones, we felt this is a test that you'd not be able to do
very easily at home. After all, how many of us have two identical
basses that we can strap different types of strings onto, then
compare back and forth?
So first up. What of Elixir and why coated strings?
Elixir, owned by the WL Gore company (they of the fabulous
Goretex waterproof fabric beloved of outdoor types), has been
producing coated strings since 1995 and has carved-out a sizeable
chunk of the guitar and bass string market, despite having to
persuade musicians to spend more than they were used to for strings
and having been a completely new name entering an already crowded
Clearly, players were impressed. Now, Elixir says its strings
are even better.
Elixir's strings feature a 'microscopically thin' Nanoweb
fluropolymer coating that the company says is the only type that
covers the entire outer string surface, whereas quote: "other
string manufacturers offer coatings that protect the wrap wire
going round the core but neglect the gaps between the windings,
allowing deterioration to occur." This deterioration is the result
of dirt, sweat, oil and skin debris being rubbed in to the windings
every time we play our instruments. For some, even a single
high energy gig in a hot sweaty venue is enough to take the
brightness and life out of standard uncoated strings.
Let's take a closer look at each of the sets of the strings in
for this review. First, have a look at the video. I specifically
plugged the basses directly in to the studio DI and not an
amplifier because I wanted an uncoloured sound for you to hear. All
of the settings on both basses were set identically. Both pickups
are full on and EQs were set flat. Once again I didn't 'shred' but
kept my playing simple, so that you could hear the tone of each of
the sets of strings.
Visually, it was obvious up close which set was which. The
stainless steel Elixirs had the usual more grey look in comparison
to the nickel strings, which have a richer 'tinge of gold/yellow'
We (myself and my crew) had an opportunity to listen to the
strings acoustically too before recording and found that there was
a noticeable, yet subtle, difference in the sound. Though we
actually found it difficult trying to describe that sound, I have
The stainless steel strings still sounded rich, but with
grittier mids, while the nickels sounded sweeter and had a more
refined top end. I guess, in short, the nickels sounded like you'd
hope nickels would and the same for the stainless. That's a good
thing and certainly justifies offering two different types - the
coating being an added benefit and not inhibiting the essential
nature of the string beneath.
I want to talk about the string's physical attributes before we
get to plugging in and listening. Both sets feel balanced and of an
even tension across the neck. The most noticeable difference
between the strings was certainly one of the key points that Elixir
is very keen to stress. The nickel strings felt silky in use and
finger slides were smooth and effortless up and down the neck.
Swapping the basses over, I'd expected to feel the more usual
'textured' finish of uncoated stainless steel windings but was very
pleased to note that the Nanoweb coating really does make a
difference here. I think it's safe to say that for those who really
are looking for a stainless steel string sound but have been put
off by the rough feel, this could very much be the way forward.
Smooth and again easy to change positions!
Are they worth the premium price? Elixir insists that, averaged
out, its strings are cost effective because they last so long. This
isn't quite such an issue for six string guitarists as the
investment per set is so much less than it is for bass players so
buying a set to test doesn't hurt as much! To be fair, the only way
we could make a direct comparison in terms of longevity would be to
have taken these two basses on the road - one with coated strings
and one without. Maybe we'll try that one day but for now, we're
happy to report that these newcomers sound as different from each
other as you hope, the stainless set is more comfortable to handle
than stainless strings usually are and, if past precedent is a
guide, both sets will stay fresh sounding for a lot longer than
conventional strings. If maintaining new string tone is your goal
these must be high on your list - and now you have the choice
between stainless and nickel.
Check out the full review inc. video of the Elixir Coated
Stainless Steel and Coated Nickel Plated Strings by Dan Veall
in Issue 12 of
Guitar Interactive Magazine (