Nickel Strings

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Colin Henry's picture

I see that the new Josh Swift Beard has Nickel wound strings as standard. I have never really used nickel strings and have always been a phosphor bronze user. I would be interested in others views on the pros and cons of the nickel strings. I see the guitar has been described as having great note separation and certainly Josh gets that but I was wondering whteher nickel strings played any part in that.



George Laker's picture

I have used GHS DBW 1600 and they work great on some guitars. They are very bright and last a long time. They say they are White Bronze but I think they are actually an Alloy with Nickel. They don't sound good on my Maple Horn but work well on Resewood guitars.

daver's picture

Per Josh Swift, the strings on his signature guitar are the new D'addario Nickel Bronze:



Inveterate Tinkerer

McPickin's picture

Periodically I put a set of John Pearse Nickelwounds on my Jumbo Cherry Harlow. Tim Jackson from Nightflyer had a set on his JCH and introduced them to me. After comparing them to the Black Diamonds I use, I found that the Nickelwounds do last longer. The tone  to my ear is more "Growlier" and "hotter"  in the sense that the Phospher Bronze BD's are warmer sounding. The JP's are fun to try once in awhile but I always come back to the BD's which really bring out more tonality than any string I have ever used. Both strings yield a full sound and volume to me is equal. The Nickelwounds are a "bargig" sound I would seek if I was playing regularly in a Pub with a Sound system. YMMV,

Good luck with your experience.


MarkinSonoma's picture

Colin Henry:
I see that the new Josh Swift Beard has Nickel wound strings as standard. I have never really used nickel strings and have always been a phosphor bronze user. I would be interested in others views on the pros and cons of the nickel strings. I see the guitar has been described as having great note separation and certainly Josh gets that but I was wondering whteher nickel strings played any part in that.

There was some confusion about this which Josh has since straightened out between Facebook and some posts on Resohangout. 

One or more of the Swift models brought to IBMA had actual nickel strings on it since the deal is that they typically last longer than phosphor bronze before getting that "dead" sound. They knew a lot of people would be taking these guitars for test drives last week at the event, so they wanted strings on the guitar that would last longer. 

But as Daver pointed out above and linked to D'Addario, what Josh is using  in his playing with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and his signature model guitar are the newish D'Addario Nickel Bronze strings. 

With Swifty being the newly crowned Dobro Player of the Year along with having a just released Beard signature model, more people are sitting up and paying attention.  

I still can't stand the sound of straight nickel strings on my Clinesmith.  I do currently have a set of the the flattop version of these new D'Addario Nickel coated Bronze on my Martin dreadnought, and I really like them. I have yet to try the resophonic version.

But these strings come at a pretty hefty price. I buy most of my strings from Elderly which generally has very good prices and quick service - but these babies will set you back 12 bucks per package. Elderly usually offers a discount when one purchases three or more packs of a set of strings, but in the case of these Nickel Bronze there is one price only, $11.99 - no matter how many you buy. I suppose if you gave them a call and wanted to buy a full box, maybe they would come down a bit - but no clue how much. You would have to really like these strings to buy a full box and spend that kind of dough. 

Or you could be a full time pro like Josh Swift. My guess is that every so often a box of Nickel Bronze shows up on his doorstep from a UPS driver and he doesn't have to pay for them.

This is from the D'Addario website:

D'Addario's premium uncoated acoustic string set that provides a crisp and clear sound to accentuate the unique tone of your guitar. NB1656 delivers the ideal balance of volume, projection and comfortable playability for your Resophonic guitar.
Nickel Bronze strings are the premium uncoated acoustic strings by D’Addario. Featuring an innovative combination of nickel-plated phosphor bronze wrapped onto a high carbon NY steel core, these strings bring out the unique tonal characteristics of any guitar, allowing its natural voice to truly shine. Nickel Bronze delivers unrivaled clarity, resonance and projection, as well as outstanding balance and harmonically rich overtones. Players will also enjoy improved tuning stability and higher break resistance, thanks to D’Addario-engineered NY Steel cores and plain steel strings.

  • Delivers a full tonal spectrum, revealing the unique tonal qualities of your acoustic guitar
  • Increased corrosion resistance for a longer lasting uncoated string
  • Features D’Addario’s exclusive high-carbon NY steel for unprecedented strength and tuning stability
  • Environmentally-friendly, corrosion-resistant packaging keeps strings fresh
  • Made in the U.S.A. for the highest quality and performance
  • String Gauges: Plain Steel .016, .018, Nickel Bronze Wound .028, .035, .045, .056


Colin Henry's picture

Yes Mark I have never liked the sound of nickel strings but I will give the D'Addario new ones a try. £12 a set over here! Too expensive for everyday use as I change strings fairly regularly.

MarkinSonoma's picture

Yikes! That converts to $15.75 U.S.

Colin, I'm reasonably sure you will like the new D'addarios but once again - they aren't "nickel strings." They are nickel coated bronze strings. So obviously they are nickel on the outside and a bit of a hybrid, but comparing them to plain nickel is sort of an apples-to-oranges thing.

To be used for only  the most special gigs of the year - but then the vast majority of the audience wouldn't likely hear the difference anyway, between these D'Addarios and a $5 set of strings. I guess we do these things for ourselves as players.

We had a similar thread on Resohangout and below is what I wrote there as the reason I even have them on my Martin to begin with:



I currently have the flattop set on my Martin dreadnought. I like 'em a lot. But talk about a great deal - a local guitar store has a "Restring" fundraiser the first Saturday of each month benefitting a dog rescue organization. It's 10 bucks, and my last time in they put these new D'Addarios on. So I don't have to change them myself, it's for a good cause, and the price is right because they go for at minimum $12 a pack plus shipping from the online stores. 

Methinks D'Addario is providng the strings for either no charge or a very low wholesale price to this store for their monthly fundraiser. 

Dave Falk's picture

Depends on the dobro.....i liked them when I owned a maple Appalachian.....they lasted about 2 weeks for me. I should re-give them a try on my quilted maple Schoonover.

Colin Henry's picture

I have put a set of the Nickel/Bronze on my maple Scheerhorn L this morning. Sound pretty good. Bright sound and it may only be my imagination, but there seems to be very good note separation. I am playing in a noisy session this afternoon and will see how they stand up to that.

Colin Henry's picture

Well I was pretty happy with the D'Addario Nickel/Bronze. They had good volume and were clear and bright. Funny the top (D) string sounded great with a good fat tone yet I presume it is just the same string as in the EJ42's and only the wound strings are nickel/bronze. The whole thing is probably in the mind. Echoing Mark's point I remember someone here a while back remarking that the guy in the third row in the audience is unlikely to be sitting thinking 'now if only he'd used a 17 instead of a 16 on the top, it would have made all the difference'!

Colin Henry's picture

I've had the D'Addario nickel bronze reso strings on my Scheerhorn now for 2 weeks. I suppose about 35-40 hours playing including 2 jam sessions and 2 gigs. Normally I would have changed strings at least twice by now but these strings are still fine. Still fairly bright. I like the tone on the Scheerhorn. Maybe not as warm on the lower strings as just bronze but still good with clean crisp notes. I will stick with them for the time being. If I get twice the life then money wise they will even out with the bronze.

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