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Thread: String journey on a Collings MT

  1. #1
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default String journey on a Collings MT

    This journey isn't over but I thought I'd post my findings thus far.

    My MT came with J-74s that I did not care for. I've always found J-74s to be a good but not great string. They are a standard for a lot of folks for good reason but I've never been completely won over. And they felt a bit stiff on the MT.

    From there I put on some EFW74 flatwounds from D'Addario. Great strings. They pull the wooden sound from the instrument better than the J-74s to my ear, they feel great under the fingers too.

    Next came GHS Silk & Bronze. These are better than both of the above options to my ear and touch. They sound great: a bit more subdued than standard bronze but definitely not muffled or quiet.

    Today I was doing a string change on my son's Paris Swing D-hole. I have always used standard Martin Lights on there because the top's a little caved in on it. There was an extra set so I put them on the MT for the heck of it. And what do you know: they're the best strings I've used on it so far. They're a little clangy when new but they settled down a bit after a half hour. The playability is the best part. Playing is absolutely effortless with them, and the MT is loud anyway so I lost no volume. I did lose some oomph but I think the gain in playability is worth it.
    Last edited by Caleb; Mar-01-2015 at 5:36pm.
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Try a set of DR MD11's - they're the same gauges as J74s,but any similarity ends there. The DR's are a far stronger,punchier sounding string.They start off being a tad brighter,but after a while,the brightness reduces & you're left with well balanced,powerful sounding strings. They last a heck of a time as well - 8 months on my Weber & they were still sounding great. It was only that the strings behind the bridge where my hand touches them had turned almost black,that made me put new ones on. They totally changed the way my mandolins sound. The only other string that i've tried which sounded very good indeed were GHS A270's,but they lacked the 'drive' of the DR's,
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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Got a set of DR 11s in the queue.
    Last edited by Caleb; Mar-04-2015 at 11:07am.
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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    This morning I took off the Martin Lights. They sure felt great under the fingers, but I just lost too much tone and couldn't get used to them. I thought the jangly-ness of them was the newness of the stings but lighter strings are just a bit more clangy and noisy, I suppose. Still, they are a very good string, especially for oval holes, like my son's.

    Finally put on the set of GHS Bobby Osborne strings I've had for a while. These are seriously nice strings: balanced in tone, and the wound strings, though a bit lighter than standard mediums, still give you a beefy sound when you dig in. The A course seems a little stiffer than normal mediums to me though, but it adds a touch of oomph.

    The journey continues...
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Caleb you are doing some get string testing! Always enjoy reading what you find out. Keep it up.
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    Constantly In Search Of.. Michael Bridges's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    This comes at a great time for me. Thanks for the extensive testing and reports. Getting ready to get a CA bridge for my A5-T, and was wondering about the GHS Silk n Bronze, looking to a bit warmer tone. Definitely gonna give them a shot, after reading this report. Going to give the DR's a shot, too. Thanks, Caleb!
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Ok you are not playing Journey Covers in your 'Grass Band ..
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Journey_%28band%29
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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    I took off the Bobby Osborne GHS strings and replaced with DR 11s. I used DR 11s exclusively on my old Eastman 505 for years. On that particular mandolin they gave a beefier, more well-rounded tone, as well as more volume. On the Collings MT, however, they are a little overbearing to my ear. The DRs also gave more volume to the MT, but it doesn't need any help. They're a little too jangly and hopefully will settle down a little.

    The GHS Osbornes have a beefier A course, and I like the balance of the lighter wound strings a lot. They bring out the character of the Collings a lot better than the DRs, and the playability is better.

    I'm getting a little burned out trying new strings. I'm pretty sure I'll either go back to the Bobby Osbornes or back to the GHS Silk and Bronze. Granted, the GHS brand doesn't have the string-life of, say, DRs or even many of the D'Addario varieties, but I like the way they feel and perform on this particular mandolin. They never did anything for my Eastman. So all this is very subjective and up to the individual player/instrument.
    “Don't suck the fun out of your hobby by making it results-based." -Ryan Holiday via The Art of Manliness podcast.

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    Registered User John L's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Every mandolin is different, but I will probably never own another without at least trying Gibson monel strings on it at some point. Perhaps not as bright as some bluegrass players would want, but I love them on an F-5 and they last forever.
    Johneeaaddgg

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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    I've never tried monels on any mandolin. Maybe I should.
    “Don't suck the fun out of your hobby by making it results-based." -Ryan Holiday via The Art of Manliness podcast.

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    Registered User John L's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Quote Originally Posted by Caleb View Post
    I've never tried monels on any mandolin. Maybe I should.
    I know words are difficult when it comes to describing sound, but I call the tone dark. They sound different than any other string. Good different to me, but I think some bluegrass players may like a brighter sound. Must be a characteristic of the monel alloy, but they really do last a long time. I believe the alloy has a lot of nickel - they are grey in colour and do not look like a bronze string at all.
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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Quote Originally Posted by John L View Post
    I know words are difficult when it comes to describing sound, but I call the tone dark. They sound different than any other string. Good different to me, but I think some bluegrass players may like a brighter sound. Must be a characteristic of the monel alloy, but they really do last a long time. I believe the alloy has a lot of nickel - they are grey in colour and do not look like a bronze string at all.
    That is a great description and you've convinced me to try a set at some point. Maybe my next string change. I'm not a BG player at all and find the bright, jangly sounds of bronze less appealing all the time. I liked the darker tone of the Silk and Bronze and even flatwounds for this reason. And the Osbornes have much less "zing" than the DRs.

    The Collings is a megaphonish instrument and needs no help with volume, so the zing becomes harsh and even a little ear-piercing at times. I actually think it's too loud with the DRs. If someone is following this and looking for a volume boost, DR is the way to get it.
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Caleb, thanks very much for your experimentations and your accounts of the differences. Up at the top, the beginning of your
    experiments you went from J-74s to EFW74 flatwounds, which to me sort of ... skips a step ;-D... I had hoped that you'd include
    the D'Addario EFT Flat-Tops, which to me fall between the J-74s and the EFW74s.

    I'd be interested in how the EFTs come out in your comparisons if you'd care to include them, but... you may be in far more
    refined territory now, with your S&Bs and Osbornes. And, tiring of the game. I understand that. I think most of us find this
    degree of rigorous comparison too much for us.

    Many thanks and all the best,
    stv
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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Caleb - DR themselves state that their strings sound 'brighter' than other branded strings - but,they do loose it after a while & without loosing the 'punch'. I tried a set of GHS A270's on my Ellis "A" style (Tom Ellis's go-to string) & they sounded excellent,but they lacked the drive of the DR's. The GHS's sounded far better to me than the J74's which i'd used for over 7 years,& i can understand why Tom Ellis likes them so much,
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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Quote Originally Posted by steve V. johnson View Post
    Caleb, thanks very much for your experimentations and your accounts of the differences. Up at the top, the beginning of your
    experiments you went from J-74s to EFW74 flatwounds, which to me sort of ... skips a step ;-D... I had hoped that you'd include
    the D'Addario EFT Flat-Tops, which to me fall between the J-74s and the EFW74s.

    I'd be interested in how the EFTs come out in your comparisons if you'd care to include them, but... you may be in far more
    refined territory now, with your S&Bs and Osbornes. And, tiring of the game. I understand that. I think most of us find this
    degree of rigorous comparison too much for us.

    Many thanks and all the best,
    stv
    I didn't try any flattops, mainly because I don't get what they are supposed to be or how they differ from flatwounds. I briefly read a little about them but it quickly started to sound like hype and I never revisited the issue. Sort of like these new strings that are supposed to be frozen first to make them last longer. Who even has time to figure this stuff out?
    “Don't suck the fun out of your hobby by making it results-based." -Ryan Holiday via The Art of Manliness podcast.

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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    Caleb - DR themselves state that their strings sound 'brighter' than other branded strings - but,they do loose it after a while & without loosing the 'punch'. I tried a set of GHS A270's on my Ellis "A" style (Tom Ellis's go-to string) & they sounded excellent,but they lacked the drive of the DR's. The GHS's sounded far better to me than the J74's which i'd used for over 7 years,& i can understand why Tom Ellis likes them so much,
    Ivan
    DRs certainly have the volume and punch you speak of on my Eastman. But I honestly find the GHS Osbornes punchier on the Collings than the DRs are. But the DRs bury everything else when it comes to increase in volume. I really don't know how they do that but they surely do.

    If memory serves correctly, you and I have talked here many times about DRs and sounded our praise for them.
    “Don't suck the fun out of your hobby by making it results-based." -Ryan Holiday via The Art of Manliness podcast.

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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    What a great report Caleb. I put a set of DRs on a KM1000 about 3 weeks ago. The DRs are definitely brighter and punchier than the J74s that were on there before. The brightness has subsided a bit, but I'm still trying to decide if it's too bright to my ears. Usually when I get the mandolin out of the case, the brightness seems a bit much in the first few minutes. But once the mandolin warms up, the strings also warm up a bit more.

    Next up I'm going to put another set of DR on a Pava, which is sounding a bit too dark recently with the old, worn out strings on it from last year.

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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    If you are still trying out strings i have pieced together sets of GHS White Bronze. I get the plain strings which are the same for most any set and get the gauges of White Bronze that i want to use. GHS is good about custom sets and any dealer can order you some strings. These are not as bright as other strings when new and keep their sound for a much longer time than phosphor bronze. I have used the GHS Silk and Bronze and the 270's and like those too, but for consistency the White Bronze is a great string. For those guitar players they also work with a magnetic pickup.
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    Try a set of DR MD11's - they're the same gauges as J74s,but any similarity ends there. The DR's are a far stronger,punchier sounding string.They start off being a tad brighter,but after a while,the brightness reduces & you're left with well balanced,powerful sounding strings. They last a heck of a time as well - 8 months on my Weber & they were still sounding great. It was only that the strings behind the bridge where my hand touches them had turned almost black,that made me put new ones on. They totally changed the way my mandolins sound. The only other string that i've tried which sounded very good indeed were GHS A270's,but they lacked the 'drive' of the DR's,
    Ivan
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    I agree and I now only use Drmd11's and GHS A270's on my Ellis mandolins. I didn't notice any lack of drive on the GHS vs the DR however.
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Might put Monel on my Mix A5 next, that was what was on it when I sent it out for a Refret.
    came back with bronze 74's
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    Constantly In Search Of.. Michael Bridges's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    My CA bridge is ordered, along with both Silk 'n' Bronze, and MD-11's. Anxious to see how this goes!
    Music speaks to us all. And to each of us, she speaks with a different voice.

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  28. #22
    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bridges View Post
    My CA bridge is ordered, along with both Silk 'n' Bronze, and MD-11's. Anxious to see how this goes!
    Those sets are poles apart, and the CA will also likely take things up a few notches, tone- and volume-wise. It did on my old Eastman. I suggest starting with the S&Bs first. I believe you will notice a volume increase due to the CA, but next put on the DR 11s and it'll be like someone turned up the volume from 7 to 10. I'm very curious to read about your findings.
    “Don't suck the fun out of your hobby by making it results-based." -Ryan Holiday via The Art of Manliness podcast.

  29. #23
    Constantly In Search Of.. Michael Bridges's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    That's my intention. Consciously went with opposite ends of the spectrum, see which way works best for me!
    Music speaks to us all. And to each of us, she speaks with a different voice.

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  30. #24
    Lost my boots in transit terzinator's Avatar
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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    Not saying my choice should be your choice, but I find myself wandering similar paths.

    I used Elixirs on my MT for a solid year, but tried Siminoff's Straight-Up strings a few months back. So far, they're my string of choice. Just changed 'em, and that makes three changes.

    Worth a shot, if you're game.

    Guluk.

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    Default Re: String journey on a Collings MT

    interesting thread, thanks for posting Caleb.

    most of what you mention has been the norm for me. my MT needs no boost in volume, i've come to enjoy how GHS sound and perform on most of my mandolins. i also like the Osborne sign set. tried the silk and bronze, and silk and steel, but always come back to the standard GHS phosphur bronze.

    have not tried the DR's yet, have a box. have tried the Monels on most every mandolin-definitely a different tone.

    recently used some light gauge Daddario on the Northfield and i really like those on that mandolin. plays effortless with plenty of volume.

    d

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