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The Cobalt Review

by Professor Twang

I should say from the outset that these are my favourite strings for my T-style guitar because they sound noticeably better than everything else I’ve ever tried. They sound bolder and offer a more resonant clang, in a good way. I also like them on every other electric guitar I own, because they bring a unique and distinctive vibrancy to every instrument on which they’re installed.

As always, I've broken down my review into five key areas. I'll begin with:

Excellent! Responsive to all forms of articulation including legato (i.e., hammer-ons, pull-offs, slides and bending), with readily achievable expressive vibrato. They’re a joy to use when executing standard as well as gradual or microtonal bends in the style of Jeff Beck or B. B. King.

Slinky! I find these even slinkier than Regular Slinky, but maybe it’s rather a silkiness to the touch more than malleability. Whatever it is, I like them a lot.

As I’ve already said, they have a vibrant sound – guitar strings vibrate, right? – and the cobalt must provide a certain edginess that helps electric guitar(s) cut through the mix. Whether or not you desire an edgy sound (stronger in the upper mids) is your call but know that they’re definitely “juicier” than Regular Slinkies. They’re not overly bright or tinselly, just ‘edgy’ – that’s the word I keep coming back to. I’ve recorded myself a lot and the difference is audible in the recordings. They excel for Lead Guitar and featured parts and are great for r’n’b “chunk”, but they might be a bit strident for jazz ‘comping; but, we have tone controls don’t we? And we can put that pick down once in a while and use flesh only, which is where the best tones are often found.

Suits styles:
All. Especially good for modern blues, rock and country. Maybe even for metal styles as well, although Ernie Ball M-Steel offer extra “clank” if desired. (Sam at Strings Direct told me that many modern metal players are starting to use more mellow sounding strings, which surprised me. Perhaps they’re closet jazz or rockabilly fans?) Ha!

Bed in and Tuning Stability:
All strings need careful and moderate stretching along their entire length in order to minimise elasticity; and they need to be securely attached to the string posts. These strings settle down quickly and they don’t drift out of tune over days and weeks.  Return to pitch is good, even after quite extreme bends a la Albert King or Guthrie Govan. EB Paradigm claim to be the most resilient, but I’ve never broken any EB Cobalt strings in the past few years. They’re trustworthy.

Longevity and any changes over time:
Being uncoated strings, if played regularly (daily) they dull (lose sparkle) over time, but it’s quite gradual with these strings: there are no sudden changes in feel or tonality. However, I must admit they do sound noticeably duller on day 22 as compared to day 2. That’s where coated strings win out, but I prefer the sound of EB Cobalt strings over anything I’ve ever tried.

Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalt are - as with Paradigm - “Slinky +” but Regular Slinky, Paradigm Slinky and Slinky Cobalt do not all sound and feel the same. I’ve used many sets of each over the years and, as I keep saying, the Cobalt strings do it for me. They’re Slinky enhanced. I’d urge you to compare for yourself and listen carefully to the subtle differences in tone and projection and the even more subtle differences in feel, especially as regards the wound strings.

* * * * *

'Professor Twang' is the pseudonym of one of Essex's top teachers and session guitar players with decades of experience - especially in country music - and good friend of ours here at stringsdirect.co.uk

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