Gear Review: D’Addario XS Coated Acoustic Guitar Strings

Guitarists certainly have choices when it comes to strings, with each brand and line offering a unique sound, lifespan and price tag. Coated and otherwise treated strings offer the longest playing life but often come with a trade-off in tone and feel. But D’Addario engineers claim to have found an answer with the company’s X-series. Taking advantage of the finest, proven materials and new processes that protect against corrosion, D’Addario’s XT strings use a thin, hydrophobic (moisture repelling) treatment to achieve the feel of an uncoated string and the recently introduced XS model employs an ultra-thin film. Both promise a unique playing experience with a smooth feel and maximum string life; and all without sacrificing tone. Of course, American Songwriter reviewers were anxious to put the new XS strings to the test.

D’Addario Introduces XS Coated Acoustic Strings

Andy McDonough – “In the summer months, I live and work at the Jersey Shore where the combination of salt air, high humidity, and moving from air-conditioned indoor venues to outdoor shows plays havoc with acoustic instruments. It’s not unusual for musicians here to find themselves playing a party on a dock in the afternoon and in a club at night. And like many shore musicians, I pick my choice of gear accordingly. I have a “workhorse” acoustic guitar that has proven to be least affected by changes in heat and humidity. Strings? Well, that’s another challenge. To improve intonation and projection, I tend to choose a medium gauge set for this guitar. I might suffer a little with playability, but the heavier strings generally suit my playing style and do seem to last longer. Longer, but never long enough in these challenging conditions. So, I was very anxious to try out a set of D’Addario’s new XS strings.”

“I changed out my usual strings with a set of D’Addario’s XS coated strings 13-56 (medium). In addition to 13-56, they offer 10-47, 11-52, and 12-53 for acoustic six-string, along with 10-47 for 12-string and 11-40 for mandolin. The sets are marked as phosphor bronze and offer an ultra-thin film coating on every wound string and a “polymer treatment” (a dispersion coating also found on the XT strings) on the plain steels. The ball ends (the part that goes into the bridge) are color-coded silver, black, and brass, which may seem like an unnecessary thing for changing your strings in daylight when you have plenty of time. However, it’s a nice feature for those of us who more typically are changing strings with a flashlight or in a corner somewhere as we talk down a setlist just before a gig.”

“I was pleasantly surprised at both the sound and feel of the XS coated strings. I won’t know about the long-haul tuning stability for a while, but I can say that both wound and solid strings provided a very rich and balanced tone right from the start. I didn’t have the sense that I had to “break them in”, as is sometimes the case with new strings that seem to find a good balance of brightness and depth only after some playing. While the XS strings did feel different to me, they were not slick and not different enough to impact my playing style at all. If that is true for you, the reduced finger noise might also make them an excellent option for your recording situations.”

Of course, strings are a very personal choice for most people. Here is what other American Songwriter reviewers had to say about the SX string sets (be sure to watch their videos, too):

Jimmy Franklin: An avowed electric player and host of YouTube’s The Working Class Musician), Jimmy doesn’t even own an acoustic so he borrowed a Yamaha F-355 acoustic for his test, which you can watch below.

“They make this baseline guitar sound like a million bucks. They are coated but do not sound like coated strings whatsoever. They bend like electric strings.”

“They haven’t lost any of the projection of acoustic strings… Expect the feel (of coated strings) but if you were to close your eyes you would have no idea from the sound that they were coated. They feel like NY Steel for acoustic. When you play them in a room, they are bright enough that they will shine through.”

“If you could have a studio acoustic guitar with long-lasting coated acoustic strings that don’t lose their tone, that’s huge! These are coated acoustic guitar strings that are made to last a long time, feel smooth and not kill your fingers so far.”

Nashville artist Matthew Szlachetka runs through a variety of styles, including soft and aggressive strumming, fingerstyle and some acoustic slide work in his video below.

“They are an extended life coated string, but you would not know because you cannot feel that coating. It’s wonderful.”

“This is an elegant string. They have a particular warmth and brightness. Whether I’m playing something fingerstyle, doing rhythm or where there’s leads involved or playing slide. They’re incredibly responsive and articulate. The tension creates a nice spank if you’re doing fingerstyle and slide playing. An elegant string that can handle any style or genre you throw at it. I’ve been using them for a week now and absolutely love them.”

American Songwriter reviewer Nick Ryan Piescor gave the strings a test run, using them over the course of multiple gigs.

“As a gigging musician playing on sweaty stages 4 nights a week (as well as using the same acoustic through writing and teaching sessions day and day out), coated strings were a must for me. However, the ones I’ve used in the past had that unnatural, coated tone and a slippery feel that I just had to deal with (as the other option was to change strings at least once a week to keep a fresh sound and to avoid string break).”

“These new XS sounded just like my favorite D’Addario uncoated strings right out of the box and have kept the same full and bright tone since I put them on my axe a couple weeks back. The coating is so light that I don’t even feel it. The strings bend as nice as ever and bring out the natural quality of your instrument. I haven’t been this happy with a string in many moons. Kudos, D’Addario!”

Look to spend a few dollars more for D’Addario’s XS coated acoustic guitar strings than on the company’s popular EXP sets, around $17.99 MAP for an acoustic six-string and mandolin and $24.99 MAP for a 12-string sets.

Visit D’Addario for more info:

D’Addario Introduces XS Coated Acoustic Strings

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