String Theory

Guitar String

I’ve always wondered if I could really tell the difference in sound between two sets of strings of the same gauge on the same guitar. So when I took my new Gibson Les Paul Goltop over to San Francisco Guitarworks to get a proper setup I also had them put on a new set of strings (I could have done it myself, but I was feeling lazy and they were working on my guitar anyway).

But, before taking the Les Paul into the shop I did a quick recording on the current strings so I could compare them to the new strings once I got my guitar back.

Well, I just got my guitar back and did a recording with the new strings.  My conclusion, there isn’t much of a difference.  The main difference that I noticed right away and I think comes across in the video is that the Rotosound higher strings (G, B, high E) are brighter and louder than the Gibson Vintage strings.  Other than that, I can’t really tell a difference.

What do you think?  Can you tell the difference between different brands of strings of the same gauge?  What brands do you prefer?


Check this out. It’s from the The Guitar Column blog that I just discovered via Strat-O-Blogster. In reference to Eric Johnson’s guitar setup:

On brass and stainless-steel plugs:
“(Eric) can hear the difference between a stainless-steel plug, like a Switchcraft, and a brass plug, which he prefers.”

Energizers vs Duracells:
“He can tell the difference between what kind of batteries I put in fuzz boxes; it’s really bizarre. He likes Eveready Energizers the best, over Duracells or Kodaks. I believe he hears things that no one else hears.”

BATTERIES?!?!!?  He can tell the difference between battereries? Crazy.  I must need a new set of ears. I can hardly tell a difference between two brands of strings…  Eric Johnson would probably know if they were delivered by FedEx or UPS based on their sound!

Anyway, here’s the video comparison of the two string brands:

Original strings: Gibson Vintage Reissue 10 Gauge
New Strings: Rotosound Roto Yellows 10 Gauge
Guitar: Gibson Custom Shop Les Paul Goldtop 1957 Reissue
Vox AC15CC

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15 Responses to “String Theory”


  1. […] like.  That’s why I like to do A/B comparrisons like this one and the one I did on my recent string comparison […]


  1. Effects Bay says:

    Oddly, I can tell. I didn’t think I would, but I’ve been using D’addario 10s forever. Recently, I had a guitar set-up/repair and he put Boomers on there. I noticed right away that the high/high-mids were way brighter. Just to be sure I wasn’t crazy, I swapped strings, and things sounded normal again.

    I should experiment with different brands to see if I like something better than D’addario.
    .-= Effects Bay´s last blog ..R.I.P Les Paul! =-.

  2. Retro Hound says:

    I can tell the difference, but it isn’t a huge difference. But my wife says I can hear things in music that few others can. I tried burning some albums to CD and was totally frustrated but the distortion and clipping, but they sound fine to her.
    .-= Retro Hound´s last blog ..Les Paul of the Gibson Les Paul Guitar has Died =-.

  3. nevertoolateguitar says:

    I can tell the different, it’s subtle in the lower strings… seems warmer and fuller with the Rotosounds. The higher strings are much more noticeable to me. But, I also wouldn’t say its night and day.

    As for digital music… I can hear the difference if I’m on a good system. On headphones, not so much.

  4. my ears are hopelessly unsophisticated, which, i suppose, makes things simple.
    i certainly cant tell the difference between energizers and duracells, no matter how close i hold them to my ear.

    (beautiful graphic makeover, btw)
    .-= alittleguitar´s last blog ..The Real Guitar Hero =-.

  5. Tsuken says:

    I can hear a huge difference, and far and away prefer the Rotosounds. They have a fuller and more complex sound – and less hard/harsh too.

    I am pretty wedded to Ernie Balls, myself. I’ve been through a number of different brands of string, but the EB just work for me: they sound great, they feel great, and they last really well. For me, D’Addario, and GHS (Boomers) in particular are the total opposite.

    • nevertoolateguitar says:

      My plan is to try out different strings by different makers on my guitars. Then I’ll figure out which I like best.

      For this comparison, I agree, the Rotosounds are the winner.

      Thanks for the comment.

      • Sean says:

        you owe it two yourself to try DR Strings. Awesome feel, and sound. Last a really long time. A couple dollars more than d’Addario but well worth it. 10’s on Gibson SG,LP, and Strats are way
        more noticeable in sound improvement than
        any other string I’ve tried. Feel smooth
        under your finger tips.

  6. Robert says:

    I can certianly tell a difference between brands of strings on my guitars (even tho I have run a skilsaw for the last 30 years :P)

    I have a Jay Turser JT-140 White Colonel that I keep Dean Markley Blue Steel 12s on. My ’92 Gretsch 7594B Black Falcon wears Thomastik Infeld George Benson pure nickel flatwounds (wanting to try Pyramid Gold Flatwounds next). My Guild GAD-50 sounds beautiful with Red Brand Copper 12s (tried at least 6 different brand/types before settling on these) and my newest b-day present, a Gretsch G5135 Corvette has GHS Eric Johnson medium (11s) pure nickel roller wounds. I’m tempted to try flat wounds on this one, but I really like the sound of these strings on her. 🙂

    • nevertoolateguitar says:


      That’s quite the collection you have there.

      I tried flatwounds on my Gibson ES-175SP and I didn’t really like the feel. They sounded good though. Looks like I’ve got a lot more strings to try out.

      Thanks for the comment!

  7. Robert says:


    Not sure if you ever visited the Gretsch discussion pages or not, ( I just lurk there 😛 ) Next month, they are having their ‘get to gether’ this year up in Donner. I guess last year they had it at one of the member’s place in Penngrove (I didn’t know about it then. btw… I’m up here in Santa Rosa. Gonna be working in Fairfax soon tho)

    My Gretsches are my favorites, but the Guild is close behind. The GAD-50 is sure a bargan for a solid wood acoustic. From reviews I’ve read, about 1/3 the price of comparable Martins or Taylors. My Black Falcon (production #26) is purportedly one of only 100 that were made for Gretsch’s 100th anniversary and I was told that very few made it to the general public as most went to artists and other VIP. Don’t know if you ever heard of Zone Music in Cotati, but that is where I found her and I plan on keeping her for the rest of my days 🙂 (of course when I bought it, I didn’t know anything about that)

    Here is a link to the posts about the Gretsch get-to-gether ->

    link to another 7594b -> (I believe this one is #15 and he has the date wrong, they were made in ’92)

    Your site is great! I came across it from a link on the Guitar Column blog.

    Keep on practicin! 🙂

  8. Watch the G3 with EJ, Vai and Satch. Leap forward to the closing jam. You’ll see EJ with huge freakin’ cans on his head, like working-at-an-airport-fighting-jet-noise headphones. If you haven’t been babying them like that, you’ll never hear what he hears.

    Then again, I’ve never been the huge fan of his tone.
    .-= Sans Direction´s last blog ..How To Not Suck, Chapter 20: Tune Your Ears =-.

  9. Jacob says:

    I am a huge fan of DR strings, actually. I’m surprised that no one had mentioned them before. I have used them on every electric I have ever owned at one point or another, and compared to any other string, they are my absolute favorite. I use 9’s on my standard tuned guitars, and 10’s on my half-step down guitars. I use the Black Beauties coated strings, which last forever, sound great, and look really classy too.

    As far as other strings go, I can always tell if someone’s using Ernie Balls. I hate the tone they create, no matter what kind of EQing you do to fix it. I used to be an EB user exclusively, but they break or get played out to a dead tone sooooooooooooooooo much quicker than any other string on the market, that I just got fed up one day.

    EJ doesn’t hear those things because he babies his ears, it’s because he trains his ears better than most people do. It has very little to do with protecting his hearing, though it helps him CONTINUE to hear that well. Those “cans” are monitors. He’s pumping everything we hear through them… I don’t think they were even noise cancelling.

    One last thing: the difference between digital (CDs) and analog (LPs) recordings is so minute that it is beyond the human capability to detect… So you can’t REALLY tell the difference, no matter how good the system is. You’d need sophisticated equipment to detect which is a wave form and which has a mathematical sampling rate.

  10. Mestre says:

    I´ve been using Dean Markley for many years because I just love LP´s and they tend to be quite dark sounding, so the natural bright of Dean Markley strings seemed to work well with my guitars. Anyway I´ve evolved from hard rock to classic rock and blues, and I don´t know if I´m changing my mind/tastes or if it has more to see with some mods I´ve recently done to my LP´s (like aluminium tailpieces and uncovered pickups with coil tapping option and even more interesting, converting tone pots into single/humbucker mix controls to get all sounds in between) but I lately noticed that Dean Markley strings probably were too much bright for the kind of music I´m playing right now… I readed nice things about Electro-Harmonix strings (seems that they released them quite recently) and decided to give them a try. Well, I have to insist that I play mainly LP´s and I have modified them in deep degree (ironically I´ve just adopted the classical 50´s configuration except for the single/HB mix pot) but those E-H strings are the best inexpensive upgrade I can think of. At least for my tastes, the mods I´ve done lastly and the gauge I use (10-46). They sound nice and warm but they have the right amount of bright. They don´t feel like loose rubber bands but they don´t feel so rigid that you feel you could split your fingertips in two against them. They seem to be more alive than D´Addarios and not harsh like Markleys, so it´s a nice sweet spot. I just love them and I wanted to share this info with you. By the way, they seem to last for a lifetime as well (I´ve got corrosive sweat and this strings seem to take it lotta better than other brands I´ve tried like Dean Markley or D´Addario). Keep on rocking!!!

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