Essentially, this is a slightly modified set of Gore Technology’s standard light gauge phosphor bronze strings, with the same Nanoweb coating which greatly extends the life of the string. The mod consists of a slight increase in the gauge of the first, second and third strings.
Here is how they measure up against their standard light gauge strings:
String Standard Light HD Light
1st E Plain .012 Plain .013
2nd B Plain .016 Plain .017
3rd G Wound .024 Wound .025
4th D Wound .032 Wound .032
5th A Wound .042 Wound .042
6th E Wound .053 Wound .053
Quite obviously, this is not a radical deviation from a conventional set: we’re just talking about three strings being increased by a mere 1/100th of an inch. But then again, the increase from light gauge to medium gauge is usually by that much or no more than a few hundredths per string anyway.
To see how big of difference the new HD Light set would make on a guitar, I had strung up my Gibson Southerner Jumbo with a standard light gauge set of Elixir Nanoweb Phosphor bronze set first: it would have been too stark of contrast to try to compare a new set of strings against ones that have logged an embarrassing amount of hours in honky tonks and greasy bar-b-que joints.
Sadly, those strings were removed before they went dead to audition the new HD Light set. Waiting for a set of Elixirs to go dead is akin to watching a pot of water waiting for it to boil.
The first thing I noticed after the re-stringing with the HD set and having them settle in (all strings need to settle in), is that the intonation of the G string on this guitar was much closer to the mark…so, I was happy from the start.
This is not to say that every guitar will intonate better with HD strings, but if it does…that certainly isn’t a bad thing.
The relationship between a guitar and the strings is an interesting one. For the most part, when you hear a guitar you’re not hearing the strings; your hearing the top of the guitar (and the body, too, though the body is usually design for projection) vibrating.
This vibration is transferred from the strings to then guitar’s top, and from the top through the air to your ears.
Yet, we know the strings are more than just a motor to set the guitar’s top into action. After all, different alloys and string types produce different tones. Also, different string tension will drive the top in a different way.
For example, a plain, unwound .017 string tuned to G puts much less tension on the top of a guitar than a wound .025. With an acoustic guitar, it is about balancing the amount of drive to the top with how much tension the top can stand, while keeping enough playability and touch sensitivity to make the instrument expressive to the player. Well, that among other considerations.
The idea behind the HD strings is to somewhat buck conventional mind thought of sticking what has become conventional gauging to drive a couple of the strings slightly more to enhance the sound.
So, the (ever so) slightly fatter 1st, 2nd and 3rd string of the HD Lights are running a little hotter compared to the standard light gauge set and enhance those frequencies they produce.
Without being able to A/B the same guitar with the different sets side by side, it is a little difficult to tell to what degree the HD Lights affect the guitar. Aside from the afore mentioned better intonation on the G string (very nice, especially on the first position A and D chords), the mahogany bodied Gibson did seem more focused.
The HD Lights may be a good match for guitar like my Gibson Southerner Jumbo, which has an abundance of mids, or perhaps for a rosewood dreadnaught that has an overpowering low end. In effect, you could use a set of strings like the HD Lights to drive the higher end on the guitar’s response, the same way you would use a set of light tops, heavy bottom (which Elixir also offers) to help a guitar achieve a more robust bass response.
The techs at Elixir collaborated with guitar guru Andy Powers at Taylor guitars to conceive this set which will be featured on a revamped 800 series of Taylor guitars which will be making the debut in NAMM 2014, and on all of Taylor’s Grand Auditorium and Grand Concert. The rest of the Taylor acoustic line is strung with the Elixir standard light or medium gauge phosphor bronze strings.
Elixir strings are premium strings (something you’ll notice once you string your guitar with them) and the coating is the icing on the cake. They continue to sound fresh after hours and hours of playing.
The Elixir HD Lights are made to complement those specific models of Taylor guitars, but the higher tension of those higher strings will drive any brand of acoustic guitar: I certainly liked with it did to my Gibson Jumbo. Anyone seeking to add a bit of clarity to their acoustic may find the HD lights are just the ticket.
– Jake Kelly