The story of D’Addario Strings is pretty fascinating, believe it or not the family has been making strings since the 1600s, originally in Italy before relocating to New York in the early 1900s. Carmine D’Addario started making strings at his home in Queens in the 1910s and then in the 1930s Carmine, his son John, and guitar maker John D’Angelico began to redefine guitar sound with the first 80/20 bronze round-wound strings with hex-shaped cores. Then in the 1950s John utilized Bethlehem Steel’s plated steel wires for the first real modern sounding round-wound electric guitar and bass strings. In the 1960s John D’Addario, Sr. developed the first nickel-plated steel alloy, engineering round-wound electric guitar strings that will shape the sound of Rock ’N’ Roll for more than four decades. The D’Addario XL line was introduced in 1974, using nickel-plated steel and round-wound strings and until now all D’Addario XL strings are direct descendants of these.
Now I’m always skeptical about new guitar products, there are always going to be some products that are more marketing hype than they deliver but D’Addario have made sure that they have scientific facts, figures, graphs and video demonstrations of their latest product to show that these strings are more than hype. In fact the company has set up an entirely new factory with new machinery to produce a new formulated wire that is at the core of the NYXL strings. Not only are the wound and unwound strings a completely new product but they have introduced some extremely nice packaging for this new line too which at the moment is only available in 9-42 and 10-46 gauges, don’t worry more gauges will be available toward the end of the year. The new boxes have some sort of wax coating which feel extremely luxurious, I know some of you will say who cares about the packaging but like it or not it does matter, Apple are a perfect example of this. Also D’Addario have created a microsite for the new NYXL strings that contains a huge amount of information, data and videos which are all very interesting, you can check the site out here – http://www.nyxlstory.com/.
But I still wanted to know what exactly makes these new strings so special, what have D’Addario done that their competitors haven’t? So I asked them. Below are a couple of questions answered in great detail by Director of Product Management, Brian Vance, as well as Jim D’Addario, CEO.
What makes the new D’Addario NYXL so special?
The plain strings in our NYXL sets are tin-coated, high-carbon steel completely re-engineered to have superior physical properties; plus it is made in our plant in Farmingdale, where we wind our strings. We have owned a steel wire mill since 1979, and three years ago Jim D’Addario made it a priority for our engineers and product development folks to re-engineer the entire process of making steel music wire. We ended up buying and/or developing all new machinery and moving the facility to New York, thus the name NYXL. As a company, this has been D’Addario’s most significant research effort ever and has just been completed. This video shows the wire drawing part of the process:
To make the material for our plain strings, we use a fine-grain, high-carbon steel alloy and we sort through the input rod to select the highest strength reels for NYXL. Then the material is drawn down to final diameter utilizing our all new wire drawing technology. Because the process, the machinery and the tooling is so precise we can hold infinitely better tolerances and target a higher strength wire for this product. We also developed a fusion twisting process to strengthen the string in the ball end area. These two factors are yielding a plain string that is measurably the strongest ever made, with the up to 131% more pitch stability. Check out this video of a torture test we developed to validate the material and the resulting product. Notice at the end how .010” NYXLs have held up to stretching to G# and how they hold their pitch through this incredibly abusive test:
Also check out the support materials and testing results on this link:
We looked at many, many different alloys for wrap wires, and our approach for NYXL was to reformulate the nickel-plated steel wrap wire, a player favorite for tone and feel for more than 4 decades. D’Addario has always prided itself on innovating string design and the use of new materials. For this product, we wanted to enhance specific frequencies (particularly noticeable in the 1-3.5K range) to deliver a crunchier, more biting string tone in a meaningful and pleasing way to the ear. Our research was not designed to make a louder string, but one with the tone and feel players were looking for. Extensive laboratory tests have also indicated that cobalt alloys are significantly more susceptible to corrosion than NYXL nickel-plated steel. String life was also a concern. NYXL has been through thousands of hours of rigorous testing, including a mass-market beta sampling program to validate the product and the claims we can confidently make. we are very excited by the recognition and appreciation we are hearing from artists and consumers. They are hearing and feeling the improvements in tone, strength and stability from NYXLs.
What triggered this sudden re-formulation?
It wasn’t sudden. Our engineers are continually researching new alloys and processing methods. Research and experimenting is a part of our culture and we began the steel wire manufacturing transformation years ago.
We are very vertically integrated company, and understanding and controlling the source materials for our products is of the utmost importance to us. We invested a significant amount of time, money and human resources into perfecting NYXL high carbon steel wire and developing the new nickel-plated steel for NYXL. We literally built a new facility. This wire is exclusive to D’Addario and 100% manufactured to our specs in our New York plant. Check out the videos, they have some great insights into the technical aspects, as well as some revealing interviews with Jim D’Addario, who was the catalyst for pushing our engineers to re-engineer the electric guitar string.
Were technological advances a key in the development?
Curiosity and continuous improvement are part of our DNA. We are continually pioneering and innovating, advancing the science and art of string making. We were very cautious not to launch a product until we were completely sure it was market ready. That is why we sent out over 15,000 beta samples in December and January. Some of us were pushing to launch the product in January at NAMM, but Jim D’Addario forced us to get total validation before releasing it in the marketplace. Now, we will be marketing the product with total confidence and the backing of hundreds of players who have already embraced NYXL’s game changing qualities.
More set models and a full line of NYXL singles are in the works and will be on the market before year end.
Thank you to Jim D’Addario and Brian Vance for taking the time to explain more about these great new strings.