Over the years, we’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon in the music gear space: people only notice large items. For instance, everyone knows that Jimmy Page played the double-necked SG, and most rock fans have no trouble visualizing the concentric circles adorning Zakk Wylde’s infamous Les Paul. Fans likely even know that AC/DC’s Angus Young plays through a Marshall Amplifier. Occasionally, even the guitar pedals are well-known, such as Jimi Hendrix’s well known infatuation with the Fuzz Face. That’s a lot of knowledge about the setups of the stars, and yet we doubt very many fans can readily name the choices artists make regarding one of the most important pieces of gear: their strings.
Whether you’re rocking out in front of stadiums or for your cat in the basement, strings provide the foundation of your tone, and it’s essential to choose wisely. We’ve provided lots of reviews for you to help out with this decision, and we’re at it again with this review of the popular Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze strings.
Most all guitarists have had experiences with Ernie Ball strings; the brand is ubiquitous in music stores, and many guitars come pre-strung with some variety of Ernie Ball strings. There’s a good reason for this practice: these strings sound fantastic and are a great value. The Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze strings are no exception to this policy. These strings have a reputation for cleanliness and often highlight the higher end of your sound. This makes these strings a perfect choice for lead players, especially those in a flamenco or jazz setting. The Aluminum Bronze strings can help to balance the overwhelming bass present in many acoustic guitars with a crispness to the treble side. While the vast majority of users like this effect, those in possession of small bodied acoustics, resonators, or guitars that otherwise naturally emphasize the higher strings need to use caution.
Basic Construction and Durability
Like many of Ernie Ball’s strings, the composition of this line is right in the name: Aluminum Bronze. These are coated strings, with an aluminum exterior surrounding a bronze wrapping that encompasses an interior steel hex core. In theory, the addition of the aluminum oxide layer extends the life of the strings with only minute changes to the sound. This approach is used rather commonly in the world of guitar strings and definitely does prevent against corrosion, but users should still be sure to wipe off the strings after use to prolong their lifespan.
One downside of the aluminum oxide is its tendency to leave black residue after prolonged use. Although this problem isn’t universal, many players report finding their fretting and even picking hands sporting a layer of black gunk after a few tracks. That being said, taking the time to adequately wipe and protect your strings should clear up this problem.
The steel hex cores in the Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze strings seems to stay in tune rather well. While players definitely still need to tune before gigs and recording, they shouldn’t find these strings slipping too much during play. Furthermore, these strings seem to do a fantastic job of standing up to extensive bends, which any experienced guitarist can tell you is a major cause of falling out of tune. All in all, these strings won’t stay in tune forever, but they shouldn’t fall out of tune any more often than any other comparable string.
Price and Availability
As previously mentioned, Ernie Ball products seem to be ubiquitous in both local and big box music retailers, making it easy to pick up a pair of the Aluminum Bronze any day of the week. Furthermore, this product is widely available online (and usually for much less money), both through dedicated music retailers and more generalized marketplaces such as Amazon.
As of the writing of this review, these strings are available for $7-8 per pack. While this price point definitely qualifies these strings as budget options, the feel, playability, and durability of these strings say otherwise. For this reason, we would qualify the Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze strings as a great value, and we recommend that any acoustic guitarist experiment with them.