When Elixir debuted its coated strings over a decade ago, it represented a paradigm shift, immediately adding an entirely new category for the bass-string buyer to consider. Now, in addition to the primal difference between roundwounds, flatwounds, groundwounds, tapewounds, and other arcane “wounds,” a player could choose between coated and uncoated strings. The coating in question was a thin polymer layer over the string to prevent the deadening impact of finger oil, dirt, and grime. Since bass strings aren’t cheap, the promise of a longer-lasting string—even one that came at an initial price premium—seemed like a win.
As a string ages, it loses its capacity to vibrate at higher overtones (harmonics) relative to the fundamental frequencies. We perceive this as a string being “dead.” The original Elixirs did a good job of extending string life, but there was a catch: the coating had a tendency to rub off over extended use, giving the string a sort of furry look and feel. Elixir’s latest design uses an ultrathin “Nanoweb” coating, designed to look and feel more like a traditional string than the older “Polyweb” coating, which is still available for those who dug the original models’ warmer vibe.
The Nanoweb coating isn’t visible. In my hand, directly next to a another brand’s standard set, I couldn’t differentiate between the two. Under the hand, however, it’s a different story, and it’s entirely subjective whether the strings’ feel is a bug or a benefit. Even the stainless steel set felt slick and smooth compared to an uncoated stainless set. Personally, I don’t see the downside of this. I found that the coating helped to prevent string noise when shifting, and it also added a minute but perceptible boost in the efficiency of my playing. Out of the box, the Elixirs sounded great, with the stainless set delivering edgier highs and a boomier bottom than the more midrange-focused 5-string nickel set. They didn’t distinguish themselves strongly from other top-notch uncoated sets, which is high praise considering the promise that these strings will last appreciably longer in the bright period of their life cycle. Indeed, I’ve had them on a bass for about six weeks of solid playing, a part of which included frequent use from a friend whose acidic sweat is notorious. As of writing this piece, they’re still going strong, with perhaps only a ten percent brightness reduction compared to the day they made it to my bass. I’m also happy to report that they haven’t begun to shed like the old designs.
The big question with coated strings is whether brightness is in fact an objectively superior quality for bass strings. I’d certainly argue that it isn’t, but it’s nice knowing there’s a smooth-playing, long-lasting, shed-free option out there for players who think that it is.
Street Start at approx. $35 for 4-string set
Pros Long life (so far!); don’t get “furry” like past sets; smooth feel
Cons Slick and smooth feel not necessarily for everyone
Bottom Line An excellent, if slightly expensive, option for players who spend too much money on the quest to keep their bass sounding bright
Construction Stainless-steel or nickel-plated roundwound
Made in USA