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windhoek

Which strings for Gibson archtop?

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I've still got the factory strings on my 175D and although I know what strings I like to use with my classical and acoustic guitars, have no idea where to start with my 175D. Are there particular strings I should consider: Ernie Ball, D'Addario etc?

 

Derek

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If you want tapewounds, Thomastik are good and they do a light gauge (0.11 high E, wound 3rd) set, very long lasting.

D'Addario Chromes are also tapewound and a few forum members recommend those too!

I like DR handmade nickelwound blues very much - their 0.11 set has plain (0.18) 3rd.

Many archtop players start heavier though, with 0.12 (at least!) tapewounds for the dry, clean jazz sound.

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Depending on what kind of music you play on your 175, you might want to give some flatwounds a whirl. D'Addario "Chromes" are a good place to start experimenting with flats (if you so choose).

 

The other thing that is somewhat guitar and player specific is string gauge. It's my opinion that heavier strings bring out the best in full bodied archtops. Along with the string gauge question comes the proverbial "wound third/plain third" quandry.

 

As the 175 was originally designed as a jazzbox with heavy gauge flatwound strings, it will accept any size/type commercially available strings you care to use. As string sets are relatively inexpensive, it's kind of fun to experiment.

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I like D'Addario Chromes. I have always thought D'Addario was the best VALUE around. You can spend 2X and get Thomastik flats but I don't think there's a whole lot gained tone-wise and the last set I had on my Fender D'Aquisto had something weird going on with it....my fingers would almost burn after playing 10-15 minutes. I swapped to Chrome 12s and all was fine. I have 13s on my '77 Country Club and I might put them on the Fender as well.

 

I also have a basket case 1959 ES-125T that is currently apart but I had Chromes on it as well...and liked 'em much.

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I use Thomastik 13 flatwounds on all of my guitars. They last forever for me and I love the tone. [thumbup] The D'Addario's were a lot cheaper but I didn't care for the feel or tone of them. They felt sticky and sounded tinny. <_< Everybody's different though. I get mine here; http://www.juststrings.com/

 

 

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Thanks for the suggestions; I'll take a trip into town sometime after the festive season to see if I can try out some chromes or flatwounds. If my local instrument shops don't have any guitars strung with chromes or flatwounds, I'll just take a punt on one or the other because as was said earlier, strings are relatively cheap and if I don't like them, I'll know not to buy them again :)

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Hi,

I've been messing around with strings for my 175, especially after I first bought it in 1989. The first change was to try Gibson flatwires, .012" on the 1st string. Flat wires have a ground finish, they are not as smooth feeling as other flat wounds due to this. They played fine but were acoustically dead, sound great plugged in. I tried GHS boomers, and they were a little louder acoustically, more brilliant with lotsa highs when plugged in, lacked the "jazz" tone of flatwounds, but if you pick up near the neck, they can imitate the jazz tone a little better.

 

I finally tried Thomastik Infelds, the Swingster series, JS-112, which are .012" on the 1st string. These are not really much louder acoustically, although you can hear some deeper and warmer tones from them, but the real noticable characteristics of the Thomastiks are their amplified tone, which just says: Jazz! That, and they play like .011, meaning they act like a lighter gauge due to their softer feel ( braided inner wraps?) and have a wonderful feel due to the high polish on the flat windings. I tended to "overshoot" and go a fret or two too high when sliding from say the second fret up to the 9th because they were so slick feeling, and this took a little getting used to, but I'm not complaining, I like their feel.

 

I must caution you however that with every string set you try, even if they are the same gauge, if they are made by a different company, or a different style(round versus flat) it will affect action and intonation. This is because every different string set puts a different over-all tension on the neck, which affects the neck releif, and that changes the action height, and then intonation changes too.

 

So, many people are unaware of this and don't realize that you need to re-set up the action and intonation when you change the string brand, gauge, or type of string. Until the guitar is set up properly for the new strings, it is not possible to do a really fair comparison that means anything. Often, people will change strings and then decide that they don't like them because the guitar now does not play as well as it did before.

 

I have recently tried D'Addario Chrome flat wounds (.011s) on my recently aquired Epiphone Regent, and they are good strings, no complaints. But then I put on a set of TI S112 and man, what a difference! The Thomastiks are the only strings which actually get better onece they break in; the tone starts to build and increase. This is probably because the braided inner wrappings tighten up with time and become more rsonant due to them effectively becoming denser. I know that this holds true for my stand up bass strings as well, because eventually they loose their soft feel after a year or so as the inner wrapping tightens up.

 

If you can afford the Goerge Bensons from TI, they are great, but they tend not to hold their tone as long as the Swingster series.

 

So, for my taste, on an ES-175D, I find the JS-112 Thomastiks have more of the jazz tone I'm after, and last longer. On electric arctops like the laminated top 175, it's not as important to use Freddy Green style gauge "cables" like 13 to 15, as you can adjust the pickup heights to get the tone. If Thomastiks are not availlable, the D'Addarios will be just fine.

 

For those who know how to set up their action and intonation, try this for something fun and different: Put on a set of Martin Maquis .012 bronze, it will wake up the acoustic properties of your 175 and turn it into a whole different guitar. Not as ideal for jazz, but different, more blues/country/rock.

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Very interesting JM; I bought D'Addario flatwounds last week and as I'm off tomorrow, will pop them on and will almost certainly try the Thomastik flats next.

 

And even more interesting that you put regular acoustic strings on your 175. I sometimes play mine unplugged if it's getting late and I want to play quietly, but I imagine putting a set of acoustic strings will make the 175 sound more like an acoustic, which in some ways could be good, but does it do so at the expense of its electric side?

 

Derek

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For those who know how to set up their action and intonation, try this for something fun and different: Put on a set of Martin Maquis .012 bronze, it will wake up the acoustic properties of your 175 and turn it into a whole different guitar. Not as ideal for jazz, but different, more blues/country/rock.

 

I didn't do this...I went one better and tried a set of Optima Gold (am in UK) on one of my archtops which of course are expensive but loud, sound very good (slightly acoustic-y), respond well and last!

They are still on the guitar 2 yrs later, probably should change them now - plating worn off the top strings...

 

Very interesting comments about Thomastik. V good strings IMO.

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I would try all other strings first, before the Thomastiks, for the single reason that the Thomastiks are expensive, and even more expensive if you just use them just for a short test ride. So, try the least expensive strings first so if you don't like them, it's not a big loss.

 

All metal strings have a steel core which will work fine with pick-ups, although some brands do sound noticably different. They used to make bronze acoustic flat wounds, have not seen them in years.

 

One thing I forgot to mention is that smaller gauge strings vibrate in a bigger envelope, which means they require slightly higher action to not buzz. To keep things simple, decide on the gauges you want to try and start with the smallest gauge first, and try all types in that gauge you are interested in. Then, move up to the next bigger gauge and try all types in that size and so on. This way, you will not have to be constantly re-adjusting, as the differences in action and intonation will not be that great to warrant spending a bunch of time getting the guitar set up absolutley perfect. Once you find the strings and gand gauge you like, then it's time to set up the action (truss rod and bridge height) and then finally the intonation to your liking. Any adjustments will be very minor if you are sticking to within one gauge of what was on there originally, assuming the set-up was good to start with. Don't worry about doing final intonantion until after you have selected the strings you like and get the action set(see below).

 

You can mark the bridge position with small strips of blue masking tape if you are afraid of moving the bridge during string changes, even if you do them one at a time.

 

For string action height, a good starting point is to put a penny under the 1st E string and 12th fret, and a nickle under the 6th E string and 12th fret, and adjust the bridge thumb screws until the penny and nickle just fall out, this is close to ideal, and you can adjust from there to suit your style of playing.

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Some good suggestions there; especially about using coins as a good starting point. I live in the UK and have seen a couple of Youtube vids whereupon the ideal action has been described in fractions of an inch and I've no idea what they're on about, but thankfully the US Mint provides specifications for their coins and what's more, in metric! Fwiw, the measurements are:

 

Cent: 1.52mm

Nickel: 1.95mm

 

A US Cent just happens to be the same thickness as a UK penny, but none of the current UK coins are the thickness of a Nickel: a 2 pence and 10 pence piece come close at 1.85mm. I've got some Euro coins as well as some international coins, so I'll see if I can find one that's a tad thicker, but still less than 2mm thick.

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I put the D'Addario flatwounds (12-52 light) on today and so far, I really like them. They feel weirdly great - or perhaps greatly weird, I'm not sure - and I like the tones too. I'm also impressed with how well they stay in tune considering I only put them on a few hours ago - although that might be because I'm used to retuning strings for days whenever I put new strings on my classical, but regardless, they tune up and stay tuned up quite well. I'll try the Thomastic flats next and if they're not as nice as the D'Addarios, then I think I might have found my ideal archtop strings :)

 

Fwiw, I restrung one at a time because the bridge seems to be bang on the money as far as intonation goes and with the aid of a one pence and a ten pence piece (the latter is just 0.1mm shy of being identical in thickness to a Nickel), confirmed the action is pretty good as is - my fingers also tell me that - and I'd probably need a luthier to improve it, so will leave it at that as far as setup goes.

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If you have put the TI you might have already felt a huge difference in stiffness compared to the d'Addario.

What I am curious to try soon are the Rotosound Monel Top Tape RS200 flats.

Monel being the traditional alloy used by Gibson in the old days, might an interesting experiment for the 50s tone fanboy I am.

I am a little bit hesitant as being used to TI tension, I fear the rotosound might be much stiffer.

I guess I have no choice but to try them, they are also much less expensive than TI in America.

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Maybe I'm weird, but I like Super Slinky's on my jazz guitar.

 

Easy bends, they always stay in tune, and the tones are wonderful.

 

I may try medium-gauge next time, just to see if the chord phrasing is any more difficult (relative to the sounds I want to achieve).

 

:mellow:

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What I am curious to try soon are the Rotosound Monel Top Tape RS200 flats.

Monel being the traditional alloy used by Gibson in the old days, might an interesting experiment for the 50s tone fanboy I am.

I am a little bit hesitant as being used to TI tension, I fear the rotosound might be much stiffer.

I guess I have no choice but to try them, they are also much less expensive than TI in America.

 

Yes I have bought a set of these; 0.12 to 0.52 with 0.24 wound 3rd - I reckon that'll be stiff enuff! They are the cheapest tapewounds here in UK as well.

However I have not put them on yet as the Thomastiks and Optima Golds (gold-plated; you have to try them once) last a very long time.

Soon....!

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I finally made arrangements to get my 175D, Taylor Big Baby and La Patrie classical guitars setup by my local luthier (Moon Guitars, Glasgow) as I dropped off my Gibson and Taylor with Jimmy Moon earlier on and when they're ready, I'll hand over my classical, too - I obviously didn't want to hand over all three at the same time and leave myself with none! And although my 175 has had D'Aaddario flats on it for only a few weeks, I'm keen to try the Thomastik flats, which is what I gave Jimmy to use, but if I find I prefer the D'Addario flats, I'll use them next time I change strings.

 

Fwiw, I gave Jimmy Elixir Polywebs for my Big Baby and will give him D'Addario composite strings for my classical when I take it to him next week.

 

Fwiw #2, I briefly played one of his own guitars (a Moon acoustic) and there's no doubt about it, it's a proper guitar with first class finishing. If I had one of them (if I could afford one), I'd stick D'Addarion Polywebs on to add some warmth, but regardless, it's a damn fine instrument and playing it gave me confidence that if anyone can bring the best out of my guitars, it's Jimmy :)

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I usually use round wounds on my guitars including bronze or monels on my acoustic L-4. I tried a set of .012 TI flats on my L-4CES and wasn't sure that I liked them but as I had bought two sets on a special deal I did end up putting the second set. I keep thinking I will change them to round wounds but I never get around to it and now it's been almost two years. I just might like these TI.

Thanks john

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I collected my 175D and Big Baby from Jimmy Moon today after a pro setup and oh my, I'm impressed. Both guitars feel bang on and I now realise guitar manufacturers just make them so that they're in the vicinity of the sweetspot, whereas a luthier will zoom right in on the sweetspot!

 

The 175D now has the Thomastiks on, and I instantly prefer them to the D'Addarios as the they feel smoother and seem frictionless compared to the D'Addarios. I'll collect my Classical next week, but as I told Jimmy as I was leaving, there's no rush because I expect to be busy with my other babies for a while :)

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I collected my 175D and Big Baby from Jimmy Moon today after a pro setup and oh my, I'm impressed. Both guitars feel bang on and I now realise guitar manufacturers just make them so that they're in the vicinity of the sweetspot, whereas a luthier will zoom right in on the sweetspot!

 

The 175D now has the Thomastiks on, and I instantly prefer them to the D'Addarios as the they feel smoother and seem frictionless compared to the D'Addarios. I'll collect my Classical next week, but as I told Jimmy as I was leaving, there's no rush because I expect to be busy with my other babies for a while :)

 

YuP [thumbup]

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I have tried a number of different sets recently. I have gravitated towards a slightly customised set. Basically D'Addario Chrome 12's with the 24w replaced with a 22 plain. I have found that the 24w G string had so much more tension than the rest of the set that it sounded louder and punchier and felt a lot tighter too. The 22p seems to match the other strings both in volume and tension. Plus it is nice to be able to bend it should I feel so inclined.

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Now you are spoiled. Once you get used to the Thomastiks, there is no going back. I found them really great for doing surf tunes as well, very warm and full sound.

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