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Martin Retro--no snarl?


egoidealmusic
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So, first string change on the new 45 yesterday, and I decided to go with the Martin Retros (12-55) because of a number of recs on other pages here.  I know that some folks say that these take a bit longer to break in, so maybe this will change, but there's no snarl in her anymore.  With the original Gibson strings she really snarled when you drove into her, and these are just very, well, tame.  Good balance, though a bit more high end than I want, but there just none of that mid/bottom bark there anymore. Does this speak to Gibson strings being worth it or the mellowness of the Retros?

 

Thoughts?

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I actually had Martin Retros 12-54 Monels on my J-45 black nut Std. back in 2014 - must have been just when they were launched.                                                                                                                                                                                                    Took them off in early 15 - remember them bein' too non-gibsonesq and not bringing the of right kind 45-qualities forward. 

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I love the sound of a set of warn in strings on a 45 (the originals were perfect until they weren't once broken in) and highs were nicely dampened (which I like), so I thought these might be good to dampen the high end, but they've cancelled out the low in the process.  Maybe they'll ease in, but I must admit I'm not impressed so far.

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I currently have Retro 11-52s on my ‘67 J45. They are very clear, balanced and direct but fairly characterless. That can be a good or bad thing, depending on the task in hand. 
 

They really, REALLY sucked on my Dove. I can’t explain why…a real mismatch of string and guitar. The Dove is super dynamic and has a beautiful voice, but the Retros deleted half of that and made it sound very ordinary. 
 

Perhaps your 45 needs the drama and overtones that a set of Bronze or PB strings can bring to the table…the snarl, as you said. All of this is part of the joy of the string journey!

PS…try a set of DR Sunbeams. They’re round core strings so you must tune them to pitch, stretch them in and retune before cutting the ends off, but they’re ace strings on a slope.

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3 hours ago, Salfromchatham said:

However, for a good mellow worn-in tone, they are great. But seriously, the sound after 1 week is a lot different than the sound in the first 2 days. Play it daily for a week before you decide?

Agree 100%.  You have them on.  Wait it out for a bit and see what they’re really capable of.  I have a ToneRight used solely for wearing in the Retro’s after string changes.  I’ve used them exclusively on my maple and mahogany guitars the last 5 years or so.

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I tried them for awhile a number of years ago and thought they were "interesting" but in the end just didn't care for them and haven't used since. I thought they might work better with my old deArmond pickup but they didn't seem to make much difference.

We have some old threads on this topic, some people like them a lot but I also recall that one forum member had an allergic reaction to the nickel and had to remove them.

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You call it snarl and bark.  I call it a dose of nasal twang.  It is what gives Gibsons  that bit of bluesy bite.  It is really all about a quick bass decay which leaves the sustaining mids and treble fundamentals.  At least it used to be.   I do agree that Gibsons tend to be more finicky when it comes to string selection.  But most strings suck when you first put them on.  Too brash, too bright, not bright enough and so on.  Leave them on and in a week if you still do not like them just swap them out.  

Edited by zombywoof
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Thanks for the thoughts, all.  The brand newness is mellowing  some (I've been banging real hard on it quite often), but it's the Gibson low mids that are still missing.  And yes, zombywoof, the nasal twang is part of it, but it's the low twang that's missing, so sliding from a low F# into a G chord lacks the percusive punch (or bark) that the Gibson strings did.  Definitely not changing them yet, just was surprised at how stark the contrast was.

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I use them on my Gibson J-160E & Martin D-35.. Although I use .011 Lights & they’re great... I play both Guitars Electric most of the time.. I’ve tried all kinds of Strings from Moderate to stupid expensive & the Martin Retro Monels sound the best either Plugged In or Unplugged….

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When it comes to strings I prefer Newtones.   I use the lower tension Heritage on  my 1942 J50,  1932 L1 and 1961 B45-12 and regular tension strings on others.    Problem is Newtone does not at present have a U.S. distributor so you have to order direct from the factory in England.  This requires actually thinking ahead which is not my strong point.  Plus they are still feeling the effect of COVID so manufacturing is not yet back up to where it was.   Oddly the strings I always have on hand are the D'addario EJ-13.  They are cheap, easy to find and while not my favorites I find there is nothing about them that is objectionable.

But what I like is of no use to you simply because I have not spent near enough time with the scalloped bracing Bozeman uses in the Standards, 1950s Original and others to really get a handle on the sound.  This is a pure Bozeman creation so nothing I own is comparable.

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I have owned several Gibsons and still have three, all older than myself. Never heard a tone from one that I would describe as a growl or a snarl… I just call it a hollow tubby sound, the quintessential Gibson sound. 

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It is that quintessential Gibson sound, to be sure.  I may be overstating when I use words like snarl or bark, but there's a beefiness in playing a Gibson hard that's very different than a Martin or anything else.   Maybe I just bang on it harder than most, but there's a reason that Townsend plays a Gibson!

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For me describing sound has always been akin to what a Supreme Court Justice once noted about pornography.  While not being able to describe it he knew it when he saw it.  But you would have to go a country mile to beat my favorite description which remains "chocolatey."  Actually, I think I read that one here.

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I have 2 dogs and on occasion they both bark, like when someone rings the doorbell ect, but my guitars have never barked.

The D'ad XS strings are killer. I use them now.

The problem on this thread is an easy one to solve, and it should end right here right now. If you don't like the Retros (I tried 'em and don't dig them either) put back on what you had before the string change. Then you will get your snarl and bark back. See easy as pie.

If I have an acoustic guitar that sound "tubby" I'm selling it and getting one that doesn't.

Edited by Sgt. Pepper
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I've used Retros on my J-35 for a couple of years, and really like them. They work for me and the style I play. I find they're good for both strumming and fingerstyle. I also find they take a day or so to settle in.

I will say, though (and I know reasonable minds can differ on this) I just do not understand why people put light-gauge strings on a Gibson slope -- particularly a recent one with no structural issues. In my experience as a guy who has owned two J-45s and now plays a J-35, the guitars need mediums to really drive the top. I wouldn't expect "snarl" out of lights of any brand.

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I’m a big fan of Martin 80/20 Bronze Authentic/SPs on my guitars.  Or, John Pearce 80/20 Bronze strings.  On my J-45, I use Martin 80/29 Bronze Authentic/SP Mediums, and on my other Gibson’s as well as Epiphones I use the same Martin’s in either the Medium or the Lights version, depending on each guitar.  On my Martin 00L, I use John Pearce 80/20 Bronze New Mediums (a hybrid of Mediums and Lights on different strings.)  All of the mentioned are reasonably priced and last a really long time.  I like 80/20 Bronze as other than the first few hours when they are more bright sounding, they then quickly level off and sound great and stay the same for the length of their use, so there’s little need to change them for quite a long period.  Just my experience and preference.

QM aka “ Jazzman” Jeff

 

 

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Ok, so maybe it's a linguistic thing, but I was playing with my buddy last night and I asked him how my guitar sounded with the new strings.  He'd heard the guitar many times before and raved about the sound.  He said that it sounded generally good but when I went to an E minor it lacked, and his words, "a bark to it."  I asked what he meant (he was playing an older J-35) and he described it as an almost rattley low end.  I think of this sound on really old guitars, that sharp but woody thump.  I think it really just might be my playing style but thought I'd pass it on.  Open to suggestions to get that sound!

 

I think it's really the definition on the low E that's the issue.  It's there as a general tone, but the low E string itself is getting lost in the sound.

Edited by egoidealmusic
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