Ernie Ball has been around for 52 years now – can you believe it? – and in that time they’ve spearheaded some pretty revolutionary innovations in the string world, such as the Slinky range and the brilliant Cobalt series. The latter are incredibly strong, powerfully-voiced strings that pretty much refuse to die. So what does Ernie Ball hope to achieve with the new M-Steel line? Well, they feature new patent-pending technology based on a defence-grade alloy known as Maraging Steel in order to keep the strings stronger. By the way, before we get into the review: to celebrate the introduction of M-Steel strings, Ernie Ball is launching “M-Steel Madness.” Starting April 1st, fans will be asked to post videos or photos of themselves with their newly purchased M-Steel strings using the hashtag #msteel. One lucky winner will be chosen at random on July 1st, and receive a prize package of exclusive musical gear.
M-Steels have been found in a testing environment to have increased tensile strength while maintaining additional output, increased clarity and fatigue resistance. Ernie Ball makes the wound strings with a patented Cobalt alloy wrapped around hex core wire Maraging Steel. And just to really hammer the point home, the M-Steel plain strings have a patented winding of Cobalt around the ball end of the string to reduces slippage and breakage, and to maintain tuning stability better than regular old plain strings. “String Breakage has been a common problem for guitarists,” Brian Ball says. “With M-Steel, we’ve developed a new alloy that significantly improves the strength of plain strings and core wire for wrapped strings.”
M-Steel Slinkys are available in five gauges: Super, Regular, Hybrid, Power and Skinny Top Heavy Bottom.
I popped a set (gauged .009-.042) onto my Gibson Les Paul Traditional. Although a lot of players prefer .010s on Les Pauls, this particular one really seems to come alive with .009s, so I thought it’d be a great candidate for these strings. What I found was that the strings were noticeably more responsive and powerful than the ones I’d last had on there. The wound strings in particular seem to have more punch and attack, with nice natural sustain and sweet harmonics. The unwound strings were also nice and zippy with plenty of power and articulation. Compared to regular Slinkys the M-Steels feel a little ‘rougher’ and harder. They give off a ‘We’re not gonna break’ vibe before you even put them on and you can feel the increased strength while you play. I wailed on these strings pretty hard and didn’t bust any, and it’ll be interesting to see how they hold up over the next few weeks.
The true test of M-Steels will be in how long they last, which is difficult to gauge given the timeframe of this review. But if the longevity of Ernie Ball Cobalts is anything to go by, it sounds like M-Steels are going to be sticking around on a lot of guitars for a long time before they need changing – and they’ll be contributing to some pretty damn punchy tones in the meantime.