What is there to say about strings? Well, quite a lot, as it turns out. I've long used different sorts of strings for different purposes, with my own preferences and foibles eventually expressed in picking the right gauge and brand for a 25.5" scale guitar with a twangier sound…or the right strings for the same scale length, but a thick body and two humbuckers…and these days, I find myself never using anything but some other strings than the first two for 24.75-inch scale guitars, since they just feel better!
All these little idioms (and more) add up a lot over the years to a core set of assumptions about what I like. In preparing to talk a bit about some brand new strings, I've spoken to a number of other guitarists, and have found that I'm not alone. In fact, the sheer variety of string types available combined with everyone having their own preferences seems to bear out the notion that strings are something we all care about, something we can get entrenched in our opinions regarding. Some folks may get by forever on the cheapest strings they can find (changing them more often than some others), but a lot of players start to develop preferences for one reason or another. At our worst, we end up getting the same brand over and over just out of inertia. Inertia; that can become a problem.
Inertia stifles creativity. Getting too used to a particular way of doing things is an extremely common musician problem, and kills creativity as fast as nearly anything. Inertia is playing in that pentatonic box forever because it's easy and comfortable. And, you know, that's the scary part—inertia is comfortable, and can make us complacent and unwilling to try new things or challenge our preconceptions. To fight inertia, we need movement and creativity. D'Addario offers some of the more interesting large-scale competitive creativity in their lineup, and never has that been more evident than with the release of their new NYXL strings. With this new series, they take an extremely solid foundation and apply new metallurgy and advancements in string construction to do their level best to reinvent the string.
The new NYXL strings take the go-to nickel wound string concept and shake it up considerably, with impressive results: more output at the same gauge compared to other nickel-wound strings (tested, and true), more stretch when needed for even extreme bends (tested, true), better retention of their original tension over time (tested, true), and in general a really tasty combo of easy playability, great tuning stability, and excellent and long-lasting "new-string-sound" and "just-changed-feel." I am comfortable saying that I can easily feel, and hear some really cool stuff, and it's likely that henceforth they will probably be my go-to 10s (I favor 10s or 11s).
Ultimately, I guess it shouldn't be any surprise that D'Addario innovates in the field of nickel-wound strings. I encourage you to visit the site they have set up that lays out both the very interesting story and the highly detailed specifications of the string sets available. The NYXLs are currently made and shipping in 9s and 10s, which may be lighter than some guitarists prefer. For anything in the standard range, D'Addario makes promises that the NYXLs amazingly keep. It's nice to see D'Addario pushing new technology. The words "it's good enough" can kill progress in an industry. The only thing some might object to is the cost, which is a bit higher than standard lineup strings, or perhaps the current limit to 9s and 10s, for lower tuning guitarists around.
What we like: These are some REALLY nice strings. They don't rely on gimmicks or questionable technologies to get their point across, just really solid metallurgy and extremely well established, proven production methods. D'Addario wants your consideration and I think they've earned it.
Concerns: While D'Addario doesn't make cheap strings, and never really have, these are modestly pricier for a pack than you might be used to seeing from them. It's entirely possible that their unusual durability and their "new sound, new feel" retention make up for the price, but if you're a guitarist who restrings often, it is something to keep in mind. The only other consideration is whether 9s or 10s will suit the lower-tuning guitarist. They might need to stick with a less recent innovation, unless or until the NYXLs expand.