Elixir is an increasingly common name among guitarists these days due to the durability and tone of their strings. But not everyone is a fan of the ‘feel’ of their coated designs. Elixir have set out to change this with their new Optiweb nickel-plated steel strings. The coated strings are designed to give the tone, feel and ‘grip’ of regular strings while retaining the longer lifespan of coated strings. After trying them out, I think Elixir are onto a winner here. The Optiweb strings will set you back $12.99 US (£13.95, $22 AUD).
I’ve used Elixir’s older Nanoweb strings on all my electrics for several years now. I’m allergic to uncoated nickel strings, which was the main attraction to using them for me. However I also valued their bright, aggressive tone and long lifespan. I use Floyd Rose guitars and do a lot of recording, so I liked being able to go longer inbetween string changes. The Nanoweb design isn’t perfect however. They are tougher to bend than regular nickel strings and you can feel the coating somewhat while playing. Personally I found the string stiffness to be a bit of a hassle but the coated ‘feel’ never really bothered me. Elixir have nonetheless addressed both of these issues.
In the media player above, you can hear a solo performed with the Optiweb strings, followed by a solo performed with the Nanoweb strings. The final sample features a guitar harmony recorded with Optiweb strings. The lead parts in all three samples were recorded with the same Charvel So Cal. The main difference I can hear between the two brands in my recordings is that the Optiwebs have a more rounded, warmer sound than the Nanowebs.
Easier to bend, closer to natural feel
So what’s different in the new Optiweb design? Well they are definitely easier to bend now. They’re not quite as easy to bend as something like Ernie Ball Slinkys, but they do feel a lot more like standard nickel strings. This change alone is enough to make me jump ship from the Nanoweb design despite being a long-time user. The feel of the string under your fingers is also now a lot closer to regular nickel strings. You could pick up a guitar with Optiwebs on and not notice anything different. If you run your fingers along the wound strings you can feel the coating but it’s not as obvious.
The Optiweb strings have a full, bright and present sound. They are fairly similar in tone to regular nickel strings. Uncoated strings do however present somewhat of a thinner sound than the Elixir designs, with a different timbre to the high end. The Nanoweb design has a slightly ‘darker’ sound than both the Optiweb and uncoated strings. You can listen to all three designs as well as the Polyweb strings (intended for warmth) at the Elixir site here.
Elixir currently offer the following gauge options for the Optiweb strings: Super Light: (9-42), Custom Light (9-46), Light (10-46), Light-Heavy (10-52) and Medium (011-049). You’re outta luck if you want a seven string set, as you can only get that in the Nanoweb series. The sound of the Nanoweb series is well suited to heavy playing in any case.Update:Elixir told us that seven and eight-string Optiweb sets will be available in early 2018.
Longer lifespan helps offset higher price tag
Elixir strings remain more expensive than regular nickel strings. If you find a good deal you can get three regular sets for the price of one Elixir set. The Elixirs do last longer though. It’s hard to say by exactly how much, but they definitely last as long as two sets of regular strings, and three sets isn’t out of the question. Cost aside, there’s also the advantage of not having to restring the guitar so often.
So are the Elixir Optiweb strings worth picking up? There’s quite a few advantages: Long lifespan, similar feel to regular strings and less stiff to play than older designs. They are more expensive than uncoated strings, but once you factor in the long lifespan, the cost is about the same. Fewer string changes is also a welcome change. The sound is subtly different to uncoated strings, as described above. But the difference is so minor that there’s no way you’d be able to pick it unless you A/Bed a soloed guitar track back and forth between the two types.
Whatever flack coated strings usually get for being muddy isn”t applicable with these.
They last longer (corrosion and tone) than Ernie Ball, D’Addario, and other not coated strings.
It’s definitely worth trying, but may not be a tone improvement worth a few extra dollars to everyone.
Fantastic! been playing them for a month and they are still coated as if they were newly installed strings!
*The above quotes are from Amazon user reviews.