Australia’s JVB puts its own spin on the coated guitar string, and they’re not a-frayed to be different. Words by Peter Hodgson.
What would you prefer: a guitar string that sounds great, or a guitar string that lasts a long time? In an ideal world, the perfect answer would be, “Both, please” and we’d all go about our business. But that’s not really the way it is.
Guitar strings usually sound great in that magic zone where they’ve been played in for a few hours (long enough to be stretched in) but there’s usually a gradual drop-off in clarity, playability and tuning stability. Over the years, many string companies have attempted different methods of prolonging the life of the string. One popular method involves a polymer coating, which definitely maintains treble brilliance over long periods, but also results in fraying as the string comes to the end of its natural life.
Australia’s JVB has entered the fray – pun intended – with a new polymer-coated string that promises not to fray and, therefore, not sound like arse and feel like fur after a few months of casual strumming.
JVB Premium Polymer Coated Electric strings are available in all the common gauges: Light (.009-.042), Custom Light (.009-.046), Regular (.010-.046), Lt Top H. Bottom (.010-.052), H. Top Lt. Bottom (.011-.050) and Medium Rock (.011-.052).
They’re made by JVB’s partners in the USA to JVB’s specs, covered in a very thin, microscopic layer of polymer, uniformly applied across the entire length of the string. This coating is designed to be more resistant to tonal changes over the life of the string, and also more transparent in tone. In other words, it’s designed to sound more like a regular guitar string, and for longer.
The polymer is applied as a liquid that evaporates quickly, leaving behind just the perfect amount of coating and protecting against premature oxidisation and corrosion. And because it’s not a plastic coating, it simply will not fray. In JVB’s tests, these strings lasted three to four times longer than regular strings.
STRING ‘EM UP
JVB sent along two sets to review: the Regular set (.010, .013, .017, .026, .036, .046) for my 2011 Gibson Les Paul Traditional, and the Light set (.009, .011, .016, .024, .032, .042) for my Ibanez RG550 20th Anniversary.
The first thing you’re going to notice about these strings is that they don’t feel like coated strings. There’s none of that giveaway unnatural smoothness or that weird stickiness that coated strings often have. Again, this is down to the fact that this is not a plastic coating, so it’s not molecularly bound to itself in the same way.
Stringing up was nice and easy, especially thanks to JVB’s helpful instructions on the back of each string envelope. The strings settled in pretty quickly (especially on my Ibanez, where I could use the Original Edge tremolo system to yank them into behaving), and as of writing, they’ve been on both guitars for a month, each with heavy use.
The Standard gauge set on my Les Paul has a full, but tight bottom end – often a problem with coated strings – and crisp highs which really sit nicely against the guitar’s natural voicing. Sustain is never going to be a problem with this guitar, but the coating certainly didn’t interfere with notes ringing out forever. The playing feel is quite smooth too, compared to the grindy, raspy feel you often experience with plastic-coated strings.
On the Ibanez, these strings sounded somewhat more tonally neutral, no doubt thanks to the guitar’s even-toned basswood body. This particular guitar is very harmonically active – just one of those lucky ones where the body and neck woods work perfectly together to coax all sorts of overtones and harmonic squeakies.
And these strings definitely behaved more like regular uncoated strings than the plastic ones that tend to deaden this guitar’s harmonic brilliance.
THE BOTTOM LINE
JVB has really hit it out of the park with these strings, not just in tonality and reliability, but also in the range of gauges offered. There’s something there for every player, whether they’re a widdly‑widdly shredder, a down-tuner, a blues player whose fingertips must be punished with heavy strings, or just the average player with an average guitar who is happy to play whatever string gauge their guitar came with from the factory.
The fact that JVB is an Australian company with an understanding of Australian players makes all the difference here. These strings feel like they want to be played on in a cramped, sweaty pub reeking of beer.
TOP 5 FEATURES
• Wide range of gauges
• Australian company
• Non-plastic polymer
• Three-to-four times longer-lasting
• Non-sticky feel
• Great tone
• Long lasting
Ph: (03) 9773 8583