A look at Martin’s Titanium Core, Retro, Acoustic SP, Flexible Core SP, and Lifespan SP strings.
by Teja Gerken
April 09, 2018
For decades, choosing an acoustic guitar string essentially came down to knowing your preferred gauge and whether you liked 80/20 bronze or phosphor bronze, because those were the only parameters offered by most manufacturers. Recently, several string makers have not only added more choices of string materials, but have also been re-evaluating details such as the gauge and material of the core wire and the coatings or other treatments used to enhance a string’s lifespan. C.F. Martin and Co. is one of the companies whose line of strings has become increasingly sophisticated, and in this video, we take a look at five of its current products: Titanium Core, Retro, Acoustic SP, Flexible Core SP, and Lifespan SP strings.
Martin’s Titanium Core strings are the company’s latest development. As the name indicates, the strings’ core wire is titanium, which Martin says is more durable and flexible than steel. For the windings, Martin uses pure nickel wire, which is naturally corrosion-resistant. Although nickel windings had all but disappeared as a choice for acoustic strings (they’re the standard choice for electric guitar strings), many players and manufacturers are discovering that the material’s slightly more mellow tonality can be a great match for certain instruments. Martin’s Titanium Core strings’ combination of flexibility, warm “broken-in” sound, and durability make them a very cool addition to the company’s line of strings.
Retro strings bring back a type of string that was popular in the 1930s. Wound with monel wire (a solid nickel/copper alloy), these strings have a mellower sound than bronze, while retaining crispness. Martin describes the sound as allowing the guitar’s individual tonal qualities to be heard more clearly, rather than being overshadowed by the strings’ own character. Both Tony Rice and Laurence Juber have signature sets of Retros. Tony’s has slightly modified medium gauges, and Laurence’s set is optimized for DADGAD tuning.
Featuring a thinner core wire than other Martin strings, the Flexible Core SP sets are designed for increased flexibility, making them particularly easy to play. The strings’ windings are phosphor bronze, and because they’re slightly thicker than standard to compensate for the thinner core, the strings also have a unique vibrational quality. Though they’re ideal for beginners, Flexible Core SPs will also appeal to anyone who appreciates easier playability or wants to use a heavier gauge without the usual increase in tension.
Available in either 80/20 bronze or phosphor bronze, Martin’s Acoustic SPs are the company’s standard acoustic strings. High-tensile strength, bronze steel core wire, and the highest-quality wrap wire results in a brilliant sound. Whether a player chooses 80/20 bronze or phosphor bronze will depend on individual preference and the particular instrument they’re used on. 80/20 is often slightly brighter, while phosphor bronze tends to bring a bit more warmth to the tonality.
SP Lifespan strings feature a special treatment that repels dirt, sweat, moisture, etc., making them an ideal choice for players who tend to wear strings out quickly or when playing in hot or humid situations. They are also available in 80/20 bronze or phosphor bronze and have a similar tone and feel to standard Acoustic SPs.
Trying out new strings is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to experiment with different sounds on your guitar, and with more choices than ever, it’s a great time to try to find the perfect match for your playing style or instrument, so get your string winders and clippers ready and give some of Martin’s new strings a try. martinguitar.com
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