Wow. D’Addario makes lofty claims for its new “break-resistant” NYXL strings (11.99 street): they will “bend farther, sing louder, and stay in tune better than any string you’ve played before.” The tech rundown details a high-carbon steel core (for strength), a “fusion twist” process for the plain steels (for tuning stability), and reformulated nickel-plated string windings (for higher output and articulate mids). Even allowing for my journalist cynicism, the “Tortured by Experts” video at the D’Addario website is impressive. I used NYXL sets on my Les Paul and Collings 290 for approximately 60 days, and never broke a string—even though I am an unrepentant string basher. Tuning stability was excellent right out of the package. I could play around six heavy-impact rock songs on stage without any significant tuning issues. Midrange articulation appeared to be consistent with D’Addario’s regular XL sets (I recorded both sets into Apple Logic for comparison), but I’ve never gone 60 days without breaking an XL string. Like an actual New Yorker might say, “These NYXLs are the sh*t!”
Option Knob VKnob and GloKnob
Changing pedal parameters while playing is a fantastic way to bring an audience on a more cinematic and dynamic sonic journey. The glow-in-the-dark GloKnob ($11.95 retail; two sizes available for conventional and boutique shafts) makes such tonal manipulations easy by replacing the control knobs on your stomp-boxes so you turn the GloKnob’s “wings” with your foot as you riff away. The GloKnobs are sturdy (I stepped right on top of one, and it survived), stay well illuminated for at least an hour set (if sunlight “charged” beforehand), and sit tight on the knob shafts without slipping or falling off. It’s the poor musician’s Hot Hand or MIDI parameter controller!
The VKnob ($12.95 retail) replaces your guitar’s Volume knob and allows comfy pinky manipulations for swells. It’s a great tool—especially if your guitar’s Volume control is positioned slightly out of your reach—and I also placed it on a Tone knob for pinky-driven wah effects. It may take a bit of practice to avoid smacking the VKnob while strumming (which can simulate the volume-up-down effect of annoying TV commercials), but this is a handy tool for guitarists who—like Les Paul, Jeff Beck, and others—constantly make volume and tone adjustments in mid performance.
A lot of brilliantly simple ideas have come forth in guitar gear recently—perhaps because good product ideas that resonate with users can be easily user funded via sites such as kickstarter. com. That’s how Monster Grips ($8.99 street/16 pack) achieved its final business push, and the tiny, round silicone buttons definitely make a pick easier to grip. This makes me very happy when I purchase promotional “photo/image” picks that are notoriously slippery. I could just give them to fans, but I dig playing with them as well, and Monster Grips ensure that I won’t launch a pick off my strings in mid solo like a dork. (Thanks for that.) Another plus is that picks with Monster Grips applied won’t stick together in your pocket, making it easy to quickly snatch a single pick when you need most it. Pure genius.