IN A QUEST TO DEVELOP A NEW STRING THAT COULD OUTLAST anything currently on the market, and perhaps even deliver more clarity and output, the engineers at Ernie Ball turned their attention to a material called maraging steel, which is known for being superior in strength and toughness to regular carbon steel. In fact, maraging steel doesn’t use carbon in its formula, but rather, is an alloy that derives its durability from the precipitation of inter-metallic compounds—the most prominent being nickel, and including cobalt, molybdenum, and titanium.
Ernie Ball engineers had to figure out how to process maraging steel into fine gauges for the core wire, and in the process they developed a newly formulated wrap wire for the D, A, and low E strings that had 60 percent more cobalt alloy than their Cobalt Slinky strings. These factors give the wound strings enhanced corrosion resistance and should make them even more interactive with guitar pickups. EB also specially tempers the high-carbon steel wire for the plain strings to maximize fatigue strength, and better match up with the tonal response of M-Steel.
To find out how the M-Steels ($13 street) stack up to standard strings, we put a set of M-Steels (.010-.046) on an Music Man Armada guitar and did some comparisons with same-gauge sets of Regular and Cobalt Slinkys on another identical Armada. What we noticed immediately was that the M-Steels sounded a little louder and girthier than the Cobalts, and even more so when compared to Regular Slinkys. The M-Steels also were a touch less bright than the other strings, though this could simply be due to their enhancement of the lows and mids. In terms of playing feel, the M-Steels are on par with Regular and Cobalt Slinkys, which is great.
With their higher output and beefier sound, the M-Steels would be a great choice for rock and metal, but they also sound cool for blues and country, and could especially benefit players who want more punch from single-coil pickups. The M-Steels reflect a serious effort by Ernie Ball to enhance tone, and are definitely worth trying out if you want non-coated strings that can really stand up to sweat, oil, and grime.
KUDOS Enhanced output and girth. Superior corrosion resistance.