DR Strings endorser Dan LaVoie (who has graced many Harp Guitar Gatherings, HGM CD compilations, and of late on tour with Don Alder), has collaborated with DR Strings to create not one, but two types of new sub-bass string sets.

The bum has done what I’ve been trying to do for years – get a string manufacturer to care about our instrument!

But Dan didn’t just duplicate what was already available, he wanted to try some new variants: round core (“Sunbeams”) and coated (“Dragon Skin”).  Clever lad!  (PS: Benoit Meulle-Stef had Newtone make us up a batch of round cores one time, but they only went up to the mid-0.060s.)

Each of the DR sets is intended for “Bennett Tuning” on Dyer-style harp guitars and gauged exactly like the D’Addario set I offer on Harp Guitar Music (disclaimer: it is thus more of a “Medium-to-Light” gauge, not the “Light” stated on the packaging).

Unlike D’Addarios (and all typical steel strings), the Sunbeam set consists of a round steel core, rather than a hex core.  Though the oft-discussed “improved feel” of round core strings applies mostly to the left hand fretting and bending of the strings (non-applicable for subs), such strings are thought by many to sound warmer and “rounder” with more sustain compared to hex core strings.  I found that Dan and his circle seem to prefer this to the “quack” of hex cores, while Frank Doucette (during the extensive, controlled “blind-testing” we did last week) preferred the “sparkle” of the D’Addarios.  A matter of taste, and to us, the tonal difference was minor.

The Dragon Skin set consists of standard hex core phosphor bronze strings, with DR’s version of ultra-thin proprietary coating (each individual wire is coated before winding).  During my blind tests with Frank (on the .042s and .070s), we couldn’t detect any significant tonal difference between these and standard D’Addario subs.  If anything, the nail noise of my harmonics seemed mitigated ever so slightly on the coated strings.  This would seem to be good news for heavy sweaters playing night after night, as we anticipate that coated sub-basses would last longer than uncoated (similar to coated vs. uncoated on the neck).

To this end, Dan is looking for feedback (both initial assessment and longevity) from you.  To ensure a diverse “Beta Test,” Dan/Harp Guitar Music will be offering the first prototype sets at about half price while they last.  $10 for round core, $15 for coated (limited to 1 set of each per customer).  These will be available at the Harp Guitar Gathering the weekend of October 11-13 (sorry, no early sales).  Remaining stock will be listed at HGM afterwards at the intro price.

Dan is anticipating this to become an ongoing harp guitar string option; I’m excited that he’s taken the bull by the horns!