I still haven’t settled on a replacement for my beloved but tragically delicate nickel-wound Ernie Ball mandolin strings. I think I’m pretty close, though. I tried D’Addario’s stainless steel strings, but I did’t find them completely satisfactory. The only guague available is an .011 to .040 set, which is too heavy for my tastes. The tension on the strings is all about 23 pounds, I prefer to keep the tension lower because of some old problems with tendonitis.
The stainless steel strings were also too bright for my taste — I prefer a darker tone. With that in mind, I put a set of D’Addario nickel-wound mandolin strings for last night’s show at the Charleston, and I was pretty happy with the results.
The nickel-wound set comes runs from .011, .014, .026, .039. I removed the .011s and replaced them with .010s for the ‘e’ string. The result is that the tension for all the strings except the ‘g’ string is below 20 pounds. That makes it much easier on the hands than the stainless steel set.
The tone is pretty good. Balanced, full, and sufficiently loud on my primary live mandolin. Equally important, I played a 3-hour plus show last night with no tuning problems and no string breakage.
By the way, D’Addario publishes a string tension guide on their website, which is very helpful. More string companies should do the same.