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Today's guitarist asks a lot of their strings. Tone is a high priority, as is an affordable price tag, but also required is a decent lifetime between changes. This is where the coated guitar string comes into play, promising all the the rich clean tones of the 80/20 bronze standard but with a long-life to match. In the not-so-distant past this would have been a tall order but as our test examples show it's now available to all for under £20 a set. So we've decided to review two of the best: Elixirs Nanowebs and Ernie Balls Everlasts.


In the interest of fairness, we are using near-identical gauges on each string set, Elixers at .012 - .053, Ernie Balls at .012 - .054, and on the same guitar for each test; the Larrivee OM-03SO. The guitars were played for an hour a day and we'd often play them together to make a direct comparison. Kicking things off are the Elixir Nanowebs...


Elixer Ernies 2 700Elixir Nanoweb Light


First thing to note about the Elixer Nanowebs is the price, at £16.95 they sit a full £3 lower than the Everlasts. A good start for the Nanowebs then, but despite the cheaper price tag they still need to perform, as there are plenty of non-coated strings out there that cost less than half the price of the Elixers...


Fortunately, these Nanowebs are excellent. Elixir state that Nanoweb coated strings last 3 - 5 times longer than non-coated strings, a little vague considering all strings have a varied lifespan in the grand scheme of things but these Nanos do last. They last rather a long time in fact, a set on our Larrivee lasted for around 3 1/2 months with little or no deterioration in tone or feel. Worth noting is how these strings really showed their best after around 2 weeks. That's not to say they needed the breaking in, they were good from the get-go, but once they'd had a good strumming in they were noticably crisper and richer in tone.


Speaking of tone, these strings are full of it. The high end rings like a bell and is very clean. Lower notes sound really broad too, and overall they are balanced and clear. A solid and dependable sound then, but we couldn't help thinking that there is a slight loss of brightness compared to some good quality non-coated strings but nothing overall that would deter us from a purchase as their long-life and little deterioration make them worth the price tag. These strings feel comfortable to hand too, the level coating allowing you to glide along the the frets with minimal resistance. All in all the Elixir Nanowebs are a decent long-life coated string set, and are well worth a look if you want decent tone without all the string changes.


Elixer Ernies 3 700Ernie Ball Everlast Medium Light


Ernie Ball have a rich history is music, a quick scan of the back of the Everlasts packet reveals a long list of famous guitarists and bands that use their strings, so perhaps then the higher price tag is worth it for the expertise involved? Certainly, the Everlasts are a worthy rival to the Nanowebs.


The tone is excellent, well balanced and broad. The highs are on par with the Nanos all day long, and for the low end we think the clarity is marginally better on these that the Elixirs. The improvements are slight but they are definitely there, Ernie Ball's expertise here has shone through in the Everlasts. But once again, there are a few shortfalls in the brightness compared to the decent non-coated strings, something that a coated string it seems cannot quite match. Overall tone is the sacrifice for long life, and the Everlasts cannot avoid it.


Time wise, I'm afraid the Everlasts did not compete with the Nanos. We'd put the lifetime of these strings at around 2 1/2 months with a noticable and sudden drop in tone quality at around 2 months. For those 2 months the tones were excellent and consistent throughout, but the standards of lifetime set by the Nanos could not be matched, and we were left wondering if the extra cost was really worth it for the slight tonal advantages. Sure, 2 months life for strings that are played daily is not to be sniffed at, but the bar has been set higher.


A big plus for these strings though is how they feel to play. Ernie Ball are masters at this and they haven't failed here, the Everlasts feel great. The coating is smoother than the Nanos and therefore more comfortable, so we found we could play longer without achy fingers. In any playing style they are just brilliant to play, and when you combine this level of playability with those superb tones it's hard to find fault. String life aside these are excellent players, and fully worth consideration in that regard.




So here's the dilemma: do you want better tone or longer life? These two offer a great deal of both, Elixir for longer life, Everlasts for slightly better tone, with minor tonal sacrifices on each owing to the coating. But the choice is made easier by the price difference and the superior life of the Elixirs, so for those reasons they are the ones we'd have. Make no mistake, the Everlasts are a very decent set of strings and play brilliantly, but for us, the Nanowebs offer the best all round value.


GKB Ratings


Elixer Nanoweb Light - RRP £16.95

Tone 4 Star
Feel 4 Star
Life 5 Star
Value 4 Star
Our Score 4 Star



Ernie Ball Everlast Medium Light - RRP £19.95

Tone 5 Star
Feel 5 Star
Life 3 Star
Value 3 Star
Our Score 4 Star


 Published 17th March 2017