D'Addario EXL110 Review: Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings (Light Gauge)

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D'Addario EXL110

D'Addario EXL110 Review

When I started playing guitar, I didn't really have much choice but to use D'Addario strings, because in my case, they were usually the only ones available at nearby stores. I have since tried strings from other brands, but often times, I still end up getting the D'Addario EXL110 set, because I've grown fond of using it on my Strat.

The EXL110 is a non-coated gauge 10 set, part of the company's long running XL Nickel line that was first introduced in 1974. It features hex shaped cores wrapped in nickel, which are meant to improve the structural integrity of strings, resulting in better tuning stability and longevity.

Since I've been using this set for a long time, it has become the standard set by which I compare everything else. And while I appreciate the difference in tone and feel that other strings provide, the EXL110 continues to hold its own in terms of quality, tone and reliability.

Tone

"Bright Tone" is printed on the upper left portion of the packaging, and it correctly describes the EXL110's voicing. It has clear sparkly highs that work great with single-coil guitars, even the bass strings have some zing to them. This is the reason why I love using this on my Strat, especially when I'm playing pop, R&B and similar styles. On the flipside, while trebly strings sound good when playing alone, it can sound thin and be drowned out in band settings. And because I got so used to its bright voicing, it took me a while to realize this problem, and to appreciate other balanced and warmer voiced strings. Thankfully, excess treble can be remedied by tone and EQ adjustments.

Playability

The EXL110 has a light feel that makes it easy to play, and to me, this is its main advantage over my other string choices. My fretting hand hurts less with this, compared to other similarly spec'ed 10-46 gauge sets from other brands. Those who are used to 9s will find that riffs and chords will not be much of a problem, but they will feel the extra tension of its thicker gauge when bending. I also find that it has a smoother feel, which makes it easier to do slide, hammer-on and pull off techniques.

Tuning Stability and Longevity

Aside from the usual tuning issues right after stringing the guitar, this one does not give me any tuning related problems. Note that I don’t use guitars with floating tremolo, so you’re experience may differ depending on your bridge setup and playing intensity.

The set does stay fresh for around 2 weeks, and maybe even longer depending on how exposed the guitar is to the elements and how much usage it gets. But it doesn’t stay as fresh sounding as coated sets. Note that as strings get older, they will begin to lose some brightness, which can be good or bad depending on your preference. Personally, I like it better when they lose some of the treble, and this is the reason why I keep these strings on my guitar for longer than usual. As more time passes, this set will have tuning and intonation problems, which are sure signs that you need to replace the strings ASAP.

Packaging

The main packaging is made from paper, while each string is wrapped in Vapor Corrosion Inhibitor (VCI) bags. It’s not necessarily ground breaking, but I find its packaging to be satisfactory in giving me fresh strings every time I open up the package. Its packaging is one of the big reasons why D'Addario strings are known for consistently good quality. Note that the VCI bags are recyclable, earning the company plus points for their effort to help reduce wastes that are related to string changes.

Brand

D'Addario is a family-owned business that has grown to be one of the biggest string manufacturers in the world. They have partnered with big brand guitar makers like Gretsch, D'Angelico, Martin, Guild and more - granting them insight into building strings that work well with different guitar types. They also work with famous artists like Mark Knopfler, Keith Urban, Tosin Abasi, Nita Strauss and more. More importantly they are credited for developing the first automated string winder which ultimately led to wider availability of strings. Because of how big they are as a company, many starting guitarists have no choice but to use their strings, myself included, but considering their commitment to quality, this is a good thing.

Overall

When it comes to quality strings, it's hard to go wrong with D'Addario. If you're looking for a widely available bright sounding 10 gauge set, or if you're looking to go beyond the usual 9s, then the D'Addario EXL110 is perfect for you.

About the Author

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.