But are they really unbreakable? That's a bold claim and depending on which ad campaign you see, it seems that Ernie Ball still isn't sure as they're described as being "unbreakable" or maybe just "break resistant." Either way, their adversity of breakage is the selling point for the strings. The customers who've requested I string up their guitars with the Paradigms usually talk about videos of shredders trying to break their strings, like in this video featuring Kirk Hammet of Metallica.
But I Saw it on the Internet...They Can't Break!
As you can see, Kirk is slamming, bending, pulling, and just overall assaulting his guitar, trying to break the strings, but they don't break. Customers tell me that these videos are the reason they bought strings.But you know what? Every pair of strings I've ever put on a Floyd Rose equipped guitar can withstand this. It doesn't take specially wound and coated strings to do this. That's actually one of the reasons Floyd Rose and similar tremolo bridges were created -- to compensate for varying string lengths and tension.
I actually test tuning stability of Floyd Roses by slamming and pulling on them like Kirk does, but without thrashing the guitar around so dangerously (it sits on the bench!). String breakage hardly ever occurs.
If you really wanted to test the durability of the Paradigm strings, you'd keep tuning up a guitar until a string broke, then compare that to how high you could tune regular strings before breaking. If your strings are breaking after doing what Kirk did in the video above, your problem is a bur or sharp edge somewhere on your guitar, not the string, although there are duds (NYXL excluded, Elixirs very guilty).
No Stretch Strings: breaking vs. unraveling
at Ernie Ball uses their patented Everlast coating to make the Paradigms "hydrophobic and oleophobic," meaning they're water and oil resistant. They've actually been using a variation of this on their coated strings for years, but the coating is enmeshed in the wraps and windings of the strings instead of sitting on top of the strings, which could feel sticky at times.
But there's a tradeoff for this type of supposed molecular durability -- the strings are stiff. When putting new strings on a guitar, you must stretch the strings; they have to be broken in. If you don't, you'll very likely go out of tune and out of intonation until the strings are stretched out by playing. Strings (windings, wraps, core and all) have an optimal point of tension where they perform their best, which is never, ever achieved fresh out of the package. So I always, always, ALWAYS stretch out my customer's strings.
With the Paradigms, though, stretching does nothing, which may sound great -- the string is in its final and concrete form from the get go -- but the technology that helps achieve this also serves to ultimately defeat the string.
Yes, I've never seen a rusty or broken Paradigm string, but I have seen them unravel, more often than regular strings. With regularly coated strings, the coating erodes off after a while. With Paradigms, it seems that when the coating wears off, the string unravels, but is still technically unbroken.
Ernie Ball proudly boasts that they'll send new strings to anybody who manages to break or corrode a Paradigm string. They have 90 days to return the entire package of strings, up to three times a year, and get sent a new pack.
But take into account how many players with Paradigms keep their receipt. From my experience -- none. Fine print and legalese isn't something you really care about when you get a new toy for your guitar. You assume that you won't break a string or that Ernie Ball will just send you a new one if you just tell them you broke one.
So what do you do when a string dies? You go buy another pack. You're not going to mess around with customer service or go digging through your trash. You can't play a guitar without strings, though. Even if you keep your receipt and properly send everything to Ernie Ball, you're going to need strings in the meantime and it's a safe bet that you're going to buy the same strings that you just broke, because when the warranty ones arrive, you'll have some backup, right?
These strings are good for casual players with a light to medium attack. They're not good for heavily gigging players or those with hard attack. But as with any musical gear, what's wrong for one person may be right for another. Try them out before you totally discount them.
You can buy Ernie Ball Paradigm Strings from most musical instrument retailers, starting from $14.99. They're offered in all the gauge sets that normal Slinkys come in, as well as a select few acoustic sets.
Mike is the owner of EBGR and the former entertainment news editor for Mountain Weekly News.