If you’re like the majority of the music world, there’s a good chance you’ve been buying the same type of strings for your beloved instrument since you were a sweaty teenager spending hours shredding away in high school. Whether they’re the factory standards that came with your instrument out of the box or a meticulous and financially devastating result of trial and error, we quickly grow attached to our favourite strings. Sooner or later, anything else starts to feel and sound alien to your loyal ears and fingers. For me, playing without my preferred gauge of D’Addario’s makes me feel as out of place as GG Allin on the set of Play School. Naturally, I was incredibly apprehensive about the prospect of defiling my fretboard with another brand of strings.
JVB, however, are no chumps when it comes to the craft of great guitar strings. Since 1987, the US-made, locally-distributed strings have donned the fretboards of everyone from Tommy Emmanuel to The Waifs, becoming a go-to for reliable tone in the world of Australian rock. Despite hearing good things about the brand, my heart did leap in my chest as I opened the packet and noticed the set of JVB’s in question were polymer coated—a controversial concept in the world of strings which is commonly derided by pedigree guitarists. While polymer strings are designed to stay in tune and retain their ‘new’ sound for much longer than their bronzed counterparts, many argue that their microscopic layer of plastic coating sucks away at your guitar’s tone and sustain, creating a stark divide in the world of guitar and harrowing away at my own soul as I threaded the E string through my first tuning peg.
With my anxieties brimming over as I tuned to pitch and snipped away at the loose string ends, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these strings didn’t feel too alien beneath my fingertips. In fact, they actually felt pretty good. The light coat of polymer, which definitely feels more noticeable on the higher strings, felt nowhere near as artificial as I expected, and bending the strings right up the neck was an absolute breeze. Despite my low expectations, the new set of JVB’s actually resonated incredibly well and produced a fantastic acoustic sound. I love practising on unamplified electric guitars, and these strings really did make my fretboard sing.
Plugged in, the JVB’s were incredibly snappy and responsive, and I found that I particularly enjoyed playing some jagged funk riffs and chicken-picked figures, which often sound a bit clunky on standard strings. What impressed me most, however, was the incredible stability of this set of strings, even after enduring extensive abuse from my heavy use of the whammy bar. If you’re a heavy string hitter seeking stable tuning from your guitar under performance conditions, these strings are the way to go.
Of course, straying from familiarity is always a bit of a plunge into the deep end and some coated strings definitely have a bad rap in the industry, but personally, I really enjoyed the JVB experience. If you’re chasing a solution to going wildly out of tune onstage or you’re a hobbyist on a budget who doesn’t like changing strings every other month for a decent tone, JVB Polymer Coated strings seem to be the solution to the deepest of all your woes.
Hits and Misses
Enhanced tuning stability
Polymer coated strings aren’t for everyone