Time to summarize, I can't take this any longer
To recap I tried 6 different B-strings all installed at the same time. Guitar: Greg Byers, cedar/EIR. In order of string position on the guitar:
1 = La Bella PEPESR, later switched to Augustine Regal, then to Savarez Alliance
2 = D'Addario, J45
3 = Aranjuez Suave 800
4 = Savarez Alliance MT, later switched to Augustine Regal
5 = Savarez Crystal MT
6 = Augustine Regal HT, later switched to La Bella PEPESR
Robert was correct that it would make a difference where the string would be mounted. I clearly heard more volume from the strings mounted on the positions of strings 4, 5, 6. This seems a promity effect, the ear is closer to the initial attack on the top for the lower strings. To minimize this effect I played the guitar holding it low on my leg facing a corner. This pretty much eliminated the most glaring differences in volume. I also exchanged a few strings to confirm that impressions were not due to string location. Still, this test is by no means "exact science". I played both single note to note comparisons, while damping the other strings, and single string melodies repeated on different strings. I did this once or twice a day for the past 5 days and took some notes of what I thought I heard.
- Do this experiment at your own risk... It is a good way to test your ability to maintain your sanity...
- The guitar (+player) dominate 95+% of the sound, not the brand of string. The differences in volume, tone, sustain were subtle.
Identical notes played on successive strings were VERY much the same in character. Variations in note timbre from one fret to another on a particular string were much larger than variations in timbre for the same note from one string to another string. So, e.g. the character of a C on all strings is pretty much the same, whereas the character from C to C# can change much more on any one string due to resonances in the guitar top and body and listener position. I would not want to identify any of these strings in a blind test.
- Variations in sustain among the strings were minimal. Not a deciding factor. The Alliance might beat the others by a bit.
- Some trends emerged and largely confirmed some impressions from before the test, based on many years of playing various types of string: harder tension strings can sometimes produce a "pinging sound" (hard to describe, a matter of nail length and technique so it can be avoided), they can be a bit louder, they do not have longer sustain. Timbre is rounder, not necessarily less bright but can lean to a more artificial sound (nasal?). This tends can be worse playing closer to the bridge. This is the main reason why in the past I have tended to prefer medium tension strings, other than ease of playing.
Generally, the J45 and Aranjuez were quite close though not identical in character and overall produced a nice sound, round tone, no lack of brightness, few rough edges to the timbre. The Alliance was the most different in timbre. It has somewhat more volume, a leaner yet at the same time still quite solid sound. It can have more of a bright edge to the sound, that needs care in right hand. Playing with right hand close to the soundhole it was close in character to the nylon trebles, the difference is more obvious when playing towards the bridge. I think the reputation of brightness that carbon trebles have is mostly true for the first string, which is thin and generally is a big jump up in tension, less for the 3rd or 2nd. (I find carbon third stringsless bright in general and more neutral than nylon thirds).
My conclusions of this test:
- Guitar dominates the sound character, not the strings, by a large factor (who would have thought
?). This seems totally obvious but it is good to have this reinforced; Whenever we might feel something lacking in the sound, odds are it has more to do with the time of the day and how our attention and hearing are doing, shape of the nails, etc, than what string is on the guitar.
- All of these strings ultimately worked fine, and did not give a dramatic difference to the sound. The tension difference may be more a factor to decide what to use than the sound will be, although for the B string, even the tension differences are nothing to write home about. The Regal is probably stiffest but not by that much.
- I had tried the Crystal MT B before and it worked fine according to my earlier notes. The J45 is fine too and I have used it many times; the Aranjuez 800 will undoubtedly be too and it works very well on my Kono. I am going to give the Alliance B string a try on the Byers to test its character over a longer period.
No, I am not going to repeat this experiment for the other 5 strings!