First of all let’s knock the chemistry lesson on the head… Cobalt (Co), atomic number 27, is a chemical element found naturally only in chemically combined form. The free element, produced by reductive smelting, is a hard, lustrous, silver-gray metal. So it’s not very often we see a new technology come along for guitar strings but Ernie Ball have done just that releasing their new Cobalt series strings.
So why have our helical spring loving friends at Ernie Ball felt it necessary to start using this new formulation to make guitar strings? The idea is to create a stronger magnetic pull between the strings and the guitar pickups, which yields two important benefits over standard nickel & steel strings:
1. Higher output
2. Increased frequency response
So what did I discover? I cannot but mention upon opening the hermetically sealed packet the heavy scent of cobalt metal that wafted from within compared to your more standard nickel & steel offerings. I was not thrown, but it did give me the idea of perhaps some scented string options in future? The strings themselves felt different to the touch not unlike when you spray finger ease on your strings, this did leave me curious as to possible playability differences.
The strings delivered on all fronts, Cobalt is highly magnetic compared to steel & nickel which certainly translated in a livelier, punchier, brighter output on both clean and dirty tones. It seemed more noticeable on single coil pickups namely the wound strings giving increased low end response, as you pushed gain levels in the upwards direction they seem to retain more individual string clarity when playing chords and give you an apparent difference in output through the pickups.
On hum buckers the difference was less noticeable however delivered a sense of increased touch sensitivity, bass response and output. The strings stabilised really well and tended to hold very good tune, with a satisfyingly nice silky feel and playability.
In summary if your single coil pickup guitars are lacking excitement or you’re a rock & metal player looking for an easy enhancement to push your preamp harder the new Ernie ball cobalt’s might well be the string you’ve been looking for.
Review by Danny Yoghurt