Confused: 80/20 vs Phosphor? What?

Discussion in 'Effects, Pedals, Strings & Things' started by ndtealmusic, Jan 21, 2015.

  1. ndtealmusic

    ndtealmusic Member

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    There was a brief discussion on Facebook wherein the OP was looking for a way to brighten his acoustic tone, and one common suggestion was to use 80/20 over phosphor. This left me scratching my head because for years I have been using strictly 80/20 because they were darker. I've had two of my own guitars and one of a friend's undergo the the transition, and it has been the same every time. 80/20 is notably darker. In the case of my friend's guitar, they were actually so dark that he turned around and bought a set of phosphors and changed them out the next day.

    My guitar now has a set of phosphor Elixir nanowebs only because I had it lying around and figured I'd not spend the $13 for another set. I thought it might be nice to change it up a little bit anyways, and upon completing the swap my guitar was obnoxiously trebly, and my wife can attest to that. I wished that little L.R. Baggs tone control worked on unplugged guitars too. Now 2 months later, they finally sound like 80/20s again....perhaps with a tiny bit of exaggeration.

    So why has my experience been so different than what seems to be the consensus from everyone else? Am I applying the wrong definition to "bright?" Does "bright" in guitarist terms have more to do with clarity than frequency emphasis? What am I missing here?
     
  2. Tiny Montgomery

    Tiny Montgomery Supporting Member

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    Phosphors are definitely "darker," in the traditional sense of the word, generally speaking. They sucked the life right out of my Martin both times I tried them (the second time was in a pinch).
     
  3. TheoDog

    TheoDog Silver Supporting Member

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    I think of the terms bright vs warm.
    80/20 tends to be brighter
    Phos. Bronze tends to the warm side.

    In my brain it is similar to Stainless Steel vs Nickel for electric strings.

    String gauge and pick material/thickness are as much a factor as string formulation.

    The coated varieties tend to be brighter as well.
    There is also a few makers with an 85-15 "vintage" alloy.

    Each acoustic seems to have a "best" string for it. Some manufacturers try to steer players to one product. Those two things may or may not relate. I am typically drawn to Ph.Br. .012's for a guitar over 10 years old. That's just me. But, per Taylor Guitar recommendations, I put some Elixer Nano .013's on my older 410e and it really brought a nice tone to the table. Could be any number of factors.

    String type and gauge plus pick material and thickness are really the easies, cheapest and funnest ways to experiment with guitar tones.
     
  4. ndtealmusic

    ndtealmusic Member

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    Okay, so I've been using Elixir Nanoweb 12-53 80/20 strings, Dunlop MaxGrip .73 Standard picks. My current and only acoustic in my possession is a custom built GA body with a Sitka Spruce top, Bubinga back and sides, mahogany neck with walnut/maple laminating, and ebony bridge and fretboard, with a Florentine cutaway. My previous guitar was a Breedlove C250/EO, with concert body, englemann spruce top, laminated ovangkol back and sides, mahogany neck, rosewood fretboard and bridge, and a venetian-esque cutaway.

    Both guitars had the same result. 80/20 is notably darker/warmer. Phosphor is brighter/annoying.

    Just my observation. I guess it my boil down to how I've always defined the term "bright," though I don't know how to define it any other way in terms of tonality.
     
  5. TheoDog

    TheoDog Silver Supporting Member

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    Curious indeed. I had the exact same Breedlove c250eo. John Pearse PB .012's were what kept it from sounding crispy.
    Are we discussing the tone over time or the tone of the brand new strings?
    I typically use D'Andrea Pro Plek 1.5mm celluloid picks unless I reach for a specific pic for a specialty purpose (bone, rosewood, brass, v-pick, etc.)
     
  6. ndtealmusic

    ndtealmusic Member

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  7. ES330

    ES330 Supporting Member

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    Curious, what brand of 80/20 do you use ?
    How old were they when you changed them ?

    Your comments go against conventional thinking...
     
  8. ndtealmusic

    ndtealmusic Member

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    I use Elixirs almost exclusively, aside from the rare here and there that I decide to branch out and try something different. I try to change them once a month or more.

    I understand my experience has been unconventional thus far, which is what is confusing me, but I've always been happy with 80/20s and have only found phosphor to be far too pingy for me since making the switch.
     
  9. Blues Lyne

    Blues Lyne Member

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    For years I used PB all the time because I thought they were warmer and fuller sounding. A year or so ago I tried a set of 80/20s and I found them warmer., so I've been using them since then. I did try a set of PB again and couldn't wait to get back to 80/20s. To me the PB have a certain zing in the top end where the 80/20s sound more balanced. I think the 80/20s might start out brighter, but quickly mellow and keep that warmer tone for a long time. This is on a Taylor 910.
     
  10. ERGExplorer

    ERGExplorer Member

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    80/20 bronze starts out really bright, but loses that brightness really quickly.

    Phosphor bronze doesn't start out as bright, but retains its brightness long after 80/20 has diminished beyond that phosphor bronze brightness.

    Coated strings start out less bright than phosphor bronze and 80/20 bronze brightness. It takes a while for phosphor bronze to fade to the initial brightness of coated strings.

    ----

    A friend of mine and I used to mock his brother because he had to constantly change his 80/20 bronze strings. No one ever commented on our phosphor bronze strings sounding dead, but would definitely comment on the brother's guitar sounding dead after one day. Even if we had moved our string changing to once a week (instead of every few weeks or longer), we'd still have been brighter than those 80/20 strings after a day of use.

    I think if you do some research through Google, you'll find that many others have commented on how fast 80/20 strings go dead. Unless one is willing to buy and replace 80/20 string at least 7 times as often as phosphor bronze strings, that brightness advantage is very short-lived.
     
  11. Hack Prophet

    Hack Prophet vile mighty wretched Silver Supporting Member

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    I also found that 80/20s sound more percussive, mid-scooped and delicate, at least when they're new. To my ear phosphor bronze is the warmer of the two fresh out of the box with more mids and a throatier sound. Wonder how consistent people's personal definitions of 'warm' vs. 'bright' are
     
  12. ndtealmusic

    ndtealmusic Member

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    Not sure I follow this logic....maybe because I only use coated strings, but I've never had a set die that quickly. I haven't used uncoated strings since my phosphor days and those...those were dead in a week or less.
     
  13. DRS

    DRS Member

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    I've never cared for Elixirs. I guess if you just play amplified at gigs, they're a logical choice. But try a set of John Pearse in either type acoustically and you'll be surprised. But I get using Elixirs for a gigging band.
     
  14. ndtealmusic

    ndtealmusic Member

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    I've used John Pearse before, but not on my own guitar. One of my early guitar mentors swore by them. Then the one and only time I ever broke an Elixir string (it was a dud string 3 years ago that broke after about 10 minutes of mildly aggressive rhythm playing) he said to me, "that's why I don't use Elixirs." .....??

    Anyway, I'm gonna have to find some JPs and give them a whirl just to see how they sound with my guitar. Joe's guitar always sounded kinda flabby, but I attribute that more to the instrument itself than the strings. I've tried a number of other brands on my guitar and nothing has yet sounded as good and full as 80/20 nano Elixirs.
     
  15. ERGExplorer

    ERGExplorer Member

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    I'm not saying that coated strings are initially totally dead. I'm saying a coated phosphor bronze string doesn't start as bright as an uncoated PB string.

    I do apprecaite how long they last. My carbon fiber acoustics are very crystalline and bright when used with uncoated phosphor bronze strings, and using coated strings brings that brightness down to a manageable level. Since coated is also more tolerant of humidity and environmental conditions, they make the carbon fiber guitars even more worry-free for travel.
     
  16. josh_michael

    josh_michael Member

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    Hmm, honestly, I don't know. To my ears and most otherd I've talked to 80/20 is definitely brighter than phosphor. However, if you're using Elixirs I MAY have an explanation. If you are using 80/20 polyweb and then using phosphor nanoweb, it is very possible that the 80/20 could sound warmer to you because of the thick polyweb coating. Just a thought if that's how you're doing it.
     
  17. Kelsey

    Kelsey Member

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    I was originally using Martin 80/20 strings on my all mahogany Martin 00-16DBM, but I switched to the comparable Martin phosphor set a couple of years ago. My immediate reaction was that they sounded like Clapton's tone on his unplugged CD and brighter than the 80/20 set. The phosphor strings may have a brighter attack but warmer decay. I haven't switched back.
     
  18. ndtealmusic

    ndtealmusic Member

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    That would make sense, except that I only use nanos. I accidentally put some polys on a a while back accidentally and immediately switched back to nanos. But nano 80/20 all the way.
     
  19. VinceM

    VinceM Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm with you ndtealmusic - I've always found 80/20 to be richer and warmer. I use the Martin SP or lately the Martin Acoustic FX Flexible Core.

    One other thing I have trouble with more than the tonal difference is the Phosphor Bronze strings have noticeably higher tension, which tears up my fingers (I use 13's on my D-28). The 80/20 sets are easier to play and still get the nice strong tone of 13's.
     
  20. ERGExplorer

    ERGExplorer Member

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    Did anyone actually say that 80/20 doesn't start out brighter than phosphor bronze?

    They go dead faster, but I don't think anyone disputes that they don't start out brighter.
     

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