Curt Mangan Strings

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Reviews' started by Brian Scherzer, Jan 30, 2016.

  1. Brian Scherzer

    Brian Scherzer Staff Member

    Jan 3, 2002
    Strings are strings, right? Although guitar and bass players may argue over whether it is worth paying extra for "boutique" strings, I suspect that few would argue that the choice of strings can be that final tweak to get a desired tone. Some players state that certain brands retain their vibrancy for longer than others, which they maintain justifies a higher price. Others choose strings based on available budget, ease of finding and buying their desired brand, differences in tension and feel or, if you're like me, it comes down to a combination of tone, feel and longevity.


    Keep in mind that I am a bassist who only dabbles in guitar. However, the issues that guide my guitar string purchases are no different than those that dictate which bass strings I prefer. Having started playing in the 1960s, there were few choices available and what you ended up with was largely dictated by what your closest dealer was carrying. Today, even if you don't live anywhere close to a music store, the internet allows us a myriad of choices. One of those choices, whether buying locally or online, are strings made by Curt Mangan.

    I'm not sure that I can remember all of the different strings I have tried on both guitars and basses. I can remember using some of the more commonly known brands, including Ernie Ball, D'Addario, Elixer, Fender and Gibson. I have also tried some of the more esoteric strings by Pyramid, Snake Oil and Thomastik-Infeld. Based on my personal experience, some strings, for whatever reasons, appealed to me more than others. I added one more brand to my list quite by accident. The brand I preferred at the time wasn't available when I needed to make a string change on my Strat. At the time, I was looking for pure nickel strings and went to a couple of music stores. At the smaller of these stores was a brand I had never heard of......Curt Mangan Strings. Well, the store didn't carry my preferred gauge set but I bought a couple of packs of heavier gauge strings, including one that was an accidental purchase. It was a pack of nickel plated steel strings.

    Making Strings

    I didn't realize until after stringing the Strat that these weren't pure nickel. However, immediately after plugging the strat into an amp, I was absolutely wowed with the sound. There was the kind of warmth I want from nickel but also more depth and "shimmer" to the mids and highs than I had heard from this particular instrument. When I looked closer at the pack that these strings came in, I realized that they weren't pure nickel......and didn't care. If there was ever a doubt that strings can make a difference, I had my proof. From that day on, my guitar strings have remained Curt Mangan brand.

    No, Curt's strings aren't going to please everyone, and they will cost you a bit more than the least expensive brands, but they are more in the mid-pricing level that most of us can afford. My sense of things is that they are more than worth the price. Curt Mangan has offered to give all TGP members a $5 "coupon" (use code "TGP" when making an order) to allow you a chance to try out a set. I suggest taking him up on this! I have yet to break a string and I do find that these remain sounding fresh quite a bit longer than the more typical strings. I use .10 gauge sets on both Strats and Les Pauls and find them to be about medium in tension. Bending a string presents no unusual need for superman hands! I love the overtones and harmonics that I get. The pure nickel strings are warmer and more "vintage" sounding than the nickel-plated ones, while the nickel-plated strings just have that wonderful bell-tone quality that can make a guitar stand out in performance or recording. One thing that Mr. Mangan offers for those of us who are really fussy about our string gauges and aren't happy with the standard sets being offered is the ability to choose any of his strings to make up custom string sets. So, who the heck is Curt Mangan? To answer that question, I did an email interview with Curt. I included the following video to give folks a better idea of what Curt and his strings are all about.

    Brian: What led to your decision to become a string manufacturer and when did you begin to get involved in that business?

    Curt: I have a long history with strings having played, installed, sold and now building them. In 2004, after 17-years as Director of Sales and Marketing at Ernie Ball, I thought there might be a little room for a small string manufacturer and decided to try it.

    Brian: Could you give a brief history of strings and the major differences between the early strings and modern strings?

    Curt: String making became more automated in the 1950’s due to advances in machinery. Gaining more control of the string making process continues and each improvement increases consistent quality. However, the process still remains labor intensive.

    Brian: What are the most important factors in making quality strings?

    Curt: Developing a balanced recipe that includes, core-to wrap ratios, tension on the core wire while winding the string, selecting and obtaining the best raw materials, pride in craftsmanship, attention to details and testing each batch.

    Brian: Could you explain the differences between your various guitar strings and the sound and feel of each type?

    Curt: It is difficult to describe tone, but I will go with this. Nickel-Plated Steel commonly called nickelwound has become the most popular wrap alloy for electric guitars and basses. It has nice highs, mids and lows. Pure nickel still has plenty of twang, but has a slightly warmer sound and many players think they feel smoother than nickel-plated steel. Stainless steel is somewhat brighter and some players think the feel is a little less smooth than nickel-plated steel.
    80/20 bronze (80% copper/20% zinc) for acoustic instruments seems to have a flat response with maybe a slight boost in the mid-range. Phosphor bronze (92% copper /7% zinc / 1% phosphor) seems to have enhanced highs and lows with a touch less mid-range. Some say it’s like pushing the loudness button on your stereo. Some also say phosphor feels a little smoother than 80/20 bronze.

    Brian: What goes into creating strings that are balanced in tension and volume?

    Curt: We used a lot of trial and error until we found what we liked and then we hoped other players would like it as well as we did.

    Brian: There seem to be differences in the industry regarding what kinds of cores to use. What are the differences you have experienced between using a hex core or a round core? How did you select your core type and why did you decide on it?

    Curt: We experimented with round core and found that intonation was very inconsistent. If the wrap slips at all, the string will not intonate and sounds odd. So we decided to only use hex core. Some people swear by round core and that’s fine. There’s no right or wrong, it’s what works for you as a player.

    Brian: Some companies' strings seem to last longer than others. What makes a string retain its tone for a longer than typical time period?

    Curt: It’s the quality of raw materials and workmanship.

    Brian: What are some tips that would help musicians keep their strings toneful for longer?

    Curt: The two most common causes for strings to lose tone and feel is dirt and grime getting in between the wraps and metal fatigue. Washing your hands before playing and wiping your strings down when you’re done can help on dirt and grime. Some player’s even use a little alcohol to wipe the strings down. Metal fatigue is a law of nature and varies by how aggressive the player is.

    Brian: A lot of players tend to purchase mass-produced strings, preferring to pay as little as possible. What reasons would you give to convince them that paying more for strings would be worthwhile?

    Curt: Nothing happens until a player’s fingers touch the strings and every player has a unique touch that causes the string to vibrate differently. That’s why string choice including alloy and gauge is so important and part of the pursuit of finding your own personal sweet spot. What price to pay for strings is the same as deciding what beer you like. There are many who prefer the best deal they can find on a case Bud, Miller, Coors, etc and there are many who prefer a craft beer. There’s no right or wrong, it’s personal choice. No matter how much marketing is used to convince a customer to use a product it still always comes down to the point when product must speak for itself. In our case we hope the player hears and feels what we heard and felt making the product and if so, will recommend them to their friends.
    dlc1953, ScioBro, Stratobuc and 2 others like this.
  2. Flyin' Brian

    Flyin' Brian Member

    Jul 29, 2005
    K7C 4K8
    You're preaching to the choir here Brian. They're absolutely perfect for me.
    dlc1953, wharris and The bear like this.
  3. The bear

    The bear Member

    Jun 10, 2005
    New York
    Love them! Curt is such a nice guy too.
    wharris likes this.
  4. JJexp

    JJexp Member

    Feb 25, 2007
    Los Angeles
    I haven't used any but Curt Mangan Strings since I first tried 'em!
    Stratobuc and The bear like this.
  5. teefus

    teefus Silver Supporting Member

    Mar 15, 2004
    big fan of curt's pure nickel 9.5's and 10's. great strings. i have the same curt mangan t-shirt and wear it proudly.
    The bear and JJexp like this.
  6. Brion

    Brion Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2002
    I need to put a set on one of my guitars again. The first set I used seemed to corrode pretty quick, I have a couple more sets so I will have to install them and see if my experience is any different.
    The bear likes this.
  7. dlc1953

    dlc1953 Member

    Dec 8, 2009
    wa State
    Using them for a few month's now. 11-48 Pure nickel. Like em!!
    The bear likes this.
  8. cosmic_ape

    cosmic_ape Supporting Member

    Apr 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    I have tried a LOT of different strings over the years. I usually buy a batch of the same gauge from all kinds of brands. When I finally got to Curt Mangan, I stopped buying other strings. All his strings (regular and coated) last longer than the competition. I sweat a lot, so coated strings are my choice. I love the feel of them and the tone I get.
  9. Blix

    Blix Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2010
    Stabekk, Norway
    CM Pure Nickels are top notch. :aok
    The bear and wharris like this.
  10. claudel

    claudel Member

    Jul 10, 2007
    Further Outside Area 51
    Timely post.

    I just installed a set of CM pure nickels and I like them better than the GHS Burnished Nickel I've been using.

    I'll probably buy more...

    I'll probably try the bass strings too, if my TIs ever wear out...
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2016
    The bear likes this.
  11. Fretsalot

    Fretsalot Member

    Jan 20, 2013
    Another Curt Mangan fan here. His regular packaged pure nickel 10's gauge sets got me in the door, and now I have another reason for liking his strings even more... I can make up my own gauge sets which I prefer after experimenting with string sets of 'balanced tension' and along the lines of 'progressive tension', particularly on short scale guitars like Les Pauls. My preferred,. home brewed gauge set is now is CM pure nickel 10-14-18-26-38-52. Love the warm tones and the consistent feel from low E to high e. I can pick aggressively on all strings without compensating for tension differences.

  12. Clifton82

    Clifton82 Member

    Feb 15, 2012
    Fort Worth Texas USA
    I just went and bought some because of this review. 9.5-44 Coated for my Telecaster.
  13. TheoDog

    TheoDog Silver Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2011
    Bethany, OK
    I think it is interesting, tha last comment in he interview about cost. Considering the bulk pricing through Curt Mangan (Six Pack) or any of the on line string retailers, $6 is pretty cheap for a high quality, reliable set of electric guitar strings.
    Flyin' Brian likes this.
  14. armadillo66

    armadillo66 Member

    Nov 27, 2012
    8550ft up in the Sangre De Cristo Mnts
    Great folks, after Gnometown Heros appeared at the Crestone Music Festival, we got a real nice box of t shirts and strings for the whole band. Impressed me that they gave our bass player an expensive set of 5 string.
    Cortez Colorado based, so that is a perk for me to do business
  15. JoeB63

    JoeB63 Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I bought a guitar from a friend, on which he had just installed a new set of CM strings. I liked the feel and tone of them, but I promptly snapped the D-string on the first gig with that guitar. I've never broken a D string before, and not since on that guitar after I went back to D'Addarios. Oh well.
  16. rhinocaster

    rhinocaster Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2004
    This is why I don't play Mangans anymore. I liked the sound and feel but the D and A strings on several sets broke in very short order. This is true even when I changed string right before a gig. It's also something that has happened with several guitars over the last few years when I've given Managan another shot, so it's not a batch problem. I've never had this problem with D'Addarios or GHS strings so those are what I'm using again.
  17. SReynolds

    SReynolds Supporting Member

    Dec 24, 2002
    North Carolina
    Best strings I've ever used. Never had an issue .
  18. Suave Eddie

    Suave Eddie Member

    Dec 25, 2012
    Ask your doctor if lobotomy is for you.
    I used GHS Boomers and then D'Angelico for many years until someone recommended that I try pure nickel strings. Until then I thought strings were strings -- price and longevity were my main goals. The first pure nickel strings I could find were Curt Mangan and I have used nothing else since. It's hard to describe the difference in sound that I hear as well as the difference in feel. They also seem to last me much longer than any other string I've tried.
  19. Rod

    Rod Tone is Paramount Silver Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2004
    Area 51
    Finest guitar strings I've ever used.... Love em
  20. frquent flyer

    frquent flyer Member

    Mar 11, 2009
    real nice strings or my acoustic.

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