Ernie Ball Cobalt guitar strings

Review:  Ernie Ball Cobalt guitar strings

If something costs twice as much as another product, does that mean it’s twice as good? This was a question I had about Ernie Ball’s new Cobalt guitar strings. I decided to test them out, both in and outside of guitar lessons, to see how they performed.

Great expectations

This product comes with plenty of high expectations attached, as well as the higher than normal price tag. The new Cobalt strings are meant to be louder and brighter with a warmer sound. This was something I was keen for my students to try out in their guitar lessons.


I have to say that my first impressions did not live up to the hype. On first play, for both me and students attending my guitar lessons, we noticed that the strings felt a little weird. If I had to compare the feeling to anything, I would say it felt like acoustic guitar strings. Playing them at first actually ripped one of my students fingers to shreds. They felt like the sort of strings you would buy on a strict budget. I had to add string lubricant to be able to use them. The friction still slows you down. That’s not great when I’m performing or trying to give guitar lessons!

Slash and burn?

This product is endorsed by Slash himself which does surprise me in view of the abrasive feel of the strings. However, it does seem a bit more fitting when you hear how the strings work when playing slower rock and blues and rhythm. Their more abrasive feel does really go with those styles. I thought it was a top end sound. However, in my experience the strings weren’t so good for lead playing so I would suggest using a regular brand for that.

Not a smooth ride

What about in guitar lessons? Generally speaking, thrash metal guitar strings aren’t the best to use for guitar lessons, though my students did have fun trying them out! Overall, the experience in guitar lessons was they felt like acoustic guitar strings – very loud, but not as smooth as regular strings. In and out of guitar lessons, they didn’t stay in tune initially and there were some embarrassing moments when they went out of tune! One disappointing note to end on is that after a week or two of use, one of the strings snapped when I was changing from drop C to concert pitch!

The final word

In my view, these strings aren’t as good as the ‘double the normal price tag’ would suggest. But they have lasted an incredibly long time – the longest I’ve had guitar strings without changing them. Plus, they haven’t tarnished yet and they still feel fresh. Overall, they gave a good and long lasting performance, though maybe not appropriate for use in guitar lessons. However, if the makers can sort out the abrasive feel of the strings, they’ll have cracked it.

Rob Greco


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