I’ve wanted to do a review of the Ernie Ball M Steel strings for quite some time – because, in my humble opinion, they are the best strings I’ve ever used.
I now use them exclusively on all my electric guitars, the only exceptions being where I’m still trying to use up my stock of D’Addario EXL strings!
In this review, I’ll describe why I think the Ernie Ball M Steel strings are so darn awesome and do some comparisons with some other strings I’ve used as well as some great offers to try them out for yourself!
I’m going to avoid the usual waffle about materials and the manufacturing process, you can read that elsewhere if you like.
What matters, I hope you’ll agree, is how they sound, feel, and last – that’s what I’ll focus on here.
So, I’ll focus on:
- Sound and feel;
- Tuning stability;
Note: I’ve also written a review about the paradigm strings, you can check that one here: Ernie Ball Paradigm Strings Review
How Much? Are you Serious?
So let’s tackle this straight away. Apart from sounding fantastic and lasting much longer (more on that in a minute)…
Consider this, a set of these strings will cost less than 2% of a $600 guitar. Players considering these strings, however, will likely have guitars worth more than that – 0.8% of a $1,500 guitar.
More importantly, the strings on your guitar form the link between what your fingers and pick are doing and the guitar itself.
All the expression you put in with string bending and vibrato, all the dynamics you put into picking hard/soft, smooth/abrasive are transferred by the strings to your guitar pickups and construction.
Putting lesser quality strings on a prized guitar would be like buying a high-end sports car then putting on the cheapest tires you can find and driving it on unpaved farm tracks!
So, are they worth the extra money? In my opinion, yes – absolutely and without question especially if you buy the multi-packs where you get good value for money.
But, it’s your decision, just try one set and see what you think – I am confident that you will be convinced once you try them and will more than likely, never look back.
How Is The Sound And Feel Of The Ernie Ball M Steel Strings?
I have used these strings on Stratocasters and Telecasters, PRS custom and Musicman/Camelot rock machines with humbuckers playing, blues, rock, metal(ish), and jazz/funk/fusion – these things are second to none – all in my opinion of course!
When I compare the sound to other strings I’ve tried (see below), I find they have a very true and rounded sound – whether played clean or with overdrive. They generate high output which means more dynamics, especially when compared to regular nickel wound strings (but then you’d expect that).
It’s not really fair to compare them with Fender Bullets, standard strings, etc so I’ll skip over that – suffice to say, you can hear and feel the difference straight away.
Comparing to D’Addario NYXL, for example, the M steel strings are much more defined without that shimmering/glassy mid/high range bias and thinness I find that the NYXL’s, in fact most D’Addario strings have.
The closest I’ve heard is the Elixir NanoWeb strings which are in the same price bracket. Whilst the Elixers are great strings, without doubt, they lack the life, bounce, and total accuracy of the M steel strings.
Not only is the sound rich and full, they have a nice reliable feel under the fingers especially for lots of bending as they just have a smooth consistency of response that you can rely on and is predictable.
- Played light – jazz comping for example, they sound full and mellow;
- Played hard – funk chopping for example, they sound snappy and clean;
- Played with feel – blues, they are expressive and honest;
- Played shred – they cut and bite and react to every nuance.
Yep, in short, I love ‘em!
How Is The Tuning Stability Of The Ernie Ball M Steel Strings?
Ernie Ball says they have changed the way the strings are mated to the end ball (the lump at the end that stops the string from sliding out!). Whilst I believe them, of course, the proof is in the playing – so to speak.
I can confirm that these strings need less “stretching out” when first put on, and the stability is superb – they remain solid for a very long time. Even with extreme dive-bombs and pinched harmonic pull-ups with the whammy, they return to pitch perfectly.
How Is The Durability Of The Ernie Ball M Steel Strings?
They last for ages! By which I mean:
- They don’t corrode (at least in my case, but everyone’s chemistry is different);
- They keep their tone for a very long time (you know how those other strings go dull-sounding after a few hours of playing? Not these!). And of course, this means you have to change them less often!
- They don’t break – my style of playing is quite hard on strings, but these beauties just take it. I’ve only had 2 strings snap (both at the tuning peg), and this may have been how I put the strings on. Never have they snapped at the bridge, unlike many other brands/makes.
I’ve had, for example, a set of these on my Music Man John Petrucci JPXI for 3 months playing it every day – and, they still sound crisp and clear after all that time.
String Gauges and Sets
If you are wondering about string gauges, what that is, what’s available, and what happens if you change, check out my article: Guitar String Gauges Explained.
Who Endorses Ernie Ball Strings?
Well, check out this list – recognize anyone?
- Joe Bonamassa, Jeff Beck, Joe Perry (Aerosmith) and Jimmy Page;
- John Mayer, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, and Peter Frampton;
- John Petrucci(Dream Theater), James Hetfield & Kirk Hammett(Metallica) and Steve Vai;
- Steve Lukather, Steve Morse, Angus Young, and Slash;
- Albert Lee, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, and Dierks Bentley;
- Keith Richards, Joe Walsh, Pete Townshend, and Robert Plant;
- Paul Gilbert, Paul McCartney, Don Henley, and Don Felder;
- Other bands include Florida Georgia Line, Iron Maiden, Green Day, Kiss, Judas Priest, Maroon 5, Matchbox 20, and the Sheryl Crow band.
Summary and Next Steps
The Ernie Ball M Steel strings are my go-to’s, and the list of endorsers of Ernie Ball is proof enough that these strings must have something special about them! Why carefully select expensive guitars, amplifiers, and effects and then compromise the whole setup with inferior strings?
Seriously, try them, you’ll be amazed – and it’s only a few dollars for one set so what have you got to lose?
You’ll hear a new tone from your guitar, you’ll hear dynamics that will please the ear and you won’t have to keep changing strings because they’ve gone dull too quickly or break on you.
And they feel just right – bends are smooth and consistent, and the string is smooth under your fingers.
Go for it – you don’t know what you’re missing!