Review – DR “Sunbeams” Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings (.012-.054)

DR Sunbeams in paper packaging with built-in hang tag

There’s nothing like the fresh, clean “zing” of a new set of strings. Having only changed the strings once in the three years since I purchased a second-hand Ovation it was more than past-time for a new pair of strings. It was also a nice enough day that I could change them on the porch while my son watched YouTube videos of children playing with toys.

Before – Tired old D’Addario phosphor bronze strings. “How do you remember that they are D’Addario?” you may ask. 1) Because I remember buying a three-pack of them at Music 6000 in Olympia 2) Because they have colored ball ends. Also, note that Ovations don’t have bridge pins.

As is the case with DR strings, Sunbeams come in three envelopes with two strings in each (E and G, A and B, and D and high E) surrounded by a plastic “corrosion-proof” bag. My wife often keeps string envelopes if they are cool looking like, say, LaBella. The yellow DR envelopes aren’t all that cool looking, and there are only three of them. The strings are not really coiled together either. They are just kind of shoved into the envelope loosely and pop right out among opening the envelope. This is a consistent idiosyncrasy of DR strings, and there may even be a reason for it. Because of the odd “three envelope” thing, I change the strings in the order “E G A B D E'” rather than the usual “Earn A Degree Get Better Earnings.”

Plastic bag inside of paper box; yellow envelopes

D’Addario (and lots of other brands now, come to think of it) color code their ball ends. DR does not. They are all gold.

Although this picture is blurry, note how much brighter the brand new E and G strings are than the old, tired A and D.

I do not use a string winder, trimmers, or any other tool when changing strings. The loosening and tightening procedure was particularly pleasant on this string change thanks to the guitar’s particularly nice tuners. Let’s take a look at them.

Old gold-plated Schaller in tuners in “OK” condition – They work very nicely!

I often say “Don’t bother changing the tuners on your guitar. If your guitar won’t stay in tune it’s probably user error, and here is how you should tie the strings around the post.” That said, these old Schaller tuners are a joy to use. I couldn’t imagine a tuner that is smoother to operate and more stable. The proud name “Schaller” doesn’t appear on junk.

One thing I noticed when tuning these up – and the strings and the tuners must be conspiring in a perfect way – is that these strings became stable right away without me stretching them, which is something I have always noticed about DR strings. Maybe not being coiled tightly in the envelopes contributes to that. I’m not sure.

It is always difficult to compare brand new strings to the old ones that were on a guitar before. Of course the new ones will sound better because they are new. I will, however, say that the DR Sunbeams are much nicer feeling than the D’Addarios, which are the same gauge and same material (phosphor bronze). The most likely technical reason for this is that the D’Addarios have a modern “hex core,” which makes for a higher-tension string, whereas the DR strings have an old school round core. (What that means is that, underneath the bronze wrap on the four thickest strings there is a round noodle rather than a hexagonal noodle.)

With both fingers and a pick, these strings respond nicely. There’s sort of a twangy attack, followed by a nice trailing sustain where the sound transforms into kind of a pure, outer-space sort of sound.

I do feel like the DR strings have less bass than the D’Addario strings. That may be because they are lower tension, but it also may in fact not be true. The case may be that they don’t have less bass but more treble since they are, you know, brand new. I often feel like some bass goes away when I change strings. And it doesn’t. There’s just more twangy treble zing.

Overall, as with their electric strings, I would say that the DR is more of a twangy, trebly string than a deep, rich string. This string will provide more articulation than warmth. On a guitar like an Ovation that prides itself more on balance and articulation than on deep warmth DR strings make for a very “articulate” tone. Every note in every chord will be clear. I would wager the DRs would also provide some extra articulation and clarity to a boomier, woodier guitar like a Martin.

A box of DR strings tends to be about a dollar more than a box of D’Addario/Ernie Ball/GHS/Dean Markley, etc., coming in at just under seven dollars. At the moment they are actually several dollars cheaper than LaBella strings, which are probably very similar, and they are, of course, much cheaper than “coated” or “long life” strings like Elixirs or EXPs, which I don’t like.

I will have to see how long these hold up and how I like them before the next string change, but so far I would recommend them.

Grade: TBD

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