What’s New for Ernie Ball Accessories in 2019
By Chris Loeffler |
What’s New for Ernie Ball Accessories in 2019
Welcome to guitar accessory heaven!
by Chris Loeffler
Ernie Ball, always a strong player in the fretted instrument and accessories arena, has significantly stepped up its efforts these last few years to grow their business and the categories they service. From a renewed focus in new product development to responding to customer demand and continually building their artist roster, Ernie Ball quickly became a legacy brand to watch within the industry.
Meeting up with them at Winter NAMM 2019, it became obvious to me how much they are quietly but impactfully pushing forward to push their brand forward. While it isn’t uncommon for an accessories-focused company (yes, I’m putting Music Man aside for a moment) to have more than a couple of things to show at NAMM, what struck me was how intentional all their new offerings were. From customer requested lengths of their instrument cables to Ultra and Burly custom string selections for players who are picky about the gauge of their strings, it’s clear Ernie Ball is listening.
Two of the most talked about things at the booth (other than the tried-and-true hall traffic every time Petrucci made an appearance) were the Ernie Ball 40th Anniversary Volume Pedal and their new ball-end ukulele strings. I asked for a few review samples to check out and was surprised to see a rather comprehensive collection of their new fretted instrument accessories show up at my doorstep a month later with a simple message asking me to let them know what I think.
Ernie Ball Ultra Slinky and Burly Slinky Electric Guitar Strings
My preference in electric strings leans medium-to-heavy, with 10s at a minimum and 11s as my half-time favorites (practice dependent!), so it made sense to check out their new Ultra and Burly Slinkys, which fatten up the lower strings a bit while retaining the standard sizes of the top two. In the case of the Ultra Slinky against the Regular Slinky, the standard 10-13-17-26-26-46 gets bolstered to 10-13-17-28-38-48 and the Burly takes the Power Slinky from 11-14-18p-28-38-48 to 11-14-18p-30-42-5. The result in both cases is the same gauge for the top strings for identical bending and chime with a beefier, more sustained low-end.
My experience in both cases was a stronger, but not exaggerated, base for chords and a more piano-like low end on the E and A. On a single-coil equipped Stratocaster the ringing of the lower strings created enhanced droning whereas the 57 Classics in my Les Paul really crunched up power chords with a classic gritty mid when fed into any form of distorted device.
Who isn’t the Ultra and Burly for? Probably people who don’t have the hand strength yet developed to take advantage of the additional girth and those who want more tinkle above the 12th fret on their low strings.
Ernie Ball Ball-End Ukulele Strings
Stringed musician are often traditionalists, embracing new technology mostly to cop the sound of old technology. You can apply this adage even more so to uke players, who typically are treated to “innovation” in the form of new paintjobs or slapping in decades-old magnetic pickup, which is why it was so unexpected to see Ernie Ball debut ball-end ukulele strings for standard and baritone instruments.
While my first impression was surprise, I very quickly realized came around to being surprised by my surprise, and that these hadn’t been brought to market sooner. Nylon-stringed instruments tend to rely on tied knots at the bridge to connect, which is a hold-over from their inception in a time well before machining and the like made manufacturing more flexible and refined. While guitars have enjoyed ball-ends for nearly a century, Winter NAMM is the first time I’ve seen this made available for the uke.
The benefits of ball-end strings are readily apparent; easier and faster installation, improved connection with the bridge for sustain and punch, and a significantly quicker break-in period.
I quickly swapped in the strings on my daughter’s ukulele (I confess I’d been putting it off, as it didn’t sound too dull and I am rusty on string wrapping) with the demo set they sent me and, like any new set of stings, the uke instantly came back to life. I found the time it took to reach stable tuning about inline with my experience of a steel-stringed acoustic guitar (and I’m a heavy player) and I physically noticed more vibration in the body of the uke as well as a richness in the mids that I don’t recall experiencing in the previous restring.
I would summarize my experience of the 2019 launch of new Ernie Ball accessories (including new belts, new cable sizes, different pick geometries) as incremental but important evolutions of core products that are the sort of personalizations or customizations most players begin leaning in to as they begin to explore fine-tuning their experience. Ernie Ball continues the roll they began a few years ago in refining and perfecting the standards they themselves helped set nearly a half-century ago. -HC-
Buy Ernie Ball Slinky Strings on Amazon.com (Starting at $6.99)
Buy Ernie Ball Ball-End Ukulele Stings on Amazon.com (Starting at $9.99)
Buy Ernie Ball Prodigy Picks on Amazon.com (Starting at $9.99)
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.