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While cleaning up, I recently found a box (still had 6 packs in it) of shrink-wrapped strings for my electric guitar: D'Addario EXL120 Nickel Wound 9-42. I guess they have been sitting around in my storage room for about 12 years, still shrink-wrapped.

I put on one of the sets on my Telecaster last week, and found that the strings don't sound or feel fresh, at least not like I remember from having used this brand several years ago. Even after only 2 hours of play over the last couple of days, they sound and feel like they have been on there for several weeks. Compared to my other guitars with new strings, they sound dull.

Does the strings' quality deteriorate even though they're shrink-wrapped? How long can I store strings before they lose their freshness out of the box?

Have other people seen the same issue with strings that have been sitting around for a long time (several years)?

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1 Answer 1

Strings are made of metal, and there's nothing in them to "go bad"... with a few exceptions. Frankly, I'm finding this a little puzzling. Strings get old when played because of a buildup of sweat and oils in the strings, particularly the wound strings. Here are the reasons unused strings can sound dull over time.

  • Corrosion caused by extreme humidity. But that last isn't a factor, unless you live near the ocean. You've also indicated that your strings were sealed, so this shouldn't matter either. (I assume by "shrink wrapped" you mean the strings were sealed in plastic.)

  • Are you still using the same gauge of string? The strings you put on are D'Addario ultra-lite strings. If you're currently used to a heavier gauge, lighter strings might be lacking in body a little.

  • On the other hand, materials can make a difference. For example, perhaps you've since moved on to phosphor bronze strings, and you're used to the brighter sound these nickel strings produce? (Well, this is the case acoustically; not sure if that transfers electrically.)

  • Another thing that can cause strings to feel old is a buildup of dust in the wound strings. Again, if your strings were sealed, this shouldn't be a factor.

Can you give us more detail about the strings you've been using lately? In other words, what are you comparing these to that these strings sound dull? That'll let me fine-tune this answer.

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Great points! On my other guitars, I'm mostly playing 10-46 Pure Nickel strings, so it might be indeed my imagination, comparing the "old" 9-42's to the heavier ones on my Les Paul. I don't live near the ocean, and yes, they're still sealed in a plastic bag. The D'Addarios come in a cardboard wrapper, then inside all six strings are packaged together in a single plastic bag. I guess I'll just buy a new pack of 9-42's to compare them against. –  nwinkler Mar 25 '13 at 16:06
    
Was it only this set? I guess it's possible you just got a bad set of strings. –  neilfein Mar 25 '13 at 16:42
    
I think I'm on the second set from that package - the first one had the same issue for my ears. –  nwinkler Mar 26 '13 at 7:15

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