Where there’s a forum, there’s a fight – or at least that’s what it looks like.
Electric guitarists like to argue for ages about valve amplifiers and digital amp modellers, and which one is ”better”.
Uke players, for their part, get all hot under the collar when it comes to ukulele strings. There are two main camps – Nylgut-fans and fluorocarbon-connoisseurs. Although the uke is classified as an nylon-string instrument, very few instruments are strung with straight nylon anymore.
Nylgut and Supernylgut strings have been developed in Italy. A string company named Aquila came up with a patented way of manufacturing plastic strings, whose sound and feel is as close as possible to traditional gut strings. Gut strings have always been somewhat problematic, because it is hard to produce a string of uniform quality, when the basic material is of animal origin. Additionally, gut strings react far stronger to changes in humidity and temperature (resulting in pitch fluctuations), compared to plastics like nylon.
Aquila Nylguts have become a de facto industry standard, especially for affordable and mid-price ukuleles.
Nylguts are easy to spot thanks to their milky look and silky surface. First-generation Nylgut strings tended to have a coarser surface, which made them susceptible to a bit of handling noise (faint squeaks), but current versions have managed to do away with this problem (almost) completely.
Aquila Nylguts tend to produce a crisp, bright and open sound, which is why they can be a good choice for darker sounding ukuleles (like many plywood-bodied instruments). Some players, though, dislike the soft bendiness of Nylgut strings.
Fluorocarbon strings are a quite recent addition, too, despite the fact that the material has already been in use for fishing lines for quite some time. Fluorocarbon is a sturdy and dense material that makes it possible to make slightly smaller gauge strings than Nylgut. Fluorocarbons also tend to feel a bit stiffer.
C.F. Martin’s ukuleles come strung with fluorocarbons as standard, and many high-end makers have started to follow Martin’s lead. Fluorocarbon strings are also quite popular with progressive players and many vintage ukulele owners.
Most fluorocarbon strings are clear, even though you can also buy coloured versions of this string type, too. In Finland Martin-strings are the most widely available, but many other manufacturers, like D’Addario, GHS or Worth, make their own quality fluorocarbons.
A seldomly mentioned advantage of fluorocarbon strings is that – because of their slightly smaller diameter – they can sometimes solve intonation problems, if a uke pitches slightly sharp with a set of Nylguts.
Fluorocarbon strings tend to sound meatier and punchier compared to Nylgut strings.
The audio clips have been played on a pair of Martin Style 2-type sopranos – a Sigma SUM-2S (Supernylgut) and an Ohana SK-38 (fluorocarbon).
Read Kitarablogi’s Ukulele Round-up 2017 HERE.