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Need string recommendations for my hollow-body archtop. Thinking about getting flatwounds

I just got my new Eastman 805CE archtop, and I want to get it setup and restrung. It's currently strung with .012 D’Addario nicklewound electric strings according to the retailer, but I think they haven't been changed in a very long time and sound slightly dull. I'm primarily going to be playing it acoustically—some gypsy stuff, some 30s swing—but also plugged in on occasion. I've been thinking heavily about getting flatwounds as I hear they sound great amplified and take forever to degrade (which is great for me because I never change my strings.) However, I also heard they don't sound so great acoustically and that I might be better of with roundwound strings. If I don't go with the flatwounds, I might also go with bronze or nickle roundwound, but I really don't know much about these things to be honest. I just would like a smooth, clean tone when plugged and a good swinging sound acoustically (I mostly just play rhythm.) Can anyone offer any advice?



  • criminelcriminel buenos aires✭✭✭
    Posts: 72

    I have D'addario Chromes 0.12 flats on my Korean made Epi Regent. They're not great acoustically but they do a pretty decent job anyway. And yes, they take forever to degrade. But if you live in the US I think Thomastik or Elixir flats are best bets and not so much pricier than D'addarios.

  • Russell LetsonRussell Letson Prodigy
    Posts: 301

    If you think the old nickels sound dull, the flats will probably sound no better acoustically, and maybe even duller. I string any exclusively-acoustic archtop of mine with phosphor bronze, usually mediums (56-13 or so), though I do sometimes drop down a gauge for my handbuilt.

    On the archtops I amplify (an 805CE and a 1946 Epi Broadway), I've settled on the Thomastik Bebop 114 set, 55-13--they're pricey, but they sound decent acoustically, amplify really well, and last quite a long time.

    I've also tried the DR Zebra hybrids (OK acoustically, not very long-lived) and various major-brand nickel roundwounds (less satisfactory acoustically), and ground-wounds, but I keep coming back to the formulas outlined above. Flats always sound dead to me.

  • pmgpmg Atherton, CANew Dupont MD50R, Shelley Park Custom, Super 400, 68 Les Paul Deluxe, Stevie Ray Strat
    Posts: 140

    Thomastik Bebop rounds sound great and last a long time. 12s might be a bit easier to play - but 13s sound better for rhythm. Been my go-to on my arch tops for many years.

    I'm always interested in jamming with experienced jazz and gypsy jazz players in the San Francisco - San Jose area. Drop me a line. Bass players welcome!
  • Yeah, I've heard a couple people swear by Thomastik Bebop strings. I think I'll order them and see how they sound.

  • karmarkarmar New
    Posts: 9

    There is a company called Kalium Strings - They started out making bass strings but also make guitar strings.

    You can hear the difference they make when compared to Daddario on a cheap archtop in this video

    Note that the difference they would make on your solid top archtop would be even more pronounced than on the laminate top in the video.

  • BonesBones Moderator
    Posts: 3,181

    Yeah bronze for acoustic, flatwounds for electric. Sounds like you need 2 guitars :-)

  • MichaelHorowitzMichaelHorowitz SeattleAdministrator
    edited October 2019 Posts: 5,973

    @GrandpasTunes As many already mentioned, for acoustic archtop playing you generally want to go with roundwound bronze strings. You'll need at least a 12 gauge set to get good results, but 13 gauge is usually best. Some even swap out the treble strings with a 14 and 18. Archtops are much more heavily built than Gypsy guitars so you need that extra string tension to drive the top. (Eddie Lang used a 15 gauge high E string and a 73 low E which was a piano string! No wonder he went through guitars so fast!!)

    Many also like Monel strings which are what was more common in 1930s. They have nickle and copper content, so are actually a bit like Argentines. I don't believe bronze strings were developed till sometime in the post-war era.

    Flatwounds are really for electric playing as they are generally very heavy, smooth, and dark sounding which translates well through a magnetic pickup (think Wes Montgomery, George Benson, etc.) Although, there is a German Gypsy rhythm guitarist (@Ted Gottsegen what's his name???) who puts super heavy flatwounds on his Gypsy guitar, but I wouldn't really recommend that!

  • I second @MichaelHorowitz on the Monels. I originally used Thomastiks on my Eastman AR610 but switched to Martin Monel Retros after much research. I have a reissue Rhythm Chief pickup and can testify that the Monels also amplify well. Michael is also right about gauge. I have been using 13s but since I usually amplify, I'm going to 12s. If you're doing acoustic: 13 is the way to go with the bridge higher than you'd normally have it.

    The Eastmans sound and play great!

  • MarkAMarkA Vermont✭✭✭ Holo Epiphany, French mystery, Gibson L-5, Epiphone Zephyr Regent
    Posts: 104

    Good comments. has a great assortment of early catalogs you can view. I noticed the early Gibson catalogs list monel strings and add bronze in 1933 or 1934. Argies have taught me to appreciate round core strings, not that many in 13-56 but Newtone offers some that i’ve liked in bronze and nickel, DR sunbeams in bronze I have also liked, can’t speak to their nickel strings.

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