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Jan 2, 2020 - 9:34 AM

Alex Z


3725 posts since 12/7/2006

GHS (which looks like the supplier of the JD and other strings for AMB) makes two kinds of wound banjo strings that have a gray appearance -- nickel plated and stainless.  The JD wound .020 string is stainless.  All the plain strings are "plain steel" regardless of the 4th.

Myself, on my banjos, I hear the nickel plated as slightly duller than the stainless, and the phosphor bronze as slightly brighter, at least initially.  Have used the .020 JD for many years, and they seem to hold their tone pretty well.  But I change strings after 6 - 20 hours of playing anyway, and the stainless wound seems to hold its tone during that time.

Edited by - Alex Z on 01/02/2020 09:35:29

Jan 2, 2020 - 9:39:30 AM

6720 posts since 8/28/2013

Originally posted by DIV
Originally posted by Alex Z

"I don't want to make a judgement before I know all the facts about these JDW strings...anyone else?"

That's an admirable perspective on the BHO.  smiley

A few years ago there was a discussion of the possible differences of the JD string.  Some responders "knew" an awful lot of "facts" about the string -- different tension of wrap, materials, etc.   I called the GHS company and spoke to one of the engineers there.  He double-checked with the manufacturing folks before giving me the final answer.

The only difference between the JD string and the non-JD string (both stainless) is that the JD string is overwrapped at the end, the non-loop end.  Mr.  JD prefers it that way.

The concept of an overwrapped string is that the winding is held tight until after the string is mounted on the post, and the purpose is to keep the winding from becoming loose.  Then the end of the string can be cut without affecting the tension of the winding.  Some other stringed instruments have an overwrap, such as violin strings.  Some other types of strings also have a common installation method of either making a kink in the end of the string before cutting and installing, or installing first then cutting.

 Now, whether or not a .020 GHS stainless steel banjo string winding would become loose without the overwrap I don't know.  Mr. JD prefers that feature and GHS makes it for him.

Ah!  Now that's some good information.  OK, so maybe there's a small amount of benefit of the overwound string even though that side is cut's wrapped tighter around the peg post before I cut off the excess....again, there's a big MAYBE.  But tone-wise, I'm not noticing anything ground-shaking.  

I will try an unwound 4th string next time even though it sounds like I will hate the tone.  It will be fun to see what it's like to slide up and down the neck and not hear the "zip" as my fingers ride along the wound 4th string...or maybe I'll miss that sound....who knows!?


Still sounds like BS to me, or at least someone's misunderstanding of the way banjo strings are made and the forces involved regarding un-winding. I would suggest that someone attempt to pull the string's windings off manually. I doubt they'll have a lot of success; they are on there pretty darned tight.  

It's been my understanding that a wound banjo string uses wire with a hexagonal cross-section, and it's this hex that actually keeps the winding in place. If the wire is round, anything slips off. I used to wind piano strings, which are wound on round wire, and I know this to be true (flat spots must be made on the piano's core wire at each end to hold the windings). 

If keeping the windings from coming loose with extra winding, then I have one other question: what is to prevent the extra windings from coming loose too? 

Jan 2, 2020 - 10:36:43 AM

Alex Z


3725 posts since 12/7/2006

"It's been my understanding that a wound banjo string uses wire with a hexagonal cross-section, and it's this hex that actually keeps the winding in place. If the wire is round, anything slips off. I used to wind piano strings, which are wound on round wire, and I know this to be true (flat spots must be made on the piano's core wire at each end to hold the windings). "

Not disputing this for a hex-core vs. round-core wound string.  Only explaining what GHS does and why they do it.  GHS isn't touting over-wrapped strings as being superior, but rather simply making a product that Mr. JD prefers and offering it to the general public for the same price and without claim of superiority.  In fact, all the varieties of GHS 5-string banjo strings at Elderly are the same price, cryogenic or not.  And, on the GHS site, all the varieties of 5 string banjo strings, except cryogenic, are presented with no description of differential superiority.

You pays your money, you takes your choice -- as the saying goes.  One person's "BS" may be another person's "psychological satisfaction."  smiley

GHS does differentiate the characteristics of round core vs hex core for its guitar strings, in its FAQ, and from this it can be inferred that the .020 JD string is hex core:

    "The bulk of the Guitar Boomers are wound over a round core, with exceptions being any wound Boomer at .024 or smaller, or .060 and higher. 

    As to why, there are many benefits of a round core. Comparatively, round core strings have a greater flexibility than hex core strings, and also have a slightly warmer tone. However, round core strings need larger core wire diameters to equal the same amount of stability and strength as hex. 

   Hex cores are able to remain stable at smaller diameters (which is why you'll notice we use hex on the .024 or smaller Boomer gauges). Compared to round core strings, hex strings have a slightly tighter attack and brighter tone. Also, as string gauges get thicker, the added stability that the hex core provides makes it ideal to retain clarity and definition on lower strings, specifically the B and F# strings found in our 7 String Boomers and 8 String Boomers."

Jan 2, 2020 - 3:00:24 PM

6720 posts since 8/28/2013

I was assuming that these strings were priced differently, and I'm sorry about that. I can't fault GHS for doing this JD stuff, and even though I still believe that Mr. JD may be a bit ignorant about winding processes if he believes his idea is an improvement. It's possible that he has been around since the days of poor quality strings with different alloys for the windings. I know that some of the ancient Black Diamond strings were known to develop loose windings.

I suppose that GHS must sell enough of these to other people to make it a worthwhile venture, but I certainly can't help but think that buyers can be fools in many cases: they tend to follow their heroes and what their hero might do, no matter how ludicrous it might be to others. I certainly wouldn't bother with JD winding, despite they're being no more costly.

Oddly, in the piano business, there is an aftermarket item called the "Universal bass string," the purpose of which is for tuners to replace broken strings without having to get them specially made to match. They are wound on hex core and the windings can be unwound and cut off to the proper length. I never used them, myself, because their vibrational characteristics were so different from the usual round wire that it was impossible to get either good tone or a good tuning with them. What GHS says about the tone is certainly true; hex piano strings are twangy and rather nasal compared with the originals. Of course, in the sizes used for piano bass strings, hex core wire is not even remotely as flexable as round, and stiffness makes a huge difference in tone.

I do wonder how they keep the windings on those round "Boomers" from coming loose, though.

Jan 3, 2020 - 12:46:04 AM

1130 posts since 11/17/2018

GHS PF170 Light Gauge Strings - 09, 11, 13, 20w, 09

AMB Cryo's - 10, 11, 13, 20w, 10

Like both.

No experience with bronze wound strings on banjo.

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