BY GREG OLWELL | FROM THE FALL 2018 ISSUE OF UKULELE
Looking very modern industrial with their anthracite color, the new Martin Ukulele Premium strings were developed with Italian string maker Aquila using the company’s graphite-grey polygut material. Similar to Aquila’s short-lived Carbonblack strings, but with several improvements, Martin’s new strings are an alternative to fluorocarbon strings and are available in soprano (.0220, .0275, .0310, .0228), concert (.0228, .0287, .0318, .0236), and tenor (.0236, .0295, .0326, .0244) sizes. (The tenor set is available only in a high-G set.) I tried sets out on a Martin 0X soprano and a concert-size Recording King resonator.
After knotting the string ends to fit the bridges on both ukes, I began to tune them up and found that the Premiums stretch quite a bit as they’re brought up to pitch. Once they were tuned up, they settled in over just a few hours (and several retunings), rather than the week that some strings need to feel reliably stable. The Martin’s had a smooth, but slightly textured, surface that felt good under my fingers. Tension was closer to what I’d expect from fluorocarbon strings, making them higher than the slightly mushy feel of lower-tension strings, like Nylguts, but not enough to dig into my fingertips.
Both ukes seemed to benefit mightily from these strings and sounded like more-detailed versions of the ukes I’ve spent countless hours playing. I really dug the increased clarity, presence, and volume throughout the entire range of the instruments—from more-defined lows to crisp highs. While both ukes now sounded clearer, they also sounded sweet and punchy, with a nice dynamic response for playing softer or louder. The reso, especially, seemed to benefit from the Premium strings, with each note ringing a little clearer, cleaner, and brighter than what I’ve yet heard from this uke—and more like what I want to hear from a resonator uke.