You’d think with a name like “Blue Steel” — we here at “Boles Blues” would be in love with the “cryogenic activated” Dean Markley Blue Steel Strings MED 11-52. We are not in love! In fact, we don’t think much of these strings. Nay, we cannot even like them.
The musical mythology of these strings is that they are frozen at -320 degrees by liquid nitrogen. That deep freezing is supposed to make the strings last longer and sound brighter than any other string on the market.
I decided to try a set of MED Dean Markley Blue Steel strings (11, 13, 18p20W, 30, 42, 52) on my Les Paul — because with that guitar’s shorter scale length, I knew the higher gauge strings would work okay. 11-52 on my Stratocasters would be too hard for me to Bend the Blues.
The Blue Steel strings are wound with stainless steel — I did curiously see some corrosion dots on the higher strings — I don’t know why Dean Markley would sell futuristic cryogenically advanced strings without hermetically sealing them like Gibson and Ernie Ball and D’Addario do right now.
Stainless steel strings provide a super “bright” sound that I found to be really harsh and unpleasing. These strings have no vibratory character. They cut the air without smoothing. There is no lower end thump — there’s only a brittle whack. They yell without whispering.
Stainless steel wound strings can also wear out your frets faster than nickel wound strings — but I wouldn’t be too concerned about that happening. If you play your guitar a lot, you’re going to need to eventually get your guitar a new fret job no matter what strings you use.
I found the Dean Markley Blue Steel strings to be disappointing.
There is some kind of micro-something on the strings that makes them feel like a thousand, tiny, needles are microscopically grinding against your fingertips. I don’t know if that essence is a result of the sub-zero freezing or not — but it is an uncomfortable and unnerving feeling to sense as you play — especially when you’re doing quick runs and barre slides.
I cut the Dean Markley Blue Steels off my Les Paul and went right back to a D’Addario EXL1115 strings set. At half the cost of the Blue Steels and Smooth as silk to pay, you can’t beat a D’Addario string for ringing true and warm — and appropriately bright! — every time.