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.

11 Comments

  1. That’s right, Gordon, and the Blue Steels come in a special, unsealed, “Cortec” envelope for “corrosion protection.” Stainless steel may not traditionally rust, but it can pit and flake a bit.

  2. i threw some blue steel strings on my resonator and i think it sounds great im very accustom to d’Dario for my regular acoustic or electric but i found the blue steel to sound surprisingly pleasant on the resonator

    1. I bet they sound great on a resonator. The strings sounded a little harsh to my ear on my Clapton Strat and my Custom Historic Les Paul. I will have to give them another try because I know many people really love them. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. I think exactly the same thing bout these strings , i just put them on my g&l rampage , it was a set of 10-52 , well they sound so bright and harsh , im used to addario , they are still the best for me, these sound week , bright and cheap , you cant get a mellow tone on these . As you said also harder to bend.

    What do you think of the Dunlop strings ? , they also didnt disappoint me when i tried them

  4. Yikes, I sure hope I have a different opinion of them than you did. I just bought a set of Blue Steel 11-52’s for my Telecaster, and I’m about to put ’em on. I recently resto modded the Guitar with a 3 saddle ashtray bridge, and I read that it works better with a wound G string, The Blue Steels were the only set they had at the store with a wound G. Well, if they suck, they suck, I guess…. I have no problem going back to D’addarios if so,( I’ve been using XL110s with good results) Hope they make a wound G set.

  5. I give a try to blue steels after using ernie balls power slinky’s.(They corrode fast imo)
    I get bunch so i use them for a long time but i really love .Im more a metal rhythm guy so high gauges work well and wounded ones seems durable to corrosion.But plain ones get dark after 2 weeks(i play everyday maybe thats normal)
    I finished all blue steels so im gonna put some ernie power slinkys again ,lets see they sound better or what.
    Thanks for your opinions btw.

  6. hi Dean Markley is stainless steel and D’ADDARIO EXL115 is nickel wound they are 2 different things. Stainless steel is the most bright string, nickel wound is medium, pure nickel is the less bright. so its not right to compare them

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