It seems that for every well known high quality or innovative product on the market, there’s a cheap knock-off version. The world of on-line shopping offers consumers access to a whole world (literally) of great prices and deals, but how do you know if you’re getting the real thing? Does it even matter?

In the 1990’s Elixir developed the coated guitar string. This breakthrough technology works kind of like the Teflon in your non-stick frying pan, stopping grime and acid from your fingers sticking to the strings, preventing corrosion and enabling your strings to stay sounding bright and clear for months, like the day you put them on. Some criticized original polyweb formula for feeling slightly ‘gunky’, so Elixir developed a Nanoweb version, a lighter coating that is just as effective, but feels more like a normal guitar string.

This is the current packaging for genuine Elixir strings at time of writing. Most fakes on the market have the older style packaging.

Elixir claim their strings last 3-5 times longer than un-coated strings. A bold claim. But Elixirs actually live up to the hype. The strings feel smooth to play and continue to sound like brand new strings months after you’ve put them on your guitar. Since trying them on my acoustic guitar about 12 years ago, I’ve used nothing else. I often put them on the guitars in the shop, despite them being more expensive, because I know I won’t have to change the strings on that guitar again and it’s more likely to sell with strings that feel and sound good. They aren’t necessarily stronger, so you may still break them if you’re someone that breaks strings, but they definitely sound new a LOT longer than regular strings. 

Recently a customer asked us why our Elixir strings are so expensive. Our prices on these strings are just the standard NZ retail prices, the same as virtually every other music store in NZ. The issue was that the customer had seen sets of Elixir strings online for $10 NZD, including shipping. That’s a third of the price they’re sold for here. I asked to see the listings. His example was on Ebay, from a re-seller based in China. I also found similar prices on other Chinese based shopping sites (you know the ones I mean). 

Elixir guitar strings are made in the USA. So how can a set of guitar strings made in USA be sold by a Chinese based re-seller for even less than it is sold for in USA? I ordered some myself, just to find out. 

For a start, they took nearly a month to get here (27 days to be exact). That’s quite a long time to be waiting for your strings if you have a big gig coming up! 

When they finally got here, it was immediately obvious that they were not the real deal, despite virtually all the printing on the package being the same. They even have ‘Made in the USA’ written on the back.  The packaging is based on the older style Elixir packaging. We had some real 13 gauge sets left in this packaging in the store so we were able to use these for comparison.

The first difference we noticed is that the packaging of the fakes is a lot glossier looking than the real ones. Secondly, where genuine Elixir strings say ‘Anti-Rust’ on the them, the fakes have the nonsensical ‘ANTL-rust’ label. We’re not sure what ANTL-rust is, but we’re pretty sure it won’t extend your string life. 

The next clue is on the envelopes inside. Genuine Elxirs are made for acoustic guitar. These however appear to be made for ‘Acousric’ guitar. 

Packaging is one thing, but who cares as long as the strings are good, right? Sometimes genuine products are sold in fake packaging out the back door of Chinese factories that have been contracted to produce the genuine article. This seems unlikely in this case given that genuine Elixir strings are made in USA, but lets check out the strings anyway.

It’s obvious comparing the fake strings with genuine Elixirs that this is not the same product. The good news is that if you order these strings you will (eventually) get a set of guitar strings. But they are definitely not the premium strings they claim to be. This set was meant to be ‘Phosphor Bronze’. Genuine Elixir Phosphor Bronze strings are a copper colour, almost ‘pinkish’ looking. The fakes are more a browny gold. Genuine Elixirs feel smooth to the touch because of the coating. It’s unclear whether these fake strings have any coating at all but they appear not to. They feel like an ordinary basic steel string. We also compared them with Elixir 80/20 bronze strings, which have the more gold colour. The fake strings are darker than these, putting their colouring somewhere in between the two types of Elixirs. Definitely not a genuine example of either version. 

Sure $10 is still cheap for a set of guitar strings, but you can walk into any music store in New Zealand and buy a basic set of steel strings for a similar price, or no more than a few dollars more. So why not support local business instead? You also won’t have to wait a month to get your strings!


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