I’ve used D'Addario EXP45 Extended Play on my Ching, Ramirez and Hirade classicals since the EXP debut in early 2002. The first generation of Extended Play was very different from the current product: basses were made from copper wire wound over a multi-filament (composite) core. The EXP coating was used as a substitute for the silver plating, preventing corrosion without mellowing the bite of copper wire. Those original EXP basses were amazingly brilliant and long lasting.
Strangely, D’Addario contacted dealers for a recall of early batches, claiming they were defective. A few months later a more traditional silver-plated EXP with thinner EXP coating replaced the original offering. The replacements were good but duller in tone and not as long lasting as the originals. Some folks say silver-plating was added because the color of copper wire was visually distracting. Ah dunno, the steel-string world plays on similar colored strings and nobody cares. I think D’Addario corporate realized the original EXPs took too long to wear out and dumbed them down a notch.
After the recall, I squirreled away several boxes of original “copper” EXPs and used them for special performances and sessions. Are the copper strings visually distracting? Not to me as a player. I find silver-plated strings are more distracting on stage since they catch and reflect the spotlights more intensely than darker copper wire. My last copper wire EXP set is heard here in a performance of my composition, “Lovesong,” played on a 1993 Douglas Ching:
This video was shot in 2012 when that particular set of EXPs was nearly two years old! Three years hence, 2015, the basses are still surprisingly crisp and resonant, albeit I changed the trebles many times during the last five years.
My copper EXP sets are gone and I've resigned myself to making due with the “less extended” silver-plated Extended Play strings on my Douglas Ching. The Ching is a real canon but has a slightly bright tone. The new EXP basses sound great: sweet, robust and long sustaining. Bass intonation is generally good but EXP D-strings tend to be slightly flat at the 12th fret (typical for D’Addario). These new generation EXPs are not only darker than the original EXP, but darker than both D'Addario Composites and Dynacore. I figure the combination of EXP coating and silver plating double mellows the tone of the underlying copper wire. However, that tone degrades slowly over the life of the strings due to the coating. So two weeks out they sound far better than uncoated strings. For me, EXP tone lasts about twice as long as normal Pro Arté basses (EJ45). The EXP coating helps prevents sweat and dirt from working into the string wrap and retards corrosion, thereby preserving tone and sustain.
1992 Jose Ramirez strung up with a new set of EXP45:
The nylon trebles are sweet, ultra smooth and noiseless but are basically the same as the standard Pro Arté trebles. My well sanded and polished nails scratch them up after a few days of hard practice, so not durable strings. I replaced the first and second strings with the slightly brighter and longer lasting Titanium Trebles. A Composites third string (the khaki one) is my pick for the third string due to it’s increased definition (less tubby tone) and better timbre match to the first and second strings. Oddly, the Composites third string is almost impossible to scratch or wear out.
If you haven’t used composite or multi-filament core basses before, be aware that they wind up to pitch more quickly than nylon core strings. A few spins of the crank and the basses are good. Basses need about an hour of “playing in” to open up and sound their best. On the other hand, these basses settle and hold their pitch quicker than nylon or silk thread bass cores.
The current EXPs have wonderful feeling and sounding basses, but are not as good as the original EXP release. Tone is on the mellow side and great for taming brighter instruments, e.g., spruce top guitars with maple or Indian rosewood bodies. They might be too dark for an aged Ramirez with cedar top and Brazilian rosewood back and sides, especially if you play with flesh or short nails. In my case, I love the dark and robust basses but pair them with Titanium and Composite trebles for a little extra bite and durability.
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1992 Jose Ramirez and 1987 Douglas Ching strung with EXP45: