String Shootout Series - Review: Fender Special Bullets

The guitar string shoot-out continues and in the testing lab for the past two weeks I've been giving Fender's Special Bullets a workout to see how they stack up against other strings. We often get "drawn in" by marketing campaigns that tell us our guitar heroes sound the way they do because they play a certain brand of strings. Fender doesn't spend as much time promoting their strings as they do their guitars and amplifiers, but their strings do have some loyal users, including virtuoso Yngwie Malmsteen. Are Fender Special Bullets worthy of your money? Read the lab results and make up your own mind.

Tone: Bright

Tuning Stability: 4 out of 5

Fender’s Super Bullets stay in tune relatively well, even during the initial “new string” phase. Their patented “bullet” technology may have something to do with this. Unlike most strings that have a ball end, Fender’s have a small metal “bullet” at the end of each string (see photo below). If you play a stop tail piece bridge like a Les Paul, they will actually stick out of the end of the bridge. Some may like this look, others may not, but it certainly does seem to help with tuning stability if that’s what the purpose of the bullets is. No gimmicks here on Fender's part, which is refreshing to see in today's over marketed music gear market.

Playability and Feel: 3.5 out of 5

I found the Super Bullets quite uncomfortable in terms of the tips of my fingers when they were first put on the guitar, but the bending of notes and playing of barre chords was not compromised by that discomfort. For players that are used to a more forgiving string comfort wise, this may be a deal breaker. I found the G string to be the most uncomfortable, which is no surprise since it is the thickest of the non-wound strings and it is subject to a lot of bends.

Response to Pick attack and Balance from string to string: 4 out of 5

The Bullets are responsive to any kind of picking and dynamic changes you make as you play. I noticed that all the strings were quite balanced in tone and volume. I was able to go from chugging power chords to seering leads and the strings responded as I needed them to, without the shrill, “tinny” sound that is often heard with newly changed strings within this price point.

Depth of sound/Sustain: 3.5 out of 5

The sustain of the guitar was well matched with the sustain these strings are capable of. The sound was warm but bright, and I was able to hold notes without the string giving out on me too early. I will say however, that I noticed less of a “beefy” quality to my sound, even though the strings seem to have a very well-rounded sound to them. This may be useful to know if you do a lot of playing in dropped tunings. You should be fine with rock and blues. 

Durability:  4 out of 5

If you look at the fretboard, you can see where the strings are now discolored due to use, but the strings held up quite nicely to wear and tear over a two week period. There was no loss of tone quality and I found the strings to actually feel a lot better once they had “broken in”. There was no grimy residue left even when the fretboard wasn’t wiped down after a practice session. I do this to the strings once or twice throughout the testing session to see how they hold up, and Fender’s Super Bullets passed the test. No corrosion or build-up was evident after this part of my lab.

Overall, Fender Super Bullets did quite well in the testing lab, but for someone like me who has had wrist issues in the past, the discomfort I experienced while I “broke in” the strings was something I couldn’t look past. That being said, the tuning stability and very predictable tone and very even balanced response to pick attack make these strings attractive to guitar players of all stripes, not just Fender fans/owners. With little fanfare, they have developed a string that meets the needs of even the most advanced of players. Many of the string manufacturers could take a lesson from this: focus on the actual product, not the pretty ads.

A special thank you goes out to Fender who provided us with a sample of their strings to use in our testing lab.