Light vs. Custom Light strings on my Takamine CP7MO TT

Takamine CP7MO TT bridge

I’ve owned this lovely guitar since February 2017 – seems like only a few months ago that I bought it. I guess the past two years have been a bit of a black hole for many of us. I was really excited to get this instrument – it’s one of the relatively few Takamine models with the 45mm (1-3/4″) nut that is relatively affordable, priced at around US$2,000 at time of writing. Since the bluegrass series was discontinued, these wider-nut guitars have been largely restricted to the very top of the pro series and limited edition guitars such as the EF75M TT, EF7M-LS etc. I like to play a combination of strumming and fingerstyle, so this combination of features: OM body style, thermal spruce top with ovangkol back and sides (a variation on rosewood), and 45mm nut is ideal.

Having said that, this guitar has always felt a bit “hard to play” with the stock light (12-53) strings. I’m not sure if this is a function of the way the guitar was set up from the factory but whenever I switch to this instrument from one of my other Taks the strings feel comparatively hard to press down, especially the two unwound strings, especially when playing barre chords. So this has always prevented me from fully enjoying the instrument. It’s not a big deal, maybe the difference between 90% and 100% satisfaction.

As this guitar has aged I have lowered the action about 3mm at the bridge by sanding the bottom of the saddles. This is a very common procedure for all guitars as they get older and can be done easily by anyone with a fairly steady hand: put the sandpaper on a flat surface and hold the saddle against it, being sure to remove material evenly across the entire base. This is particularly important with Japanese-made Taks with the palathetic pickup – the base of the saddle needs to be absolutely even in order to maintain the string to string balance of the amplified sound. One millimeter goes a long way when sanding! I start with 400 grit and finish with 200.

View of bridge saddles from another angle

With my older Taks I find that truss rod and saddle adjustments will generally stabilize after about five years, after which further adjustment becomes unnecessary. Remember that I live in a tropical climate and don’t have to make seasonal adjustments, which is something I do appreciate very much!

At my most recent string change on this guitar I couldn’t find any D’Addario light strings in either XS or XT varieties, but I noticed that the shop in question had a huge stock of a gauge called custom light. The packaging was a rather attractive purple on white, so I took a closer look:

D’Addario XSAPB1152 string packaging

As you can see, the custom light set is midway between a light and an extra light set, using the A and D strings of the light set with everything else being slightly lighter. A comparison between light, custom light and extra light is quite instructive:

StringEBGDAE
Extra Light101423303947
Custom Light111522324252
Light121624324253
String gauges are for D’Addario XS Phosphor Bronze


Notice that the G string on the custom light set is the lightest of all the three sets, presumably to balance out the tension. Also notice that the custom light set does not share any of its gauges with the extra light set. To me this shows how much work D’Addario have put into developing this unique set of strings – rather than just mixing gauges from a light and extra light set they have gone the extra mile and developed strings that are, well, custom!

So I decided to give these a shot. Installing them was the same as any other set of guitar strings, after which my action at the 12th fret was right at 4mm:

Action at the 12th fret after installing the custom lights. Guitar has a scale length of 640mm/25.2″.

I’ve only played these for a few days, but they seem to be just the ticket for this guitar – that ‘hard to press down’ feeling is gone and although I can feel the difference in the top two strings, the overall improvement in feel is positive. The slightly lighter low E string has almost as much bass while keeping the overall tonal balance across all six strings. Obviously, if you want loads of bass you won’t be playing an OM, but when amplified it’s nice to have the option.

In closing, I would recommend these strings to anyone who is looking for a feel that is close to light but with slightly less tension on the top strings. In practice, I find that the .22 G-string and the .52 low E-string do not make much difference to the overall feel when compared to a set of lights.

Buy these strings on Amazon (affiliate links):
D’Addario Phosphor Bronze XS lights: https://amzn.to/3uLsy4M
D’Addario Phosphor Bronze XS custom lights: https://amzn.to/38sWdIz

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