Super-Sensitive is Paving the Way for String Students
You might say this has been a long time coming. For more than 80 years, the Super-Sensitive Musical Strings Co. has produced one of the standbys of string students’ formative years – the Red Label steel core strings. The products have been available for violin, viola, bass, and cello for generations of beginner musicians, designed for easy and consistent use that made getting down to learning the fundamentals a breeze. Super-Sensitive has experimented with other types of strings ever since and has indeed released several successful lines designed for a variety of uses (like the Sensicore and Octava lines). But only now have they focused specifically on reaching students directly after they graduate Red Label strings.
From the company’s headquarters in Sarasota, Florida, Super-Sensitive president Jim Cavanaugh recently spoke with MMR about the process behind developing their new line of strings designed for students who’ve mastered the steel core – the new Red Label Pearl series.
The idea is simple. “It’s a nylon core string that is designed for students whose technique and skills have advanced beyond our legendary Red Label string, which is our flagship string,” says Cavanaugh. The need has been around for decades, really, and it’s a niche that Cavanaugh and his company – including his father, CEO and former president John Cavanaugh – have carefully planned.
“We’ve seen the trend that more and more teachers are wanting their students to use these kind of nylon core string,” says Cavanaugh. “They’d start with Red Label and then, after a year or two, the teacher would want to bump them up to another nylon string – generally it was our competitors’. From there, we decided we needed to capture that same customer and make sure they’re staying with our company.”
From that idea, Super Sensitive worked to develop what they hoped would be an extremely competitive string for a price that would be extra affordable for students and for cash-strapped school programs. “Since we make all the strings in the US, it’s been a blessing since a lot of the import strings are very expensive nowadays,” he says. “The teachers are looking for alternatives – strings that are just as good as what they’re currently using but more economical, and that’s the need we fill.”
The strings, which are available in all fractional sizes – 4/4 all the way down to 1/16 – work on a number of levels. Cavanaugh likes to categorize their attributes into “sound, science, and value.” In terms of sound, the strings’ nylon core is used to provide a warmer sound than the steel core strings that students start out with. It doesn’t go all the way in that direction – the Pearl series still offers plenty of projection that early students may be used to – but Cavanaugh says its full and vibrant nonetheless (plans are underway for a second version of Pearl strings using different dampening properties for an even warmer tone).
The strings also boast reengineered eyelets made of copper designed to sit perfectly in the tailpiece, with windings gauged to project well. The composition of D and G strings are silver.
Along with the competitive price they’ve strived for, Cavanaugh says that each set will come with a bonus E string. “Two E’s in case one breaks or you can give it to your friend,” he says. “We hope they don’t break! But the he point is that it’s the first one that generally breaks, so we thought we’d throw in an extra just in case.”
Cavanaugh says the unveiling process, which began officially at this spring’s Musik Messe, has been going remarkably well. “We’ve gotten phenomenal reactions,” he says. “Even on the packaging, which is designed with a young musician on the front with a lot of enthusiasm, and every one is little different.” In fact, plans are in place for future contests for young musicians to appear on the packaging.
But for now, the company has a tight focus on getting these strings up and running. “It’s been quite a few years coming to this,” says Cavanaugh. “My dad and myself have done a lot of research, and we just started taking orders and are starting to ramp up with production.” Amid the company’s consistent upgrades to cutting edge manufacturing technology, the strings’ release should make for an exciting year.
“Full speed ahead here,” says Cavanaugh.