Can you tell me about Curt Mangan FusionMatched strings?

Davey A
Davey A
2 years ago
2 posts

TL/DR; Nell, if ball-end strings are ok, maybe you could try D’addario “Chromes” flat wound stainless steel for the wound string. Mellow toned, and no squeak. And if you play with a pick, definitely try a heavier and/or less pointy pick, as it will produce a darker tone.


Hi Nell. I’m new to dulcimer and I haven’t tried the Curt Mangan strings, but I have tried and compared a lot of strings on guitar over the years, and recently on dulcimer. I’m pretty geeky about this sort of thing. Hoping not to derail the topic, but maybe you’ll find something here that’s helpful.

First, if you use a pick have you tried using a heavier and or less-pointy pick? Or even just rounding off your present pick with sandpaper or a nail file so it’s less pointy? The tone will be a little less trebly, and maybe that’s all you will need.

If you’re wanting to experiment with strings, read on at your peril. :)

Here are my initial impressions from experimenting within a single gauge on one dulcimer, acknowledging that Ron is right about different instruments having their own tonal characteristics and Ron, Corvus and Ken are right about gauges being important, with heavier strings generally being a little less bright.

My short experience is with DAD tuning, 12-14-24 gauges, on a 26” VSL instrument. And note that on the dulcimer I really don’t like squeaky strings that make scratchy sounds against the pick. Maybe that will change with experience.

Guitar or dulcimer, the thing I notice is how well the tones of the plain and wound strings match — I don’t like having a really bright-sounding or dark-sounding wound string next to the plain string. I don’t like an obvious difference in tone when going from string to string, and you can’t change the tone of the plain strings very much and keep the playability the way you like it. Given that, I have been sampling the tones of wound ‘D’ strings and hoping for a pleasing match with my plain strings’ tone, here is my current list of wound string impressions:

Round wound phosphor bronze .024: I think round wound strings generally sound brighter than flat, “half-round” or “ground wound” strings. Anyway, when new these strings are too bright and shimmery for me as compared with the plain 14-gauge string, but also way too squeaky. I won’t bother trying round wound 80/20 bronze because of the squeak.

D’Addario Ground Phosphor Bronze .023: Better tonal balance with the 14, but still a little bright/shimmery, and a little quiet, so the ‘A’ string jumps out. I should try .024 gauge.These are ground to an almost smooth finish, so they’re only a little bit squeaky/scratchy.

GHS Burnished Nickel Rocker .024: Also ground to a pretty smooth finish. Louder than the D’Addario ground phosphor bronze. It has a bright edge but also a strong fundamental note so there’s a nice balance with the plain strings. I really like this string.

D’Addario Chromes .024 flatwound: Darker than the GHS above, but not dull. I really like this string too. Super smooth finish, no squeak at all, and to me sounds very matched with the plain A when played open. As you go up the fretboard it starts sounding a little darker compared with the plain strings. I think this string might work well for you, and if it strikes you as dull, then try the GHS Burnished Nickel Rocker or the D’Addario Ground Phosphor Bronze.

GHS Precision Flatwound .024: Really dark and plunky to my ear, and despite being flat wound they have a little grittiness to their feel which I don’t like. They just sound dull and percussive to me.

Plain .022: I don’t remember where this was on the dark-light scale, sorry. Really did not like this. Took it off after 5 minutes. It didn’t intonate well higher up the fretboard, and just didn’t ring nicely up there either.

At the moment I’m switching back and forth between the GHS Burnished Nickel Rocker .024 and the D'Addario Chromes .024, and I like them both. I realize of course that others will hear differently, have other opinions and desires tone-wise, and that I should probably just practice more… :)

- Dave

P.S. Note to Ron Gibson — Thanks that instrument is totally addictive!

Ron Gibson
Ron Gibson
2 years ago
7 posts

In my opinion, there's a whole lot more to the tone of a dulcimer than just the strings. The strings are part of a system that includes the soundbox dimensions, string height, wood type, etc. There's really not as much difference in string brands as sellers would have you believe, although there is a noticeable difference in sound between phosphor and nickel strings with nickel being brighter.
No offence to Mr. Mangan, but "fusion matched"? I'd love to hear those strings in a blind sound test using several dozen instruments and see if anyone anywhere in the world could reliably pick out which instruments had the "fusion matched strings".
I suspect the bright sound of your dulcimer is more in the dimensions you list ( 27" VSL.(1.75" deep, upper bout 5.75", lower bout 7", waist 4.5"). The thinner the body the brighter the sound and your dulcimer is on the thinner side for a modern dulcimer. Judging by the dimensions I suspect you have a TK O'Brien, Cripple Creek, or one the many brands made in that style. Those dulcimers would be extremely hard to turn into a warm, guitar tone type dulcimer.
Heavier strings in general are probably a better bet than any particular brand of strings. But of course, the heavier the strings the harder it would be to play. 

2 years ago
18 posts

I have always found that thicker unwound strings produce a slightly louder and more mellow tone than thinner unwound strings.Regarding the wound D string, you are clearly aware that the different materials used can produce slightly different tones (though I've never tried the string brand you mentioned), and like the unwound strings a thicker wound string will produce a slightly louder, more mellow tone, compared to a thinner wound string made of the same material.

For the 27" VSL you mentioned, tuned DAD, I'd suggest the following string gauges for a loud, yet more mellow, tone ..... 13 13 16/or17 and 26 for the D wound string. Those gauges will provide a strong, sweet, slightly more mellow tone. With those gauges, if you have a high string action then it will be marginally more difficult to press the strings down, and if you have a low string action then the dulcimer will be just as easy to play with the thicker strings.

updated by @corvus: 09/10/21 09:34:33PM
Ken Longfield
Ken Longfield
2 years ago
1,017 posts

I would take Dusty, Susies, and Strumelia's advice. To play in DAd, you should have a larger middle string like Strumelia suggests. You can easily call or email the company and ask if they are ball or loop end. Since they sell single strings to might be able to make up your own set. Reactions to Curt Managan strings on guitar forums mostly seems positive. I have no personal experience with them. If I every get to Cortez, Colorado, I may stop in for a visit. I like visiting factories.


"The dulcimer sings a sweet song."

updated by @ken-longfield: 09/10/21 07:32:24PM
2 years ago
2,219 posts

One little thing- that set you picture has all same gauge except a thicker bass wound string. That means it was generally intended for a tuning where middle string is tuned same note as melody string(s)... such as DAA.

Using these strings for a DAd tuning is certainly do-able and should work ok, but for 'optimal' results in DAd you would want a middle string that is slightly thicker than the melody strings. For example 11-11-14-22w instead of 11-11-11-22w.

Site Owner

Those irritated by grain of sand best avoid beach.
-Strumelia proverb c.1990
2 years ago
494 posts

Maybe contact them directly with your questions. I've found most places to be very responsive and informative.

Dusty Turtle
Dusty Turtle
2 years ago
1,695 posts

Unless it specifically says "loop end," the strings will be ball end since that is the standard for guitars.  (Notice their mandolin sets specify "loop end.")  But they sell single loop-end strings, so it seems that would be the way to go.  A single phosphor bronze loop-end string only costs a couple of bucks.  Why not buy one and check it out?

Dusty T., Northern California
Site Moderator

As a musician, you have to keep one foot back in the past and one foot forward into the future.
-- Dizzy Gillespie
Nell Mae
Nell Mae
2 years ago
1 posts

Hi Mountain Dulcimer Friends byebye

I'm hoping to have a question answered and would also be interested to know what anyone who has used the Curt Mangan FusionMatched (#90840) strings thinks of them.

First the question. I'm guessing these strings probably have loop ends but I don't want to assume they do. I've looked high and low but haven't been able to find a description that mentions the end type. Are they loop end strings?

Second, what is your opinion about them? I'm hoping to achieve what could typically be described as a sweet, mellow tone as opposed to a bright tone. I'll be putting them on an hourglass dulcimer with a 27" VSL.(1.75" deep, upper bout 5.75", lower bout 7", waist 4.5") I use DAD tuning. I've calculated the string tension and it seems suitable to me. If you've used these, did you notice the tone to be noticeably more sweet and mellow and less bright than, say for instance, what you might hear using a set with the low D made of materials such as round wound nickel, stainless steel, or 80/20 bronze? How do they stack up in terms of quality? Do you have any other tips or might you suggest any other strings available that would achieve what I want to do?

Thanks so much for any advice you can give me on this.  smiler