As a punk rock and hardcore guitarist, my relationship with guitar strings can be described as complicated and short-lived—I put my strings through a beating.

Over the years my technique has evolved to be kinder (and in turn, my strings are more forgiving), but when I’m playing a show, I don’t want to take it easy. I don’t doubt that I’ve put someone’s kid through college with the money I’ve spent on packs of strings to replace the ones I blow through, replacing one string at a time as they break.

I switched from Ernie Ball’s classic Regular Slinky strings to a heavier gauge (“Skinny Top, Heavy Bottom”) for a fuller sound and more stable tuning—hoping, you know, maybe I’d break them a little less often (right?). The heavier strings have held up fine, but now I seem to sacrifice my tone as they stretch out and collect dirt over time. So imagine my intrigue when I was handed a pack of strings that just might withstand all of my neglect.

With their new Paradigm line of strings, Ernie Ball has set out to revolutionize guitar strings by making them more durable and more tonally and physically reliable than ever—for longer than ever. In fact, they’re so confident about the Paradigms, if you break them within the first three months, they’ll replace them for free. If there’s anything I like, it’s a challenge. To put the Paradigms to the test, I strung my guitar with them before a recent show.

The first thing I noticed is how refreshingly bright they sounded. Not tinny or twangy bright, but with a pleasant, well balanced tone right out of the gate. The amount they sustain actually put a smile on my face. The “slink” was a little jarring at first—they stretch and spring to the point that I could almost feel my pick bounce out of my hand if I wasn’t careful. But once I got used to it, my guitar felt easier to play than ever. I’ve gotten comfortable with how much my heavy gauge strings resist me, which means playing can take a lot of energy and effort and result in inevitable fatigue. With the Paradigm strings I reached bends effortlessly—they handled my digging with grace.

The strings were so light under my fingers that I could barely feel them (which has its pros and cons), and that quality could benefit anyone who plays with a lighter touch to move more quickly from note to note. The Everlast coating does an excellent job of cutting friction; both sliding between chords and soloing came with ease. Even in the warm, humid venue, the Paradigms stayed perfectly in tune the entire time—that’s always well appreciated, no matter what kind of music you play. Having the peace of mind that your strings can handle abuse and continue to deliver when you need them to allows you to focus your attention elsewhere and have more fun.

Paradigm promises unparalleled strength, but you’d never guess they were anything but Slinkys if you didn’t know any better. They feel and sound really clean, and continue to even after a few days of casual playing and a couple shows. As I continue to play with Paradigm strings, I have no doubt I’ll keep it up. In my experience with them thus far, they’ve done exactly what Ernie Ball promised they’d do. Even at the price of $15 a pack, the investment seems worth it, especially knowing that Ernie’s got my back for 90 days. In the past, I’ve spent more than that on multiple packs of strings within that timeframe; now I can make less trips to the guitar store, and play better and longer with the strings I already have.