I just keep coming back to XLs
As a guy who came of age in the 80s wanting to be Eddie Van Halen, I got a pointy Ibanez V with an Edge trem and DiMarzios, and I put Ernie Ball Super Slinkies on it because Eddie was leaping his hockey stick Kramer across the Super Slinky ads at the time. The Slinkies sounded great, but the E strings busted left and right. I tried GHS Boomers, but they didn't have the same zing I was looking for and they broke almost as fast as the Slinkies did. After a couple years of this frustration, I manned up my callouses and switched to Hybrid Slinkies, which seemed to take my Pacifica 512's licensed Floyd quite a bit longer to chew up, but weren't as bright as Super Slinkies. I discovered SIT strings around 1990 (Steve Lukather ad) which were bright, stable, and long-lasting, but they were also more expensive and hard to find - I had to drive 100 miles down I-80 to Lincoln to get them. I got into SRV around 1992 and after a brief flirtation with Fender nickel Bullets, I started rocking heavy gauge Dean Markley Blue Steels on a MIJ 60s Strat reissue. The Blue Steels were expensive and I told myself I liked their sound because being cryogenically frozen simply had to count for something, right? I also kept telling myself I liked playing on piano wires. This ongoing illusion lasted like four or five years. Incidentally, thank you, Billy Gibbons, for telling your BB King story about string gauges every chance you get.
I got my first pack of XLs (10-46) around 2002. That first set lasted my Gibson Faded V about two months, and I was playing two or three hours a night. The sound was brilliant just like Super Slinkies, but the tone lasted and lasted where the Slinkies would start fading after a couple weeks. I felt like I'd found the everlasting gobstopper of guitar strings! I could detune to D no problem, the tuning stayed true even with those green-key Klusons. Best of all, XLs were pretty much the same price as Slinkies, and everyplace stocked them. Where had these fantastic strings been all my life, I wondered. I sprang for a Jackson Soloist in 2010. This got me all posh-minded; I started buying 9-42 DR Hi-Beams strings, which were great, but harder to find and twice as expensive as XLs. Then I saw a 10-pack of XLs on sale for $25, jumped on it, and I quickly rediscovered that the XLs were every bit as good as the DRs for half the cost. Unfortunately, life reared its ugly head shortly afterward and I had to sell my gear. But when I got got back into playing again last year, that 5-year old 10-pack of XLs had six packs left, so I cracked a bag open. It was like they just came off the factory line, no tarnishing, same brilliant tone, and the first set lasted me 7 weeks. I flirted with the new NYXLs (8-38) for about six months and quality-wise they're everything great about XLs and then a little bit more, but they're also $12 a set. I'm back to 9-42 XLs and about one more string change away from ordering another 10-pack. The moral of the story is that if you like your tone bright and cutting, you just can't do better than D'Addario XLs without spending 2-3 times the money (on D'Addario NYXLs).