STRING SHOOTOUT!!!

Above being a bassist, I like to consider myself a scientist. Nothing brings me more joy then experimenting and hypothesizing, especially when it comes to bass gear and tone. It’s late on a Tues. night, technically Wed. morning. Gigless this evening I realized I have tried a LOT of different strings in my bass playing career, and most of them have been within the last 3 years. I recalled how helpful I found a talkbass buddy’s 2×10 cab shootout and I figured what the hell. So I’l brake it into two categories: roundwounds and flatwounds. I’ll also put the type of bass, the guage, tension, etc. And of course as I try new strings I’ll update the shootout accordingly. Hope this saves you time and $!

Roundwounds:

Alleva-Coppolo nickels (45-130)- I am currently using these strings on my Alleva-Coppolo RA5. At first I was ok with the feel of the string, a little rough for a nickel but I could deal, but they just felt strange and very tight. Almost like I had to fight the strings. I realized it needed more tension in the truss and BAM these strings totally came alive and the tension is perfect now. About a week in that zing is slowly dying and they’re sounding very even and fat in the mix. Great for slapping too.

DR Marcus Miller Fatbeams (45-105)- These were my go to strings for years when I played a ‘98 Fender ‘75 reissue Jazz Bass with EMG pickups and an Alleva-Coppolo 2-band pre. When i worked at Sam Ash in Florida for a minute, these were the only strings I would recommend and I’d have customers coming back telling me how I changed their lives with these strings! I believe they’re hex cores wrapped in stainless steel, which is not my deal anymore but for SS, they’re the smoothest and warmest I’ve ever played. Under the burp and punch is this FAT growl that really fills a mix very well. Not to mention they lasted about 6 months for me before becoming too dead. The tension is a little tighter than I like now-a-days, but it’s a slapper’s wet dream.

DR Sunbeams (40-100)- My favorite roundwound. These are round cores wrapped in nickel and they are the warmest, most organic sounding rounds I’ve ever heard. After the initial break in period and the strings lose that zing, they become super smooth to the touch and get even fatter sounding. The tension is just right and the bass just becomes effortless to play. I’ve moved on to other strings only to see what else is out there but when it comes to nickel rounds these are pretty much the bar.

DR High Beams (45-125)- Round cores wrapped in SS. I tried these on my RA5 and it’s possible they were just too high in tension and my truss needed a turn, so I didn’t get the full deal with these strings. But I remember them feeling rather course, and they were VERY bright. I’d love to give them another go but I feel like they may not be for me.

Black Diamond nickels (40-120)- I love these strings. When my RA5 arrived from it’s previous owner, it was sporting these really dead Black Diamonds. The tension is extremely light and their tone is unbelievably warm. Even years old, they still had some punch left in them and didn’t sound half bad slapped at church. I intend on purchasing a fresh set in the near future for further experimentation.

Fodera Victor Wooten Signature (40-95)- I believe these are SS on a hex core. They are thin, low tension, pretty smooth, and SUPER punchy. Slapping with these almost MAKES you play like Wooten! You can’t help but just beat these strings up, but I found they often didn’t work well in a mix, but were much better at home.

Fodera Anthony Jackson Signature (28-125)- I saw these online and thought they looked interesting, boasting something about an exposed SS round core something or other. They were pretty expensive and I wasn’t even using the C string since I only have 5 strings. Utterly disappointing. First of all, the exposed core thing just means they’re tapered at the ball end so your action is automatically SUPER low which requires a whole different setup on your bass. They didn’t feel smooth at all like they advertised and the tone felt choked and muffled. Weird.

Flatwounds:

D’Addario Chromes (45-105)- Great comfortable tension, not too little, not too much, and a great smooth feel. The tone is super full and round and this was one of my first introductions into the world of flats since it’s all guitar center had back in the day (not sure if that’s changed or not though). My only gripe was the strings didn’t really feel consistent from the G to the B. The E felt VERY fat and out of place and the D felt weird too. I used them on my fretless ‘69 P-bass for almost a year and a half and cut one of the best sounding recordings I’ve ever done with them on my fretted ‘75 Jazz reissue.

La Bella Deep Talkin’ Flatwounds 760FS (45-105)- Classic motown thump. The tension is much tighter than the TIs and makes you work a little harder but the tone definitely makes up for it. I’ve heard lots of complaints about strings breaking out of the package but I’ve bought them 3 times and they’ve been nothing but solid. A classic that you can’t go wrong with.

La Bella Deep Talkin’ Flatwounds 760M5 1954 Oldies “Jamerson Set” (52-128)- The classic of the classic. The EXACT set that Jamerson and Duck Dunn used on all those motown/stax/detroit recordings throughout the 60s and 70s. On an old P-bass through an old B-15, you’ve got the sound. But MAN, these strings are so fat and so high tension, I decided to stop mid installation. My buddy put them on his bass and I got to try them that way. They are also VERY bright out of the package, but once they die it’s thump city all the way!

La Bella Deep Talkin’ Tapewounds (60-128)- SS core wrapped in some kind of black nylon. The strings are so fat, I couldn’t even get them to fully fit in the nut slots on ANY of my basses. They fit best on my ‘69 fretless and while they felt like plastic toy strings, they sounded pretty dark and barky with a clear high end and blooming warm low end.

Pyramid Golds (40-105)- These strings came recommended by Jimmy Coppolo as the best flats out there. Nice even tension and by FAR the smoothest string I have ever touched. Just looking at the elegant wrapping job and purple silk you can only think, “wow, this is a gorgeously crafted string”. I threw them on my ‘69 fretted precision, then my ‘69 fretless precision, and ultimately gave them to a friend. They certainly had that classic thump but were a little too muddy to me. The E was also WAY too fat compared to the rest of the set and it made it very awkward. Maybe the 40-100 set isn’t as bad. I could see rocking the short scale version of these on a Hofner or Fender Jaguar Bass but not my thing.

Sadowsky (40-100)- SS wrap on a hex core. I wanted to try the hype that is Sadowsky. I visited the shop back in ‘06 and was not impressed with the feel of Roger’s basses, but thought I’d give his strings a shot. The tension is rather low which I like with flats but they are insanely bright. I could literally slap with these strings they were so bright. And they just WOULDN’T DIE!!! If that’s your thing, these are your strings!

Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Flats (43-136)- MY ALL TIME FAVORITE STRING. Perfectly balanced, perfectly smooth, tension so low you have to adjust your entire style of attack, and tone to die for. Imagine an upright bass with a little more mids and tight, FAT lows. At one point, I had TI flats on all 4 of my basses. yeah. Not to mention they make the BEST upright bass strings, Bel Cantos. The ultimate string for hip-hop, P-basses, and recordings using fliptops or tubes in general. I had a set on my ‘69 fretted P-bass for over 10 years until one day the G just unravelled! As they die they just get thumpier and thumpier but eventually they become sort of one trick ponies only being able to deliver that unmatched motown thump but it’s a trick no bass player should be without. Now only my Alleva-Coppolo KBP5 has them on, but it’s also my best sounding bass!

6 Responses to “STRING SHOOTOUT!!!”

  1. Paul says:

    Your first comment on the Coppolo Nickels doesn’t make sense to me. You said the tension was too high so you tightened your truss rod? Wouldn’t that give them more tension?

    This is what I’ve tried so far… all medium gauge unless stated otherwise.

    MTD medium round wounds came on the bass, they seem to suit tension wise and were ok
    Next set I tried was D’Addario Steels didn’t like them so gave 1 set away (I bought two) but they have settled in and are ok.
    If I could only afford cheapies these will do the job.

    Sunbeams are on my fretless, these strings are great just as you described, I want to try some TI flats next.

    DR Hi beams on my Fender J77 (Marcus miller sig) they sound great but the G string tension is too much, tried loosening and tightening the truss, nah still tight as, it could be the set.

    Lakland strings came on my Lak, just like the MTD they suit this bass but I wanted to try others, put on a set of DR Black Beauties, wow I really like these, they seem thinner than other mediums. They are somewhere between Steels & Nickels, they feel like nickels too and are light to touch and easy to slap and bend. I think the heavies will have more body.

    Cheers

  2. Mitch says:

    hey Paul,

    what I meant was, there was too much relief in the neck so after putting on the AC nickels, the action became difficult to deal with because the strings were now pulling the neck forward more drastically than the less tension Black Diamond nickels I had on before. So by tightening the truss and forcing the neck to become straighter, the strings now get pulled closer to the board allowing the tension to chill out a bit and make the bass a little easier to play.

    I’ve come to the realization that most 40-120 roundwound sets seem to fit the right tension for my playing style. Other 45-130 such as the ACs are just a little too “tight” for my liking. Never tried MTD, Lakland, or black beauties!

  3. Paul says:

    Ok I see now, I think I need my tech to look at my Fender neck it seems a little unstable I can’t get it right, either too much tension with upper note fret buzz or to get rid of that I get too much relief. It might need a fret level check, just thinking. Perhaps I’m expecting too much from a production bass. I bought it 2nd hand pretty cheap.

    My Lakland on the other hand is so sturdy and so playable the neck is so well made, same with the Tobias, both make excellent necks but their bottom of the range basses do lack good tonal options.

    It just makes me wanna pull out my credit card and go all out for a decent bass. The Sadowsky Metro I’ve heard good things about.

    The Black Beauties are great- you might like them!

  4. Mitch says:

    if the frets are buzzing in the higher register, IME, the truss needs to be tightened and the bridge saddles most likely need to come up….fret buzz up high is usually caused by TOO MUCH relief in the neck….

    I am NOT a fan of Sadowsky at all. I’ve tried 6 in my lifetime, some NYC models, some Metros, and they ALL felt stiff to me and the preamps are just way too hot and sizzly for my playing style. It was like no matter what I did I just couldn’t get that bright metal clanky sound out. Jimmy Coppolo is now making a passive P or J with no paint on it for $2500….you should totally look into it….it’ll make you think twice about those laklands too!

  5. Robin Ruscio says:

    Any updates since 2011? What are you using now?

  6. Mitch says:

    Robin! I’ve got LaBella Rx nickels on my Fodera Presentation 6s and Morrow 5, and Pyramid Gold flats on my vintage axes (Penco Jazz Bass, Kingston Viola Bass, and Hofner T-21). The Rx nickels feel and sound incredible, and the .118 B string has changed so much of my playing for the better, it’s crazy. If you haven’t tried them, you must. I eventually grew tired of the super low tension of the TI flats, but I suspect I’ll come crawling back at some point. The short scale Pyramids are killin it on the hofner, and the tension of the long scales are perfect for my playing, at the moment!

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