B Strings - Tales of Woe....and Surprise!
I'm new to the 5 string and have been testing out different B strings on my Squier VM Jazz V. That said, on 4 string basses I normally use DR Hi Beams of DR Fat Beams so I figured I would just get some 5 string sets of those and all would be well. Keep reading....
Here's some observations that I've made of the very limited amount of B strings that I've tried so far and I am shocked at what I hear:
1. Stock Fender Nickel B (I'm assuming it was a 130) - Fairly decent but quickly changed to DR Hi Beams after I bought the bass.
2. DR Hi Beams 125 - Very disappointing. Clear open note but pretty much an undefined mess from the 3rd fret up. I figured the round core and small gauge might be contributing to this so I tried...
3. DR Hi Beams 135 - Again, very disappointing (and I'm a complete DR fanboy for the 4 string sets). Undefined and not even as clear open as the 125.
4. D'Addario XL Nickel 130 - Fairly decent open to about the 5th fret. Much more pitch stable than the DR round cores.
5. D'Addario XL Nickel 135 - Now it's getting better. Much more definition but being used to the zing of stainless I decided to try...
6. D'Addario Prosteels 135 - Thinking ok, the Nickel D'Addario in this gauge was pretty good, these will just be a zingier version. Wrong. Very hollow sounding and not as much pitch definition as the nickel, but much better than any of the DR B strings I had tried. Being a DR fanboy, I decided to give them another shot with...
7. DR Fatbeams 125 - I know, 125 round core was probably going to be problematic and it was. A little more defined than the Hi Beams but still a mess, especially compared to the D'Addario XL Nickel. Thinking about that, I decided to try the XL nickel instead but in a bigger gauge.
8. D'Addario XL Nickel 145 Tapered - Good concept but to my ears the taper adds a lot of warbling in the upper registers. I set it up the way Roger Sadowsky would (taper B strings like to be one of the farthest forward bridge saddles). There was just too much taper in the speaking length of the string. Notes down low were good but not as good as the 135 D'Addario nickel. Now to the shocker...
9. Ernie Ball Nickel 135 - First a little back story. My son uses these on his Spector Legend (35" scale) because he is a very aggressive player who tunes as Low as A on occasion. He had an extra set laying around so I grabbed it and strung up. So far, this is the clearest and growliest B I have tried yet. Very pitch stable past the 12th fret and even though they are nickel, they sound very stainless like and aggressive.
So what have I learned?
Don't be a fanboy to a specific brand of strings because you may be limiting yourself. That said, I still have a 130 DR Fat Beams B string that I haven't tried yet but I don't think it will sound anywhere near as great as this Ernie Ball.
It's all about finding the right strings for the right bass!
Some other .135's you should try:
you can get them all as singles from www.bassstringsonline.com
Lemme throw Circle Ks into the mix. I initially tried them because the balanced tension was attractive--and other brands have since got onto the idea--but I've stayed with them because I very much like the tone, which equals the balance of the overtones.
And I have good results prolonging their life with the alcohol soak. I usually will get three passes on a set of strings (new, soaked once, soaked a second time) before I junk them.
I hear you with the DR B strings. I dig DR strings but for some reason their B is less than great.
I've been hunting for the perfect B string as well. So far, I've been impressed with Circle K (now called Kalium at Kaliumstrings.com). Give them a try.
I am a very big fan of Circle K Strings but I like them more for the F# strings.
A short list of my B-string experiences:
LaBella .128 nickel my favorite B-string I've every used but that longer taper might not work well on every bass.
D'Addario .145(non-tapered) sound was not bad but my right hand just hated that string.
Circle K .142 freakin monstrous tone and plays great.
Circle K .130 good all around not quite as complex of a tone as the LaBella .128
Circle K .118 pretty loose for a B-string but that's what I was going for but I just lost to much clarity with this one :hmm:
I've try many others most of which ended up in the never again category :scowl: worst every Naked Strings .125 (we need a smiley that's throwing up for times like this)
I find I'm much more picky with 5-string sets. I could throw some D'Addarios (nickel or steel) in any gauge ion a 4-string and be happy enough. It's that troublesome B string that's the problem. I've tried a few (D'Addario nickels, Dean Markley nickels, DR Hi Beams, SIT nickels, LaBella nickels) and the B has always been like it's from a different set. I think it's because the typical B is so much lower in tension than the rest of the set. That's why I've been happiest with Circle K (.136 B in a balanced tension set). I'd try other strings, but I'd be buying singles and matching the gauge of the B to the rest of the set.
I think design has more to do with it than tension, a stiff string is going to sound floppy unless it fairly tight.
As usual in these kind of threads I'll recommend newtone strings.
I've been using nothing but these for years now and am very hapy with them.
tried various gauges and types, none of which flopped.
A great company to deal with!
My VM V came with Fender® USA Bass 7350/5M Stainless Steel (.045, .065, .085, .105, .125 Gauges) Got it in mid dec. I noticed they weren't nps as the ball ends were bare brass and the color of the string was more silver (v/s blue) than the nps XL's I bought for it. I didn't care for the zing, and they had less magnetic pull than nps. Not enough fundamental.
I've been playin 5 an 6 string basses since 93 or so, maybe earlier. Whatever year Dream Theater's Awake record was released. Saw the video for Lie, an Myung's Tung 6, an hadda get one. Anyhow, for a long time I had issues with my B strings bein unbalanced, warbly, etc. I've tried every set out there. On every bass out there. They all had same, unstable issues. Well, since I was the one constant, and since it seemed many other pros were usin strings I couldn't an gettin great tones from all their B strings, I figured it hadda be me. And it was. Learnin tricks to installin B strings has made it so I can use any B string, have it not warble played past the fifth fret. In fact, I've had great success with all the strings you mention. I can play my B strings to the LAST fret wit sustain, intonate accurately to the 19th fret and get pretty balanced sound string to string, depending on the set. My main test basses over the years were a 95 Ken Smith CR 6, 2002 an 2010 American Deluxe Jazz basses, and many others. All scale lengths and price points. Get tips an hints on installation. I am not here to sell a certain brand or gauge. I've had success with ALL of them. I use D'addario Pro Steels as first choice, the most output per specific gauge, the most consistent set to set and the least setup work on string change. Plus, they last the longest and are WAY reasonably priced next to my second fave string, DR Fatbeams. The 125 B of the usual Fatbeam set is too small for me. Again, those are my faves, from my experience. I can get all B strings to sound an perform as well as my E an A strings. Takes a bit of care at installation, but it is possible.
Since putting Fodera 45130SS on my 5-string several years ago, I am totally afraid to try anything else because they sound so good on it
IMO taper core B string = tone definition.
I appreciate all the suggestions everyone!! Notice how on my original post I didn't discuss anything about the feel of the strings, just the sound? The best feeling IMHO of all of them are the DR Hi Beams. Maybe I'm spoiled by the round core? Anyway, these Ernie Balls are extremely stiff but sound the best so far.
I think the more flexible the B string the better it'll sound as long as it's got a reasonable amount of tension. I love Fodera's B strings.
I concur with the Ernie Ball nickel string, which is part of the Power Slinky set. I have yet to use anything that feels or sounds better and holds that tone as long.
I'm VERY interested in the Newtone strings mentioned earlier. If I can peek at the prices without installing Acrobat Reader on my MacBook, I'll pursue ordering a set (I have a feeling they are cheap).
Okay, so what are these installation tricks you mention?
From my own experience with B string chorus (warbly overtones), the best solution is to tune up to pitch, do all your standard gentle stretching to settle the string, tune back up to pitch and then, this is the important part, push down hard where the string passes over the nut and the bridge saddle to create a defined bend at those points. Also known as a witness point.
I recommend going to flats; since I went roto 77s, the increased tension tightened up the B. Also, it helps to have a cab tuned to around 30hz. Don't blame the strings if the cab can't handle those pesky low notes.
Lastly, I find the B string needs a different attack (either a good wack for brightness, or a gentle finger rub for the deep tight… I find I need to use a lot of left hand vibrato (you know kinda dig into the fret board and wiggle it a little bit)). :bassist:
Going through this issue myself over the years with at least 7 different basses, I found that the biggest effect on clarity, playability, etc. came with a LIGHTER gage. Once I started using a .120, the B sounded like it was actually attached to the same bass no matter which bass I tried it on. That said, I found that different string brand & bass combinations with heavier gages worked better than others, but the huge difference across the board was when I went lighter...
B Strings - Tales of Woe....and Surprise!
My go to strings are Dunlop, DR and Sadowsky. I have had great success the B on all of them. As mentioned earlier, minor set-up tweaks are usually required as you change brands and styles of string... Neck relief, string height, intonation, etc.
My 2 cents!
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