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Search for the ultimate non-round non-flat

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by markanini, Aug 21, 2011.

  1. markanini

    markanini

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    It's about time I post this.

    I was a flatwound user for 4 years until at one point I considered a more upfront sound would help me further develop my technique by the unavoidable scrutiny of hearing every little detail of my technique that flats tend to mask. And after all rounds are what the majority of pro's use.
    First set of rounds I tried were Warwick black label stainless. It took me days to get used to them and it was a quite miserable experience at times. Shortly thereafter put on a set GHS Pressurewound and found it an easier fit, I was starting to enjoy playing! I wasn't content though, clearly it's all a compromise and there might just be another string out there that caters better to my particular preferences. So I set out to try out every single flattened round I could find!

    More coming up...
  2. markanini

    markanini

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    Foreword.

    Before I go on to ranking and observations for each string I'll make it clear that this write-up will be somewhat subjective, somewhat biased around my own preferences. I'm doing it this way so a not to risk diluting some key differences between strings which might happen if I attempt to do it thesis-style. I will try state all unique characteristics of each string however.

    Also I'd like to write about some unique characteristics common to all flattened rounds which are rarely discussed. Most players have at one point or another been conscious about how they pluck the strings. How the position, angle and force of the attack effects the tone. Also whether the strike comes from the pads of tips of the fingers, whether the fingers are rigid and straight or loose and curled up and vice versa all have a tremendous effect on the tone produced. (It's all still an over-simplification, variations in plucking technique can described in more ways than would fit in a single paragraph.) Herein lies the key to one important difference between flats, rounds and in-betweens IME. Flats are fairly lax about how you pluck them, masking some variations in plucking technique due to damping of high end from a stiffer construction, though some extra harmonics can be produced by refining plucking technique. Rounds are extremely sensitive and can hit a wall as it were where trying to squeeze extra harmonics is accompanied by extra noise from the windings, often unintentionally where a soft note was intended. In such cases the Fletcher-Munson curves are at work with the high mids dominating the sweet lower-mids. Flattened rounds make it possible for a unique growl to be heard, unattainable with other string types!


    List of strings evaluated:
    Rotosound Solo 55 (SS)
    Alembic CX-3 (NPS)
    SIT Silencer (NPS)
    GHS Pressurewound (NI)
    D'addario Half-round (SS)
    Picato Half-round (SS)
    GHS Brite Flat (NI)
    LaBella Quarter-round (SS)
    Elites Groundwound (SS)
    Status Half-wound (SS)

    More coming up....
  3. markanini

    markanini

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    Rankings nomelecture
    Brightness: Amount of harmonics produced from low to high
    Smoothness: Smoothness to the touch from rough to smooth
    Balance: Consistency of harmonics produced string-to-string from poor to excellent
    Tension: Tension from low to high

    Materials
    SS: Stainless Steel, NPS: Nickel-plated Steel, NI: Nickel-Iron Alloy("Alloy52")

    Rotosound Solo 55 (SS 105-85-65-45)
    Extremly bright and lively with metallic grind. Still capable of a mellow tone through plucking technique. Quite rough to the touch.
    Brightness: 5 Smoothness:3 Balance:3 Tension:3

    Alembic CX-3 (NPS 105-85-65-45)
    Sonically like a good old NPS string. Bell like and sparkly. Somewhat static/rigid lows and mids.
    Brightness: 4.5 Smoothness:3.5 Balance:3.5 Tension:4

    SIT Silencer (NPS 105-85-65-45)
    Impressive string. Typical NPS sonics yet smooth as a flatwound.
    Brightness: 4 Smoothness:5 Balance:3 Tension:3

    GHS Pressurewound (NI 106-84-62-44)
    Mid-forward with fat lows. Well balanced.
    Brightness: 3.5 Smoothness:3.5 Balance:3.5 Tension:3.5

    D'addario Half-round (SS 105-85-70-50)
    Multi wire wrapped, ground outside wrap. Big, muscular lows, lively highs. No longer manufactured.
    Brightness: 3.5 Smoothness:3 Balance:3 Tension:4.5

    Picato Half-round (SS 105-85-65-45)
    Ground wound. Big and lively.
    Brightness: 3 Smoothness:3 Balance:2.5 Tension:4.5

    GHS Brite Flat (NI 108-84-62-49)
    Ground wound. Mid-forward with fat lows.
    Brightness: 3 Smoothness:2.5 Balance:3 Tension:5

    LaBella Quarter-round (SS 107-85-63-45)
    Multi wire wrapped, ground outside wrap. Mellow with some snap. Very uneven string-to-string, possible quality issues.
    Brightness: 2.5 Smoothness:3 Balance:2 Tension:4.5

    Elites Groundwound (SS 105-85-65-45)
    Big and mellow. Guy Pratt used them.
    Brightness: 2 Smoothness:3 Balance:3 Tension:5

    Status Half-wound (SS 105-85-65-45)
    Multi wire wrapped, ground outside wrap. Mellow with articulate highs.
    Brightness: 2 Smoothness:4 Balance:2.5 Tension:2.5

    Worth noting is that multi wire wrap strings have subdued mids with sweet upper-mids shining through compared to single wrap strings. Popular strings of this type are Thomastik-Infeld Jazz flats and LaBella DTB rounds.
  4. markanini

    markanini

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    I won't try to name a winner as it's a matter of subjective preference. Even if I wanted to do so my ideal string would be one that doesn't exist. In that case it would be Stainless or Alloy52 made with SIT's Silencer process with non-standard gauges for an optimal string-to-string balance.

    Also worth mentioning is that gauging is a combination of core and wrap diamters. Core-to-wrap ratio plays an important role in the performance of a string and unless you're able to work directly with a string manufacturer it's difficult to grasp it's implications. For the player these differences will have to be experienced between string brands. During these evaluation I had one such opportunity via Picato and Elites groundwounds due to their matching gauge, construction and materials. This told me a larger core increases bass and tension while a smaller core increases harmonics and flexibility. It also made me wonder how much more harmonics you'd get by reducing the core further...
  5. markanini

    markanini

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    All that text and no replies?! Where are the in-between string fans at? Anyway hope this helps someone contemplating pressure or groundwounds down the line...
  6. robertusf

    robertusf Supporting Member

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    I bought my jazz bass with dadarrio half rounds...I'm actually digging them so far. After these wear out, i may give half rounds another chance. I have always been a nickel or NPS round user.
  7. arsie

    arsie

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    I just went around to see some shops and none carry any half rounds or compressions.looks like my quest for the in-between strings will have to go to coated nickle rounds.
  8. fretlessguy

    fretlessguy

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    I've played most of those strings up there, and my fav is still GHS Pressurewounds due to the fact I like their feel and sound. The SIT Silencers overall had the best sound for my needs, but I wasn't happy with feel of the strings. Just had a "stickiness" to the I didn't like.
  9. markanini

    markanini

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    I've probably used GHS pressurewounds more than any other string combined so they must be my favorite as well. I had issues with the feel of The Silencers but didnt experiece any stickyness in my set. But it seems to be hit and miss in that regard from what I've read here. Maybe denatured alcohol could reduce the stickiness when you're unlucky?...
  10. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he looks Supporting Member

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    Your listing is impressive. :cool: I've played quite some strings as well. Of course the bass itself, the elements and playing style do contribute to the result. Worth while to mention:
    1) Fender 9050 flatwounds, made of stainless steel, sound pretty bright for a flatwound, feel a bit sticky and produce more tension than d'Addario flats in the same size. The tension is far from equal: the D-string feels notably stiffer than the rest.
    2) d'Addario flatwounds (chromes) produce a flat sound, with some highs in the beginning. After a while the highs vanish and (to my opinion) a very mature sound remains, quite equally spread over the strings.
    I also tried a set of Rotosound 66's. Within 24 hours I removed them from the bass. They felt sticky, had a very low output and slowed down my playing. :eyebrow: I suppose those strings and I aren't compatible. :D
  11. MisterFabulous

    MisterFabulous

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    Should be a sticky.

    I've got two basses with GHS Pressurewounds .102 - .044 on them now. I have little experience with strings, but these are 20+ year old basses and the fretboards have a lot o' miles on them. I like the combination of the (relative) brightness, the feel of Nickel plus the flattened roundness.

    I have a set of D'Addario Half-Rounds .100 - .045 and have tried them first on a fretted 1990 MIJ Jazz, then a 2002 MIM Fretless Jazz, then settled on my EBMM Sterling 4 H. The D string sounded a lot flatter than every other string on the Jazzes; haven't noticed the same on the Sterling. These started out a little sticky like new flats, but wear in after a few hours' playing.

    I've got Fender 9050 Flats .100 -.050 on the fretless and like 'em. They do really sound surprisingly bright to second Jay2U's comments. I took off the original .105 -.055 set because they dwarfed the Jazz neck imo.

    I am a fan of flattened rounds and will try out more of these that are listed when time and finances permit. I have a set of GHS Brite Flats and the wound portion go 1" past the tuner post on my basses.
  12. Toptube

    Toptube

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    Hmm, that's interesting that you would say all of that considering the smoothness rating you gave them.

    and when people say the Silencers feel "sticky" I don't think they mean actually sticky with goo that would otherwise dissolve in something after cleaning. They are just kind of grabby. They aren't fast strings. I've used several sets and only ever had one set that didn't exhibit this characteristic. It usually subdues as the gaps fill with skin and other junk from your hands, but it never goes away completely. They do sound great though, and I've always thought they had good string to string balance.
  13. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he looks Supporting Member

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    Many strings are kind of greasy. Just cleaning them with alcohol before installing removes most of it. You'll be amazed :eek: how much gray and black slurry comes off.
  14. berwick63

    berwick63

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    Just picked up a set of Ken Smith Slick Rounds and a set of Fodera Compressed round wounds. Only had them on for a few days.

    Ken Smiths: Very smooth feel-almost as smooth as Chromes/Labella Flatwounds.
    Fodera Compressed: Felt more like regular rounds to me. I could acually see the oval kind of wind in it. They sound really good though.

    Not too detailed of a description yet, only had a chance to play with them twice, and not with a band setting yet, so I can't give a full opinion. All in All, I'm sure I'll be trying another set of each in the future
  15. markanini

    markanini

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    Just put on the Silencers again. I now see what some mean by stickiness, it's like you're playing with talc powder on your hands. I works for me though kind of satisfying to get a good grip on the string and the minimal finger noise with untamed harmonics is unlike any other string. I could see the issue for a fretless player doing slides though. Jack Bruce must be using some kind of lubricant when he plays these...
  16. markanini

    markanini

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    BTW after trying both I concluded Ken Smith Compressors and GHS Pressurewound differ only in gauging.
  17. scotch

    scotch Will play bass for fish tacos. Plus cash. Supporting Member

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    Disclosures:
    Please see Profile for Endorsement disclosures
    D'Addario is still making them! They are now nickel-plated, however. DAddarioFretted Strings » Bass Strings » Half Rounds
  18. jmbjandfam

    jmbjandfam Supporting Member

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    I have these on all my basses:

    D'addario Half-round (SS 105-85-70-50)

    I didn't realize they were no longer manufacturing these as I've been buying them online with no problems finding them. :meh:
  19. jmbjandfam

    jmbjandfam Supporting Member

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  20. scotch

    scotch Will play bass for fish tacos. Plus cash. Supporting Member

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    Please see Profile for Endorsement disclosures
    They still make them. They have been nickel-plated steel instead of plain steel for a number of years however.

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