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A string story...Spiro mittels

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by MollyKay, Mar 25, 2009.


  1. MollyKay

    MollyKay

    Sep 10, 2006
    Southern PA
    Bass Hobby'ist
    Well after some string experimenting I can actually contribute something to this forum. :)

    The year long project of restoring our 1950 American Standard bass has finally culminated into a finished, playable bass that I really like thanks to some string experimenting.

    When the bass was mid-way completed we did a set up with Thomastik Dominant solo strings, which I like and have used before on a 43” string length. This string sounded good and played very easy on my 1935 King bass…so I thought we would repeat the set up on the AS…nope…the bass did not like these strings and neither did my ear. This was not a true and fair test for this string as the bass had other “issues” that needed resolved, but one of the deterrents was the string winding would not go into the peg box…the winding was sitting on the nut. This happened only on the E string and they were solo tuning…regardless…I did not like the sound of this strings on this bass.

    After the “issues” were repaired and the bass was 100% healthy we decided to try a full set of Velvet Garbo’s. I really like the feel of this string…they are easy to install, easy to play and the A and E were very powerful and loud (pizz is all I play). These strings on this bass had great sustain but I was unhappy with the G and D tone. The bass had…for a lack of a better word…too much of a boing-boing tone…mostly on the G string. So we decided to try gut strings on the G and D. I have a stash of vintage gut strings that are “new old stock”. I found a perfectly matched G and D “Art Tone” strings that still had the little gold sticker attached to them. I am not sure how old these strings are…but they are vintage for sure! I oiled the strings and wiped them down good. They were a bit crunchy and dry but came around with some TLC. We installed them, tuned and played, tuned and played…and tuned and played. I was amazed at how little difference there was between the Garbo G and D and the real gut G and D…Garbo’s really do have a gut like sound. I was impressed to hear the closeness in the tone between the two different types of strings…but this also meant my displeasure in the tone had not changed.

    We put the full set of Garbo’s back on the bass and went to a local jam. I allowed two other bass players (one called my bass “pinky” :mad: for the pinkish colored Garbo G strings…I didn’t like that too much) at the jam to play my bass while I stood back and listen to it. I like this bass…a lot…there is a whole bunch of effort put into this old beauty and I have very high expectations of how it should sound. This bass has volume and sustain no matter what string we put on it…it just did not have the tone…growl…knock your socks off sound that I was expecting from it.

    We let the bass “rest” a few days and we continued to think about what the next step should be…then it hit me…Thomastik Spiro mittels. Now I am not a fan of a Spiro mittels on a vintage bass. Many times these old basses were not built for the higher tension of a medium string. On my vintage Kay basses I use the Spiro weich’s and love the sound and feel…but I never tried the mittels. We discussed this option and knowing this bass is 100% healthy and in tip top shape with a new ebony fingerboard and solid neck re-set (we had this bass apart and know every nook and cranny…it is solid) we decided to try the mittels. We had a used set of the mittels from another bass and decided to try the used set before buying a new set. We install the strings late Monday night and as soon as we began to tune…WOW…:hyper:there was THAT sound I need to hear from this bass. The tone is now big, punchy, a ton of sustain, great volume and the boing-boing has been replaced with growl…I love it. I practiced scales last night and the bass is just a pleasure to play. It is now everything I wanted and expected to hear from a vintage American Standard.

    I must admit I now understand what string lust is :eyebrow:…I also understand that persistence and patience can be rewarded…handsomely. You all preach the values of the Spiro’s and how you return to this string again and again…I can now appreciate and understand that logic as well.

    This bass was first named “Wendell” by my husband. Mid-way through the restoration process it was re-named an S-O-B :p and rightfully so…it tested his patience and fortitude. Now that the string experiment is completed it has yet another name…The Teacher…because this bass, as trying as it was at times, has taught both of us a lot about vintage plywood basses. Repairs, strings, tone, persistence…it is all wrapped up in this bass. I am now eagerly looking forward to festival season and hearing it played outdoors in a jam session. I feel this bass can shake the leaves off the trees and make small animals cover their ears...cool. :cool::D:)
     
  2. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    Cool story. They are really hard to beat. That SOUND.
     
  3. AndreasH

    AndreasH

    Apr 8, 2005
    Sweden
    Those Artones are probably from the 50's. Vintage gut at its best:)

    I have Garbo E+A and Artone (Gold Label) D+G myself. Old-school sound. Sounds great. The Garbos do come close to gut! I'm glad to hear someone else than me who think so too. Altough, the bowing qualities of Garbo D+G isn't that good.

    Great story by the way. I hope those Mittels will keep making you happy about your sound!
     
  4. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Great story, Molly. It just goes to show, no matter how much experience (or research in place of experience) you have, it ultimately comes down to matching the string with the bass, with the setup, with the player. There is no one answer.

    I do think for pizzacato playing, gut strings and/or Spirocores should be your benchmark before you start venturing all over the string world, unless you just happen to have a walk-in closet devoted to strings that you already own, like I suspect that some of us do.

    Not to say that there aren't other great strings or even that there aren't better strings for a particular bass>setup>player combination, but if you don't start with Spirocores (or Guts if that's who you are) or ideally both, like you did, it's tough to say where to go from there.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Troy
     
  5. MR PC

    MR PC Banned

    Dec 1, 2007
    Molly, I've come to the same conclusion using the Mittels on my pre WWII AS (no outside linings). I'ts got the new ebony beveled for more width/profile and a reset neck, very solid bass.

    Yup, think 50's PC, Wilbur Ware, early LaFaro......no amp or close mic.
     
  6. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Maui
    Oops... PC, I completely agree... there's THAT sound, and it's irreplaceable. If I had the.... er....guts, I'd try that route.

    However, I was talking about that OTHER sound... Spiros.
     
  7. MR PC

    MR PC Banned

    Dec 1, 2007
    It's a mystery, but the Mittels sound really different on the old AS for some reason........more like the old gut strings than one might imagine. I was surprised when they turned out to work so well, even the tension feels much different......I thought the Mittels would be really stiff, but they aren't......more like solo gauge tension
     
  8. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I was playing last night on my weichs with a guest G string that I shant mention for the moment, but I was thinking how gutlike they were in the moment. I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that weichs or any other metal string sound like guts, but occasionally my ears to play tricks on me. I think it has something to do with how much bounce I'm getting at the moment. Very nice sound when it comes, though.
     
  9. Uncletoad

    Uncletoad

    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    I certainly earned that Merit Badge in my time with strings. I just had a similar experience today.

    My Cleveland New Standard had started to sound dead and lifeless. I thought perhaps because I was used to the AQ which is a very lively bass that I was seeing the limits of the plywood. Turns out it was just dead strings. I put on a full set of lightly used Spiro Mittels, no funny business, no Stark E, just like Arnold put on there when I bought it brand new and BOOOM.

    It's back!

    I'm sure he'll get a snigger in if he reads this.

    Have fun with that bass Molly. I hope I get to give it a spin some time.
     
  10. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    What were the strings that you were replacing and how long had they been on?

    That exact thing used to happen with me when I played Permanents, though it was about 6 months, sadly. I'd be happy, things going well, then I'd start wondering if my soundpost had moved or if I had lost something in my hands or if my ear had changed and now I just wanted something else, but being too busy for all that, I'd put a new set of Permanents on and WHAMMO! New bass, back in love again.

    I never noticed them dying, but it was really obvious when the new ones went on. Those are mostly good strings, but I couldn't live with the G's and did live with the D, though I didn't like it all that much until it was burned in. Then it was time to replace the set. Too often for me. Had I absolutely loved the set, I might have put up with 2 sets a year, but they weren't that perfect.

    If yours were Spirocores, then I'm curious how long it took to get there, certainly a lot longer than 6 months.
     
  11. Uncletoad

    Uncletoad

    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    Spiro Mit G/D/A, Stark E. I dunno how old they were, they'd been on and off a bunch. Maybe a year or so. I'm beginning to think I like them newer than I used to. That's partly why I started that other thread, to show myself how long I like them.

    I think I may need to replace E's and A's more often.
     
  12. Funny, I just put a new set on and I was prepared to endure the G & D sounding like silverware falling off the table for a week or two but for some reason these strings sounded really good right out of the box. Didn't stretch much and seemed very stable right off the bat. The upper register has so much clarity and sustain without that boingy new Spiro string sound. Have they changed something in the way they are making these strings?
     
  13. MollyKay

    MollyKay

    Sep 10, 2006
    Southern PA
    Bass Hobby'ist
    Thanks Troy...so far Gamut guts, Spiro weich adorn my other basses. It is good to know we are on the right track. We do have Garbo, Innovation Super Slivers and vintage guts in the string drawer...so we did not get to wild or far from the center.

    I was surprised as well. I was expecting much more tension from this string. My other AS bass has a full set of Gamut gut mediums (thanks Toad) and I like THAT string on THAT bass.

    You are welcome to spin any bass in our fleet...it would be our pleasure to hear them under your skilled hand. :)

    My strings are used and not new. I am not sure but these strings could be 10 years old or more. I am not in any big hurry to buy new ones right now. The only thing that has changed since I have been buying Spiro's is the price. In three years they have gone from $116, $124, $145, $154, to $170. Even at that price they are a good value. :D
     
  14. Molly, the spiros you have are better than the ones you can get today. This has been debated on here, maybe 3 years ago. T-I reps will tell you that the only thing that changed was the packaging, but I believe otherwise. Someone I trust tells me that they changed the source of the raw materials for the strings. This person has examined the inside of the strings, compared with the old ones, and has some kind of evidence to support this claim. All I know is that I like the way the old ones sound, feel, and last. Even once the new ones are broken in, they don't have the same punch, liveliness, or warmth. There seems to be some QC issues as well - some E's are DOA. I have about 4 of the old sets that I've already used but plan to keep recycling for as long as I can.

    Take it for what it's worth, IMO, IME, etc.
     
  15. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    A bunch of different circumstances have resulted in me also becoming a Spirocore Mittel user. I found a slighty used set for cheap about 2 months ago, put them on my Shen plywood bass and really liked the sound. Then I bought a Full Circle pickup for the bass and have been happy with the Spiro/Full Circle combo on live gigs, even bluegrass gigs. In addition, contrary to popular myth, I found the Spiros to be plenty bowable.

    Unfortunately, recent financial demands (including a big tax bill) have forced me to sell some of my gear, including one of my two uprights :crying:. So, I decided, f*#k it, I'm going to put aside the guts and Velvets for the time being and just use the one bass with Spirocores. In some ways I'm glad of it, because going back and forth, it worked against developing a consistant sound and touch.

    So I, longtime gut fiend, have also joined the ranks of the Spiro Mittelians!
     
  16. Uncletoad

    Uncletoad

    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    Yikes!
    F**king taxes. A man shouldn't have to sell his tools to pay for all this Bulls**t...

    Mitts and a Full Circle. I been preachin' that myself. In a room in a mess its a rock.

    But this..

    Gets right to the guts of it for me too.
     
  17. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    Thanks for your sympathy Toad. (BTW, I prefer "Chesterfield" to "Burger").

    The tax thing is pretty much my wife's and my own fault. As self employed people, you 've got to stay on top of paying estimates. We didn't pay enough this year and wound up owing. Also, we've got one kid in college and another entering college next year. If it weren't for those damn kids, you could have a lot more basses!

    I'm really not that upset. Like I said, focusing on one setup is good for me. Too much gear creates "option anxiety". I've bought plenty of gear in my time, and sometimes you just have to sell some. It's kind of like "Turn, Turn, Turn" :D

    I never liked using a Full Circle or Realist with guts -- too boomy. But they both sound good with steel strings. Also, my Shen plywood bass isn't real bright, so the Spiros aren't too whiney. I did get the bridge adjusted to raise up the G a little though. I've been using the Shen/Spiro Mittels/Full Circle/Shuttle 3.0 amp. I've done a bunch of gigs recently with a Bluegrass/Americana artist named Donna Ulisse, and everyone likes the sound. The DI sound from the amp is great!
     

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