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balanced tension sets in 2013

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by markanini, Feb 24, 2013.

  1. markanini


    Jun 25, 2008
    Seems all we have right now is Cickle K and a few Daddario sets. No other manufacturers publish tension data. Anything I've missed?
  2. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    I am not sure demand in the non-TalkBass world is huge yet.

    You get the argument that we never knew better. While I think some types of sets, like 45-65-80-100, do not feel good to me I also get along fine with a plain old 45-65-85-105 set.

    I've said it before:Without D'Addarios data very few folks ever would've wondered about it, based solely on how their basses feeled and sounded, and ignorance was bliss.

    While I amsure the balanced sets feel good, the cynic in me thinks had they never published data, D'Addario would not now be intorducing these special sets.

    Who is to say that DR or GHs or La Bella etc. don't already make more balanced sets than D'Addario's standard sets by using different core to wrap ratios?

    I am interested to see where the market goes, as it is just as much a market phenomenon as technical revolution.
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  4. newbold


    Sep 21, 2008
    I can really only speak to the difference in string tension with Acoustic Guitar.

    Going from Bluegrass to John Pearse's 'new standard tuning' sets and then going back, I found my instrument to respond entirely differently and do different things altogether.

    Simply incredible - what a change in tension - can do.
  5. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    Did you tune the New Standard sets to fifths or keep to standard tuning. I have to ask because many folks seem to have used the sets notmknowing they were optimized for fifths tuning.
  6. madbassplaya


    Dec 28, 2007
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I totally love the D'addario balanced tension set. I like them a lot better than the old sets.
  8. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
  9. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    Sometimes ignorance is bliss and sometimes it is just ignorance. Bass guitar string sets don't seem to have been defined according to any particular guiding principle. If you are going to obsess over the setup of your bass and the brand and type of strings you use then why would you not also set the string tensions according to some plan? String "tension" and feel is one of the most common complaints/questions here in the strings section of TB and from that we can assume that many bass players are not happy with what they have. Plus, those of us who use non-standard tunings consider tension data to be a gift from heaven. Without it, we have no way to define a starting point for building a good set of strings for what we do. We also owe a deep debt of gratitude to string retailers and string manufacturers who will sell us individual strings and custom sets. It is a great time in history to be a bass guitar player and if you want to experiment with string tension for any reason tension data and individual string sales contribute immensely to how great a time it is!

  10. Jaco Taco

    Jaco Taco

    Jul 30, 2012
    Just do what I do, go to bassstringsonline.com and make your own balanced tension sets from the single strings of your favorite brand!
  11. While they don't publish tension charts, La Bella claims that their string sets have been "Perfectly Balanced" for something like 25 years.
  12. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    I tried a balanced tension set and I'm not a fan.
    There is sense soundwise in having tight higher strings and looser lower strings.
    A B that feels loose will often sound deep and punchy.
  13. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    Since we don't know the tensions we have no way to know what they mean by that. Or if it means anything at all! If you use the D'Addario Chromes data on the LaBella flatwound standard and light sets you get 41.5/50.2/52.0/45.7 lbs and 22.17/28.89/36.60/47.37 lbs respectively. I would not call either one balanced and if you do call one perfectly balanced the other obviously is not. It is not entirely accurate to use another maker's data to calculate tensions but physics does demand that similarly made strings be similar in weight and until everyone supplies the data it is all we can do.

    I can well believe that some people would like one arrangement of string tensions and others would like other arrangements. But when you look at numbers like the ones above you see that current string sets appear to have been assembled randomly. Tension is yet another tool you could use to optimize the feel and playability of your bass to match your style of playing. But without tension data and individual string sales it is a potential that goes unrealized. I treasure the manufacturers and retailers who serve those of us who want to put some thought into this aspect of guitar setup.

  14. Randyt

    Randyt RAAPT Custom Wood Productions Supporting Member

    Jul 21, 2010
    Barrie, Canada
    I havent played many "claimed" balanced sets...the only success story of balanced strings is Circle K strings for me, I highly recommend them!!!!...only down side to these strings, are they recommend that you DO NOT string through body!!!....so there goes my AC6..but I have them on my other basses...
  15. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    To play devil's advocate, if La Bella used different core to wrap ratios than D'Addario their string tensions could be much dirfferent.

    Also bear in mind, a thicker string tends to feel stiffer than a thinner string of like construction even if tension is the same because it is less flexible. Flexibility and tension both contribute to how we feel the strings but we only get a measurement on the tension. It is entirely possible that strings of different tension in a set will feel more aloke than their tension numbers suggest.

    Just sayin'. I don't have the answers. But from a pure measurement standpoint the linear tension data is not the only thing that contributes to perceived tension.

    Look at hex-core vs round-core. Now a .080 of each from the same maker might have pretty close tension numbers but the round-core, being more flexible, feels quite a bit less "tense" to most players. Tension does not describe flexibility.

    If we only had one type of string, and all used the same core to wrap ratios, tension data alone would be more useful.
  16. One of my observations based on the countless discussions I've read on "string tension" is that the term "tension" is often used to mean "stiffness". For example, when we say "flats have more tension than rounds", what we really mean is "flats feel stiffer, ie less flexible, than rounds".

    FourBanger has a valid point in that "tension" (linear pulling force measured in lb./kg) and "stiffness" (how they feel when plucked) are two different factors that both contribute to the way different strings actually feel under our fingers.
  17. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    Yes, they could be different, which is why we would like to have tension data. Or weight data from other users. The ratio of air to metal in various strings does vary somewhat. You would expect it to vary less among strings of similar construction, flatwounds for example. But then Thomastik-Infield puts in a low density layer of silk so you cannot be absolutely sure. In the absence of real data any good scientist or engineer with make informed guesses based on what is known because they lead to testable predictions that can push the darkness a little farther out. The best situation is when the manufacturer just offers to turn on the room lights for you, but in the mean time you do what you can.

    Yes there are many factors which contribute to how a string feels and plays and some of them are the style of the player. A whole lot of people on TB who blather on about "tension" are speaking to the whole melange of factors and their personal reactions to them. I have yet to hear someone say they have actually measured tension. Only those who have made the calculations really know what the tensions they use are. However, because there are so many factors that affect the final perception of how well a string plays it is all the more important to control for those that are easily quantified. It takes little skill, training, or money for a string manufacturer to make and publish an accurate weight and length measurement for each of their strings and that is all we need to calculate the tensions. Knowing your tensions is the first step in understanding how all those other factors contribute to the final result. Without the tensions you have an even bigger pile of contributing factors and no hope of sorting them out.

  18. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    Devil's advocate again: only knowing tension numbers might be a start, but could as easily lead further away from balanced feel or tone.

    We know those numbers don't tell the whole story that our fingers feel, and certainly won't tell us how the strings will sound together.

    Here's a hypothetical question though based in what we suspect about our strings:
    Would you prefer a set where tension numbers varied by no more than 2lbs but strings had a perceptible difference in feel or a set where tension numbers varied by 8lbs but variances in perception of flexibility were negligible string to string?
  19. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    I made this a separate reply because it is separate from the above discussion.

    If you read the copy put out about balanced tension sets it seems they never say they are better or an improvement other than they address a consumer desire to have balanced tension, which is a part of the overall playing dynamic.

    Technological advancement? Jury is out.
    Response to demand? Seems so.

    Cynic over, there is always more to learn.
  20. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    This is the sort of thing the Devil would say! Knowledge never leads you farther from the truth.

    If you tune in standard tunings and are happy with one set of strings or another then you should just ignore all the tension talk, buy what you like, and live happily ever after. It is as easy as that.

    If you don't like any of the string sets you have tried then you may be in for a lot of experimenting to build a custom set that you love. Knowing your string by string tension lets you try different patterns and determine which one feels best for you with strings that you already like for other reasons. If you stick to a single type of strings that are promising then tension is the only variable left and knowing it is the key to arriving at your personal optimum.

    If you use a non standard tuning then where else can you begin? You know you want to keep the total tension on the neck similar to the factory supplied strings to avoid any neck problems. You know that you want to keep the string to string tension variation within limits even if you don't know what tension you might want to set each string at. The only way you can begin to do all that is to sit down and calculate the tensions.

    Not everyone likes stainless roundwounds, not everyone likes balanced tension string sets. But those who know what tension level and tension arrangement they prefer have a leg up on those who do not when they want to try a different type of string. They can start with what has worked best for them in the past and build on that.

  21. FourBanger


    Sep 2, 2012
    SE Como
    The best part is that we both are right!

    Still, the state of balanced tension strings in 2013 seems to be demand driven by a market where many can't differentiate tension from flexibility, because the customer is always right.

    Technically I could put a .105 steel rod on my bass, just set it there from nut to bridge really, and it would be a very low (zero if is just sitting there) tension string, but I wonder how comfortable it would be to fret...