Dark or Bright sounding strings ? wich brands ? how make the difference

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Mister Cbass, Jul 28, 2020.

  1. Mister Cbass

    Mister Cbass

    Jun 30, 2011

    Maybe it's probably noob (dumb) questions.
    But I've bought my DB used. No idea about the type of strings / brands on it .
    I've played it with these unknow strings few month, but I found them really hard to play.
    So I've changed for https://www.thomann.de/fr/presto_jazzicato.htm
    I'm happy with .
    When I bought the presto, I didn't considered the aspect dark or bright, I play fretless bass with nylon strings so I was go in the same way for the db.

    So, We can put the presto in the dark catergory ?
    Maybe there are some degrees ultra dark, dark, bright, ultra bright :)

    How could we know wich kind of strings will be dark or not ? ( if we don't have the possibility to test before a purchase)
    I've read that the obligato strings are quite dark . Material chrome steel...

    So It's not due to the "material " ?
    Presto jazzicato : nylon - Obligato chrome style ?

    The type of strings dark or bright must be used for specific situation ( ex : bright better for bowing, dark for pizzicato jazz ) or It's just a personnal taste ?

    In my case, I've love the presto strings, but I've found them a little too " dark / muddy, My next strings will probably " dark" but with more definition.
    So, not in nylon.
    Obligato ? others strings ?

    thanks for help
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    This is a crucial component of any bass setup. Since appreciation of a string’s sound is a subjective thing, it would be a good idea to find a few examples of recordings of bass sounds that resemble the direction you’d like to go, and then post them here. If you use YouTube links, people might be able to help you narrow down your search by both sight and sound. Good luck!
    BobDeRosa, Selim and Mister Cbass like this.
  3. dhergert

    dhergert Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2018
    Blue Zone, California
    Material does make a difference in brightness, but material is not the only thing that makes that difference.

    Especially if you need something easier on your hands though, you may want to reconsider synthetic or gut strings.

    Some of us here spend a lot of time studying and even trying a large variety of double bass strings and I'm sure you'll get a lot of good suggestions, but to start you out in your own research, I'd suggest looking at the Gollihur Music website string section. After a little time there you'll understand why DB strings are considered somewhat of a rabbit hole.
    kwd and Mister Cbass like this.
  4. Bonjour Cbass. :)
    I actually have the same strings on my bass, and love them.
    They have a warm tone, but still have nice higher harmonics, so I wouldn't call them dark, but rather warm.
    I find them very easy to play, so if you find them hard, then you may have a bad setup.
    Of course, technique is also important.
    Since how long do you have them?
    Did you bring it to a luthier for a setup?
    Can you post photos of the strings at the top nut?
    Shouldn't be more than one or two business cards height maximum there.
    How high is the action between the strings and fingerboard, toward its bottom?
    Selim likes this.
  5. Mister Cbass

    Mister Cbass

    Jun 30, 2011
    Bonjour françois, Cher cousin Québécois ( Je suis Wallon de Belgique, On parle le même vieux Français comme ils disent en France).

    I've found my first unknow strings really hard to play( I'm pretty sure Corelli ), The presto are really fine and easy to play. ( the setup was made by a luthier).

    The sound is good to me, better than the previous string, but... ( there is always a but...) sometimes I foud them not so clear, the notes lacks of " definition "" precision"..... maybe The issue is not the strings, but the player. :)

    I've listened a lot of video of youtube, and I've found two different types of strings really pleasant ( Of course the demo was done by great player, guys would sound good with aliexpress strings).
    - Kolstein heritage
    - Innovation supersilver.

    two different tones of course, but may I say kolstein = dark and supersilver = bright.

    Kolstein are not available in europe, Obligato could be a good alternative ? ( they are quite expensive)

    Merci pour les conseils !! :)
  6. Mister Cbass

    Mister Cbass

    Jun 30, 2011
    lol thanks I discover a new sentence / metaphor in English ( I will remember this one)
    rabbit hole - Dictionary.com
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  7. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    Spirocore Weich's... I'll show myself out ...
    abaguer and BobDeRosa like this.
  8. Yes, the Obligatos are similar to Heritages.
    Similar design with a perlon core and metal outer wrap.
    So are D'Addario Zyex, and would be cheaper I think.
    Mister Cbass likes this.
  9. Mister Cbass

    Mister Cbass

    Jun 30, 2011
    nice !!!
    Yes you're right, a bit less expenssive https://www.thomann.de/fr/daddario_dz610_3_4l_zyex_bass_3_4.htm

    Did you try those strings ?
  10. You have to set your bass up so it will be heard in the contexts you play in, not just to sound good in your living room. For jazz playing you want it a bit brighter than you like on its own. Also, you want to research how long strings last. Spriocores seem expensive, but they last nearly a decade. D'Addarios die very fast, less than a year - so they can ultimately cost 5 times and much as Sprios. Sprios are generally the best bet if you want to be heard.
  11. Yes, but I didn't like them much.
    I'm not a fan of too much buzz (growl) in the tone.
    I'm not too much a fan of Heritages and Obligatos for the same reason.
    Some people have suggested Spirocores.
    They're indeed the ones with the longest lifespan.
    But I'm not a fan of the tone either. Too much buzz.

    I'm afraid you may need to try a few sets to discover what you like or don't.
    Welcome in the rabbit hole! :)

    Check the Classifieds here, they're a great way to get strings at good prices.
    Mister Cbass and dhergert like this.
  12. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Plus, they feel and sound unpleasant during that year, IMO. There's just no meat there, so you try to dig harder, and it's still not there but now you put undue strain on your hands. No thanks!
    Mister Cbass and damonsmith like this.
  13. I'm I the only player on here who likes D'Addario Strings?

    Then again, the more experienced I've become the less picky I've been when it comes to strings. I used Spirocores for a long time but it wasn't necessarily because I liked them, it was because that's what people kept telling me I should be using. They're good strings, don't get me wrong, but for me they seem to last about as long as most other strings which is right around a year or so. I've used Helicore Hybrids off and on for years and have found they're pretty good, though I admit their name is deceptive. A friend of mine who hates Helicores has admitted on more than one occasion that he thinks they sound good on my bass.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2020
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  14. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Nashville TN
    i've met 3 basses that sound WONDERFUL with helicore hybrids. where spiro medium and lights sound dead and hollow these have punch and clarity and a full sound. but on other basses they sound horrible. not helped by the price point makes them great to be thrown on any old bass that hasn't had a setup yet...
    PBandJazzBass likes this.
  15. AGCurry

    AGCurry Supporting Member

    Jun 29, 2005
    St. Louis
    Sam, there you go, throwing strings again...
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  16. I think most folks will agree that spiros are the standard by which all other steel strings are measured. That said, my experience with helicore hybrids has been quite different from Damon's or Chris'. I've played (and owned) a bunch of basses that sounded great with them. For me, they've lasted a good long time (years for sure) without issue. I know D'addario had some quality control issues for a while and I think they reformulated these strings a few years after their initial introduction, but I think they are an excellent choice for someone who wants a slightly darker, spiro-like sound. Of course, every bass is different so the instrument's character has to be taken into account too.
  17. Reiska


    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    Welcome to the dark side, Mister Cbass! If you`re after clarity and definition, then Spirocores of chosen gauge are your best bet IMO, if your bass doesn`t hate them. If my memory serves, Obligatos are great sounding in the living room, but sort of disappear in the mix. Another synthetic core option from Pirastro is Evah Pirazzi weich, they`re maybe a tad darker than Obligatos when played in, but I think they`re a good compromise between gut string low end presence and steel clarity, playability and sustain. Basses, setups and players are different, but I`ve had no problem hearing myself, or beeing heard acoustically in the mix with EP weichs, set a tad higher than average medium on my big but light carved bass.

    And about them expensive prices, IMO that`s the deal with the DB. Luckily there`s a market for used strings if you search a bit.
  18. Obligato are not that bad, but they have a rather limited lifespan and at least some years ago the lower strings have some unpleasant rolling (winding rotating around the core). But that might have been solved.

    Coming from the BG you need to train your hand a lot more and a good setup (go to a luthier, if it is good he does not do anything and if it is bad the money is well spent) will save a lot of potential problems playing that thing.

    DB string are very (!) different from BG strings. Construction and material (inner and outer) are important, tension is important playability with the bow is important.
    An outer synthetic winding is almost impossible to bow. The best of them have a rough outer surface.
    The core takes the whole tension so material, construction (solid, rope or braided) and diameter is important.
    Naked gut (not easy to bow for a beginner) and monofiber nylon (impossible to bow) are core only strings. Any other strings have one or more layers of windings of different materials and construction (round or flat wire).

    Solid steel core is very Hard, almost nobody plays these nowadays. Rope and braided steel core is more elastic (remember that you elongate the string by pressing them on the fingerboard or plucking them).
    Gut and synthetic core strings from Innovation have a higher stretch but not too much. I would recommend Silver or Golden Slaps over Super Silvers, less tension (similar to gut), easy to play.

    For a bit more brightness, metal wound synthetic core strings work well.
    In General: more tension on the same type of strings Gets a riggtet sound (and vice versa).
    Some people use Solo strings (intended to be played a whole tone higher and tune them down to orchestral tuning.
    Some strings are available as light/Weich which is like tuning down by a halftone but the correct pitch. This is between medium/Mittel orchestral and downtuned Solo strings. Often Spirocore Solo strings are used downtuned.

    For Spirocore and Superflexible the construction of 3/4 and 4/4 strings is different. 4/4 strings have less tension on the same scale as 3/4 strings and are common in the US but less in Europe (you need to make clear that you want to get the 4/4 version which might need to be ordered).

    To start I would recommend Silver Slaps for pizz only, Innovation Polychromes, Innovation Braided or Spirocore 4/4 Solo or Weich if you ever want to use the bow (even if only for practicing).
    brightness is rising and tension as well (with the exception of the downtuned Spiros which might be similar to the tension of Polychromes).

    BTW, Innovation Honeys are dark, similar to the Jazzicato, you won‘t like them.

    You will not find every string there, but have a look at my DropBox (link in signature or string sticky) at the excel file for string tensions.

    One more thing:
    Since the synthetic has a lower density than metal, synthetic wound or/and synthetic core strings have a higher diameter (if they have a similar tension). Mostly noticeable at the higher strings. They are easier to press down for the left hand than full steel strings because they stretch easier and the contact area with the downpressing finger is higher.
    On the other hand most synthetic core string have a nylon/Perlon or PEEK core which stretches a lot. Easy to play but if you pluck a bit harder you will detect a volume limit that you won‘t get over with a harder plucking. That‘s one reason why I like then Innovation strings. They use a different type of core that does not have this limit.

    At the end you have to try, but a teacher can help you a lot to find your way at the beginning. The BG way of plucking or rather touching does not work on a DB.
  19. sean_on_bass


    Dec 29, 2005
    I think D'Addario are good strings in general. I personally liked the Zyex more than Helicore, but i played quite a bit on the Helicore regardless. Both sets had a shelf life but were good until they finally couldn't produce sound as well anymore which was somewhere in the 1-1.5 year area for both sets. I doubt i will ever revisit Helicores but i have definitely thought about getting a Zyex set again. I have Spirocores right now and they definitely last much longer, but of course cost more. The tone of the Spirocores is also brighter with more of a mid range bump, thus cuts through a band better IMO.
    PBandJazzBass likes this.
  20. Sam Dingle

    Sam Dingle Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2011
    Nashville TN
    Talked to Luques Curtis a few days ago about strings and he says the Zyex on his bass have been on for at least 5 years probably more.