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DR Sunbeams vs. DR Legend Flatwounds

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Mystic Michael, Jun 1, 2014.


  1. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Looks like I'll finally be getting a long-delayed project up and going soon. The concept is a hybrid of ambient/electronic, world music and free jazz, in a modern/progressive rock format. Drum kit, bass, guitar, and keyboards.

    As such, there's a very particular sound required from the bass: warm, phat, very deep and powerful - but also clear, balanced and articulate. Lots of fundamental - but none of that "thud" or "thump" stuff. This isn't Motown. I'm looking for smooth sustain - and lots of it. A hi-fi reggae tone - combined with the deep, powerful electronic throb of Aphex Twin, The Orb, or Future Sound of London. Capiche?

    My instruments of choice are two Carvin Icon five-strings - one fretted, one fretless. Retrofitted with SGD wide-aperture Neo humbuckers, and 18-volt Audere Pro-Z onboard preamps. But what to do for strings?

    I'm a DR guy. So I'd like to stick with DRs, unless/until it turns out that I can't get what I need from them. For this project I've got it narrowed down to either Legend Flatwounds or Sunbeams. Can't tell which way to go.

    Caveat: I've played roundwounds ever since I got started. Have tried flatwounds a couple of times, and didn't care for their relative dullness and deadness. But that was years ago. Presumably the state of the art has advanced somewhat - and my taste has evolved.

    That said, who among us here has experience with both DR Sunbeams and DR Legends? Or can at least offer me a well-informed speculation as to how well each one might suit my requirements for this project?

    Anybody?

    MM
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2014
  2. Bassist4Eris

    Bassist4Eris Frat-Pack Sympathizer

    I am a Carvin man (LB76W) and a user of the Sunbeams on that bass and several others that I own. Sunbeams are by far my favorite roundwound. I'm not sure they're the right string for you, though.

    One of my other basses is a Ric 4003, and I was using Sunbeams on that, but recently decided to go for a more vintage tone with that particular axe. However, like you, I still wanted articulation, and I still wanted sustain. Believing the marketing, I decided to try the DR Legends. Big mistake. They were one of the most dull and lifeless flats I've tried, and I've tried a few. My P-bass has 2-year old Labella flats on it, and they have more articulation and top end than the brand-new Legends. The E string was especially dead-sounding, enough that I wondered if it might have been defective. But the rest of the set wasn't much better. I took them off almost immediately. Currently I have that bass strung with Rotosound Jazz flats. I know they're not DR, but they've got a sound that I believe is much closer to what you're looking for. They are, however, rather notoriously stiff and high-tension, so be prepared for that. Since you're a DR roundwound man, I'll put it like this: they're more like the low riders, and less like the high beams.

    Sunbeams...well, I love them, but, again, the marketing doesn't really match the reality. Yes, they are warmer than your average roundwound, and they will certainly deliver the bottom, but they still have plenty of zing (I even like them for slapping). So, to be honest, I'm not sure you're going to get what you want out of these strings either.

    If the tension of the Rotos does not sound appealing to you, then you might consider the TI's. They're expensive, but I believe they'll deliver what you want.
     
  3. I've read that DR Legends are re-branded – or at least very similar to – GHS flats; if true, that would put them well into the thuddiest and thumpiest end of the spectrum. Sadowsky Black Labels might be more your speed if you were to go flatwound.

    Of the two you listed, I'd go with the Sunbeams.
     
  4. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    I've certainly considered the TI Jazz Flats, B4E. The cost is a factor, but not insurmountable by any means. If they'll truly deliver the goods, then they're worth the investment, even at twice the price. I might just have to take a leap of faith here.

    The Rotosound Jazz Flats are out of the question. For this application, the stiff, high-tension feel is a deal-breaker. If I was shopping for a set of flatwounds for rocking out on a P bass, then it'd be the Roto 77s, or a set of Chromes. Not applicable here.

    MM
     
  5. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    From what I understand, you can't get Sadowsky strings with a non-tapered "B" string. So those are out. I once had a bad experience with a set of GHS Progressives (four-string set with tapered "E" string). I couldn't get the AD&G strings to intonate with the tapered "E"! Very frustrating. I eventually had to throw them out. Never again.

    MM
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
  6. McFarlin

    McFarlin Supporting Member

    Oct 27, 2011
    Austin, TX
    I used Sunbeams from about Fall 2010 to the beginning of this year, switched to the nickel Lo-Rider for a few months, and started using the DR flats a weeks ago.

    I use these on a semi-hollow mahogany Yancey bass with switchable single/dual coil pickups. For the last couple of years I used a Walkabout through various cabs (Berg HS210, Genz neo. 212, recently a Baer ML112).

    The Sunbeams are my favorite strings of the three. They are warm, flexible, and feel smooth under fingertips. I felt capable of more expressive playing with the Sunbeams, maybe due to the lower tension. Also, the midrange and harmonic content (?) really stands out with the semi-hollow, and I was always able to get a thick/warm grind with aggressive playing (mostly dual-coil neck p/u, active, mid knob rolled-in a bit). Easy favorite for chords and double stops, and best sounding with fuzz. I used them on my Squier V.M. Jazz but the tension was a bit too low (even with high action). I will agree with the above comment about the "zing". Not a lot (and not a problem on the Squier), but maybe not right for your stated goal.

    I switched to the nickel Lo-Rider for higher tension. My most active project requires a lot more palm-mute picking and it just worked better with a slightly stiffer string (still mostly neck p/u, but set passive). And I like being able to play faster, more precise staccato but miss the flexibility and warmth of the Sunbeam (especially with free improvised work). I think the nickel Lo-Rider has slightly more of that "zing", or "clinical" vibe than the Sunbeam, even after a few months. I like them aged.
    That's part of why I switched to the DR flatwound. I wanted to keep the tension but lose the brightness and gain fundamental, plus a bit of thump with the palm mute picking.

    Pointing out the obvious, I know, but a lot of it depends on the bass (and amp/cab). I didn't like the flatwound at all on the Squier. It sounded dull. I went back to the nickel Lo-Rider (though I would prefer the Sunbeam if the tension worked).
    But on the semi-hollow the flats sound great.
    I have spent several hours daily with them at home but only used them at one show and one rehearsal.
    I think sustain and fundamental are there, at least with my relatively growly, mid-present bass and technique (still using neck p/u and passive, amp eq flat per mfg). They are nice and clear and feel very fast/smooth (crazy fast fingerstyle). Best setup I have used for staccato. I can still get a slight bit of gank digging in, but obviously nothing like the Sunbeams. That's probably better as I tend to get carried away at shows when the excitement sets in. Pretty nice palm mute tone, but I still prefer the roundwound scraping. And I can pick much faster (a la black metal) with the rounds. Guess it requires a bit of friction.

    They really sound beautiful through the Walkabout and ML112. Not as exciting with fuzz (Hoof and TFR), but great with a Sparkle Drive and Blueberry. I still like the nickel much better with the fuzz or OD, and I definitely miss it with double-stops and chords (esp. chords between about 10th & 20th frets). The flats sound okay with lower E & A string double stops (doom), but obvs. can't do what the nickel round does.

    Just for context, I bought the flats to use with a sort-of prog. surf rock band arranging a bunch of Elfman, Schiffrin, Zorn, Morricone, Esquivel, and others. It's an attempt to remedy what bothers me when playing with a drummer who hits way too hard (but kinda compensates with kit tuning and quick decaying cymbals), a guitarist often veering dangerously close to my range with a microsynth, and a synth/rhodes/organ guy with a left hand that sometimes seems to get my exact (nickel) bass tone. This can occasionally lend to some pretty cool sonic effects, but only occasionally.

    I tried the T.I. flats and they actually remind me a lot of the Sunbeam tone, but the tension was waaaay too low and I didn't like the smaller gauge. Gave them a long audition but never could enjoy it.

    In all this rambling hopefully you find something useful. Not sure I kept it relevant to your questions. Feel free to ask anything more specific.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
  7. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Los Angeles
    I have long used Sunbeams, although over the last few years I've preferred R. Cocco nickel rounds. Also have had the DR flats on an old Yamaha BB2000 fretless for about 18 months - the axe doesn't often make it to the gig, but people like the sound when it does. Since you have two Carvin fives, I'd suggest putting the flats on the fretless and Sunbeams on the fretted bass. You'll optimize your range of tones between these two axes, and for the project you describe, I would not be surprised if you end up using the fretless/flats most of the time unless you need to do a lot of fretty, slappy things.
     
    McFarlin likes this.
  8. Awesome Sauce

    Awesome Sauce Already tired tomorrow

    Dec 21, 2011
    NW Chicago 'burbs
    MM- you want TI Flats. Sunbeams were my go to string for years until I started experimenting in the fall. I am a fretless guy, and TI's are simply the best string I've ever played. The tone is everything you're looking for and more. One tip, though: go through BSO and order a set of singles with the standard G, D, E, and B, but an X-long A. This gives an evenly balanced tension set, instead of the standard extra floppy A string.

    Rob
    :bassist:10001110101:thumbsup:
     
    Mystic Michael likes this.
  9. Session1969

    Session1969

    Dec 2, 2010
    You're going to have to try both and see for yourself what sounds best. I've been switching back and forth, but for my funk band. A lot is old school and a little contemporary and for me, I'm still divided. I like flats for what I know the audience is hearing and feeling but I like the feel of rounds and what I hear, right out of my amp. With nickels, I get a good fundamental with the ability to get a nice warmth and roundness. Is it better for putting out the fundamental ? Probably not.
     
  10. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Thanks for the tip, Rob. I checked out the TI tension chart for the Jazz Flats, and sure enough you are correct:

    Picture021.

    MM
     
  11. mmbongo

    mmbongo Five Time World Champion Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Carolinas
    I'll throw another option out there from left field that will deliver what you want.

    An Aguilar Octamizer pedal.

    I think I have in my head the sound you're looking for, because I want the same sound for some songs we do...Billie Jean, No Woman No Cry...a few others. Fat, smooth, sustaining, and deeeeep. I don't even use the Octave function. The Octamizer lets you control the clean tone and the octave tone separate, so I just turn the octave tone off. The clean tone is essentially a low pass filter that gets fatter and increases sustain the more you turn the knob counter clockwise.

    I was like you, I wanted that sound but I didn't want to compromise my tone and playability by switching to flats. This got me a deeper, more sustaining sound than any of the flats I tried, and you don't lose the feel and playability of your low tension rounds.
     
    blindrabbit likes this.
  12. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Yep, that's the sound. Thanks for the suggestion. I'll consider it.

    MM
     
  13. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Saw the recommendation for TI flats - Have had two rounds of experimentation with them over the years, and regret not having figured out the alternate A string - which is a great idea. If you were looking at a one-axe solution, they would make a lot of sense. Likewise with the Sadowsky flats, which actually are my favorite flats, and which I use on a 5-string fretless. The TI's will surprise you with the degree of snarl and attitude that can be coaxed from them, but they don't do well when it comes to the thump and punch that many want from flats in the first place. The Sadowskys do much better on the punch front, approach the TI's for that upper-mid attitude thing, and are less floppy. The DR flats will be more old-school than these two, but the highs still are there, and the tension, IMO, is still reasonable.

    Went back to your project description, and still think the DR flats make sense, but you should give the Sadowskys some thought as well.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
  14. Awesome Sauce

    Awesome Sauce Already tired tomorrow

    Dec 21, 2011
    NW Chicago 'burbs
    See, everybody says TI's are floppy, like wet noodles, extremely low tension, etc., but I don't see them that way at all. I would say they have a comparable stiffness (feel) to a set of D'Addario 45-107+145 Balanced Nickel XLs; which I just unstrung from a bass, btw. Personally, even the lightest gauge Chromes have beyond tolerable tightness for me, and I am much more comfortable w/ a 40-55-75-95/100-135 set of Rounds in terms of both tension and feel.

    Rob
    :bassist:10001110101:thumbsup:
     
  15. Marial

    Marial weapons-grade plum

    Apr 8, 2011
    I could not get on with TI flats. I didn't care for the ultra low string tension or their tone. DR Sunbeams are my round of choice, and I think a set of those, along with an octave pedal, be it an Octamizer (I use one too) or something else, will get you where you want to go. Flats will NOT be your answer.
     
  16. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    Why, specifically, do you think so? Would you kindly expound?

    MM
     
  17. Marial

    Marial weapons-grade plum

    Apr 8, 2011
    I've yet to play a set of flats that provided the clarity of set of rounds. I'm a big fan of Sadowsky flats and I love their tone on my Squarmoth fretless, but if I were going for a really articulate (if really low/deep) sound, I would go with rounds. Given your stated goals, I think Sunbeams and an octave pedal will be your best bet, or a five string. I found the tone from TIs to be the worst combination of dead thud and mid-rangey boing. Others clearly love them, but their taste in tone is probably quite different from mine.
     
  18. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    In this case, I couldn't care less about the Jazz Flats' lack of thump and punch. In fact, I'm glad that they're different from traditional flatwounds in that respect - because I'm really trying to avoid that typical "blunt-force trauma" attack, where the bass note smacks you upside the head, then suddenly decays away to nothing; almost as if it were a percussion instrument rather than a stringed instrument.

    What I want is actual resonance and tonality. What I want and need is smooth sustain with decent clarity...along with with the thick, phat, deep, powerful tonal qualities I mentioned previously. As for the Legend flats, I couldn't care less whether they are generally regarded as "old school". As long as they're likely to provide these same performance & tonal qualities that I've already mentioned, I'm interested.

    The Sadowskys have garnered a lot of praise around here, and I have no doubt that it's well earned. I simply had a bad experience with taperwound strings, and I don't see the need to go there again - especially when there are suitable alternatives available.

    MM
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2014
  19. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    I've developed a technique that allows me to play with a consistently light touch - far lighter than most other bassists whom I've observed. As a result, I'm able to play with low-medium action on the strings, and very little relief in the neck, where I suspect that many other players might inadvertently choke the tone by digging in too aggressively.

    As long as the TI Jazz Flats are perfectly playable under such conditions, I doubt I'll have any difficulty with them.

    MM
     
  20. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    And yet as I recall from previous dialogues, you're a big fan of DR Legend flatwounds as well, yes? In your opinion, are they really not likely to deliver on my stated tone goals?

    MM
     

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