First Reflections of Rotosound's Steve Harris' signature flatwound set.

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by JGbassman, Jan 6, 2018.

  1. hey all, thought I'd post my thoughts on the Steve Harris sig set of flatwounds made by Rotosound.

    As a tone junky, I'm always trying different gear looking for something cool. This is just my latest walk on the wild side.

    As a background, I've got over 30 years playing, I've toured and recorded professionally and have made a reasonable living in my past playing as a hired gun with some bigger name acts. I have been truly blessed in my musical voyage. If I learned one thing, you are only as good as your last performance, and never stop learning about your craft.

    I'm not a flatwound guy, and prefer stainless steel rounds for the majority of my tones, but I also enjoy the smooth sound of a flatwound strung bass, and often it's just what is needed. I'm also not the guy that would ever leave a set of strings on a bass for say, five years. I believe strings have a expiration lifespan, to include flatwounds. I've also not tried a huge amount of flatwound strings, and I don't care for the TI strings, as they are too flexible for my taste. That being said, you will get a better idea of what I like. Moving on...

    The bass in question is a mid 90's Fender Precision "Black Label" bass. I've come to love the necks on these, and it's kind of a cross. Between a jazz and Precision. I do have other P basses with the thicker chunky older style necks, but I went with my fav P bass. This bass is also modded with EMG Geezer passive pickups, and a BadassII bridge. I absolutely love the feel and sound of this bass. This bass I use mostly with a band that tunes down a half step, so this is one of the big reasons I prefer a less floppy string. I had a great set of DiAddario Chromes in standard gauge, which is what I will ge comparing to. They had been on the bass about 6 months and were broke in perfectly.

    The Rotosound set is made of Monel steel, from what I understand is a pretty tough and heavy steel. The gauge is heavy, with a 110 e string. I though this would be perfect for a bass tuned a half step down. Out of the package they are well built and the silk was nicely done. The new airtight foil packaging will hopefully end the problems Rorosound had with bad strings coming out of the box. The feel was a touch rougher than the broken in chromes, but I honestly can't remember what the chromes felt like right out of the package.

    Instead of the traditional red silks for Rotosound, the e and d string silks are a powder blue, and the a and g string the traditional red. The ball end silks are black. This is a little cheesy, but it is what it is. I'm not an Iron Maiden fan, but I do respect his playing and remember he had a pretty cool tone.

    Going from the standard chrome set, my bass didn't need the saddles or nut width changed, which is a good deal. I did have to make a couple pretty good truss rod adjustments and drop the action a bit to get it back to where it was set with the chromes, so I can tell the bass is under more tension with the bigger set.

    Once strung up, the strings have a really nice brighter tone, and a tasty growl when I dig in. The heavier gauge gives all the strings more depth and meat, and I really like the initial sound. Playing these, I can tell there is a lot more stiffness, and I don't think I would care for them in standard tuning like this. They are pretty stiff, but they are new.

    I'm able to get my action closer to the neck as there is less movement. This is nice, and hopefully as they break in they won't get floppy. Right now the string feels rougher than the chromes I had on it, but not a deal breaker by any means. After the break in I hope they get smoother feeling like the chromes did.

    They sound good unplugged and through an amp. There is a difinite "zing" that I think will work well with the covers of rock songs I'll be playing tonight. I've not played a regular set of Rotosound flats, so I can't compare. The stiffness reminds me of fender flats. These have more of a bite though.

    All saying, I'm happy so far with the purchase from Jason at our favorite store, and I'm planning on leaving these on for at least a few months to see how they play when broken in. This is more of a rock bass sound than country or Motown, so it's a neat direction. I'll edit and post more tonight after the show and put up some pics.

    I am by no means an expert, but I do know what I like and feel, and so far these strings have my interest.

    I'll stop back in tonight after the gig.

    Here is a shot of the silk windings


    The package


    Ok so my after gig report.

    First impressions were they had a non traditional flats sound. They were meaty like a good flat in the booty, but had a nice midrange like a round wound does. It wasn’t piano like, but there was a nice growl and shimmer going on in a pleasing way. By far the most unique sounding flats I’ve tried. They are definitely to my liking. Only time will tell if the sound lasts as they break in.

    With a 110 e, these strings are stiff! Even tuned down a half step these are the stiffest strings I’ve ever used, but in all fairness this is the first set of strings I’ve used that were this heavy of a gauge. I was able to set the action closer to the strings because of this, so there was a bonus to the heavy gauge. I play mostly with fingers, but I was able to get a great picked sound, and slapping actually sounds good compared to regular flats that sound terrible slapped in my opinion. This was a pleasant surprise.

    The string where not as slick and smooth as the broken in Chromes, but they are new. Time will probably yield different results. Not bad, but I prefer the feel of the chromes over these.

    So far I like what I’m hearing. I will give them time to break in before I make a decision on the feel. If they don’t change it won’t be a deal breaker but I do prefer the feel of the chromes better, but I like the sound of these better.

    Next week I’ll be using both my cabs so I’m looking forward to hearing them through the big rig.
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2018
    Phaidrus, Matthew_84, GTHintz and 5 others like this.
  2. Klonk


    Apr 28, 2011
    Interesting read. I've tried a few sets of them myself, on different basses, mostly Fender Ps. I like them, but I mostly play standard tuning, so they are on the stiff side. I have a set now, unopened, maybe I should try them on my Fender AVRI 57 P bass ;)
    JGbassman likes this.
  3. They had a great live sound. Not a dead flat but almost like a smoothed out round. The meaty bottom was there but the mids had a nice growl, with a little shimmer going on. I’d describe it as flats with a midrange voice.

    They are stiff and not as smooth as chromes but I’m waiting for them to break in to see how they feel. I do like the sound
  4. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone.

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    FWIW, I believe the blue and red silks represent Steve’s favorite football/soccer team West Ham United.
  5. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    I have a set of these, and was going to put them on my Kramer lumie, but... as a life long West Brom supporter, I don't know if I want West Ham's colours on my bass...:rollno:
  6. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone.

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    Just say they represent Superman. Or, are you a Marvel fan? :D
  7. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    Magnus, Robot Fighter.jpg Actually, I'm more a fan of obscure comics than I am of DC or Marvel, but -yeah, Superman would work. I really want to try those strings, anyway...:cool:
    Heavy Blue, Randy Ward and JGbassman like this.
  8. Doug4321


    May 29, 2017
    Great review.
    I tried some rotosound flats in standard gauge. On my Fender jazz. That is 45 65 85 105.
    Nice loud well defined sound for a flat. As mentioned above. But the tension is high, tends to slow me down and some wrist pain of a bad kind. I couldn't quite get the action low enough without fret buzz. So went to the hybrid gauge 40 60 80 100. Much lower tension, raised the action, especially E and G strings. They are too bright at first but have worked in nicely. I think this will work well to emulate a well defined classic bass tone like Iron Butterfly, Paul McCartney, etc.. Bass-heavy tone but with clarity and definition.
    JGbassman likes this.
  9. I’m still on the fence regarding the tension. I practiced last night with the bass I have them on, and they seemed to get a little slicker feeling and I didn’t mind the tension as much, but I didn’t play it three hours either.

    I’m really wanting to like them as I do like the sound, but I’m struggling with the pads on my plucking hand getting sore due to the high tension. I just can’t imagine how Steve Harris prefers a string this high of tension, and still plays as fast as he does.

    I’ve decided to leave them on st least three months to see how they break in.
    Heavy Blue, BrentSimons and Klonk like this.
  10. Kikegg


    Mar 3, 2011
    Madrid, Spain
    Good review.

    After reading it I pulled the trigger on a Jazz Bass 77 set. Same gauge as my usual D'Addario sets (EXL 165).
    I'd tried D'Addario's Chromes but never liked the tone. These Rotosounds are amazing, just stringed they sound as broken rounds to me. They also feel very good. Fine. The neck had needed a touch on the truss rod to tight it a bit. Higher tension as read, but they also I've able to lower string height much more than with the D'Addarios without any buzz.
    BrentSimons and JGbassman like this.
  11. dwm74


    Nov 8, 2009
    Phoenix, AZ
    JGbassman, thank you for that informative review.

    I also went with Flats on my Black Label '94 P (mine's about 1100 units after yours!), but started out with Chromes 50-105, then later 45-100. Then switched to Fenders ML9050 50-100, which I find to be perfect for me.

    They've always been on my radar though. The reasons I never tried the Steve Harris Rotosounds were because of the stiffness I'd read about...the Chromes 105 was a little too stiff for my taste (hence the change to 100 E's) so I certainly didn't want 110s, and also of the roughness you mention.

    I'll be following this thread to see how your opinion may change after playing them more. :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
    Kikegg and JGbassman like this.
  12. I have two shows this weekend doing club duty, so I'll get about six hours of play time on them.

    The string roughness is seeming to go away, I'm not sure if they have a coating like some other types of flats that is removed with rubbing alcohol or other cleaners, but after about ten hours of play they seem to getting past the rough stage, and much smoother. I have another bass ('55 p bass replica) strung with Chromes (100-45) that I'm using as a reference point regarding the difference in feel.

    I am adapting to the heavier string, and one thing I've noticed is I bend strings in my normal play. The Rotosounds aren't having any of that, so once I stopped doing this, the strings feel more manageable at the heavier gauge. I play about five songs a night with a pick, and I can tell you the heavier gauge is very friendly picking. I can get a fuller sound, and not as much deflection (I'm not the best pick player, so I'm a little sloppy) which allows me to play cleaner. If I was mainly a pick player, I'd be in heaven.

    The brite has worn off the top a little, but the main body and booty is still there. They really do have a great broken in roundwound sound to them, it's really hard to classify, but it has the warmth of a mellowed SS Roundwound, but with a crisp midrange and full tight booty. Not mushy or thuddy at all. This I really like. I'm going to mess with eq settings this weekend, and try some different sounds through the PA with them (I run the sound for my band, so they have to live with a great bass sound pumping through the mains lol) so I'll work on bringing the mids out in the mix.
    Heavy Blue and Matthew_84 like this.
  13. GTHintz


    Jan 9, 2018
    Definitely a Roto fan already! It seems like the Steve Harris set would be a good option for me if I want a solid heavy bass sound that's just a bit mellowed compared to my swing bass roundwounds im used to. I like Rotos so I'm definitely interested. Thanks for your review!
    JGbassman likes this.
  14. basseux


    Jan 10, 2010
    I mounted them a few days ago on my precision and I think they are the major key to the Steve Harris sound.
    You finally can get the stiff hollow bass sound full of mediums.
    I adjusted the relief of the neck back and lowered the action because of the higher tension.
  15. They have a great sound, no doubt one of my favorite flatwounds string
  16. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Glad you're managing with them. I kept my set on for maybe 20 minutes before taking them off. The thickness and extremely high tension were very uncomfortable for me, and the tone left me little desire to push through the issues to keep them on longer.
  17. basseux


    Jan 10, 2010
    In 20 minutes you had time to adjust relief and action ?
    That's really necessary.
  18. Doug4321


    May 29, 2017
    That reminds me. I've found every time I put on different strings, I don't like them until they've broken in a couple of days. Then they start to seem better than ever.
  19. User Update!

    I had taken these off the original p bass they were on, it was just too much for the neck and the style of music I was playing.

    Today I put these back on, but this time on my mid 80's MIJ p bass with a big maple neck much the same as the Harris' bass. My bass also has a set of DiMarzio model p pickups in it.

    I had a practice with a Tribute band just getting started, where the bass sound/style is raunchy old school rock and roll/punk, and they were just perfect for the sound and style.

    They copped almost the perfect sound! Needless to say I'm very happy and it goes to show how strings cam make a huge difference on the right bass/gig. they will stay on this bass.
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  20. Are these strings supposed to be "strings for downtuning" or you just did that?
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