Flatwound Shootout!

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by steamthief, Sep 3, 2010.

  1. "Q"


    Feb 9, 2010
    Sacramento, CA
    I noticed there not much talk of the difference between tapes and metal flats. I find tapes to be sweeter sounding but with a less forceful low end than metal flats. I gather Roto TruBass are more like regular flat wounds.
  2. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Inactive Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    [QUOTE="Q";9702338]I noticed there not much talk of the difference between tapes and metal flats. I find tapes to be sweeter sounding but with a less forceful low end than metal flats. I gather Roto TruBass are more like regular flat wounds.[/QUOTE]

    I like nylon tape wounds. I've used both the Rotos and the Labellas in the past. The Labellas were less clacky sounding from what I remember.

    You can hear tape wounds on the old Sly and Family Stone recordings, and on the Who's My Generation.

    I've been meaning to pick some up.. it's been many years since I had a set.
  3. CapnSev


    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
    You asked for it. :smug:

    As a disclaimer, I am not a traditional flats kind of guy, I like my flats pretty lively.

    Here's my totally subjective rankings of flatwounds from my favorite to least favorite:

    1) TI Jazz Flats - All I can say is that these are the shiznit for me. They have a really sweet, middy, even tone to them. I never ever have problems in the mix with these, I can always hear what I'm doing, and they always sound good. They're not too bright, and not too dark. They sound like really warm, broken in rounds, but more responsive to attack and style changes. A lot of people hate the 'low' tension, but to me they feel like a lighter gauge set of hex-core rounds (.40-.100). I like to play lightly, and it doesn't take a lot from me to get a nice digging sound from these strings. The tension is evenly balanced from string to string, and the low B sounds massive. I can say that I have a bass with DR Sunbeams, and they are WAY more noodly feeling than the TIs.

    2) Sadowsky - Bright in the upper midrange, super slick feel, and decent tension. If you like rounds, you'll like these. They sound an awful lot like rounds with less overtones (which I personally like). The low B sounds awesome, although it is a lot looser than the other strings. I don't like these strings in a mix as much as the TIs, there are situations when I've gotten lost in the mix. If you're a rounds guy that likes the way flats feel, or you want a killer slap sound out of flats, buy these.

    3) EB Flats - They look like Chromes, they feel like Chromes, they have a similar tension to Chromes, but they don't sound like Chromes (which is a good thing I think). They have a nice sound, darker than Chromes, but not dark like a traditional flat. Nice middle-ground strings.

    Tied 4) Chromes - Cheap and bright. Lots of people like the Chromes' brightness, I don't. I thought they were super clanky, and my technique made them sound like a click-fest on my bass. The Sadowskys have a much more pleasant treble-range to them that's not so harsh. I wasn't a huge fan of the low B either. It sounded pretty muddy to me. I'm told that I probably had a bad B, but I never bothered to try a new one.

    Tied 4) LaBella Deep Talkin' - Too deep, too 'traditional' sounding, and too tight for me. Cool strings if you like old-school thump, that's just not my thing. I though the tension on the light set was a killer after a couple of hours too, they really pissed off my left wrist after a gig.

    5) SIT Power Flat - I didn't know these were technically ground-wounds until after I bought them. They were super tight and felt like sandpaper. Eww.

  4. Sparkdog


    Sep 18, 2006
    Burbank, CA
    That's been my experience as well, the Chromes and LaBellas are sort of the yin and yang of flats to me, you could probably save yourself a lot of time and money by getting one of each of these sets and trying them out.

    It's ALL subjective, there's nothing scientific about it.

    That said, I've tried lots of different brands and since you asked I'll share my own very subjective opinions of them:

    LaBella - Great old school vibe and feel, probably the sound most people think of when you say "flats", but may be TOO old school depending on your music and tastes, and they come in goofy gauges.

    Chromes - The most versatile of all flats to me and definitely my favorites. With the tone knob up full and the right EQ they're almost as bright as roundwounds, but roll back the tone and put a hunk of foam right in front of the bridge and it's thump heaven that still pops out of a mix. Can be EQ'd to work in almost any setting. Tension is on the high side, but allows for low action and aggressive picking or plucking. They have a rough coating that comes off with a few brisk rubdowns with a cotton t-shirt, then they're silky smooth. The 50-105 set has considerably more low end than the 45-100 set IME.

    Fender flats - Way old school thump, but no high end at all, so I found it hard to be heard in a live mix with these.

    GHS Precision Flats - They're OK, but nothing about these excited me.

    TI flats - Sounded good, but I could never play them because I have a fairly heavy touch and these just flopped around on the fretboard due to the low tension. Many players love them though.

    Rotosound flats - These are even brighter than Chromes (too much for me, they sounded harsh) and tension is really high, so they felt stiff.

    DR flats - Awful in every way. Nuff said.

    Sadowsky flats - These sounded great, but I tried 3 sets and had a dead E string in each one. Sadowsky replaced it each time, but I got tired of messing with it.

    There are probably more, but that's all I can think of. Happy hunting!
    Laurent likes this.
  5. P. Bass

    P. Bass

    Mar 17, 2010
    You Labella fans might like the Sadowsky flats (light or medium ga.) They are made by Labella for him to his specs. They have a nice growl on the bottom & are of "medium" tension in the flats range.

    EDIT: The above mentioned problem with dead E strings is a BIG surprise to me as the quality control demanded by Sadowsky of his suppliers is usually his standby deal maker. I have found them to have the most balanced tonal quality of any flats I've ever played. 3 sets? REALLY BRO! Nobody is gonna buy that one.
  6. BrBss


    Jul 9, 2010
    Albuquerque NM
    Are the first 3 sections of that clip Neck, then both, then bridge? I like the second one a lot.

    Oh, and nice santana cover :)

    I've used D'Addario Chromes as well as halfwounds. I like SIT's Powerflats a little better than the Halfwounds.
  7. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Inactive Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products

    Thanks. I sit in with them when their bass player can't make the gigs. They are a good cover band.
  8. Surly


    Feb 2, 2007
    South Florida
    Great post Sparkdog, thanks for the info.
  9. steamthief


    Jan 25, 2006
    Mentone Beach
    Now we're cooking! Thank you both for sharing your opinions, this is exactly the "shootout" type of info I was seeking!

    Cap'n Sev, thanks for comparing the TI tension to Sunbeams- I used to use the latter, but they were too floppy for me, too. Would you say the TI are comparable in tension to a DR hex core round of the same gauge? Also, how does the EBMM sit in a mix? Tonally, they kind of sound like the ticket for me - my technique is a bit ham-handed, so clack isn't good for me.

    Sparkdog, if you didn't get duds, would Sadowsky have replaced Chromes for you? Do you go with the 50-105 Chromes? More tension than a set of rounds of the same gauge? What sucked so bad about the DR?
  10. Stick a set of flats in a rock tumbler and you too can sound like Jamerson :p Joking of course. They do sounds best worn in but I'm a big fan of my Daddario chromes. Even when I sell a bass, I'll take the old set of chromes off and use them on the new one, they can have flats if they want, just not MY flats.
  11. pbass888

    pbass888 Up the Irons! Westham United FC Supporting Member

    Jul 8, 2009
    what he said .. 760fl great for jazz and motown if that is the sound you are looking for
  12. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Inactive Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    With everyone saying the Labella Deep Talkin' are old school.. depends on the set. The 760M set is the thumpy Jamerson set. The 760FL set is nice and bright, the way the Sadowsky strings were described. I used to slap on them, and they stayed sounding that way for like three years. I used to use them on my Rickenbacker.

    Check out the clips here:


    The live tracks (first four) were all played on 760FL stainless steel Deep Talkin' Bass flats.

    For a more traditional tone, the last two tracks; Beat the Clock and Heatwave Beat were Fender flats.

    Everything else was either Rotosound or GHS Boomer roundwounds.

    All played with a pickup on a Rick with a Hi-A pickup at the bridge and a Gibson mudbucker at the neck.
  13. FenderP

    FenderP Supporting Member

    May 7, 2005
    [QUOTE="Q";9702338]I noticed there not much talk of the difference between tapes and metal flats. I find tapes to be sweeter sounding but with a less forceful low end than metal flats. I gather Roto TruBass are more like regular flat wounds.[/QUOTE]

    Disagree. I've been using the RS88 set exclusively on my fretless basses for nearly 17 years, and the RS77 set on my fretted basses for 20+. They are different in both sound and feel. So I wouldn't say they are more like regular monel ones, as that has not been my experience.
  14. I wouldn't recommend a 50-105 set for someone's first set of flats unless that's the gauge they're used to. You should get a lower gauge to compensate for the higher tension.
  15. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Chormes are my go to flat. I love the overall tension and they have strong mids with good thump. I always disagree with those who say they are bright? Like how? Mine are thumpy after a gig or two and never dull and tacky..super slick,tune up great...tone monsters.

    TI's I love and hate. I again disagree with those who say they are super bright..where? To me they are woody and thumpy, very uprightish sounding on my P basses at times. I get a good live mix but they fart out when i dig in to hard in the higher register of the fretboard so i took them off after a year. i don't mind the tension only that i have to adjust my digging live (cant)

    Fender flat- very old school thump but the tension was way to high felt like steel rods on my bass...next!

    SIT power flats- horrible,nasty feel and tone.

    I will stick with a light set of chromes. To me the more they are played on a P bass the better they sound live and in studio.
  16. CapnSev


    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
    I would say that the TIs are comparable to a DR hex core in a .40-.100 gauge or so. To me they feel about the same as a set of .40-.100 Slinkies. The TIs are low tension, no doubt, but I think the low tension thing is blown out of proportion. If you can play lighter rounds with ease, the TIs will be an easy transition.

    I though the EBs sat in the mix pretty well, not as well as the TIs, but they are nice. They are mellow for flats when they're broken in, but not old-school thumpy mellow. I've got the ham-hand thing too, I didn't find the EBs to be too bad in the clack department, certainly not at the level of Chromes.
  17. CapnSev


    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
    The LaBellas I tried were the 760FLs, and I thought they were pretty thumpy. If you think those are bright and lively, you should try out the Sadowskys. Ironically, LaBella makes the Sadowsky strings too. You can hear it in the tone between the two strings as well. The Sadowskys sound like 'in your face' LaBellas with a little less tension.

  18. Yeah. Start with Chromes. They're a fine string and not a huge, radical departure from rounds.

    Have fun and explore from there!
  19. In order to really make your idea work, you'll need to specify which criteria will be judged and defined. If you can quantify the answers with numbers it might be easier to get an objective comparison; otherwise, you'll just get alot of "I like these--I hate those--these others really rock!" type answers.

    What do you want to compare?

    How long they last
    Average cost
    Availability (online or in your area)
    Gauges available in a specific make/model
    maybe some frequency/EQ measurements on what various strings emphasize, etc. (with the types of pickups you'll be using them with)

    blah, blah, blah...to have a good Shootout, you need some things you can measure and compare. Otherwise, you'll just get a popularity contest with all the usual players favored--TI, D'Addario Chromes, Rotosound 77's, etc. and you'll get nowhere.

    Personally, I like the Chromes and Fender 9050's (nearly identical except for price, maybe). I've used them on a P-bass but NOT on a MM so I couldn't tell you what they sound like with those pickups.
  20. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Inactive Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Then they are the same strings. Did you listen to the tracks on the MySpace link? They sound like round wounds without the ringing top end. Not thumpy at all. I used to slap on them.

    What gauge did you use? I had the .043 - .104 set.

    I haven't used them in like 25 years, so I don't know if they changed them at all. Maybe they are inconsistent.

    Now on the other hand, Labella round wounds are pretty dull sounding.