Flatwound Shootout!

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

  1. waynobass


    Feb 27, 2008

    D'Addario Chromes: C. Just seemed boring. They were used so maybe they were too old.

    GHS Precision flats: B. Good, but the E and A strings were quieter than the D and G.

    old Fender: D. Tension was way too stiff.

    new Fender: A. Perfect in every way! Crisp sound, perfect tension (ML gauge), smooth but not slick or sticky feel, and the gray thread color is classy.
  2. About 5 or 6 years ago I changed from rounds to flats on my P-bass (at that time my only bass) because I wanted a more "vintage" sound. The only music shop in my small town only had two brands of flatwounds - Fender and Ernie Ball. I've never been a fan of Fender strings, so I bought the EBs. For me, coming from Blue Steels, it was a revelation! This was the way a bass was supposed to sound. As I thought all flats sounded the same, and the EBs never wore out they just stayed on my bass until about a year ago, when I discovered Talkbass...

    After reading page after page about all the different brands of flats, and how they do NOT all sound the same I started to look for other strings to try out. During the last year I've tried seven different strings. Some of them on my own basses for a longer time, others on friends basses I've just borrowed for a few days.

    I play blues, classic rock, punk, 50s/60s/70s, and I never slap. Keep that i mind while reading my reviews. English is not my first language, so it's hard to try to describe sounds and feelings, but I'll give it a shot.

    IMO you can divide flats into two different groups, the traditional flats (dead, thumpy) and more modern flats (brighter, more sustain), of course some flats will fall somewhere in between.

    - EB flats, 50-105. Tried on 1979 Fender P, 2009 Fender Japan '75 JB and 2010 G&L SB-1.
    These flats are now 5 or 6 years old, but they're still not "dead" and I don't think they ever will. Long sustain and strong fundamentals. They are somewhere between traditional and modern flats, and are great compromise strings. If you only have one bass, they will get the job done no matter what music you are playing. By using the tone control/muting/plucking hand placement/picks etc. you can get a lot of different sounds. I just put them back on my '79 P for a fly gig where I can only bring one bass. If you want that classic, thumpy flats sound, and can dedicate one bass for just that sound, I'd get another brand. But if you want a "does-it-all-quite good"-string EBs may be the right strings. Sounded best on the P and the SB-1. IMO the tension is quite perfect, high enough to have a low action and still be able to dig in, but still comfortable to play.

    - Chromes, 50-105. Tried on 1979 Fender P, 2009 Fender Japan '75 JB and 2010 G&L SB-1.
    Not that different from the Ernie Balls, but a bit bright and more modern sounding. Fresh out of the box they are almost harsh, but mellow down as they settle. Again a great compromise string, and I can see why many people have Chromes as their favorite strings, but I prefer the Ernie Balls for the P-basses. On the Jazz Bass however they were almost perfect, except for the tension, which is why I bought theĀ…

    - Chromes, 45-100. Tried on 2009 Fender Japan '75 JB.
    Match made in heaven. Could get all the sounds I want from a Jazz, from smooth, mellow, warm to burpy. Perfect tension. Wish I didn't sell the bass and the strings.

    - Rotosound 77, 40-100. Tried on 1979 Fender P, 2009 Fender Japan '75 JB and 2010 G&L SB-1.
    I'd heard that Rotos were high tension, so I bought the .100 set instead of .105 which is my standard gauge. But even the 40-100 was to high tension for me. The strings were just too stiff, and the sound was clanky and harsh. Didn't have them on for more than a few weeks, so the sound could have changed while they were settling in, but I didn't like the feeling so I took them off. Very modern sounding.

    - Pyramid Golds, 40-105. Tried on 1979 Fender P, Fender "58-look-a-like" Franken-P.
    Very traditional and "dead" right out of the box. A no-compromise flat. Smooth, glass like surface. The set is balanced, so it is a dream to play. Warm, mellow but still with a defined sound, never wooly. Sounds great playing blues and classic rock, but not so great playing punk and more modern stuff. As long as I have two or more basses, one of them will always be strung with Pyramids. If I only had one bass I'd rather have EBs or Chromes. I have a feeling that they would sound even better on a single coil P-bass.

    - Fender (the old ones). Tried on a friends 70s Franken J.
    Quite traditional sounding, but they are high tension and not as smooth as Pyramids. I liked the way they sounded, but not how they felt against my fingers. Could have played gigs with them in an emergency, but IMO there are better strings out there.

    - Labella Jamersons. Tried on another friends '64 P.
    High tension. More cables than strings. Feels like playing the lower four strings on a fiver, but the sound is amazing. Warm, full, smooth, mellow etc. but still punchy if you want them too. But as I said, they are high tension, and the sound is not that different from the Pyramids, so right now I'll stick with the more comfortable Pyramids. However, If I ever buy a single coil P for the Pyramids, I'll get some Labellas for my "58-look-a-like".

    BTW, I've just ordered a set of 40-60-80-100 Chromes for my '79 P to see how I like them. Still searching for the perfect strings. :)
  3. Surly


    Feb 2, 2007
    South Florida
    I have a set of medium Chromes coming in the mail, always used the light ones as well.
  4. Krucial


    May 25, 2010
    A big up for P-punk! This is usefull information!
    Just saying I like this strings better than those without the context (like most do), isn't going to help anyone. P-punk discribes the context accurate (playing style, gauge, bass, test period etc.)
  5. uncle Bob

    uncle Bob

    Sep 16, 2010
    Drector of Sales LaBella Strings
    As you know, flatwounds are tempramental. Tempramental to make and even more so to install. Many players are familier in installing round wound strings, but do not have the guidance in installing Flat Wounds. The "G" "d" and "A" strings are straight ahwad esier than the "E" or low "B" to hook up.
    LaBella Flatwounds are loades with windings, so that there is plenty of mass within the string. This mass compensates for the lack of the round windings on Roundwound sets. The more mass the better groove.
    Players and even some mechanics are not aware that you can actually snap the cores on the "E" and "B" strings by merely comparessing the coil of the string. I liken it to the person trying to flex an arm that is in a cast.
    If a player or installer remembers that on our Flatwounds, only to let the silked portion of the string go around the tunning peg, there would not be a problem..Another caution, CAUTION, is not to cut the string outright, until you have put a bend in the silked portion of the string then cut off that which is not going to be used. This means you have 30 something inches of string witha right angle bend of about 6 inches. From that six inches cut off all but about one inch.
    No go to the tuning peg and slip the bent part into the hole. Next move is to take up the slack manually whild holding on to your bass so as to guide the string correctly around the post. Now you're home!
  6. emor


    May 16, 2004

    Any word yet on arrival date of the LaBella Flats for the Fender Mustang? Do you know what the gauges will be?
  7. edt844


    Sep 9, 2010
    Chalfont, PA
    Apologies if I missed this info but what strings do you use now, on fretted and fretless basses?

  8. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Inactive Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Mostly D'Addario XL round wounds on fretted and fretless basses. I also have one fretted bass that sometimes has Half Rounds on it, though I think I'm going to get some Labellas on it at some point. The Half Rounds are very stiff.
  9. P-punk, I use the 40-60-80-100 D'Addario Chromes on my '06 Fender Aerodyne Deluxe P/J and love the mellower tone and lack of finger noise. I wanted a set that had a very balanced tension between all the strings and these provide that (mid 30 lbs to mid 40 lbs for all strings).

    I do not do any slapping, either, so these do me just fine, given my style and attack-- and the Aerodyne allows me a bit more freedom to dial in P vs. J depending on what is called for.

    In addition to the decreased finger noise that flats provide me as I run up and down a string, I like to play "in the box" a lot, too. I can definitely feel a difference in these strings versus others. I always hated the feel of the high tension of the D string as compared to the other strings in most sets!

    On my '07 Fender Standard Jazz (4-string), I add a 132 Chrome for the B and take out the 40 G.... so I string it BEAD.... although a big jump in diameter from the 100 E, it keeps the tension in line with all the others--again, important for me, but maybe not everyone.

    Although then again, there are a lot of bassists who buy "balanced tension" sets, so I guess I'm not alone in that regard!
  10. Metal Mitch

    Metal Mitch

    Jul 14, 2003
    Ok, I'll go along with Wayno on the boring Chromes - they probably were old and worn out. They sound good fresh out of the pack, no break in required. Modern scooped tone, great string to string consistency, good funk string (which is not my thang). The 105 E is garbage, but the 45 - 100 is a good set until they break in. Then they're dead, like he found 'em. Typical for D'addario.

    GHS Precision Flats - great thick balanced mids, more so than other flats which all seem to have an EQ hump in their chosen area. But poor tonal consistency across the strings. Which I'm finding is a very common problem... the E-A pair sound like one set (almost dead), the D-G pair sound overly bright - like you're playing a different bass. I don't know why these sets don't get rejected in QC. (Maybe because people buy them anyway!) On the plus side, the 55 G string is the best G I've ever found, sounds fat enough to play oldschool Stax stuff down on the cowboy frets. But the low half of that 55 - 105 set has too sluggish response for faster blues/rock stuff.

    SIT Power Flats - definitely the oddest string I've ever tried. It's not a true flat, but has similar qualities of a flatwound. Good tight and quick response, better than a heavy flat for playing fast or getting decent fingerstyle articulation. Intonates and stays in tune extremely well. Suffers from the same problem as GHS in that the E-A pair sounds like a different set than the D-G pair. String tension between the 2 pairs is the most unbalanced I've ever seen; to the point that playing on them just became annoying.

    Old Fender - made in Mexico, "smell like a garage". The best for getting a simulated upright tone on a P. High tension = low action without fret buzz. String to string consistency isn't perfect, but better than most. Usable right out of the pack, no break in required but they do get better with age. Burpy mid hump in the high mids for warmth and fingerstyle cut.

    New Fender - made in the USA by ???

    I gave hasbeen the benefit of the doubt when he said they're still made to Fender spec, and tried 2 of these sets. All I can say is if that's true, then Fender changed the spec. On the plus side, the winding length is shorter to prevent wrapping the post with the fat part of the string. That's it for the plus side. They added the fugly green silk to the headstock end of the strings, and the stupid looking colored ball ends. Loose and clanky, sounds like kicking garbage cans down an alley. I have downtuned roundwounds that still have higher tension and fatter tone than these. Absolutely the worst strings I've ever tried. Trashed both sets.

    LaBella... I know a local guy that uses 760FL exclusively, have heard him gig and tried one of his basses while sitting in at a club. Tension seemed average and easy to play, mid hump is in the honky mid-mids. D-G pair again overtly brighter than E-A. This set was wholly unremarkable in every way, maybe a heavier gauge would have some balls. Haven't bought any yet because I don't trust LaBella QC. But his seemed fine, and I'm running out of options since the good Fender strings aren't made anymore. And considering I've got bad strings from almost every manufacturer in the last year, I might give them another chance.
  11. the low one

    the low one

    Feb 21, 2002
    Has anyone tried Status Hotwire flats? I've had them on my fretless jazz for 9 months and am really enjoying them. The tension of the 40 - 100 set I have is average, about the same as an equivalent gauge set of rounds. Out of the box they felt a little rough but that soon went within a week of playing and they have now settled in to a great mid based tone with plenty of punch. On the bridge pickup they can growl nicely but you still get the thump from the next pickup. Tone and tension is consistent across all strings

    They are also the best value for money I've tried.
  12. P. Bass

    P. Bass

    Mar 17, 2010
    Thanks for the reply Bob. Why are flats so temperamental to MAKE? With the re-emergence of the popularity of flats & the inherent problems w/ consistency of tonal balance & quality control, do you really think that string manufacturers are paying attention to what we are discussing here? This is HUGE to us. [​IMG]
  13. steamthief


    Jan 25, 2006
    Mentone Beach
    Well, based on soundclips I heard, I traded for a set of Rotos for my Stingray. The problem is the current SR4 strings sound near new, while my P/J could use a new set. I just may have to try the flats on the Fender.
  14. Surly


    Feb 2, 2007
    South Florida
    I love medium guage Chromes and Labellas on a P-bass. So far I have only used the 760FL's but want to try the heavier ones as well.
    Light guage Chromes sound a bit twangy for me, but the mediums are rich and full.

    I prefer the tone of the Labellas just a tad more. A little more mids, and a little less "clank" than the Chromes. However, I love the slippery sliding around feeling the Chromes give you. My perfect string could possibly be the combining of these two. Love them both and they make playing a lot of fun.
  15. Wow, I wasn't sure about this thread at first. :eyebrow:
    But now I'd love to see that shootout. Got a 4003 arriving next Wednesday, and the FIRST THING I'm gonna do is strip off the rounds and put on flats. I'm so hard-core flats that I ain't even going to plug it in first! :bassist:

    But which flats for Electric Blues? (Hint, gotta have some tension in them)

    Thanks for the thread.
  16. steamthief


    Jan 25, 2006
    Mentone Beach
    I put my newly acquired set of Rotos on my P/J on Wednesday, and I am blown away. The punch of these flats vs. any roundwound set I've used is stunning. They are a bit bright, but dialing out some mids @ 500hz mellows the tone quickly. The tension on this set is pretty high, a lot more vs. the Fender 7250 rounds, but I'm digging it. My right hand speed, playing fingerstyle, is enhanced by the tension.

    I just ordered some EBMM flats for my SR4. :)
  17. P. Bass

    P. Bass

    Mar 17, 2010
    You should give the Sadowsky SBF45 set a try. Best of both of your favs. Little bit less stiff than the medium Chromes & a bit more toward the Labella tone.
  18. Surly


    Feb 2, 2007
    South Florida
    Thanks man. The quest for the perfect string continues. :)
  19. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    Exactly. It is a quest.

  20. A Sacred quest.