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Going from XL Nickles to Chromes, which gauge to best match the feel?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Ricky Rioli, Nov 3, 2020.

  1. Ricky Rioli

    Ricky Rioli

    Sep 29, 2020
    Once I've a second bass, I'm going to replace the D'addario XL Nickels on my TRBX604 with XL Chromes.

    Originally it came with 45-65-80-100 (EXL170) but I wanted a bit more tension in the E and A strings, so changed to 45-65-85-105 (EXL165), and have been very happy with the feel of them. I'll be putting a set of them on the new bass when it comes.

    When I change to the Chromes, I don't want to lose any of that sense of tension/stiffness. I think I understand right that the nature of the flats themselves will give some of that feel for me.

    D'addario don't do a 45-65-85-105 set of Chromes so I need to make a choice.

    My instinct is to go with 50-70-85-105 (ECB82) but if I'm going to find that they feel significantly different to the tension+stiffness of the Nickels, perhaps I should be warned and shepherded towards 45-65-80-100 (ECB81)

    I play only with finger picking, with a soft touch, aiming to get a rounded attack. I play using all four strings equally, but almost never get above the 12th fret, and never play chords.

    I'll be having the flats fitted by my local tech to be sure of the set up being correct.
  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    The Chrome are going to be a little stiffer no matter what. (I've been playing XLs for thirty years and have a P bass with Chromes.) The lighter you go on the Chromes the more similar the feel. But you won't get all the way there. They'll still feel different.

    Be advised, some people's body chemistry reacts differently to steel strings. They stick to my fingers like glue. I had to plow through and play the crap out of my Chromes and get a little gunk on them to get them to release my fingers. But once they settle in and get some mojo on them, they sound great. (Your hands might have zero issues with steel to begin with.)
    MCF and Ricky Rioli like this.
  3. onda'bass

    onda'bass Supporting Member

    Sep 5, 2010
    Buffalo Ny
    Go for 105-80-60-45. Its balanced and they are more supple than other flats I've used ie: LaBella & roto's. Order them from singles as they don't make the set.
    Ryan in PDX and Ricky Rioli like this.
  4. Ricky Rioli

    Ricky Rioli

    Sep 29, 2020
    That's fine, I'm not trying to find an equivalent....I just need a more experienced voice to say hang on if I'm about to be foolhardy in my choice
  5. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Nah. You'll be fine. Chromes do take some breaking in. So be patient. What they sound like on day one doesn't even closely resemble what they will sound like after 10-12 hours of playing time. They will be bright (for flats) and "clanky" out of the pack. But they settle in beautifully.
    Killing Floor and Ricky Rioli like this.
  6. I started out with EXL165 (45-65-85-105) and ended up with Chromes ECB84 (40-60-80-100) for something with similar overall playing feel (ie stiffness).

    They also have similar tension numbers. - 174.3 lbs. (EXL165) vs. 173.1 lbs. (ECB84).

    That said, Jason at Fret Nation offers a custom balanced tension set of the Chromes, 45-60-80-105.

    D'Addario Chromes Flatwound Balanced Tension String Set - 4-
    MCF and Ricky Rioli like this.
  7. Aidil


    Dec 4, 2014
    Jkt, IDN
    ECB80 40-95 or ECB84 40-100. Your fingers will easier to adapt to the more familiar tensions than similar gauges, cause you are going to use different surfaces of string sets anyway.
    Ricky Rioli likes this.
  8. Ricky Rioli

    Ricky Rioli

    Sep 29, 2020
    I did some googling and found some chat about this custom set. I'm aware that perceived stiffness and actual tension are not the same - does plucking 45-60-80-105 actually feel anything more like 4 equal actions than plucking 45- 65-80-100 or 50-70-85-105? Giving the physical complexities of running a squidgy bit of finger over strings of different sized metal, I can't....to be honest, I can't even begin to imagine how the different variables interact :wacky:

    I'm in the UK, so the excellent price of the FretNations set is not available to me, and so it's less of a temptation.

    Hmm, I think I'll sleep on all this, toss a coin or two, and see what I think of the results. Thank you for all the thoughts, I feel substantially better informed than before :thumbsup:

    The narrative arc of the changes in the tone of XL Nickels as they age has, I believe, prepared me for anything :cigar:
    DrThumpenstein and two fingers like this.
  9. Call me picky, I've never liked the traditional 45-65-80-100 set as G and D always felt tighter under my fingers, both for plucking and fretting, compared to E and A. 45-60-80-105 felt more even across all strings.

    For an alternative to the Chromes that feel similar to the EXL165, you might also want to consider the Fender 9050L (45-60-80-100). The only thing I didn't like about the above-mentioned Chromes ECB84 (40-60-80-100) was the 40G tended to be a bit too "twangy" for my taste. The 9050L with the 45G solved that problem as the whole set was nicely balanced both in tone and playing feel.

    When I posted the link for Fret Nation earlier, I had missed the part about you being in the UK. Sorry about that. That said, they do ship internationally. You might want to get in touch with Jason there and ask him if he might be able to work out a deal to offset the cost of shipping. I'm in Canada and Jason has always been good about being flexible with his pricing. He can be reached at info@fretnation.com.
  10. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I understand completely.
    Ricky Rioli likes this.
  11. Ricky Rioli

    Ricky Rioli

    Sep 29, 2020
    International shipping plus the duty that the UK puts on tasty packages from abroad is what turned Jason's extremely good price into .... something else. I think my tech has a trade account with Daddario so I could ask him how much those 4 bought separately would be.

    If you want a laugh, here's what buying a bass from USA when you live in the UK ends up costing:

    ((bass + $175 shipping) × 1.03 duty) × 1.2 sales tax

    So something going through Rocket Music's till for 1500 costs me 2070 .... and that's before the benevolent souls running the currency exchanges have their way with me :blackeye: (Still cheaper than the UK MSRP of an Am Pro II, mind)
  12. nilorius

    nilorius Inactive

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    45-65-85-105 (EXL165)
  13. Ricky Rioli

    Ricky Rioli

    Sep 29, 2020
    That would save me getting a set up :confused:
  14. Bodeeni

    Bodeeni Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2010
    I go between Chromes and 105-45 rounds everyday. I use the 40-100 ECB84 set and find them nicely balanced and not very stiff.
    michael_t likes this.
  15. Ryan in PDX

    Ryan in PDX

    Jan 14, 2020
    Nice choice! I have been using the same 45-60-80-105 chromes (ordered as singles) for several years on my MIJ Jazz bass, and love the balance.

    I had been using d'addario nickel wounds in 45-65-85-105 for a long time, then tried chromes in 40-60-80-100. I found that I wanted a little more tension on the outer strings, but the inner strings were perfect.

    I also enjoyed the labella 45-105 set (black silks on the peg end). I found the sleek, luxurious feel addictive, but the rich, dark tone, beautiful as it was, wasn't as versatile as the chromes for my gigs and technique.
    onda'bass and Ricky Rioli like this.
  16. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I also find Chromes to be just a little bright/sparkly/kaboingy for a really short time when they're new. Don't panic. Not like you're doing anything else, right? It's a friggin' pandemic. So depending how much you play probably a week(?) and you'll be in your happy place. To my baby hands they are pretty high tension. I play them on an old P fretless that is extra mellow and kinda on the deep side so the Chromes put a little sugar in its tank. I actually have a set of TI waiting to use and I'm hesitating because this P responds really well to the Chromes. It's cool, I'll stick the TI on my J.
    Ricky Rioli and Ryan in PDX like this.
  17. Ricky Rioli

    Ricky Rioli

    Sep 29, 2020
    That slice of experience seems made for me, thank you!

    The idea is that once they're on, they'll be on for good, so I'm not worried about how long it takes them to lose that initial jingle jangle. And what else is the tone knob for, if not to filter out the unwanted noises that come with fresh Daddarios?

    Given that my hands are not at all large, babyish on the outside and prematurely aged on the inside, it's weird that it turns out I prefer my strings to have high tension. I think it's because my fingers exploit the tension, more rolling the string off the fleshy pads than properly plucking it with the tips, searching out the most rounded attack I can get. Even when playing a fast run, it's all very gentle.

    When flats were first suggested to me, I was a bit resistant because I like the sustain of the Nickels, but the Chromes seem to have enough sustain to make it worth my while trying them out.

    Absolutely nothing :bassist:
    Killing Floor likes this.
  18. Yahboy


    May 21, 2008
    From XL to chrome ecb81, you will get unbalance string stiffness and tension between EA and DG. Plus the E string get dull pretty quick and the metalic G string sound stay lasting than any roundwound G string !!

    Don't waste your time and money.

    On my opinion , EB cobalt flat sound very nice on trbx604 , i suggest EB cobalt flat 2814 which has tiny bit higher tension to XL , but very nice string to string stiffness balance plus extra output.
    The E string has the best clarity and solid tone than others brand Flatwound except Ti flat and EB Group Ill .
    The fresh tone keep longlasting than any Flatwound I been use except Ti flat.

    I just strung a set 2814 on my trbx504 couple days ago, really enjoy !!

    Last edited: Nov 4, 2020
  19. Yahboy


    May 21, 2008
  20. Ricky Rioli

    Ricky Rioli

    Sep 29, 2020
    There's a youtube demo of the Cobalts done by IvanBassist, whose reviews I've found very useful. The Cobalts make a pleasant sound, but not one that's like the sound in my head that I'm searching for (Neither do three-quarters of the noises the TRBX makes, for that matter, but that's another story: I bought it purely on feel) The Chromes, on the other hand, give me a sense I can work with them.

    Thanks for confirming that the Chrome set of 45-65-80-100 has the same issue as I had with the Nickels in that set of gauges: I'll continue to avoid having the A and the D so similar.
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