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Let the strings match the bass

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by NortyFiner, Oct 17, 2009.

  1. NortyFiner

    NortyFiner Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Portsmouth VA USA
    I became a flatwound convert a long time ago, but I felt like tonight's story was worth telling. Hope y'all don't mind. :)

    I just put a new set of D'Addario Chromes on my Ibanez SR505, replacing the stock Elixir rounds. This is the first time I have used Chromes. I use Fender 9050M's on my Fender Aerodyne J; their warmth compliments its bright, thumpy tone. The SR505 is a different animal, though; it is naturally warm and woody, so I chose Chromes based on their reputed brightness to (hopefully) compliment the SR505's natural tone and really bring it to life.

    First thing I noticed with the Chromes was the ginormous size of the B string. Ibanez bridges aren't too friendly to big strings; that .132" fatty was a super tight fit at first, but removing the blue end wraps (which I find pointless and annoying anyhow) pretty well solved the problem.

    Next thing I noticed, very suddenly, was that my hands were dirty. The strings, and especially the B string, were covered in black gunk (some kind of preservative?) that I am STILL trying to clean off them. Apparently this is a common problem with Chromes? Gonna get some alcohol tomorrow and see if that does the trick.

    Anyway, after much wiping, I decided to ignore the mess and keep going, just to hear the Chromes. I didn't even get the Chromes fully tuned before I was going WOW at the sound. The natural warmth of the flats highlights that of the bass, with a lively contrasting brightness on top that wasn't there before with the rounds. The overall sound is wonderfully complete. I still need to finish the setup (gonna let the strings settle on the bass overnight) but I think the SR505 and Chromes just might be the perfect match that I wanted.

    Gonna be some fun setting up and playing tomorrow... :bassist:
  2. Powman


    Apr 28, 2009
    How do Chromes compare to Ernie Ball Flats?
  3. NortyFiner

    NortyFiner Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Portsmouth VA USA
    I'm told that Ernie Ball flats are lower tension (therefore I would expect less bright) than the Chromes, but I've not tried them myself yet to know for sure. I will also be trying Rotosound 77's and DR Hi-Beams on the SR505; if I can find some Ernie Ball flats, I may add them to my string project too.

    As far as the gunk on the Chromes, some persistent effort with a jug of alcohol wipes and a Shamwow finally did the trick. That's a mark down on the Chromes for the needless added annoyance of having to clean a brand new set of strings...
  4. bass dan

    bass dan Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2007
    st. simons isl. GA
    i agree. different strings for different basses. i just posted in another thread about a jazz bass that i had tried with ti flats and with deep talkin la'bellas and did'nt like either on that bass. just got a set of roto 77 flats and now this bass sounds great to me.

    i am using the labellas on my p-bass, but i swap between those and the ti flats depending on my mood.
  5. mmbongo

    mmbongo Five Time World Champion Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    Someone recently posted (on this very forum) that EB flats were in fact Chromes in different wrappers. I don't know for sure.
  6. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches

    Aug 21, 2006
    Denver, CO
    Interesting thread.

    I've always felt like each bass needed the right strings and had an experience yesterday that absolutely convinced me of that fact.

    So I have three main basses right now:

    Modded Carvin B4 (Aggie OBP-3 & Basslines) that sounds somewhere between a Modulus Flea and Stingray.

    Fretted Stambaugh - Very Jazz like, but with a woodier/organic tone

    Fretless Stambaugh - Very much like a Thumb or Spector

    I have a number of string sets around my house at the moment, some new - some old. Yesterday I did a merry-go-round on my basses, swapping strings and testing like crazy. Here's what I had to work with:

    TI Jazz Flats (well broken in) - have been on the fretted Stammie
    DR Low Riders (just barely broken in) - on the Carvin
    DR Sunbeams (still bright) - on the fretless
    EB Slinkys - somewhat worn in
    SIT Rock Brite Nickels - brand new (came shipped on my fretless and taken off immediately)
    DR Hi-Beam Flats - tried on my fretted Stammie but didn't like 'em
    Carvin SS Rounds - pretty much dead

    While I liked them new, I was growing unhappy with the tone on the Carvin as the strings broke in.

    I loved the left hand feel of the TIJF and the tone of the E, but the rest of the strings sounded too dull and woody on my Stammie and the tension kept me from really digging in with my right hand. I let them really break in and kept wanting to like these strings but was getting more and more unhappy with the sound.

    I liked the sound of my fretless, but if I was going to experiment I might as well fool around with all three basses.

    Here's what I found:

    The Carvin sounds best with bright strings - period. It doesn't matter whether they are nickel or steel or which brand. Some sound better than others, but the bottom line is that new strings sound good and broken in ones don't. Surprising since I don't normally like new strings, but that's the best vibe for this particular bass. Currently this bass has the SITs on it. I guess what I need to find is which string sounds "like new" for the longest. Something I never would have thought I'd be looking for. Both the Slinkys and Low Riders sounded good when new, but not nearly as good after being broken in.

    The fretted Stambaugh sounded best with the broken in Low Riders. I wanted to string this bass with flats for reggae/dub and tried the super thumpy DRs and the middy, not traditional TIJFs and both were a no go. This bass sounds best with broken in rounds. The Sunbeams were still too bright and clanky but the Low Riders were perfect. This bass sounded good with Hi-Beams too, but not this good. I want to try the nickels but I'm happy for now with the SS.

    The fretless sounded best with the strings that were on it - the Sunbeams. Mellow but with enough growl and mwah to keep it interesting. Sounded terrible with the Low Riders (and I don't like SS on fretless for wear purposes anyway) and the super thumpy DR flats. The TIJFs were my second favorite and sounded really good, but just not quite as good as the Sunbeams.

    Long story short - I've never liked new strings but I do now, at least for one bass. And I wanted flats on my fretted Stambaugh and the bass simply didn't sound good with them. IMO you can't shoehorn a bass into sounding like what you want - you have to find the right strings for the bass and let it have it's own voice. Interesting.

  7. Byzcat


    Aug 3, 2009
    Lynn, Mass
    So, the OP is saying that SoundGear+D'Addario Chrome flats= awesome tone?

    Good. I was having some flatwound issues a while back, e-mailed D'Addario to find out what gauge came stock on my SR-300, D'Addario suggested Chromes, and now I'm waiting for them to arrive at my local music store...
  8. Chromes are awesome strings. My Ibanez Roadster came strung with a set of Chromes and they are crunchy and full. They really make the bass sing and I think I'm going to replace them with Chromes when it's time for a new set of strings. I normally use Roto rounds, but these are D'Addario strings that I like!

    Having flats on my Jackson or Hamer probably wouldn't feel right, but I could imagine giving flats a shot on one of my other Ibanezes some time.
  9. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I don't think most basses are string-specific at all. At least my experience with 25+ of them doesn't incline me to think so.

    I've found that most basses will be happy with whatever flats I put on them. I've never seen a bass that didn't sound good with Labella Deep Talkin' flats. Other strings I like are Chromes, Rotosound Jazz 77's and GHS flats.
  10. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches

    Aug 21, 2006
    Denver, CO
    Interesting. I've never been a flats guy before at all and wanted to try them on my "active Jazz" sounding bass. I was envisioning a reggae tone or a funky tone (like this) and neither the TIJF or DR Flats worked for that bass. The TIs were too woody and the DRs too dull. Maybe I need to try La Bellas, but those two (albeit extreme) sets of flats just didn't sound right on that bass. And I've liked the sound of both on a P-bass - which is where the DRs are now - on my beater Squier P.

    For me it's been very clear that certain basses work best with certain strings, but different strokes is what makes the bass world go 'round right?
  11. vince a

    vince a

    Jun 13, 2006
    Modesto, CA
    I use the Chromes flats on my passive Jazz and Rotosound 77s on my P. I hated the 77s at first, but now like them as a different sounding flat alternative to the Chromes.

    BTW, my fingers never ever got dirty after playing the chromes . . . I clean the neck and strings after each use.

    I use Dunlop Nickel Plated Steel bass medium strings (45-125) on my SRX 5 string. If you haven't tried these strings yet . . . y'all should . . . they are really made by Dunlop! They are most excellent!
  12. NortyFiner

    NortyFiner Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Portsmouth VA USA
    Well, I now have the Rotosound 77's on my SR505, and they are definitely a different animal from the Chromes, or even most flatwounds. I'll do a point by point comparison...


    - The Chromes came out of their fancy plastic packaging very dirty, as I said before, and it took a significant amount of time and effort to get them truly clean.
    - The Chromes are sized 45-65-80-100-132, with un-tapered bridge ends and dark blue cloth wraps that make them even bigger. The bridge and nut on the Ibanez SR series are sized for 130 B, so stringing that fat-ended 132 was a bit of a chore; it was still a tight fit even after removing the cloth wrap from the bridge end.
    - Between the cleanup mess and getting the fat B to fit, the Chromes were probably the most difficult set of strings that I have ever dealt with trying to put on an instrument. It's a damn shame that they come that way right from the package.
    - Once I got past those initial difficulties, I found that the Chromes had a smooth feel with minimal noise, typical of most flats.
    - The Chromes definitely had more tension than the Fender 9050 flats on my Aerodyne. In fact, I think the Chromes had more tension than the stock roundwounds, because I observed relief in the neck that I hadn't noticed before. A setup was definitely in order.
    - After the setup, the sound. The Chromes' natural flat warmth blended well with the mahogany tone of my SR505 without getting TOO warm, while their brightness helped the woody top end stand out. It's hard to compare tone between my Aerodyne and SR505 due to the differing contrasts, but I feel pretty safe in saying that the Chromes were brighter than Fender 9050M's.
    - Except for the initial problems, the Chromes overall seem to be very good strings for my SR505. I bought this bass because it's warm, woody and jazzy, and the Chromes compliment that very well. They have a very versatile sound that could be used in all kinds of styles.

    ROTOSOUND 77's:

    - The Rotos were clean right out of their acid-free paper envelopes, ready to go on the bass with no added delay.
    - The Rotos are sized 45-65-85-105-130. A slightly smaller B than the Chromes, a little chunkier on the E and A. The bridge ends are a bit tapered with very tight red wraps, and were a perfect fit for the SR505 on the first try.
    - I'll be blunt: the Rotos might be the UGLIEST strings I have ever put on a bass, and I mean that in a characterful kind of way. Bright red neck end wraps of different lengths that scream "LOOK HOW UNEVEN I AM" and a rougher feel than any other flats I've ever felt. These are definitely strings with their own personality.
    - A closer inspection shows why the Rotos feel relatively rough compared to other flats: the outer wrap uses a narrower ribbon than either Fender 9050's or Chromes, resulting in more windings and thus a "rougher" texture. That probably also has something to do with the Rotos' reputed brightness, which I'll get to in a moment.
    - The neck end of the B string doesn't taper until it's literally right on the tuning key. Not much room for error there.
    - The Rotos are at least as high tension as the Chromes, and feel very stiff to my fingers. Of course, these strings ARE brand new, but looking at the relief on that B string, I definitely foresee a truss rod adjustment coming.
    - There is definitely more finger and fret noise with the Rotos than other flats, no doubt due to the texture and stiffness, but it's nothing that attention to technique won't cure.
    - In terms of tone, if not for the underlying flat warmth, I almost couldn't tell that I'm not playing roundwounds. The Rotos are the most aggressive flats I've ever heard, relatively bright and punchy even compared to Chromes. I definitely can hear why Steve Harris endorses Roto flats on his P-bass; my warm mahogany bass sounds ready to slap and rock.

    Overall, the Chromes are good. The Chromes were smoother and more mellow than the Rotos, and I think may be better suited to sitting in the mix than the Rotos. Even so, I think the Rotos will be staying on my bass for at least the immediate future. Their personality has me intrigued, and I like how their sound stands out.

    As always, YMMV. Hope this helps someone with their string decisions, anyway.
  13. NortyFiner

    NortyFiner Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2008
    Portsmouth VA USA
    Yes. The Chromes have a cool, versatile tone combined with my SR505. Your SR300 has differences from my SR505 (electronics and woods) but the Chromes should still serve it well.
  14. Richard Sabines

    Richard Sabines

    Sep 25, 2007

    I ve had these Rotos for about a month and a half on my pbass. When I first tried them they were too roundwound feel, but now I just love them. I love the high tension with low action which I think makes me play faster, I dont like that steve harris sound at first but now they sound very different. Although I would like to try chromes on my other pbass, I think the rotos are staying for a long time.
  15. I find that hard to believe. Ernie Ball has been making strings longer than almost any other company I can think of. I am not a huge fan of their strings but they were originally a string company that branched out into other gear.
    I also dont think that D'Addario would be selling a repackaged other company string. But hey, the same company that makes Ampegs makes Crates so what do I know?
  16. CapnSev


    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
    Most definitely not. The silks are the same color, and they are both flats, but that's where the differences end. The chromes are really bright out of the package and feel stiffer, the EBs are pretty traditional flats sound-wise, and feel looser.

    They have a completely different sound out of the package though.
  17. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    Initially wiping down Chromes with some alcohol gets rid of that initial oily gray smudge phase.
  18. 76JazzRay


    Mar 30, 2009
    I put Chromes on my MIM PBass.

    EB Regular Slinkys on my 76 Jazz

    EB Power Slinkys on my MusicMan Bongo (waiting to get it back now).


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