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Longevity of Tone, your thoughts and preference(s)

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Arthur U. Poon, Mar 20, 2017.


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  1. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    For years, I've read that this specific brand, or that specific brand of strings outlasts all the other brands in retaining a bright tone, or a fresh string sound, or simply keeps their tone the longest.

    At one time, I was a big fan of brand new set roundwound's "zing", and during those many years, I never experienced any noticeable difference between of brand from the other. I'm referring to nickel plated roundwounds, as those are what I personally prefer, and roughly a month to 6 week's use was what I could get.

    Then, I bought a set of Infeld Superalloys. They don't come fresh out of the package super bright, per se, but they kept their tone, for me, for better than a year. Which WAS incredible. Did their sound change at all during that time? Yes, but their overall sound remained very good IMO.

    I had much the same results with Fodera Nickel Roundwounds. Their tone changed some over time, but it remained very good.

    So these two brands for me, really stood out. So what is it the Infeld and Fodera do during the string making process differently? Or are their materials of higher quality?

    I've always tried to be mindful on regularly wiping down my strings, washing my hands before playing, etc, and still I never noticed any brand being superior in that regard, -besides Fodera or Infeld, that is.

    Bear in mind, I haven't tried every brand. I've meant for many years to buy a set of DR's, which I've read many positive comments about regarding their long life.

    Now, over probably the past 10 years, my tastes on tone has gone to a rounder, less bright tone. And I've found GHS Pressurewounds to be my ultimate set of strings. I'm also a longtime happy user of GHS Bass Boomers, which for me keep a useable tone as long as most of the other brands, if not longer, now that I don't prefer a super bright sounding string.

    Could the reason for my success with Superalloys (and now Pressurewounds) be because their outer wrap is Alloy 52?

    I doubt that one string company has a "Secret" or greater knowledge than the other established companies. This stuff isn't rocket science.

    I'd really like to hear folks' thoughts on longetivity of tone when it comes to nickel plated roundwound bass strings.
     
    joebar, btmpancake, mikeyjm2 and 5 others like this.
  2. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    Anyone? Any ideas if one string company uses superior materials or a superior manufacturing process? Maybe has a *Secret* that none of the other companies know?

    -Although, as I said earlier, I truly don't believe there are any secrets.
     
  3. Al Kraft

    Al Kraft Supporting Member

    May 2, 2016
    Northern Virginia
    I've had unusually good luck with DR strings maintaining their tonal characteristics over time. I too have wondered if there was something really different in their materials, the winding process itself and/or any type of temperature control/treatment during or after manufacture. Since I actually use three brands of strings consistently on my three current basses, I do have some firsthand ability to compare in real time.

    Purity of the metals present in the manufacturing stock and/or percent of certain metals/alloys in the overall metallurgical recipe could easily make a difference both in the resistance to corrosion and to how the material reacts during the winding/manufacturing process. From a manufacturing standpoint there is no question that control of stresses and incidence of micro-fractures or degree of cold working of the materials might make a difference in longevity for multiple reasons. In addition, I suspect that temperature control during manufacture and/or treatment (heat or cold) post manufacturing could also provide a potential benefit.

    My engineering experience with materials is related to larger machinery and aerospace components, but I would imagine some of the same process related areas of concern/interest would apply. That's all I got!
     
  4. I don't think the "secret recipe with eleven herbs and spices" is limited to fried chicken by Colonel Sanders. If Colonel knew how to make his fried chicken "finger-licking good", some string manufacturers sure know how to make their strings "finger-picking good" with their secret recipes. :D:D:D
     
  5. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    While every decent stringmaker has a product with certain qualities that are their "signature" so to speak, I find none stand out more than TI and DR. Both really brought something new the table and there was finally an option for people that didn't want to fight their strings, but retain good tone in the process. Coincidentally, they also happen be the two that age most favorably tonewise IMO, and retain their signature tone the longest. Another player I'd put in the top three is Labella, who make a truly quality product that stands the test of time and have really gone out of their way to innovate in recent years.

    EDIT: my spellcheck is FUBAR
     
  6. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    Excellent post! I never even thought about climate controlling the materials. I definitely can see that being done, and higher grades of materials. That would definitely explain why certain brands have a longer lifespan.

    Construction methods too.

    I haven't restrung my 5-string for ages, I see a 5-string set of DR Nickel Lo-Riders in my near future!
     
    Al Kraft likes this.
  7. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    I know we both love GHS' Tangy Pressurewounds! :D
     
    joebar likes this.
  8. Pressure-cooked to perfection in GHS' world-famous tangy sauce! :thumbsup:
     
  9. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    Excellent insight here too! Without a doubt, Thomastik-Infeld does a LOT of things exactly right in their process.

    I'm going to take the DR plunge for my 5-string.

    I know DR strings are handmade, as are Fodera. And Fodera is definitely on to something. I believe they have like 3 people in a little shop in PA hand winding their strings.

    So quite possibly hand winding has a lot to do with a set of strings lifespan.

    I have to admit, I've also thought that computer controlled manufacturing would yield the most consistent results. Yet, I haven't read a lot of "I got a bum string" in any threads about DR's strings.
     
  10. petrus61

    petrus61 Supporting Member

    Make no mistake, it's almost all computer controlled and every company puts out a bum string once in a while. The most consistent quality string to string probably comes from Daddario, who either winds for or has sold patented winding machines to many companies who's names just happen to be on the label. Same for GHS. I just happen to like what the other three I mentioned have to offer better.
     
    Al Kraft likes this.
  11. Al Kraft

    Al Kraft Supporting Member

    May 2, 2016
    Northern Virginia
    While it may sound like a gimmick, cryogenic treating of a metal part can have some very significant effects on the parts's performance in terms of useful life. I seem to recall some strings that featured that process, however, the performance of a manufactured item is more than just a single process or characteristic of the overall design.

    In the winding process itself everything from speed of winding to angles of materials being wound to tension of the various wires during winding all play a part in the characteristics of the finished product.

    Then you've got that element of the raw materials themselves where you are trading off desirable and less desirable attributes with the ability of that final material to be easily and predictably worked through the production process to yield consistent results.
     
    Arthur U. Poon likes this.
  12. Mikhail1

    Mikhail1

    Apr 8, 2008
    I'm sure somebody will correct me if I'm wrong but aren't all DR strings compressed somewhat? I've also read that Fodera uses smaller outer windings so maybe this, like DR and Pressurewounds, allows less crud to get in the windings resulting in longer string life. And you may be on to something with the Alloy 52 comment. The only Alloy 52 strings I've used was a set of GHS Brite Flats, which I hated, but they definitely had a stronger output than standard nickel steel strings.
     
    Arthur U. Poon likes this.
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Coated strings are usually good at retaining bright tone for a long time, although they're a little bit muted right out of the box. Not a huge fan of the coatings but they've gotten a lot better in the last few years than they used to be. But I've found that I can pretty much kill any set of strings within 3 gigs no matter who makes them, with the only exceptions being TI Jazz Flats due (I think) to the silk between the windings, and coated strings. Haven't tried the Foderas or TI Rounds, though, and at those prices, I'm not going to :D Besides, I'm all about the Dunlop Super Bright Nickels now. Even when they're totally dead, you can still get some good zing out of them, as well as a very good approximation of flats if you play them lightly, and I dig that. Price is pretty right, too. Probably the only rounds I've played that I like their dead sound as much as their live sound.
     
  14. J Wilson

    J Wilson

    Feb 18, 2017
    none
    Over the years I've tried everything from Black Diamonds to T-I's and have forever proven the adage:

    Take good care of your strings . . . . . . and they'll go dead anyway.
     
    Old Blastard, JRA and Arthur U. Poon like this.
  15. iTzPrime

    iTzPrime

    May 30, 2016
    living in austria and having visited the TI Factory (quite a small one actually). I can tell you it is mainly because they use really expensive and good metal (that is the main reason for their price) and one hundred years of experience they have making strings for double bass and violin
     
    Jeff Scott, Eikari, salcott and 3 others like this.
  16. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    Germany
    My hands get sweaty pretty quick and that stuff is toxic. I go through things that are meant to be held/touched quite fast (strings, computer mice). Elixirs did it for me. They are coated and not super bright out of the box. I dig the slightly slicker feel and the sound. As a plus, they last me about three to four times as long as non coated strings. Since i don't want too much zzzzing from a string, i can play elixirs for about a year, while uncoated rounds go dead after about three months.
     
    Arthur U. Poon likes this.
  17. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    I know I'm focusing on nickel plated roundwounds, but I've also long admi
    I've wondered the same thing about compression winding not allowing as much crud to get in between the winds, killing the string's brightness too.

    Thus far for me, Alloy 52 as the outer winding wrap seems to make a difference. My hands typically don't get sweaty while I'm playing, but I've read a person's individual skin ph plays a role in a string's lifespan.
     
  18. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    Same thing for me as well. And even back when I played stainless steel roundwounds.

    In between changing strings, I've tried Finger Ease, Dunlop String Cleaner, Fast Fret, I've even tried a small amount of aftershave on a clean microfiber cloth. None of my efforts made a huge difference in lifespan though.
     
  19. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses

    Dunlop Super Brights are on my radar too. I've yet to try a set. They're defintely priced right. I lived by the frequent string changing philosophy as well. I've used XL's and Boomers for decades. First because I like their sounds, and because they don't drain my wallet. :D
     
    JimmyM and jmattbassplaya like this.
  20. ubernator

    ubernator

    Oct 30, 2004
    lost angels
    I got a dead A in a set of DRs once in the 90s :)

    I find steel always lasts longer than nickel with my chemistry. I did the elixir and clear tone thing for a while, got a year out of elixirs.

    Now I am a big fan of denatured alcohol, a Tupperware tub, and all the old strings I never threw away. Best $4.50 I ever spent!

    Clearance bins over the years got me stocked up on more nickels than I normally would buy, and the alcohol soak really keeps them going. Just have extra sets to keep swapping in and out of the bath and you can save lots of money.

    I have not tried fodera or TI or any other expensive strings. Before the days of elixir ($40-50), I used to pony up about $40 for DR steel hi beams, they used to cost a bit more than they do now.

    When I was 23 on the DR kick, I asked my concert sound teacher what kind of bass strings he liked, and he said "new ones". I kinda go by that now, but after a soak for a couple days in the DNA, I get 90%+ the way there. Give it a try.
     
    Arthur U. Poon likes this.