Roto66: Nickel vs Steel

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by activa44, Apr 25, 2019.

  1. activa44


    Dec 17, 2018
    Hi guys and gals!

    So: Roto66 ''Swing Bass'' strings come both in the classic stainless steel formula AND nickel plated steel, these days. I guess that when our lord and saviour John Entwistle contributed to create that string, it was only steel. I've got a few questions then.

    1) When did the nickel plated alternative first come out?

    2) How do they compare? Which one do you prefer?

    Consider that so far I've used just whatever my old bass had on and changed the strings I broke, so I have almost no experience with strings. Since I got my P-Bass (two months ago) I began to know the Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinkies, because that's what the guy who sold me the bass put on it before selling (and that's good, because it's one of the strings I wanted to try, indeed). They're pretty good, but they lack growl and have too much oomph, in my opinion (although I'm not sure if it's because of the bass/pickup itself or the strings per sè).

    Also, I'm mostly interested in hearing your opinions and hearing what you do with your bass (pick or fingers, genres played, clean or distorted, picking area on the string... say what you want), to have a better context of your opinions, but I'd like some reccomendations too, if you don't mind. And I'm a fan of dead strings, so keep that in mind if you want to reccomend me one or the other.

    The reason why I'm interested in steel Roto66 is because of their fame for ''mid growl, scruffiness, huge low-end and (although just when new, I guess) clankiness'' and I play with a pick, mostly picking near the neck and always distorted.
    zon6c-f and trothwell like this.
  2. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    I can't answer #1. As for #2, I primarily played RS66 steels for about 20 years, with a few detours here and there. Then one time when I was getting my bass set up, I failed to specify "steels" when I told him what strings I wanted. So I got nickels, and was pleasantly surprised. I loved the warmer, rounder sound, and have been a nickel guy ever since.

    But based on what you like in strings, you probably want to stick with steels. The clankiness pretty much disappears with nickels.
    nbsipics, zon6c-f and activa44 like this.
  3. wolfkeller

    wolfkeller Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2013
    Ive been using rotos forever. I play metal/hardrock from GnR to pantera. i play with a pick 95% of the time. I play aggressively with overdrive. I currently play in a Crue tribute band, ampeg svt2 and 810s. Ive used all kinds of strings and roto is the best for a hard hitting, aggressive sound. They do loose their zing fairly quick though. my second Choice was bluesteel but they changes so no more there. Stainless smokes nickle for what i want. nickel is more mellow sounding. I use p basses, lots of pjs, Spector's, Thunderbirds.
    activa44 likes this.
  4. Linnin


    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    Nothing like the original Monels. No thank you. No sale.
    mattj1stc and activa44 like this.
  5. patrickj


    Aug 13, 2001
    Ellicott City, MD
    Endorsing: Spector Bass Guitars
  6. trothwell


    Apr 9, 2008
    Are you referring to their flat wound strings?
    activa44 likes this.
  7. activa44


    Dec 17, 2018
    Well, I appreciate the clankiness in some situations, but it's not a mandatory factor, to be honest.
    As I said, I guess that the clankiness persists until the string dies, so it should go away with the zing.
    I hate the zing and I mentioned being a fan of dead strings, so that wouldn't be a deal-breaker for me.

    Do you confirm them to be growling (and mid focused) and having a fat bottom end? That's mostly what interests me. And is that true for both the steel and the nickels?
    Lee Moses likes this.
  8. activa44


    Dec 17, 2018
    Losing the zing quickly is a bonus, for me.
    I hate the new string sound.

    But I've also read of someone saying that they last 4 months of extensive playing... I guess it's a matter of luck.
  9. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Nickels are a little less bright. I prefer them. But both are at the bright end of the spectrum.
    activa44 likes this.
  10. Linnin


    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    No. The first 66s were monel wrapped. Have no idea when they switched. I quit using Rotosound in the late 1970s due to quality issues, and switched to GHS Boomers.
    activa44 likes this.
  11. activa44


    Dec 17, 2018
    How are the boomers? It's another string that interests me (mostly because I really like the strings on my Ibanez, for that bass, and an employee in a guitar store told me they might've been GHS... I don't know what they are because I got the bass used from the same store and never changed strings, unless I broke them).

    By the way, I know that Geezer Butler, Lemmy and many others used Roto66 in the early days.
    Lemmy switched to Dean Markley Blue Steel in the 90s, but that era of Motorhead doesn't appeal much to me.

    Geezer, I guess he used those for the entire Ozzy era, maybe slightly less.

    So were they steel or what?
    mattj1stc and Linnin like this.
  12. Linnin


    Jul 19, 2012
    Linningrad, Earth
    GHS Boomers have deeper red silks (more of a crimson) than 66s which are bright primary Union Jack red. Here are my reviews of GHS Boomers.
    A Fresh Perspective On A Stalwart American Standard
    Review: GHS Round Core Bass Boomers
    activa44 likes this.
  13. Fialka


    Jul 29, 2018
    I tried Rotos on my jazz, I was delighted how crisp they were, it really gives you that early guitarish John Entwistle tone when overdriven. But most of their chime dissappears in about 4 hours of play, so you've got to be very rich and keep them fresh on daily basis. That said, I am still on my journey of trying different strings, because that is the only way of finding the right ones for you and for your bass. I recently changed to DR SS Fat Beams and I have to say that I really like them. They are not overly crisp like Rotos but sound really "fat"(surprisingly) and maintain their tonal characteristics really well. Thing I really like about them is that strings are really balanced to each other. I tried multiple sets before these and always had the feeling that each string sounded different, not with these. On the other hand new sets feels kinda "sticky" but that dissappears quickly. I would definitely recommend these.
    activa44 likes this.
  14. BobKos

    BobKos Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2007
    One has to consider what was really available back in 'the early days'. Rotos were revolutionary in the day, my heros all used them so I did too. But truth told the science, manufacturing, and market was all in its toddler stages by comparison of today. Nowdays I wouldn't worry about having to get Rotos or any other brand for a specific reason unless I have a bass that particularly likes them. My current preference is for DRs because they are amazing strings and work well on the basses I play the most. I also have basses that work well with R.cocco, Fender, Ernie Ball Cobalt Flats, etc, etc. Never tried Roto nickels.
    activa44 and Coolhandjjl like this.
  15. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    I didn't think the original 66's used the Monel. The reason modern 66s differ from the original 66s, at least the story I read claimed this, was for many decades after WWII, manufacturing in England had supplies of tons and tons of scrap metal from bombed out sites. If one wasn't in aerospace or medical instrument manufacturing, this 'scrap' was pretty much all that was available/affordable for many manufacturers. Due to the peculiar nature of the scrap, even after processing, it still retained tiny remnants of war crap in it. The original 66s used this stuff. Once the supply ran out in the 70s, and newer materials were sourced, things changed.
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2019
    activa44 likes this.
  16. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Thanks for the clarification. I think the mid focused and fat bottom end is a fair description of the RS66 nickels. You definitely lose a lot of that steel "zing" in favor of a much warmer flavor. I don't really think of them as an aggressive, heavy metal-type string, but then again Steve Harris played flats.
    activa44 and lizardking837 like this.
  17. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Roger Glover used the Roto 77 Monel Flats as well. I used them for a while, great strings! Very similar tone as the 66s, but without string/finger noise or fret clank. Unfortunately they die quickly, not as fast as the 66s, but enough to be a pain frequently replacing.
    activa44 likes this.
  18. activa44


    Dec 17, 2018
    And how do Rotos sound after 4 hours, then?
    As I said, I hate new strings, I like my strings like Hitler: DEAD! :D

    Also, I guess the crispness goes away... they should become ''warmer'' in a way, I guess.
    And what about the growl and mid bark many users talk about?
  19. Luckydog


    Dec 25, 1999
    Can you provide a source for this information? Claims like this about war scrap without attribution are nothing more than unsubstantiated rumors.
    activa44 likes this.
  20. Keger Jupit

    Keger Jupit Inactive

    May 10, 2018
    The Great PNW!!
    I too hate zing, so I've been using nickels for about 27 years. They "broken-in" straight out of the box, & they last longer than steels...maybe a better way to put it is they have the same sound, consistently, for longer.

    Considering your mentioned style, check out Duff McKagan's tone on Appetite for Destruction. P-Special with Rotosound steels. If you prefer a "dead" sound, try adjusting your tone knob or throwing a bit of foam under the strings next to the bridge. I use bike helmet foam on occasion.

    activa44 likes this.
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