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Roto66: Nickel vs Steel

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


  1. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member



    I’ve used Rotos starting back in 1972. They’re one of my goto string sets. And I’ve nearly always had a set installed on a least one bass since then. And if I had to characterize Rotosound 66 steels, this is how I’d describe them:

    First up, I’ve never had a set keep what I think of as ‘zing’ for four months. My experience is that their super hot new string fizziness disappears about three or four hours after being loaded. Which is fine by me because I consider a set of Rotosounds straight out of the package to be almost unusable for what I’ll be playing.

    After that some of the sharp steel roundwound edge (zing?) still hangs in. But it gradually diminishes over a week or so of playing before settling into what I think of as the characteristic Rotosound signature vibe. Which to me is bright and piano like, but still very controlled and focused.

    Depending on how much and hard you play, that signature sound can last anywhere from one to four months after that. Beyond a little over four or so months, when on my bass they start sounding very much (to me) like a fairly new set of GHS Pressurewounds. At which point I’ll usually replace them. But in any event I hardly ever keep them on past the half year mark anymore.

    Please note this is just my impression based on what my ears hear and how I play. So don’t take the above as anything other than just one longtime player’s opinions.
     
    activa44 likes this.
  2. activa44

    activa44

    Dec 17, 2018
    I might try both and see what I prefer, then!
     
    Lee Moses likes this.
  3. activa44

    activa44

    Dec 17, 2018
    To be honest, waiting for them to be dead isn't a problem to me (also because it seems that 66s die fairly quickly?). And about the tone, I'm in love with early Motorhead tones and early Sabbath tones (two very different tones... one sounds like a guitar, the other is the epitome of bass playing/sound, but they both used Rotos).

    I'm just asking to confirm, because indeed Rotosound changed over the years and we don't live in the 70s/80s anymore. From what I've read, Lemmy seemed a fan of dead strings, so I guess his Rotos were pretty dead... but he sounded like a ''guitarist with an averagely fat sound'' would. On the other hand, I've read that Geezer was very poor at the time, so he just used to steal the strings and (instead of stealing them again or buying them) he just boiled them... so new and with the zing, but he sounded warm, with tons of low-end and pretty much set the standards for what bass playing should be in any rock-derived music context.
    Logic says that should be the opposite, though. Lemmy should sound warmer and Geezer brighter, but of course instruments, amp settings, etc. play a big part in it.

    I just wish to know if I can still get a fat bottom end and a growl from steel Roto66 strings (either new or abused to death and decomposition).
     
  4. activa44

    activa44

    Dec 17, 2018
    As you said... ''longtime player'' and still using them. And you think the new sound in unusable.
    That ''bright and piano like, but still very controlled an focused'' part really appeals to me.
    That confirms that they can sound warm and fat too, I guess (if you put the bass pretty high from the amp).
     
  5. BOOG

    BOOG

    Dec 13, 2016
    Cleveland, Ohio
    DR Sunbeams or Pure Blues
    No fancy silks but feel great and sound great. One of the characteristics advertised of Pure Blues is that they come out of the package sounding and feeling like they are already broken in. Great strings but don’t always cut through as nice as Sunbeams or Chromes.
     
    activa44, Lee Moses and 40Hz like this.
  6. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    I’ve got them on a ‘74 Ripper, which is a very clean mid-focused bass. I can get a big warm tone with some judicious EQ-ing.

    I used to run it through my B-15N for studio/home. Otherwise it was either an Acoustic 360/361 or (later) a 370/301 stack for gigs, and I could dial in a very pretty sound. With Rotos, the bulk of the magic is in the mids. So running with a light hand on the bass knob and playing with the midrange settings can get you some really nice warm and rich lows if that's what you want. You don’t really need to boost the bass much.
     
    activa44 likes this.
  7. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Agree!

    The Pure Blues are also really nice. Another really good string - like all DRs are. But to my ears there’s a distinct scoop to them. Which I think might be why they don’t cut very much. They kinda have (to me) a mellower sort of jazz-ish (is that even a word?) or softer style rock sound. I really like them for lower volume stuff. And they’re a great choice for a JB since they seem to especially like JB pickups. But cut they don’t unless you run them through a drive or similar pedal. By themselves they will very politely sit in the mix for the most part. At least for me and how I play. And they are very easy on the fingers and do sound broken in right out of the box. A bIg plus right there IMO. Especially if you’re ever caught needing to change strings right before a set.

    Sunbeams have much more body to them than the Pure Blues sets. One of the best sounding all purpose roundwounds out there.

    Chromes are interesting strings. Never cared for them too much until I finally tried a light set on on PB I have. And it was a marriage made in heaven. Nice finish and a much quicker than I expected break-in for a flatwound. Only took me around 3 or so weeks of regular playing before they sounded fully opened up. Tension is tight but comfortable. You can really tear it up on a set of Chromes.

    FWIW Michael League (of Snarky Puppy fame) likes to put Chromes on his vintage PB.
     
    BOOG likes this.
  8. BOOG

    BOOG

    Dec 13, 2016
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Yep everything you said is what I found.
    Pure Blues on my Jazz w/ JV52 pups
    Sunbeams on Precision w/Geezers and
    Chromes I like on my Spector. Absolutely true about tearing it up. That bass can be really fast
     
    activa44 likes this.
  9. skaine

    skaine

    Dec 11, 2014
    Its a matter of taste. Steel strings have brighter and more zingy sound than i prefer. Also the feel is different with the steels, of course one can get used to it after giving a time. The other thing is, when the steel strings get older, the absence of brightness and liveliness more noticable than nickels.
     
    activa44 likes this.
  10. FirewalZ

    FirewalZ

    Aug 14, 2014
    S.E. Michigan
    I’ve never had a set of roto’s, but have always wanted to try them...I prefer nickels. How are they tension and flexibility wise?
     
    activa44 likes this.
  11. skaine

    skaine

    Dec 11, 2014
    If you are referring the flatwounds, Roto is stiff and not so flexible. Since they dont sell Thomastik, Labella and higher gauge of Chromes in my country, i use the Rotos as second best thing :)
     
    activa44 likes this.
  12. FirewalZ

    FirewalZ

    Aug 14, 2014
    S.E. Michigan
    I meant the rounds, 66 swing bass. I’ve never played on a set that I can recall, and have always wanted to try them. However I don’t like higher tension strings, so was wondering.
     
    activa44 likes this.
  13. BOOG

    BOOG

    Dec 13, 2016
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Roto 66 Swing Nickels...
    Stiffness and flexibility imo is similar to Fender stock rounds (I wanna say, 7250 ???) or whatever typically comes with a new Fender. A little stiffer than hex core Boomers.
     
    activa44 likes this.
  14. FirewalZ

    FirewalZ

    Aug 14, 2014
    S.E. Michigan
    Thanks, yea regular Boomers are a bit stiff for me, love the ML Roundcore Boomers though.
     
    activa44 and BOOG like this.
  15. BOOG

    BOOG

    Dec 13, 2016
    Cleveland, Ohio
    Cool!
    If you have not tried DR’s with round cores give them a shot. You’ll either like’m, love’m or hate’m. I’m betting, love’m. I have yet to try Boomer round cores. I might eventually replace hex boomers with round core on my Kiloton.
     
    activa44 likes this.
  16. activa44

    activa44

    Dec 17, 2018

    If I don't need to boost the bass much, I guess they're pretty bottom-heavy as well, then!
    VERY good, that's what I was hoping! I usually put bass at 8 because I like a very fat bottom, most of the time, though.
     
  17. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    Even the nickel-wound ones are steel. You're comparing nickel & stainless.
     
    activa44 likes this.
  18. activa44

    activa44

    Dec 17, 2018
    You said Geezers!
    I've got a P-Bass and want to put the Geezer P in it... please, refer to one of my other posts and reply with your opinion, if you have time. It's called ''Quest for (Abrasive) Tone'' or something along those lines.
     
    BOOG likes this.
  19. activa44

    activa44

    Dec 17, 2018
    The thing about noticing more that the string is dead is a plus for me!
    As I said countless times in this post, I'm a fan of dead strings, and them losing the zing and part of the brightness would be really cool.
     
  20. activa44

    activa44

    Dec 17, 2018
    Yes I know. I didn't specify but of course I meant ''Nickel-Plated vs Stainless Steel''.
    Even my Ernie Balls Hybrid are nickel plated steel. I guess that pure nickel strings are somehow ''newcomers''... were they around 20 years ago?
     
    Killed_by_Death likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
    May 15, 2021

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