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RotoSound RS 775LD vs. D'Addario ECB81-5 Chromes - on fretless

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Chris K, Jul 30, 2009.

  1. A month ago I wanted D’Addario Chromes flatwound strings for my fretless G&L L2500 (USA). They were in backorder at my shop, so I decided to try RotoSound flats. A good chance for comparison. More expensive, but, according to the ad, produced on vintage machines. To charm those lucky chums playing a 1968 Telecaster, I suppose.

    Putting on the strings: On my bass, B and E are too short for through body stringing with both brands. Protective windings need to be partly removed from A, D and G to cover the entire scale when stringing through body, which is my preference.

    First impression: Chrome flats are very smooth. The windings can hardly be felt. In the first few playing minutes, they tend to offer some friction to dry fingers, which can be nasty playing glissandi. On Rotos the windings can be felt, but they have a pleasant feel and slide easily. Chrome Flats are ready to roll in minutes, with some tone adjustment to cut highs. The Rotos need much more time to break them in. It took 8 -10 hours of playing before the E string stopped to be extremely bright.

    Sound: Both brands have a reputation for sounding bright. A pity, because the both of them sound very low at the same time. Highs of course will be always be dominant if you are close to the cabinet in a small room. To test the lows, you will need to try the strings in a pretty large room and listen at varying distances. Both brands offer a large tone spectrum that can easily be managed by dimming what you do not want to hear. Much more important is consistency of sound across the strings. In this field the Chromes deserve a double plus. G is definitely bass, not low guitar. B is well defined. Chromes are louder as well, and punchy even with a light pluck. With the Rotos however, low E was much brighter than the other strings. B, on the other hand, was murky, so a settings compromise was hard to find. G, D, A sounded almost like low piano strings, with a very nice attack.

    Tuning: Both Rotos and Chromes stay in tune well, with a slight plus for the Rotos.

    Playing comfort: After breaking them in, Rotos definitely have much higher tension. I brought the bridge down to compensate this, but for playing close to the nut it did not help much. In the lower positions I had to press much too hard. On a fretted bass this might not be a problem, but on a fretless it sure is, especially playing low doubles in a one finger ‘per fret’ system. High tension strings turn that typical fretless growl almost into a mission impossible. After putting on the Chromes, I immediately felt relief. I left the bridge the way it was without problems. The Chromes played very comfortably, requiring no serious pressure. This remained the same after the – practically non-existent – break in period. They growl like a Bengal tiger.

    Health: Yes, health. An issue that should never be forgotten when reviewing hardware. I learned this from many bad experiences involving various musical instruments. One of my lifelong marks is a nickel allergy, acquired from a tuba mouthpiece. The allergy is much less serious than it used to be, so I fearlessly encountered the nickel wound Rotos, only to notice the allergy was still there. Nickel dermatitis can be pretty nasty. Chrome allergy is less frequent, but using chrome wound strings for a long time might put you in an exclusive league. Wash your hands before and especially after playing. Before: to keep the strings from reacting with your sweat, forming the allergenic oxides that can cause dermatitis. After: to wash off those oxides. Also wipe your strings and fingerboard with a (microfiber) cloth. Remember that these allergies build up slowly. You'll notice nothing till the serious breakout. Then everything - coins, keys, tools - will cause problems!
    Also the Rotos gave me a sore 3rd left hand finger, a new phenomenon to me. Stretching and pressing hard at the same time is not a very healty approach. It made me see why double bass players use 1-2-4.

    Conclusion: Rotos are much more expensive, less consistent, less comfortable. The Chromes continue to rule.
  2. lmfreeman9


    Sep 1, 2007
    Has anyone tried the Chromes and the DR Hi Beam Flats?
    I would like to know how they compare.
  3. JayfromDeeKay


    Jun 23, 2009
    Thanks a lot for writing this up, Chris.

    I went from Rotosound roundwounds (66) to flatwounds (77) just a few days ago, as I found the roundwounds tore up my fingertips too much. I like the sound of the flats, but they seem to have far more tension, and this affects both my neck bow and the playing quite a bit. I can't adjust my way out of this, since my trussrod is already at maximum tension and the neck still isn't straight enough to get a good mwah all over the fretboard. The roto flats also required some major intonation changes of the G-string, but not the other strings, strangely enough.

    After reading your bit above, I've decided to order a set of D'addario chromes to try out those instead.