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Rounds on fretless: nickel or steel?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Ezmar, Mar 5, 2013.

  1. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    So I'm getting a fretless, sooner or later, and I will be using rounds most of the time. I typically use Rotosound Swing Bass 66 stainless steels, but I'm wondering if it might be a better idea to use nickel/NPS instead. Not in terms of board wear, but just in terms of sound. I use steels because nickels get too dull for me as they age, and steels sound good to me any time after those incredibly zingy first couple of days. But maybe the deader sound of worn in nickels will sound nice on fretless, sort of flat-ish. Although maybe I will still want the steels on there. Just like my fretted bass, but without frets.

    Either way, I'll probably try them both out once I have the fretless, but I'm interested to hear different opinions on this. what kind of rounds do you use on both fretted and fretless bass, and why?
  2. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    For rounds I prefer steel in general, but for fretless you might wanna try pressurewounds. They're an iron nickel alloy and work great for fretless. Plenty of punch but low on zing and easy on fingers and fingerboards.
  3. hotbass57


    Nov 27, 2011
    I use Roto Sw 66 nickels. Great string and blue silk looks awesome.
  4. atomicdog


    Jun 18, 2011
    I also use the Roto Sw 66 nickels. They growl but they have more warmth than the steels.
  5. I think it might depend on the bass and even moreso the pups...
    To illustrate, my main go to fretless has EMG soapbars with an active pre and the nickel plated steel set I have on that still have that roundwound zing after 6 years compared to another fretless bass with a passive split P on which the top end of the strings sound completely different only after a couple of months on new strings... I recently changed the pups in that bass to Bartolinis and the strings that sounded old and mellow now sound zingy and almost new again, I was shocked, so might be trial and error, as you mentioned.
    not even sure I like the way the sound of the bass has changed as a result of the pickup change with the same strings.

    EDIT: Meant to add if you like the Jaco sound, he reportedly used Roto swing bass 66 steels, so it's a good start if you like them and that sound :)
  6. It's a catch 22 situation.

    Steels sound awesome as a fretless string, but they just love to eat them some fretboards. Nickels are less caustic to boards but are warmer in sound, something a few fretless players don't like. I have found GHS Pressurewounds to be in the middle soundwise and make great fretless strings.

    Then again, you could always have your fretless fingerboard coated and play the steels anyway.
  7. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    Steel rotosound swing 66 as first choice. Nickel swing 66 as alternate. Ebony board is reccomended for fretless for better wear.
    kkaarrll likes this.
  8. Ian_Flash


    Jan 17, 2013
    Stainless steel on fretless is the basic recipe for a Jaco lead solo sound... Roto 66's were his weapon of choice, in fact. Warwick also equips their Corvette Fretless with their SS strings and passive J style p/u's. The downside is board wear, the upside is a great "Mwahh" and expressive solo sound. If you are definitely going Roundwound, it won't make much difference if you use nickle or steel... they are both abrasive to a fretboard, steel just feels a little more rough on the fingers. Most Ebony is more resistant to wear than Indian Rosewood but not by much w/ rounds. I say, go for the tone and deal with the wear issue. Stock up on 600 - 1500 Grit sandpaper and buy a can of Tung Oil or better yet, EPOXY!
  9. Ezmar


    Jul 8, 2010
    In reference to the wear issue, I'm planning on a dymondwood board, which should help somewhat. And I might consider using epoxy as well. I don't mind the loss of the darkness of an untreated board, since I was inspired to get a fretless by Michael Manring, who has the super bright and hard Phenowood board.

    It's kind of a premature question, but would dymondwood gain a whole lot in longevity from treatment? I know that it will wear either way, but with as hard and durable as dymondwood is supposed to be, would it really make much difference?
  10. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    I like half round dadarios
  11. wobble man

    wobble man

    Feb 15, 2013
    I play DR Fat Beams (steel on round core) on fretted, DR Sunbeams (nickel on round core) for fretless. A lot of fretless players like the Sunbeams as a round for fretless, not just me, so it is something to check out I think. On my former fretless, I always used steels on the ebony board, and there was significant wear, though mostly cosmetic.

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