Steel vs Nickel wound, Specific to Flatwounds

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by Rob-in-London, Aug 23, 2009.

  1. Rob-in-London


    Jun 21, 2008
    London, England
    Endorsing artist: Rusty Deluxe Pickups
    I've searched the forums and haven't been able to find a thread on this particular "sub-subject". (If I'm wrong just slap my wrist and point me in the right direction :p)

    I've decided I want to put flats on my P-Bass. Needless to say I'm a newbie to flats. I'm after the sound referred to as "dead", like an aged roundwound can get. I was all set on LaBella Deep Talkin' until I found out they were steel wound. With more research I found out most flats were steel wound, which surprised me.

    I had always thought of steel as magnetic and nickel as non-magnetic, and therefore equated steel with brightness for that reason. (As well as experience with steelwound half-rounds, which were bright in the extreme. I don't remember the make, but I'd always thought their choice of steel was a way to "compensate" for the brightness lost in moving away from roundwound.)

    Somewhere I came across a post that suggested my assumptions on the magnetic issue are way off. Can anyone shed some light?

  2. Bassman316


    May 27, 2008
    Longs, SC
    You're right in that most flatwound strings are stainless steel. There are some brands of flatwounds, such as D'Addario Chromes for example, that are stainless steel wound and sound rather trebly for a flatwound right out of the pack. But, after a couple of weeks of regular playing, they start to settle in nicely and the 'zingyness' will start to wear off. To be honest the only brand string that's a nickel-wound flatwound are the TI Jazz Bass nickel flats.
  3. I'm pretty sure the Sadowsky flats are also nickel.
  4. Rezlax31


    Feb 14, 2008
    Pretty sure Pyramids are as well.
  5. john-boro


    May 8, 2009
    I've found that the nickel/steel thing can make as much difference as flat/round. E.g. TI jazz flats and rounds are both nickel, and both have a very elasticy, woody, springy sound that IMO is not good at all for slapping, and is very double bass-y. The fender steel flats I tried had much more zing and high end, lent themselves well to slap, and seemed to have more in common with steel rounds than with nickel flats. Hope that makes it clear - basically if you go for pure stainless steel or pure nickel, you're going to get pretty much the same general characteristics coming through even across the flats/rounds divide.
  6. Here's an email response I got from Roger Sadowsky:

    Hi Dan,

    Our flatwounds use a stainless ribbon wire which is then hand sanded and polished.

    Best regards,

    Roger Sadowsky

    Sadowsky Guitars Ltd.
    20 Jay Street #5C
    Brooklyn, NY 11201
    Tel: 718 422-1123
    Fax: 718 422-1120
    Hours: Mon-Fri 9AM-5PM


  7. Rotosound RS77's are nickel also
  8. When it comes to slap, do you find the TI's very low tension makes it difficult?
  9. Meatrus


    Apr 5, 2009
    No, they are Monel.
  10. john-boro


    May 8, 2009
    The low tension doesn't in itself make too much of a difference, although I guess it depends how much 'spring' spring you like when you slap - hit the TIs hard and they're not going to bounce back at you.. But it's more something about the tone to me. There's no metallic 'snap' at the top end when you pop. It all seems a lot more like trying to slap a violin (or a DB for that matter): not bad as such, but a very different tone to a normal roundwound, or even a stainless flatwound.
  11. ishouldbeking


    Feb 5, 2007
    Hollywood, CA
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    If you're looking for a classic sounding "dead" flatwound you probably won't do better than LaBella Deep Talkin Flats, they're pretty much the quintessential old-school flatwound strings. Chromes are brighter, TI's have a different character altogether... with a completely different type of midrange (not the best at describing tones, but it seems more mid to high-mid sounding to me, as opposed to Labella and other "dead" flats which are more bass and low-mid oriented). Webstrings offers a very affordable set of stainless flats that do the "dead" sound quite well, but I personally prefer the Labella's. TI's are popular around here, but I personally couldn't cope with the tension and they didn't really sound the way I wanted flats to sound. Go for the Labellas and don't worry about the nickel vs steel thing unless you're dealing with rounds... stainless flats are the classic flat strings.
  12. Rob-in-London


    Jun 21, 2008
    London, England
    Endorsing artist: Rusty Deluxe Pickups
    Yeah, I think this is what I needed drumming into my head. (But we're not here to talk about drumming ;-)

    Thanks guys. Lots of good stuff to think about.
  13. stainless on flats make me feel and hear coldness or glassyness.... while with pyramid gold its pure warmth and bottom
  14. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    Personally I just do not get the interest in slapping with flats. Doing so seems kind of like a vegas show girls showing up for work in dirty construction worker clothes. It may work, but personally I don't think it would be all that attractive.
  15. behling


    Mar 12, 2006
    so stainless ribbon = stainless steel not nickle?
  16. tell that to larry graham!
  17. LowB-ing


    Aug 3, 2005
    The difference in sound between nickel and steel is because of their respective acoustic properties, and not because of magnetic properties.

    1) Nickel IS magnetic.
    2) The difference in sound is there when playing unplugged as well.

    Also nickel strings don't actually use nickel wire as far as I know. It's just steel wire that is nickel plated, so the impact on magnetic properties of the wire would be very small even if nickel wasn't magnetic (which it is).

    Just sayin'
  18. 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.

    Jun 23, 2021

Share This Page