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String Construction/String Life/Tone - how and why?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by The Mock Turtle Regulator, Mar 19, 2001.

  1. I'm interested if people agree/disagree with these theories I've got about string types/construction and their tone and life.

    I think that string brightness comes from the string's flexibility- a hexagonal core, and round windings on it allow flexibility between the component parts of the string due to minimal contact between them- the harmonics of the string can "develop" better.
    tapering windings or an exposed core at the bridge allow greater flexibility and hence more brightness.

    on a Rotosound RS77 steel flatwound string there is a hexagonal core with a round winding over it, and a final flat surface winding. it sounds bright to begin with, but quickly becomes dull as sweat and dirt accumulate in the windings, trapped under the flat outer wrap more than a round winding would, and the flexibility of the string is reduced. there is greater contact between the trapped dirt and the flat winding than there'd be with a round winding also.

    boiling flat or roundwound strings flushes out the dirt, and brings back brightness. the Elixir goretex coating stops ingress of sweat and dirt to start with.

    maybe Maxima gold strings last longer because the gold plating prevents the adhesion of dirt, and also stops corrosion.
  2. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    I'm not so sure. I think the final wrap has a lot to do with the sound. I'm currently using flatwounds on my Precision and they don't sound anything like roundwounds.
    I don't really like RS77's. I've been using Fender and GHS flats which don't start out bright and then mellow. They start out dark and stay that way. They slowly lose what brightness they have, but it's so slow as to be barely noticeable. Also, Fender and GHS strings are tightly wrapped with very little space betweent the windings, so I don't think that they collect much crud.
    I think you're right about what kills string tone, but I think where it (tone, that is) comes from is more complex than just flexibility. For instance, Thomastik-Infeld Jazz Roundwounds are built on a round core and are very flexible. I don't find them as bright as DR Lo-Riders, which are built on a hex core. Of course, there are other differences in construction, such as the silk underlay on the TI's. Also, the DR's are stainless, and the TI's are nickel, which makes a difference.
  3. rsautrey

    rsautrey Banned

    Jul 27, 2000
    DR Hi-Beams are quite a bit more flexible and brighter than DR Lo-Riders. I think that the roundcore design of the Hi-Beams helps them to be as flexible as a taperwound string even though they aren't tapered. The stiffness of the Lo-Riders gives more bottom but they feel harder to play. This is all opinion of course.
  4. I recently had to park all my theories because three differently-gauged sets of the same series sounded so different. Maybe the proportion of diameter of core to diameter of wrap has something to do with it. Don't know. All I know is that I can't assume much; I have to try out a particular set before I know if it'll work for me.
  5. rsautrey

    rsautrey Banned

    Jul 27, 2000
    kurosawa, I agree. Different gauges among the same sets can produce wildly different results. There is so much voodoo and opinion that you really do need to try as many types as you can to find what's right for you. I wish I could afford to experiment more!
  6. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    I gotta agree. I used Fender flatwounds guaged .045-.095 for a while, but recently switched to .050-.100 in the same string. The G sounds a LOT better. Next time, I may try the .055-.105, along with a truss rod adjustment ;) .
  7. probably it wasn't clear in what I wrote, but I was saying that a flat outer winding means less flexibility due to increased area of contact between the windings.
    I was also judging from experience with the Rotosound RS55 solo bass sets- where the playing surface on the outer round wrap is rolled smooth- the brightness is still there (although what effect compressing the string has is debatable).

    I expect that the ideal hybrid round/flat string would be using a sort of "D"-profile wire (to start with ie. drawn through a die to form that shape and not ground or rolled) for the outer wrap- flat on the outside and round on the inside.

    I wonder what using wire with sharp edges would have ie. triangular profile for the outer wrap (sharp edge on the inside)- even more brightness? (and problems with string life as well I suppose).

    also, I was ignoring the materials involved for the moment(stainless steel/nickel plated/pure nickel etc.) and considering just the construction methods.

    re. core to overall gauge ratio, I'd suppose that a thicker core for a certain gauge would mean less flexibility - less brightness?
    taking the situation to extremes with a solid wire as the string, that's what you'd expect.
  8. rsautrey

    rsautrey Banned

    Jul 27, 2000
    Based on construction methods, I'd say from my experience that ROUNDCORE construction is the most flexible. Taperwounds or exposed core (all of which are hexcore I believe) are flexible too but for me they don't seem to intonate properly. Very few manufacturers offer a roundcore string.
  9. As far as the brightness factor goes, I believe it has something to do with the number of edges and "magnetic density" presented to the pickup. Now this is my own theory, and not really based on empirical evidence.

    Density: Less Bright
    Complexity: More bright

    Flats present very little in the way of edges or density to the pickup, the cross section of the string being relatively consistant and dense.

    Rounds, on the other hand, have a lot more space inside the string, and the cross section of the sting presented to the pickup is alot more complex and less dense.

    Like I said, this is just me talking out my bum, but it seems to work for me.

    It also goes to explain why hex-core strings are generally (in my experience) brighter. The hex cross section is more complex than a round one.

    Refute at will.

  10. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    Flatwounds are usually hex core. Round core strings are made by Thomastik-Infeld (Jazz Series), DR (Hi-Beams), and maybe others. I think hex core strings grip the first wrap better and so are easier to make.

    I don't know about all flatwounds, but D'Addario Chromes and Fender 9050 flats are made like roundwounds except for the outer wrap. So, in cross section, they would look like rounds until the final wrap.

    TMTR- you may be right about why flats are generally so stiff. I know that the Fenders I use are certainly not very flexible. However, TI Jazz Flats are like wet noodles in comparison, probably due to the round core.
  11. Yeah Mock, sounds good about the outer winding constricting vibration; Thomastiks are flexible and also super bright and long-sustaining for flats, and the lower strings have space showing between the turns of the flat wire.
  12. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
  13. Yeah, that's a <i>great</i> article! The best thing about it is seeing the amazingly huge differences between the opinions of makers. One says taper wounds give better intonation, one says it's impossible to get good intonation with them. As always, all theories fall down somewhere, and everything comes down to our ears. I like things that way.

    Hey, flatwound, I have a question for you: do you play your flats with the tone knob maxed out or rolled off (saw in a post you use an 8S)? I recently got into maxing the treble on flats with EMGs (the better to articulate my hammer-ons and pull-offs; I'm highly dependent on them); have got a Bart 58SU on order and hope it's got enough brightness, but hope it's a smooth brightness.
  14. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    I've thought about the 8S, but actually, I'm using a Seymour Duncan SPB-2 "Hot" on my Precision which is pretty good. I usually keep the treble knob wide open because I'm looking for kind of an URB-ish sound and this gives me good attack and finger sound.

    The 8SU, if I'm not mistaken, is the "vintage" style replacement. I'd like to know what you think of it. I'm hoping to put an EMG-P on a Washburn I have, and maybe I'll try it with flats.
  15. yep, I've got the 96 BP string issue that article came from.

    I think that round core strings are more flexible torsionally, ie. the windings can twist over the core, but have an increased area of contact with the windings, so there would be less flexibilty/more friction losses in the lateral vibration of the string, so there's a difference to hex core strings, but the result is hard to quantify.

    I wonder what the tonal effect would be of using a square core wire, or even a triangular core- more brightness?..... but there'd be problems with keeping the string shape round...
  16. Yeah, Mock, I will guess that hex was chosen because it's the smallest number of sides that you can wind another wire around and still get it to come out round. If it was square, I'd expect the string to be flat on 4 sides, plus it would have more air space between the core and the winding. If it was 8, probably the shallower angles of the edges wouldn't grab as well as the narrower angles of a hexagon. Just my guess.

    Hey, flatwound, love EMGs, but since I started using an Acme, there's more bottom than I know what to do with (sure do love the crisp highs and total lack of noise). That's why I went with the SU. The EMG P sounds plain awesome with nickel flats and the tone cranked. With Thomastiks, plucked down at the base of the neck, it's a <i>very</i> URBish sound (Spirocore variety). I will probably grab an EMG P5 just in case I want to change flavors (or in case I need a totally noise-free pickup for some reason). I got the top-load bridge; I need to find some tiny quick connectors so I can change pickups/looms as quickly.
  17. Flatwound

    Flatwound Supporting Member

    Sep 9, 2000
    San Diego
    Cool. The Washburn needs more bottom. The P is cool as currently set up. The SPB-2 has plenty of highs, but they're not harsh.
  18. there's an interesting ad by Thomastik-Infeld in the current BP issue- re. their use of a silk layer between the core wire and the first winding on both flat and roundwounds- "that dampens odd order harmonics (unrelated to the note pitch)"

    ..maybe they refer to that harmonic that sounds like a major third is playing in conjunction with the note on a bright-sounding bass?

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