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The Flatwound "E" String (Is there a tonal middle-ground?)

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by GrooveNorth, Feb 23, 2016.

  1. Hello,

    I'm looking for some insight from my fellow flatwound players (both fretted and fretless) who have found what they believe to be the most tonally balanced set of strings available. I have been using flats for approximately 3 years, and have loved the change/improvement in texture and tone compared to nickel rounds. They also fit in more musical styles than people think and they are more natural for those of us that double on double (see what I did there?)
    I am without a doubt a "flatwound convert" but I always have the same issue with each brand, and gauge, that I have tried: Why is the E so inconsistent with the rest of the set? Regardless of the brand, I always run into this roadblock and it keeps me from being completely satisfied with my tone. I have tried most of the major brands and currently have the following sets strung on various basses: Roto 77s (40-100), Chromes (45-100) and DR Legends (one gauge only... 45-105). These sets run the gamut in terms of oldschool versus modern flatwound tone, but they all suffer from an E string that is either too boomy (Chromes), too tinny (Rotos) or just straight-up dead (DRs). Is there a brand out there that will fix this issue? What is the coveted middle-ground set?
  2. christle


    Jan 26, 2002
    Winnipeg, MB
    Try TI Jazz Flats if you want a balanced set that is more mid-focused. LaBella 760FLs are balanced with a more traditional tone. I also really thought that the Cobalt Flats were balanced but with a more modern tone.
    Lia_G, Klonk and TomB like this.
  3. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I used DR Hi-beam flats for about 4 years, and the E does die quickly (if not right out of the box). In fact I played my p-bass the other day with a set that has been on there for probably 6 years (I don't play gigs on EB anymore). The other three strings still sound good, but the E was just a thud. I didn't like Rotos either.

    I am going to try Labellas on mine next.
  4. shawshank72


    Mar 22, 2009
    I found my balanced tension and sound at 50/65/85/110
    I use Ernie Ball flatwounds and after a couple of months ive never had that problem.
    But i do feel your pain as i hated dealing with that scenario in the past.
    Fender flatwounds have always had a goo E that could holdup well IMO.
    I have always tried to love labellas but same reason you gave is why i always give up on them.
  5. My top three flats for tonal balance:
    1. Sadowsky Lite (40-60-80-100).
    2. La Bella 760FL (43-60-82-104).
    3. Fender 9050L (45-60-80-100).
    The only other flats (and the very first set of flats) I've tried is the Chromes ECB84 (40-60-80-100). I didn't like the combination of a twangy G with a thuddy E.
  6. AngelCrusher


    Sep 12, 2004
    Mesa Boogie, Tech 21, Taylor
    Agree. The TI's are very balanced. In fact the A string is rather thin for balancing purposes, so you made need a setup, but it is very worth it.
    wisconsindead likes this.
  7. Marial

    Marial weapons-grade plum

    Apr 8, 2011
    Sadowsky Lite and EB Cobalt Flats would be votes for what you're looking for, with the EB's being my string of choice.
  8. TomB

    TomB Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2007
    I agree about TI & LaBella; also found GHS flats to have a nice A to E string transition, once broken in, of course. I'm surprised you didn't find Chromes consistent - I would have included them in this regard, personally. I mean, even rounds display some of this "different E" phenomenon, don't you think? Also, I've owned a lot of speaker cabs (in the past) that showed a definite "transition" of tone right around A above E low E and down the E-string. I know it was cab-related because the cabs I use today do not have that issue.
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2016
    Atshen likes this.
  9. EB Cobalt are nicely balanced IMHO, as well as Fender 9050's. The Cobalts will have more clarity and nice punchy mids, and the Fenders will be a bit on the darker side. Both have excellent E strings for me anyway.
  10. Yahboy


    May 21, 2008
    +1 Sadowsky 40-100 Flat.

    SadowSky 40-100 flat has better focus E string. Well balance . Great combination with Fender 63 pup.

    But, i install a new SD SPB-1 few week ago along with an old set of Labella 760FL. This is another nice combination for me, just i found the E is lack focus and the G sound little bit thin . After i change my plucking skill, overall sound could balance with my fingerstyle.
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2016
  11. It's nice to hear someone else confirm my experience with the DR set. Beautifully made but the E doesn't vibrate properly. You can tell by simply picking, or slapping, it next to the other 3 strings. A-G are nearly perfect and then the E doesn't project at all. I'm very surprised that it hasn't been more noticeable in a live situation. After shows I've always defaulted to the "Oh well...they are flats after all!" mentality.
  12. Based on my rehearsal tonight...I definitely agree! I decided to try nickel rounds again to test my ear, and the E wasn't perfectly balanced either. Now in terms of the Chromes, I do enjoy their tone overall and in comparison to the DRs, the E string projects and punches like a proper bass string should. The only (minor) issue I have with them is that I seem to be waiting for the G to settle in with the rest of the set.
  13. Klonk


    Apr 28, 2011
    Agree to most of those above. I think TI flats, LaBella 760FS, FL and FM, plus Sadowsky 040-100 and 045-105 all have great tonal balance. I've discarded Chromes, DR Legends, Pyramid Gold, GHS and a fair few others because of uneven tonal properties between the strings. Chromes are pretty close though, of these, but I can't stand their tone even after months of breaking them in.
    Groove Doctor likes this.
  14. tallboybass

    tallboybass Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2003
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    With Chromes I find that using balanced tension sets also helps balance the tone. I've got a 105-80-60-45 set that's nice but went down to 95-75-55-40 and it's pretty perfect.
  15. iiipopes

    iiipopes Supporting Member

    May 4, 2009
    Until Fender stopped making them, the 9050CL 45-60-80-105 was the best balanced set in feel, tension and especially tone of any flats I have ever played, and I've played almost all of them since 1976. I have a lot of old posts about why out there somewhere.
  16. Thanks for the input. You just saved me a ton of time and money by scratching off a few brands that I was looking to invest in. Sadowsky sets are a little more difficult to find in Canada (well...you just have to ship them) but based on what I've read here on TB, they could be worth the hassle.
    Klonk and Groove Doctor like this.
  17. I actually had the 45-100 set of the new Fender 9050s and really enjoyed them! They had a very even response tonally across the fretboard. Unfortunately, the E and A strings were fairly low tension, and I couldn't get used to the lack of resistance while digging in with my right hand. Using a lighter technique is a great concept/theory but it's hard to pull-off sometimes while on stage.
  18. ixlramp


    Jan 25, 2005
    Flats are inherently stiff, especially at larger gauges, it might help tone consistency to use a much lighter set, and be healthier too.
    A tension balanced set might help even out tone by making lower strings tighter relative to higher strings, like .095 .070 .050 .035.
  19. TimB 619

    TimB 619 Guest

    May 28, 2010
    I'm checking with Fender, because it looks like 9050CL and 5 string flats sets are coming back.

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