1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
     
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

TI / Labella Flatwound comparison

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by TroyK, May 5, 2006.


  1. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I've been experimenting with Flatwounds for a few years now and have some opinions, but started a new Fretless P-Bass project last year and decided that it was time to try the two marquee brand flatwounds; LaBellas and Thomastik Infields. Because both are expensive and Talkbass Rocks!, I bought the LaBella DTBFLs, kept them on for a while and then posted and brokered a trade with a friendly TB'er for the TIs. Paid for one set, bought both.

    So, since I've had both on the same bass and he's had both on a different bass, we thought people might be interested in hearing our impressions. I may mix in some impressions of the other other flatwounds I've used, but to be fair, I never had them on this particular bass, so it's tough to directly compare. Also, I should mention that since my last round of flatwound experimenting, I've been almost exclusively a doublebass player and just play the occasional gig with my P-Bass. Those gigs are almost always fairly quiet jazz gigs and I play walking fingerstyle, so depending on what you are doing, YMMV.

    The TIs just went on and I'm going to need to change my setup a little to really get them dialed in. I don't have a gig with this bass for another week, so I'll have to reserve some judgement until then.

    Initial impressions, though. Contrary to what you've read, I dont' find them all that different. The TIs are lower tension, but not to the degree that I have to change my playing style to accomodate. Maybe if I was digging in hard with a heavy pick, but that's not what I do. The feel nice, speak well and are generally cool. They are buzzier at the same settings than the LaBellas were because the LaBellas were stiffer and didn't occilate as much. I think that the LaBellas were a little deader sounding too. The TIs are pretty clear and focused. They still sound like flatwounds, but are not super dead and thumpy. For the guys putting a sponge under their strings to kill all sustain, these are probably not for you. They are a little less smooth than some other flatwounds, but not as much as I've read. No big deal to me. They're still very smooth. I think I'm going to really like them and probably stick with them, but I'll have to get a set up and play a few gigs with them before I know for sure.

    I liked the LaBellas too. They were a bit stiffer (light gauge) and because I play soo much double bass, at the end of a 3 hour night, my plucking finger was gettting numb. It's a different part of the finger than I use for DB and I don't play EBG enough to really build those calluses. I won't know if this is better with the TIs until I've played that 3 hour night with them, but I suspect that they will be better in that regard. I didn't love the tone of the G string on the LaBellas, but I've had the same trouble with other ML gauge flatwound sets. It wasn't bad, but not as ballsy as I prefer. I think the TIs will be better for that. Heavier gauge G strings would certainly solve that problem too, but they would also be even stiffer and tougher on me, which I am trying to get away from.

    As far as good funk tone down low, they both seem to have it. Both are good strings, subtle differences, I've always read there were dramatic differences, not so at first blush.

    I'll look forward to reading Larry's impressions once he's tested the LaBellas out. His basses are different than mine and his experience and impressions may be different. As I test out the TIs more, I'll come back and update my observations.

    Does this interest anyone except me and Larry?

    Troy
     
  2. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    Indeed it does. I have a P bass with roundwounds (just got it, don't want to change new strings right away) which sound good with the Basslines Quarter Pound pickup. 62bass suggested the Thomastik-Infelds, so I now have a set of LaBella DTB tapewounds, the TI Jazz flatwounds, and have been wondering which set to try out first.

    I appreciate your sharing. With the price of strings, a little guidance is a good thing.
     
  3. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Price is a factor indeed. It's too early to tell, but I think for my purposes, the TIs may be my strings.

    For the money, you really can't beat Fender Flatwounds. Very similar to the LaBellas actually. They were very high tension, even the ML gauge and I had them on an old mexi-Jass bass who's neck really couldn't handle the tension. But, on something with a solid structure, the Fenders are really great and cheap. I found Ernie Ball's flatwounds to be a good compromise; less smooth, not quite as high tension, I could actually use a heavier gauge, which made the G sound better and not have them be unmanageably stiff. They were deader and less clear sounding, though.

    For whatever that is worth.

    -tk
     
  4. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    As I mentioned, I have a set of TI's and LB's on hand at the moment, so one or the other will wind up [chortle] on the bass. I appreciate what you've done.
     
  5. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    So, if you think you'll like higher tension and slightly deader sound, put the LaBellas on first. If you don't, try the TI's first.

    I've spend some time in Deep E Texas. It can be nice out there.

    Troy
     
  6. rockstarbassist

    rockstarbassist Banned

    Apr 30, 2002
    The Woodlands, TX
    Endorsing Artist: HCAF
    All I'd like to know is, what do you guys use to not eat your fretboard up? :meh:
    Is there anything that can be done besides using rounds that still sound somewhat similar??
     
  7. ldervish

    ldervish

    May 22, 2005
    Johnson City, TN
    I was under the impression that flats were easier on both the frets and fretboard (on fretless basses) than rounds. For the fretless, (and I don't know this from personal experience because I have never owned one), if you otherwise like your setup/sound and are having trouble with fretboard wear maybe you should look at one of the treated, impregnated or synthetic fretboards. There is some discussion of that in the Gallery Hardwoods sponsored thread.

    I am the one who traded with Troy, after using the TI flats on an ash bodied jazz bass with active electronics and stringing through the bridge. I found them sounding somewhat like other flats, but in some ways very different. For me, the surface texture was not smooth enough, and I found the E sizing difficult to get used to. The E had interesting tones though, and on that bass it had a lot of harmonic and sounded kind of piano-like to me. The other strings had similar harmonics but not as prominent as on the E. Some TBers have complained of flabby strings due to TI's low tension, but I didn't find that the case. I use mostly fingerstyle with moderate attack from a fairly flat hand position. I thought they had good consistency string-to-string, but the sound overall didn't fit with the music I play as well as some others.

    I suppose mine isn't really a fair test either because after Troy sent me the Labellas (760FL) I mounted them on another bass, an MIA Jazz which is alder, passive and has through-the-body stringing. So one could expect some difference due to the nature of the instruments.

    On the Fender, my first impression of the Labellas was favorable, with the only obvious negative being the thinness of the G and D (.043 and .060). I had been using GHS Precision SS flats, which I liked, and after playing the Labellas for a few days now, the GHS are in second place, but I may try the medium gauge Labella as there is quite a difference in sizing (G and D are .049 and .069). However, even in the light gauge set the bottom is clearer than the GHS (but maybe not quite as clear as the TIs), and I think the strings are more consistent as a set than the GHS. I even found it necessary to tweak the amp settings, increasing the bass setting on the amp while rolling the tone up a little on the Fender. It gives me more modern mid tones than I could get with the GHS strings; but if I need the more dead motown sound, rolling the tone back off gives it to me. Highs are solid with the Labellas, not tentative. My feeling is that these strings will get better as they age in a little more, but I am very satisfied at this point. If this thread continues for a bit, I may swap the Labellas onto my other basses and see if these impressions hold.

    I think both Troy and I are happy with the strings we ended up with, and even happier that we could try them both for the cost of one set. These things are too expensive to just run out and grab when you get the itch to try something new.
     
  8. zombywoof5050

    zombywoof5050

    Dec 20, 2001
    I have the LaBella 760FL set on my Precision, and there is no problem at all with the G string, very nice sounding/feeling and just as punchy as the other strings.
     
  9. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Just to clarify, I don't really think the LaBellas were too stiff. I think they were too stiff for me, because my right hand is conditioned for upright bass at this point. I play one or two gigs a month with my PBass and the stiffness and thinness of the strings were causing me some numbness that I think probably wouldn't have been a problem if I played it daily.

    I did think that tonally that string wasn't all that balanced with the set on my bass.

    I'm having some setup done on it now with the TIs and will look forward to playing with them next weekend and posting my impressions.

    Troy
     
  10. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    How about the LaBella Black tapewounds? I had them on my upright and liked them (until I switched to the Animas). I'd like to try them on my electric. Right now I have the D'Addario Flat Chromes on it and their fine but would like to try the tapewounds. Are the tapewounds stiffer than the Chromes?
     
  11. 7flat5

    7flat5

    Nov 28, 2003
    Upstate NY
    Absolutely! I am so tired of "reviews" that basically amount to "this sux" or "this rocks" without some depth. Thanks!
     
  12. michele

    michele

    Apr 2, 2004
    Italy
    I'm still caught between the two. I used LaBella DTB flats for one year on my Sadowsky then I decided to give the TI flats a try: they sounded so good and my hands istantly felt at home with the lower tension so I just left 'em on. But honestly can't say less about the LaBellas.
    IMO the TIs are a little more articulate, better for (e.g.) intricate passages or fast unisons on high registers... great growly lo-mids too. But if we're talking about laying down a fat, slow to mid-tempo groove, well, I'd say that is really difficult not to be satisfied by the strong, full fundamentals of the LaBellas: you feel it in your guts everytime you pluck.
     
  13. avid

    avid born lefty

    Jun 22, 2005
    Ashland, Oregon USA
    Yes, please keep reviewing as I find it very interesting and useful. I am stuck between trying Fender and Labella flats on my Fender American Jazz Deluxe at the moment. With all the enthusiasm for TIs here at TB; TIs interest me as well. Thanks!

    David
     
  14. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I had a gig with the TI's this weekend. I like them. I'm planning on sticking with them. In reality, they didn't seem so different than the DTB FLs to me. They had a broader range in sounds to me, but I could dial the tone out and make them sound deader. I couldn't really dial it up with the LaBellas to make them clearer. Subtle, though. I found the TIs to be a bit better balanced tonally.

    My reason for switching was that I wanted/needed less tension and it was a good switch for that reason.

    The other stuff I've read, I don't see a big deal with. On inspection, the TIs are not quite as smooth and shiney, but I don't notice this when I'm playing, only inspecting.

    For the record, I am 95% an upright bassist and my EBG playing is definitely influenced at this point by my DB playing, so YMMV depending on your bass, your playing, your needs, the sound you're chasing or whatever.

    These are going to do the trick for me, though. I liked the LaBellas, I liked Fender and Ernie Ball, but I'm pretty sure that the TIs will be the last fretless EBG strings I ever use. If I switch someday, I'll open this post up and eat some crow.

    Thanks, Larry for swapping with me.

    Troy
     
  15. flatwoundfender

    flatwoundfender

    Feb 24, 2005
    I have Labella Jamersons on my bass and I must say this, when paired with high action they keep my hand strength up. I don't get to play upright that often, but when I do I can handle one with high action and gut strings. They also sound killer. Of course they are 110 to 52.
     
  16. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    The issue with switching is that I used totally different patches of my right hand fingers. With upright, I pull heavily from the side of my first finger. With EBG, I play more with the fingertips on my right hand.

    So, in other words, one doesn't condition me for the other.

    Even with the light gauge LaBellas, my fingers were going numb in the second set. Didn't happen last weekend with the TIs. If I played my Fender every week, it would definitely be different.
     
  17. flatwoundfender

    flatwoundfender

    Feb 24, 2005
    I understand, I still do sometimes develop blisters from hitting the strings at a different angle, but they actual help my my left strength, ever hear those stories about Jamerson's bass being unplayable by others? But the Jamersons are different than the regular Labella's. Thanks for reviewing the strings.
     
  18. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    My new bass arrived today: '51 P RI CIJ. With roundwounds! Those will go tomorrow, but I have a recording session in about 15 minutes and a rehearsal this evening, so there's no time to change out the strings.

    The LaBella DTB nylon-tape wounds go on there first. If I like them, I'll put the TIs on the P with the Quarter Pound pickup (per 62bass). I'll report back.
     
  19. lpdeluxe

    lpdeluxe Still rockin'

    Nov 22, 2004
    Deep E Texas
    The LaBellas are on the 51 RI. Very nice, it's easy to get a subdued tone and also easy to punch. Not much treble, as you might expect. No one would mistake this for a Sting Ray.

    The only problem was that the tuning machines on the RI were STIFFFFFF! It took me an hour to string it up and get it in tune. I hope they will loosen up a bit with time.

    Next up is the Squier II with the TI Jazz Flats, but it'll be next week before we rehearse again, and I never trust my impressions until I can hear in the context of the other instruments.
     
  20. zombywoof5050

    zombywoof5050

    Dec 20, 2001
    My situation was the opposite of yours....I switched (from TI's to DTB 760FL) because I wanted/needed just a bit more tension. The higher tension gives me a bit more control under my plucking fingers when playing faster lines.
     

Share This Page