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What ages better, nickel or stainless?

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by sigmafloyd, Dec 27, 2012.

  1. sigmafloyd


    May 1, 2011
    I'm still thinking about Ed Friedlands 10 year old set of labella hard rockin steels. I never really liked ss strings on my p bass, but maybe I'm missing something.
  2. In my opinion nickels do. When SS strings lose their edge, they have less tone left to use. Nickels settle into a nice midrange zone that I find attractive for quite awhile.
  3. micgtr71


    Dec 4, 2012
    I change strings very infrequently. Though my tech yells at me because they chew up the frets, I like the feel of ss over nickel. I have not a/bed the two for sound however. Feel is what keeps me in ss.
  4. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    That's my feeling as well.

    I like the sound of SS better on certain instruments, but once they get dull I need to swap em' out for a new set. Nickels seem to get me more mileage once they lose their initial zing.
  5. Toptube

    Toptube Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2009
    Strings that I like quite well, when well aged:

    Rotosound Swing Bass 66 Stainless Steel

    Rotosound Swing Bass 66 Nickel (plated steel?)

    GHS Progressives

    Dean Markley Blue Steels

    and actually, my Fender Jaguar right now has Progressives for the E and A. RS-SB66N for the D and G. The progressives keep the lower strings from getting too wooly/woody/warm when well used. The nickel rotos keep the higher just warm enough. makes 'em more complex.
  6. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    I think the only way you can find this out is by trying them both, letting them age, and deciding for yourself. So many factors go into what's going to sound better, with what you like being 1st on that list. Add body chemistry, type of bass, pickups, playing style, amplification, guage of strings, and the 100 other things that go with it and it becomes an impossible question to answer. My $.02 anyway. :)
  7. king_biscuit

    king_biscuit Supporting Member

    May 21, 2006
    Brand new out of the pack nickels sound better, but played in steels have more crunch and nickels just get muffled.
  8. I have noooo idea. Because I don't give my strings time to age. When my ear hears the first sign of no "zing" in my tone, I can't take 'em off fast enough.
  9. Troph


    Apr 14, 2011
    Kirkland, WA
    I left a set of Roto 66LD (stainless) on a P-bass for 4 months, and while they did lose a bit of their initial zing, they actually took on a different character which was frankly also very pleasing (just different). Even the slap tone had a nice vibe to it, which I wasn't expecting. I could have left them on longer, but I needed the space to do some more experimenting...

    On the other hand, I left some D'Addario EXL170 nickels on my LTD for a few months, and while the initial tone was pretty good, they lost their presence completely after maybe 2 months. They became dull and lifeless, to the extent that I quit playing that bass entirely.

    But then I replaced these with DR Sunbeams, and the LTD became my favorite bass. They've now been on there for 2.5 months (already longer than the D'Addarios) and they still sound fantastic.

    I left a set of Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky nickels on my VM Jazz bass, and they had really pretty good longevity too. They kept their zing well into the 3rd month, and I never really noticed a steep fall-off. Great tone even when I took them off to make room for the next subject. These are a good match for this instrument.

    Perhaps these results may help set some expectations. Note that I am a hobbyist player, so these instruments see probably just 2-3 hours of play per week on average. After all, I have lots of basses... :)
  10. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    +1, SS strings lose there tone very fast.
    Nickels will last much longer.
  11. Stone Soup

    Stone Soup

    Dec 3, 2012
    I prefer nickel strings. I've had sets last for several months and still sound good. Right now, I have a 5 month old set of Dunlop nickels on my Stingray5, a four month old set of D'Addario XL170 on my P/J and a four month set of Dunlop on one of my Jazz basses. They all sound good, but I prefer the "settled in" tone of the Dunlop strings.

    EDIT: I have to add that I once had Fat Beams that were past their prime, on a Stingray, and they sounded great on that bass.
  12. Baird6869

    Baird6869 RIP Gord Downey. A True Canadian Icon. Supporting Member


    I actually tried Fodera 40-120 Stainless and Nickels on both my MTD and Spector 5ers.

    The SS are noticeably brighter when new but lose initial zing quickly. They sound good after a few weeks but kinda dead.

    The Nickels on the other hand are less bright when new but retain their initial tone much longer. They sound great after a few weeks.

    If I was a famous rock star and had a bass tech, I would play a new set of SS strings every night. I'm not, so I am standardizing on nickels.
  13. steamthief


    Jan 25, 2006
    Mentone Beach
    I concur.
  14. Stone Soup

    Stone Soup

    Dec 3, 2012
    This is not my experience, at all. I've never been able to warm up to stainless strings. I get great punch and clarity out of nickels, when they settle in. It probably depends greatly on the styles of music we play, the instruments we choose or the EQ settings we use...
  15. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    I kill both SS and nickel in a wink - neither one really seems to last longer than the other to me. Right now I'm enjoying the sound of SS so that's what I've been using.
  16. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    I prefer the sound of nickel. I change strings about every 6 to 8 weeks, more if I am playing a lot. Seems like the sound is best after about 2 weeks of playing them.
  17. Rodger Bryan

    Rodger Bryan Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2006
    My experience has been that a more flexible string will give me a more balanced tone (fundamental & harmonic mix) for a longer period of time. My preference is Sunbeams after they have been played on for about 10 days- I like the way this nickel set changes very little between the first month and the third.

    Can anyone comment on how flexible the LaBella steels are compared to other ss sets?
  18. Freez


    Nov 8, 2008
    -1; it all depends on your body chemistry. I can kill a set of nickels in a 2 hour practice, and that is no exaggeration. SS lasts me a lot longer...
  19. the only real problem i've had with nickel is leaving my fretted warwick in a closet too long without playing it. i ended up having to buy 0000 steel wool & removing what i could of the corrosion on my brass frets. now i tend to go back & forth with blue steel ss or d'a nickel xl's. but i've been contemplating blue steel nickel because the ss, & i've used 3 sets, need a few days of playing before they get rid of the annoying clankiness. :bassist:
  20. TimSterling1981


    Jan 19, 2012
    Lees Summit, MO
    Endorsing Artist: AmpClamp, InTuneGP, Morley, Rotosound, Spector
    +1 to this. Different peoples' sweat has different content, be it acids, salt, toxins, etc. So it varies as far as when one type of string will go dead over another. Also depends on how much you wipe down and/or clean your strings with products like FastFret.

    In my personal experience, my hands sweat a lot...I will kill a set of nickels in one gig. I can get probably three shows tops out of a set of steel strings before they lose all their grind.

    I've been mainly playing steel for the past 20 years, but I have, on a few occasions, been forced to buy nickel strings. To my ears, the nickels just don't last as long as the steels do. If a company could make an un-coated nickel string with the longevity of steel, THAT would be something I'm sure many bassists would appreciate.