Flatwound String Reviews
There are so many flatwound string brands available now that it can be a little overwhelming. In general all flatwounds will give you a warmer, more mellow tone than roundwounds but there are differences with each brand.
Although the basic design for flats is the same, there are several small differences in the construction of the string that can have a large impact on the tone and feel of each flatwound string set.
While roundwound strings are still by far the most popular bass strings, flatwounds have seen a huge resurgence in popularity within the last 10 years. As a consequence there are now many more choices for flats than ever before.
I've listed some of the top flatwound brands available today and reviewed their overall tone and feel. I would have listed more, and there are many more but I haven't played them yet. One important thing to mention is that different string gauges will give you different tones. I tried to sample the most average gauges (.045-.105 in most cases).
Carbon steel hex core with polished stainless steel wrap.
Chromes to me have a slightly grippy feel and are little oily at first. The oily feel goes away with time and the strings have less tension than most other flats, although still more than any other roundwound string. My first impression with Chromes is that they have a distinctive upper-mid range bark with nice full lows and an overall well balanced tone across the strings, although the D and G strings sound a little louder than the A and E.
Chromes are quite bright and clanky at first, almost like half-rounds. But after a few months they will settle in and start to thump more as any good flat should. I did notice that after several months of regular playing the E string seemed to deaden a little more than the other strings. Overall, very good strings for a decent value. To me, Chromes sound best on a Jazz Bass.
High carbon steel hex core with stainless steel wrap.
Fender changed their flatwound line about a year and half ago. The old sets had a very distinct thumpy tone and smooth feel but the new 9050 flats sound and feel very similar to Chromes. The Fenders are quite bright and lively when new and stay that way for a while. They have a slightly grippy feel but still much smoother than any roundwound. Once they break in they have some good low end thump. They have good balance and much less tension than the old Fender flats, which could feel a bit like telephone cables.
The E string in particular has real good definition which is especially important with flatwounds. The lows are full with good grind, the mids are pretty strong and the highs sound nice and crisp. Overall they're very good strings for a great value. I like the way they sound on a Jazz Bass.
La Bella Deep Talkin' Bass
Carbon steel hex core with stainless steel underlay.
Probably the most coveted flatwound string brand during the 1960's and 70's. La Bella is famous for it's deep tone and solid fundamental and these strings deliver the goods. Nicely balanced with a slightly scooped mid-tone and plenty of vintage thud. The highs are buttery smooth and sweet sounding.
If you're looking for a more modern zingy flat then this is probably not the the string for you. La Bella flats will give you some nice top end right out of the package but that will eventually fade to a beautiful warm thud after just a few weeks. These strings are not cheap but if you like them as much as I do you won't have to change them for years, even decades and they will only sound better over time. The great James Jamerson used La Bellas and only changed them if a string broke. Without a doubt my favorite flatwound string. They sound especially good on a P-Bass.
Rotosound 77 Jazz Bass
Steel hex core with monel outer wrap.
These were the first flatwounds I ever tried and I never really warmed up to them. They have a slightly rough texture for flats and are too bass shy for my liking. They do offer a very clear and crisp top end with lots of mid-range complexity.
If you're after a very unique and trebly flatwound sound then Rotosound 77's could be your thing. One thing I did notice is that after a while the top end dies out but the bass never really kicks in, leaving a somewhat prominent mid only tone. This could work for some bass players who need a flatwound to cut through a mix. May need to change these more often than most flats. Some bassists don't even consider these true flatwounds but more of a hybrid string.
High carbon steel core with a silk inlay and nickel wrap.
Many bassists have questioned whether these are really true flatwounds, but several swear by these very unique strings. Very well balanced tone with low tension, Thomastik flats feel more like roundwounds and sound like nothing else out there. Not much thud on the E string but plenty of deep mid-range throughout with a nice crisp top end punch.
These strings are the most expensive of the lot and I would recommend trying them somewhere if you can before committing to buy. Personally they're a little too floppy feeling for my taste and lack some fo that classic low end girth, but I know several bassists that love them.
Steel hex core with stainless steel wrap.
Very smooth feel with medium high tension. Initially they have a slightly clanky tone but once they settle in and get played for a bit they mellow out nicely and start to give you that tasty vintage woody thump with plenty of bottom end. This strings will only get better with age.
GHS Precisions are well balanced and have good solid mids that cut but are not too over bearing. The highs are sweet and mellow...very nice vintage sounding flatwounds for an excellent value. To my ears they sound similar to La Bellas. Sound especially good (of course) on a Precision Bass.
Ernie Ball 2804
High carbon steel hex core with steel wrap.
These strings remind me of D'Addario Chromes and are quite lively right off the bat. After some weeks of playing they settle in and start to thump a bit more. Not quite as deep and warm as La Bella flats but they definitely have some of that vintage tone going on.
Ernie Ball flats feel nice and smooth and are quite well balanced. To my ears they have a strong low-mid presence with some decent bottom. I did notice some stickiness at first but a quick wipe with a paper towel took care of that. Good quality strings for a pretty good value. Sound good on a P-Bass or Jazz Bass.
DR Hi-Beam Flatwounds
High carbon round core with polished stainless steel wrap
Fairly bright sounding flats with some complex mids. The lows are moderate with some decent low end thump and the highs are really crisp. Not an old school tone but they have some nice creamy mid-range that sounds similar to Thomastik flats. The strings are well balanced in feel and tone. The tension is pretty low for flats and the feel is fairly smooth.
These are good quality, modern sounding flats for excellent value. My only complaint is that the E string is not deep enough for my tastes.
Pyramid Gold Flatwounds
Steel hex core with polished chrome nickel wrap
Very warm and mellow sounding flatwounds.The tone is classic old Motown with plenty of bottom, smooth mids and subdued highs. The balance between strings in excellent and the feel is silky smooth. The tension is medium high but not much more than most flats.
Excellent strings for anyone looking for that old school 60's style tone. Probably would sound perfect on a Hohner style "Beatle" bass but they also sound real good on a Fender P-Bass. Only drawback with these strings is that they are very expensive.