Best Bass Guitar Strings

Bass Guitar Strings Review

We spent over 40 hours researching and testing 10 different brands of bass guitar strings and found that performance, tone, and materials were most important. The Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Bass Guitar Strings scored high marks in all categories and is our top pick. When you use Ernie Ball guitar strings, you can rest assured that you are going to have a set of guitar strings that will provide you a balanced, rich tone. Included in the package is everything you need to string your bass. Because of the great tone and sound as well as the quality of the strings, these are some of the most popular guitar strings you can buy.

Introduction to the Bass Guitar Strings

Just like with acoustic or electric guitar strings, a bass guitar’s strings will affect the tone of your bass. Some strings might have a warm sound and offer subdued, fuller sound that fits well if you play jazz, reggae, or old school rock. Others might be much brighter and provide a tone that fits better for country, pop, and similar genres.

Because a guitar’s strings can have such a profound effect on the tone and sound, it is important to choose the right strings for the tone and sound you are looking for. Most companies that make bass guitar strings offer several options which produce different tones and have different feels to them.

If you’re a beginner, this difference may not be apparent at first, but once you have tried a few different types of strings you will start to understand the importance of choosing the right string for the type of music you like to play.

Choosing the right strings can be overwhelming for the beginning bass player. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the different characteristics of strings and what makes them different from each other so you will be able to shop with confidence, regardless of how long you have been playing.

Best Overall Bass Guitar Strings

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Bass Set

Ernie Ball is known for his exceptional guitar strings, whether they are electric, acoustic or bass.  Players can rest assured that they are going to have a set of strings that provide a rich tone that is balanced and made from the finest materials in California.

We first noticed the exceptional packaging that Ernie Ball Bass guitar strings were in when they arrived. Each set has been packaged in an environment that has ultra low humidity using Ernie’s element shield packaging.

This packaging is meant to ensure that every set of bass guitar strings are as fresh as when they were first made.  They’ve definitely achieved that goal!

Upon opening, this set includes everything needed to string a bass with .050, .070, .085, and .105 gauge strings. Once the strings are on, the high-quality construction and element-shield packaging help to create a sound that compliments many styles of bass guitars as well as different playing styles.  It’s no wonder these are the most popular style of bass strings used by players of all skill levels.

D’Addario EXL160 Bass Guitar Strings

When looking for bass strings that produce a distinctive tone with booming tight low ends, we didn’t have to look any further than D’Addario’s EXL160 Heavy Duty Bass Strings.

We loved the round winding with nickel plated steel that provided the kind of bright, clear sound we were looking for.  These strings are D’Addario’s top sellers due to the excellent intonation and consistency they provide all bass players.

There are four different gauges in this package, all of them heavy duty: .055, .075, .090, and 110.  We found that these strings fit long scale basses that have a scale length of up to 36 ¼”.

Players will find the clear fundamentals and booming, tight lows very appealing the same way we did.  If you’re looking for bass strings that have excellent, waste reducing packaging and unmatched performance, try these D’Addario Heavy Duty Bass Strings.

Best Budget Bass Guitar Strings

DR Strings Bass Strings

These medium gauge bass guitar strings are unique in that they are handmade which produced a crisp tone and superior volume and clarity. DR has been around since 1989 when the company started making these exceptional, handmade bass guitar strings.

They combine an old-fashioned craftsmanship with modern, innovative materials and string coatings to produce a product that any bass player will love.

We love the volume these strings produce and the coating that is super thin on both the wrap wire and the plain strings too. Each string has a black polymer coating that helps extend the life of the strings.

Many famous bass players favor these strings, including Adam Clayton from U2 and Trey Anastasio from Phish.

Bass Guitar Strings Summary

Any of the three bass guitar strings above make an excellent choice for your bass guitar regardless of your experience or skill level. Choosing the correct strings is very important so the player can get the sound they want to out of their bass.

When we were looking for the best bass guitar strings we factored in the type of music that we were playing. Different strings will provide different tones and sounds. Some work for certain types of music better than others. The three top bass guitar strings featured here provide the kind of professional sounding tones that we were looking for.

In all three of the choices above, quality construction is a top priority. The materials used in the creation of these bass guitar strings are top rated materials that produce crisp, bright sounds and memorable performance that will please even the most experienced player.

Even if you are a beginning player, you will be able to feel and hear the difference between these choices and lower quality strings that don’t offer the same full sound and longevity that these do.

Bass Guitar Strings Comparison


Ernie Ball
View

D’Addario
View

DR
View

Fender
View

Elixir
View

Markley
View

GHS
View

Rotosound
View

Thomastik
View

Dunlop
View
MaterialNickel,
Carbon
Steel
Nickel,
Carbon
Steel
Polymer,
Steel
Nickel,
Carbon
Steel
Nickel,
Carbon
Steel
SteelNickel,
Carbon
Steel
Stainless
Steel
Nickel,
Carbon
Steel
Nickel,
Carbon
Steel
Gauge0.050
– 0.105
0.050
– 0.105
0.045
– 0.105
0.045
– 0.105
0.050
– 0.105
0.045
– 0.105
0.045
– 0.105
0.045
– 0.105
0.043
– 0.100
0.045
– 0.105
TypeRegularMediumMediumMediumMediumMedium
Light
MediumMediumMediumMedium
Warranty
(Years)
2133Limited
Lifetime
1333Limited
Lifetime

 

Bass Guitar Strings Buying Guide

Bass Guitar Strings Reviews

Things to Consider

There are several things you want to consider when it comes to choosing the right guitar strings for your bass guitar.  We have listed these factors below so you can include them in your own research.

  • Scale length
  • Playing style/music genre
  • Number of strings
  • Playing frequency
  • The sound and tone you want to achieve

The string gauge you choose is one of the factors that play a part in the sound your bass puts out. Other factors that will affect how your bass sounds and feels to play include the materials used to make the strings; the type of winding the string has and if there are any coatings that have been applied to the strings.

We’ve broken down the different contributing factors so you can better understand how they affect the sound your bass puts out and how it feels when you play it.

Gauge – The “gauge” of your strings refers to how light or heavy they are or the thickness of the strings. Light strings will be thinner and heavy strings will be thicker.  This will make a difference in the sound your bass makes when it is played.

When talking about gauge thickness it is the 4th string that players refer to when measuring this important factor.  If you hear a player state that they use 110’s, they are saying that the gauge of their 4th string, or the low E string, is 110 gauge.

In general, you can expect thicker strings to have a lot more tension than a thinner string.  Thicker strings are much harder to fret so it is recommended that beginning players look for a thinner or lighter string while they are learning and becoming accustomed to the strings.

Calluses are a definite plus to have when using heavier gauge strings which come from frequent play.   You may find that if you switch from one gauge to another the neck of your guitar will need to be adjusted to account for the change in tension.

Construction of the String

A bass string may look simple in construction but all the different components involved in creating the string combine to create the soul of your sound.  Each string has a metal core that runs through the middle of the string.  The ball end is the brass ferrule that is at the end and attaches your string to the bridge.  Most often, the core of your bass string will be made from steel.  There are two types of cores:

  • Hex – the most common type of core that is used for bass strings.  A hex core will hold onto the winding better and provide a sound that has more tension, brighter sound, and a overall consistent performance.
  • Round – round cores are fatter and provide the player with a more traditional, “vintage” sound.  The sound is more balanced as well. Round core strings are typically more flexible than hex cores.

Bass guitar strings are bigger than traditional acoustic or electric guitar strings.  You can get bass guitar strings with either pure steel or a combination of nickel and steel configurations.  They are also available in several different types of windings:

  • Flatwound –This type of winding is fairly common and is seen more often in a bass guitar string that a regular string.  If you have a fretless bass, you will find that flat wound strings work very well and provide less wear on the fingerboard. Flatwound strings also reduce the amount of finger noise, produce a mellow, warm sound and are smooth to the touch.
  • Roundwound – The most common type of winding chosen.  A roundwound bass guitar string is a good all-around string and can be used in many different music genres with success, from country to jazz. Roundwound strings have ridges on the winding that can be felt by the fingers.
  • Halfround – These are windings that have been ground down to produce a different, smoother feel and provide the player with a warmer tone as well.
  • Tapewound – This winding involves using a nylon wrap that goes around the roundwound string and provides a thuddy sound and much shorter decay. You can get coated strings as well, just like you can with acoustic or electric.

Winding Material

The two main types of bass strings will either have windings from pure stainless steel or from a combination of nickel and steel alloy. These metals are most often chosen for windings since they are ferromagnetic.

Ferromagnetic is when the vibrations from the strings are picked up and transmitted by a magnetic pickup. Another, newer type of winding is cobalt. Cobalt is known to provide much more clarity and output than the traditional pure steel or nickel/steel combination does.

Typically, a player can expect to get a very bright sound from a pure steel winding. If a nickel/steel alloy combination is used, the sound will be bright but a bit more subdued than the pure steel produces. If you go with a pure nickel winding, the sound will be much warmer and sound a lot more broken in than the other two choices.

Coated Strings

Coated bass strings can also be purchased. A coated string has a very thin coating that has been applied to protect it from oils from your fingers and sweat. They are very effective in helping the strings last longer. Although more expensive than non-coated strings, they make up that extra cost by extending the life of the string.

Length of the Scale

Scale length is the relationship between the gauge, or thickness of the guitar strings, their length and the pitch that they produce. The string length is measured from the bridge to the nut, not the length of the neck. Basses that are considered short scale have scale lengths from 30 to 32. Long scale basses typically have a 34” string length and tend to be what most bass guitars are.

Short scale is most often recommended for young players due to the shorter necks, the lessened distance between the frets and the compact dimensions. Because the reach is shorter, beginning and young players find them much easier to use. Because the strings are shorter, there is less string tension needed to be considered properly tuned. Short scale strings can have a floppy, soft feeling to them. They typically produce booming low notes and sweeter upper notes.

Conclusion

Choosing the right bass guitar string can be an exercise in trial and error. You may need to try several different gauges and windings to find the tone and sound that you prefer. This is okay. Be aware that if you do change gauges you may need to bring your guitar into a guitar shop and have the neck adjusted.

Bass players have many different preferences when it comes to sound. Be clear on the type of music you are interested in playing and the tone and clarity you want and look for strings that will help accomplish those sound goals.

Bass guitar strings are not extraordinarily expensive so if you purchase a set and find you’re not thrilled with the sound, try another one. You will find the set of strings that helps produce the tone, brightness, and sound you are looking for. Once you do, make sure that you keep track of that particular brand, gauge and winding of string so you can purchase them again.

Resources

  1. Ernie Ball – https://www.ernieball.com/
  2. D’Addario – http://www.daddario.com/DaddarioSplash.Page?ActiveID=1740
  3. DR – http://www.drstrings.com/