Ernie Ball Bass Strings Review: How to Choose The Right One for You

Ernie Ball offers many types of bass guitar strings of different style from a number of materials, string gauges. When buying, you need to consider some factors. What kind of musical style does you play, what tonalities are needed and the number of strings? Ernie ball bass strings are created in a range of gauges. The thickness of the strings affects the sound and the ease of playing in addition to the material of which the strings are made.

Concerning materials, Ernie ball bass strings all have the similar basic construction. It is a tin-plated, high-carbon steel hexagonal precision wire with an additional wire. The wrap wire construction varies. Most bass strings are roundwound. Until now, such strings remain the most popular. They are made as follows: a wire with a circular cross-section is wound on a steel core. They have a vivid sound characteristic of modern bass guitar. Of the minuses, it can be noted that this texture over time wears frets: during the game there are noises when moving fingers along the string. The strings are suitable for almost any style of music but are especially appreciated by rock musicians.

How to choose the best strings for bass

If we have never bought strings, the first time we do we can go crazy because of the large number of options we can find in the market. And not only that, but we will also have to consider some basic questions in order to find the perfect string model based on our situation. According to the material of manufacture, we find two large groups: first, we have before us the strings of electric bass that has been manufactured in nickel matter. They have the advantage that they are quite economical, but also have a shorter duration, less definition when giving sound to the note, as well as a lower sound attack. They are perfect for those musicians who are starting, but nothing suitable for those who already have some advanced knowledge.

The best option undoubtedly is the strings made of stainless steel: they have a longer associated duration, they also get a greater sound attack and a more metallic sound, but, in contrast, we realize that they are much more expensive. When a musician begins to play the electric bass, he will not appreciate much difference, but, as he evolves, he will be able to appreciate even the smallest details.

Another important factor when choosing electric bass strings is the type of finish. Constructed generally with some metallic alloy the strings are crucial element that determines the sound of the instrument. The main types are:

  • the roundwound;
  • the flatwound;
  • the halfround (they are used less and are, apparently, a resulting mixture between the  roundwound and the flatwound with the upper part built with flat wound, while in the lower one it has a more pronounced wound).

The musician must also consider the thickness of the string since, depending on whether it is more or less thick; this changes the sound in a radical way. The thickness or diameter (the correct technical term of the strings is its gauge) varies depending on the stringing, there are many thicknesses. There is no specific string thickness that is better or worse than another. The standard tuning is Mi La Re Sol Si Mi and for it two types of calibers are usually used:  009 – 042; 010 – 046. Most well-known brands of guitar strings have these calibers: D’Addario, Ernie Ball, Dean Markley, GHS, Gibson, and Fender.

Flatwounds and Roundwounds

Far from saying which type of string is better, what we will do is to know the fundamental characteristics of these types of strings, their differences and benefits. First of all, flatwounds and roundwounds sound differently on the same instrument. Which is better? That is a decision and a personal perception of each musician. Our recommendation is that you try and experiment with both types of string to be able to make a decision about which type of string you prefer, of course, that will be according to the sound you want to have as a bass player.

In fact, the first bass strings created for the mass market were flatwound which have a steel core with flat metal; although it seems that the roundwounds have always been the standard.    The flatwound string was, basically, the only option for the bassists, throughout the 1950s, the 60s and during the 70s.

Roundwounds

These are the most common of all, are composed of a core that can be steel or nickel generally, with a round wound around. The core can have a hexagonal exterior that results in a more flexible and brighter string due to the remaining space. These give a bright sound that sustains for longer after the pulsing of the string (sustain).

They are ideal for playing rock because of their good handling of medium and high frequencies, they are the most common choice of bassist “slappers” and they go very well with the pick to get that sound of British rock.

Roundwound strings have a much brighter and more aggressive tone than flat strings; they have a more defined tone and also provoke much more noise (fingers) when playing. Literally, this string revolutionized the market, from the way the instrument was played, to the construction thereof. By the 1980s, the roundwound string was already the standard in the industry for electric basses. With lower tension, the roundwound strings are friendlier when it comes to keeping the bass tuned, however, on the negative note, they have a much shorter life than flat strings and cause greater and more accelerated damage to the frets of the instrument.

Flatwounds

With the term “flat wound” we mean perfectly smooth strings, able to reproduce a sound that is somehow more similar to that of a double bass. Most flatwound strings contain high carbon content in their core (hexagonal) with a polished stainless steel sheath on the outer tape. Some flatwounds have round steel cores or nickel outer sheaths.

The chrome-flat (chrome-plated, flat wound) are popular among the professionals for their depth, the soft tone and pounding. These strings are specially constructed in this way to give the effect of a smooth surface. To the feel they appear harsh because the smooth surface offers fewer grips to the fingers and, therefore, require more force to be played. They are very comfortable, flexible, and to the touch they are very soft.

At sound level, the flatwounds have a deeper sound, more melodic and softer than the roundwounds. This timbre makes them, particularly attractive for the bass players of reggae, country, indie and Rhythm & Blues. They are ideal for playing jazz for their vintage tone. Due to its “wrap” flat tape, the flatwounds produce very little noise of fingers (squeak) when playing and are much more friendly with the frets of the bass, in addition, you could say that they are perfect for fretless bass (without frets). One of the main characteristics of these strings is that they have a useful life or duration much greater than that of the roundwound strings.

As for its disadvantages, we can mention that they do not give that brightness and”aggressive” tone that many bassists look for. And also, they have a higher tension, which makes keeping them tuned is a more complicated task than with the roundwound strings.

Ernie Ball Slinky

Roland Sherwood “Ernie” Ball was a pioneer in creating guitar strings. His name is the American brand that has been producing strings for more than 40 years that are used by famous musicians around the world including John Petrucci, Mick Thomson, and Jimmy Page, James Hetfield and Kirk Hammet, Paul Gilbert, Steve Vai.

The strings “slinky” are the best known of the firm and were born from the banjo strings that many guitarists of the time used for the sixth string to have a greater ease and speed in the execution of the songs. It was the era of surf music and the sixth was used for all the songs.

Ernie Ball thinking about those guitarists and the banjo strings created the slinky range. The man took the idea to Fender and Gibson and they turned him down, so he decided to take his idea directly to the manufacturer and that’s where the first Ernie Ball Slinky was born. At that time (the 60s), Ernie did not even have a store, his strings simply traveled throughout the US from guitarist to guitarist. Such was the success that Ball began to receive orders in the face and had to “make a thought”. He really did not invent anything new, he just realized that there was a problem and he put a solution to it. He called this solution Slinky (there are Super, Hybrid, Regular, Beefy, Power, Not Even … which have some changed characteristics), and, today, its solution is used by people like the aforementioned and by legends like Jeff Beck, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards or Pete Townshend. The Ernie Ball Slinky is available in several sizes.

Ernie Ball super slinky guitar strings review

Among the alternatives offered for electric guitars are the Super Slinky strings they are the perfect strings, designed exclusively for the characteristic tone sought by many of the professionals, precisely those of Ernie Ball are famous for being the strongest strings on the market and for being long-lasting, the right combination so that thousands of users prefer this brand to others. Among the most famous guitarists who prefer to use this string is the famous composer, singer and guitarist Eric Clapton, his fame precedes him, his style is so particular when it comes to playing the guitar in his presentations, this great musician transmits with his music feeling, passion, pain, emotion etc. Ernie Ball Super Slinky 2223 09-42 strings are one of the best on the market so if you are looking for information on which would be the best option do not hesitate to buy them, both their performance and the sound they make do the best choice.

Hybrid slinkys

Ernie Ball offers a variety of strings, but one of the most used especially by rock guitarists are the hybrids (known in the range as Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky), a combination of thin strings that results in a special sound, so that many guitarists choose to be able to give that peculiar sound every time they play the guitar and give it their personal touch.

While it is true that there is a wide variety of guitar strings on the market, professionals and amateurs who play this great instrument prefer quality guitar strings (obviously), because they are key to achieving the specific sound they are looking for. Ernie Ball Hybrid Slinky 2222 09-46 strings are a clear example of this. The strings are ideal because they give a lasting, long sound that rock guitarists seek. A clear example of this is Gabe Kubanda who often uses the Ernie Ball guitar strings and especially this type of string.

Ernie Ball cobalt bass strings review

In the course of the time in the Ernie Ball they have been perfecting and creating strings of guitars that cover the expectations of their clients, that can be heard more clear, clear, long-lasting sounds, with low or high tones, according to what the client is searching, that is why there are different types of guitar strings Ernie Ball that although all are designed and manufactured with the highest technologies, but each of them have their peculiarities so they are unique and special.

In 2012, Ernie Ball presented a new and revolutionary material for the manufacture of strings, the Cobalt. The use of this eminently alloy metal for the manufacture of strings, focused clearly to get them the maximum volume and clarity in the sound. And yes, they managed to provide guitarists and bassists with a new timbre, greater dynamics and an incredible harmonic response that increases the bass response and enhances the higher frequencies. The use of cobalt was expanded in Slinky Flatwound strings (ernie ball cobalt super slinky; ernie ball cobalt power slinky).

It is known electric guitars have pickups of electromagnetic type and, accordingly, the material of the strings must be magnetic. In nature, there are three types of ferromagnetic materials: stainless steel, nickel, and cobalt. Most manufacturers create strings with a nickel and stainless steel winding but the Ernie Ball Company offers an innovative solution. This is a kind of cobalt winding. In comparison with nickel and steel, cobalt differs in properties of magnetic permeability. Specialists who developed strings say that they have a higher output signal level, wider range of frequencies and especially for the amplification of the high frequency part of the spectrum.

Due to the properties of cobalt, the strings have a longer service life. In addition, the strings are soft and silky to the touch. Many of those who have tried the strings on their instruments speak about them in a very positive way. The sound of the strings is brighter and richer than the standard Ernie ball slinky but not sharp. The sound is more slitting, very lyrical and readable rather warm when compared with nickel strings

These strings are amazingly expressing every single note in the fast play. The play becomes purer and more pleasant. And it’s funny that when ordinary nickel strings have a bright and shiny metal winding, then the strings with cobalt on the contrary are dark.

With them, the brand seeks to give guitarists and bassists a new voice, since the cobalt strings have a greater dynamic range, a harmonic response much richer than conventional strings, and lighter bass and treble.

With the same playing style and under the same environmental conditions, the Ernie Ball Cobalt series has an extended lifespan. In this case, as the musicians themselves say, with high-speed passages the sound is more readable and each note is heard which makes the guitar playing more expressive. Ernie Ball Cobalt is not a new advertising trick from the manufacturer, but really a new stage in the production of strings for electric guitar. At the same time, all the claimed characteristics are confirmed both among amateurs and among professionals. We have:

  • pleasant sensations at play;
  • wide frequency range, sound is characterized by having more clarity in its sound;
  • high output signal, higher than nickel and steel strings.

Among the musicians who use this string is Slash.

Best Bass Strings

Let’s also get to know the other big brands. The best choice is to buy real brands depending on your preferences. Today there are the dozens of string manufacturers for bass guitars and are a few that have dominated the game that together they probably cover more than 90% of the market. The differences in brands are noted in alloys and the type of core. But this is something that has a huge impact on the sound of bass guitar.

These are:

  1. D’Addario.
  2. Ernie Ball.
  3. GHS.
  4. DR.
  5. Fender.
  6. Elixir.

D’Addario strings

D’Addario is one of the most important and recognized guitar strings manufacturers in the world that was born from a family business. Salò is a town where the d’Addario family was born was reduced to ashes after an earthquake, so they had to immigrate to New York. The family already made guitar strings in that town, so they simply dedicated them to importing them from Italy to the United States and selling them there.

Nowadays D’Addario strings are used by a number of guitarists whose names make you tremble with delight. Unlike what happens with the Ernie Ball, focused on rock and metal artists, the D’Addario are used by such a disparate crowd as Bill Kelliher and Brent Hinds of Mastodon, Lenny Kravitz, Joe Satriani, Scott Ian, Sheryl Crow, Richie Sambora, Al Di Meola, Mick Thomson… D’Addario is well known for the EXL Nickel Wound series; coated strings. The strings of the EXP series are known to produce a very bright sound.

The ranges of strings range from the most metal to the jazziest strings, for example:

  1. EXL120, caliber 009-042 is fine and great to play metal and give a good blessing to the solos.
  2. EXL 110 Nickel Wound, caliber 10-46, the strings that you can put on all standard guitars without almost having to readjust the instrument. This set of strings is one of the most sold by the brand; they bring a very distinctive shine to the sound and are resistant to corrosion.

GHS strings

In GHS have thought and created a range of possibilities for its users to have the best qualities and a variety of where to choose what they may be interested, is for that reason that there are different types of guitar strings GHS, are manufactured with the best technology in the market trying to take care of the quality of the materials and the final result.

The bass strings are so important that GHS has been concerned in getting the best technique to offer its users alternatives in this category, the Boomers is one of the most exit, one of the most popular in the world, Nickel-plated steel gives you a warm sound which makes it ideal for bass, this is one of the different models you can find. All types of GHS guitar strings have the backing of a company that has been on the market for years and that among its ranks it has high quality professionals who are always in the constant search to improve in technique and quality. Unlike any of the other big brands GHS does not do anything other than strings, and they have been in business for quite some time, so they are probably good enough.

Elixir Strings

Elixir Strings is a brand that has seduced instantaneously guitarists from all over the world since the 90s, thanks to a revolutionary technology for the time and a Goretex reinforcement that protects the external sound string and prolongs its useful life. Elixir strings stand out for their patented coating with the Nanoweb and Polyweb, which only differ in tone and feel, which lengthens the useful life of the strings, protecting them from the oxidation and contamination produced by the oil in the skin. They are noticeably more expensive than other leading brands in the market.

  1. Elixir Polyweb has a thicker coating. The manufacturer characterizes the sound of the strings as warm; the tactile feelings are like a sense of extraordinary smoothness.
  2. Elixir Nanoweb is a further development of idea for protecting strings. The polymer film layer is reduced to a few microns, making the strings sound brighter than Polyweb, but still retains a soft feeling when the fingers touch the winding surface.

DR strings

DR differs from the rest by being one of the few brands that keeps winding most of its strings by hand. As they say … the sound and touch of handmade strings deserve the extra effort. Although DR may not be as popular as the other brands but so what it is known for its bass strings.  It also seems to be the leading brand of the new fashion of “neon strings”.

Fender strings

Fender: there are so many guitars produced by the well-known manufacturer that decided to make their own strings in order to meet their quality standards. Their strings are just as good as the rest of the things they do. The nickel series is known for its warm and rich sound produced.

In conclusion, we want to say do not skimp on strings. The difference between good strings and worse ones is not so big for the price, but you will notice a big difference in sound. If you’re starting out, choose the most popular. There’s no point trying to compare strings if you’re not even comfortable holding the guitar yet. Do not get obsessed with the strings – try a few, choose the ones you like and continue with your life. They are only strings after all.

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