GHS Pressurewound vs DR Sunbeams on Fretless Bass

For players seeking bright roundwound “mwah” on fretless bass, two popular string choices are GHS Pressurewound strings and DR Sunbeams. The Pressurewounds have a custom metal alloy wrap that is compressed into more of an oval shape than round before being wrapped around a hex core, while the DR Sunbeams have a nickel wrap around a round core.

Here are some sample sound clips of using these two strings on a fretless Fender Jazz bass (a stock Jaco Pastorius 1962 reissue model, featuring a urethane-coated fingerboard):

 

 

Pretty similar overall tonality; the bigger difference is in the feel. The DR Sunbeams are more flexible with the round core, and put a little less tension on the instrument neck. While the Pressurewounds are designed to be especially smooth on purpose, good for reducing wear on fretless fingerboards, the Sunbeams actually feel smoother to me.

GHS Super Steels vs DR Sunbeams roundwound bass strings

IMG_0537GHS Super Steels:

  • Stainless steel roundwound wrap
  • Hex core

DR Sunbeams:

  • Nickel roundwound wrap
  • Round core

I expected these two strings to sound markedly different. I tried them both on my Fender Jazz Bass. Here is a sound clip of the GHS Super Steels, going through a series of finger playing, picking, and slapping, with both pickups, the front pickup, and the back pickup:

And the DR Sunbeams:

I can hardly tell a difference between the two, in those sound clips. In further experimentation, I can hear a subtle, nuanced difference in tone, with the GHS Super Steels being a little bit harsher, and the Sunbeams being a little bit warmer and richer. But even so, the difference between the two isn’t extreme. I thought it would be.

So the most obvious difference between these two strings comes down to the feel. The DR Sunbeams are a fair bit more flexible than the GHS Super Steels, and feel a little easier on the fingers. I personally like the flexibility level of the Sunbeams, as I mostly doing finger playing technique, but if I did predominantly slapping, or hard rock picking, I can see preferring the feel of the GHS Super Steels.

While I did not include them on this round of recording samples, I’ve also tried the DR Hi Beams and DR Fat Beams on the same bass. Compared to the Sunbeams, both the Hi Beams and Fat Beams have a more intense mid-scoop going on, which I find beneficial in some situations, but on this particular bass, I favor the more mid-pronounced tone of the Sunbeams. All of those sets of strings feel very similar to me on the fingers; the Sunbeams might be slightly easier on the touch, but not a big difference.

If you’re looking for a significantly darker, warmer nickel roundwound string, you might try the Rotosound 66 Nickel strings. Much darker in tone than the Sunbeams.

Thomastik Infeld JF344 vs DR Legend flatwound bass strings

Bass player at 2013 St. Louis Blues FestivalOn my Fender Precision bass, I’ve been using Thomastik Infeld JF344 strings (a.k.a., TI Flats) for over two years. People who try these strings seem typically divided into those that adore them and those that hate them, with little middle ground. Coming from a predominantly roundwound string background, I thought they had a wonderful sound and feel.

And I still do. However, in reading online discussions about other flatwound strings, I started to notice that the flexibility of the TI Flats was perhaps more excessive than I would prefer, and the tone was perhaps a little too midrange aggressive, lacking the rich low / low-mid sound of more traditional flatwound strings.

The classic flatwound electric bass string has for decades been made by LaBella, but user reviews suggested that LaBella flatwound strings, even in the lighter gauges, might be overly stiff. (I had tried some Fender 9050M medium gauge strings in the past, and found them much too tense on the bass neck, and much too stiff on the fingers.)

What might be ideal for me, if not the TI Flats, would be a flatwound string that was just a little bit more tense and a little bit less flexible, with more emphasis on the low / low-mid sonic range than the high-mids.

Scouring user reviews, the most likely candidate appeared to be DR Legend flatwound strings, but the reviews were comically mixed. “Pretty flexible, not too tense!” wrote one user, only to be countered with “Too stiff, just as tense as LaBella strings!” by another user. Even the people who liked them seemed non-committal about it. Very few people appeared to be big fans of the DR Legend strings, but I wasn’t finding any other option that had as much potential for offering the desired sound and feel.

So I finally just ordered a set. How did they sound? Here are two sample clips I made, starting with the TI Flats:

And now the DR Legends:

Both sound good. The DR strings do have more of the sound I personally was after.

How do they feel? As desired, the DR strings are more stiff, less flexible than the TI Flats, without being overly stiff. I would estimate that they are about half-way in between the TI Flats and the Fender 9050Ms in flexibility feel, roughly similar to a typical roundwound string. I can imagine a hypothetical string half-way in between the DRs and the TI Flats in flexibility being even more ideal, but I find the DRs to meet my expectations. They are also extremely smooth to the touch.

Overall, I like the DRs, and plan to continue using them over the TI Flats. I share my thoughts and sound clips here for the benefit of anyone else doing similar string research. Happy bass playing!