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Rotosound Swing Bass strings vs Ernie Ball Regular Slinky strings

Rotosound Swing Bass strings vs Ernie Ball Regular Slinky strings

by Stephen Charlton2018/05/02

I’ve been doing a lot of bass recording recently so I decided to send the two main brands I use head-to-head and compare the results. The strings in today’s shootout are Rotosound Swing Bass (105-45) steel bass strings and Ernie Ball Regular Slinky steel bass strings (105-50).

Why play steel bass strings?

Rotosound Swing Bass Ernie Ball Regular Slinky steel bass strings bass

The Ernie Ball Regular Slinky steel bass strings.

So how steel bass strings differ from nickel strings? Steel is a harder material, so the strings require more force to bend. This hardness also affects the tone, as steel is more in-your-face and brighter compared to the warmth of nickel strings. I don’t play steel for its tonal qualities though; I just simply can’t play nickel strings due to allergies.

I’ve heard players claim that steel strings wear out your frets faster than nickel strings. I haven’t noticed any fret damage myself while playing steel strings over several years, but it does make sense that a harder material like steel would wear out the frets faster.

The shootout: Rotosound Swing Bass vs Ernie Ball Regular Slinky

Both the Rotosound Swing Bass and Ernie Ball Regular Slinky strings are quite aggressive due to the round-wound design. What are the differences though? The gauges are the same for the thickest three strings, but the 45 gauge G string on the Rotosound is slightly lighter than the Ernie Ball 50 G-string.

As for the tone, I was surprised by how similar they were. I had to listen several times before I could tell any difference. The Rotosound strings are slightly brighter and more aggressive, while the Ernie Ball strings are more phat and warm sounding. As a result the Ernie Ball strings sound closer to how nickel strings sound.

The verdict

Rotosound Swing Bass Ernie Ball Regular Slinky steel bass strings bridge

The Rotosound Swing Bass strings.

Which strings would I buy in the future? For a four-string, I’d go for the Ernie Ball Regular Slinky, mainly because the slinkies are slightly easier to bend, despite the larger G string gauge. The difference in tone is so small that the tonal factor won’t affect my decision too much. In the studio you can pick the difference when isolating the tracks, but listening to a live band, even trained ears would struggle to hear the difference.

It’s worth noting that Rotosound offer a five string Swing Bass set (130-45), which isn’t available in the Ernie Ball roundwound steel string range. So for my five-string needs I’ll stick to Rotosound. Ernie Ball do offer non-nickel surface five-string sets, but only in their coated or flatwound ranges.

Signal chain notes

The recording was played with a pick, with all takes done on my Fender ’95 MIM Precision Bass (modded with a Quarter Pound pick-up and Bad Ass 2 bridge). The bass went into a Radial J48 DI box and then a Scarlett 2i4 interface.

United States: Amazon (Rotosound), Amazon (Ernie Ball).
International: Thomann (Rotosound), eBay (Ernie Ball).
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About The Author
Stephen Charlton
Stephen Charlton is a musician and journalist based in Melbourne, Australia.

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