Best Bass Strings for Metal – 2020 Buyer’s Guide

Best Choice
Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Bass Set, .050 – .105
Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Bass Set, .050 – .105
The best bass strings for playing metal
For chugging metal rhythms and bass lines that have the power to change the pace of a heartbeat, this is exactly what is needed.
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A milestone moment for any bass or guitar player is finding their go-to set of strings. The only way of finding that special set of strings is to follow what sounds/feels right to the player. There is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing strings. Knowing why a certain set of strings might work better for you than another is a big part of it. Every little technical aspect of a string will have an impact on how the string feels and sounds. These technicalities are what we are hoping to help you understand better here. Once all the technical decisions have been made, all that’s left is to play!

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Best Choice
Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Bass Set, .050 - .105 review
Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Bass Set, .050 – .105
  • Material: Nickel
  • Boost: Mid
  • Budget: Cheap

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Good for Long Scale Basses
D
D’Addario EXL160 Nickel Wound Bass Guitar Strings, Medium, 50 – 105, Long Scale
  • Material: Nickel
  • Boost: Mid
  • Budget: Affordable

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Looks Good and Long Lasting
DR Strings Bass Strings, Black Beauties - Extra-Life, Black-Coated review
DR Strings Bass Strings, Black Beauties – Extra-Life, Black-Coated
  • Material: Polymer-Coated Steel
  • Boost: High
  • Budget: Above Avg

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Loud and Affordable
GHS Strings Electric Bass Boomer Set review
GHS Strings Electric Bass Boomer Set
  • Material: Nickel-Plated Steel
  • Boost: Mid/Lo
  • Budget: Affordable

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Punchy and In Your Face
Rotosound RS66LF Swing Bass 66 Stainless Steel Bass Guitar Strings review
Rotosound RS66LF Swing Bass 66 Stainless Steel Bass Guitar Strings
  • Material; Stainless Steel
  • Boost: Mid/Punch
  • Budget: Affordable

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The regular slinkies from Ernie Ball are one of the most commonly used sets of strings for both bass and guitar. They come in an iconic green bag and are fairly priced. This set of strings is a nickel wound. That means that there will be a slight boost in mid-range punch and high-end clarity. For chugging metal rhythms and bass lines that have the power to change the pace of a heartbeat, this is exactly what is needed. They also come as a five string set with the exact same properties but heavier gauges all around for tuned down basses.

Drawbacks

These strings will not blow anybody away or make the player stand out. They provide a safe and reliable ground to stand on when playing metal. They allow for almost any style of playing, and due to being so popular, they are able to maintain quality for a relatively long time despite their cheap price-tag. That being said, if a player is looking for strings that stand out from the regulars, these might not be the best choice. Some creatives will need instruments and gear that stand out or bring something new to the table in order to fuel their creativity. 

Overall, these strings are heavily recommended for any style of metal. They are reliable for performers that need their instruments to stay in tune, and the absolute perfect pair of backup strings should an accident happen on stage.

D’Addario EXL160 Nickel Wound Bass Guitar Strings, Medium, 50 – 105, Long Scale

Guitar Guide Rank
90%

Since the Ernie Balls are so reliable, here is an alternative to them with almost the same properties except they are suited for long scale basses. However, it is possible to use long-scale strings on a short-scale bass; but why complicate things?

DR Strings Bass Strings, Black Beauties – Extra-Life, Black-Coated

Guitar Guide Rank
85%

Pros

  • Long-lasting
  • Awesome black coating
  • Extra high-end crispness

Cons

  • Above average budget range

Are the quality and a little extra care a big plus? The black beauties from DR are here to present themselves. 

They are steel strings coated with a black polymer, increasing the life-length to above average. They come in a nice, slick, black packaging and provide the player with some extra crispness and clarity to their tone.

Choice after sound

Do you know what type of sound you want?

These strings are perfect for someone who already has a defined picture of how they want their bass to sound and are lacking a bit of high-end clarity in their current setup. But for someone who is just trying their way forward, that added clarity does not automatically make them the better choice. In fact, many bassists across several genres actively seek to keep one set of strings on their instruments for as long as they can, because that ”dull” sound that an old set of strings gives is exactly what they are looking for. The black beauties will cost a little above average price for a set of bass strings and are certainly recommended for any player looking to take the next step. They are medium gauged and made for a four string.

GHS Strings Electric Bass Boomer Set

Guitar Guide Rank
85%

Pros

  • Boominess

Cons

  • Boominess

Here is a very recognizable set of strings. They are, along with the Ernie Balls, some of the most popular strings. They have been legitimised by generations of bass players using them over and over, so they are certainly recommended for use in metal. They are nickel-plated steel strings that come at a low price. An outstanding feature with the GHS Boomers 4-string set is that there’s also a 5 and 6 string version. So if a player finds themselves liking the 4 set so much they get attached to it and want no other, they can also play their 5 or 6 string basses with near-identical sound/feel.

What is boominess?

The GHS Boomers will, as the name suggests, make your bass sound boomier. It means adding on to the mid-low end. Standing in a crowd, this boominess has the ability to make your body vibrate with excess bass. It is undoubtedly a wonderful thing and will make the audience feel the weight of the bass. On the opposite side, having strings that boost your high end will take away from that ominous, large presence of the bass and make it more direct and in your face. To summarise, whether you want boominess or not is an important decision. Because a bass that is boomy has such a huge impact on the sound of a composition. At the end of the day, it is all about what your setup needs.

Rotosound RS66LF Swing Bass 66 Stainless Steel Bass Guitar Strings

Guitar Guide Rank
80%

Pros

  • Punchy mid range 
  • Stands out in a mix

Cons

  • Quickly loses personality

Finally, on this list are some long-scale, stainless steel strings from Rotosound. They are within anybody’s budget and come with certain features because of it. They have a good punch in the mid register, plenty of basses and fairly loud output. However, these strings are cheap, and they might require to be changed relatively often in order to keep the quality high. But again, some players prefer the sound of worn-out strings. These strings have been used for rock, metal, punk and any genre that requires the bass to punch through the mix.

How to be cost effective?

Choosing between cheap and short-lived or expensive and long-lasting.

How does a musician manage the economy to get the most out of every little thing? How important are the strings on a bass guitar? 

The higher priced strings do just feel and sound better in the majority of cases. But for people who often practice on their bass, I would argue that the cost-effectiveness of playing with high priced strings goes down. They will tear, and the coating will come off. You will get used to these strings’ unique feeling and sound, and they won’t feel special. Therefore, a suggestion would be to use cheaper strings like the Rotosound RS66LFs on your instruments if you regularly practice and keep a fancier set of strings around for recordings/gigs. One other benefit of having coated strings on an instrument that you do not use regularly is that the coating protects the strings from erosion over time. When left out in the open room, strings without coating naturally degrade much faster than those with coating.

Buyer’s Guide

Different types of material used in strings will provide different sounds/feels. After reading this article, one big difference can be seen between steel and nickel strings.

Steel

Steel strings are associated with brightness and high end. They will typically feel a bit harsher than a nickel on the fingers and also last longer. It is important to note that they physically last longer on your instrument, but nickel strings tend to sustain quality longer than steel/stainless steel strings. A new set of steel strings has a very distinct ”twang” to them, which disappears after a relatively short playing period.

Nickel

Nickel strings produce less noise than steel or stainless steel strings. The sound of sliding fingers on the fretboard or noise from the bass guitar is not as apparent with nickel strings as with steel strings. The tone of nickel strings is typically said to be warm/smooth and easy on the fingers.

Conclusion

Many people see the difference between one set to another as too small to think about with strings. It’s not as important as a new bass. 

But playing a new set of strings or growing into some that fit you really can change the whole feel to your instrument and make it seem new.

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