Ernie Ball is a well respected bass and guitar
string manufacturer that has been a leader in the business since the 1960s, and is in fact named after the founder of the company. Many world class bassists including Tony Levin and Dave LaRue endorse their popular bass strings. The terminology used in the branding of Ernie Ball's bass strings can be difficult to decipher, and this article is an attempt to clear things up, as well as provide a basic overview / review of the different strings this excellent company has to offer.
Ernie Ball essentially has three categories of bass strings: Slinky, Slinky Stainless Steel, and 'Electric Bass Strings.' Slinky are roundwound strings made from nickel with a tempered core. Roundwounds are the brighter, more metallic sounding strings where you can feel the metal ridges with your hands. Nickel, which the Slinky's are made of, is a bit warmer in tone and softer on the hands than stainless steel, which of course is what the Slinky Stainless Steels are made of. The Steels also have a round core, which adds further to the brightness and fullness of the string. The 'Electric Bass Strings' are flatwound, which feel very smooth and have a much darker, thumpier tone, contributed to even more by their hex core.
What can be confusing when selecting Ernie Ball bass strings are the variety of names you will see like regular, hybrid, extra, super, and power in front of the Slinky and Slinky Stainless Steel strings. Fear not, for these terms simply refer to the gauge, how thick the strings are- otherwise, they are the same. Here is the order from thinnest to thickest: Extra, Super, Hybrid, Regular, Power. For the flatwound 'Electric Bass Strings,' gauge is referred to by 'group' one through four, four being the thinnest and one being the thickest.
Users report that the Slinky Stainless Steels are particularly bright strings that are rough on the fingers if you do not have a good callous, even within the realm of stainless steel. They lose the intensity of their brightness rather quickly, which is a blessing to some and a curse to others.
The 'regular,' nickel Slinky strings also mellow out rather quickly compared to how they sound out of the package, but many users love the result. I personally have had good results with this string. They are also very well priced, and are fairly smooth by roundwound standards. These strings are not recommended for those who play particularly aggressive slap / pop styles.
Ernie Ball's 'Electric Bass' flatwound strings are excellent for those who like a deep, thumpy, old school sound. They are also well priced for flatwounds, and the variety of gauges allow for many options in tension. For the most part, these strings sit in the middle from being too tense or too floppy.
Ernie Ball makes excellent bass strings and hopefully this information will help you choose the one that is best for you.
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