The Best Bass Guitar Strings - 4 String Sets

The Highest Rated Bass Strings

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With so many different materials and approaches to bass string design, finding a good quality set that best fits your bass and your playing style can be a difficult task.

For this 2020 update we decided to simplify things to make it easier for you by limiting our recommendations to 3 standard gauges of Light, Medium and Heavy.

Some manufacturers use their own gauge classification systems, so we've defined gauges in this guide according to the G and E strings in the table under Bass String Gauge Explained. See the Methodology section for further details.

Although we left out many very highly rated custom gauge sets, you can use this guide to find types of bass strings you like to play with, then you can later experiment with mixed and custom gauges on different strings.

Best Bass Guitar Strings - 4 String Bass Sets

Best Light Gauge Bass Strings

DR Strings LR-40 Hi-Beam Stainless Steel

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$22
DR Strings LR-40 Hi-Beam Stainless Steel Bass Strings (Light)

DR Strings have been making waves with their colorful coated strings, gaining the allegiance of big name artists like Adam Clayton of U2.

But it's not just their colorful strings that make them well received, as can be seen with how many bass players the non-coated LR-40 highly. This set follows the typical light gauge spec, round-wound and crafted from stainless-steel, the main difference being its distinctly shaped round core.

Features:

  • Gauge: Light Gauge (.040 to .100)
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Coated: No

Pros
The LR-40 is often described as being easy on the hands while having good enough tone similar to what other more expensive string sets offer. Many users describe the tone as having a bit more high and low frequencies when compared to other sets. There are also plenty who love the longevity, with many bassists reporting that this set still sounds good after weeks of use.

Cons
Not everyone is happy with its bright tonality, so if you're looking for a string set that adds more mid and warmth, then this may not be for you.

Overall
With the DR Strings LR-40, you can get good quality light gauge bass strings at a very reasonable price.

Rotosound SM66 Swing

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$23
Rotosound SM66 Swing Bass Guitar Strings (Light)

Rotosound has been making Swing Bass string set for more than half a century now, and they've grown to receive the approval of big name bassists like Jaco Pastorius, Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big), Geddy Lee (Rush), John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) and many more.

The story goes that the original Swing Bass set was developed to meet the needs of John Entwistle (The Who) for an even-sounding, roundwound bass string. These days days, it continues to be in production and available in different gauges, the light gauge being one of its more popular version.

Features:

  • Gauge: Light Gauge (.040 to .100)
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Coated: No

Pros
Users of the Rotosound SM66 have plenty of good things to say, many of whom credit this set for breathing new life into their instrument. It also helps that this set of strings is not as expensive as one would expect given this good legacy and a long list of big name users.

Cons
There are some who aren't too fond of the string's brighter voicing, but that's what you get with lighter gauges.

Overall
Still, when it comes to good quality bass guitar strings, it'll be hard to argue with Geddy, Jaco and Billy.

D'Addario ECB84 Chromes Flat Wound

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$40
D'Addario ECB84 Chromes Flat Wound Custom Light Electric Bass Guitar Strings

At publication time these were the Highest Rated Light Gauge Bass Guitar Strings.

D'Addario continues to be a go-to brand for strings, including bass guitar strings, with a long list of artist endorsers and users.

The ECB84 in particular is a flatwound light gauge set, which follows after traditional flatwound design.

Flatwounds provide a smoother feel with less noise when you slide your fingers. They also result in warm and mellow tones more akin to acoustic stand-up bass. Finally, flatwound is known for sounding good longer than roundwound, but it can be a bit harder to milk or bend.

Features:

  • Gauge: Light Gauge (.040 to .100)
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Coated: No

Pros
Users of the D'Addario ECB84 describe its tone as having the warmth of conventional flatwounds with a bit more treble. As such, it's not as warm as other flatwound strings, but this extra zing actually makes the ECB84 a favorite flatwound set for many bassists.

Cons
As mentioned in the Pros section, the ECB84 is not as warm sounding as some would want their flatwound strings to be.

Overall
If you want nothing less than the highest rated flatwound light gauge bass guitar string set, then check out the D'Addario ECB84.

Best Medium Gauge Bass Strings

Ernie Ball 2833 Hybrid Slinky Roundwound

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 700+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$16
Ernie Ball 2833 Hybrid Slinky Roundwound Bass Guitar Strings

The Ernie Ball 2833 Hybrid Slinky is a roundwound bass string set that features the company's hex shape core wrapped in nickel plated steel.

The distinct shape of the core is designed to improve the string's overall durability and longevity. It works with the nickel plated wrap wire to give the string a more balanced tone along with good intonation and tuning stability.

Finally, each string has ball ends crafted from brass wire rod.

Features:

  • Gauge: Medium (.045 to .105)
  • Material: Tin Plated Carbon Steel Core with Nickel Plated Steel Wrap
  • Coated: No

Pros
Many users describe this set as bright sounding, which is ideal for slap, funk and other similar bass playing styles. On the flipside, there are also plenty who appreciate its low-end, which gives this bass more of a V-shape EQ like voicing. These are also appreciated for their affordable price.

Cons
Ironically, while most users are happy with its bright tonality, there are those who feel that it's too bright sounding for their personal preference.

Overall
If you are into playing rock, funk and related musical styles, then this may just be what you're looking for.

DR Strings MR-45 Hi-Beam Stainless Steel

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 375+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$18
DR Strings MR-45 Hi-Beam Stainless Steel Medium Bass Guitar Strings

This is essentially a modern reproduction of classic bass string sets, the main difference being its DR Strings designed round core, which the company says helps improve longevity.

Together with its round winding, this set adds just a bit of treble to your voicing, not as harsh as what other sets usually bring to the table.

Features:

  • Gauge: Medium Gauge (.045 to .105)
  • Material: Steel Core, Round Wound
  • Coated: No

Pros
Bright and crunchy are two adjectives that nicely describe the MR-45's tone, as they continue to please more and more bassists who make the switch. There are also reports of the stings being easier on the hands, for note milking, bending, sliding and the like. It also helps that they're reasonably priced.

Cons
There are a few who rated the MR-45 low because of tone preference, I.E. they prefer the warmth of flatwound strings.

Overall
The DR Strings MR-45 is a good set for those who want a bright, but not too bright, sounding set of strings.

Rotosound RS66LD Swing Bass 66 Stainless Steel Roundwound

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 800+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$22

At publication time these were the Highest Rated Medium Gauge Bass Guitar Strings.

The brainchild of engineer and musician James How, Rotosound strings have been the weapon of choice for musicians as notable as John Entwistle of The Who, Cliff Burton of Metallica, Guthrie Govan, Colin Greenwood of Radiohead, and Geddy Lee of Rush.

The most important thing to know about these strings is that they’re made from stainless steel. Stainless steels strings are notably brighter than pure nickel or nickel-plated steel strings. This set, referred to by Rotosound as standard, is a medium gauge set of strings.

Features:

  • Gauge: Medium Gauge (.045 to .105)
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Coated: No

Pros
The Rotosound RS66LD is the highest rated set of bass strings in this list, thanks to its tone and longevity. This is the set to pick up if you’re looking for a more punchy and articulate bass sound, or if you’re looking to pop or slap, but there are also plenty of reports of them working well in other styles.

Cons
Not many complaints to speak of, but If you’re looking for a thinner gauge string (which will also be easier to play) you’re going to want to go with a different set.

Overall
If you want nothing less than the best rated bass guitar strings, then get the Rotosound RS66LD Swing Bass 66.

DR Strings Pure Blues

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$23
DR Strings Pure Blues Bass Guitar Strings (Medium)

The DR Pure Blues bass string set is sort of an in-between when it comes to tone, with its combination of pure nickel and stainless steel. The resulting tone is more balanced, with hints of the warmth and highs of the two materials it features.

Like other DR strings, this one comes with a round core that easily comes in contact with the wrap wire, and the result is more sustain and flexibility, as virtuoso Victor Wooten put it.

Features:

  • Gauge: Medium Gauge (.045 to .105)
  • Material: Quantum-nickel Windings, Round steel Cores
  • Coated: No

Pros
This set is well loved for its balanced tone, as can be seen by reading reviews that commend its bright tone, right next to one that commend its low end. Smooth playability is also another reason why many use this set. And it also gets a lot of thumbs up for lasting longer than other medium gauge sets.

Cons
With its somewhat in-between voicing, those who prefer really bright sounding strings may find this lacking. The same can be said for those who want strings that are warm sounding, a few of them find this too trebly.

Overall
The DR Pure Blues is a highly rated medium gauge set for those who want a balanced tone.

Best Heavy Gauge Bass Strings

Rotosound RS66LE

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$21
Rotosound RS66LE Long Scale Bass Strings (Heavy)

At publication time these were the Highest Rated Heavy Gauge Bass Guitar Strings.

The RS66LE follows after Rotosound's successful design, stainless steel roundwound set, only this one is a heavy gauge.

The label "long scale" refers to the string being designed to work for long scale basses like the ones from Fender. As a roundwound stainless steel set, we can expect this to be bright sounding, but it's brightness will be somewhat tamer because of the extra mass that each string has, being a heavy gauge set.

Features:

  • Gauge: Heavy (.050 to .110)
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Coated: No

Pros
Huge sounding nicely summarizes how most users feel about this set. It is described as being bright, but not too bright to be "scratchy" sounding. It is also well appreciated for its clarity, especially when considering that it is a heavy gauge set, and should be sounding warmer.

Cons
Being a long-scale heavy set, these strings apply more pressure on the bass, so it is best to make sure that your bass is compatible with heavy sets before going with this one.

Overall
The Rotosond RS66LE is the best rated long scale bass guitar strings set, it is a no brainer for those who are want to switch to a heavier set while keeping the playing feel of Rotosound roundwound strings.

Rotosound SH77 Steve Harris Signature Monel Flatwound

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$39
Rotosound SH77 Steve Harris Signature Monel Flatwound Long Scale Bass Guitar Strings

The SH77 is a result of Iron Maiden's Steve Harris' and Rotosound's long history of working together.

This set is designed to meet the expectations of Steve, and is the set that he uses for his main 4-string bass guitar.

Aside from being co-designed by Steve Harris, an important distinction that this string has is the use of Monel as its main material.

Monel is a nickel alloy that was very popular back in the early days of steel strings, but because of how expensive it is to make, most manufacturers have stopped using it. These days, there are now a few who have gone back to Monel, including the Rotosound SH77.

Features:

  • Gauge: Heavy (.050 to .110)
  • Material: Monel
  • Coated: No

Pros
This set is consistently praised for getting the Iron Maiden sound right, and for heavy having tones that work great for similar rock and metal styles. It is also often used by bassists who de-tune their instrument, and interestingly, there are also reports of it working well in other genres. Being a flatwound set, many also welcome its smoother feel.

Cons
Being a heavy string, there are some who find the extra-tension to be a bit too much for their fretting hand.

Overall
The Rotosound SH77 is the set to get if you've got the bass and skills to handle heavy strings for heavy rock and metal playing.

Things to Consider when Buying Bass Guitar Strings

If you’re looking to learn more about bass guitar strings, check out the sections below. We’ll cover things like how string gauges and materials change your tone, as well as how to find the right strings to get the tone you want.

  • Bass String Gauge Explained

    When we talk about “gauge”, we’re referring to how thick the strings are. So, for example, when someone says “heavy gauge strings” they’re talking about strings that are thicker than what you’d normally encounter.

    The heavier the string, the harder it’s going to be to play. Because the string itself is thicker it takes more tension to get it up to pitch, and the more tension a string is under the harder it is to press down. The opposite is true with lighter gauge strings, which are significantly easier to play than heavy gauge strings.

    Heavy and light gauge strings also sound different. The heavier the gauge of string the warmer it’s going to sound, and it’s also going to produce a stronger signal (which means it will be louder coming through an amp). Lighter strings are the opposite, so they’re going to brighter and produce a quieter signal.

    Here’s a quick table that gives examples for the measurements of different gauges of string:

    Gauge G String D String A String E String
    Extra-Light .030 .050 .070 .090
    Light .040 .060 .080 .100
    Medium .045 .065 .085 .105
    Heavy .050 .070 .090 .110
    Extra Heavy .055 .075 .095 .115
  • String Materials

    Strings are made from a variety of different materials. Below we’ve listed a few of the most common ones, and how they sound in relation to one another.

    • Stainless Steel
      Stainless steel guitar strings are the brightest sounding electric bass guitar string. Because they’re made from stainless steel, they’re also more resistant to corrosion than a similarly constructed string made from nickel.
    • Pure Nickel
      Pure nickel bass guitar strings are significantly warmer than steel guitar strings. They’re great if you’re looking to emulate vintage bass tones, though they do lack the punch and clarity you get with stainless steel bass guitar strings.
    • Nickel-Plated Steel
      Nickel-plated steel strings are a great compromise between pure nickel and stainless steel guitar strings. They have a great combination of punch and warmth, though it should be noted that they aren’t as corrosion resistant as stainless steel strings.
  • Flatwound vs. Roundwound

    Flatwound and roundwound refers to a strings winding. Winding is the wraps of wire on a string. Roundwound, the most common winding, feels textured like the edge of a quarter. Flatwound is smoother (though still slightly textured).

    Roundwounds have a brighter tone and more pop than flatwound strings, making them a good choice for those of you who are looking for a brighter and more aggressive tone. Flatwound strings are very warm and thumpy, which makes them great for smooth, melodic bass lines. And because they’re not as textured, less dirt and oil sticks inside of their grooves; making them last longer.

  • Hex vs. Round Core

    Just like the wrapping of your string, your string’s core is also going to have an impact on your tone. Hexcore strings, the most common type of string, have a hexagonal surface. Roundcore strings look like a piece of spaghetti.

    The main benefit of roundcore strings is that they’re easier to play. The wrapping is looser, so the string is under less tension. However, the does also mean that they don’t have the articulation or punch of hexcore strings (though this might be a bonus if you’re looking for a warmer tone!).

  • Coated Strings

    Coated strings are strings that are coated in a polymer to increase their lifespan. Coated strings are a controversial topic in guitar playing circles, with some loving their increased longevity and others feeling that the coating robs strings of their tone.

    We wouldn’t necessarily say that coating a string hurts its tone, but it definitely does cause some high-end loss. This isn’t really a bad thing, but it’s something to be aware of. If you like really warm sounding strings, a coated set might be right up your alley. Conversely, if you want a really bright tone from your strings you might be better off going with a non-coated alternative.

  • Matching Your Strings to What You Want to Play

    A lot of bassists ask, “What strings should I use if I want to play X genre?”. And that’s a good question to have, because it stands to reason that if strings have certain characteristics based off of what they’re made from then there should be a clear cut answer to which string is best for a given situation, right?

    Well, it’s not quite that simple. The main thing to know is that you have to balance the tone of your strings with the tone of your amp and your guitar. So, say you want to play jazz. If you have a darkly voiced bass and amp, going with pure nickel flatwounds might make your tone too muddy.

    With that being said, there is a table below that shows which strings have the potential to work in a given situation. But before you make up your mind which set is right for you, be sure to double check how your bass/amp sounds compared to how you want it to sound.

    Genre Gauge String Material Core
    Slap Light to Medium Stainless Steel Hex
    Jazz Medium to Heavy Pure Nickel Round
    Country Medium to Heavy Pure Nickel Round
    Rock / Metal Light ot Medium Stainless Steel Hex
    Funk Light to Medium Stainless Steel Hex

Best Bass Strings Selection Methodology

This guide was first published on October 5, 2017 written by Mason Hoberg and the latest major update was published on February 26, 2020 written by bass guitar teacher Alexander Briones.

When we set out to create this guide, we knew that we had to limit our scope because of the many material, gauge and design variations that are available. As such, we decided to stick to widely available 4-string bass guitar string sets that are popular and highly rated. And for this 2020 update, we decided to further filter our list to the standard gauges: Light (.040 to .100), Medium (.045 to .105) and Heavy (050 to .110).
With this new limitation, we still ended up gathering almost 5400 reviews and ratings for 19 different bass string sets that made it onto our short-list. All these data were processed via the Gearank algorithm, and provided us with the scores that we used to recommend only the best bass guitar strings for the three gauges mentioned. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

Comments

Rotosound 66 had the best

Rotosound 66 had the best tone I ever heard but too many dead strings right out the pack. I switch to Hi-Beams while the tone isn't as good as Rotosound its close and I never got a dead string.

I have a ‘64 Supro Pocket

I have a ‘64 Supro Pocket Bass with a 25” scale. There is 2” of clearance between the strings’ ball end of the trapeze tailpiece to the floating bridge. What specific brand and model black tapewound strings will fit on this bass, so that the silk on either end will not touch the nut and bridge? Thank you.
Reply to : mrogers57@gmail.com

Good article but I was hoping

Good article but I was hoping it would mention one of the key benefits of flatwounds. I play with a pick and Chrome flatwounds. They make a lot less noise when your fingers run along the string and make minimal pick noise. They are also quite punchy when played with a pick. In fact, with active pickups and a pick they can be as punchy as any finger plucked string.

Thanks for the heads up -

Thanks for the heads up - that now gets a mention in our February 2020 update.

There are advertising links

There are advertising links to both Sweetwater and Amazon (the blue buttons with their names on them) on this page, but neither of those two companies were involved in the process to select the sets of bass strings that we recommended.

As with all our guides, you can see how we made our selections in the Methodology section and additional information is available in How Gearank Works.

Actually, D'Addario makes

Actually, D'Addario makes Fender's strings. And you should mention Flatwounds are easier on the fingers and less noisy.

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