The Best Bass Guitar Strings - 4 String Sets

The Highest Rated Bass Strings

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Much of the tone and feel of bass guitars can be traced back to how bassists interact with the strings, justifying the need to put more thought into the strings that you use.

This is where we come in with this updated look at the best rated 4-string bass guitar string sets, updated for 2021, and divided into three gauge categories: Light, Medium and Heavy.

Bass string manufacturers don't use a standard classification system for labeling the weights of string sets, so we've created our own classifications as follows:

  • Light: .040 to .100
  • Medium: .045 to .105
  • Heavy: .050 to .110

There are many more gauge ranges than these available, including a wide selection of custom gauge sets, but those above are the ones we chose to focus on as they're some of the most commonly used, particularly by bassists who haven't yet settled on their favorite combination of individual string gauges.

Best Bass Guitar Strings - 4 String Bass Sets

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Best Light Gauge Bass Strings

DR Strings LR-40 Hi-Beam Stainless Steel

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

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

DR Strings is known for colorful coating that appeals to young players who want their strings to visually stand out. Even professionals appreciate the aesthetic effect that colored coating adds to their instruments - including big name artists like U2's Adam Clayton.

The company is not just about eye pleasing colors, as exemplified by the popularity the non-coated LR-40, which is highly rated for its quality and longevity.

This set follows the typical light gauge spec, round-wound and crafted from stainless-steel, the main point of difference being its distinctly shaped round core.

Features

  • Gauges: .040 .060 .080 .100
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Coated: No

Pros
LR-40 is proof that DR Strings is not just about being colorful. It gets a lot of thumbs up for its tone, which brings out a bit more highs and lows. Easy playability is also mentioned in reviews, while others are pleased with how long the string retains its fresh sound.

Cons
Not everyone is happy with the 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 a good quality light gauge set at a very reasonable price.

Rotosound SM66 Swing

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$23
Rotosound SM66 Swing Bass Guitar Strings

Jaco Pastorius, Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big), Geddy Lee (Rush) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin) are just a few of the many virtuoso bassists who have used Rotosound bass strings.

And the Swing Bass is one of their more popular, and long time running sets, said to be in production for more than half a century now.

The original Swing Bass set was developed to meet the demands of The Who's John Entwistle, with its roundwound design and balanced tone. It then became popular among bassists of different musical styles and backgrounds, with the SM66 being the best rated among Rotosound's light gauge sets.

Features

  • Gauges: .040 .060 .080 .100
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Coated: No

Pros
The Rotosound SM66 set continues to gather good feedback from bassists, some even credit it for breathing new life into their instrument. It also helps that it is accessibly priced, given its good legacy and 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
When it comes to good quality bass strings, it'll be hard to argue with Geddy, Jaco and Billy.

D'Addario ECB84 Chromes Flat Wound

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$45
D'Addario ECB84 Chromes Flat Wound Custom Light Electric Bass Guitar Strings
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Light Gauge 4-String Bass Guitar String Set for the 3rd edition in a row!

D'Addario continues to be a go-to brand for bass strings, with a long list of famous users including Victor Wooten, Ron Blair (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots), Gary Willis (Tribal Tech) and many more.

The ECB84 in particular is a flatwound light gauge set, which follows after traditional flatwound design, which provides a smoother feel and 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

  • Gauges: .040 .060 .080 .100
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Coated: No

Pros
Users of the D'Addario ECB84 describe its tone as having the warmth of conventional flatwounds but with a bit more treble. And this extra zing gives it a distinct sound that many bassists appreciate. Still sounding good after long term use is another reason why many rate this set highly.

Cons
Those who are looking for a warm sounding flatwound set might be turned off with its brighter tone.

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

Rotosound RS66LD Swing Bass 66 Stainless Steel Roundwound

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 1950+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$23
Rotosound RS66LD

The brainchild of engineer and musician James How, Rotosound strings have been the string of choice for many musicians, including noteable bassists such as John Entwistle of The Who, Cliff Burton of Metallica, Colin Greenwood of Radiohead, and many more.

The RS66LD in particular continues to be a favorite in the medium gauge section, with its slightly brighter tone, thanks to the use of stainless steel as its main material.

Compared to pure nickel or even nickel-plated steel strings, this string has more high frequencies that work well with certain musical genres and playing styles.

Features

  • Gauges: .045 .065 .080 .105
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Coated: No

Pros
Reviewers attribute the success of the RS66LD to tone quality and longevity. This set is commended for having a punchy and articulate tone, which works well for modern pop or slap style music. Many report that the strings retains its fresh tone longer than they expected.

Cons
Those who are into low-end thump and root notes may find this set to be too bright sounding.

Overall
The Rotosound RS66LD Swing Bass 66 is a great medium gauge set to get if you're looking for a slightly brighter tonality.

DR Strings Pure Blues

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

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

The DR Pure Blues bass string set is sort of 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, these come 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

  • Gauges: .045 .065 .085 .105
  • Material: Quantum-nickel Windings, Round steel Cores
  • Coated: No

Pros
This set is well loved for its good frequency distribution, as can be seen by reading reviews that commend its bright tone, right next to ones that commend the low end. Smooth playability is also another reason why many use this set. Many are happy with how long this string lasts.

Cons
With its somewhat in-between voicing, those who prefer extreme bright or warm tones will find this lacking.

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

La Bella 760FS Deep Talkin'

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$43
La Bella 760FS Deep Talkin' Bass String Flatwound (Medium)
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Medium Gauge 4-String Bass Guitar String Set.

The La Bella 760FS Deep Talkin' is a medium gauge flatwound set that beat out all the other sets in this guide with its almost perfect rating.

Giving this set its premium smooth feel is its hand-polished flat windings, which is a driving factor in the higher price.

It utilizes stainless steel as its main material, with a standard scale length of 37 inches.

Also, it ships in what the company calls "MAP" or Modified Atmosphere Packaging that allows for longer shelf life.

Features

  • Gauges: .045, .065, .085, .105
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Coated: No

Pros
The La Bella 760FS Deep Talkin' is often described as the best sounding flatwound set - and going by its almost perfect rating, there's no denying this statement. Users commend it for its deep and rich sound, perfect for use with older bass designs like the Precision and Jazz bass models. Smooth playing feel is another common theme in reviews, impressing even fretless bass owners.

Cons
This set is not for those who are not into flatwound strings.

Overall
If you want nothing less than the best rated flatwound bass string set, then this is for you.

Best Heavy Gauge Bass Strings

Rotosound RS66LE

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$22
Rotosound RS66LE Long Scale Bass 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 relatively bright sounding, albeit tamer because of the extra mass that each string has, being a heavy gauge set.

Features

  • Gauges: .050 .070 .085 .110
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Coated: No

Pros
"Huge sounding" nicely summarizes how most users feel about this set. Users are happy with the tone, which has just enough treble without taking the spotlight off the low frequencies. These are also well appreciated for their clarity, especially when considering that this 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 a no brainer for those who want to switch to a heavier set while keeping the playing feel of Rotosound roundwound strings.

Rotosound SH77 Steve Harris Signature

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$45
Rotosound SH77 Steve Harris Signature Monel Flatwound Long Scale Bass Guitar Strings
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Heavy Gauge 4-String Bass Guitar String Set for the 2nd Edition in a row!

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

  • Gauges: .050 .075 .095 .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
There are a few 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 be brighter and produce a quieter signal.

The following table lists gauges of strings that can be found in various standard (non-custom) sets. Note that these aren't an official standard and different manufacturers make sets with different string gauges even though they use the same name such as 'Heavy' or 'Light'.

Bass String Sets and their String Gauges
G D A E
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 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 string's winding. Winding is the wraps of wire on the outside of 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, here 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

The first edition was published in 2017 and the current edition was published on November 17, 2021.

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 basing the guide based on the most commonly used gauges: Light (.040 to .100), Medium (.045 to .105) and Heavy (050 to .110).

This 2021 edition required the processing of over 14,200 reviews and ratings for 25 bass string sets that made it onto our short-list - you can see them all in the Music Gear Database. All these data were processed by the Gearank Algorithm which provided us with the rating scores out of 100 that we used to recommend only the highest rated options for the three gauge ranges. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

I've written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at my local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Drawing from his experience in performing and recording, he teaches guitar and bass and mentors young artists to be better musicians. And when he is not busy playing or tinkering with musical gear, he puts on his entrepreneurial hat, which helps fund his passion for collecting guitars, mecha figures and Gunpla kits.

Contributors

Mason Hoberg: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Compiled using photographs of the Rotosound RS66LE, D'Addario ECB84 and DR Strings Pure Blues bass string sets.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

Comments

Nice comparison, but saddens

Nice comparison, but saddens me not seeing amazing brands like Dean Markley's. Those gave new life to my Stingray. Cheers!

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.