AS A WEE BASS PLAYER, I REMEMBER GETTING HIP TO
Markley’s Blue Steel bass strings courtesy of my trusty local music store
“They’re designed to last longer than regular bass strings, so you end up
in the long run,” I remember him telling me. Cool. “They’re cryogenically
stability and longevity, and the company is based here in the Bay Area,” he
went on to
say. Double cool! I sprang for a couple sets, and I considered myself a Markley
Looking back after 20 years—and countess other string sets—it’s pretty
much the string game has changed. Back then, coated strings were the stuff of
fiction. Neon strings? No way! Truth be told, I’ve been so distracted by all the
developments in string land that I’d not given much thought to Dean Markley,
Blue Steels had served me so solidly all those years ago. So when I got my
a set of Markley’s new Helix Stainless Steel strings, I was eager to get reacquainted.
With its Helix string, Dean Markley has taken the concept of pressure
strings—in which the outer wrap is flattened to make it sound and feel more
flatwound—and turned it on its head, instead compressing the wrap lengthwise in
procedure the company dubs Hyper Elliptical Winding. As a result of the
string ends up having more winds per inch, something Dean Markley asserts makes
for a louder, rounder fundamental.
To test the Helix SS strings, I strung up an active 5-string on which
accustomed to playing coated stainless steel strings. It took a little while to
to the feel of the Markleys, which I found much like most other, more conventional
stainless steels—definitely a bit more rough to the touch than coated or nickel
Sonically, the Helix SS’s have chime-like sustain, owing in part to their
construction. The Helixes (Helices?) possess an assertive low-mid grunt and a
bite that definitely brings me back to my bright and cheerful Blue Steel days.
medium-light set I tested (gauged .045, .065, .080, .105, .128) felt even
5-string fingerboard, and though the B string is a hair thinner than the .130s
used to, those low notes felt nonetheless firm and focused.
The beauty of bass strings is that they’re a relatively inexpensive
fundamentally change the sound of your bass. If the vibe you’re after is bright
forceful—whether for fingerstyle, slap, or pick playing—the Helix Stainless
are a good bet.
HELIX STAINLESS STEEL
STREET 4-string, $21; 5-string, $28