BACK WHEN I WAS THE FULL-TIME SENIOR EDITOR OF Bass Player, I was often called upon to visit manufacturers all over the U.S.
and Europe. Most of the time this was pretty interesting, insofar as it’s always
cool for a gear-geek like me to see how the sausage gets made. Having been
on so many factory tours, I eventually became a kind of factory-tour expert,
slightly unimpressed when the operation seemed pedestrian, but genuinely
giddy when I’d encounter some truly gee-whiz outfit with bespoke machinery
and the like. So, it is with the full breadth of this experience that I can
safely say the D’Addario factory is the coolest of the cool. What’s all the more
remarkable is that D’Addario is most famous for making strings, the most
unsexy but vital bit of a bass.
The D’Addario factory is striking for its efficiency and technology. On the
tour I learned that many of the machines were of proprietary design, and
I saw first-hand the intense quality-control regime that govern strings as
they evolve out of raw wire. I left impressed and somehow emboldened that
my own personal long-time choice (with many deviations) were D’Addarios.
I say all this to underscore that the origins of a product do matter—and in
D’Addario’s case, they got the process dialed in. D’Addario’s newest string
continues what seems to be an emergent trend toward more flexible, lowertension
strings. The FlexSteels are reported to be the company’s brightest
offering, and each set is designed for a more pliant feel than the company’s
Pro Steel line.
I put a 5-string set of FlexSteels on a Fodera NYC Empire and a 4-string set
on a Fender Jazz Bass. First, I like that D’Addario uses ecologically conscious
packaging, reducing waste by up to 75 percent of the industry standard. The
strings went on quickly and held their tuning within a few stretch-and-play
sessions. D’Addario describes the feel as “textured round,” which it intriguingly
differentiates from plain-old “round.” I suppose I felt what they meant—
in the tradition of most stainless-steel strings, the FlexSteels feel slightly
rough compared to nickels. Of the many steel strings I’ve played, I found the
D’Addarios fairly high up on the roughness spectrum, actually. Also of note,
there was a fair amount of manufacturing residue on the strings out of the box.
No big deal, but my hands were smudged after the first ten minutes of playing.
All that tactile texture can translate as rich and broad frequency response.
The FlexSteels unload an impressive wallop of output, and they’re richly colorful
and aggressive, with particularly strong upper-midrange presence. The soft and
flexible feel is a pleasure, reducing fretting-hand pressure and encouraging a
softer and more dynamic
approach in general. The
strings are aggressive
without being clacky
and harsh; this aggressive
quality is perhaps
their most defining quality,
and it should be the
decider as to whether
you check a set out. For
those who like to cut
through, want a fullspectrum
tone, and dig
the bouncy push-andpull
of a more flexible
string, the FlexSteels
are an important new
Street Around $25 and up, depending
Pros High-output, big and broad frequency
Cons A bit greasy out of the box
Bottom Line An excellent string with
an aggressive personality and inspiring
Construction Steel-alloy roundwound
strings with hex core
Made in U.S.A.