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 option.
Street Around $25 and up, depending on configuration
Pros High-output, big and broad frequency response
Cons A bit greasy out of the box
Bottom Line An excellent string with an aggressive personality and inspiring playability.
Construction Steel-alloy roundwound strings with hex core
Made in U.S.A.