With what can best be described as a diversified portfolio, La Bella has built a following among bass players with its its variety of strings. From Deep Talkin’ Bass strings that recreate the heavy flatwounds favored by James Jamerson to high-output Super Alloys and heavy-gauge Drop Tunes, La Bella’s catalog runs the gamut. That variety expands this year with its RX-Series strings. With RX, La Bella sought to refine the recipe of its SN-series nickel (formerly known as Slappers) and M-series stainless steel strings by using a hexagonal core and high-quality American-made wire and gauging the string sets for lower tension. RX strings are available in Nickel-Plated or Stainless Steel, for 4-, 5-, and 6-string, and in four different gauges. In La Bella nomenclature, a letter at the end of an RX-Series set model indicates gauge: “A” for .040–.060–.080.–.100; “B” for .045–.065–.080.–.100, “C” for .045–.065–.080.–.105, and “D” for .045–.065–.085.–.105. For testing, I opted for the heavier “D” gauge on both 4- and 5-strings.
There is no silk wrapping at either end of the RX strings, and the wire wrap extends from within an inch of the ball to the end of the string. With 36" of outer winding, the RXs fits both Fenderstyle 4-string and 3+2 5-string headstocks on 34"-scale basses, and would fit many long-scale basses, as well. Though anyone selecting a string based solely on the silk thread at either end might want to reexamine their priorities, I confess that without the silk, the RXs seemed lacking in the vibe department when I strung up my basses. Once tuned and ready, the RX-N’s true traits begin to show: the nickel plating does much to temper the clang of steel and helps soften the finger feel. Tension on the heavier-gauge “D” strings is less than I would expect; notes sound firm, and you don’t have to work too hard to get them. The tension is far from floppy—vibrato requires conscious effort, and you need a bit of muscle to get a good bend in.
Fresh out of the bag, the RXs tend toward the mellow end of the tone spectrum. On the 5-string tester set, the strings seemed to lose life in the lower register. Without multiple 5-string sets, it’s hard to know if that was just a bad B string (hey, it happens with the best of them). At any rate, if zing is your thing, you might check out the RX Stainless Steels or some of La Bella’s brighter offerings.
Because it’s such a popular string type, the nickel-plated roundwound landscape is a pretty crowded one. But with so many variables in string composition— core, wrap, gauge, materials, construction—there’s a lot of room for variety. For those seeking a warm sound, medium-low tension, and smooth finger feel, the RX-Ns might be just what the doc… just what you’re looking for.
Street 4-string, $27; 5-string, $37
Pros Mellow nickel-wound sound; smooth finger feel; medium tension
Cons Low strings can sound muffled