Soundroom: DR Strings Pure Blues Quantum-Nickel Strings

The Pure Blues Quantum-Nickel bass set just might be the nickel string for people who hate nickel, and those who love it.
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When DR Strings first hit the market in the 1980s, they had a boutique appeal that caught players’ interest. I’ll admit that back then, I was distressed to pay $25 for a set of strings, but they sounded great, felt great, and actually made good on their claim to last longer than other brands. Many years later, DR Strings has expanded its product lineup to include a bass string for virtually any purpose—they still sound and feel great, and for a 4-string set, still cost around $25.

DR Strings gives players a choice between the tighter feel of hexagonal core wire, or the suppleness of a round core. The company offers both types of core in the traditional choices of stainless-steel or nickel outer wrap, as well as flatwounds, various coated strings, and phosphor bronze. Borrowing the name from its highly popular pure-nickel guitar string, DR Strings’ new Pure Blues bass set has a round core wrapped with a new material called Quantum-Nickel.

Stainless vs. nickel is a long-debated topic in internet bass chats, each side with plenty of justification. But it is possible to generalize that stainless steel tends to have a more “scooped” (subdued) midrange response, a brighter top end, and a slightly harder feel under the hand. Nickel is known for its more pronounced midrange, a warmer top, and a softer feel to the wrap wire. As nickel oxidizes faster than stainless, nickel strings also tend to “go down” faster, but many players consider that a plus. While the Pure Blues guitar strings are popular (and atypical for their pure-nickel wrap wire), DR’s designers found that the metal lacked top end when applied to bass, which led them to find a new nickel alloy. DR Strings president Mark Dronge didn’t say he’d have to kill me if he divulged the formula of the alloy used in Pure Blues bass strings, but he did say that it was “a unique alloy that has never been used for bass strings, from a supplier that does not typically deal with the musical instrument market.”

I slapped a Pure Blues PB-45 set (medium gauge, .045–.105) on a G&L L2000, and let the instrument’s inherent versatility give me a full picture of what the strings could do. As I have several basses strung with Sunbeams—DR’s other nickel round-core string—I wanted to see how they compared. Right off the bat, I noticed the Pure Blues felt more relaxed than Sunbeams of the same gauges, both on 34"-scale instruments. They didn’t specifically feel like they were “low tension” strings, but they were certainly easier to bend. Sunbeams and other nickel strings tend to have a little peak in the upper mids that works to great advantage when you’re trying to get heard on a passive bass with pick or fingers. However, that same peak may react harshly with some instruments when slapping. While my logic may not apply to everyone, my experience has led me to choose nickel for old-school P-Bass or J-Bass setups, or on a fretless, and use stainless steel on active basses or instruments that will suffer the wrath of the thumb. However, slapping in active mode, the Pure Blues set emitted a sleek, sexy scoop in the upper-mid frequencies, while providing plenty of top end, supported by a firm bottom. Switching to fingerstyle, a punchy midrange exerted more influence on the tone, while the highs chilled out for a more traditional nickel response. But with a fast attack, the string seems to have the highs on tap when you need them to speak. Although they’ve been on the bass for only one week, I typically notice some degree of “warming up” over that time, but the Pure Blues have not yet lost any high end—I suppose the fried-chicken test is next!

DR Strings says the set has the “sound of steel, with the nickel feel,” and while it’s certainly catchy, it’s also a legitimate claim. The Pure Blues Quantum-Nickel bass set just might be the nickel string for people who hate nickel, and those who love it.

DR Strings Pure Blues Quantum-Nickel Strings

Street 4-string set, $25; 5-string set, $30

Pros Nice blend of nickel and stainless-steel qualities
Cons None
Bottom Line A great addition to the DR lineup.

Construction Round core, nickel alloy
Scale length Up to 36"

Made in USA