Flatwound vs Roundwound strings?

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mbembe Frets: 1130
I know that flats have less surface noise and a more mellow tone, perhaps more fundamental and less harmonics. Can the same result be achieved with roundwound strings by turning down the tone control? 

 I suppose one other thing to take into account is the different envelope shape with the flats having more of the thump, i.e. a softer transient,  and less sustain.

I'm expecting delivery of a short scale Talman bass and there seems to be a long standing fashion for equipping short scale bass guitars with flats. My only experience of flats was an acoustic bass guitar fitted with black nylon strings and that produced a passing resemblance to a double bass. 
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 45848
    mbe said:
    I know that flats have less surface noise and a more mellow tone, perhaps more fundamental and less harmonics. Can the same result be achieved with roundwound strings by turning down the tone control?
    Not exactly the same, but quite similar.

    For me it's quite simple - roundwounds on a fretted bass and flatwounds on a fretless, The End.

    And yes, black nylon tapewounds on acoustics - I've always thought they sound far better than the horrible bronze things they usually come with... presumably because 'acoustic guitars have bronze strings'.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • fretmeisterfretmeister Frets: 12266
    Jazz types - rounds
    Modern actives  rounds

    Precisions - need 2 precisions so both strings can be used easily.
    "I had a transposition pedal hooked up for the bass synth that I could literally hit my low E string and drop it almost three octaves. We were getting down in the area of 6Hz at probably about 130dB. The first time we actually tested it we all threw up and cracked a wall in the warehouse. It was fantastic."
    --Lee Sklar--

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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 5885
    edited March 22
    No hard and fast rules for me. 

    Using roundwounds to simulate the sound associated with flatwounds is likely to be more successful than the other way around. 

    Roll off some treble frequencies, play near the fingerboard end and palm mute. 
    Be seeing you.
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  • dogloaddogload Frets: 1395
    edited March 22
    I always favour roundwounds on bass.

    I've tried flats but much prefer the twangier tone of roundwound. When I got my Epi Jack Casady bass I was told 'you must try it with flatwounds', so I did. As awesome and booming as it sounded I missed the top end punch that it has with roundwound strings;

    My Jazz and Precision bass definitely sound best with roundwounds. I like my bass sounds to have a bit of 'grind' in them that I haven't found when I've used flats.
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  • Winny_PoohWinny_Pooh Frets: 4262
    You have to try it at least once, flats are fun but less versatile. They also feel difference as the attack and bloom of the note change.
    I'd have a pair on a second bass but not my primary. 
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 5885
    I used to keep my beaten-up Squier Silver Series P Bass strung with flats especially for those reference bass guitar sounds of olden days. (Also, to prolong the life of its skinny frets.)

    Only when I bought a Fender AVRI ‘63 P Bass did I get the full ride. The Squier nut width is 40mm whereas the Fender is 44mm. Finally, all those Duck Dunn moves fall perfectly under the fingers. 
    Be seeing you.
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  • PhilKingPhilKing Frets: 540
    I have flats on my 63 Gibson Thunderbird, 57 Precision and custom @WezV Fretless Junior style.  All the rest are roundwound.  I find my 66 Precision really growls with the roundwounds and the Ricky has much more of the twangy sound that they are famous for (mind you with a Music Man bridge humbucker, it still has a ton of bottom end).

    I will try @ICBM's suggestion for tapewounds on my Bravewood acoustic.  I was supposed to be doing an acoustic gig in a record store with our guitarist, but that's now cancelled until further notice.
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  • FunkfingersFunkfingers Frets: 5885
    RIC used to supply the 4001 with flats. The change to roundwound strings was their reason/excuse for introducing the 4003. (Harder fret wire.) 
    Be seeing you.
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  • PhilKingPhilKing Frets: 540
    edited March 23
    I used to sell them back then.   They sent a notice out to us to say that if we put roundwounds on it would invalidate the warranty.  Mine is a 72 mapleglo transition, with checkerboard binding but the narrower inlays.  It has been bastardised beyond hell and back.  I bought it as a shell with no pickups but everything else.  I had a DiMarzio Jazz in the bridge and it still has an older Ricky 6-string toaster top in the bridge.  I had it converted to fretless back in the late 80's along with a change to a precision bridge (a maple block is inlaid into the bridge where the original has a rout).  It also got an active bass and treble.  Then later in the 90's I had it refretted and changed to a Musicman bridge pickup.

    The last change I did was to replace the precision bridge with a Hipshot Rickenbacker, to make it look a bit more original! Here it is in all it's glory:


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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 2945
    Imo rounds with the tone rolled off really don't sound like flats.

    They're expensive but I urge you to try them, a lot of people love them including me.

    They can't be made to sound anything at all like rounds though so I wouldn't want to only have access to flats. But the sound they do have is amazing and the feel is too.
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  • mbembe Frets: 1130
    @thegummy you've twisted my arm mate. I just ordered a set of Hofner flats for my newly acquired Talman short scale bass. Hoping to get a cleaner sound for recording. 
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  • thegummythegummy Frets: 2945
    mbe said:
    @thegummy you've twisted my arm mate. I just ordered a set of Hofner flats for my newly acquired Talman short scale bass. Hoping to get a cleaner sound for recording. 
    Nice one, I don't think you'll regret it.

    The feel of them alone (they're totally smooth) makes them a joy to play.
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  • mbembe Frets: 1130
    Hofner Contemporary flatwound strings fitted today. I had to do a full setup i.e. truss rod, intonation, pickup height and action. First impressions are favourable, I really like the feel.

    I know these are cheap strings on a cheap Talman bass but I'm managing to get an even volume and tone after the setup. I'll have a fiddle with the compressor and have a go at recording it tonight. Pity we're locked out of our practice space until after the virus emergency, I'd like to  play it through our Trace Elliot amp.
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  • pintspillerpintspiller Frets: 791
    I haven't used flats yet. I sometimes turn my tone down to recreate the sound of Sixties pop or an upright. 

    I do it less so these days though. The guy on rhythm guitar has a habit of playing with the neck pickup on his LP Deluxe, so I like to keep my tone at 80-100%.
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  • 545454545454 Frets: 101
    mbe said:
    Hofner Contemporary flatwound strings fitted today. I had to do a full setup i.e. truss rod, intonation, pickup height and action. First impressions are favourable, I really like the feel. 
    I've just tried fitting a set of these to my Talman TMB30, and am pleased with the feel and sound, but am having real issues with the E string - just can't get it to play in tune. It's significantly sharp on the lower frets and adjusting the intonation doesn't seem to improve it. 
    Did you have any issues like this that necessitated the set up, or was it more for action etc??
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 45848
    545454 said:

    I've just tried fitting a set of these to my Talman TMB30, and am pleased with the feel and sound, but am having real issues with the E string - just can't get it to play in tune. It's significantly sharp on the lower frets and adjusting the intonation doesn't seem to improve it. 
    Did you have any issues like this that necessitated the set up, or was it more for action etc??
    Is it sitting too high in the nut groove, or is the groove too tight for the string?

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • 545454545454 Frets: 101
    ICBM said:
    545454 said:

    I've just tried fitting a set of these to my Talman TMB30
    Is it sitting too high in the nut groove, or is the groove too tight for the string?
    That was my first thought, and I've filed it slightly - pretty sure that's not an issue now. Have ended up winding the bridge saddle all the way back, so the lower frets are reasonable, but at the expense of the higher frets.
    This is my first attempt at flatwounds , wondering if I've maybe knackered the string when installing it!
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 45848
    545454 said:
    ICBM said:
    545454 said:

    I've just tried fitting a set of these to my Talman TMB30
    Is it sitting too high in the nut groove, or is the groove too tight for the string?
    That was my first thought, and I've filed it slightly - pretty sure that's not an issue now. Have ended up winding the bridge saddle all the way back, so the lower frets are reasonable, but at the expense of the higher frets.
    This is my first attempt at flatwounds , wondering if I've maybe knackered the string when installing it!
    If it's the lower frets where it's out, it's definitely a problem at the nut not the bridge.

    The main issue is the height, but don't overlook the width - if the groove is too tight it will restrict the string movement and stop it vibrating freely, which makes the open string play flat, so if you tune to that, the fretted notes then become sharp - this is especially a problem with flats as they're less flexible.

    If you fret the string at the third fret, how big is the gap between the string and the first fret? If it's much bigger than the thickness of a business card it's too high. If you fold a piece of paper round the string, will it still go into the groove? If not it's too tight.

    Unfortunately the only way to tell it's not the string is to replace it...

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • mbembe Frets: 1130
    @545454 ; I got my second hand TMB30 last Monday. It had pretty new roundwound strings and I set the bridge saddles for intonation and lowered the nut slots.

     I fitted the new strings yesterday and I had to wind the E string  saddle nearly all the way back and the intonation is good on all the frets. The A string saddle wouldn't go far enough back because ithe screw was too long and bottoming out in the saddle. Chopped that down by about 4mm and managed to intonate the A string.

    The Hofner strings are narrower than the old strings but I still had more work to do to the nut to bring it roughly per spec quoted by ICBM. The only other thing I noticed about the E string is that the tuner post won't take much wrap.
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  • 545454545454 Frets: 101
    Cheers guys - @ICBM have taken a bawhair off the side of the nut slot and that does seem to have helped a bit. That's a nice wee tip with the bit of paper, will remember that one.
     @mbe reassuring to hear you had to move the saddles a fair bit. I'll play around a bit more tomorrow. To be honest I'm not really a bassist so this is just to mess around with at home - should be close enough for my needs :)
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  • mbembe Frets: 1130
    @545454 ha, I'm not a proper bass player either  =) I first picked one up nearly 50 years ago to get my foot in the door to bandland. 
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