Monday, July 14, 2014

Ernie Ball Power Slinky Bass Strings .055 to .110 Review


A while back I picked up a Musicman Stingray 4-string bass that some misguided soul decided to put enormous strings on in an effort to make it sound like the lower 4 strings of a 5-string bass. It was a stupid cheap deal, so I bought it to flip. Funny enough, his idea actually worked, but that was not what I was looking for and it would be harder to sell it this way so it was time to string it normally. Unfortunately the nut slots were opened up a bit to accommodate the bottom heavy (0.130 for the B!) strings, and it was a compensated nut which would have been a headache to buy. So, I started looking for the best compromise, which ended up being a set of Ernie Ball Power Slinky bass strings (model number P02831).

If you have not been living in a cave for the past 50 years, you have heard of Ernie Ball strings. Mr. Ball was an innovator that came up with the idea of mass-marketing custom gauge strings and he built the business into one of the biggest string manufacturers in the word. That is what happens when you listen to your customers and give them what they need. His son and grandsons now run the company, and the strings are made right here in the US by people that earn a living wage. A few years ago I had the opportunity to tour the factory (near Palm Springs) and it is an impressive organization.

These long-scale Power Slinky strings are indeed beefy, measuring 0.055, 0.075, 0.090 and 0.110. Woot! They are roundwound with nickel-plated steel wrap around a tin-plated hex profile steel core. There is no coating or cobalt going on here, just straight-up strings. Ernie Ball strings still come in individual paper envelopes, but now they are sealed in airtight foil packets. I much prefer this packaging so I know I am going to get fresh strings. You never know how long strings have been sitting around at the store...

Anyway, I eagerly tore open my new foil pack of Slinkys, trimmed them to length and used my Ernie Ball Powerpeg string winder to cinch them up. They seemed to fill the nut slots enough, and after a bit of fussing with the truss rod I got the action to a reasonable height. After a bit of playing it was apparent that this was a good plan as it played just fine.

In fact, it was kind of a big macho thrill. I could wail and pop and slap on this 'Ray and there was no untoward buzzing or clanking. There was a good balance between the strings, and there is nothing on the planet like the zing of a fresh set of roundwound.

Of course, these string were not made to salvage dumbo situations like the one I was in -- these strings are stout enough to maintain decent tension when de-tuned, so I had to try that out too. They are definitely able to meet this challenge, if that is your bag.

Ernie Ball Power Slinky bass strings are very good, and if you play de-tuned and/or are looking for more oomph, their heavier gauges could be just the ticket for you. It will not break the bank to find out either, as they are pretty reasonably priced. They have a list price of $36 and a street price of $17.49, and if you catch a lucky break with a sale or coupon you can get them even cheaper. How can you go wrong?


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