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Silvia Bluejay

D’Addario ENR71SL Half-Rounds

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My attempt to wean bassists off those horrid roundwound strings continues after I asked Andrew Needham of D'Addario for a set of half-rounds at the SE Bass Bash. Here are my impressions :)

I don’t use roundwound strings, as they don’t suit my playing style; I always use flats, with D’Addario Chromes being my favourites. When Andrew Needham of D’Addario spoke at Basschat’s South East Bash in September 2015, and mentioned that the company obviously also manufactures half-rounds in addition to rounds and flats, I asked for a set to try – I had never had the opportunity to see if I would get along with that type of strings.

I carried out the test by installing the ENR71 set on my 4-string Warwick RB Corvette, and playing first through a PJB Briefcase and then through a PJB Bass Buddy headphone amp with PJB headphones. PJB amplification is well known not just for being high-end but also for being completely transparent, and therefore allowing a faithful reproduction of the actual sound of the bass. All the EQ sliders on both amps, and all the knobs on the bass(es) were set to centred (‘0’) position. I played a few bars from two basslines, one with a pick and one fingerstyle.

To make forming an opinion easier for myself, I compared the ENR71 half-rounds to my familiar, near-new set of Chromes installed on another of my Warwick Corvettes, a Pro 5er, allowing for the presence of the extra string. Both basses have two active J pickups and are instantly recognisable as the modern Warwick sound.

The ENR71s are surprisingly easy on the fingers, even for a flats-freak like me. They are by no means as smooth as flats, but they are certainly much more pleasant to the touch than any type of rounds I’ve ever used, and after playing them for several weeks, I now find them almost addictive.

The ENR71s seem to be less compliant than my usual Chromes, and to have higher tension; the truss rod needed a tweak after the half-rounds had been on the bass for about a month. (The bass was previously strung with D’Addario tapewounds, whose effect on the truss rod had been much less pronounced.)

The ENR71s took longer than the Chromes to stabilise, but once they did, they held their tuning very well throughout late-summer-into-early-autumn temperature and humidity variations. The bass was still perfectly in tune when I took it out of its gigbag after a two-week break from playing it.

The ENR71s sound brighter than the Chromes (as expected), with a very crisp and clear sound, at the same time producing much less harsh finger noise than any kind of rounds.
Once the bass was set up to suit the new set of ENR71s, with action, saddles height, intonation and pickups height properly adjusted, the strings sounded very well balanced to my ears. Initially, before setup, the G string was a bit too loud, because I like to set the G closer to the fingerboard than the E, A and D, for ease of playing; a pickup height tweak quickly corrected this.

PJB Bass Buddy headphone amp
Fingerstyle playing on the ENR71s sounds brighter than on the Chromes, but the ENR71s are less compliant, which means you need to remember to fret harder if you want to avoid unwanted fret buzz.
With the ENR71s through the Bass Buddy, playing with a pick sounds brighter and has greater attack than fingerstyle; the difference in sound between playing with a pick on the ENR71s and playing with a pick on the Chromes, whilst still present, is less marked.

PJB Briefcase
Fingerstyle still sounds brighter on the ENR71s than the Chromes, but the difference in brightness between the two kinds of strings was more noticeable on the Bass Buddy. The same happens for the picked sound – the increased attack and harshness is still audible, but it’s understated on the Briefcase compared to the Bass Buddy. However, with the ENR71s you can obviously make all kinds of controlled noises while sliding the pick along the string or picking at an angle.

So, will D’Addario’s ENR71 Half-Rounds manage to tempt me away from my beloved Chromes? Well, to start with, I’m going to leave the ENR71s on the Corvette indefinitely, as opposed to whipping them off at the earliest opportunity. I’m enjoying having a brighter-sounding, still reasonably smooth alternative to the Chromes; the only thing I might find tiring in the long term is the higher tension. Time will tell.

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