Rotosound guitar strings review

Rotosound guitar strings review DEFAULT

Rotosound Ultramag Bass Strings and Bass

The British string manufacturer Rotosound is perhaps best known in the bass community for its range of stainless-steel round-wound strings. These have been used by many legendary bass players including John Entwistle, Geddy Lee, Jaco Pastorius, Stanley Clarke, Billy Sheehan, and Paul McCartney. Rotosound has also been making nickel strings for some time, but these have perhaps been less well-known than the company’s other products.

In 2019, Rotosound began developing a new nickel string, the ‘Ultramag’, using the Type 52 Alloy (52% nickel, 48% iron), and although the guitar strings have been available for a while, the bass versions have only just reached the shops. I picked up a medium gauge 40-100 set and strung them directly to the bridge (rather than the through the body option) on my USA Jazz with EMG pickups.

First Impressions

They tune quickly, and only need a little stretching to bed down the windings onto the posts and achieve tuning stability. In use, they immediately felt very smooth to the touch, and they played easily, with a slightly lower tension than my usual brand. The only minor niggle was the taper for the E string was a little short and the thick part of the string reached the tuning post. This may have been resolved by using the through-stringing option on my bass.

In Use

I first used them at a brief jazz rehearsal, where they sounded warm, with a rich bottom end and a defined clarity at the top. They were easy to play, and walking basslines sounded very good, with a fairly even response across the strings. They feel ‘played in’ very quickly, and this promoted a fluidity to improvised melodic lines further up the neck.

The following day I played at an all-day rehearsal for a musical. With a more ‘rock’ sound needed for the show, I EQ’d in a little more of the high-mid frequencies, and this helped the bass to cut through the mix better, competing well with two loud guitars. Some of the songs in the show required playing with a pick, and the strings responded with more attack and definition. Part of the USP of the Ultramag range is a higher output, and I could perceive a little more ‘oomph’ than with other strings I’ve used.

The strings held their tuning very well throughout the day, and by the end of the rehearsal, I noticed less fatigue in my hands than I might have expected with my usual brand. The only slight criticism of the strings is that even though at times I played with a fairly forceful right hand on this rehearsal, it was difficult to get a really edgy sound, although this could have been due to the rather basic amp I was using.

A week later I played a covers gig, and when tuning up I found that the strings had only lost a small amount of pitch since being tuned seven days previously. This gig included country, pop, funk (slap) and rock songs and the strings sounded great on all the material. I got a few solos in the set, and the higher range notes were clear and warm.


At around the same price as DR nickel strings, Rotosound is aiming this product at the higher end of the market, and they compare favorably. They have great tuning stability, and this is gained quickly after stringing them on the instrument. They play very well, and the sound is warm and rich, with a well-defined top end. I’ve used nickel strings for many years and tried various brands, and these strings are certainly among the best I’ve used. I might not use them for a clattery punk or gritty metal gig, but if you want a classy sound, these are classy strings.

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Rotosound Nexus Coated Guitar Strings

Thursday, April 8, 2010

String manufacturer Rotosound has come up with a new range of polymer coated strings they’ve dubbed the ‘Nexus’ collection.

Available for electric, acoustic and bass guitars, the marketing blurb tells me that they offer protection from tonal degradation caused by sweat and dirt and by implication have a greater longevity. But perhaps most importantly, behind all this protection the strings retain the tone, clarity and sparkle synonymous with the Rotosound brand. We played through a sample set of electric 10s and while I can’t vouch for the longevity of the strings, it’s clear that the tonal characteristics, the brilliance and the clarity had not in any way been compromised by the black coating. They sang with a wonderfully warm, sweet full tone that jazz players love.

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RotoSound Electric Guitar Strings

�Amazing! These things just ring. I didn't believe there could be such a difference,� exclaims a player of Rotosound�s PN11 set. Five series of electric guitar strings are available from Rotosound � including more than twenty different sets. The series are British Steels, Nexus, Pure Nickel, Rotos and Monel Flatwound.

The British Steels series included three sets, super light to medium gauges, whose wound strings have a high iron content, stainless steel wrap. With this increased electromagnetic response, these strings have clarity and punch. A BS10 set player says, �Really interesting strings! Well balanced, a bit rigid to play (yes, it's the steel). Sound is bright enough, but not too crisp. Ideal for rhythm or fingerstyle. In general, they have a nice acoustic tone, but aristocratically restrained - very British.�

The two sets in the Nexus series are also super light to regular gauges, with black polymer coated wound strings, called Type 52 pure nickel alloy. This special alloy gives a boost to the sound. Black polycoating on the wound strings and gold tone plating on the plain strings give a smooth feel with a rich tone and long life. �These are the only black coated strings that I know that have noncoated strings that are still slick. The tone is warm and sweet, great for jazz blues, or even Santana's Samba Pa Ti,� says a NXE10 player.

The Pure Nickel series, which has three sets from super light to medium gauge, is Rotosounds �top of the range electrics� with solid nickel wraps that have excellent magnetic response, a big sound, and clear intonation. A customer who uses the PN10 sets states, �Sound and playability is amazing and they last a long time - very warm, very vintage sounding.�

Outstanding brilliance and power with a smooth tone and long life make the Roto series very popular. Their round wound strings are nickel plated wrap on a steel core. They are available in twelve different sets, including three seven string sets and two �double decker� sets. Gauges are super light to heavy. �Full-bodied, articulate, classic sound on these quality strings.....even with 11�s, they do not feel stiff, still bend easily.....long-lasting,� says a R11 player. A happy customer also reports of the R13 set, �Great sustain. Pluck the string, go make yourself a drink, come back... still ringing.�

Rotosound�s Monel set is composed of four extra smooth, flat wound strings and two plain steel strings. They were developed for fusion, jazz or to just to lower finger noise. �A great string that most jazz guitarists have never heard of. All the warmth and feel of more expensive sets at a third the price! � I think the monel alloy (pure nickel/copper) may even extend the life of the strings compared to pure nickel, with no sacrifice in tone.�

Strings Vs. Strings

Rotosound R10 ROTO Yellows Nickel Wound 10-46 Electric Guitar Strings, Regular R10 ROTO Yellows Nickel Wound 10-46 Electric Guitar Strings, Regular Sets/Electric Guitar/Rotosound

"These strings feel raw, edgy, and rock.  They’re reliable, consistent, bright and reasonably powerful.  They also seem to suit any style, which is perfect in any kind of creative environment."

Rotosound Nickel Electric Guitar Strings are manufactured to precise tolerances using only the finest materials. Used and endorsed by famous artists worldwide. These sets will give you outstanding brilliance and superb tone. Finest quality handmade in England with a free 1st.

Made in the UK










Review rotosound guitar strings

Are Rotosound strings fret wreckers?

Rotosound Roto Pinks

I bought a set of Rotosound Roto Pinks a.k.a. R9 strings recently because my local guitar store ran out of my mainstay Dunlop DEN0942 that I like.

I had heard for a long while that Rotosound strings were fret wreckers, as in strings that wear down frets fast.

Are they?

Well, before I answer that, bear in mind that whether you get the strings with the lion on the package as shown above or the silhouette dude with the Strat-like guitar on the package, they're both the same thing. Same R9 strings, same free extra 1-string (a nice touch), same everything, slightly different package.

For those of you that prefer 10 gauge, that's Roto Yellows. If you like 11 gauge, that's Roto Reds. If you like 12 gauge, that's Roto Purples. If you like insanely thick 13 gauge, that's Roto Greys. Or if you want to completely swing that around and go with insanely thin 8-gauge, that's Roto Greens.

And to answer The Big Question: Do Rotosound strings wreck frets?

Over time, yeah they will.

Before I get into why that is, know that Rotosound does not make bad strings. In fact, the strings are really good, and the Roto Pinks I put on my Jazzmaster sound great. The Rotos have a very nice, balanced attack and very good response when picked or plucked with fingers.

If you asked me what I think are truly bad strings, my answer to that if it has a hexagonal core (like D'Addario and Ernie Ball uses), I won't like it and will snap those strings easily. Hex-core results in a stiffer overall string tension when tuned to pitch, meaning more pressure is exerted on the string when you do string bends. I greatly prefer strings that either use round-core or have a proprietary core-to-wrap ratio that allows bends without the super-stiff crapola that you typically get with hex-core.

Rotosound, like Dunlop, does not state what type of core is used, nor do they state what their core-to-wrap ratio is. I couldn't even tell you whether Rotos use round-core or hex-core, but from playing them, my guess is that it's round-core.

Do I want to know the core type or core-to-wrap ratio? No, because Roto (and again, like Dunlop) considers that a manufacturing trade secret. I'm content to live with the mystery there.

Why do RotoSound strings wreck frets?

Coarse steel.

This is something I'm going to have to be very detailed about in my explanation, so here goes.

When I say "coarse steel", that does not mean the string feels bad. Not at all. The string feels smooth and proper, sounds correct and plays correct. But on the unwound strings, you can plainly see that the steel is coarse, particularly on the 3-string G. When I look closely at it, the steel has minor inconsistencies and isn't perfectly smooth, hence why I say it's coarse.

The coarse nature of Rotos does contribute to its tonal character, no question about it. But it's also the reason that Rotos are fret wreckers.

When you bend strings a lot, such as I do, those minor steel inconsistencies will wear down frets faster compared to other brands.

For the Dunlop strings I ordinarily use, those are computer engineered and you can easily see with the naked eye how smooth the steel is on the final product.

Rotosound as far as I know does not use computer engineering in their string manufacturing processes, and purposely uses "Old World" style construction, hence the reason the strings are a bit on the coarse side. Rotos are very well made, no question, but coarse.

Is it possible I just got a set that suffered from metal decay?

No. While true that Rotos do rust easily since they don't include any silica packs in their string sets (Dunlop does use silica packs, by the way), I didn't get a been-on-the-shelf-too-long Roto set. Rotos are just coarse by nature due to the way they're made.

Should Rotosound change the way they make strings and smooth them out more?

Absolutely not. Players who love their Rotos wouldn't change a thing about them, and if Rotosound changed the way they manufactured strings, that would result in a different tonal character that players probably wouldn't like.

Rotos can be fret wreckers, and while I really do like the sound of them, I'll be going back to my Dunlops.

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Rotosound Electric Guitar Strings Comparison

Review: Rotosound Ultramag electric guitar strings

Established in 1958, UK string brand Rotosound is responsible for defining some of the greatest guitar and bass tones committed to tape, from Hendrix to The Who, Guns N’ Roses to Florence + The Machine.

Rotosound’s strength is the fact that everything is manufactured in-house, often on proprietary machinery, and the new Ultramag range of Type 52 Alloy (52 per cent nickel) electric-guitar strings is no exception, with computer-controlled winding and tension control playing a vital role. 

For the purpose of this review, we test two sets, in gauges 0.010 and 0.011 (0.009 is also available), on an instrument that had previously been strung with another brand’s coated strings. Feeling a little sadistic, we select a Bigbsy-equipped guitar to fully explore Rotosound’s claims of low friction, balanced tension and tuning stability.

In use

Rotosound’s secret new recipe for the Ultramag range results in higher magnetic content in each string with, one might hope, a resulting surge of power, mystery and the hammer of the gods. The Ultramags feel good in both gauges and ‘bed in’ quickly and easily, with only a couple of full stretches along the fretboard. 

Recording our guitar prior to and after restringing, we are impressed with the clarity and warmth we hear. There is a subtle rise in volume and the quality of the sound is very good indeed. Even after a couple of hours’ play, both sets retain much of their initial tone and despite some gratuitous Bigsby use, tuning stability is good. Strong work!

Key Features

  • PRICE £14.95 per set
  • TYPE Electric guitar strings. Made in UK
  • CONTACT Rotosound

Like this? Try theseæ

  • Elixir Optiweb Nickel Plated Steel £13.99
  • Dean Markley Blue Steel £10
  • D’Addario EXL110 £5.99

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