Circle K Strings Balanced Set – Bass String Review by Jake Wolf… In addition to making string sets for modern extended range basses in every possible scale length and tuning, (40” 0.254 low C# anyone?) Circle K just happens to make a handful of sets for us mortal bassists, including traditional sets (review coming soon!) and their signature “balanced tension” sets. Whereas most strings can vary widely in tension from string to string, Circle K’s intriguing balanced sets are designed to produce even tension across all the strings. Made from a combination of nickel and steel, Circle K claims to offer a string that is “not quite as bright as steels and not as ‘scooped’ as nickels. This mix of materials gives our strings a tonality that shifts less over time and lasts longer.” This really piqued my interest, as I love the slick feel of nickel, but also crave the rich harmonic midrange content of stainless strings.
After a brief conversation with Skip at Circle K, I decided to check out, per his recommendation, a balanced .136 set (.136 .102 .076 .057 .041 .029) for my 6 string, the bass I use most frequently. The strings showed up in an oversized envelope, and they weren’t packaged in an unfamiliar large envelope. From Circle K’s website: “The greatest compromise to a string’s structural integrity and playable life is coiling and packaging them in the traditional manner. At Circle K, all strings are stored uncoiled from the moment of manufacture”. Then there’s the unconventional string gauges found in the balanced set. This particular set comes as .136 .102 .076 .057 .041 .029. As I was stringing up my bass with the circle K’s, the preconceived notions starting cropping up in my mind: ‘these gauges are weird. How can you have that huge B string with such light G, D, and A strings? I’m never gonna get decent playability and intonation with that massive B string.’ On and on I went, until I finally had the bass tuned up. It took about 3 minutes of playing before the light bulb came on, and I realized that not only do they feel simply fantastic under my fingers, but also there really is something special about the ‘Balanced Set’ concept. I’m not saying they’re perfect for every bass player, or every instrument for that matter, but the tension really is uniform from string to string, allowing for technique to be consistent no matter which string you’re playing on. I was from that moment, and still am, enamored with the playability, and evenness of the Circle K’s. Tonally, they have a deep, complex and authoritative voice, with lots of rich harmonic content. They feel slick like nickels, but have the punch, zing, and quickness of some of my favorite stainless sets. And that B string… Oh that B string. I have never heard my B string sound so huge and focused with as clear of a fundamental. The .136 B is tapered at the bridge, and although it does feel big, it also feels more supple and flexible than a lot of standard/medium sized B strings. It intonated with ease and plays in tune farther up the neck than many of my previous favorites. They sound big and full, but are pliable and supple. They are super smooth to the touch, but have plenty of zing and treble response.
I can hear some of you now. You might be saying “How many more brands of strings do we need in this world?” or “It’s a string, what’s the big deal?” And by all means, if you’re happy with your favorite set, then keep on truckin. Maybe you’re like me though in that you’ve spent too much money on various string sets trying to find the set that works best for you, only to find that they all have pro’s and con’s in terms of tone and feel. Circle K’s balanced set does a great job of giving me what I want from a string without any substantial trade-offs. Stay tuned for a review of their traditional tension set, coming soon! For more info, visit Circle K on the web at www.circlekstrings.com
Drop me a line at [email protected] with any feedback, suggestions, or requests for upcoming reviews.