Dean Markley is one of the major bass string manufacturers in the world, with a catalogue of many practical as well as innovative designs. Perhaps best known for their “Blue Steel” strings, they are likely to have an option suited for the style and sound you are looking for. It is not always easy to sort through and understand all the details of particular designs, so this article exists to give you the information you need in one place. For a basic overview about things like material, winding, tension, core, and other factors that universally influence the feel and tone of strings, check out the guide on bass-strings.com.
Blue Steel are probably the most well known string set from Dean Markley. They are stainless steel, the brightest material, with a hex core. The Blue Steels are cryogenically frozen to -320 degrees with liquid nitrogen, then restored to normal room temperature. This is a common practice with metal products to align the molecules, which in the case of bass strings, changes the tone and creates a longer lifespan. There steel bite pro is also an NPS version, which are the same strings but made with nickel as opposed to stainless steel. This means a softer feeling on the hands and a warmer tone with less high end.
The Fretmaster’s are an original Dean Markley creation. These strings are roundwound near the pickup where you pluck, but are smooth where you fret over the fingerboard. This can be a “best of both worlds” situation for those who like the softer, flatwound feel on their fretting hand but want a brither tone. They are made of nickel plated steel with a hex core.
For those who want an all round wound string that still has a bright sound but relatively smooth feel (not smoothed out like the Fretmasters, just a more forgiving roundwound material,) the Nickelsteel strings are a nice solution. These are nickel wrapping over a steel, hex core. They do not go through any freezing process like the Blue Steels.
SR2000 are the strings of choice if you are looking for brightness and sustain. Besides being made of stainless steel, these strings are tapered, meaning the core is exposed over the bridge saddles much like piano string. This increases brilliance and sustain.
Superround are roundwound strings that were curiously created in order to mimic and compete with a “certain British bass string that everyone loved.” They are stainless steel with a hex core, but are noted for being smoother than many other stainless options, without a lot of biting, brittle high end.
Dean Markley has three signature models that were designed in collaboration with well known bassists. The first is with Jerry Only of punk rock group “The Misfits,” creating the Skullbuster strings. Great for metal or punk bass sounds, obviously the best frame of reference would be to preview some Misfits music and listen to the tone.
The second signature string comes from legendary Tower of Power bassist Francis “Rocco” Prestia. The NPS Roundcore strings use nickel for that is ground down for an extra warm, darker sound, but the core is round instead of hex, adding some brightness and fatness to the tone. Thanks to the internet, a quick search for him will allow you to hear his sound with these strings.
The last and most recent signature set comes from Randy Jackson, longtime studio bassist and household name thanks to American Idol.” Alchemy” are a blend of styles and material: It is a stainless steel string covered with silver-plated NPS to improve lifespan, then wrapped with a gold cover that has a smooth feel and unique look.