Curt Mangan 12-String Bass Strings

Curt Mangan brand round-wound strings are manufactured one set at a time by hand in the USA in Cortez, Colorado. Their 12-string bass sets first appeared in late 2008. They are made for 30½" short scale and 34” long scale basses::

  • Fundamentals: G .045, D .065, A .080, E .100

  • Octaves: G .020, D .025, A .035, E .045

Older packaging for both string sets.

Review - Curt Mangan 12-String Bass Strings

by Surf

The latest entry into the 12-string bass string market is Curt Mangan. I wasn’t at all familiar with Curt Mangan or his strings. His company was established in 2004 and operates in Cortez, Colorado. Curt was the director of sales and marketing at Ernie Ball from 1986 to 2003 and before that he owned a music store in Longmont, Colorado. He personally play-tests first-run samples from every batch of strings his factory produces.

The story behind the creation of this set of strings is an interesting one. Rusty Olson, the owner of the Rockhaus Guitars music store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, has dealt with 12-string basses and bassists for many years. He is known as a fellow musician and music advocate, and has been described as “a great guy running a great shop”. Last fall Rusty was doing some repair and set-up work for Tom Petersson on one of Tom’s basses. Tom told Rusty that he didn’t like any of the brands of bass strings currently available for 12’s. Considering that Tom’s photo is on one of the 12-string bass string packages, that is a rather surprising statement!

Rusty contacted Curt Mangan to solve the problem and the result is the first-ever set of commercially produced short scale 12-string bass strings. The only gauges that needed to be built special for this 12-string set were the .080 and the .100, both of which have a total outer wrap length from the ball to the taper of about 34½”. This enables them to also be used on most 32” medium scale basses, which by the way are Petersson’s current favorites. Except for these two strings, all of the other strings in the set will work fine on long scale basses. Making short scale strings in those gauges also enabled the company to create a short scale 4-string set that works well on Mustang basses.

Surf at Arches National Park wearing his ‘Mangan Up” t-shirt after visiting Curt Mangan Strings.

These strings are part of the Fusion Matched® nickel round-wound series. These are made by winding nickel-plated steel wire onto a hex-shaped, tin-plated high-carbon steel core. Nickel-plated steel strings are the most popular electric bass strings due to their balanced tone. Of particular importance to 12-string bassists, the octave strings have the standard bass-sized ball ends which work with almost every tailpiece.

I've been playing these strings for a few weeks now and I really like them! They sound very warm and full, and the tension is just right. While I still like the quality of D’Addario strings (and Hamer strings too since they are made by D’Addario, they just don’t have the colored ball ends), I’ve never been fully comfortable with the amount of string tension. The D’Addario’s feel a bit “heavy” to me and, even while I always play with a pick, they seem to be a bit slow to respond; as a result they sound a little duller than I like. By contrast, the tension of the Curt Mangan strings is just right, with the tone being livelier and more rounded. These really are great sounding strings!

I was a bit concerned about the Curt Mangan .020 gauge octave strings before I tried them. From experience with the D'Addario / Hamer strings, the .020's always had a rather harsh sound when combined with the EMG pickups in my Hamer B12L. That's a major reason I switched to SIT’s and their .018's a few years ago. But these .020's sound really good, much superior to the D’Addario’s and even a bit better than the SIT’s.

Each Curt Mangan string is packaged in its own individual envelope. I think that’s a very good idea even though it requires a little more packaging. When you only need to change out a single string you don’t have to unwrap an entire set to find the one you need. And in low light conditions you don’t have to guess which gauge of string you’ve grabbed. Very player / gig friendly.

Curt Mangan strings are a bit more expensive than some other brands. That’s to be expected of strings which are made one at a time by craftsmen and not mass produced by automated machines. A company motto is “Real Strings Real Tone™” and these strings live up to it – they sound great, feel good and are a good alternative to the mass marketed brands. I’ll definitely be buying more!