As guitar players, we know how important our strings are. We tend to stick to what we know and what delivers the sound and feel we like.
However, there is a big world out there and a lot of options to choose from, and I wonder if we are really aware of what is available and whether they would work for us. Whatever style we play there is a set of strings that is suitable – the Best Acoustic Guitar Strings – and it’s just a case of finding them.
If you are playing acoustic guitar, these may be the most important part of your sound. Little in the way of effects pedals, you are relying on the sound of the strings with your guitar.
So, let’s have a look at some of the most popular strings currently available and find the best acoustic guitar strings for you…
Top 10 Best Acoustic Guitar Strings For The Money 2020 Reviews
- 1. 1 1 D’Addario EXP16 Coated Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
- 1. 2 2 D’Addario Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
- 1. 3 3 Elixir Strings 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
- 1. 4 4 Elixir Strings 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings w POLYWEB Coating
- 1. 5 5 Martin Acoustic Guitar Body M540
- 1. 6 6 Martin Acoustic Guitar Strings (MM12)
- 1. 7 7 Ernie Ball 2146 Earthwood Medium Light Acoustic Phosphor Bronze String
- 1. 8 8 Ernie Ball Earthwood Rock and Blues 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Set
- 1. 9 9 DR Strings VTA-13 Veritas Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar String
- 1. 10 10 Vibe Acoustic Guitar String Set, Phosphor Bronze
- 2 Changing Your Best Acoustic Guitar Strings…
- 3 So, What Are The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings?
Top 10 Best Acoustic Guitar Strings For The Money 2020 Reviews
1 D’Addario EXP16 Coated Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
D’Addario makes quality guitar strings for all genres, but the EXP 16 is one of their best known for acoustic guitars. It is coated with Phosphor bronze which creates a warm tone which lasts. The strings deliver a good volume and balance and are easy on the playing style.
Made from a steel high in carbon, they are strong and well known for keeping their tuning and pitch. They are manufactured to be strong and long-lasting. They still continue to have that sensitivity that D’Addario is known for despite their strength.
To produce this string is a complex affair…
You start with your core wire then wind on the phosphor bronze wrapping, which in turn has a thin coating of EXP applied to it. This process gives it strength and durability as well as maintaining its sound and protecting it against corrosion.
Being a coated string, you might expect them to be not as bright as a string that is plain. This might be the case, but this string has a freshness about it that accentuates the top end. A non-coated string may lose its initial brightness quite quickly, but these strings maintain the sound they start with for longer.
The real plus point though, is that they are not too bright as is often the case with a new string. They have natural warmth.
Being coated, they may feel a little heavier, but there are many gauges to ensure you get the right feel. Nevertheless, they are not a heavy strumming string and tend to suit a more delicate style of play.
A quality string from a quality manufacturer.
- Well constructed.
- Long lasting and maintain pitch.
- Being coated there is a certain stiffness to them.
2 D’Addario Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
Another variant from D’Addario but still with the standard Phosphor Bronze coating and manufacturing procedures that create these renowned strings. These differ from their D’Addario cousins, the EXP16 by being a heavier string. More about that in a minute.
They have many of the same attributes. These strings are also coated with Phosphor bronze, which has two main effects. Firstly, to create a warm tone that stays with the string for a good period of time without losing its brightness.
Lasts longer without losing tone…
And, secondly, it makes the string tough and hard-wearing and it will, therefore, last longer than most strings without losing tone.
This particular set, though, is as we mentioned earlier, a little heavier.
They are therefore more suited to heavy strumming as against delicate work and will take a harder strike. You will find these strings on acoustic guitars that are providing a strummed background where there might be significant periods of light and shade in the playing.
That is not all they can contribute, and they are particularly suited to blues and folk styles, especially if those styles include finger-picking. Where you will really hear a powerful difference is with slide guitar styles where these strings really pack a punch.
Heavier strings do offer extra sound and style options. They do have a downside though, in that they are less flexible and difficult to bend and probably suit a more experienced player.
They are a quality string, with a great sound and will give you good service. If you are playing loudly on your acoustic and using a lot of power chords, then these strings are worth considering.
- Well made.
- Long lasting tones and life span.
3 Elixir Strings 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
Elixir is another name instantly recognizable in the world of guitar strings. They were one of the first manufacturers to apply ‘coated’ string technology and have continued to develop that idea.
Strings on guitars lose their tone and vibrancy for two main reasons. Firstly, the natural moisture from your fingers clogging up the winding on the string and secondly, the string corrodes. Obviously, either scenario will have a serious effect on the longevity of the string and its tone.
And, it can’t be avoided…
Your skin carries a natural level of moisture, but of course, it becomes more critical when your fingers start to sweat. In a hot venue, the quality of the tone of the string can disappear very quickly.
Elixir are we think the only manufacturer to coat all of the string, not just sections of it, thus giving it as much protection as possible.
This particular Elixir string carries a Nanoweb coating which is very thin. It still provides a very crisp, almost sharp sound, with a great resonance but it feels like its ‘uncoated,’ which some players prefer.
To give a different feel…
There are other advantages to this newer type of coating. You will find it doesn’t ‘squeak’ as much as some other new strings when first used and whilst it is a very thin coating to give a different feel, it still maintains its level of protection.
Nanoweb coating on Elixir strings is the newest of their technologies for keeping strings at an optimum performance level. On an acoustic guitar that is very important.
- Coated for protection.
- Maintain their tone.
4 Elixir Strings 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings w POLYWEB Coating
Having already had a look at Elixirs nanoweb coated string, let’s take a look at the original coated string they produced, Polyweb. Elixir produced Polyweb coated strings in the ’90s and since then have continued to evolve and improve the product.
So, what’s the difference between Polyweb and its later variant Nanoweb?
Simply put, not all awful lot. The only actual difference is the coating that is applied to the full length of the string. The Polyweb has a different feel to its sister string, feeling like it is coated and creates a warmer tone that sounds already ‘played in.’
Polyweb enjoys the same benefits as Nanoweb in terms of sustaining the life of the string and retaining its tone so you cannot say one lasts longer than the other.
There is also the idea that you can only use Polyweb on electric guitars. This is not true at all. Polyweb strings work very well on acoustic instruments.
Produces a different tone and feel…
The difference then is that whilst both coatings offer the same protection and continuance of the tone of the string, the tones actually produced do differ, and they have a slightly different ‘feel.’
Polyweb has a thicker coating that gives a warmer sound and is far more subtle than Nanoweb, which is much brighter.
Impossible to answer that question. It will all depend on how you want your guitar to sound and the feel you are happy with. Polyweb strings are powerful and warm and generate a great resonance as well as enjoying the benefits that the coating offers.
- Elixir security with tone and longevity.
- Warm and rich tone.
- Much thicker coating which gives a less bright sound.
- Quite expensive.
5 Martin Acoustic Guitar Body M540
If Martin designs their strings like the design their guitars, then these should be quite special, and they are.
This Phosphor Bronze string excels in any environment, in the studio or live or wherever you are; you can expect quality. Being bronze alloy based, you can expect them to have a long usable life with the minimum of loss of tone.
They give a clear, bright tone without being excessive and respond well to the style of music you are playing. This particular line of strings are light gauge and therefore feel and play easy. They allow a certain level of movement to give a natural vibrato and bend where necessary.
As we have mentioned, the one thing you expect from anything made by Martin is quality.
Not overly expensive and provide a great tone…
Maybe they are not as resonant at the bottom end as some might be, but the overall sound is very clear and crisp. If you are putting them on to replace a coated string, then you will feel, and hear a difference, so do not expect them to sound or react in the same way.
Many players forego the longevity value of coated strings for the sound of non-coated version.
Whilst there are benefits to coated strings, many players find that the overall output is reduced as is the sustain. The guitar, therefore, loses some of its natural ring and body-generated sustain that is so much part of the instruments sound.
You will find none of that with this Martin string…
They may not, depending on usage, last as long as some coated strings but the sound they generate may be more of what you like.
- Quality lightweight string.
- Competitive price.
- Warm and bright natural tone.
- May be prone to early breakages because they are a light gauge.
6 Martin Acoustic Guitar Strings (MM12)
This is a string that was developed with a certain style of playing very much in the forefront of the mind of the developer.
In the 70’s Martin ceased production of their nickel alloy acoustic guitar string they called Monel, but because there was nothing on the market that was an adequate replacement for the particular sound, Martin went back in time to create a retro version.
A sound unique to days past…
Made from a similar nickel alloy, they create a sound unique to days past. It is sweet sounding and very bright, and the company claim it accents and brings out its sound from the natural woods of your guitar.
Whilst these strings have those bright characteristics; they are still warm and quite mellow sounding.
They certainly have a certain feel about them…
Tony Rice, a well-known bluegrass player, assisted in the design and so what you get is a sound very reminiscent of that era.
This string fits a certain style of playing, and you may well notice a little extra buzz from the strings and possibly quite a bit of twang. This is the string. It was designed to cut through, and in doing so, you can experience some unwanted features if your action is not set up to accommodate them.
They are though worth the effort if this is the sound you look for. They’re, however, a lightweight string and may need to be handled with a little care.
They represent good value for money and are not expensive.
- Recreating a retro string sound.
- Good value for money.
- Can be prone to some fret buzz.
7 Ernie Ball 2146 Earthwood Medium Light Acoustic Phosphor Bronze String
Wouldn’t be a review about guitar strings without Ernie Ball being mentioned somewhere.
This man single-handedly revolutionized guitar string technology and despite recognizing what musicians needed and being turned away by the likes of Fender and Gibson, plowed on and marketed his own strings custom made for him from his shop in Los Angeles.
His reputation grew amongst musicians, and his brand is still recognized as being one of the big players in guitar strings. Maybe better known for his ‘Slinky’ range the company now manufacture all varieties of guitar strings, and his acoustic range has become recognized as being a quality string.
This is a medium-light string called Earthwood; they are produced with the wire encased in a Phosphor Bronze wrapping.
A defining sustain to the sound…
They provide a typically excellent sound of concert quality being at the same time full of bright treble tones at the top end combined with deep resonance for the lower frequencies. They also carry a defining sustain to the sound.
Being a light gauge, they are easy and comfortable to play, and it is easier to bend the notes than on a lot of acoustic strings.
Used by a lot of famous players…
Earthwood is a well-respected string used by a lot of famous players, an endorsement that is hard to argue with.
So, let’s get down to the serious business. These strings are great quality, have a great sound once they’ve settled in after a day or so, and come at a very competitive price.
All this and of course they are Ernie Ball quality. Whichever way you look at it, it is quality at a cost-effective price. Could this all make them the best acoustic guitar strings in this review, read on to find out…
- Quality, well-produced string.
- Used and recommended by Pros.
- Very twangy when they first go on.
8 Ernie Ball Earthwood Rock and Blues 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Set
And for those who play the blues or some rock on an acoustic guitar you haven’t been forgotten. The Earthwood Rock and Blues string.
Made from an 80% copper and 20% zinc alloy that is wrapped around a core wire of tin-plated steel, these strings give you some bite.
They also give you a crisp, ringing tone that generates significant sustain from a single stroke of the chord. These strings are used by some of the high and mighties and count the Eagles as one such who have used them. That would be enough of a recommendation for some people.
Each set contains a plain third. This is to allow some flexibility of string in that area.
Vibrato and bend to your heart’s content…
With these strings having been designed for acoustic blues players, this plain third is a relevant inclusion. So often a player wants to bend or vibrate a string mid-chord but struggles to achieve it because the string is wound and just too heavy.
None of that with this set which allows that rhythm/solo feel to evolve that is such a part of blues guitar.
These though are a lightweight string, and therefore some care is needed when fitting but when they are on they perform. The first few hours, they are very sharp, but they settle in to provide a great tone that works well with a strummed style or finger picking.
They are well balanced across the register with the high frequencies cutting a path over the warm mids and lows. They are a classic string for what they have been designed for. Crisp, clear, and with good tone, they fairly ring out.
Price is set competitively.
- Good blues sound and well balanced.
- Crisp, clear intonation.
- Some may think are too lightweight.
9 DR Strings VTA-13 Veritas Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar String
Veritas strings have built their reputation on the longevity and hard-wearing attributes of their strings. Normally this would mean that the string is coated to give that protection and long-life but not with Veritas strings.
Veritas has devised a system they call Accurate Core Technology or ACT. With this system, the design is centered on the strings core element, which is strengthened.
Up to four times more strength than a normal string…
This string is a medium gauge Phosphor Bronze string with this technology applied to it. It is claimed that it gives up to four times more strength than a normal string and assists the string to stay in tune longer.
For players who for whatever reason, do not get on with coated strings, this is an important innovation. Some think that a coated string has an unnatural feel to it and that it causes sound differences across the strings.
This is purely personal opinions of course as some swear by their coated strings, but if you are one of those that cannot get on with them, then this is certainly an alternative.
A very resonant bottom end and good sustain…
The sound, though, has not been compromised in producing this alternative technology. They are bright and very clear with a very resonant bottom end and good sustain.
Like all acoustic guitar strings, they will take a day or so to settle in, but when they have, they perform very well and hold their tuning. Initially, the sound can be sharp, but that too settles down to a comfortable, warm resonance.
Medium set pricing means they are worth looking at, especially if you are not a fan of coated strings.
- Long lasting.
- Not coated.
- A nice warm sound.
- Can buzz a little if the action is low.
10 Vibe Acoustic Guitar String Set, Phosphor Bronze
Vibe is one of the new kids on the block in terms of string production when compared with some, but in the time they have been around, they have made a significant impact. They have specialized initially in producing a quality string for the acoustic guitar market.
This string is a Phosphor Bronze string that has a coating applied in a unique way.
This entails applying the coating in a vacuum to ensure that any unwanted elements like dust or moisture are avoided. This ensures the quality of the finished product.
The string is constructed with round wound Phosphor bronze over its core of steel. As we mentioned, this is achieved in a protected environment where the strings are also packaged to ensure their quality.
There is a comfortable feel to these strings, and they have a familiarity about the way they play. The sound is clear and bright but also with a warm resonance, and they enjoy a good level of sustain. Unlike with some strings that require a settling down period, these strings seem to sound ok almost from the first.
These strings, though do carry one extra major plus point…
Being medium gauge and given the way they are constructed with a lengthy lifespan, they are ideal for those playing a heavier style. They will take some heavy strumming without detuning or snapping.
The other side of that coin is that the strings are not particularly flexible so individual solo parts may be limited in their expression.
They are packaged well with recognition indicators on each pack.
A quality string that provides an alternative to what else is on the market, they are priced realistically.
- Long lasting.
- Hold their tuning.
- Might not suit players who like to play solo parts.
Changing Your Best Acoustic Guitar Strings…
Sometimes a risk, often a nightmare, somehow you need to reduce the chances it will all go wrong.
The strings, after all, are a very important part of you and your sound. Along with your instrument, they define you. You, therefore, do not want to make a change that will cause problems.
Coated or Uncoated, The Big Decision
Coated strings arrived in the 90s. They were really borne out of the need for strings to last longer. There was also the problem of string damage after a very short time due to sweat from the hands and other naturally occurring elements that corroded the string.
After just a few hours, the sound deterioration was evident, and it became time to change them, Again!
Enhanced the sound possibilities…
The coated string arrived, and everyone got excited. But there was a downside. It didn’t sound quite the same. As technology improved different widths, mainly thinner, of the coating, were applied which did enhance the sound possibilities but somehow it still wasn’t quite the same.
They also felt different on the fingers, and some thought them slower to play…
Likewise, uncoated string technology improved, and strings did begin to last a little longer before they started to lose their tone or snap.
This, then is one of the big decisions. It may be that you are already using coated strings and are happy with them, or maybe you don’t because you just don’t get on with them. But if you haven’t tried them or are thinking about giving them a go get as much information as you can.
Video reviews of strings are ok but never tell the whole story, if you watch one check which guitar they are using. Some three thousand dollar acoustics will sound good with telephone cable attached and won’t give you the full picture.
Getting the right gauge is also important. If you play a style that involves a lot of heavy strumming, you may find you need a medium gauge if the light gauges break too often.
If you play a style that requires a few solo parts that incur string bending or vibrato or both you will almost certainly need a lighter gauge.
Sometimes it is a matter of trial and error, and sometimes you will be disappointed. In the midst of all the options, there is the ideal string for how you hear yourself.
We have looked at the best of what’s available, in an attempt to find the best Acoustic Guitar string but ultimately it will be down to you. What you want and if longevity is more important than tone and how the string feels to play.
Make your decisions and try a few. There are some great options in the strings we have looked at.
So, What Are The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings?
We decided we wanted a string that had a great top end that just rang out but also with a powerful resonant bottom end.
To us, the tone was the big thing, even though changing strings so often is a pain. All of the strings we looked at have great tones and other plus points, but we chose as the best Acoustic Guitar strings the…
A great string, with superb bright tones, with string flexibility and not expensive.