Selecting the right strings for your guitar is no easy feat. There’s plenty to consider and a staggering choice of options. Honestly, it makes ranking your top twenty favorite guitarists and solos, of all time, a walk in the park.
But don’t worry, we’ve selected our top picks for the best guitar strings for acoustic, bass, classical and electric guitars. So, hopefully, this should help you out. We’ve also included a Buyer’s guide, Tricks and Tips, and FAQs section, to further demystify the black art of string selection.
So, let’s dive in with the first set of strings on our list.
Top 10 Best Guitar Strings To Buy 2020 Reviews
1 D’Addario EXL230 Nickel Wound Bass Guitar Strings
D’Addario is one of the best-known string manufacturing companies in the market. They are makers of high-quality acoustic, bass, classical, and electric strings. And, made in America, they are commonly the go-to string choice of amateurs and professionals alike.
Well, the D’Addario EXL230 features a round wound nickel-plated string. The string gauges are: .055, .075, .090, .110. They are suitable for long scale basses up to 36.25”. These are the heaviest strings in the range.
In terms of sound quality, the nickel-plating of the string helps to provide bright and warm tones. The string emphasizes frequencies at the higher end of the scale without becoming overly-bright or shrill. These great qualities make them a highly versatile bass string.
There’s no doubt that the EXL230 is very much an all-round, do it all kind of string
- High-quality manufacture.
- They can be used for long scale basses.
- Bright tone.
- Suitable for a broad range of playing styles and genres.
- Nickel-plate coating is easy on the fingers.
- The string lifespan may be short.
- May not be suitable where a smoother tone is desired.
2 D’Addario EJ16-3D Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
Staying with D’Addario, let’s look at the first of their acoustic strings we’re featuring in this review.
The four lower strings of the EJ16-3D have a hexagonal high-carbon steel core and are wound with a corrosion-resistant phosphor bronze outer wire. The two higher strings use plain steel. The string gauges are: .012, .016, .024, .032, .042, .053. These are light gauge strings and place a relatively low level of tension on the guitar.
These are one of the worlds’ most popular guitar strings and for good reason. They provide a well-balanced, warm, and bright tone and are a good all-round string for a variety of different acoustic styles. They are relatively inexpensive and can take a good amount to abuse and punishment before finally breaking.
What’s more, they feel relatively smooth under the fingers compared to comparable uncoated strings. Though not offering the same level of smooth and comfortable playing as coated strings, for players wanting to play with uncoated strings, the EJ16-3D delivers a decent compromise.
- Well-balanced and bright tone.
- Comfortable playing experience.
- Ball end color-coded system.
- Anti-corrosive coating.
- The string lifespan may be short.
Our first product from Ernie Ball is another big hitter in the string manufacturing industry.
A US-based company, Ernie Ball is well established, well known and popular guitar string manufacturer. Providing an extensive range of guitar strings, including bass, they make affordable, well balanced, and good sounding strings.
2834 Super-Slinky’s are a nickel wound string around a hexagonal core. The String gauges are: .045, .065, .080, .100. They sit in the middle of the string gauge options available and are suitable for long scale basses.
They are very cable of producing clear, bright, and warm tones. Also, they are equally able to generate harder and more aggressive tones. All in all, this is a truly versatile string suitable for use in playing most genres, including music with harder, more driven, and aggressive qualities.
- Affordably priced.
- Produce a clear and bright sound.
- Suitable for long scale basses.
- Suitable for a varied range of musical styles.
- May lose bright tone quickly.
4 D’Addario EJ17 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
The D’Addario EJ17 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings are a medium gauge string with a lot of similarities to the lighter gauge EJ16-3D we reviewed earlier. So, let’s take a closer look and see what’s the same and what’s not.
The four lower strings have exactly the same hexagonal high-carbon steel core. They also have the same corrosion-resistant outer phosphor bronze wire. The two higher strings are also made from plain steel. However, these are thicker gauge strings and will, therefore, place a greater tension on the guitar. The string gauges are: .013, .017, 026, .035, .045, .056.
These strings will still provide a well-balanced, warm, and bright tone. But, as with any thicker gauged acoustic strings, they will additionally sound louder and more bass-driven. Typically, this type of string would be more suited to a larger style guitar.
Though, like the smaller gauge equivalent, they feel relatively smooth to play, they can be expected to be more difficult to pay. This is in particular reference to the increased power required to both fret and bend the string. Usually, this is something that can quickly be adjusted to.
It should be noted that since these strings place approximately 15% more tension on the guitar, caution should be used when considering their use with vintage or more delicate instruments.
- Anti-corrosive coating.
- Ball end color-coded system.
- Full, well-balanced, loud, and bass-driven tones.
- The string lifespan may be short.
- More difficult to fret and bend than lighter strings.
- May not be suitable for vintage guitars.
Ernie Ball was a pioneer in the development of guitar strings. Making strings for over 50 years, they have registered numerous firsts in combinations of materials used, string making techniques, and string gauge combinations. The Slinky range is the best-selling range of electric guitar strings and can justly claim to be an industry standard.
The Regular Nickel Wound Set Slinky’s lower three strings are a nickel-plated wound string around a tin-plated high carbon steel, hexagonal core. The higher three plain strings have a combination of twists to ensure there is no slippage and to minimize potential string breaks. All strings have brass ball ends.
The String gauges are: .010, .013, .017, .026, .036, .046. The Slinky range has string gauges as low as 8-38 and as high as 11-48. The good news is that they also make two sets with half-sized gauges. These are; 9.5-44 and 10.5-44.
No doubt about it, Slinkys provide a classic and well-balanced tone, loved by masses of amateur and professional guitarists alike. And if they’re good enough for Eric Clapton, Steve Vai, and John Mayer, they can’t be all that bad. Can they?
- Comfortable to play.
- Hold their tone well.
- Great tone.
- Sealed packaging.
- Not the best string for pinched harmonics.
6 Fender 3150R Pure Nickel Bullet End Electric Guitar Strings
Check this out, some bullet end electric guitar strings from Fender. Well, these look cool…
Traditionally, guitar strings have a ball end. However, when used with a tremolo system, they potentially throw up some specific tuning issues. In their attempt to solve this, Fender designed the bullet end string to be used in conjunction with the Fender tremolo block.
They work by providing maximum and solid contact with the end of the strings. Unlike the traditional ball-end strings, there is no slack or loop end. This, therefore, ensures that during tremolo use, the string returns to the same position more precisely every time. The consequence is a string with increase properties of tuning stability when subjected to periods of heavy tremolo use.
The Fenders’ 3150R three lower string are non-coated pure nickel wound strings with a hexagonal core. The string gauges are: .010, .013, .017, .026, .036, .046. The bullet end is made from pure nickel, and the string sets are available in three other gauge size options.
Though originally designed for use with a Fender tremolo block, they will fit any tremolo system and any standard guitar.
If you want to know what are the best strings for rock, what are the best strings for blues, or the best strings for jazz, Fender believe they have it covered with the 315OR. They claim Fender bullets to be excellent choices for all three.
They may very well be right.
- Tuning stability.
- High levels of sustain.
- Suitable for all guitars.
- Potential short lifespan.
7 DR Strings HI-DEF NEON Electric Guitar Strings
Well, these look pretty. Maybe we should reform our 80’s band after all. There’s heaps of potential neon goodness, color, and excitement with these things.
DR claims these strings of craziness will give you an on-stage presence. Really? That’s got to be an understatement of serious proportions. Oh yes, these babies will get you well and truly noticed.
The DR Neon strings are a hexagonal core-based wire. The lower three strings have a silver and nickel-plated steel wound outer core. The string gauges are; .010, .013, .017, .026, .036, .046. As you’d expect, there is a range of sizes available. But wait it gets better, there’s also a range of neon colors too. Brilliant.
These are the first coated string we’ve featured. They have a K3 neon-colored coating. Along with those mental colors, the coating also helps to increase string longevity, the comfort of playing, and enhanced clarity of playing.
For a beginner, rather than a seasoned performer looking for a bit of flash, the DR Neon electric guitar strings may well have an additional application. If we consider what are good guitar strings for beginners, more particularly for young beginners, the different colored strings and their real sense of fun, could be ideal for getting started.
Beginner or advanced player alike, go on, admit it, you love these, we know we do.
- Guaranteed to be noticed.
- Smooth and comfortable.
- Neon covering long-lasting.
- Great for RockSmith players.
- A good choice of string for beginners.
- They can be difficult to string.
- Colors on two high strings are difficult to see.
- String coating will wear and fall onto the guitar.
8 DR Strings Electric Guitar Strings, Dimebag Darrell Signature
Let’s move on now to our second set of electric guitar strings from DR. These look scary…
So, no surprises here, these are designed for some pretty hardcore guitar playing. Yes, these have to fit into the category of the best guitar strings for metal, or the best guitar strings for shredding. Or maybe the best guitar strings for the summoning of dark forces.
Lock up your daughters and let’s look at some of the specs. These are another hex-core manufactured wire with a nickel-plated steel wrap. To protect them from corrosion, they are treated with a liquid polymer bonding agent. The string gauges are; .010, .013, .017, .030, .044, .052. They have a small range of different gauges available.
So, there you have it, a string built to take plenty of abuse. Built for big string bends, heavy riffs, squealing harmonics, and epic whammy bar dives. This is a string that will last and last. It will stay bright and keep coming back for more.
- Comfortable to play
- Coating is not sticky.
- Great for use with a Floyd Rose.
- Excellent durability.
- More suited to heavier genres of music.
9 Augustine Classical Guitar Strings (AUGREDSET)
It’s time to get all classical now with a set of strings form Augustine.
Augustine was the first company to develop nylon strings in the 1940s. These were originally designed to replace the much less reliable gut strings. Today, they produce some of the highest quality classical guitar strings for players worldwide of all abilities. They also manufacture acoustic and electric guitar strings.
The Classic series is a medium tensioned string made from a traditional nylon formula. The string gauges are; .028, .032, .040, .0295, .035, .0425. They do not have ball ends.
The Classic Reds produce regular trebles with high tension basses. The bottom line is that this all helps to create warmer, darker, but balanced and predictable tones.
- Smooth feel.
- Stiff enough to sound a hammer on.
- Rich lows.
- Vibrant highs.
- Strings can be a little squeaky.
- Loose in low tuning.
10 Martin MSP4100
Finally, we come to the last of our best guitar strings selection.
There are probably very few people who are unaware of Martins’ supreme standing in the production of quality acoustic guitars. However, we’re sure that there will be a sizeable group of guitarists who don’t know that Martin also produces a quality range of strings for a variety of different instruments.
The Martin MSP4100 is an acoustic guitar string, with the lower three strings manufactured from a hexagonal bronzed steel core wire. They are wrapped with a high quality 92/8 phosphor bronze rounded wire. The string gauges are; .012, .016, .025, .032, .042, .054. Other gauges are also available.
The strings are packaged and sealed in a flow wrap packet to keep the strings fresh and free form degradation.
The fact is that these are beautifully made and high-quality string. Probably what you’d expect from Martin. The higher proportion of copper in this strings manufacture is what helps to increase the longevity of the strings. The SP, in the title, stands for Sustained Playability.
The MSP4100 string set, not surprisingly, produces an excellent well balanced, dynamic, and lively tone. They also produce a high level of loudness and sound projection. Great for guitarists looking to cut through in the mix.
- A long-lasting non coated string.
- Sealed packaging.
- High-quality manufacture.
- Great sustain.
- Produce a well-balanced tone.
- They can be a little rough on the fingers.
- Don’t last as long as coated strings.
Best Guitar Strings Buyer’s Guide
For the beginner, there’s plenty to consider when selecting a string. For the more experienced guitarists, not so much. You probably already have your preferred string, and that’s cool. But, even if that’s the case, there may be a few factors still worthy of your consideration.
In our experience, choosing the most suitable strings for your guitar and your playing style is no easy matter. There are so many factors to take into consideration. However, we’ve narrowed this down and will look at what we believe to be the most important three.
So, let’s look more carefully at; string gauge, string material, and string construction.
Firstly, let’s take a look at string gauge. String gauge will affect the guitar’s tone quite markedly. A thinner gauged string will, unsurprising, produce a thinner tone. Conversely, a thicker string will produce a thicker tone.
For players looking for an overall brighter sound, then lighter strings would be the choice. Thicker strings would be the choice for a warmer, fuller, and more low-end driven sound. Medium strings are the choice for a more balanced sound.
Thinner strings are a good choice for the beginner. This is because they are easier to fret and easier to play. A nice quality for a new guitarist before they’ve increased finger toughness and strength. Thinner strings are also great for finger pickers or country players where easy picking relief is needed.
Thinner strings are also a good choice for vintage guitars, where a reduced level of tension is required to maintain the integrity of the guitar. Additionally, they are both feel and sound better for smaller-bodied guitars.
Medium strings will help to create a well-balanced tone and are perfect for a broad range of musical genres and playing styles. They have sufficient width to create rhythm sounds but are still thin enough to allow for easy bending and playability.
Thicker strings are often used where the playing is harder and louder, for instance, in Metal or Blues. Where heavy strumming is employed, they are less likely to break and offer more sustain.
They are also a good pick for jazz players, where little bending is required, and for acoustic players looking for a louder and more projected sound.
String material is almost certainly the second consideration amongst guitarists when selecting strings. However, it’s an equally, if not more important factor in determining the overall tone and playability of an instrument.
Best Classic Guitar Strings
Classical guitar players use nylon strings for the higher three strings. For the lower three strings, a nylon core is used with either silver-plated copper or 80/20 bronze wrapped around.
The silver-plated strings are more popular due to their warm tones. However, some players prefer 80/22 bronze for their brighter and more projected sound.
It’s true, Augustine is the only classical string we’ve reviewed here today. But, these guys not only invented the first nylon string, but they also have been responsible for plenty of developments and refinements along the way. A superb, reliable string and an easy pick for us and the perfect option for stringing up any of the guitars in our best classical guitar reviews.
Best Acoustic Guitar Strings
Acoustic guitar players will most commonly use either 80/20 bronze, which is comprised of 80% copper and 20% zinc. Alternatively, Phosphor bronze is used, which is similar to the 80/20 bronze, but with the addition of phosphor.
80/20 bronze strings have a clear and bright tone. They are popular for all styles of paying.
Phosphor bronze strings retain a brightness to them but have a warmer and darker quality. Phosphor bronze strings typically have a longer lifespan than their 80/20 bronze counterparts. This because the brass in the 80/20 strings can quickly oxidize, thus causing a deterioration in the sound and integrity of the string. The phosphor coating helps to protect a string from this process and extend its useful playing life.
Other materials used in acoustic strings include brass. This produces a rather harsh and metallic sound. Silk and steel strings are also sometimes used. Silk and steel have less sound projection and are a quieter sounding string. They create a mellow sound and are relatively easy to play.
These strings are sometimes favored by vintage guitars owners. This is because the string creates less tension and is, therefore, less likely to damage more sensitive instruments.
Sadly, we can’t all afford a Martin guitar, but we can certainly stretch to their strings. The Martin is our clear choice of the best acoustic guitar strings because of their excellent, well-balanced sound, level of sound projection, and longevity. Quality strings.
Best Electric & Bass Guitar Strings
Electric and bass guitars strings are generally made from either steel or a steel-nickel combination. The three higher strings are made from pure steel. Typically, the lower three strings, and all four strings on a bass have a pure steel core and wrapped in a steel-nickel plated or all nickel.
However, silver-nickel plating or all-steel outer wrapping are also used. Bass guitar strings commonly use stainless steel as a wrapping material.
Nickel-plated steel strings are the most popular choice for electric guitar players, Suitable for all genres, they produce a warm tone whilst maintaining a bright attack. Pure nickel is also used and is a more traditional choice where a more vintage tone is wanted.
Stainless steel has a balanced tone and a bright attack. They have the advantage of being more corrosion resistive than nickel or nickel-plated string. They, therefore, have a longer playing life.
Other options include silver, and less commonly, copper and chrome — all relatively softer materials, more prone to faster wear and breakage. Finally, at the other end of the scale is titanium. Which, as you’d expect strong and likely to last for approximately three thousand years.
For bass strings, we like the Ernie Ball 2834 Super-Slinky Electric Bass Guitar Strings for their suitability across all musical genres and also their ability to create harder, more aggressive tones. A great choice for any of the best bass guitars currently available.
For electric strings, our top pick is the Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Set, .010 – .046. Amazingly versatile with excellent tones. It’s a popular choice amongst so many for very good reason.
Originally, strings had a round steel core, but today strings are almost exclusively made from a hexagonal steel core. This has the advantage of giving the outer wire a less slippery surface to bind on to.
Additionally, the tone produced tends to be brighter and more consistent. However, if a warmer tone with more sustain is preferred, round core options are available. It should, however, be noted that the differences are minimal.
String Windings Are Either Roundwound, Flatwound, Or Halfround
Roundwound strings are the most common. They are essentially a round wire, with a textured surface, wrapped around the inner wire core. On the plus side, they are able to create a bright tone with low levels of tension, high sustain, and clear harmonics. On the negative side, they tend to wear more easily, create more string noise and fret wear.
Flatwound strings are a flatter surfaced wire. They have a warmer, darker tone often preferred by jazz guitar players for use on their best hollow semi-hollow guitars. However, the darkness of their tones can make them harder to cut through the mix. This makes them less popular with rock, metal, and blues players.
Halfwound strings are somewhere in between the other two and are by far the least popular choice of winding. This is because they remain too dark for most modern genres of music but, conversely, are too bright in comparison to the flatwound strings.
Coated strings are a popular choice amongst a variety of players.
Basically, they are a normal string coated in a plastic polymer. The polymer coating acts as a barrier to sweat, dirt, skin, and any other kind of gunk or crap you can think of. The coating helps to protect the string from all those naughty corrosive elements and extends its life and playability.
Other positives are that they feel softer and smoother on the fingers, so are generally easier to play. Furthermore, they tend to squeak less than uncoated strings, though this could be a negative to some.
The negatives of these strings are that they can lose some of the higher-end response, though minimal. Also, they are significantly more expensive than uncoated strings. This is obviously offset by their increased longevity, but never the less is still a consideration.
Tricks & Tips
Firstly, we encourage you not to be afraid to experiment with different brands, gauges, and materials. Though you should have an idea of what strings might best suit your style of playing, by giving other strings outside of the normal parameters a go, you might find a unique style or sound to better suit you.
Always have a spare set of strings in your case. You never know when a string change might be needed. Also, ensure you have a few extra high strings, particularly if you play heavier styles of music or are doing a lot of bending.
Have your own dedicated string winder, cutter, and guitar peg remover. Make sure it’s also close at hand or in your guitar case.
Give Them A Wipe…
Importantly, whatever strings you decide to use, the very best advice we can give is to keep them clean. You should always try to wash your hands or wipe them clean before you play. This will minimize the chance of any dirt or grease coming into contact with your strings.
Additionally, ensure your guitar strings are regularly wiped down before and after use. You can simply use a microfiber cloth to do this. There are also a number of proprietary string and fretboard cleaners you can use in conjunction with a cloth. Just be sure to use the right product for your particular fretboard.
Also, remember to give your fretboard a good clean before a string change.
The fact is, if you look after your strings, you are likely to both prolong their life and keep them in a better playing condition.
If you can’t get to store or don’t have the cash for a new set of strings, once they’re dead, try boiling them. Simply place them in a pan of boiling water. Five minutes for electric and acoustic strings. Ten minutes for bass strings. It won’t completely restore them to their original condition, but they will get back some of their original qualities and brightness.
Best Guitar Strings FAQs
How Often Should You Change Guitar Strings?
This will depend on a number of factors. But essentially, whenever you feel the tone of your guitar is becoming compromised or where the strings are difficult to pay, it’s probably time for a change.
What Brand Of String Should I Use?
There’s no easy answer to this. However, we’d recommend that you first check up on the kind of string that would best fit your general criteria. Then, experiment with different brands until you find one that best meets the sounds you’re trying to create, that’s within your budget.
What Are Good Strings For Beginners?
Try a lighter gauge string and one with a polymer coating. They are the easiest and least painful to play at the start and would be our recommendation for use on the best electric guitar for beginners.
What Are Good Strings For Acoustic Guitar?
If you don’t have a set tone in mind, we would lean towards a phosphor bronze string. This is because they are a warm sounding string and retain their brightness longer than strings with other materials.
What Are Good Strings For Electric Guitar?
The answer to this could vary enormously, depending on the style and genres of music you’re playing. However, if you’re playing a range of styles and genres, and possibly both rhythm and lead, medium gauge strings would be a good compromise. We’d also recommend trying a nickel-plated string.
What Are The Best Strings For Solos & Lead Guitar?
A lighter gauge string would be best suited where solos feature a lot of bending.
So, What Are The Best Guitar Strings?
In short, as we stated in our introduction, there’s certainly plenty to consider when choosing your guitar strings. So, as we wrap up today, we genuinely hope you found something suitable, or at least now have something more suitable in mind.
But, before we leave, we’d like to give you our top pick out of all the strings we’ve reviewed today — no easy task. Regardless, our number one selection for the best guitar strings, drum roll please, is the…
It justly merits the number one slot for its classic and well-balanced tone. Its excellent versatility across a range of musical genres. As well as its playing comfort and its affordability and longevity. It’s by no accident that the Slinkys are the world’s best-selling electric guitar strings.
Time for us to down pens, shut up shop, grab our guitars, and bash out some tunes.