What are the best acoustic guitar strings? To answer, reviews and comparisons of the top options are shared in this post. To help make your selection easier, the chart below compares the features of your options. Use the search box and header arrows to sort according to each specification. For more information about the features, check out the guide after the chart.
Top Rated Acoustic Guitar Strings
|D'Addario EJ16-3D||Phosphor Bronze||Light||$$|
|Vibe Acoustic Strings||Phosphor Bronze||Heavy||$$|
|GHS Acoustic Strings||Silk & Steel||Light||$|
|Albert Augustine 525A||Nylon||Light||$|
Acoustic Guitar Strings Guide
The acoustic guitar is a system of parts that work together. Strings vibrate when strummed or picked, and the vibration flows to the saddle, bridge, soundboard and body. It then goes out of the soundhole and it becomes the music that you hear. Some people spend thousands to get the best body, but the strings are just as important. They could make a great guitar sound better, or at least improve a poor one to some extent.
Strings can modify the tone and volume, and they are a cheap way to improve your instrument. That said, the strings could only increase the volume so much. To sound louder, you’ll have to use pickups and amplifiers. Also, if the tone still isn’t to your liking, you might actually have to get a new instrument. But if changing strings is all you need, then this is the guide that you have to read.
Acoustic Guitar String Types
There are two types of strings, namely steel and nylon. And they are not interchangeable – folk guitars should use steel, while classicals should use nylon. Otherwise, you will risk damaging your instrument. For example, using steel on a classical could cause the neck to bow and shift. This is because classicals are not designed to handle the greater tension of steel. If you want to switch strings, you’ll have to get the proper guitar. If this is the case, check your options in the post about the best acoustic guitar.
Under the main types, strings can be further categorized according to their construction material. Below is a table of steel string materials and their descriptions:
|Steel Strings Materials||Description|
|Brass||Has a bright, jangling, metallic personality.|
|Polymer-coated||Has good presence and warmth, but brightness and sustain is less than uncoated counterpart. Polymer-coated is corrosion-resistant.|
|Silk and Steel||Lower strings have steel cores inside silk, nylon or copper wrap wire. Has a delicate tone and softer to touch.|
|Bronze||Has a clear and ringing bright tone. Ages fast because of oxidation.|
|Phosphor Bronze||Sounds darker/warmer than bronze, but is still crisp. The phosphor helps extend the life.|
On the other hand, nylon strings aren’t really all nylon. Other materials are also used for classical guitars, but nylon became the common moniker for them. Also, note that treble strings are constructed differently from the bass.
|Classical Treble Strings Materials||Description|
|Clear Nylon||The most popular and is known for richness and clarity. Made of clear nylon monofilament in note-specific gauges.|
|Rectified Nylon||Has a more mellow, round tone than clear nylon. Made of clear nylon that is precision-ground to make a string with a constant diameter along its full length.|
|Black Nylon||Has a warmer and more pure sound with more treble overtones.|
|Titanium||Brighter than conventional nylon and feels smooth. Generally used on guitars to have a darker voice.|
|Composite||Has a noticeable brightness and powerful projection. Made with a multi-filament composite. Often used as G strings to have a smooth volume transition from bass to treble strings.|
Classical bass strings have cores made of multi-filament nylon. They are wrapped with metal winding materials, whose common varieties are:
- 80/20 Bronze — Composed of 80% copper and 20% zinc. Sometimes called as brass. Has an emphasized brilliance and projection.
- Silver-Plated Copper — Has a warm tone because of the copper, and a smooth feel due to the silver plating.
Acoustic Guitar String Gauges
Gauge refers to the thickness of the strings, which is expressed in thousandths of an inch. Most manufacturers indicate the gauge of a string set using terms like extra light or heavy. Manufacturers’ use of such descriptors vary slightly, but below are the usual gauges that correspond to each term:
|Heavy||.014, .018, .027, .039, .049, .059|
|Medium||.013, .017, .026, .035, .045, .056|
|Light||.012, .016, .025, .032, .042, .054|
|Custom Light||.011, .015, .023, .032, .042, .052|
|Extra Light||.010, .014, .023, .030, .039, .047|
Gauge has a significant effect on the guitar strings’ sound and playability. Below is a table comparing the pros and cons of light and heavy strings:
|Heavy Strings||Light Strings|
|Harder to play. Needs more pressure to fret and bend notes.||Easier on fingers. Easy to fret and bend notes.|
|Has more sustain and volume.||Has less sustain and volume.|
|Exerts stronger tension on the guitar neck.||Exerts weaker tension on the neck. Safe for vintage / old guitars.|
|Longer lasting.||More prone to breaking.|
To identify the string gauges required to maintain similar string tensions for alternate tunings, check out this application.
How To Choose The Right String
Choosing the right string is a matter of personal preference. If you already chose, and are ready to restring, there’s a how-to guide in the post about learning acoustic guitar. But if you haven’t, below are factors to consider to help you decide finally.
- Sound is a factor to consider when deciding about what string to get. After all, it’s the very reason that you got a guitar in the first place. To maximize your guitar’s sound, light strings are recommended for small bodied ones, while heavy is for dreadnoughts and jumbos. Advanced players looking for a specific tone also take the string material in consideration. As shown in the tables above, materials have varying “sonic personalities.”
- Playability is another factor considered by most people when choosing a string. For beginners and children, light strings are a popular choice because they are easier on fingers. Meanwhile, advanced players may tailor fit their strings to their playing style. For example, light strings are comfortable for fingerpickers, while medium ones last longer for rhythm strummers. Finally, also consider if you’re allergic to some string materials.
- The guitar’s condition or age is also an important factor to consider. If what you have is an old or vintage instrument, then it would be wise to opt for light strings. Aged guitars are generally weak, so heavy strings could possibly make the neck bow, or the bridge lift.
- Value for money is an important factor for any product, not just guitar strings. And nothing is more disappointing than buying a new set when you just did recently. Strings either break or wear out. If you don’t enjoy changing strings often, then heavy ones made of corrosion resistant materials are the best. But value doesn’t always equate to lasting longer. If a light, less corrosion resistant string meets your needs, it means you also got what you paid for.
Acoustic Guitar Strings Reviews
Each of the strings presented in the uppermost chart are the best in their own ways. If you’re still having a hard time choosing among them, below are popular choices that you might like. They are reviewed to give you a deeper understanding, and video demonstrations are included as well. Furthermore, links to even more information are provided to address all of your questions or concerns.
Vibe Phosphor Bronze Heavy Review
Usually, people initially feel apprehensive towards Vibe because it’s an exclusively online string brand. But those who gave it a try have been surprised by its quality and refreshing sound. Its most praised trait is the long sustain — with some exaggerating that once plucked, it can’t stop. Below is a video of Vibe in action.
Vibe follows the standard composition of 92% copper and 8% zinc. It is quite resistant to corrosion. Compared to other strings of the same gauge, Vibe feels thicker and sturdier. And so, it is often perceived as a high quality, luxury brand. To know even more about Vibe, like how long it stays in tune, just click here.
Elixir 80/20 Bronze Nanoweb Review
Elixir proudly proclaims that its strings are made in the USA. People equate that to high quality, and indeed, the brand is known for top of the line products. What’s remarkable with the 80/20 Bronze Nanoweb is its bright and sharp tone — something uncommon for coated strings. Below is a video of it in action.
String life varies among players, but many say that Elixir generally lasts 3 to 5 times longer than non-coated ones. The Nanoweb coating is a micro-thin, flexible polymer tube that shields the wound strings from corrosion inducing contaminants. Meanwhile, the plain steel core has an anti-rust coating that helps it keep up with the outer wire’s life. To know even more about the Elixir 80/20 Bronze Nanoweb, click here.