Regardless of whether you’re looking to buy guitar strings for an acoustic guitar or an electric one, you’re likely looking for the best ones available. This can be difficult nowadays because there are so many competing brands it can seem overwhelming to choose a pair of string that will not only complement your overall sound but will hold up to heavy use.
We’ve researched the best strings available and have found ten models that we’re pretty confident in recommending. Not only that, but we’ve also included a guide which will help our readers find out which strings they need. After all, if you know the types of strings available and what sound characteristics they impart, then you’re more likely to make an informed decision.
Best Guitar Strings Of 2019
Martin & Co. Eric Clapton Signature String Series
Although it may not be possible to play exactly like Eric Clapton, these strings do allow the guitarist to come closer to a sound that Eric “Slow Hand” Clapton prefers. These strings are designed for acoustic guitars and provide a warm tone that’s nice and clear and helps to convey the individual’s guitarists playing style. They are phosphor bronze strings that feature a 92/8 blend and provide hours upon hours of play. These signature series strings may be more mellow than what some guitarists will prefer, but they do have an exceptional staying power and last for quite some time.
D’Addario Plain Steel Strings
Suitable for use with either acoustic or electric guitars, these .010-gauge plain steel strings provide a high-quality tone that lasts a long time and doesn’t wear down as quickly as comparable steel guitar strings. They are packed in packages of 5-strings and are factory-fresh when the guitarists remove them from the package. These strings have long been revered for their long-lasting tone and are appreciated by guitarists all over the world. They are manufactured in the United States using only high-quality materials and are designed to provide the guitarist with smooth and consistent playing. Although not all guitarists will want to use plain steel strings, they do provide great playability for those who do.
Gibson Brite Wires Light Strings
These nickel-plated steel wound strings are designed to be used on electric guitars. They produce a warm tone and have a crisp attack that many rock guitarists are simply going to love but can certainly be used by guitarists playing on other musical genres. They wind up quickly and hold their tone longer than many comparable strings are capable of doing. It’s no wonder Gibson Brite Wire strings are so popular and are enjoyed by professional musicians all around the world. These strings utilize a Swedish steel hex core that allows these strings to be extremely stable and easily tuned.
GHS Strings Guitar Booms Medium (.011-.050)
Packed in air-tight fresh packs and in Nitro Pack singles, these strings are guaranteed by the manufacturer to be factory fresh so the guitarist will get the best sound out of them straight out of the package. When played, these strings provide a powerful attack and have a bright tone that has to be heard to be believed. They are round wound nickel plated steel on a hex core and are available in a medium gauge: .011, .015, .018, .026, .036, .050 gauges. These strings are in a series of strings, the GHS Boomer Series, that has been manufactured since 1964 and are known for providing a great sound.
Fender 150R Pure Nickel Regular Strings
Guitarists who are playing jazz, blues or classic rock are often looking for strings that can convey vintage tones, and that’s exactly what these strings provide the guitarists. They are based on a classic design that’s been proven to produce nice, round tones and are a good set of strings to place on vintage guitars. These strings are manufactured using the highest quality materials and using state-of-the-art manufacturing processes that produce a superior string for guitarists who need a vintage tone that’s paired with modern consistency. And since all of Fender’s strings are color coded, the musician always knows what gauge strings they’re putting on their guitar.
D’Addario Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Strings
Manufactured in the U.S from some of the highest quality materials available, these acoustic strings are designed to not only provide a warm and bright tone but are also designed to provide the guitarist with plenty of play time. These strings have a light-tension and have a phosphor bronze coating that provides an acoustic tone that can easily be described as well balanced. And because of this coating, these strings are also resistant to the corrosion caused by dirt and the guitarist’s own sweat. These strings also have a precision wound high-carbon steel core that also adds to its reliability.
Martin & Co. M170PK3 Extra Light Strings
This 3-pack set of strings features strings which are specifically manufactured for use on acoustic 6-string guitars. They are round wound strings on a steel core and feature an 80/20 bronze wrap. Although this wrap wire doesn’t allow for the corrosion resistance that phosphor bronze wires provide, they do give the guitarist a much brighter tone. These strings are also light-weight, so they don’t exert as much pressure on the guitar’s neck, so they are quite suitable for use on vintage guitars. That also makes it easier to play than other types of strings and also makes them easier to fret.
D’Addario Nickel-Wound Guitar Strings
Manufactured in the United States, these high-quality electric guitar strings can be used for a variety of musical styles. This strings are regular light gauge and are nickel plated for long lasting intonation and a nice bright tone. They are also corrosion resistant, so they can be played longer than ordinary steel strings. These strings have a hexagonally shaped steel core that provides incredible magnetic output and is resistant to fret wear. Since D’Addario uses the best modern winding technology to wind these strings, the guitarist can rest assured of a quality product that provides a good performance each and every time they’re used.
Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Custom Gauge
Without a doubt, there are no guitar strings which sound quite like these Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Custom Gauge Strings. They are made using nickel-plated steel wire that’s wrapped around a tin-plated hex-shaped steel core. This creates a bright and well-balanced tone that many guitarist love to use for their vintage guitars. They come in the following gauges: .010, .013, .017, .026, .036 and .046 gauges. Their construction not only makes them extremely playable but also extremely durable as well. They are designed to provide the guitarist with the tone and playability they need in the studio or on the stage.
Elixir Strings Acoustic Phosphor Bronze Strings
These acoustic guitar strings are designed to provide the guitarist with the tone they need but do so while still remaining quite durable. These phosphor bronze guitar strings are manufactured with a NANOWEB coating that protects the string from corrosion, which in turn allows the guitarist to get the most life out of it possible. Because they resist corrosion so well, they don’t become as tone dead as some other strings tend to do after extended use. These light-gauge strings come in.012, .016, .024, .032, .042 and .053 gauge sizes. These are great strings that are suitable for just about any guitar.
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How To Buy Guitar Strings
Different guitarists prefer different strings, so it can be difficult to create a list of the ten best guitar strings that will suit the needs and the preferences of everyone. However, what we can do is to create a guide that covers guitar strings basics and helps the reader find a pair of strings that complements their playing style and sound.
Guitar strings are grouped together by their sizes—which is rated according to the string’s gauge. A string’s gauge is always measured in thousands of an inch, so lighter strings always have lower numbers and heavier strings always have higher numbers. For example, a 0.10 gauge is a lighter string than a 0.50 gauge string. Lighter strings have a different sound and playability characteristics than heavier strings, as the following chart shows.
Light Gauge String’s Characteristics
- Tend to produce less sustain
- Tend to produce less volume
- Easier to fret
- Tend to break more easily than heavier strings
- Are easier to play
- A safer choice for vintage guitars because they exert less pressure on the guitar’s neck
Heavy Gauge String’s Characteristics
- Harder to play than lighter strings
- Last longer than lighter strings
- Tend to produce more volume
- Tend to produce more sustain
- Harder to fret than lighter strings
- Exert pressure on the guitar’s neck
Although the above characteristics are somewhat of a simplification of what light and heavy guitar strings bring to the table, they’re a good overview of what to expect out of each type of guitar string.
Although there are a variety of different materials used for manufacturing guitar strings, most strings can be broken down to Nickel-Plated Steel, Pure Nickel, and Stainless Steel varieties. Each of these different metals imparts a different element to the sound of the notes and alter the way these strings are played. Let’s take a look at some of the basics. There are also 80/20 Bronze and Phosphor Bronze.
- Nickel-Plated Steel: Warm and bright, these strings are some of the more popular strings available. They also offer the guitarists with a decent pick and are smooth on the hands.
- Pure Nickel: These are often used on guitars to achieve a more classic sound and are often considered to be a warm string.
- Stainless Steel: Although these strings tend to be prone to squeaks, they are pretty bright and maintain a high-level of sustain. They also tend to be corrosion resistant.
- 80/20 Bronze: These strings are often simply referred to as 80/20 strings because they contain a combination of 80% copper and 20% zinc. They have a bright sound, especially when they’re used right out of the package, but they can quickly lose this brightness after a while.
- Phosphor Bronze: These are basically the same material as 80/20 strings (80% copper and 20% zinc), but it’s coated with phosphor to prevent string oxidation. Although this allows the strings to last longer than 80/20 strings, it also means that they lose some of their brightness in the process.
Another thing to consider when buying guitar strings is the core of the strings. In the past, all guitar strings had round cores, but that was changed when D’Addario invented hex core strings. Now, most strings are hex core string, although there are still a few holdouts manufacturing round core strings. Round core strings are said to produce a more accurate vintage sound and they are hand wound for consistency. Below is how round cores tend to perform against hex cores.
Round Core Strings
- Has a vintage tone
- Is a warmer string
- Has more sustain
- Has a gentle attack
- Is extremely flexible
- Tone can sometimes be inconsistent
Hex Core Strings
- Has a more modern tone
- Is a brighter string
- Has less sustain
- Has more attack
- Is a stiffer string
- The tone is more consistent
The last thing to consider is how the guitar strings are wound. The winding of the string is the process of how the outer portion of the string winds around its core. There are basically three methods of winding and these include Roundwound, Fla, wound and Halfround strings.
Round Wound Strings: These are the cheapest and most popular way to wind guitars strings around their cores. They have lower tension, a brighter sound, shorter life, and provide better upper harmonics.
Flat Wound Strings: More expensive than round wound strings and they produce a smoother string. They have less upper harmonics, have a warmer sound and a longer life.
Half Rounds Strings: These use a combination winding method and are the cheapest of all strings. They’re also the lowest quality strings available.
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