Best Acoustic Guitar Strings

Acoustic Guitar Strings

We spent over 30 hours researching and testing 10 different kinds of acoustic guitar strings and found that quality, brand reputation, and tone were most important. D’Addario Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings scored high above the other types we researched and is our top pick. This popular guitar string manufacturer provides comfortable playing for all levels of players and produces a well-balanced, bright tone. They are covered with a corrosion resistant phosphor bronze over a steel core and are durable and long lasting. The superior sound and intonation is a favorite among guitar players regardless of skill level.


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Introduction to the Acoustic Guitar Strings

These top rated acoustic guitar strings are customer favorites due to price, longevity and performance.  We have researched and talked to experts in the music industry and have come up with a list of three top rated acoustic guitar strings that would all be a great choice for you.

Deciding on a set of guitar strings has some to do with personal preference, but there is information that will make these choices much easier.

By using these reviews and the buyer’s guide we have put together for you that follows the reviews, you will have all the necessary knowledge that you need to make an informed decision on the strings to get for your specific guitar.

In these reviews we will go over the guitar strings features and the performance levels of each of the top rated guitar strings.  One of these might be what you are looking for, for your own acoustic guitar.


Top 10 Acoustic Guitar Strings

RankPictureGuitar StringsGauge Type
Package
1
D'Addario
Light
1,3,10
2
Elixir Nanoweb
Light
1
3
Martin MSP4200
Medium
3, 12
4
D'Addario EJ17
Medium
1,3,10
5
Ernie Ball 2146
Medium Light
6, 12
6
Martin M150
Medium
3
7
Martin M170
Extra Light
3
8
Martin M190
Light
12
9
Ernie Ball
Medium Light
1, 3
10
Martin M140
Light
3

D’Addario EJ16-10P Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light

The EJ16 is D’Addario’s most popular set, providing musicians with the perfect balance of projection and volume.

These strings are comfortable to play as well. They are far and above preferred for their bright and well balanced acoustic tone and are versatile enough to play all types of music genres.

The Phosphor Bronze strings are coated with a corrosion resistant phosphor bronze that is applied to a carbon steel core that is shaped into a hexagon.  This provides musicians with a bright tone with superior intonation in a durable and long lasting string.

All of D’Addario’s strings are manufactured in the USA using state of the art machinery that is digitally controlled and proprietary. There is much less waste with D’Addario’s simple packaging that will protect the strings from corrosion.

Due to their flexibility and durability, these strings are the perfect choice for the beginning guitar player no matter what type of music you like to play. You will get 10 sets of the EJ16 guitar strings providing plenty of playing time and always have a set of fresh strings on hand.  Strings can break unexpectedly, so having more than one set ensures that no playing time is missed.

Elixir Nanoweb Light 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings

Elixir Acoustic Guitar strings 80/20 Bronze with Nanoweb are very popular with guitar players due to their performance, durability and sound.  The NANOWEB coating will provide a bright, lively tone that has a long life that players will love.

They are considered the #1 acoustic guitar string, most often chosen by guitar players regardless of the type of music they like.

The whole string is protected with a super thin coating that keeps all of the gunk out the gaps between the windings.

These strings will provide the smooth feel and consistent performance that guitar players want.  There will be a reduction in the finger squeak that can be present with some strings.

Your Elixir strings will last longer, eliminating the frequent string changes that lesser quality strings have.  Players that use Elixir strings, claim that the tone of these strings outlast any other string whether that string is coated or uncoated.

In addition to the thin coating they have, they are also anti-rust, plated steel strings that will resist corrosion that can affect tone quality of the string.

Martin SP, Acoustic Guitar Strings, Medium Gauge, Phosphor Bronze

These Martin Studio Performance level acoustic strings are the perfect strings for live performance, studio playing and anywhere else you want maximum string life.

Guitar players will find that these strings resist breakage much better than average strings thanks to the superior, high quality steel core.

A lot of research went into the development of these strings and the result is something that guitar players of all levels love.

The core wires and plain strings of these Martin strings have a smooth, bronze acoustic finish.  Not only does it add to the beauty of the guitar, it adds prolonged string life, brightness and tonal quality.  If you consider yourself to be a perfectionist when it comes to music and your equipment, you will love the superior sound and tone these strings provide.

These medium gauge strings from Martin are not designed for beginners.  Due to their heavier weight, they are harder to fret and will hurt the inexperienced and uncallused fingers of a beginner.  If you’ve been playing awhile and have developed some nice calluses, you will find these great strings to your liking.

Top Rated Acoustic Guitar Strings Summary

Any one of these sets of strings would produce some great sound for you when you play. If you are a beginner, the Elixir and D’Addario strings are perfect, with their lightweight gauge. More experienced players will love the feel and sound of the Martin strings that are medium gauge and ready for the performance stage.

Below we have included a buyer’s guide that will provide even more information about acoustic guitar strings and how to choose the right set for your guitar. Even though strings can be purchased in a number of places, you can get excellent deals on high quality strings on Amazon and save time and money as well.

Acoustic Guitar Strings Comparison


D’Addario
View

Elixir Nanoweb Light 80/20
View

Martin SP MSP4200
View

D’Addario
EJ17
View

Ernie Ball 2146
View

Martin M150 80/20
View

Martin M170 80/20
View

Martin M190 80/20
View

Ernie Ball 2003 Earthwood
View

Martin M140 80/20
View
String GaugesPlain Steel .012, .016,
Phosphor Bronze Wound
.024, .032, .042, .053
Light Gauge
.012, .016, .024,
.032, .042, .053
Medium Gauge
(e) .013, (B) .017, (G) .026,
(D) .035, (A) .045, (B) .056
Medium Gauge
Plain Steel .013, .017, Phosphor Bronze
Wound .026, .035,
.045, .056
Medium Gauge
.012 .016 .024w
.032 .044 .054
Medium Gauge

(e) .013, (B) .017, (G) .026,

(D) .035, (A) .045, (B) .056

Extra Light
.012, .016, .024,

.032, .042, .053

Light Gauge

.012, .016, .024,

.032, .042, .053

Medium Gauge

(e) .013, (B) .017, (G) .026,

(D) .035, (A) .045, (B) .056

Light

.012, .016, .024,

.032, .042, .053

MaterialPhosphor BronzeBronze

Nanoweb

Coating

Phosphor
Bronze
Phosphor
Bronze
Phosphor BronzePhosphor BronzePhosphor BronzePhosphor BronzeBronzePhosphor Bronze
Pack1,3,1013, 121,3,106, 1233121, 33
Weight
(ounces)
11.216240.61.62.42.41.60.32.4
Total Tension
(lbs)
160.5158181.1160.5113.2146.1149.798.63113.2146.1
Warranty1 Year1 Year1 Year1 Year1 Year1 Year1 Year1 Year1 Year1 Year

Acoustic Guitar Strings Buyers Guide

What is an Acoustic Guitar String?

Acoustic Guitar Strings1There are many things that a musician needs to know when it comes to taking care of their guitar strings and ensuring that everything is in the proper condition it should be for optimum performance. It is also beneficial to you to learn the different types of strings that are available, what the different gauges mean and also the different winding types. With the proper information and knowledge you will be able to choose the proper strings for your guitar without worry that they may be the wrong ones.

Why Replace Guitar Strings?

There are typically two major reasons that strings need to be replaced. A broken string is the first one and the second reason is if they wear out from use. As strings are used repeatedly, they stretch and lose the ability to hold notes for a longer period of time. They also lose tone and sharpness.

Another condition that happens is that the oil and dirt from the player’s fingers will get into the strings and cause them to sound dull as well. This is not always apparent to the musician since this is a slower and more gradual occurrence. Once the strings are replaced, the dullness of the previous strings is very noticeable.

How Often Strings Should be Replaced

What determines the frequency in which the guitar strings are replaced is how often and how hard the guitar is played. The other determining factor is how skilled the player is. Some professional guitar players replace their strings before every performance. A teacher or studio musician might replace theirs once a week or even once a month. The average player will replace their strings every 3-6 months unless a string breaks. If they are an avid player that plays daily or that plays hard, they may find that 1-3 months between replacements works better.

When you replace your strings, get into the habit of cleaning and polishing your guitar with a guitar polish. Also condition the fret board with linseed oil, walnut oil or olive oil. This will protect and condition the fret board and keep it in excellent shape. With proper care, guitars can last decades.

Making Strings Last Longer

There are a couple of things that you can do to keep your guitar strings sounding better, performing better and lasting longer. When it comes to the strings becoming dirty, you will notice that the larger strings will get more dirty and dull than the thinner gauge strings. This is because the coils are larger and have plenty of places for oil, dirt and dead skin to get into the crevices.

One of the first practices you should get into the habit of doing is always playing with clean hands. Washing your hands before every time you play will help minimize the amount of dirt, oil and skin that gets into the windings. The other thing players can routinely do is clean the strings after they are done playing or at least once a day if they play more than once a day.

The best way to clean your strings is to use a terry cloth rag and isopropyl alcohol. If you use alcohol wipes, they can be wrapped around each string and then slid down the entire length of the string which will remove oil, dirt, skin and grime. You may be very surprised how dirty the strings can get, especially the larger ones even after an hour or two of playing. Don’t get the alcohol on the fretboard, you are just cleaning the strings with it. Getting alcohol on the fret board will wipe off the conditioning oil that protects the board. These two actions alone will increase the longevity of your strings and will keep them in good shape.

Types of Strings

There are not a lot of manufacturers of acoustic guitar strings but yet there are still many different types of acoustic strings available.  There are three categories that guitar strings fall into:

While classical guitars are also acoustic guitars, the strings are different.  Classical guitars use three steel strings and 3 nylon strings.  Acoustic guitars will use all steel strings.  All metal strings will damage a classical guitar.  In addition, nylon strings will not work on an acoustic guitar and will get destroyed.

Never use electric guitar strings on an acoustic or a classical guitar. There are two problems that doing this will cause.  One is the strings will simply break more often since they are lighter and thinner than regular acoustic guitar strings.  Additionally, since the electric guitar strings are looser in the grooves due to being thinner, the fretboard can be damaged.

Composition of a Guitar String

Acoustic Guitar Strings2Metal guitar strings are made up of different types of metals. Sometimes just one, other times there will be a mixture of metals.  Depending on the metals and the different combinations that are used, there will be different tones and sustainability as well.  When choosing strings for your acoustic guitar, decide on one metal type and stick with it each time you buy replacement strings.

  • Nickel plated – The most common guitar strings for electric guitars is the nickel plated strings. They are available for acoustic guitars also.  Nickel plated guitar strings have steel cores that are surrounded by nickel plated windings.  The sound they produce is very laid back and mellow. You will find that nickel plated guitar strings last a very long time.
  • Stainless Steel – Another type of string that has a steel core. These are wrapped with a magnetic stainless steel winding.  The sound that stainless steel guitar strings produce is bright and crisp.   They will have to be replaced more often due to the fact that they lose their brightness much faster than nickel-plated strings do.
  • Pure Nickel – The solid nickel core that these strings have is wrapped with solid nickel windings. The warm, mellow sound they produce is very appealing. These are another type of string that lasts a long time.
  • Phosphor Bronze – The solid steel core of these strings is wrapped with phosphor bronze windings. The rich, deep, warm sound of these strings appeal to many a guitar player and quickly becomes one of their favorites.

Types of Windings

There are three basic winding types that are used for guitar strings:

  • Roundwound
  • Flatwound
  • Half round (semi flat)

Just like the different metals will affect the sound you get from the guitar, the windings are the same.  There is no “one right way”.   Musicians need to experiment with the different types available and go from there.  While you are trying to find your strings, it is okay to go through several but once you decide on a type, stick with it for consistency of sound. .

Roundwound – This is the most common style of winding that you will find on an acoustic guitar.  They have a round core and write wrappings.  These types of strings are much easier to make than other styles and they are cheaper.  These are regarded as the standard in guitar string types.

Flatwound – these are used for bass strings and jazz guitars.  Many times in the creation process, the core is made up of hexagonal core with flat windings.  The flatness of these windings reduces wear and tear on the fretboard. The flat windings also reduce the wear and tear on your fretboard; the windings that wrap around the hexagonal core will provide more mellow tones to your guitar. They are also easier on the musician’s fingers.

Half Wound – these are also known as semi flat guitar strings.  These are mid range strings that are in the middle between roundwound and flatwound strings.  These types of acoustic guitar strings are actually hard to find. The process of manufacturing is just like the roundwound strings with one side being ground down to be more flat.

Acoustic Guitar String Gauge

There are different gauges of guitar strings available.  There are several factors involved in choosing the right gauge of guitar string.

Body size – What size is the guitar you’re playing?  A smaller bodied guitar will sound better with the lighter gauge strings. If you have a jumbo or large guitar, use a medium or heavy gauge string to get the full benefit of the larger sound chamber.

Tone – Heavy gauge strings will emphasize the lower end of the guitar’s tone abilities. Lighter strings are going to sound sweeter and have higher notes.

Acoustic Guitar Strings3Playing Styles – Do you like to strum the guitar or do you use a pick or your fingernails to pluck each string? If you are a brand new guitar player, keep in mind that the other types of strings are better suited for a more experienced player due to the decrease in comfortability. Medium and heavy gauge strings are harder to strum and press down on the fretboard and can cause discomfort to the new player.

Age of the Guitar – Don’t use heavy gauge strings on a vintage guitar. They put much more tension on the neck.

Conclusion

Sorting through all of the choices for acoustic guitar strings on the market can be quite the challenge. These three top rated acoustic guitar strings are favorites of customers for many reasons. In these reviews we have gone over their features and benefits so you will know details about each one. One of these terrific acoustic guitar strings may be what you are looking to try on your guitar.

The buyer’s guide that we have provided gives you insight to some of the specifics about purchasing acoustic guitar strings. We’ve gone over features and what to look for as well as a few other pieces of information that will help you prolong the life of your acoustic guitar strings as well as your guitar.

Once you decide the kind of strings you want to use on your guitar, just remember to wash your hands before playing, clean your strings with isopropyl alcohol, polish your guitar and condition the fretboard on a regular basis and you will become an old pro at choosing the right acoustic guitar strings for the sound you want, the guitar you have and the skill level you play at.