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The 11 Best Acoustic Guitar Strings

10/06/2024

One of the most vital aspects of any acoustic guitar is the strings. It doesn’t matter how expensive your artfully crafted instrument is if your strings are not up to the task.

Getting the right set can improve your feel, tone, action, and sustain – meaning you’ll get the best out of your acoustic. With that in mind, here’s our guide to the best acoustic guitar strings out there, helping you get the sound you’ve always craved.

In a hurry?

Here are our top picks for acoustic guitar strings…

Guitar StringsMaterialLink
Elixir 16027 NANOWEB Custom Light Phosphor Bronze StringsPhosphor BronzeCheck the current price
D'Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze, LightPhosphor BronzeCheck the current price
D'Addario XTAPB1256 XT Phosphor Bronze Acoustic StringsPhosphor BronzeCheck the current price

The best acoustic guitar strings

1. Elixir 16027 NANOWEB Custom Light Phosphor Bronze Strings

Elixir 16027 NANOWEB Custom Light Phosphor Bronze Strings, 11-52Material: Phosphor Bronze

Coating: NANOWEB

Tone: Bright, with rich overtones

Pros

  • NANOWEB coating extends life by resisting gunk build-up
  • Custom light gauge offers a balance of playability and tone
  • Renowned for consistency and durability

Cons

  • Premium price may not suit all budgets

If you want a set of strings that feel softer than a pair of velvet gloves, Elixir’s offering might just be for you.

These Elixirs feature a proprietary NANOWEB coating that’s super resistant to dirt and moisture, which not only extends the life of each string but also provides a smooth feel on your fingers. It’s a much gentler greeting to your digits than a set of uncoated strings might offer, and as a result, it can seriously extend your playing time – no more sliced fingers while practising that difficult passage!

On top of that, I’ve found the Elixir’s tone to be rich and balanced, unimpeded by the advanced coating applied to the strings. They boast plenty of sustain and some bright overtones which suit both strummed chords and fingerpicked blues.

All this said, there’s no shying away from Elixir’s premium price tags that set them above most of the competition, however, their longevity could help you save money in the long run.

If you’re a hobbyist who keeps an acoustic in the living room or home studio, these strings are the ideal solution to minimising maintenance. They’ll guarantee your guitar is always ready to play at a moment’s notice.


2. D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze, Light

D'Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze, Light, 12-53Material: Phosphor Bronze

Coating: None

Tone: Well-balanced acoustic warmth

Pros

  • Bright, balanced acoustic warmth that’s popular with professional players
  • Environmentally friendly, corrosion-resistant packaging
  • Great dynamic range with a true and consistent tone

Cons

  • Uncoated, so they may have a shorter life than coated options

The D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze, Light gauge strings are a top choice for those who want warmth and clarity in every note. Made from phosphor bronze, these strings voice a superb and well-rounded acoustic sound that supports a wide variety of playing styles, from vigorous strumming to delicate fingerpicking.

What sets the EJ16 series apart is their excellent sustain and dynamic range, allowing each note to resonate clearly without losing its distinct character, even during complex chords or fast passages. D’Addario’s precision winding technique ensures that each string offers consistency and durability, traits essential for both performing musicians and casual players.

While these strings do not have a special coating, their naturally bright and balanced tone makes them a great option for those who don’t like the feel or vibe of treated strings.


3. D’Addario XTAPB1256 XT Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Strings

D'Addario XTAPB1256 XT Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Strings, 12-56Material: Phosphor Bronze

Coating: XT Coating

Tone: Warm, bright, and well-balanced

Pros

  • XT coating for enhanced durability without sacrificing tone
  • High carbon steel wire and fusion twist designs for tuning stability
  • Offers a versatile blend of tones that’s suitable for all playing styles

Cons

  • XT coating may feel different to players used to uncoated strings

Continuing the trend of upmarket coated strings, D’Addario’s XT series refines their traditional phosphor bronze string with a special coating that enhances break resistance, better pitch stability, and the usual corrosion resistance.

What sets D’Addario apart is their history of string making – they were the first brand to introduce phosphor bronze windings back in 1974, an innovation widely copied by other manufacturers since.

Their XT coating simply improves upon this strong foundation, meaning you can enjoy the warm tone and natural feel of the strings for longer. The tone of the D’Addario XTAPB1256 XT Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Strings is notably warm and resonant, with an added depth that enhances the harmonic richness of the guitar’s sound.

These strings maintain the beloved characteristics of phosphor bronze while benefiting from D’Addario’s latest advancements in string technology.


4. Gibson Coated Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Strings, Light

Gibson Coated Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Strings, Light 12-53Material: Phosphor Bronze

Coating: Coated

Tone: Warm, full with enhanced durability

Pros

  • Coating extends string life without sacrificing tone
  • Gibson’s quality assurance promises consistency
  • Ideal for studio recording and live performances

Cons

  • Some players may find the coating feels less natural

Gibson’s acoustic strings might not be the first set that comes to mind for many guitarists, despite their prominent history as one of the premier acoustic manufacturers. Well, we’re here to tell you they should, because Gibson’s made-in-the-USA products offer a high standard of quality, feel, and tone at a reasonable price.

Available in three sets of gauges, Ultra-light 11-52, Light 12-53, or Medium 13-56, you can get the action and feel that suits you to a tee. Gibson’s special coating and phosphor bronze material has been designed and approved by a team of Master Luthiers at the Gibson Acoustic Facility, meaning you can expect a tone that’s a cut above the rest.

That might be over-egging the pudding slightly, but the ultra-thin coating they’ve concocted hardly interferes with the “feel” side of playing. So, if you’re a musician who longs for the durability of coated strings without any of their perceived drawbacks, Gibson’s phosphor bronze set is a great option to try.


5. Ernie Ball 2086 Paradigm Medium-Light 80/20 Bronze

Ernie Ball 2086 Paradigm Medium-Light 80/20 Bronze, 12-54Material: 80/20 Bronze

Coating: None

Tone: Bright and resonant

Pros

  • Paradigm technology offers unprecedented strength and durability
  • Guaranteed not to break or rust within 90 days
  • Maintains a traditional, uncoated feel

Cons

  • Slightly higher cost due to advanced technology

We can build it, we have the technology. Ernie Ball’s Paradigm line of strings is known for its cutting-edge and scientific approach to durability, combining the brand’s long history of string crafting and forward-thinking designs.

I promise that’s not waffle, as Ernie Ball claim that these are the “strongest strings known to man” – sets which not only can stand up to the rigours of humidity changes and sweat/dirt build-up, but also aren’t afraid of extreme bends or energetic pick attacks.

That’s great news for players who really like to dig in while playing – either for extra volume or emphasis. A string break is never the end of the world but avoiding them is invaluable to acoustic players performing a set. After all, nobody wants to be removing bridge pins under a spotlight!

The fancy tech behind the PARADIGMs is a “plasma-enhanced” process that removes defects and impurities in the string material, greatly improving corrosion resistance. Together with an Everlast nanotechnology coating to fend off moisture and oils, these strings will get you through the toughest of gigs.


6. Ernie Ball 2564 Aluminium Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings

Ernie Ball 2564 Aluminium Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, 13-56Material: Aluminium Bronze

Coating: None

Tone: Crisp and clear with plenty of presence

Pros

  • Aluminium bronze provides superior projection and clarity
  • Maraging steel hex cores enhance tensile strength
  • Resists corrosion under typical playing conditions

Cons

  • The unique tone may not suit traditionalists

Ernie Ball 2564s are wound from aluminium bronze over a hex steel core, offering a uniquely crisp, clear, and pronounced tone. It’s a sound that cuts through in both solo performances and ensemble settings and offers plenty of volume to boot.

The use of aluminium bronze not only enhances the projection and clarity of each note but also brings out a bright, vibrant quality that is often sought after by contemporary acoustic guitarists. The core of these strings is made from maraging steel, known for its ultra-high tensile strength, which contributes to durability and a consistent feel under the fingers.

While the innovative alloy provides exceptional resistance to corrosion, making them ideal for players in varying climates and settings, their bright and pronounced sonic character might not appeal to those who prefer the warmer, mellower tones typically associated with traditional phosphor bronze strings.

If you want a fresh, articulate sound, however, Ernie Ball’s Aluminum Bronze strings could be a perfect match.


7. Fender 880L 80/20 Dura-Tone Coated Acoustic Strings

Fender 880L 80/20 Dura-Tone Coated Acoustic Strings, 12-52Material: 80/20 Bronze

Coating: Coated

Tone: Crisp and ringing with vibrant presence

Pros

  • Coated for longevity and resistance to dirt and sweat
  • Known for enhancing the brightness of acoustic guitars
  • Good for players who enjoy lively, bright acoustics

Cons

  • Some may prefer the more mellow tone of phosphor bronze

One of the biggest names in the business, Fender’s strings are a popular choice among guitarists for their balance of quality and price. They’ve managed to hit a sweet spot for coated strings where buying a couple of sets won’t set you back too much, but you also don’t feel like you’re sacrificing quality for quantity.

The Dura-Tone coating is intended to help stave off dirt, sweat, and oils, helping resist corrosion. And it’s certainly effective at that! Fender claims a lifespan that’s up to five times longer than a normal set of strings. On top of that, Fender’s thin coating of layers doesn’t hinder the tone or sustain of your strings and retains that natural snap and brightness of uncoated products.

It is a thin coating though – and they aren’t braced or reinforced for string breakages, so if you’re a gigging player who likes to put some oomph into their pick attack, consider some of the tougher sets if you need reliability. On the flip side, you can easily get multiple Dura-Tone sets for the price of the higher-end competition, and Fender’s coloured ball ends make string changes that little bit easier.


8. Rotosound Tru Bronze Brass Alloy Acoustic Guitar Strings

Rotosound Tru Bronze TB10 Brass Alloy Acoustic Guitar Strings, 10-50Material: Brass Alloy

Coating: None

Tone: Very bright with an edge of brashness

Pros

  • Provides a unique, bright tone with added zing
  • Great for players looking to stand out sonically
  • Offers excellent value for a high-quality product

Cons

  • The unique tone may not suit all musical styles or tastes

Rotosound’s made-in-the-UK Tru Bronze series gives your instrument a deeply metallic and satisfying tone. Rotosound promise crystal-clear clarity and a highly resonant character thanks to their brass material and precision construction.

Their UK factory boasts a high standard of production, with strings made to exact tolerances to get even and reliable performances across all series – these extra light Tru Bronze are no different.

Sonically speaking, Rotosound’s brass (80% copper, 20% zinc) material leads to a bright top end, robust bass lows, and scooped mids. This makes them a superb option for fingerpickers looking for extra definition in their sound, or even guitarists looking to stand out in a mix of instruments.


9. Martin MEC 92/8 Bronze Eric Clapton Signature Strings

Martin MEC13 92/8 Bronze Medium Eric Clapton Signature Strings 13-56Material: 92/8 Bronze

Coating: None

Tone: Warm with a vintage vibe

Pros

  • Endorsed by Eric Clapton for their superior quality and tone
  • Medium gauge offers robust sound and volume, ideal for blues and rock
  • The vintage tone complements a wide range of acoustic guitars

Cons

  • Warm sound might lack definition for some tastes

A guitar stalwart, Clapton has earned himself a long list of signature gear. Not least amongst this assortment of swag are his named Martin acoustic strings, a product that promises to give you the same tone and sustain enjoyed by “slow hand” himself.

The strings are a 92/8 phosphor bronze split, ensuring a sharpness and clarity that’ll help notes stand out in a performance. On top of that, Martin claim they’re engineered to resist corrosion and the usual rust problems, but it’s not exactly clear how.

We’d recommend these strings for their tone more than anything else, so if you’re looking to replicate Clapton’s soulful bluesy playing in his later years’ acoustic sets, or if you want a brighter voice to complement your instrument, these are a great choice.


10. Ernie Ball 2151 Earthwood Phosphor Bronze Rock & Blues

Ernie Ball 2151 Earthwood Phosphor Bronze Rock & Blues, 10-52Material: Phosphor Bronze

Coating: None

Tone: Rich with expressive dynamics

Pros

  • Light to medium gauge ideal for bending and solo play
  • Vibrant, expressive tone suitable for rock and blues
  • Phosphor bronze blend offers a balanced sound with excellent clarity

Cons

  • Uncoated, so they may wear quicker under heavy play

A bread-and-butter choice for many acoustic guitarists, Ernie Ball’s Earthwood might not be the fanciest set of strings on the market, but they sure are dependable!

It’s another set that’s 92%  copper and 8% tin and phosphorus, ensuring a bright and clear tone with each pluck. It’s a great mellow match for rock and blues playing that need solos and licks to stand above a mix.


11. Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light

Acoustic Guitar Strings 85/15, LightMaterial: 85/15 Bronze

Coating: None

Tone: Brighter than phosphor bronze but slightly warmer than 80/20

Pros

  • Light gauge for easy playability and comfort
  • Balanced tone suitable for a variety of music genres
  • Good lifespan and durability for uncoated strings

Cons

May not provide as much volume as heavier gauges

If you need a set of quality strings with a warm, clear tone then Gear4music’s light acoustic set fits the bill nicely.

Bronze wrapping leads to a mellow and pronounced tone, and a budget-friendly cost provides plenty of room for backup sets.

Things to consider when choosing the best acoustic guitar strings for you

Material

Choose your material based on your desired tone. If you want a bright acoustic guitar tone, opt for 80/20 Bronze, which offers crisp articulation. For a warmer sound, choose Phosphor Bronze as this delivers richer, mellower tones.


String gauge

Thicker strings offer volume and durability, whilst thinner strings are used for ease and subtlety.


Coated or uncoated?

The choice between coated and uncoated strings depends on how often you play, how regularly you replace your strings, and whether or not you value longevity or a natural feel.

Coated strings have a longer lifespan and maintain their tone longer – so you should choose these if you want strings that will last but don’t mind compromising a bit of that natural feel. Uncoated strings, on the other hand, feel more natural to play, with the tone of the material really shining through.

Single Cutaway Electro Acoustic Guitar by Gear4music, Black

How often should I restring my guitar?

How regularly you restring your guitar depends on you and the type of strings you have! If you’re a frequent performer and professional, you’ll need regular replacements – perhaps after each gig. For standard hobbyist playing, you could likely get away with rarely changing strings… if ever!

A fresh set of strings will have an extra zip and pop in its tonal character, a quality many guitarists love to have in their sound. In general, replace your strings every couple of weeks if you’re a performer, and once every few months if you only ever play at home.

Are nylon strings easier to play than steel strings?

Nylon strings are technically easier to play than steel strings. They’re softer and larger, so it’s easier to hit them to fret down.

That said, nylon strings are usually on thicker necks and aren’t as easy to string bend for rock and blues playing.

Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar by Gear4music + Student Acoustic Guitar by Gear4music

FAQs

What are the best-sounding acoustic guitar strings?

The best-sounding acoustic guitar strings depend on your style and guitar. For a bright, crisp sound, try 80/20 bronze strings. For warmer, richer tones, phosphor bronze strings are ideal.


What gauge strings do most acoustic guitarists use?

Most acoustic guitarists use light gauge strings (0.012-0.053) as they offer a balanced blend of playability and tone, suitable for various playing styles and easier on the fingers.


Do thicker acoustic guitar strings sound better?

Thicker acoustic guitar strings can enhance volume and sustain, producing a fuller and richer sound. However, “better” is subjective and depends on your tonal preference and playing style.

Final thoughts

We hope this guide has been helpful in picking out a new set of strings for you! Check out our other guides to answer any other guitar-based questions you might have!

 

Content Writer (Guitars)

Mark has been a guitar aficionado for around twenty years. A lover of all things 6-string, he spends his days putting pen-to-paper about all manner of interesting instruments. From entry level Squiers to the most coveted Custom Shop desires, Mark's written about them.

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