The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings

The strings you use can bring out the best qualities in your instrument and give you advantages while playing. Some brands build their reputation on the quality of sound, while others drive their attention towards durability. Finding the perfect set of strings really boils down to what your preferences are. Every musician is eventually going to need to replace their strings, and they should look for a product that brings out the best qualities in their playing ability. You can make the right choice for your guitar, and enjoy your music as much as possible with the right set of strings.

The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings - Comparison Table

Our Rating of the Best Acoustic Guitar Strings

1. Ernie Ball Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Custom, Medium Light (Pack of 3) — Our Best Pick – $

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Great Features

Ernie Ball strings are well-known for their durability. A Majority of professional guitarists prefer this brand because of its reliability on stage. The strings are packaged very well with a long shelf life. They are manufactured in California. This 3 pack is a great value for those who have multiple instruments. It has a hex shaped steel core wire wrapped in copper, tin, and phosphorus winding. The strings feel very natural to the fingers. They are very sleek and are low friction. The medium-light gauge offers exceptional clarity with a mellow tone. They also have a very unique gold hue then makes them stand out from other brands. It should be fairly easy to fret for anyone who has experience playing instruments.

Performance

These Ernie Ball strings should stay clear and in good condition for a very long time. Fretting is exceptionally smooth for rhythm or lead guitar playing. You’ll rarely have string break while playing or tuning your instrument. This special mix metals that make up the winding make for unique playing experience. You won’t typically experience much stretching after using them for a few hours.

Problems

The strings are better suited for a dreadnought style body or a larger guitar. You may experience some buzzing was smaller concert guitars if you don’t adjust the action. The heavier gauge might be problematic for players who don’t have much hand strength. Make sure that your guitar is capable of expressing a warmer tone quality to get the best results.

Recommendation

Strings are going to work great for almost any guitar. Intermediate players will experience richer tones in a wider range of mobility when playing.

Pros:

  • Rich/Warm Tones.
  • Reliable/Durable.
  • Unique Look.
  • Long-Lasting.
  • Decent Fretting.

Cons:

  • Requires Some Hand Strength.
  • Not Suitable For Smaller Instruments.

2. D’Addario NB1253 Nickel Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light$

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Great Features

D-Addario is a great American-Made Guitar String Manufacturer. They are widely regarded as being some of the best non-coated strings on the market. The packaging for their nickel bronze lights is air-tight and does a decent job at preserving from corrosion. The core is made of NY high-carbon steel and is wrapped in nickel-coated phosphor-bronze.

Performance

You’ll get a very clear bright tonality with these strings. The lighter gauge makes them more responsive to touch and easier to fret. The nickel plating is a decent substitute to anti-corrosion coatings without taking away from the sound quality. They should work well for playing lead melodies after they stretch and break into your guitar.

Problems

Light- gauge strings are easier to break so you should use caution when tuning them up for the first time. The strings may not be very high volume after the 10th fret. You won’t get much bass for rhythm playing. The lack of an anti-corrosion coating means you should clean your strings more often to get the most out of them.

Recommendation

The strings are great for someone using an amplified microphone, or for someone with weaker hands that wants to practice.

Pros:

  • Easy Fretting.
  • Bright Tone.
  • Great For Lead Guitar.

Cons:

  • Cleaning Required.
  • Low Volume.
  • Less Bass.
  • Fragile/Easy To Break.

3. Stringjoy NB1254 Natural Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, (Light Gauge – 12-54)$

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Great Features

Stringjoy manufacturers their products in the USA. All of their products are inspected at three levels of quality control. They are intended for professional musicians width mathematically optimized properties to ensure even tension and tonality. This company takes customer satisfaction very seriously with a money-back guarantee. This set features a natural bronze winding. These acoustic guitar strings follow traditional standards and designs. Your experience even sounds basically everywhere on your fretboard. The strings don’t really lose volume or tonality at higher frets. They focus on light tension to reduce fatigue in your fingers when you play.

Performance

You should expect them to break in very fast and to maintain the proper key with minimal tuning needed. The strings don’t break very often, and they feel very smooth to the touch. It will work well with any guitar size or body style. fretting should be extremely easy for new players. They will last a decent amount of time for the average musician if they are maintained properly.

Problems

These strings do require cleaning. You’ll need to wipe your strings with a cloth every time you play to keep the same sound and to keep friction down. They’re usually expensive in comparison to other brands because they are intended for professional use in studio-quality recording. The winding is completely bronze-like in traditional string design. Some players may prefer the even tone, but that does make them more fragile.

Recommendation

The strings would be great for an intermediate to advanced player. They may not be the best choice for someone who plays aggressively or doesn’t clean their instrument often.

Pros:

  • Even Tone.
  • Professional Quality.
  • Low Tension.
  • Traditional Design.

Cons:

  • Constantly Cleaning Required.
  • Not Suitable For Aggressive Playing.
  • Expensive.

4. Elixir Strings Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings w NANOWEB Coating, Light (.012-.053)$

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Great Features

Elixer is a high-quality string manufacturing company that’s geared towards stage performing musicians. This company has been around for decades which adds to its great reputation. They incorporate their patented NanoWeb coating with a phosphor bronze winding over a steel core. They coat their windings entirely before they are strung and afterward. This gives their products the most corrosion-resistant properties of all acoustic guitar string sets.

Performance

The NanoWeb coating on these strings is their best quality. It greatly reduces and completely stops squeaking caused by sliding your fingers across strings. It doesn’t require any cleaning or maintenance to avoid rusting. They are very reliable too. You won’t have much problem with broken strings or having your strings stretch out of tune when performing. They are made to last through exceptionally long use.

Problems

The brightness of the strings is going to be affected by the coating. If you want to use light strings, then it’s usually because you want that iconic bright sound that comes with it. These strings aren’t really going to give you a loud or warm tone. They often cost much more than a standard set of acoustic guitar strings because they are more intended for very heavy use on stage.

Recommendation

This is the right choice for those who perform in a band or professionally. They are extremely reliable and do not need to be changed often.

Pros:

  • Exceptional Durability.
  • No Cleaning Required.
  • Anti-Corrosion Coating.
  • Squeak-Free.
  • Professional-Quality.

Cons:

  • Low Volume.
  • Mild Tones.
  • Expensive.

5. Legato Acoustic Guitar Strings Set (3 Pack) Phosphor Bronze 75/25 Normal Light 11-52 with 6 Assorted Picks Bundle$

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Great Features

Legato strings are manufactured in Germany. They keep all of their attention on very bright tones, and exceptional tensile strength. They guarantee the tuning stability of every set they make. These sets feature hexagonal steel cores with phosphor bronze winding. The set includes the added bonus of six quality picks in different densities. These Legato strings are virtually unbreakable too. They have really gone the extra mile for their customers when it comes to breaking. You’ll get three sets of light strings with this package, but you’ll probably only need to change them when they get dull.

Performance

You’ll get a really full-bodied bright tone out of these sets. The sound is exceptionally great and the volume is better than most brands. You’ll probably never have a string break on you when tuning. You can also tune to higher keys because of its strong design. That adds a lot of diversity to your musical stylings.

Problems

These strings are typically going to be slightly harder to fret than other manufacturers with the same gauge ratings. They won’t break, but they will get dull over time from the oils in your hands. You’ll need to clean them fairly often to keep that amazingly bright tone.

Recommendation

This is a great option for those who don’t want to change strings because of breakage. It’s a great choice for studio recordings when the strings are new, but it won’t keep that great sound consistently.

Pros:

  • Exceptionally Bright Tone.
  • Virtually Unbreakable.
  • Can Be Tuned To Higher Keys.
  • Good Volume.
  • Picks Included.

Cons:

  • Requires Frequent Cleaning.
  • Tone Dulls Drastically Over Time.

6. D’Addario EJ16-3D Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light, 3 Sets$

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Great Features

D’Addario phosphor bronze strings are a nice alternative to their other sets. They have a steel core with a more traditional phosphor bronze winding. This is the company’s most popular version of their light options. It has a protective EXP coating that extends the life of this set by 3 to 5 times longer than their non-coated versions. It’s also more cost-effective to buy this package because it’s a three-pack.

Performance

You’ll get more warm tones from this set that the other light sets by D’Addario are lacking. The coating makes them last much longer with no cleaning required. String squeak is decently reduced due to the coating too. They have a decent tensile strength which makes them less likely to break when playing aggressively or tuning. These sets will also break in faster than other D’Addario options, so you can enjoy your new strings faster with less time spent tuning. The volume is average across the fretboard, and it’s decently easy to fret in comparison.

Problems

The warmer tones come at the cost of losing some of the brighter aspects that D’Addario strings are known for. That might be an issue for someone who chooses light strings for its emphasis on sharpness. It will give off a more mild and balanced tone that’s not overly rich, or overly bright. It won’t sound as good for lead guitar melodies.

Recommendation

It’s long-lasting and affordable You get a more balanced tone for rhythm and backup guitar players to enjoy.

Pros:

  • Long-Lasting.
  • More Durable Than Other Versions.
  • Stable Tuning.
  • Warm Tones.

Cons:

  • Somewhat Mild Tones.
  • Brightness Sacrificed For Bass.
  • Not Ideal For Solo Lead Guitar.

7. Legato Acoustic Guitar Strings Normal Light 11-52 (2 Pack) Beginner to Pro Level Nano-Coated 85/15 Bronze Bundle$

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Great Features

These Legato Strings still have that great benefit of being extremely strong. This set is a traditional bronze winding on steel core acoustic string set. They are also nano-coated to extend the life of the strings and protect from corrosion. It features new digital winding technology that separates it from other versions too. This three-pack is affordable and perfect for the average player.

Performance

The phosphor bronze winding really adds a sense of depth to the sound you’ll get from these strings. It doesn’t lose much bright tone from the coating either. It’s an all-around balanced sound that leans towards a warm tone slightly. You can expect these strings to stand up to wear as no others do.

Problems

Superior sound and durability compared to other Legato strings come at the cost of some volume loss. This isn’t going to be a great choice for smaller guitars but suits full-size guitars very well. It isn’t as bright as non-coated light strings either. It’s really more about player-preference. It may not be as easy to fret as other light sets.

Recommendation

A full-size guitar player will get the most out of these strings. They offer a balanced tone that doesn’t take away from the performance.

Pros:

  • Nano Coating.
  • No Cleaning Required.
  • Balanced/ Warm Tone.
  • Virtually Unbreakable.

Cons:

  • Harder To Fret.
  • Some Volume Loss.
  • Some Tone Loss.

8. 3-Pack D’Addario EJ38 12-String Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings$$

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Great Features

D’Addario makes strings for a wide variety of instruments. This three-pack is for a 12-string guitar. It’s a traditional phosphor bronze winding on steel cores. It’s very similar to their standard 6-string sets and doesn’t have a protective coating. It is slightly lighter gauge and comparable to electric guitar strings in tonality.

Performance

This 12-string set by D’Addario is really worth every penny The clarity is great, and the tone is amazing. That’s mainly done to the fact that the strings are paired together on a 12-string guitar. Volume is going to be extremely loud with a very characteristic piano-like quality. You will usually experience a lot of stretching when putting new strings on any guitar of this type because of the enormous amount of tension on the instrument. D’Addario performs well regardless of that common attribute of 12-string guitars. Fretting is decently easy.

Problems

These string work great for a 12-string guitar, but don’t get any ideas of using them for a standard instrument. In pairs, they sound amazing and loud. If you put them on your 6-string guitar, then you’ll find that they aren’t as good as other sets by D’Addario. They might be easier to break than your standard sets too. So be careful when tuning.

Recommendation

If you have a 12-string guitar, then this is one of the best sets you’ll ever find. For a standard guitar, it’s just not going to meet your standards.

Pros:

  • Loud.
  • Warm/Bright.
  • Easy Fretting.

Cons:

  • Suitable For 12-String Guitars Only.
  • Fragile/Easy To Break.

9. 3 Packs of Martin MSP3100 80/20 Bronze Light Acoustic Guitar Strings (12-54)$

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Great Features

Martin is probably the most popular maker of instrument strings in existence today. There aren’t any bells or whistles when it comes to these sets. They are strictly traditional and follow designs based on established fundamental principles. They focus on warm bass tones rather than bright trebles. This three-pack features steel cores with bronze alloy winding.

Performance

Martin strings have a very punchy and western tone. You’ll get all the bass and warm tones you need for a good rhythm musician. They are typically very loud and pronounced. These strings will rarely break and stretch less than almost any other brand you can buy. They stay in tune very well. Great for recording and performing.

Problems

These strings probably won’t last very long. They don’t stand up to normal wear or corrosion. You’ll need to replace them frequently. They aren’t very easy to fret either. You’ll need to keep them very clean in order to extend its life. You can expect the strings to feel rough over time. It’s highly recommended to use a string cleaning solution to save your fingers from getting sore.

Recommendation

These strings are perfect for studio recording. They give the best sound for professional backing tracks.

Pros:

  • Loud.
  • Great Sound.
  • Bass/Warm Tone.
  • Durable.
  • Minimal Stretching.
  • Exceptional Tuning.

Cons:

  • Hard Fretting.
  • Corrodes Easily.
  • Frequent Cleaning/Changing Required.
  • Fatigues Fingers.

Buyer’s Guide

It’s all about finding the right balance between tone and practicality. If you’re just playing on stage or practicing at home for fun, then you don’t need to be very specific with the brand you use. It’s always a good idea to get a set of strings that has a protective coating, and that isn’t very fragile. It can be very discouraging to sit down to practice when you constantly have to deal with tuning and replacing strings. Keep in mind that reliability is usually worth the trade-offs that come with it. Bronze winding is the standard that most companies choose to base their product on and it will sound perfectly fine for just about everyone. Having a good mix of strength and volume is the key to a nice sounding instrument.

Short Summary

Many string manufacturers are very similar in the way that their sets are made. All of them feature some form of the steel core, with a bronze alloy winding. The main differences are going to be the gauge of the strings, it’s tensile strength, and it’s coating. Fragile string sets with exceptional tone are great for those who don’t mind the hassles of cleaning and replacing them often. The average person won’t find much difference when playing for fun or practicing. It’s best for most people to stick with a brand that won’t add hassle to their hobby.

Our Best Choice Pick

The Ernie Ball Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Custom, Medium Light (Pack of 3) is our top pick. It has everything that guitarists need to keep them satisfied. The best feature is it’s amazingly natural-feeling texture. You won’t get much fatigue in your hands because these strings just glide to your touch. They aren’t really lacking any great quality. The sound is warm and rich. They aren’t easy to break. Fretting is easy enough for anyone that’s already able to play a few songs. Most guitars and guitarists will really benefit from these strings. Three sets will last you a very long time without worrying about cleaning them constantly.

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