Looking for the best strings for an acoustic guitar?
Perfect, you're in the right place!
In this insider's guide, you'll learn:
- What are acoustic guitar strings
- What are the different kinds of acoustic guitar strings?
- What to look for in the best acoustic guitar strings
- And much more!
Below is a quick list of all my favorite acoustic guitar strings. Keep scrolling to learn more of my top tips to choose and use the best strings for an acoustic guitar.
Elixir Strings 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
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Martin M130 80-20 Silk & Steel Strings Acoustic Guitar
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D’Addario EJ16-3D Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
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D'Addario XT Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
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Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze Medium Light Acoustic Set
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My Overall #1 Pick
Out of the guitar strings we reviewed, we really liked the Elixir Acoustic Nanoweb strings for acoustic guitars.
Because they strike a great balance between quality and value, and thanks to the ultra-thin Nanoweb coating, they sound better for longer compared to other strings without this tech.
Because the coating on these acoustic guitar strings is so thin, they don’t sound like a typical coated string at all, so you’re getting a bright, punchy tone that is not often found in this category.
The coating significantly reduces dirt and oils on your strings, and remember, clean strings = clean sound!
The Nanoweb coating means you’ll be changing your acoustic guitar strings less often.
So, while the Elixir Acoustic Nanoweb strings might have a premium price tag, you get a much longer useful life out of them compared to uncoated strings.
Top 5 Best Acoustic Guitar Strings
In a hurry? Check out our top 5 picks below! Keep reading to learn more about these strings for your acoustic guitar.
What Are Acoustic Guitar Strings?
As acoustic guitars don’t have the benefit of pickups, amplifiers, or even effect pedals to manipulate their sound, your choice of strings is a super important factor in getting the best out of your instrument.
Acoustic guitar strings are designed specifically for acoustic guitars and are generally made from copper, bronze, or brass alloys, which provide a warm, resonant, and rich tone.
What Are The Different Types of Acoustic Guitar Strings?
Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
Bronze acoustic guitar strings are generally made from a blend of 80% copper and 20% tin. They are prized for their clear tone that seems to ring on forever. A fresh set of bronze strings is a pretty sight, too, thanks to their bright, golden appearance.
On the down side, bronze has a tendency to oxidize quickly, meaning you’re going to be changing your acoustic guitar strings more often.
If you're looking for the best tone and can deal with regular string changes, 80/20 bronze strings could be a good choice for you.
Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
Phosphor Bronze acoustic guitar strings, as you can probably guess, incorporate phosphor in the alloy during production. The end effect of this addition is a warmer, smoother sound than a pure bronze string, as well as improved longevity thanks to greater corrosion resistance.
Phosphor bronze strings are a great all rounder, and if you're looking to strike a balance between tone and longevity, then these could be the best option for your guitar.
Aluminum Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
Aluminum bronze strings for acoustic guitars are made with a blend of copper and aluminum. They are a relatively new concept but have become popular very quickly.
The advantages of an aluminum bronze acoustic guitar string are deep, powerful bass notes, and crisp, punchy trebles. As well as a great sound, the aluminum component also provides incredible corrosion resistance without the need for coating.
If you're willing to sacrifice warmth of tone for string longevity, then you should consider a set of aluminum bronze strings.
Polymer-Coated Acoustic Guitar Strings
Manufacturers take a traditional alloy acoustic guitar string, and coat it with a thin layer of polymer, like Teflon, Nanoweb, or Polyweb coating to make a polymer-coated string.
The end result is a string that has extreme longevity, making them ideal for anybody looking to extend the life of their acoustic guitar strings. In addition, the smooth finish makes them comfortable to play, and almost eliminates finger squeak.
The downside of polymer-coated strings is that they can lack sustain, and might sound a little dull when compared to uncoated strings, although some string manufacturers are coming out with new ultra-thin coatings that provide the best of both worlds.
Polymer-coated strings offer a unique feel and unparalleled life span. If you're looking for comfortable fretting and insane longevity, opt for a string with a polymer-coat.
Silk and Steel Acoustic Guitar Strings
Silk and steel acoustic guitar strings feature a core wire wrapped in fine nylon filaments that look and act much like silk. The result is an incredibly soft string that is very popular with fingerstyle players.
These strings produce a warm, mellow tone, making them ideal for those looking for a folk playing style. They do, however, lack punch, and are not at all suited for semi-acoustic use, as pickups have a very hard time recognizing the strings due to the nylon wrap.
If you're a fingerstyle or folk player, there is no better choice of string for you than silk and steel.
Nylon Strings are commonly found on classical guitars. The three treble strings are made from clear nylon, while the three strings at the bass end feature a wrap wire around the nylon core. The bass strings are wrapped in order to increase their weight and produce a more powerful sound.
Unlike steel strings, nylon strings lack ball ends, and can not be held in with pegs. To properly secure these strings, they need to be wrapped twice around the bridge and tied off.
Extra-Light Gauge Strings
These are the thinnest strings you'll find on the market. Super light gauge strings are a great starting point for anybody looking to start playing the acoustic guitar.
Choosing an extra-light string is also recommended for anybody who needs to burn up the fretboard with lightning-fast finger work or intricate rhythm chords.
These strings range in thickness from .009 at high E, to .042 at low E.
Light Gauge Strings
Thin, but not too thin. Light gauge strings are still pliable, but offer greater strength than an ultra-light string if you're looking to play with a blend of both strumming and finger picking.
The size of these strings ranges from .010 at high E, to .046 at low E.
Medium Gauge Strings
Medium gauge strings, as you can probably guess, sit the middle of the road when it comes to thickness. They are ideal for blues and rock players as they still allow for bends while still providing a fat tone and excellent sustain.
Medium gauge strings range from .011 at high E to .050 at low E.
Heavy Gauge Strings
Heavy gauge strings are the thickest available off the shelf. Because of the stiffness that comes with this gauge, they can take quite a lot of getting used to, but those who have the patience to master these strings are rewarded with a broad tone spectrum, incredible sustain, and beautiful resonance.
It is for this reason that heavy strings are preferred by jazz guitarists looking to explore every sound that it's possible for a guitar to make. Heavy strings range from .012 at high E, right up to 0.54 at low E.
How Much Do Strings For An Acoustic Guitar Cost?
The old phrase “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be truer when it comes to acoustic guitar strings. You can buy strings for an acoustic guitar for as little as $5 a set, and If money is no object, there are always ultra-premium options (some are actually coated in 24k gold) which can run upwards of $50 for a set of strings.
Yes, cheap strings are easier on the wallet, but might not be so easy on the ear, and because they’re made with cheaper materials, chances are they’ll corrode, and even break, faster.
There is a wide selection of great mid-range and high-quality premium strings available today that will give you exceptional performance, as well as the top value for money.
A cheap set of strings might save you a few bucks today, but buying low-end will mean they're likely to need to be changed out more often. In the long run, you're far better off buying a better quality set - they may cost more upfront, but may end up costing the same, or even less, than multiple packs of cheap stings that broke down the line.
What To Look For In The Best Acoustic Guitar Strings?
The material is the dominant factor when it comes to choosing the best strings for an acoustic guitar. The material has the biggest overall impact on the sound, so consider this first. Aluminum bronze and phosphor bronze are ideal for blues and rock styles, whereas silk and steel, are better suited to folk and classical guitar styles.
While there's nothing stopping you from using electric guitar strings on your acoustic, you definitely won't be getting the best possible sound from your instrument.
What you do need to be careful of is using steel strings on an acoustic guitar designed for nylon strings. Guitars designed for nylon strings often don't have a truss rod, and the tension required by steel strings can warp, or even snap the neck of a classical guitar
As well as being available in different materials, acoustic guitar strings also come in different thicknesses or gauges.
Most commonly, manufacturers refer to the thinnest string in the pack (high E on a six-string) when they label the gauge on the packaging. The gauge is measured in 1/1000ths of an inch and usually ranges from 0.008 to .056.
String gauges are usually labeled from extra light, light gauge, medium, all the way through to through to heavy.
Lighter gauges are better suited to beginners as they don’t need as much finger strength, but advanced players can also benefit from thinner strings for note bends, picking, and performing legato and arpeggios. On the other hand, heavy gauge acoustic guitar strings can be difficult for new players to get used to, but if you’re a blues or rock guitarist, you’ll be hard pressed to get that powerful sound from any other string.
Medium gauges are a great middle ground for versatile players that dip into different styles, but don’t own multiple guitars.
This one boils down to preference, but selecting a coated acoustic guitar string prevents the build-up of gunk on your strings. Over time, this dirt that accumulates dulls the tone of your acoustic guitar and promotes corrosion, which in turn leads to broken strings.
The best coated acoustic guitar strings on the market use polymers that minimally interfere with the sound of the string, and closely match the tone of uncoated strings, giving you the benefits of great tone and a long lifespan.
My Reviews Of The Best Strings For Acoustic Guitars
Elixir Strings 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings w NANOWEB Coating, Light (.012-.053)
Elixir is world-renowned for their premium strings, and these 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings with patented Nanoweb coating are loved by guitarists for their smooth action, bright sound, and insane durability.
Not only does the coating protect the strings from corrosion, but it has the added benefit of virtually eliminating finger squeak, making these acoustic guitar strings a great choice if you’re planning to record your work.
With these strings from Elixir, you'll have that "new string sound" for weeks, even with daily use. Yes, they're a bit pricier than some other strings on the market, but your guitar (and your ears) will thank you for it!
Elixir has a huge following in the music business, and some of the biggest names in rock and roll rely on these Bronze 80/20 Nanoweb stings for their signature sounds.
- Extreme corrosion resistance
- Bright tone when compared with other coated strings
- Significantly reduce finger squeak
- Not all players will like the feel of the Nanoweb coating
- Can take a few days to settle and stay in tune
Martin M130 80-20 Silk & Steel Strings Acoustic Guitar
These Martin silk and steel strings for acoustic guitar are a niche product aimed primarily at folk and fingerstyle players.
If you fit into either of those categories, you’re going to love them.
Because of their low tension, they are comfortable for all levels of guitarist, and produce a wonderful, warm tone from the bass, right up to the treble.
If you’re looking for excellent playability, then you should really consider these Martin M130 Silk and Steel acoustic guitar strings. They are the ultimate for fingerpicking, and bend heavy plucking is a breeze with these light strings installed.
It’s worth noting that if you’re playing to an audience, you might have to mic up. These acoustic guitar strings aren’t particularly loud, and the silk (nylon) fibers around the core can make it difficult for pickups to detect the string, leading to unreliable amplification.
- Incredible depth of tone
- Comfortable on the fingertips
- Great playability for intricate work
- Shorter useful life
- Easy to over tighten and break when installing
- Not suited to electro-acoustic guitars
D’Addario EJ16-3D Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light Tension – Corrosion-Resistant Phosphor Bronze
They offer stunning sound, resonance and tone, and top top it all off, they sit at an excellent price point.
Another factor in selecting these D'Addario strings as our top budget pick in this guide to the best acoustic guitar strings is their longevity. These phosphor bronze strings have excellent natural resistance to corrosion, which helps them sound brighter for longer.
The phosphor bronze construction ensures a predictable and balanced tone, and the manufacturing quality that D'Addario's engineers put into these strings means absolute consistency between packets.
- Balanced tone
- Suitable for most styles of play
- Excellent corrosion resistance
- Rougher finish than premium options
- Can lose tune quickly with heavy plucking
D'Addario XT Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light Top/Medium Bottom, 12-56
The high carbon steel core that D’Addario uses in these strings provides exceptional strength, too, which will lead to far fewer broken strings. To top it all off, the superior construction also helps to keep your guitar in tune, even with heavy use.
These strings are perfect for everybody from complete beginner, to recording and live performing professionals.
- Excellent string life
- Enhanced resistance to string breakage
- Incredible tuning stability
- Premium price tag
- Hydrophobic coating isn’t as effective as others on the market
Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze Medium Light Acoustic Set, .012 - .054
As well as a brighter tone, these aluminum bronze strings from Ernie Ball Strings also offer increased natural resistance to corrosion without the need for coating, thanks largely to the aluminum content in the alloy.
Remember, that in gaining the bright tone and longevity that these Ernie Ball strings are famous for, you will be sacrificing sustain.
This isn't such an issue for fast rhythm strumming, but it could be noticeable when holding notes.
Although, if you're looking for a powerful low-end, the maraging hex core of these strings does provide a nice boost at the bass end.
- Excellent projection
- Great low-end note separation
- Exceptional brightness
- Less sustain than 80/20 bronze strings
- Can break easily
My Top Pick: Elixir 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
These strings take first prize in this list of the best acoustic guitar strings. They held their own against the best of the best, which is why we’ve decided to make them our top pick. They offer pretty much everything a guitarist wants in a set of strings; they sound great, they last a long time, and they feel fantastic under the fingers.
Elixir has a fantastic reputation in the industry for making the best strings for acoustic guitars. These strings are a real game-changer - when you restring with Elixir 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings with Nanoweb Coating, you're going to notice the difference immediately, and you're probably not going to go back to any other strings.
Even Bob Taylor, of Taylor Guitars, agrees when it comes to these how great these Elixirs are, "Sometimes someone comes up with a different idea. It changes all the rules of the game..."
We can’t recommend these strings highly enough for any guitar player looking to get the most out of their instrument and the best possible sound, whether you're a bedroom shredder, a garage band hero, or you're playing to packed stadiums.
Final Thoughts On The Best Strings For Acoustic Guitar
Much like choosing a guitar, choosing the right strings for you is an extremely personal decision. There are a lot of factors that could influence what type of strings you prefer, including your experience, your musical influences, and the type of acoustic guitar you play. There is no wrong answer here, but it's no secret that not all guitar strings are created equal.
Above all else, make sure you choose the highest quality string you can afford. Outside of the guitar itself, there is no bigger influence in the quality of sound your instrument makes, than the strings you use.
Think about it; you wouldn't put regular gas in your Bugatti, right?
So, it stands to reason that if you care about the performance of your car, you should always use the best strings available.