10 Best Acoustic Guitar Strings in 2018 – Reviews & Buying Guide

Every experience guitarist knows the importance of their acoustic guitar strings. Different types of strings not only sound differently from one another but their durability is often quite different from model to model. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that different strings feel different and may impact how music is played. Strings which “feel” good to one guitarist may not feel right to another. Personal preference does have to be taken into account.

There’s plenty of things to consider when buying guitar strings, too. Not only does a guitarist have to take into account string composition, but they also have to consider string gauge and what kind of treatments have been applied to the strings to increase their durability. That’s why we’ve listed what we feel are the 10 best acoustic strings currently available. Although not every set is perfect for everyone, one of these sets will please even the pickiest of pickers.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings Reviews & Buying Guide


#10 Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze

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Manufactured with an enduring blend of aluminum and copper, these aluminum bronze strings tend to produce a sound that’s louder and clearer than traditional strings made of bronze. Made with steel hex cores, these strings are also capable of producing crisp high and stronger lows. However, unlike other types of strings, they have improved corrosion resistance that allows them to be played a lot longer before they need to be replaced. And they do it without the need of being coated. They’re available in a variety of gauges including extra light, light and medium gauges, so guitarists have a number of options available to them.

Pros:

  • Has a long string life
  • Manufactured in the USA

Cons:

  • Some guitarists may not like the prominent highs and lows.

#9 Ernie Ball Earthwood 80/20 Bronze

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These strings are manufactured in the United States from high-quality materials and are capable of producing some of the highest notes that you’ll hear on most guitars. However, these strings do seem to be a little bit inconsistent when used on smaller guitars and don’t have a reliable profile from one guitar to the next. Even with that slight problem, however, these strings can produce good quality notes if they are properly wound. They are made using an 80/20 bronze blend and are available in gauges from extra light to light to medium. These are strings which definitely have their fans, as well as their detractors.

Pros:

  • Durable enough for heavy-use
  • Long-lasting composition
  • Has a natural sound
  • Nice high notes

Cons:

  • Must be precisely wound
  • Inconsistent sound quality

#8 Gibson Masterbuilt Premium Phosphor Bronze

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The attention to quality is evident in these strings, even as far as packaging is concerned. They are vacuum-sealed to keep them fresher longer and for extended shelf-life. They are composed of Phosphor Bronze, which gives them a nice sound quality. They have good bass notes and nice treble notes, although they do seem to lack a little bit of brightness and warmth. Having said that, these strings do have a nice feel to them and produce notes that are very consistent from one guitar to the next. They are also reasonably priced for strings of this quality, so the guitarist can change their strings more frequently without having to worry about the additional expense.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Durable
  • Nice treble notes
  • Consistent sound quality

Cons:

  • Lacks brightness & warmth

#7 Vibe Phosphor Bronze Acoustics

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Vacuum-packed for freshness and storage stability, these acoustic guitar strings are always ready to provide the sound the guitarist needs. They are easy enough to be used by both amateurs and professionals alike and produce a sound that has been characterized as warm and bright. It also produces a sound that projects well and remains consistent from one guitar to the next. These strings are made using a high-quality phosphor bronze and contain a quality steel core. They are also fairly flexible and have a well-balanced sound profile. All of which makes them a popular acoustic string.

Pros:

  • Has Nice treble notes
  • Produces warm & bright notes
  • Well-balanced & consistent sound profile
  • Good for beginners & professionals

Cons:

  • More expensive than comparable strings
  • Not as durable as other brands of strings

#6 Fender 80/20 Bronze Wound

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These strings prove the old adage that no guitar is too dull sounding if it’s equipped with the right acoustic strings. These strings are made with an 80/20 bronze composition and produce a sound that makes even dark sound guitars sound great. They produce notes that are warm and bright and are easy enough to be played by both professionals and amateurs alike. They produce clear, even notes that aren’t too soft but aren’t too loud either. Taking all of its features into consideration, it’s easy to see that these strings are worthy of the Fender name and should provide any guitarist with the tonal range they need.

Pros:

  • They’re very inexpensive
  • They’re easy to play
  • These strings have warm & bright notes
  • Projection isn’t too loud.

Cons:

  • Not as durable as more expensive strings

#5 John Pearse 600L Phosphor Bronze

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These acoustic strings have been a long kept secret among country music and bluegrass guitar players, but the secret is out now. They have a nice tension and produce a sound that can only be characterized as sweet, bright and warm. Once played, these notes settle quickly into their long-term sound profile, which is characterized by most guitarists as having a very mellow sound quality. Although they do tend to corrode faster than comparable acoustic strings, they are pretty affordable. Overall, these strings are good ones for anyone who wants to inject a little bit of personality and brightness right into their guitar playing.

Pros:

  • These strings have a nice tension
  • They produce a sweet, bright sound
  • Don’t lose sound quality over time
  • Has a warm and mellow sound profile

Cons:

  • Tend to corrode faster than most other comparable strings

#4 Elixir NanoWeb 80/20 Bronze

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Manufactured with a blend of 800% copper and 20% zinc, these strings are capable of producing high, crisp notes that other strings simply can’t reproduce. They are coated with a NanoWeb coating which gives them a feel that more closely approximates uncoated strings but still provides a level of durability that far surpasses uncoated strings. They are available in light to medium gauge ranges, and all of them are ideal for fingerboard guitar work. They also have a great playability that allows them to be a great string for a professional guitarist to use on a regular basis for all of their performances or jam sessions.

Pros:

  • Great for fingerboard work
  • Holds high notes extremely well
  • They have a nice look to them
  • Hold up well to heavy use

Cons:

  • Must be precisely wound.

#3 D’Addario Phosphor Bronze Light Tension

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These strings are produced by D’Addario, a company that’s been producing quality guitar strings since 1974, and the quality really shows. These high-quality strings produce a sound that’s warm, bright and last longer than some of the other acoustic strings currently available. They feature a hexagonally shaped steel core that’s carefully drawn with a phosphor bronze outer layer. They are manufactured in the U.S and are available in a variety of different string gauges. They are easy-to-wind, are extremely responsive and are extremely durable. If there’s one drawback to these strings, it has to be their lightweight, which some guitarists may not like.

Pros:

  • These strings are easy-to-wind, even by beginners
  • They have a durable construction
  • Extremely flexible and easy to play
  • Made from high-quality materials

Cons:

  • These strings may be too light for some musicians

#2 Martin M170 80/20 Bronze

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Constructed from high-quality materials, these strings are ready to provide a nice rich sound for both professionals and amateur musicians alike. It’s made with a phosphor bronze construction that delivers nice high notes and always has a bright sound, even when it’s been used for a while. Since it’s made with quality and precision in mind, these strings also tend to be more durable than some of the lesser quality strings that can be bought at many music stores. However, that’s not a big surprise because Martin & Co. is a company that’s been making quality acoustic guitar strings for quite a long time.

Pros:

  • Manufactured with high-quality components
  • Is an extremely reliable string
  • Sounds fresher longer than many other acoustic strings
  • Delivers decent highs and a mellow sound profile

Cons:

  • Some musicians may find these strings to be too light.

#1 Elixir Strings 16545 Phosphor Bronze

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Manufactured using high-quality phosphor bronze with a NanoWeb coating to increase durability, it’s easy to see why many musicians won’t use any strings except for these Elixir Strings 16545 acoustic strings. They provide an incredible level of playability that goes simply unmatched by other guitar strings. And it’s not only playable but also delivers high notes quite effectively and easily. Unlike other strings, these strings don’t require precision winding and can actually be wound fairly tight. All of these features come together in these strings which are ideal for anyone who wants the best sound possible from their acoustic guitar.

Pros:

  • Can be wound fairly tightly
  • Extremely durable
  • Very nice looking strings
  • Reaches high notes quite easily

Cons:

  • May not be suitable for unconventionally built guitars.

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Acoustic Guitar Strings Buying Guide

It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced musician or if you just started playing acoustic guitar, there comes a time when you’re going to want to buy the best strings available. Before you can do that, however, you first have to take a few key features into consideration. Only then will you be able to find strings that fit your playing style. Below are a few key features to keep in mind when choosing acoustic guitar strings.

Guitar Type

As a general rule, acoustic guitars and classical guitars use different types of strings. Classical ones have nylon strings, and acoustic guitars have metal strings. And since they’re different, they aren’t interchangeable. Their tensions are different, so if you use the wrong type of strings, you can ultimately ruin your guitar. Another thing that separates classical strings and acoustic guitar strings is how they interface with the bridge. Nylon string guitars tend to tie off at the end, while metal strings will typically have strings with balls on the end.

String Gauge

As just about every guitarist knows, string gauge is a measure of the diameter of the string. Changing gauges can have a dramatic effect on how the music sounds, but it can also affect how the guitar feels when it’s played. Smaller gauge strings tend to be easier to play, but they aren’t as durable and tend to break easily. Higher gauge strings last longer, but they have a louder, heavier sound. So each guitarist has to measure the performance of the strings against durability and playability and choose the set that best suits them. Only then will they find a set that fits their playing style. Below are some of the more common gauges available:

Extra light: 0.010, 0.01, 0.023, 0.030, 0.039, 0.047

Custom light: 0.011, 0.015, 0.023, 0.032, 0.042, 0.052

Light: 0.012, 0.016, 0.025, 0.032, 0.042, 0.054

Medium: 0.013, 0.017, 0.026, 0.035, 0.045, 0.056

Heavy: 0.014, 0.018, 0.027, 0.039, 0.049, 0.059

String Composition

The composition of acoustic guitar strings vary from model to model, but they usually come in one of the 4-different types available. Below are the most common string compositions.

Bronze: These strings are made from a combination of 80% copper and 20% zinc. These strings are usually suitable for just about any type of guitar playing and can easily be recognized by their clear and bright notes. However, they tend to age fairly quickly due to bronze’s predisposition to premature oxidation.

Brass: These strings tend to age well, but they also tend to produce not only harsher notes than other strings, but they also deliver a very definitive metallic pitch.

Steel: Steel strings are known for their tendency to produce a softer and more laid back sound. They also aren’t as loud as other guitar strings and consider to be one of the easiest strings to play. Unfortunately, their ease-of-play comes at a cost because they tend to be less durable than other strings.

Phosphor Bronze: These strings produce bright sounds with just a touch of warmth. These strings tend to last longer than bronze strings and usually produce more of the typical “acoustic” sound when played that most people are accustomed to when they hear an acoustic guitar.

The Coating

Coated strings are available to just about anyone who wants them. When a string is coated, it resists dust, oil, metal, and dirt that the string may pick up while it’s being played. This ensures that it stays brighter longer and also helps prevent the strings from corroding prematurely. Unfortunately, many guitarists feel that there is also a drawback to using coated strings over non-coated strings. They feel that coated guitar strings have a reduced sustain and generally produce a lower output than their non-coated cousins. And this is true to an extent. Although the coating applied to the string protects it from the elements, it also limits how much it can vibrate. That’s how two of the same types of strings can sound so different from one another if one pair had been coated and the other one hadn’t been coated. It’s something that each guitarist is going to have to decide whether or not it makes a difference to them.

Although electric guitars generally have two different types of coated strings, Nickel Plated Steel NANO & Nickel Plated Steel POLY, acoustic guitars have three different types of coated strings.  Here are the three coatings generally available:

80/20 Bronze POLY

80/20 Bronze POLY

Phosphor Bronze NANO

What is the difference between these POLY and NANO coatings? NANO coatings tend to be lighter and more closely approximate the sound of uncoated strings. POLY coatings tend to be heavier, but they have a smoother feel and tend to be more durable.

How Often Should Acoustic Guitar Strings Be Changed?

Although there’s no general rule for how often acoustic strings should be changed, many guitarists change their strings twice a month. Of course, if the guitarist uses the guitar a lot, then they may need to change their strings more often. It might also be time to change them if they have lost some of their brightness or the strings are showing some corrosion. Wiping down the fingerboard and the strings with a dry cloth after every performance will slow the deterioration of the strings due to accumulated dirt, oil, and grime, but they’re still going to have to be changed on a regular basis to keep them sounding good.

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