12 Best Acoustic Guitar Strings in 2017
Getting a new guitar is exciting, and many consumers choose to go acoustic their first time out. You smile when you strum the strings for the very first time, although that smile will quickly fade when you pop a string. It’s bound to happen, especially if you are a beginner and not used to tuning guitars.
Some models will come with extras out of the box, but it pays to have spares on hand. Besides being able to get your guitar back in action, new strings can also change your tone or help you play.
The best acoustic guitar strings all share a few things in common. The materials used are what separate the best from the rest, and we’ve included stings for every style of guitarist.
Table of Contents
- Top 12 Acoustic Guitar Strings Ultimate Table
- Classical Acoustic or Traditional Acoustic Guitar?
- String Construction & Tone
- Top 5 Best Acoustic Guitar Strings Reviews
Top 12 Acoustic Guitar Strings Ultimate Table
Classical Acoustic or Traditional Acoustic Guitar?
For beginners, there is little distinction between classical or acoustic guitars at first glance. They have a similar style, and unless you hear them or look at the strings up close, they could be mistaken for one another. You do not want to mix up those strings as it can actually damage your guitar. Acoustic guitars will use strings made of steel or other metals which give them their unique tone.
A classical guitar uses nylon strings with a softer tone, and while they are easier on the fingers, they will not work on a regular acoustic guitar. The bracing and bridges are made for certain types of strings and tension can damage your instrument if you go with the wrong style. Once you wrap your head around what kind of strings you need, it’s time to take a look at the materials used in their construction.
String Construction & Tone
Just like the instruments they go on, the best acoustic guitar strings can come in many forms due to the materials used. With nylon, things are relatively straightforward although you can choose from Clear, Rectified or Black nylon to alter your tone. There are also composite nylon strings that bring other composites into the mix, and using “ball end” replacements are always the best way to go for an incredibly easy installation.
When dealing with regular acoustic guitar strings, things are a bit trickier although the strings still set your tone. Phosphor-Bronze is the most popular with a warm tone, and you can consider coated or uncoated strings as well. Brass strings have a metallic tone, bronze is bright, and then you have Silk & Steel.
These strings are perfect for guitarists that prefer fingers to the pick and want a softer sound. When you see a number like 80/20, that refers the percentage of each material used in the string.
Before we take a look at our Top 5, we need to talk about the string gauge for acoustic guitars. This refers to how thick the strings are, which in turn affects the way you play and the tone in some instances. The gauges go by the numbers in our table above, and you’ll quickly see that a “normal” range is around .012mm to .053 mm from the low E to high E.
For our purposes, we’re going to go with Light to Medium to simply things. Many manufacturers offer up options as well if you like their string, but not the gauge.
We’re going to refer to strings in that class as medium or normal while gauges lower would are considered “light” gauge strings. Light to medium gauges are easier to play in general but can pop easier and aren’t as loud as heavier gauges.
That said, heavier gauge acoustic strings can wear your fingers out until you get used to them as you’ll need to apply more pressure. They are louder and hold notes longer, but not ideal for fragile or vintage instruments due to the extra tension.
Top 5 Best Acoustic Guitar Strings Reviews
Some guitar companies like Martin, Gibson, and Fender make strings for their instruments although they will work on any guitar as long as it’s the right style. D’Addario on the other hand only makes strings for musical instruments including guitars. They are a specialist, and the EJ14-3D strings are the best acoustic guitar strings on the market.
If you’ve been playing guitar for years, you will be familiar with these and beginners will quickly find them to be their best friend. The EJ16-3D acoustic strings come in a three pack, which is great as you’ll have an extra E when if you over tighten the first one.
The set we chose are considered “light” and gauged between .012 and .053 with steel on the high strings and Phosphor-bronze on the rest. These offer a bright tone that’s balanced across the board and will be relatively easy on the fingers for beginners. They are also available in a wide variety of options in case you need something heavier or choose to focus on a particular tone.
The EJ16 guitar strings are available in a single pack or 10-pack if you want to stock up. You can pick them up in a tin with a Micro Headstock tuner or with a String Winder and Cutter. The extra-light strings are the EJ15-3Ds while the medium gauge carries the model number EJ17-3D.
Elixir is another company that knows a thing or two about making quality strings for guitars. They also offer up a unique line of products that sport their “web” coating. In this case, we are going to talk about Polyweb, which is said to give them a softer feel than you’ll find on other 80/20 strings.
The Elixir strings are made from a combination of 80% copper and 20% zinc and coated with the Polyweb above. We went for the medium gauge set which ranges from .013 to .056 and put out a warm, clear tone and feels “fast.”
The coating also provides a degree of protection against corrosion, something many of us have dealt with on cheaper strings. These won’t sound quite like a traditional string although we can’t imagine anyone complaining after he or she hears the first notes strummed.
If Polyweb isn’t your thing, these strings are available in Nanoweb coating as well. The 80/20 Nanoweb strings are extremely bright and the opposite of the Polyweb strings when it comes to tone and feel. Both sound great, but this set is our favorite due to the feel and longevity.
We’re just going to say it. Regardless of rank, Ernie Ball makes some of the best guitar strings on the planet, and we aren’t the only ones that feel that way. In fact, a list of their fans graces the back of their packages. We’re not going to disagree with Townsend, Slash, Clapton or Paul McCartney.
Star power aside, this is a single pack of the Earthwood series Phosphor-bronze strings. They run from .013 to .056 and should be light enough for new guitarists although you can drop down to medium or extra light as well. The latter is .010 to .050, but the construction stays the same across the board.
They are made from a combination of 92% copper, 7.7% tin and 0.3 phosphorus and come in something called “element shield” packaging. It’s a fancy way of saying they are guaranteed to be fresh; something important if you’ve ever picked up old strings.
If you appreciate a well-made string that can give you the tone you need, you should consider the Ernie Ball Earthwood series. They have strings that cover almost every type of playing style and can be purchased in a 3-pack if you want to load up.
D’Addario’s second entry onto our list is also the first nylon strings to make the cut. They carry the model number EJ46 and come from their Pro-Arte lineup. You can’t use these on a regular acoustic, but you may want to scoop up a classical guitar after hearing the sweet tones they can produce.
Unlike some other guitar string models, what you see is what you get this time around. In this case, that includes “laser sorted” trebles which are measured with precision to ensure a constant tone and feel. The gauges on the bass strings are .030, .036, and .044 while the trebles clock in at .0285, .0327, and .0410.
Like we said, precision measured, and it shows when you tune them in and strike your first chord. They are what we would refer to as high-tech guitar strings.
These silver-plated clear nylon strings are durable but considered “hard tension” so they will be loud but harsh on your fingers. That means they may not be the best fit for beginners or those with tender fingers although you won’t get the same kind of tone without this set on your classical guitar.
Some companies just slap their name on the packaging and guitarists know what to expect. Names like Martin and Ernie Ball allow consumers to buy with confidence while other manufacturers don’t have the name recognition, but do produce amazing strings. Vibe is one of them.
Vibe Strings cracked the Top 5 with some heavy gauge strings that are of the Phosphor-bronze variety and promise to offer upper a tone that lasts 3x longer than usual. We cannot confirm or deny that fact but will say these tend to hold up well over time, and not just due to their thickness.
Their girth does help them stay in tune, however, and the gauges run .013, .017, .026, .036, .046, and .058. Beginners will appreciate the fact they are individually labeled and vacuum packed, so they will be fresh even if they sit for a while.
These strings make a lot of promises but are an affordable solution for guitarists looking for something heavier on their acoustic with better sustain. That said, they are also available in light or medium if you are seeking to string multiple guitars or want to switch up your tone at a later date.