12 Best Electric Guitar Strings in 2018
As guitar players, we may spend a good portion of our musical careers searching for the right strings to fit our sound. Should you get coated strings or uncoated? What gauge is ideal for your playing style and rig?
All these questions can seem daunting, but we’ve put together a buying guide to help answer all of them! We’ll teach you how to get the best electric guitar strings for your money and show you some of our favorites.
Here are our picks for top-performing electric guitar strings.
Top 12 Electric Guitar Strings Comparison Chart
|1. Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Set||.010-.046 inch||No||4.7|
|2. GHS Strings Electric Guitar Boomer Set||.009-.042 inch||No||4.7|
|3. Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom Nickel Wound Set||.010-.052 inch||No||4.7|
|4. D’Addario NYXL1152 Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings||.011-.052 inch||No||4.6|
|5. Fender 150R Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings||.010-.046 inch||No||4.6|
|6. Elixir Strings 19052 Coated Nickel Electric Guitar Strings||.010-.046 inch||Yes||4.5|
|7. Dunlop RWN0738 Reverend Willy Electric Guitar Strings||.007-.038 inch||No||4.5|
|8. Gibson Brite Wires Electric Guitar Strings||.010-.046 inch||No||4.5|
|9. Dunlop DHCN1254 Heavy Core Nickel Wound Guitar StringsDunlop DHCN1254 Heavy Core Nickel Wound||.012-.054 inch||Yes||4.4|
|10. Dunlop DHCN1254 Heavy Core Nickel Wound Guitar Strings||.010-.046 inch||No||4.4|
|11. DR Strings NMCE-10 DR NEON Electric Strings||.010-.046 inch||Yes||4.2|
|12. DR Strings Electric Guitar Strings, Black Beauties||.010-.046 inch||Yes||3.7|
Find The Perfect String for the Perfect Tone
Now that we’ve seen some of the most popular strings being played by guitar players all over the world, it’s time to find a set that works for you. While there are many factors to consider when buying a set of strings, the best electric guitar strings are ones that fit your playing style and tone needs.
With that in mind, here are some of the questions you should be asking yourself when looking for your new favorite strings:
What Gauge Should I Use? – The gauge of a string refers to its diameter. The first number is typically the high E string and the last is the low E. Most of the time the strings in between are the same diameter across sets, with the exception of custom gauge sets. But what is the difference between a light (low diameter) gauge and a heavy (high diameter) one?
- Lighter Gauges – Light strings (which start at .010-.046 inch) are great for new players who haven’t built up finger dexterity or calluses because they are easier to bend and fret. For this reason, lead guitar players who do a lot of soloing also tend to choose light strings.
- Heavier Gauges – Heavy gauge strings (starting at .012-.054 inch, usually) are for those of us who are heavy strummers because they are more durable and less susceptible to accidental bending when playing rhythm guitar because of their ability to hold tension. These qualities also make heavy gauges great for slide guitarists or those with low-action necks.
Should I Go with a Coated String? –In 1997, popular guitar string company Elixir developed their Nanoweb™ coating technology. The coating is used to keep debris such as dust or skin particles from getting wedged in the winding of the string. This allows a guitar string to maintain its tonal qualities longer so you don’t have to change strings as often.
- Coated String Pros – The coating allows for easier finger movement while reducing finger noise and keeping debris from deadening your strings’ tone.
- Coated String Cons – Coated strings tend to lack the brightness of uncoated strings and are usually more expensive, too. Now many companies have coated string options, so if you think they are for you can probably give them a try with your favorite brand.
Hex Core or Round Core? – Traditionally, electric guitar strings have a round, steel core with nickel wire wrapped around it. Manufacturers eventually discovered that hexagonal core allows for a more precise wind in their strings, which lead to hex core strings becoming somewhat of an industry standard.
- Hex Core Strings – In general, hex core strings are stiffer and have a stronger attack, but the hex core also lessens the sustain in the notes.
- Round Core Strings – Round core strings are more flexible and come with a warmer, gentler tone and more sustain. However the tone of round core strings can be inconsistent.
As you can see, it’s no easy to task to select the perfect guitar string. As musicians, all we can do is study up and experiment to find what feels right. You should have a pretty good idea of what you are looking for now, so let’s take a closer look at some of the top electric guitar strings on the market right now.
Top 5 Best Electric Guitar Strings Reviews
Ernie Ball is a prolific guitar string manufacturer. They made our list twice, but our number one electric guitar string pick is their iconic set, the Regular Slinky. Used by famous guitarists like Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, here’s what Ernie Ball’s Regular Slinky strings can offer you:
- Element Shield Packaging – Once you find the right string, it’s time to buy in bulk. Ernie Ball’s corrosion resistant packaging allows these strings to be stored away and still be good as new when you finally put them on.
- Hex Core – The tin-plated, high carbon hexagonal core gives these strings a precision wrap for long-lasting, consistent tone.
- Lock Twists – The plain steel strings in the Regular Slinky set are secured with lock twists to prevent slippage and increase the strings’ longevity.
Ernie Ball’s Regular Slinky Strings provide a tone with warm lows and bright high end that lasts all wrapped up in an affordable package. Because of this, we think they are among the best electric guitar strings money can buy.
GHS is another popular string manufacturer, their Boomer series being their most well known set. This particular Boomer set is a lighter gauge at .009-.042 inch, so they are ideal for a player who likes to do a lot of bending and other lead work.
- Round Core – Round core strings are less available than hex core strings but they do offer a unique, vintage tone that hex core strings can’t. The round core gives the GHS Boomers great sustain as well.
- Individually Packaged – To keep your valuable strings safe, these are wrapped individually within a nitrogen seal. This keeps all the oxygen off your strings so they don’t oxidize in the packaging while in storage.
- Bright tone – The round core of these strings give them their warmth, but the light gauge and nickel-plating still allow for clean, sparkly high end in your rig. This is a definite plus in a round core string.
Because of the brightness and sustain that GHS Boomer’s provide, we think these ultra-light strings would be great for lead guitar players looking to cut through the mix.
These Ernie Ball hybrid strings combine the technology that makes Ernie Ball so great with a custom gauge that allows for versatile playing and classic Ernie Ball tone.
- Custom Gauge – The low strings (EAD) are heavier gauged strings while the high strings (GBe) are light gauge. It may seem arbitrary but in fact, this allows guitar players who do a lot of strumming and picking to get the best of both worlds: rigid low end for chunky rhythm playing and “slinky” high end for soloing.
- Nickel-Plated Steel Wrap Wire – Ernie Ball’s wrap wire is coated in nickel for a balanced, consistent tone. The nickel-plating adds a brightness that plain steel wrap wire can’t.
On the negative side, the high tension from the heavy gauge strings can lead to breakage of your higher, light gauge strings. This can be avoided by replacing your strings one at a time instead of taking all six off at once.
Despite the higher chance of breakage, we still think that Ernie Ball’s Skinny Top Heavy Bottom electric guitar strings are a great choice for guitarists that play rhythm and lead interchangeably.
These strings were built for the heavy hitters among us. D’Addario is a well-respected guitar string manufacturer and they finally put out a set that can stand up to rock and roll and heavy metal players.
- Superior Strength – The NYXL electric guitar string is built with a high carbon steel/plain steel alloy core. That may seem very technical but what it means is that these strings are strong. They can stand up to heavy strumming and keep up with you through some outrageous bends.
- Custom Gauge – Like our number 3 pick, these are custom gauged strings with a medium top and heavy bottom. From that comes a tight low-end tone combined with the cutting high end needed to cut through your band’s mix.
- Steady Tune – The same technology that keeps these strings from breaking, also keeps them in tune. You don’t have time to tune in between every song during your set, especially at a fast-paced rock show. D’Addario’s NYXL strings have you covered.
D’Addario’s NYXL strings are our top recommendation for those of you who play hard and bend often.
Fender is mostly known for their guitars but they put out some good, standard strings as well. Great for blues to classic rock, these pure nickel strings have that vintage tone you always hear in your head when you look at a Stratocaster™.
- Classic Design – Fender’s 150Rs are based off the classic fender string design. There’s no fancy coating or hex core, just a solid steel wire wrapped in pure nickel for the warm tone’s Fender is known for.
- Modern Durability – The reason we like these strings is because they offer a classic feel, but Fender has incorporated new manufacturing technologies to make it as durable and long-lasting as a “modern” made string.
If you are looking for a simple string that gets the job done, definitely try out Fender’s 150R electric guitar strings.