12 Best Guitar Strings for Metal in 2017

Finding the best guitar strings for metal isn’t just about getting the best sound, but it’s also about getting the right feel for your playing style. It sounds complicated because there are as many different kinds of strings as there are guitar styles, but we’ve done some of the legwork, and we think we’ve got a selection of guitar strings that will give you a head start.

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing some blazing solos or if you’re just providing the powerful rhythm guitar, we’ve got the string that is going to make you sound and feel like a well-seasoned metal god.

Top 12 Guitar Strings for Metal Ultimate Table

DesignNameWinding TypeGaugeRating (1-5)
  1. Elixir Strings 16542 Electric Guitar Strings Round-wound Light 4.9
  2. D’Addario EXL110-10P Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings Round-woundLight to Medium 4.8
  3. Ernie Ball 2221 Nickel Regular Slinky Electric Guitar Strings Round-wound Regular4.8
  4. Ernie Ball 2223 Nickel Super Slinky Pink Electric Guitar Strings Round-wound Light 4.7
  5. GHS Strings GBL Guitar Boomers, Nickel-Plated Electric Guitar Strings Round-wound Light 4.7
6. Gibson Vintage Reissue Electric Guitar Strings Round-wound Medium 4.7
7. D’Addario EJ45TT ProArte DynaCore Classical Guitar Strings Flat-wound Regular 4.7
8. Fender 150R Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings Half-round Light 4.6
  9. Gibson Brite Wires Electric Guitar Strings Round Light 4.6
  10. Dean Markley Blue Steel Electric Guitar Strings Round-wound Light 4.5
  11. Ernie Ball Cobalt Regular Slinky Set Round-wound Light 4.4
  12. Dunlop DHCN1254 Heavy Core Nickel Wound Guitar Strings Round-wound Heavy 4.4

How to Choose Your Guitar Strings

Choosing the best guitar strings for metal can be a personal decision, but we really believe that there aren’t that many wrong answers. Your skill level, your preferred musical style, and the size and strength of your hands all come into play when choosing strings.

When we talk about “gauge,” we’re talking about the thickness of a string. Heavier gauge strings are thicker, and lighter gauge strings are thinner. As a rule of thumb, from thick to thin, string gauges are usually called heavy, medium, light, super-light, and then ultra-light.

  • Rhythm or Lead? – Not all metal is the same, and every band needs members who know how to handle their particular specialties. So what’s your playing style?

If you’re the master of the face-melting, high-end, blistering solo, then you may want lighter strings with a quicker action so you can keep your fingers on the move. You’re also prone to break strings if you play this way, so you may want to keep an extra set or three on hand.

Every band needs a powerful, shredding rhythm guitar to handle the crunching low-end that no respectable metal act would be without. If you’re that guy (or gal), then you may want heavier strings. Heavier strings can take the abuse of heavy strumming, and they’re easier to tune down into some rich, low-end areas can really drive a song.

  • Thick or Thin? – While this will eventually be a matter of personal preference, as a general rule, we think that newer players should play with lighter gauge strings. These strings are easier to play and an excellent way to train your hands while you learn cords, and to train your picking or strumming hand as you strike the strings. Heavy gauge strings do require more hand strength to play, and while they break less often, they do exert more stress on the neck of your guitar.

More experienced players will find that they’re particular playing style will have a lot to do with the appropriate thickness. Fast players who lean towards rock, metal or other styles that employ intricate picking may find that light gauge strings let them move faster. Lighter gauge strings do have a tendency to break more often, but that also means that they place less stress on the neck of your guitar.

Getting All Wound Up

Strings are almost always made from conductive metal alloys like nickel, steel, or nickel-plated stainless steel. While they high strings are often a single strand of metal, the lower strings will have a winding wire wrapped around their core, and different winding styles have different sounds.

Flatwound strings are very smooth and have a darker, less dynamic sound. They’re popular with jazz and blues guitarists for their straightforward tone.

Round-wound strings are the most popular and can be recognized by the ridged texture. They produce more sustain and a bright, responsive noise, which is why they’re very popular for rock and modern styles.

Half-round is somewhere in the middle between flat-wound and round-wound. They have a slightly darker tone that round-wound, but they still offer a little more variety and playability.

Always Keep Extras Handy

When you’re shopping for strings, it never hurts to have a few extra. Strings break, and while you’re trying to figure out which ones you prefer, having a few different kinds lets you get more experience with different sounds and textures. A side-by-side comparison can be important in helping you find out which type of string you prefer. Buying in bulk is also a great way to save money, and if you break a string without a replacement, the music stops.

Top 5 Best Guitar Strings for Metal Reviews

1. Elixir Strings 16542 Electric Guitar Strings

Elixir is the new kid on the block, having only been in the guitar string market since 1995. They’ve made a big splash, however, and you’ll get to see why when you try out this light-gauge set with their proprietary Nanoweb coating. This durable string is excellent for beginning metal-heads.

Nanoweb is a microscopically thin layer of polymer coating that adds extra durability to the string while giving it an improved sustain and tone when you play. We think this is increasingly evident in this set because the Nanoweb coating adds life to a set of light strings. Nanoweb coated light strings are less likely to break that uncoated light-gauge strings.

This is also a three-pack set, which means that you’re set for strings for quite some time.

2. D’Addario EXL110-10P Nickel Wound

D’addario is a big name in guitar strings, and this set will show you why. It’s a few more dollars, but this set gives you ten packs of their best-selling string set. The name may sound fancy, but D’addario supplies strings to bands like Metallica and Judas Priest.

The round-wound strings deliver a bright, active tone that’s easy to play, making this a great choice for any number of musical styles. D’addario’s strings are also corrosion-resistant, so you don’t need to worry about rust stealing the tone for your strings or causing those strings to break.

The quality is superb, and once you start using them, you might find it hard to change.

If you do change, we can definitely see you running back to these after you’ve tried a few others: they’re just that good.

3. Ernie Ball 2221 Nickel Regular Slinky

Ernie Ball started selling his Slinky line of strings in his California store in the early 1960s, and before long his signature line was the string of choice for the Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, Steve Vai, and the Ventures.

You’re playing a bit of musical history here, and we think you’ll love the way it sounds. This medium-gauge set is excellent for beginners or experienced players alike. People who love Slinkys keep talking about the bright tone and exceptional playability of these strings. This pack also includes six sets, which is going to keep you rocking for a long, long time.

The quality is pretty good in this price range, so if you wanted to spend a little less than you would on the D’Addario strings, these would be a good choice.

4. Ernie Ball 2223 Nickel Super Slinky

It should be no surprise that Ernie Ball’s Slinkys show up twice on this list. The pinks are going to be a little bit lighter than the Regulars, and that just means faster action and a greater shred-ability for this high-end string.

The precision and tone that you expect are here, so this is going to be a great choice for playing metal. We think this gauge is a little more suited to solos and detailed pick-work, so if you’re the front man, you may want to go pink instead of orange.

Another reason to love Ernie Ball strings is the fact that you can find them pretty much anywhere; if you’re out on the road and run into a string jam, head to the nearest specialty store and chances are you’ll find them.

5. GHS Strings GBL Guitar Boomers, Nickel-Plated

The GHS Boomer is called a power string, and that’s a title that is earned. This string features a hex-core with a round-wound exterior of nickel-plated steel.

The sound is extremely bright, and when it’s run through your amp and pedals, the tone and clarity really comes to life. GHS has been making high-quality strings for decades, and the powerful attack of the Boomer line has made it their best seller.

The only downside we see is that this string encourages you to play loud, and this is only a single pack of strings, so if you break one, you’ll wish you had extras. We like this string, but we think you might want to order one or two more packages.

Final Thoughts

We think that if you make a selection from our list, you’re definitely not going to be disappointed. What really matters is getting the best guitar strings for metal that help you play your heart out.

While we can’t predict your taste, if you’re playing an acoustic guitar, Martin’s Phosphor Bronze strings will not let you down. The tone is superb, and if nothing else, you can be confident that you’re playing strings made by people who understand everything about guitars.

The Elixir Nanoweb is one of the most high-tech strings that you’re going to find, and we think if you’re a new player, then it’s where you need to go. Beginners are going to stress their strings through rough playing and tight tuning, so if you can save a few bucks by not breaking strings, Elixir is the way to go.

Remember how we were talking about personal preference? Well, we know that the D’Addario Electric strings are higher-rated, but we are suckers for the classics, and those Ernie Ball Slinkys are hands-down our personal favorites.

Lead guitarists should go for the Pink Slinky, and the rhythm guy should go for the orange.