In the market today, there are a lot of choices when it comes to choosing strings for your acoustic guitar. But the hard part is choosing the best acoustic strings for your sound and performance preferences.
An option you have would be to test all the strings out yourself. but that would be time-consuming and very costly. That is where I can help.
- 1) Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze
- 2) D’addario Phosphor Bronze
- 3) Elixir 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
- 4) Martin SP Phosphor Bronze
- 5) Dean Markley Blue Steel Acoustic Guitar Strings
- 6) Ernie Ball paradigm 80/20
- How Do I Choose Guitar Strings?
- Electric vs Acoustic Guitar Strings, Difference?
- What Gauge Strings Are Best For Acoustic Guitar?
- What Material guitar string do I choose?
- Coated vs Non-Coated Strings
- My Reference point for this review
- How To Know When To Change Your Strings
When it comes to acoustic guitar strings, deciding which ones to use can be a very tough decision. And, often overwhelming due to the large selection of acoustic strings available on the market.
This is often even the case with guitar players that have been playing for a long time. Many guitar players will just buy what the man behind the counter sells them or just use a brand that they’ve heard in passing.
But, the type of string you decide to get for your acoustic guitar needs to be well thought out and planned accordingly.
|Ernie Ball Earthwood||D'Addario Phosphor Bronze||Martin Superior Performance||Ernie Ball Paradigm Long Life|
|My Top Rated||Internet's Top Rated||Budget-Friendly||Unbreakable!|
Below are my honest reviews of the strings that I have personally used and that I recommend to most guitar players. After the reviews, you will find my buyers guide to finding the best acoustic strings for you.
1) Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze
These have always been my first choice and go-to string when it comes to acoustic guitar. Why are these the best? Many reasons: They’re the most popular and best-selling string but they sound good first and foremost.
They’re also the choice for some of the top guitar players in the world. These include John Mayer and Paul McCartney just to name a few. Ernie Ball is also known for making great accessories such as picks. Check out my comprehensive review of Ernie Balls’ guitar picks.
They’re affordable whilst maintaining the high-quality Ernie Ball strings are known for. The downside I find to these, however, is that they won’t last as long as some others on the market. By this, I mean that due to sweat and moisture, the life in the string won’t last.
When it comes to breakages I actually seemed to have broken these the least even compared to the elixir. When it comes to sound these are my favorites by far. They produce overtones that I love and find harder to hear on other string brands.
Sound: alive/lively/overtones/ warmth/ clear
2) D’addario Phosphor Bronze
In recent years, these phosphor bronze acoustic guitar strings by D’addario have become somewhat of the industry benchmark. I’d say the D’addario phosphor bronze is one of those choices where you simply don’t lose as you are guaranteed a consistently good guitar string from every packet.
I’ve used these many times as a change to my usual choice above and I’ve never been let down. What I love about the D’addario’s is how long life stays in the string even when exposed to moisture and sweat.
This still impresses me and I still use these D’addario phosphor bronze on some of my acoustic guitars. If you’re confused by everything I’ve said then I recommend these as they are perfect for those first-time buyers.
Sound: Balanced/ Warmth / Bright
3) Elixir 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
When it comes to the Elixir 80/20 acoustic guitar strings It may sound like I have a problem with them. Which I certainly do not. Therefore I have to state before I criticize them that I still maintain the fact that these are the longest-lasting strings.
However, there’s a big misconception that people think these Elixir’s are unbreakable. But I learned the hard way that the way in which I strike the strings makes these just as susceptible to breaking as any other string on market.
Having said that, where I believe the Elixir string shine is in the long term. This may not make sense but basically, when you put them on they don’t sound pleasing to my ear. But the longer they stay on the better they sound.
I believe this is the point of these strings and the reason why they cost so much more. They’re also coated which is something I’ve never enjoyed when it comes to guitar strings but you might prefer the coating.
I definitely suggest giving these a test as I don’t think they’ll disappoint. I also find after a long time of use, the coating tends to come off. A lot of High-end acoustic guitars come with this brand of string from the factory.
Sound: Brighter/ Balanced
4) Martin SP Phosphor Bronze
I kinda liked these back when I was a beginner guitar player. The reason is that for whatever reason, these didn’t hurt my fingers as much.
I decided in later years to give these a go on my acoustic guitars again and I was actually very surprised and pleased at the sound and feel of them. The Martin SP acoustic strings actually reminded me a lot of my favorite acoustic strings, the Ernie Ball Earthwood.
The tin-plated core wire on all six acoustic strings provides a fuller and more balanced tone. As well as a quicker response, and increased tuning stability. Making them a great option for both beginners and experienced players alike.
Sound: Warm & bright
5) Dean Markley Blue Steel Acoustic Guitar Strings
In my opinion, one of the best-kept secrets in the world of acoustic guitar strings is the Dean Markley Blue Steel strings. These strings produce a brilliant, richly resonant, and responsive tone that packs a punch. If standing out in your band or cutting through a mix is what you need, look no further!
The feel of these strings is also great. making them a joy to play. The only downside is that they can rust pretty quickly if exposed to moisture or sweat. Which is something that happens to me every time I play a gig. It’s a shame that these strings aren’t as well-known as some of the other big names like Ernie Ball or D’Addario. But I suppose they’re just not as heavily advertised.
One of the things that make the Blue Steel strings so special is the fact that they are cryogenically activated. The strings are crafted of 92% copper and 8% zinc, and then frozen with a blast of liquid nitrogen to -320ºF. This process tightens the molecules and minimizes microscopic gaps. Thus, removing transient frequencies that can produce unwanted overtones. As a result, the Blue Steel strings deliver a more consistent string. With a truer tone, and a longer life.
Overall, a great choice for guitar players of all styles and levels.
6) Ernie Ball paradigm 80/20
Ernie Ball Paradigms are the newest innovation in guitar strings for both acoustic and electric players. These strings promise resistance to breaking and extended string life.
What’s unique about these strings is that Ernie Ball offers a 90-day guarantee to replace any strings that break or rust during that time. This kind of guarantee is unmatched and shows how confident they are in their new state-of-the-art wire drawing process combined with patented RPS (reinforced plain string) technology.
The combination of Everlast nanotreatment and revolutionary plasma-enhanced wrap wire ensures that the strings repel oils, resist corrosion, and keep your tone alive for longer. Ernie Ball’s iconic Earthwood tone and feel are fused with ultimate strength for long-lasting durability. Phosphor Bronze produces warm, rich tones with excellent projection and clarity.
In my opinion, they feel slightly different from most strings I have tried. I’m not sure at this point if I like the feel or not. But either way, I am super impressed with the longevity of these strings. I played a gig with these strings on. Packed my guitar away for the holidays and came back after a few months to see the strings were as new as the day I put them on. So overall, these strings are great for performing. But I’m not sure I’d use them for recording.
How Do I Choose Guitar Strings?
When it comes to acoustic guitar strings, there are many options available on the market. The type of strings you choose can significantly impact the sound and tone of your guitar. It can also drastically impact your playing experience. There are definitely some factors to consider when choosing the best strings for your acoustic guitar.
Sound and Tone:
One of the most important aspects to consider when choosing strings is the sound and tone that you want to achieve. Strings can have warm tones, bright tones, or balanced tones. This will all depend on the materials used in production and the thickness of the wire. For example, steel strings are known for their bright and punchy sound. While nickel strings produce a warmer and more mellow tone. Thinner strings on the other hand will produce a brighter sound. Conversely, heavier strings will produce a fuller and deeper tone.
Another factor to consider is durability. How long will the strings last before needing to be replaced? This will almost always come down to how much you play. As well as how much sweat and debris you get onto your strings. However, some strings are more durable than others. Coatings usually have a lot to do with this. Coated strings tend to last longer than uncoated strings. But, they can also affect the sound and tone of the guitar. If you are a frequent player, you may want to consider investing in strings that can withstand the wear and tear of frequent playing.
Your playing style also affects the strings you choose. If you are anything like me and play with a lot of strength and aggression, you may want to choose strings that can handle the tension and pressure. Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way by breaking strings live on stage in front of thousands of people. Alternatively, if you have more delicate hands, you may prefer lighter gauge strings that are generally easier to play. Lighter gauges are generally better suited for beginners.
Do you play in standard tuning or experiment with alternate tunings? Some strings are better suited for certain tunings, so it is important to consider the tunings you use when selecting strings. For example, if you play drop tunings then heavier strings are definitely better suited. This is because lower tunings will have less tension. Therefore using light-gauged strings with drop tunings will sound and feel like elastic bands.
Price is always a consideration when making any purchase. And strings are no exception. Strings can range from budget-friendly to high-end. Furthermore, the price can impact the overall quality and sound of the strings.
Electric vs Acoustic Guitar Strings, Difference?
Although at first glance, the electric and acoustic guitar strings look similar, they are in fact very different and serve different functions whilst maintaining the same application of course.
Electric guitar strings have been designed specifically for electric guitar. What does this mean exactly? Well, when playing electric guitar your sound is coming from an amplifier and not the guitar strings.
What’s happening here is that the strings are being picked up by magnets and then amplified so the sound of the strings doesn’t really matter (although I know many will disagree with me). However, for acoustic guitar, the opposite of this is the case.
The strings are not being amplified and so, therefore, the organic sound of the string is what you hear. That is why even an old guitar string will sound different to how it was when it was new on the same guitar.
Another important thing to consider is that choosing the gauge of the string for an acoustic should not be approached in the same way as an electric. I’d say each deserves its own decision-making process.
What Gauge Strings Are Best For Acoustic Guitar?
In the simplest sense, string gauge is the thickness of the string. The thicker the string, the lower or heavier the gauge is.
This may sound like a deal-breaker, and it would be understandable if you would want to immediately buy the thickest kinds of string, but this, of course, comes with a downside.
In addition to the difficulties in playing and finger pain, heavy gauge strings can also pose a challenge for guitar setup and maintenance. The increased tension of heavy gauge strings can cause the guitar’s neck to bow or warp, leading to issues with intonation and action.
It’s also worth noting that heavy gauge strings may not be suitable for all playing styles or genres of music. While they may produce a rich, full-bodied tone with plenty of sustain, they may not be as well-suited for delicate fingerpicking or intricate lead lines.
That said, heavy gauge strings can be a great choice for players who prefer a more powerful, punchy sound and are willing to put in the time and effort to develop their technique and build up their finger strength. As with any guitar string, it ultimately comes down to personal preference and playing style.
Heavy gauge strings typically range from .013 to .059 inches in diameter. However, different manufacturers may have slightly different measurements for their heavy gauge strings, so it’s always a good idea to check the specific string set you are interested in to see the exact gauges.
Medium gauge acoustic guitar strings typically have a thickness range of .013 to .056 inches, with variations between manufacturers. They are considered a good all-around choice for most playing styles, offering a balance between playability and tone. Medium gauge strings are suitable for players who strum and fingerpick, and provide a balanced tone with a good mix of bass, midrange, and treble frequencies.
They are also a good option for players who use alternate tunings or need to bend strings frequently. However, they may require slightly more finger pressure to play compared to light gauge strings, and may not be suitable for players who prefer a more delicate touch or those who need a bright, high-end sparkle in their tone.
Thinner strings have higher gauges. A string with a higher gauge allows you to have more control but the downside to this is that lighter gauges are easier to bend which makes your notes sound sharp.
String gauge can affect the tone of your music so you have to make sure that your guitar has been set up properly.
The question says “size” although I believe the correct term to use is Gauge. So this is actually a very tough question to answer because there are a few factors and personal preferences you need to take into account.
Firstly, the type of music and the sound you want to achieve will dictate what gauge you decide. For example, if you’re playing mainly lead lines and licks on the acoustic then you’ll most likely want a thinner or lighter gauge.
If you’re strumming the guitar hard then you’ll most likely want a heavier gauge. If you’re unsure I’d suggest an 11 gauge pack, to begin with then you can either work your way down or up according to your preference. Gauge is, unfortunately, the hardest thing to suggest because I honestly feel it is all about personal preference.
What Material guitar string do I choose?
When it comes to choosing the material of the guitar string for you I’d say that there are probably two common choices. These are phosphor bronze & 80/20 bronze.
There are other materials out there such as steel which aren’t as popular as the other two. Each material has its own unique sound. For example, the 80/20 bronze strings will give you a much brighter sound and closer to a vintage tone. Whilst the phosphor bronze is more of an overall balanced and warm tone.
Consider the sound and type of music you’re looking to be playing on the acoustic guitar. Acoustic Guitars Strings can be made from Nickel, Bronze, Phosphor Bronze, Stainless and Silk, and Steel.
Also, nylon strings can be found on flamenco guitars, however, for this, we’re looking at the metal/steel strings.
Coated vs Non-Coated Strings
This is another one of those personal preferences. Most coated strings are done so for a reason and that is to ensure that they last much longer than uncoated strings.
However, my personal preference dictates that I do not like coating but if you’ve never tried them before, it is worth giving them a shot. I feel that some of the overtones and resonance of the guitar strings are lost when using coated acoustic guitar strings.
My Reference point for this review
The way in which I’ll be reviewing the following strings is by the experience I’ve had playing acoustic guitar as a session guitarist for many years.
The way in which I play the acoustic guitar is by playing and strumming with a lot of passion and feeling. This means I really bash the guitar around.
My guitar and strings I use to take a right beating and I’ve broken many strings and gone through many packs of strings. This has led me to try string-changing tools, liquids, and cleaners as well as polishing my strings and everything in between.
How To Know When To Change Your Strings
Depending on your preferred playing style and sound quality you may want to change your strings more or less frequently. Someone who prefers the bright sound of new strings will change their strings more regularly than someone who prefers the mellower tone of a set of well-used and slightly old strings.
For those of you who don’t know, brighter strings have a much sound when you strike them because they are still tense and react and move faster than a mellow set of strings which are quite loose and are easy to bend up and down because they offer little resistance compared to a new set of strings.
No matter what sound you prefer there is 1 tip that can help them retain their new sound longer and increase the amount of time before you will need to change strings again.
What are the best acoustic guitar strings for beginners?
It depends on the player’s preferences and playing style. Generally, lighter gauge strings are easier on the fingers and are good for beginners. Popular options include Martin SP 80/20 Bronze, D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze, and Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze.
How often should I change my acoustic guitar strings?
It’s recommended to change your strings every 3-4 months with regular playing, or more frequently if you play often or notice a decrease in sound quality.
What gauge of acoustic guitar strings should I use?
This depends on your playing style and personal preference. Lighter gauge strings are easier to play and good for strumming, while heavier gauge strings are better for fingerpicking and producing a richer tone. Popular options include light (0.012-0.053), medium (0.013-0.056), and heavy (0.014-0.059).
What is the difference between 80/20 Bronze and Phosphor Bronze strings?
80/20 Bronze strings are made of 80% copper and 20% zinc and have a brighter, crisper sound. Phosphor Bronze strings are made of 92% copper and 8% tin with a small amount of phosphorus added, resulting in a warmer, more mellow tone.
What is the best brand of acoustic guitar strings?
This is subjective and varies from player to player. Popular brands include Martin, D’Addario, Ernie Ball, Elixir, and more. It’s best to try out different brands and gauges to see which works best for you and your playing style.
Hey, fellow guitar mate! I’m Justin, I have been a professional guitarist since 2012. I have traveled the world playing on different stages alongside some of the best indie bands, at some of the biggest music festivals in the world. As a result, I’ve played lots of different guitar gear. Instead of keeping that knowledge to myself, I have set up this site to share my honest reviews of various guitar gear. But most notably, my love for guitar picks.