Best Guitar Strings For Acoustic Guitars

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 Guitar Strings. The last option you have in finding the best kinds of acoustic guitar strings would be to test them all out yourself, but that would be time-consuming and very costly.

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.

The Top 5 Acoustic Guitar Strings

1) Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze

ernie ball earthwood acoustic strings
Ernie Ball 2146 Earthwood Medium Light Acoustic Phosphor Bronze String Set (12 – 54)

These have always been my first choice and go to string when it comes to the 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. 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

Ernie Ball: Earthwood Acoustic Guitar Strings - Demo with Axe-FX II

2) D’addario Phosphor Bronze

d'addario phosphor bronze
D’Addario EJ16-3D Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light

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 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

elixir 80/20

Elixir Strings 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings w NANOWEB Coating, Light (.012-.053)

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 make these just as susceptible to breaking than 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 for 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

Martin Phosphor bronze strings
Martin MSP4150 SP Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light/Medium

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 Earthwoods.

Sound: Warm & bright

5) Dean Markley Blue Steel Acoustic Guitar Strings

dean markley blue steel

Dean Markley 2034 Blue Steel LT Acoustic Guitar Strings 2-Pack (0.11-.052)

I’m about to let you in on acoustic guitar strings best-kept secret. ..It’s the Dean Markley Blue Steel acoustic guitar strings.  In my honest opinion, these are some of the best sounding acoustic guitar strings I’ve ever used. The only problem is that they can quickly rust when exposed to moisture and/or sweat. It is a shame these aren’t more well known amongst guitar players. But I suppose they aren’t as advertised as Ernie Ball or D’addario etc.

Sound: resonant / crispy /

6) Ernie Ball paradigm 80/20

top rated acoustic guitar strings
Ernie Ball 2086 80/20 Bronze Paradigm Acoustic Guitar String, Medium-Light

These are some of the newest guitar strings on the market for both acoustics and electric. They’re meant to be revolutionary and change everything. Why you may ask? Well, these claim to essentially be completely resistant to breaking. From the video, you can really hear the brightness from the 80/20 bronze strings and they sound great. The sad part is that I’ve yet to try these and hope to update this section as soon as I’ve given these a good bash around. Keep an eye out for it. They’re also available in phosphor bronze. Perhaps that craziest thing about these acoustic strings is that Ernie Ball will replace these for you if you break a string (or it rusts) within 90 days. I’m almost 100% there are no other guarantees even close to that.

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 Size String Gauge do I need for my Acoustic?

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.

Heavy Gauge

The downside of having a heavier gauge or a thicker string is that it will be more difficult to play and will be unforgiving to your fingertips. Unless you already have calluses on your fingers like a rock star, you would have to compromise amid playability and tone. This will be painful initially but callus and frequent practice will lessen the pain gradually.

Light Gauge

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.

Do I want coated or Non Coated acoustic guitar 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.

The Reference point

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, 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.

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