Looking for the best acoustic guitar strings? Look no further – we got you covered.

First thing’s first – we take you through the different things to consider while shopping for your acoustic guitar strings a.k.a. buying guide.

But for those who can’t wait, here’s a quick summary of the top 11 picks for the best acoustic guitar strings:

PRODUCT NAME RATING JUMP TO CHECK PRICE
Elixir 80/20 Bronze NANOWEB Learn More

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Elixir 80/20 Bronze POLYWEB Learn More

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Martin SP Series Learn More

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Martin M540 Phosphor Bronze Learn More

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Martin MM12 Retro Learn More

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D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze Learn More

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D’Addario EJ17 Phosphor Bronze Learn More

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D’Addario EXP16 Coated Phosphor Bronze Learn More

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Ernie Ball Earthwood Phosphor Bronze Learn More

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John Pearse 600L Phosphor Bronze Learn More

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Dean Markley Blue Steel Series Learn More

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Your Strings Make a Difference

My first guitar was a gift from my dad for my 15th birthday, and I played it every day for hours.

I stuck with the default strings that came with my guitar for one week while playing as much as I could.

After the bronze strings didn’t look so bronze anymore, I changed them with new ones that I randomly grabbed from the guitar shop.

The moment I strum my baby with its new strings, it was magical. I was shocked because it sounded like another guitar – a better one. The tone was richer and fuller than when my guitar was newly bought. It sounded majestic.

I’ve been testing out different strings since then – from brands to gauges to materials.

That’s when I realized that strings also hugely impact the quality and style of guitar tone. Why didn’t anyone tell me this? I thought strings were all the same. Thinking about that now, I sure was a clueless kid.

Anyway, enough about me.

The same fact with buying guitars remains true with buying guitar strings – try out as much as you can until you find what fits your playing style and musical taste.

The only way to know is to keep trying out strings until you “meet” the one that’s perfect for you.

To help, I wrote this article to explore the different factors that affect the sound and quality of acoustic guitar strings, as well as provide recommendations for some of the best acoustic guitar strings out there.

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Factors that Make the Best Acoustic Guitar Strings

1. Material

Want to produce great acoustic tone? Start with the right string material.

We often play our acoustic guitars WITHOUT the fancy effects of amps and pedals, so the raw tone of our beloved acoustic guitar is vital.

For steel string guitars, the most common materials used are 80/20 Bronze, and Phosphor Bronze. Some less common are Aluminum Bronze, Nickel Bronze, Brass strings, and Compound.

80/20 Bronze Is 80% bronze and 20% zinc. It sounds bright, crisp and lively. It also loses its good tone quicker.
Phosphor Bronze The Phosphor Bronze sounds warm and produce a more distinct tone. Its tone lasts longer due to its metal being protected from oxidization.
Aluminum Bronze The Aluminum Bronze also sound crisp but clearer than Phosphor Bronze.
Nickel Bronze Nickel Bronze sound more natural and balanced.
Brass Brass strings sound more metallic.
Compound Compound strings are also known as silk and steel and sound softer and more mellow.

2. Coating

Not all guitar strings are coated strings, and not all coated strings are the same.

But what are they coating the strings with in the first place? It’s polymer. It was invented to prevent string corrosion by protecting the metal alloy from oxygen. This make strings keep sounding “fresh” for months.

Another effect of coating is reduced finger squeaking and fret wear.

This type of strings come with a bigger price tag. The coating of strings make them cost more, but it’s very well worth it, considering how much longer coated strings last.

Coated Acoustic Guitar Strings

Why are coated strings so much more expensive than non-coated strings?

Because the process of coating strings is a complicated process. It requires microscopic operations, special equipment, and quality control to make sure the polymer is evenly coated across the string.

That’s why coated strings are so premium.

But not all coated strings are created equal. This all depends on the manufacturer.

When looking for coated guitar strings, look at string construction, coating thickness, adhesion, and friction.

String Construction

Some manufacturers coat the core wire before winding them, while some coat after winding. The former risk losing sustain and tone if not done properly, and therefore produce a less ideal sound.

No matter what process these companies use to create their strings (before or after winding), it should improve the sound and not downgrade it.

So it’s really important to try and try different strings and test how they sound because brands manufacture their strings differently.

Coating Thickness

Thinner coatings sound more transparent than thick coated strings, but thicker coatings last longer. Some of the top brands such as Elixir and D’Addario provide thinly coated strings that also last very long.

Adhesion

Once the polymer wears out due to strumming, the string gets exposed to oxygen and will start eroding, losing its good tone. Coating adheres to the strings longer in high end strings.

Friction

Coating strings reduce finger squeaking, but it also causes slippery strings which affects playabilty.

If you do a lot of bending, you might want more friction from your acosutic guitar strings.

Since coating is really different from manufacturer to manufacturer, it’s best to really try out different strings until you find one that fits your playing style.

3. Gauge

Light Gauge Strings Heavy Gauge Strings
Easier to play barre chords with Generally harder to play
Great for fingerpicking and bending Great for strumming
Produce less volume Produce more volume
Sound clearer Sound deeper and more full
Break easier More durable
Better for small body style Better for dreadnought or jumbo

Note: Heavier strings cause more tension to a guitar’s neck. That’s why lighter gauge strings are ideal for smaller body guitars while heavier gauge strings are used in dreadnoughts and jumbo.

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Qualities of the Best Acoustic Guitar Strings

Before we reveal our best acoustic guitar strings, here are the qualities that all great strings should have:

  • Extended tone life. Lower quality strings lose their good tone faster than high end strings.
  • Great tone. Lower end strings sound terrible or good enough, while the best acoustic guitar strings sound heavenly and make your guitar sound more expensive than its actual value.
  • Enhanced playability. Great quality strings make playing more fun due to the various qualities they provide.

Top 11 Best Acoustic Guitar Strings

Try our recommendations below, choose based on what you like about their qualities. I’m excited for you to see, hear, and feel them for yourself!

1.Elixir 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, NANOWEB Coating

All Elixir acoustic guitar strings are coated with ultra thin polymer both on the outer surface but also between the windings. Their patented technology allows them to exclusively produce and claim this manufacturing process.

The Nanoweb has a brighter tone compare the Polyweb Elixir.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings - Elixir Nanoweb

Tone/Feel

  • Crisp, brighter tone with a lively projection
  • Feels smooth and more traditional, like uncoated strings

Pros

  • One of the best, if not the best tone and sustain
  • Very long life span, from months to years
  • Almost no finger squeak
  • Consistent tone throughout high and low range
  • Stays in tune

Cons

  • Like most thinly coated strings, this one breaks easier than thick coated strings.

Elixir 80/20 Bronze Nanoweb in Action:

Note: Elixir boasts to be the only brand that protects the entire string with an ultra thin coating, not only the outer surface but also the spaces between the windings. They made a video for this:

See more details:

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 2. Elixir 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, POLYWEB Coating

All Elixir acoustic guitar strings are coated with ultra thin polymer both on the outer surface but also between the windings. Their patented technology allows them to exclusively produce and claim this manufacturing process.

The Polyweb has a warmer tone compared to the Nanoweb Elixir.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings - Elixir Polyweb

Tone/Feel

  • Warmer, robust tone
  • Feels slick and fast on the fingers

Pros

  • One of the best, if not the best tone and sustain
  • Very long life span, from months to years
  • Almost no finger squeak
  • Consistent tone from high to low ranges
  • Stays in tune

Cons

Just like its sibling, the Nanoweb, this one breaks easier than thick coated strings due to its ultra thin coating.

Elixir 80/20 Bronze Polyweb in Action:


Note: Elixir boasts to be the only brand that protects the entire string with an ultra thin coating, not only the outer surface but also the spaces between the windings. They made a video for this:

See more details:

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 3. Martin SP Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings

All Martin strings sound clear and rich, making them ideal for live or studio performances, and also great for personal home use.

Martin SP Phosphor Bronze acoustic guitar strings are made with the highest quality bronzed steel core wire and phosphor bronze wrap wire.

Specifically, we recommend the Martin MSP4100 SP light gauge or the Martin MSP4150 SP medium/light gauge. Both has a more powerful tone on the high and low range.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings - Martin MSP4150 SP

Tone/Feel

  • Exciting and natural tone with deep bass sound and bright trebles
  • Feels smooth on the fingers

Pros

  • Bright and lively tone with a beautiful sustain
  • Long life span and durable
  • Not as expensive as Elixir
  • Consistent tone from high to low ranges
  • Stays in tune

Cons

Shorter life span than Elixir strings.

Martin MSP4100 SP Phosphor Bronze in Action:

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 4. Martin M540 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings

All Martin strings sound clear and rich, making them ideal for live or studio performances, and also great for personal home use.

The Martin M540 Phosphor Bronze has a more powerful bass that’s perfect for pop, country, bluegrass, or similar music styles. Bending, sliding, and fingerpicking is a bit harder to perform with these strings but sound great when strummed.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings - Martin M540

Tone/Feel

  • Exciting and warm tone
  • Feels a bit stiff and rough

Pros

  • Warm and lively tone with great sustain
  • Long life span and durable
  • Not as expensive as Elixir
  • Consistent tone from high to low ranges
  • Stays in tune

Cons

  • Shorter life span than Elixir strings
  • Not recommended for beginners due to it being a bit harder to play

Martin M540 PhosPhor Bronze in Action:

See more details:

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 5. Martin MM12 Retro Nickel/Copper Acoustic Guitar Strings

All Martin strings sound clear and rich, making them ideal for live or studio performances, and also great for personal home use.

The Martin MM12 Retro is a proprietary nickel – copper alloy blend wrap. It reduces pick attack and increases your guitar’s tonewood volume.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings - Martin MM12 Retro

Tone/Feel

  • Excellent tone wood, or “woody” tone
  • Feels very soft on the fingers

Pros

  • Its apparent tonewood is clear, warm and open
  • Articulate projection of sound
  • Unique and distinct tone

Cons

Shorter life span than its Martin Phosphor Bronze counterparts.

Martin MM12 Retro Nickel/Copper in Action:

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 6. D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings

The D’Addario EJ16 is well-known for its incredible life span, durability, consistency, and affordability. They sound great for all types of music and playing styles. This is a high end string set with a budget-friendly price.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings - D'Addario EJ16

Tone/Feel

  • Robust, clear, bright tone
  • Generally feels great on the fingers and comfortable on the hand

Pros

  • Robust and clear tone with powerful high and mid ranges
  • Long life span and very durable
  • Consistent
  • Stays in tune

Cons

Not as smooth as Elixir, making it a bit harder to perform slides.

D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze in Action:

See more details:

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 7. D’Addario EJ17 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings

The D’Addario EJ17 is just like the EJ16, well-known for its excellent sound, durability, and consistency that’s all bundled with an afforable price. The only difference is this string set is medium gauge while the EJ16 is light gauge.

If you want to test medium gauge, try this one instead of the almighty EJ16. The EJ17 is an excellent contender among medium gauge strings.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings - D'Addario EJ17

Tone/Feel

  • Warm, bright, balanced tone
  • Feels smooth on the fingers

Pros

  • Warm, bright, balanced tone with great sustain
  • Long life span and durable
  • Not as expensive as Elixir
  • Consistent tone
  • Stays in tune

Cons

Loses its aesthetic finish upon playing

D’Addario EJ17 Phosphor Bronze in Action:

See more details:

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 8. D’Addario EXP16 Coated Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings

While the previous D’Addario strings in this list are uncoated, this is their coated cousin. So it’s logical to compare it to Elixir.

This string set is superior to Elixir in terms of durability, while lacking in thinness compared to Elixir’s ultra thin coating. But in terms of sound and playability, the D’Addario EXP16 is pure brilliance.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings - D'Addario EXP16

Tone/Feel

  • Well-balanced bass and treble
  • Feels easy on the fingers

Pros

  • Exceptional bright tone
  • High quality projection
  • Excellent durability
  • Long life span, longer than the non-coated strings in this list
  • Consistent volume
  • Stays in tune

Cons

Compared to Elixir, it has a bit of finger squeak, but less than that of those uncoated strings in this list.

D’Addario EXP16 Coated Phosphor Bronze in Action:

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 9. Ernie Ball 2146 Earthwood Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings

The Ernie Ball 2146 Earthwood is top-notch with its deep, rich bass and treble sound. This is a concert-quality string set, used by may famous musicians.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings - Ernie Ball Earthwood

Tone/Feel

  • Warm, rich tone with a natural feel
  • Feels flexible and easy to play barre chords with. It’s one of the best in terms of playability

Pros

  • Warm, rich tone with excellent projection
  • Well-balanced tone
  • Longer life span than most uncoated strings
  • Minimal finger squeak

Cons

Might sound dull to some, it depends on your musical taste.

Ernie Ball Phosphor Bronze in Action:

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10. John Pearse 600L Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings

You may or may not have heard about John Pearse, considering it’s a small company. However, the John Pearse 600L string set earned a place in this list due to their excellent tone.

This is one of the best sounding acoustic guitar strings out there.

It sounds woody, has superb projection and clarity, and the volume is great. Most of all, this string set is very well-balanced, with a clear high range and warm bass.

The only downside of this string set is its sparse availability. Luckily, they are available online – if you can get your hands on this glorious string set, get them!

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings - John Pearse 600L

Tone/Feel

  • Its distinct and excellent tone comes with great resonance as well
  • Feels very smooth on the fingers

Pros

  • Consistent, well-balanced tone in high, mid, and low ranges
  • Long life span and durable
  • Reduced finger squeak
  • Stays in tune

Cons

  • Not as widely available as others in this list.
  • It has a long life span but not as long as other high-end strings. Other than that, this is almost perfect.

John Pearse 600L in Action:

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 11. Dean Markley Blue Steel Series

Last but definitely not the least, a string set that stands out with its bizarre manufacturing. Dean Markley Blue Steel acoustic strings are cryogenically frozen with liquid nitrogen. The result – a very consistent and responsive tone that boasts a long life span. How does this work?

Dean Markley Blue Steel acoustic strings are frozen to -320 degrees Farenheight, which supposedly tightens molecules and reduces microscopic gaps. This eliminates harsh high ranges and muddy low ranges.

This is very intriguing to any guitarist. But all we mentioned about Dean Markley Blue Steel strings above are useless if it didn’t actually sound great.

Here’s the verdict – this string set actually produces a very balanced, bright tone. So whatever they’re doing with their string treatment, it’s definitely working.

With a 92% Copper and 8% Zinc blend, the Dean Markley Blue Steel acoustic strings are very deserving of a spot in this list.

The icing on the cake is its excellent playability – it’s perfect for beginners.

Best Acoustic Guitar String - Dean Markley Blue Steel

Tone/Feel

  • Superior tone balance
  • Feels very easy and soft on the hands

Pros

  • Brilliant, rich resonant tone
  • Exceptional tone brightness
  • Long life span and very durable
  • Stays in tune

Cons

A bit stiff for bending.

Dean Markley Blue Steel in Action:

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Conclusion

Quality strings are indeed more preferred due to numerous reasons we discussed earlier. But they also sound and feel different from one another depending on many factors such as materials, gauge, coating, and construction.

That’s why trying different sets of strings is a journey. Soon you’ll start to notice the difference in tone, life span, and playability. The best ones should excel in all three qualities, and suit your desired tone and playing style at the same time.

So if you can afford it, you should get the best acoustic strings you can get because they sound great and last so much longer than the usual strings, saving you money in the long run.


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