High-quality strings are an inexpensive way to overhaul the ‘personality’ of your instrument. It’s a cheap experiment and never a bad idea. Except there are countless acoustic string sets on the market, most with overhyped descriptions and underwhelming reviews.
Most acoustic strings use one of three types of material; phosphor bronze strings, 80/20 bronze strings, or nylon, each with different sounds, playing feel, and lifespan.
There are less popular departures like White Bronze, Silk ‘n Steel, Aluminum Bronze, and Nickel Bronze alloys.
After years of first-hand experience and a quick refresh of the current market, we put forth the best of the best and highlight how they sound and who should get them.
We reviewed each set based on five attributes – material, tone, playability, durability, and cost.
The Best Acoustic Guitars Strings – Our Top Picks
TheD’Addario EJ16s are the best multi-use acoustic guitar strings we’ve ever used. This affordable and versatile set is the best you can get for very little money. Moreover, the breadth of choices in string gauges makes it a top choice for all types of guitars and guitarists.
TheMartin Retro Monel Acoustic Guitar Strings are the best-sounding acoustic guitar strings we’ve come across. They last long, mature like wine, and feel great against the fingers. Allow them to settle in, and they may never leave your guitar.
Lastly, we recommend the Elixir Nanoweb set as the best uncoated acoustic guitar strings. They sound great for 3x longer but come at a price point only committed players will consider.
Here are the seven best acoustic guitar strings that can level up your tone and confidence:
These strings utilize phosphor bronze wrap wires, contributing a warm and vibrant tone that suits most playing applications. Introduced to the D’Addario line in 1974, Phosphor bronze strings are known for their impressive durability — a trait especially important for players who put in a lot of hours on the fretboard.
Aluminum Bronze Acoustic Strings feature more projection and clarity than traditional bronze strings, while also providing improved corrosion resistance. These Aluminum Bronze Acoustic Strings are made with Ernie Ball Maraging Steel hex cores and Aluminum Bronze wrap wire which provides more pronounced lows coupled with crisp brilliant highs.
The best acoustic guitar strings for long-lasting performance and an increased presence.
It’s only been a few years since their launch, but the Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze (AB) set has enough die-hard fans to qualify as a cult. These strings use a steel hex core with an aluminum-bronze wrap wire, which gives them a unique sound.
They have a longer wear time, but the strings don’t last as long as monels or treated/coated strings.
Deep bass and crisp high-end
Great clarity and projection
Mature quickly and last fairly long
One-of-their-kind acoustic guitar strings
Rough texture (not slinky)
Not as loud as Phosphor Bronze strings
These aluminum bronze acoustic guitar strings take an hour or two to settle in and age gracefully over weeks of heavy play. They have higher tension than PB strings and are coarser and more brittle than other uncoated guitar strings.
These Ernie Ball acoustic guitar strings have loads of clarity but less warmth and volume than standard PB or bronze sets. Expect deep lows, slightly scooped mid-range, and rounded highs.
Moreover, the unique alloy has a distinctly perky tone with loads of depth.
Who should buy this set of acoustic guitar strings?
These guitar strings are a great match for OM, dreadnaught, Grand Concert, or Grand Auditorium-style guitars, especially if you want a more pronounced low end.
You can pair them with various tonewoods (Sitka, Sapele, mahogany, ovangkol) to bring out more warmth.
Aluminum bronze acoustic guitar strings offer a very different flavor of tone. Many players love them to bits, and others disregard them completely. It’s best to pick sides after you try the Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze Guitar Strings, the only AB set in the current market.
You pay $11 for the experiment but may end up with a keeper, as many others have.
What’s the next best alternative to consider? Ernie Ball has patented the alloy, so you will have to experiment with other unusual alloys to find something comparable.
3. Martin Retro Monel Acoustic Guitar Strings (Best Overall)
The MM12 Retro acoustic guitar strings represent yet another quality, vintage-inspired set of strings in Martin’s Retro line. These strings harken back to the 1930s when nickel ruled the acoustic world. Made from Monel, a solid nickel/copper wrap, the MM12s let your acoustic’s natural wood tone ring through with a full low end, a high-end snap, and a solid midrange.
The acoustic strings you buy on a whim and can’t stop talking about in the green room.
The Martin Retro Monel Set consists of round core strings with two steel strings (high E and B) and four monel-wound strings. Monel refers to the nickel-copper alloy, which gives these strings retro character and corrosion-resistant properties.
The best strings for all-mahogany acoustic guitars
Strings take time to settle in
There are four reasons most guitar players rave about these acoustic guitar strings – a) they bring out the intricacies of your playing, b) the strumming sounds are very balanced and clear, c) they handle amplification well, and d) less breakage and rusting.
Without getting into the mechanics of the design, these guitar strings really milk the finesse out of an instrument. It means they work with the tonewood instead of injecting their own tone into it. Their sounds get woody as the strings age but do not become dull for weeks.
These acoustic guitar strings have a full-bodied sound, and they deliver a superlative balance of brightness and warmth. The sounds are neither mellow nor as bright are PB or 80/20 strings either, no matter the volume. Plus, the strings are stable (tuning-wise) and settle in quickly.
Who should buy the Martin Retro Monel Acoustic Guitar Strings?
They are an excellent choice for vocal accompaniment as they can sit lower in the mix when needed. You can use them on an inherently loud/bright acoustic to tame it with a touch of warmth.
Martin Monel strings were all the rage in the 1940s before they were phased out. We owe it to Tony Rice, who urged Martin to bring them back. Frankly, these strings will appeal to a wide range of acoustic guitar players as they are loud with ample clarity on either end. But definitelyconsider this set for dreads, all-mahogany guitars, and archtops. You won’t regret it.
DR developed Rare Phosphor Bronze strings as part of a quest to invent an alternate fresh voice for acoustic guitars. Rare strings add an extra bold splash of volume, sustain, and low-end definition and are a solid pick for solo or group players looking for a wider tone with the retained warmth of bronze strings.
The best acoustic guitar strings if you love to dig in or strum up a storm.
The DR Rare series does not get much attention, but these underdogs can make guitars roar and ring with conviction. We picked RPM-12 – a phosphor bronze set with one forthright claim – to produce a bold and strong voice.
You can buy sets in various gauges and for 12’vers; either way, consider these no-frills acoustic guitar strings if you love to play with conviction.
Lively and loud, with great fundamental tones
Great bass response
Strings are long-lasting
Best guitar strings for big-body acoustics
Less overall warmth
Not easy to bend
At $18 for a 3-pack, the DR acoustic guitar strings deliver high-quality sounds at an attractive price. They offer the familiar warmth of bronze but with added definition, volume, and sustain. That’s why these strings appeal to a wide range of players, both classical and modern.
On the right acoustic guitar, the DR strings render loud, warm, and fat sounds. Responsive to fingertips and pick attack, they ring out firmly until restrained. Though not the ‘best’ for fingerstyle, the strings respond reasonably well to softer styles of guitar playing.
Who should get these acoustic guitar strings?
Consider this set of acoustic guitar strings for strumming, thumb-picking, or percussive fingerstyle guitar. They are well-suited for big-bodied guitars and carved arch-tops, particularly those made from rosewood and maple.
The string-gauge ranges from 0.010 to 0.013 for low E, which means you can find the best guitar strings for your playing style. The Rare-Series also has a Bluegrass set (12-56), a high-value pick for dreadnaught, mini-jumbos, or slope-D guitars.
These are among the best acoustic strings for guitar players who want a majestic tone, rich sustain, and clear sounds. They are super versatile, meaning they are as handy in a studio as in a campfire jam.
Durability-wise, these strings don’t sound dull for weeks. Moreover, you can strum a whirlwind without tinny harshness or a loss of low-end definition.
By coupling silver-plated copper wrap wire with silk, D'Addario EJ40 Silk and Steel acoustic guitar strings produce a warm, mellow tone that's ideal for fingerstyle playing. These strings are excellent for smaller-body acoustic guitars.
The best acoustic guitar strings for beginners with soft digits and fingerpickers, too.
Traditional acoustic strings consist of a steel core wire and the outer wrap wire made from an alloy (Phosphor bronze or 80/20 bronze). Silk and steel strings sport a thin layer of silk filament between the core and outer wrap wire.
That’s because the EJ40 setfeels great against the fingers, has lower string tension, and is reasonably priced.
These light-gauge acoustic strings are intended for smaller-body sizes OM, 000, 00, or parlor guitars. They sound warm/mellow and are very responsive to touch. There is very little string noise when you move around the neck or change chords.
Since they are inherently mellow-sounding, you can dig in without getting a bright initial attack.
Who should buy the D’Addario EJ40 Acoustic Guitar Strings?
These low-tension strings have additional flex and are soft on the digits, which makes them a top choice for students, electric guitar players (who occasionally play acoustics), and people who suffer from arthritis or chronic muscle soreness.
Are silk and steel acoustic strings good for strumming?
Yes, silk and steel acoustic strings lend well to strumming, but they have a warm, played-in tone – neither bright nor dark. They don’t have the top-end sparkle or “zing” you hear with 80/20 or phosphor bronze strings.
The D’Addario EJ40 Acoustic Guitar Strings are a wise investment if you play fingerstyle, prefer a lighter gauge, or primarily play an electric but need acoustic guitar work here and there.
Elixir Acoustic Nanoweb strings don’t just sound great; their micro-thin coating keeps them sounding great for much longer than average strings. If you want to keep your guitar tone consistently great day in and day out, then the Elixir Acoustic Nanoweb strings are the way to go!
Most go around forums brandishing why everyone should take the plunge too.
Clear sound and balanced tone
No break-in period
Reduced finger noise and squeaks
The best long-lasting acoustic guitar strings
Playing feel can be hit-or-miss
Elixir acoustic guitar strings are an acquired taste, meaning you may struggle with a few things initially – a) the tactile feel of strings, b) the perceived tension of the high strings, and c) the slightly dark sound because nanoweb coating blocks the high-end frequencies.
But if you endure the cognitive discomfort, there are many pros to enjoy. The Elixir acoustic strings cut down finger noise, stay in tune well, and last LONG.
Who should get the Elixir Nanoweb PB Acoustic Guitar String Set?
The Elixir strings sound snappy for longer than their uncoated counterparts. They are ideal for gigging musicians who’d otherwise change sets twice a week.
These strings sound bright and clear for several months, particularly if you play with clean hands and wipe them after each session. They are also the best acoustic guitar strings for players with acidic hand chemistry.
There is a whole range of Elixir Nanowebs to choose from. They are an excellent choice if you want coated acoustic guitar strings because they last longer and sound consistent till the last minute.
The strings are pricey, and the coating does dampen the top end slightly. But the extended lifespan vindicates the asking price and is a blessing for players with acidic chemistry.
What are the best alternatives to consider? TheDR Veritas andMartin MA540T are other best-selling coated/treated acoustic guitar strings to consider.
7. Pyramid Western Acoustic Guitar Strings (Best Vintage)
We’ll call it a day with the German-made Pyramid Western set, which is one of the best-selling acoustic guitar strings on the other side of the pond. This is a full set of round wound phosphor bronze strings with a hex core, available in all string gauges.
P.S. You can also find a similar set of strings with a round core that is easier on the digits.
Mellow and smooth tone
They mature very well
Best acoustic guitar strings for singer-songwriters
Lack of top-end ‘zing’
These acoustic guitar strings are famous for producing warm, mellow tones with exceptional articulation.
The strings stay in tune well and feel good to the fingers. So, committed players can confidently experiment with a set to check if they are the best fit for their musical instrument.
Conversely, skip them if you are into jangly strumming or top-end shimmer.
What are the best alternatives to consider? Try the GHS PB or Martin Monel sets if these guitar strings don’t work for you.
The Pyramid Western Acoustic Guitar Strings have a ’boutique’ reputation but aren’t priced like upper-range string sets.
We’ve tried these strings on a handful of guitars, and the results were admirable. They are a shoo-in for any acoustic guitar player seeking warm tones with clarity.
What Is The Most Common Acoustic Guitar String Gauge?
12-gauge strings are the most common acoustic guitar string gauge since most modern guitars ship with 12-gauge stock strings. They are the standard for any off-the-rack acoustic you see in a music store.
However, the 10-47 and 11-52 sets are the best acoustic guitar strings for beginners because they are easy on the fingers.
Which Strings Are Best For An Acoustic Guitar?
We recommend the D’Addario EJ16 Phosphor Bronze set as the best non-coated guitar strings for a wide range of guitars (shapes/tonewoods) and playing styles (strumming, flatpicking, and fingerstyle).
How Often Should You Change Acoustic Guitar Strings?
The frequency of replacing your acoustic guitar strings depends on how much you play your instrument.
Performing musicians replace acoustic guitar strings once a week, and students can replace them once a month to three months. As a thumb rule, the best time to change guitar strings is when there is a noticeable decline in the quality of the tone and sustain.
What Acoustic Guitar Strings Are Best For Strumming?
The best strumming sounds are individual, so no one string will sound perfect on every type of guitar.