Every guitar has them, and they are, let’s face it, straightforward things – just thin lengths of metal, some quite plain looking, while others are all wrapped up in even more metal.
So, what is all the fuss about? Do some strings sound different from other ones? And, if so, which ones should you choose? Which will sound better for a longer time? So many questions…
Choosing the best guitar strings can be difficult, so we’ve made the decision a lot easier by bringing you our Top 10. We’ll review each set, as well as bring you its pros and cons. They are all excellent guitar strings, but which one is the right set of strings for you?
You’ll find out soon enough…
- Top 10 Best Guitar Strings In 2020 Reviews
- 1 D’Addario EJ17 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Medium (3 Pack)
- 2 D’Addario EJ16-3D Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light Tension – Pack Of 3 Sets
- 3 Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Set, .010 – .046
- 4 Fender 3150R Pure Nickel Bullet-End Electric Guitar Strings – Regular
- 5 DR Strings NMCE-10 DR NEON Electric Strings, Medium, Multi-Color
- 6 D’Addario EXL230 Nickel Wound Bass Guitar Strings, Heavy, 55-110, Long Scale
- 7 DR Strings Electric Guitar Strings, Dimebag Darrell Signature, Treated Nickel-Plated, 10-52
- 8 Ernie Ball 2834 Super-Slinky Electric Bass Guitar Strings (45 – 100)
- 9 Augustine Red Classical Guitar Strings (AUGRED)
- 10 Martin MSP4100
- Choosing The Correct String Gauge
- So, What Are The Best Guitar Strings For You?
Top 10 Best Guitar Strings In 2020 Reviews
1 D’Addario EJ17 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Medium (3 Pack)
We’ll start this review with the EJ17 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings from D’Addario.
The company pioneered the use of phosphor bronze as an alloy for making guitar strings, way back in 1974, and they have carried on improving the process to this day. The alloy is well known for creating a superb tone and comfortable playability.
This particular set is a medium gauge from 0.013 to 0.56, and they offer a bright, warm and balanced acoustic tone with excellent intonation. Most other gauges are also available.
They are very widely used on stage and in the studio by many professional guitarists, including Dire Strait’s Mark Knopfler, Dave Mathews, Pat Metheny, Lenny Kravitz, and Keith Urban.
D’Addario mission is to produce the most consistent and enduring guitar strings possible. They are made in the USA ensuring the highest quality and performance.
The string is constructed from a hexagonally shaped, high-carbon steel core, around which lies a corrosion resistant phosphor bronze wire that is precision wound into place. The six ‘edges’ of the central core wire ‘bite’ directly into the softer wrap wire, this secures the string along its entire length. This results in a string with a long lasting, bright sounding tone and excellent intonation.
Each set is supplied with environmentally friendly, corrosion resistant packaging. This ensures that the strings are always in optimum condition when they are first opened.
The string gauges found in this acoustic set include a Plain Steel 0.013, and 0.017. With a Phosphor Bronze Wound 0.026, 0.035, 0.045, and 0.056.
They are great strings for just about anybody of any skill level on virtually any acoustic guitar. They sting up quickly and easily. And take very little time to break in – about a day or so, under normal conditions. Their feel is very nice, and they produce a bright and clear top end, with solid mids and deep lows.
They are available for purchase singly, or in 3-packs, 10-packs or even 25-packs for people who really are changing their strings too often.
2 D’Addario EJ16-3D Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light Tension – Pack Of 3 Sets
Our next review is another set of D’Addarios, this time the Light Guage of the same string as in the first review. This time the gauge is 0.012 to 0.053. They are manufactured in exactly the same way as the medium gauge set and sound basically the same.
We will, however, cover a little of the company’s history before moving on to the subject of copies.
D’Addario is one of the worlds oldest string manufacturers, and have been making strings since the 17th century. The processes have become a family tradition, and have been passed down through the generations to become what is now, the largest instrument string manufacturer in the world.
They use proprietary winding machinery to manufacture, what they claim to be “the industry’s most consistent strings.” The company continues it’s heritage of innovation to this day.
So, let’s move on to the subject of fake or copy strings…
A large number of online buyers from numerous online market places have reported being sold fake or copy D’Addario strings. These are produced in the Far East and are nothing to do with the USA based D’Addario.
The string quality and packaging are far inferior to actual D’Addario strings, and we firmly believe that quite a lot of the negative feedback these strings get is from buyers who have un-knowingly bought fake strings.
If you suspect that you have bought fake/copy strings, please check out the excellent video by Phillip McKnight, which you can find on Youtube. If you find that you have been sold counterfeit strings, then please report it to your online purchaser, as well as, the online platform so that they can make further investigations.
We are sure that the fake string sellers will be found and will be stopped from trading on these platforms.
D’Addario strings are excellent, copy D’addario strings are not, please don’t get them confused.
Now, that, the sticky subject of counterfeit strings has been covered, let’s move on from one of the most popular acoustic guitar strings in the world, to what is probably the most popular electric guitar string, the Regular Slinky Electric Strings from Ernie Ball.
Even if they are not the most popular, they are certainly the most used amongst guitar legends. Earnie Ball Slinky string users include Slash, Jimmy Page, Metallica, Eric Clapton, Steve Vai, John Mayer, Green Day, Angus Young, Keith Richards and lots more.
The Slinky gauge combinations were pioneered by company founder Ernie Ball more than half a century ago, and have not only become the industry standard for gauges but have also helped shape the sound of rock n roll.
Each set consists of the specific gauges, that Earnie Ball himself decided on, as well as his personal core to wrap ratios. These combine to produce strings with balanced, rich harmonics and the signature Slinky feel.
What about the features?
All the plain strings feature lock twists, which secure the wire around the ball end preventing slippage and ensuring the string is long lasting, with minimal break-in time. The Nickel Slinky strings are precision wound using nickel plated steel wire that provides a classic, well-balanced tone with superb intonation and consistency.
The core is manufactured from tin plated high carbon steel hex wire and provides excellent durability. Every set is made in California, U.S.A. and features Element Shield packaging which prolongs string life. The packaging also ensures that when you open the strings, they will be as fresh as the day they were manufactured.
And, on top of all that, they are the cheapest string in this entire round-up. Hard to believe, but true. These are by far the best value strings you can get, and since strings are basically disposable, if you like the feel and sound of these strings, you will save yourself a lot of money over a lifetime of playing.
4 Fender 3150R Pure Nickel Bullet-End Electric Guitar Strings – Regular
The three sets we’ve covered so far in this review, all feature the traditional ball-end string design. We now move on, with a much newer design, the 3150R Pure Nickel Bullet-End, from Fender. These are an excellent choice for classic rock, blues, and jazz, especially if you play a Start.
‘Bullet’ and ‘Super Bullet’ strings are named after their bullet-shaped bridge ends, which differ markedly from the ‘ball-ends’ of conventional electric guitar strings.
The underlying concept is that the German-made bullet-end design fits precisely into the tremolo blocks on Fender guitars, and enhances sustain and stability, through improved string-bridge contact. They also ensure your Fender stays in tune better and that it resonates more than when using standard ball-end strings.
And, the bullet-end design isn’t just for guitarists who use Fender tremolo systems, it also enhances sustain and creates stability on any guitar which has a string-through-body type bridge design.
The design is especially well suited for guitarists who play Fender Stratocasters or similar because the bullet ends fits more precisely into the guitars tremolo block, resulting in a close fit to the circumference of the string channel. The strings also slip out easily when they need to be changed.
If you’ve been playing a Strat for a number of years, you will hear the difference the minute you put these strings on it. The sound won’t necessarily be any brighter, but it will be more defined with far better sustain. The design really works well, and since the original Strat was designed in the early 1950s. It’s incredible how long anyone has taken to come up with this design.
But, the strings don’t make hardly any difference to other guitars, so if your a Gibson, Gretch, or Rickenbacker user, for example, you probably won’t notice any difference to how your guitar sounds.
If you’re one of the many guitarists that find that nickel wound, or pure nickel strings, are the best for using on electrics, then this set will make you very happy. But, if they also play a Fender Stratocaster, a string-through-body Telecaster or similar, then these strings are undoubtedly your perfect choice because of the obvious advantages. Highly Recommended as long as you play Fenders.
5 DR Strings NMCE-10 DR NEON Electric Strings, Medium, Multi-Color
Next up, we have a completely different concept, which is much more colorful than bullet-ends that no one will ever see, the NMCE-10 Neon strings from DR. These are specially designed to make learning fast, easy and fun.
DR Neon are super bright, color-coated strings that produce a clear, bright and musical sound. They are superb for those who are learning to play or anyone who just wants to add some color to their guitar.
The color is super bright in daylight, as well as, under stage lighting. The Neon strings are 100% black light active and will glow strongly under any UV lighting.
And, it’s not just for show, these strings will last as long as any coated string should, which is usually three to four times longer than uncoated strings. While still maintaining a quality tone that is, not only as good as, but better than some quality uncoated strings.
Let’s improve our guitar playing in a quick and fun way!
The colors match and are designed for use with mobile platform learning systems such as Jamstar.co. But they also work with video games such as Rocksmith 2014 Edition. But, you will also need to remember to invert the string presentation in the games options menu because this more closely resembles standard tablature, which will be invaluable as you become a better guitarist.
All this makes learning to play the guitar far easier for beginners. Seasoned players will, however, see no advantage of having colored strings, in terms of improving on the instrument.
The packaging states that the coloring, is understandably, not designed to stay on indefinitely, but it will last a lot longer than you expect in most cases. It will disappear first in areas of high friction, such as where your pick strikes the strings, but even then, it will still be valuable as a visible guide.
The sound they produce is true, but, the colored coating obviously has some effect on the vibration, and we believe that quality un-coated, un-colored strings do sound better.
But, the difference is small, and really isn’t that important if you’re a beginner, where the colored strings obviously have greater advantages, in terms of making you a better guitarist. After all, you can always worry about getting the best tone from your strings, after you can play the instrument better.
As for playing live? If you really want some bright, shiny, multi-colored strings to make your stage performance better, these are superb and should wow the audience. But, we tend to think that wow’ing them with your technique is a far more sustainable, successful and musical way of playing.
6 D’Addario EXL230 Nickel Wound Bass Guitar Strings, Heavy, 55-110, Long Scale
Our next set of strings under review is for those who like to get down low with their instrument, it’s the EXL230 Bass Guitar Strings, again from D’Addario. They are very well regarded amongst bass players of all styles and genres.
EXL’s are the company’s heaviest gauged bass guitar strings and produce high volume and a distinctive bright, booming, driving tone. They are also great for down tuning.
All of the companies XL strings are precision wound, ensuring each string has clear fundamentals, excellent intonation, and unparalleled consistency. Every string is wound with a nickel-plated steel wrap wire, which produces a distinctive bright tone, as well as, excellent magnetic output which delivers an appealing and versatile tone for all playing styles.
The strings innovative packaging reduces waste and provides them with protection from corrosion.
The strings to be very smooth and even, and the set comes in a sealed bag, so there is no chance of any oxidation. Tuning the strings is very consistent, and they reach the correct pitch without any trouble.
In terms of playability, they are easy on the fingers and work well on whatever type of bass and whatever style of music you play. The String Gauges are 0.055, 0.075, 0.090, and 0.110.
They also make the sometimes hazardous process of re-stringing your bass a breeze. The color-coded stays ensure that you’re putting the right string in the correct position. And the tapering on the E-string makes winding it around its machine head a lot easier.
All D’Addario strings are manufactured in the U.S.A.
7 DR Strings Electric Guitar Strings, Dimebag Darrell Signature, Treated Nickel-Plated, 10-52
Next up, we have a signature set of treated nickel-plated strings from DR strings, from one of metals greatest ever guitarists Pantera’s Dimebag Darrell.
Pantera rose to fame in the late ’80s and early ’90s with powerful groove metal monster albums like Cowboys from Hell, Vulgar Display of Power and Far Beyond Driven. These cemented them as one of the greatest metal bands of all time. And made Dimebag Darrell a guitar legend.
If you want to shred like the best of them and sound all, deep down and dirty then these Hi-Voltage Signature Series Strings are the ones for you.
In terms of manufacture, they are similar to most of the electric strings we’ve covered, having a nickel-plated steel wrap, around a hex core. They are available from a Light (9-42) to a Heavy (11-50) gauge, with Dimebag’s Signature Set being from 9-50.
But what did Dimebag Darrell think of these strings?
We think the best way to describe these strings is in the words of the late, great Dimebag himself…
“I’ve been playin’ the strings of strength since 1995. I like the way DR Strings feel and react, you can really get a grip on them. They’re great for everything, from big ol’ string bends, to huge whammy bar dives, perfect for blood curdling harmonic screams and just straight out heavy chunky riffin’. They also stay in perfect tune and remain fresh and bright for an amazingly long time.”
The feel of the strings is similar to the Earnie Ball Slinkys, but they have a fuller tone and sound superb. The string ‘treatment’ isn’t the thick nasty stuff that most manufacturers call ‘treated’ but, in fact, makes your guitar sound like it’s covered in mud.
If you want to shred and are tough on your strings, these will do the job perfectly. You can bend them all day long and flat out abuse them with your tremolo, and they still respond with clean highs and beefy low-end dives. Always producing a great crunchy ‘metal’ sound and they stay in tune well.
If you want to chug to your heart’s content, with a few sequels thrown in for good measure and haven’t tried these strings yet, then you should rectify that mistake, as soon as your current set wears out.
We move on with another set of Bass strings, this time it’s the 2834 Super Slinky set from Ernie Ball.
They are manufactured in exactly the same way as the Ernie Ball Regular Slinky electric guitar strings we have already reviewed, i.e., they are nickel wound strings, which are made from nickel plated steel wire which is wrapped around a tin plated hex steel core wire.
2834 Super-Slinky Bass strings are one of the most popular Bass Strings in the world and are used by Paul McCartney of The Beatles, Tony Levin of Peter Gabriel/King Crimson/Sessions, Mark Hoppus of Blink 182, John Myung of Dream Theater, Rick Savage of Def Leppard, Justin Chancellor of Tool, and Simon Gallop of The Cure, amongst numerous others.
They produce a well-balanced quality tone with low bass, solid mids, and very clear highs.
The Super Slinky Bass set comes in a gauge of 45-100.
9 Augustine Red Classical Guitar Strings (AUGRED)
Coming to the end of our review, we have our first set of classical strings, the excellent Red series from Augustine.
Classical strings are obviously different to all the strings we’ve covered so far, in that they are nylon not metal in construction. The bass strings do have a copper wire wrap, but this is around a core of fine nylon threadlike filaments, not a steel or nickel core as in electric strings.
Since the company formed in 1947, Albert Augustine Ltd. has been dedicated to producing the highest quality nylon guitar strings available. The company was actually the innovator and the first to ever produce nylon strings for classical guitars. It has since then grown to establish itself as a major force in guitar strings.
The set features three Classic treble nylon guitar strings, along with three Augustine Red bass strings. These are wound with a slightly lighter gauge of copper than used on the Augustine Blue. They are a hard tension basses, with widths of 29-33-41-30-37-45.
The produce an excellent tone, which is not overpowering but balanced and predictable. The lows were rich, the highs, vibrant and clear and the overall sound is superb. They are also very consistent from pack to pack and have become a longtime standard for a lot of players.
They are also superb for using on cheaper classical guitars, especially if you’re changing the stock strings. The difference in tone will be instantly obvious. So, if you want to upgrade a mid or lower-level classical guitar, these are by far the cheapest solution.
10 Martin MSP4100
We started with a set of acoustic guitar strings, so it’s only right that we finish with one as well, but these are not from D’Addario, they are the MSP4100 from acoustic guitar building legend, Martin.
Martin engineered these strings with the performer in mind, they will, therefore, stand up to rigorous practice and performance schedules.
They are constructed from the companies highest tensile-strength core wire, then each of the strings is tin-plated for added corrosion resistance. The company then applies the phosphor bronze wrap wire which gives the strings their consistent tone.
As with all of Martin’s strings, these will enhance your guitar’s overall tone and offer the signature rich, warm sound you expect from the company. They also have excellent tuning stability, corrosion resistance, and superb playability.
We’d like to give some advice on choosing the perfect string gauge for your playing style.