As every guitar player knows, there is nothing quite like the sound and feeling of a new set of acoustic guitar strings. The warm timbre of the notes and the smooth playability of the series make new guitar strings a necessity for musicians who are serious about the sound they want their guitars to make. But depending on the brand you get, that warm sound could disappear much faster than you want. If you want to know what the best acoustic guitar strings are, then you have come to the right place.

How We Rate the Acoustic Guitar Strings on this List

D’Addario EJ16-3D Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light...
Elixir NanoWeb Acoustic Guitar Strings - Light Medium

Unfortunately, not all acoustic guitar strings are created equal. Some brands offer a more superior product than others. However, these brands typically come with a price increase, making it difficult to determine the one with the best value. So how do we rate the products on this list? To find the best acoustic guitar strings we take into account their sound superiority, durability, and overall value. We then ask extensive questions about each topic to rank the guitar strings. 

Here are the questions we ask:

  • Sound Superiority — How do they guitar strings sound? What is the tonality produced by them? Is it warm and soft? Or is it harsh and twangy?
  • Durability — How long do the guitar strings last? Do they sound good for months? Or do they go flat after a few weeks?
  • Overall Value — How much does the acoustic guitar’s string cost? Is it worth the money? Why do they cost what they cost?

Top Eight Acoustic Guitar Strings

The following list is a ranking of the acoustic guitar strings that we prefer. Rather than rate each brand, — which can vary according to the product — we list instead of the specific type of guitar strings, the material used, and the string gauge setting. While the best set of the guitar strings vary according to the way you play guitar, the genres you represent an individual feel, we are confident that this list provides a reasonably objective look at the top models.

Elixir Strings Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings w NANOWEB...
  • Acoustic guitar strings constructed with phosphor bronze wrap wire
  • Played for a dynamic balance of rich, full-bodied tone and sparkling high-end clarity
  • Ultra-thin NANOWEB Coating provides a traditionally textured, “uncoated” feel

Elixir is the unofficial pinnacle of acoustic guitar strings. They cost a bit more than other lines but they are more than worth it. While you might debate about the exceptional merits of their sound, you cannot deny the lasting power of Elixir strings. These strings stay sounding new longer than any other brand on the market — typically around two to three months depending on how long you play. This longevity is thanks to the nano coating technology that protects against dirt and sweat that cause rusting.

However, there are some personal considerations you should keep in mind. First, make sure you order on the lighter side, even if you prefer slightly heavier strings. The light options still require a quite a bit of force to play. Some people also do not favor the slippery feel of the series. Again, if you find you do not mind these issues, you usually cannot go wrong with Elixir acoustic guitar strings.

Five stars out of five stars

Ernie Ball Earthwood Silk and Steel Extra Soft Acoustic Set, .010 -...
  • Layer of silk between the 80/20 wrap and core
  • More mellow sound and comfortable feel
  • For acoustic guitar

If you hate the feel of heavy strings or cut yourself on your guitar a lot, then we recommend these great strings. The lines require almost no tension. While this feature might annoy some players, it is an excellent feature for those looking for incredibly light strings. Ernie Ball Earthwood produce a distinctly mellow sound that makes them perfect for blues and jazz musicians. The Earthwood strings cost $8.99 for each set of guitar strings.

4.5 stars out of five stars

D'Addario EJ40 Silk & Steel Folk Guitar Strings, 11-47
  • Designed and gauged for fingerstyle guitarists who prefer a warm, mellow tone
  • Silk interwindings for soft, easy feel on fingers
  • Corrosion resistant packaging for strings that are always fresh

If you hate the feel of heavy strings or cut yourself on your guitar a lot, then we recommend these strings. The lines require almost no tension. While this feature might annoy some players, it is an excellent feature for those looking for incredibly light strings. 

Four stars out of five stars

C.F. Martin & Co. M170 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings - Extra...
  • Gauges: .010 - .047
  • Bronze alloy for brilliance and long life

While the Martin M170 might not sound as fantastic as the Elixir 16182 acoustic guitar strings, they still provide an excellent tone for most guitars — especially Martins. However, what is more, impressive is the attractive price of the Martin M170 pack. The affordable nature of these strings quickly makes up for any downfall in their sonic profile. If you are a guitar player who continually breaks strings, then this brand is perfect for you.

Martin M170 strings are also fairly durable, considering their inexpensive nature. Typically the strings will sound acceptable for one in half to two months. However, if you are particularly picky about your strings sounding new, then this set might not come before you. They will lose their “new” sounds after around ten to fifteen hours of usage.

Four stars out of five stars

D'Addario Pro-Arte Nylon Classical Guitar Strings, Light Tension...
  • The choice of nylon string players– the world’s most popular choice for nylon string players, D’Addario pro-arte...
  • Laser selected trebles – each nylon Treble within a pro-arte set is laser measured to calculate diameter and tension...
  • Nylon core basses – pro-arte strings use a silver-plated copper winding on a proprietary multi-filament nylon core to...

D’Addario makes their Pro-Arte strings explicitly for classical guitars, so do not buy them if you do not have this model instrument. D’Addario measures the nylon on the lines with lasers for pinpoint precision. The low tension nature of the strings gives them a distinctly mellow sound that differs from the higher sounding Martin strings. With that being said, the strings may be too muted for some users. They lack the bright sound that inherent in other brands. You should look elsewhere for higher end tones. 

3.5 stars out of five stars

Martin MSP4150 SP Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings,...
  • Gauges: .0125 - .055
  • Ultra-high quality steel core
  • Core wires and plain strings plated with an acoustic bronze finish

While the Martin MSP4150 SP phosphor bronze acoustic guitar strings cost around five dollars more than the Martin M170 80/20 bronze strings, there is not much of a discernible difference. The strings do last a bit longer, but we do not believe warrants that big of a price increase. Still, some people swear by this stuff. It is genuinely the Budweiser of guitar strings. We recommend these string if you love Martin product but want to mute the high end of your guitar a little. Honestly, you are better sticking with the 80/20 bronze strings.

Three stars out of five stars

John Pearse guitar strings are another option for shoppers looking for mid-priced strings, depending on where you go. The brand is a popular favorite amongst players of bluegrass music. The strings adapt the frequent note changes and pitch bends of the genre. If you prefer a generally brighter sound out of your guitar strings, then this John Pearse brand is a good fit for your playing preference.

However, we do recommend you get the light option because even the light strings feel a bit on the heavy side. If you hate light gauges, then you should look elsewhere. Other users report that the strings lose their natural brightness very quickly. Generally, these strings work better on shorter scale guitars. Larger models will likely not fare as well.

Three stars out of five stars

Gibson Masterbuilt Premium Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings,...
  • Phosphor/bronze-wound strings
  • Gives your acoustic guitar a bright attack and sustained warmth
  • Authentic Gibson strings are American made, world played

While these strings claim to be tailored specifically for Gibson acoustic guitars. Users report that the strings become rusted very quickly. The fresh tone on Masterbuilt strings only lasts about two weeks. Perhaps on the right Gibson guitar, these string sound perfect and balanced. Some users claim they provide a balance that other brands lack. Unfortunately, on most of Gibson and Epiphone guitars, they are quick to deteriorate and look no better than “lesser” brands.

Two stars out of three stars

What to Look For When Buying Acoustic Guitar Strings: Buyer’s Guide

acoustic guitar songs

As we mentioned previously, finding the best acoustic guitar strings is a matter of preference. Trial and error are necessary if you want to see which type of line fits your playing style best. But what do you do if you are entirely new to buying guitar strings? Whether you are a novice in need of clarification, or an experienced player who never paid attention to brand specifics, this buyer’s guide we help you out. We included the meaning of the different string material and the different sized gauges.

What Are the Different Types of Guitar Strings?

  • 80/20 Bronze — These types of strings contain a mixture of eighty percent copper and twenty percent and produce a bold and bright sound. The strings provide a ringing tone which is very similar to a bell. Unfortunately, these types of strings usually do not last very long. This short life is due to the oxidizing nature of the 80/20 bronze, which rusts easily.
  • Silk and Steel — These types of string feature either copper, nylon, or silk material underlying their structure. Silk and steel strings produce a light and delicate sound that perfectly fits finger picking on the acoustic guitar. These types of strings match well with folk music and classical guitars. However, if you want the tone of your guitar to be bright and fill out the high ends of your music, then you should look elsewhere. These strings generally last around two to three months.
  • Phosphor Bronze — While phosphor bronze strings differ from their 80/20 bronze with a warmer — more subdued — tone, they still carry the familiar high ring as their cousins. They make the series with a mixture of ninety-two percent copper and eighteen percent zinc which protects it from rust better than 80/20 bronze. If your guitar is producing too much high end, then this guitar might fix this EQ issue.
  • Aluminum Bronze — The aluminum bronze acoustic guitar strings sound a lot like the phosphor bronze strings. The produce the same generally muted texture. The main difference lies in the tone. Aluminum bronze strings produce a sound typically with a lot more bass. The high end also comes through a bit more clearly on these strings.

What Size Should Guitar String Gauge You Get?

Acoustic guitar strings come in the following sizes: extra light, custom light, light, medium, and heavy. Deciding between these sizes depends almost entirely on preference. There are pros and cons for both heavy and light strings. We will go over some of the more popular ones.

Most of the time, unless you have a strong preference for them, you will want to choose the lighter string options. Heavier strings generally cut players fingers more, so we do not recommend them for new guitarists. But they last longer than light strings do. Light strings are more comfortable for playing and require less pressure to push down on the fretboard. Light strings are also much better for vintage guitars since they do not put as much force on the neck.

There are drawbacks to light strings too. On some guitars, they can produce an annoying buzzing sound. In general light strings produce less volume than thicker strings They also break much more accessible than heavier strings. On the flipside, more massive lines are better for guitar players that change tunings a lot. Ultimately the decision is up to you, but you are unsure you should steer toward the lighter section. Also be aware that some brands’ “light strings” are quite heavy, so be on the lookout for them.

We hope this list of the best acoustic guitar strings has helped you find the right product for you. This process is often not instantaneous. Unless you are easy to please, it may take a few lousy pairs of strings for you to discover what you do and do not like. Ultimately, the only way you can find out is by trying them out. Luckily, strings are not that expensive, and they need replacing often. So, you have no excuse to start experimenting. Get playing!

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