Best electric guitar strings

String Instruments

Different string gauges create different tensions on the neck. Once you have decided upon your preferred string gauge, have your guitar set up to optimize performance with your chosen set.

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Which electric guitar string is best?

Electric guitar strings are subjected to multiple changes in tension and high stress levels throughout their life span. They also accumulate dirt and corrosion from dead skin and moisture in the air. A new set of strings not only breathes life into your playing and restores your sound but also reduces the likelihood of a string breaking at an inopportune moment. Every serious player has their preferred brand of string, and the Ernie Ball Slinky is the preferred choice of many professional and amateur guitarists alike.

What to know before you buy electric guitar strings

String gauge

Your choice of string gauge is largely dependent on your playing style and the sound you are going for. The highest string in the pack usually denotes the overall gauge of the rest of the set. Fast, dexterous players favor lighter options, such as .009-gauge strings; regular .010-gauge strings offer a fuller-bodied tone with more sustain, whereas .011-gauge and thicker strings are often favored by jazz players for their fuller sound and volume.

Types of string set

There are many types of electric guitar strings to suit different instruments, so if you have a headless electric guitar, for example, you’ll need double ball-end strings. Similarly, if you have a seven- or eight-string instrument, ensure your pack has the correct number of strings in it. You can also choose different string windings, such as flatwound, roundwound and halfwound sets, each with its own distinctive tone and feel. Be sure not to accidentally buy acoustic strings for your electric guitar as these have a completely different tension and don’t work well with regular pickups.

Experimentation

Strings, like guitars, are a very personal choice. What are considered to be the best electric guitar strings varies greatly from one person to the next, so experimentation is key to finding your perfect set. Read online reviews, listen to your favorite players and find out what they use, or ask at your local guitar store if you can try out differently-strung instruments before you buy a set. Ultimately, it comes down to trial and error, and eventually, you will settle on what sounds and feels best to you.

What to look for in quality electric guitar strings

Materials

The best electric guitar strings are usually made from steel and wound with fine nickel wire (on the lower strings). In some instances, strings are produced purely using either one of these materials, although these are not as common. Steel strings are considered brighter sounding than their nickel alternatives, whereas nickel strings project a fuller sound. Some strings are coated in a polymer that aids longevity, but you’ll have to compromise on tone, as they are slightly duller sounding.

Durability

Every guitarist knows how it feels to be enjoying yourself in the middle of a performance when a string breaks. You can reduce the likelihood of this happening with regular string replacement and by keeping your strings clean and dry after playing. The best electric guitar strings are stronger and maintain their quality, due to their using better manufacturing methods and materials. The higher the string quality, the better it will sound and for longer.

String packaging

When you are buying electric guitar strings, opt for a well-packaged set, especially if you are keeping them as spares for a prolonged period. Many sets are now sold in plastic envelopes or foil packs, which effectively repel moisture. This is particularly important if you live in a humid climate, as steel strings are prone to oxidation. Once purchased, be sure to keep your strings stored in a dry place.

How much you can expect to spend on electric guitar strings

Electric guitar strings offer good value for money and it’s worth spending a little extra on a good quality set. A standard pack of professional-quality strings costs less than $5 and some artisan models can cost as much as $10.

Electric guitar strings FAQ

How often should guitar strings be replaced?

A. Strings should be replaced regularly, whether they are broken or tarnished, or simply just old. At the very least, they should be changed after every 100 hours of playing or every three months — whichever comes soonest.

What are hybrid strings?

A. Hybrid sets mix and match various strings to achieve certain characteristics. This could be an ultra-light top E string or lower gauge D, A and E strings to lend a hard and heavy bottom end to your playing. These can also be of benefit if you dabble with open tunings.

What are the best electric guitar strings to buy?

Top electric guitar strings

Ernie Ball Slinky

Ernie Ball Slinky

What you need to know: Such are these strings’ popularity, they have become an industry standard that is readily available all over the world.

What you’ll love: Ernie Ball strings are available in a range of standard and hybrid sets, to suit all playing styles and genres. They are packaged in foil to help ensure that they reach you in the best possible condition.

What you should consider: While you’ll find Ernie Ball strings in most configurations, users of double ball-end strings will be disappointed as these are not available.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top electric guitar strings for the money

D’Addario EXL

D’Addario EXL

What you need to know: These highly popular roundwound strings feature a unique construction with a hexagonal core, which aids longevity and embellishes their tone. 

What you’ll love: D’Addario strings have color-coded ball ends to help you distinguish between gauges when changing strings. Packs can be bought singly or in bulk ranging from twin packs to multiples of 25.

What you should consider: Some players report a “textured” feel to D’Addario strings that may take some getting used to.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Rotosound Ultramag

Rotosound Ultramag

What you need to know: The highly magnetic Ultramag strings use a composite of 52% nickel and 48% iron to achieve their distinctive tone.

What you’ll love: Their magnetic properties help to accentuate their middle and lower frequencies, while their construction materials also help to maintain accurate tuning in varying atmospheric conditions and temperatures. 

What you should consider: Rotosound does not produce Ultramag sets for players of 7- and 8-string guitars.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

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Luke Mitchell writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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