A question that every guitarist has asked themselves is, “what are the best electric guitar strings?”. Although this is down to each player’s personal preference & playing style, there are many factors that go into making top rated electric guitar strings.
Whether it’s string size, strings that are nickel wound, pure nickel strings, a coated string or uncoated string. All of these are factors to consider when looking for good electric guitar strings. In this guitar string review we’re going to show you 10 of the best electric guitar strings that are available today.
Best Guitar Strings For Rock
Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound
Ernie Ball has been around since 1962 & produces some of the best electric guitar strings.. Used by Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Jimmy Page, & Slash, strings have been a core part of rock & roll history.
The Ernie Ball Slinky series of nickel wound electric guitar strings are some of the best electric guitar strings for rock as they come in lots of different shapes & sizes. So whether you play drop-tuned metal or shred guitar, Ernie Ball will have some strings for you.
These electric guitar strings use nickel-plated steel & feature a tin plated high carbon steel core. This material offers a smooth & slick feel & increases the playability of your instrument.
Furthermore, although regular slinky strings aren’t as bright as their competitors, the neutral sound of these strings enables guitarists to use them as a tone building platform. Although Ernie Ball Slinkys are uncoated electric guitar strings they also offer coated strings, cobalt strings, & high output guitar strings.
- Ernie Ball offers a wide range of string sizes from extra light to heavy strings.
- The tin plated high carbon steel ensures that the strings are balanced tonally.
- The string uses ‘lock twist’ technology, this provides tuning stability.
- They’re well priced & are available to buy in bulk string sets.
- Some users have experienced strings breaking regularly.
- These strings don’t last as long as other competitors.
Best Break Resistant Strings
Ernie Ball Paradigm Strings
Even the best electric guitar strings break or become dead after a few weeks. This can become expensive & frustrating. However, with new state-of-the-art reinforced plain string technology, Ernie Ball Paradigm guitar strings offer durability & longer string life than many of its competitors.
Ernie Ball Paradigm strings are an excellent choice if you are a heavy hitting musician who plays guitar regularly. These strings are designed to compete with the toughest of gigging scenarios and suit a number of different playing styles.
Ernie Ball paradigm Slinkys utilise their own ‘everlast nanotechnology’ which changes the way that the string reacts to sweat, this ensures that the string lasts longer. Some users have expressed that they’ve maintained brightness & stability for over 6 months, this is an incredibly long string life compared to plain strings.
As well as this, these Ernie Ball strings differ from the way that regular strings are made. Traditionally, electric guitar strings use a lock mechanism to keep the string in place. However, one downside of this is that it can put stress on the string & make it prone to breaking.
With the paradigm strings, Ernie Ball has reinforced the material by implementing extra brass winds on the string. This enables you to play the guitar harder but still, keep it in tune.
Despite this, some users have experienced quality control issues with these Ernie Ball strings. For example, missing strings from packets & them breaking after a day. This seems to be in the minority; overall the Ernie Ball Paradigm strings are a solid choice for any guitarist.
- These strings are extremely strong & break-resistant.
- They maintain their tone & freshness for longer periods.
- Similar in sound to Ernie Ball’s Slinky series but with improved durability.
- Ernie Ball offers a 90-day guarantee if you break strings within that period.
- Some users have experienced some quality issues.
- They’re more expensive than regular strings.
Best Long Lasting Strings
D’addario makes some of the best electric guitar strings on the market. NYXL strings are designed for the guitarist who wants strings that last a long time & keep their tone intact.
D’Addario’s NYXL strings are available in a wide range of sizes suitable for all guitarists. They offer strings for 6, 7 & 8 string guitarists in a variety of different gauges.
The high carbon steel core & plain steel alloy of these strings increase tuning stability, the breaking point of the string & decrease corrosion making them the perfect fit for guitarists who love to bend strings & use the tremolo arm.
Here’s a useful video that D’addario released, showing just how durable these strings are.
What sets these electric guitar strings apart from other competitors is that they have an enhanced mid-range frequency between 1-35khz. This works great for guitar players who play live & in the studio as this frequency band is crucial for sitting in the mix. However, this may not suit high-gain metal players.
Finally, if you’re eco-conscious, D’addario is also part of a unique string recycling program that helps recycle old string materials & metals into new products. If you do decide to recycle your old strings, D’addario will reward you with points & discounts on many of their other products. To find out more about this, click here.
- They offer both acoustic guitar strings & electric guitar strings.
- The high carbon steel & plain steel alloy give improved tuning stability & increased string longevity.
- These strings have an emphasised mid-range, allowing you to cut through the mix.
- These strings are designed, engineered & manufactured in the USA.
- More expensive than st&ard strings.
- The bright tone of nickel may not suit all guitarists.
Best Bright Strings
D’addario XL Nickel
As well as the NYXL strings, D’addario also produces standard nickel strings. Although not as long-lasting as the NYXL, the D’addario XL nickel plated steel strings are some of the most popular electric guitar strings available.
D’Addario strings are some of the best electric guitar strings available. Their bright treble response & warm tone makes them some of the most versatile electric guitar strings available.
The XL strings are nickel-plated steel wrapped & use a hexagonally shaped, high carbon steel core. The hexagonal core provides the string with a tighter bond with the outside material. Although this makes the string feel stiffer, it also produces a brighter balanced tone & improves intonation.
These plain steel strings have decent magnetic output & feel very comfortable under the fingers. This increases playability & overall adds to the overall playing experience.
Finally, D’addario have a number of different electric guitar string types available, this includes the following:
- Light strings, medium strings & thicker strings.
- XL Chromes. (Flatwound strings, great for jazz).
- XL Pure Nickel. (Excellent for providing vintage tone).
- XL ProSteels. (A brighter string with more output).
- XL Half Rounds. (These strings have the flexibility of round wound strings, but the smooth feel of flat wounds).
- XL Coated Nickel. (These strings have a longer lifespan than st&ard strings).
So whatever types of strings work best for you, D’addario has got you covered.
- These electric guitar strings have a warm tone & provide excellent string intonation.
- Coloured ball ends help you easily identify each string.
- The packaging is eco-friendly & prevents string corrosion.
- These strings are available to buy in bulk string sets
- Some users have experienced string corrosion after one week.
- The tone of these strings isn’t for everyone.
Best Coated Strings
Elixir Optiweb Coated Electric Guitar Strings
One of the main attractions to Elixir strings is that they have implemented string coating designs to increase the life, tone, & durability of their strings. However, some users find the feel of coated strings unnatural. Elixir has attempted to rectify this by utilising their patented optiweb technology.
Elixir strings predominantly use nickel-plated steel for their guitar strings. This keeps the string bright, & resonant. These strings last longer than uncoated strings due to the coating applied by Elixir.
If the ‘Optiweb’ strings aren’t for you, they also offer ‘Nanoweb’ & ‘Polyweb’ strings, the main difference between these types of strings is how much coating is applied to the string, this will affect the overall playability & tone of the string.
However, we like that the ‘Optiweb’ strikes the balance between coated & uncoated strings, enabling a smooth & natural feel for the user.
One of the main benefits of coating strings is that it will protect your strings from dirt, dust & sweat. This is great for guitar players who dislike changing their strings on a regular basis & want to get the most out of one set of strings.
The one downside of Elixir strings is that they are very expensive for electric guitar strings. Although, you could argue that if these strings last longer than regular strings, you may end up saving money.
- The coated strings increase the life & sustainability of strings.
- ‘Optiweb’ coating provides a smooth natural feel under the fingers.
- Elixir strings offer different types of coating, depending on your needs as a player.
- These strings don’t cause as much fret wear as st&ard nickel strings.
- More expensive than their competitors.
- Coated strings aren’t for everyone.
Best Budget Strings
When it comes to string brands, the market is dominated by string brands like Ernie Ball, Elixir, & D’addario. However, one company that doesn’t get enough recognition is GHS. GHS produces a wide variety of strings suitable for every player. One of our favourites of theirs is the GHS Boomers.
GHS Boomers are a fantastic choice of electric guitar strings for either a studio or gigging musician. Their inexpensive price allows guitarists to regularly change their strings & keep their guitar tone intact.
As well as this, the GHS boomers take a nod back to their 60s heritage by using round core electric guitar strings instead of a hex core. This allows the guitar strings to move as ‘one’ & provide the string with a big, bassy tone whilst maintaining a transparent tone that lets the character of the instrument shine through.
Like many of its competitors, these strings are made out of a nickel-plated steel wire which contributes to the brightness of the string. In addition, some users have mentioned that these strings work fantastically well with harmonics & distortion whilst also delivering a clean tone that is crisp & vibrant.
Overall, these are fantastic electric guitar strings that will suit guitarists who have multiple guitars & like to change strings often.
- Strings are available for a number of different musical instruments, including ukulele, mandolin, & 6, 7, 8, & 12 string guitars.
- These strings have a distinctive bright tone that suits most guitarists.
- The GHS Boomers are budget friendly & are available to large string sets at an excellent price.
- Although these are non-coated strings, they have a decent lifespan.
- Some users have found that the strings are overly bright & can sound too tinny.
- Compared to others, they don’t have as many choices of string sizes.
Best Boutique Strings
Curt Mangan Electric Guitar Strings
When looking for the best electric guitar strings, it’s hard to ignore Curt Mangan’s electric guitar strings. Focusing primarily on the boutique market, Curt Mangan handcrafts every string & offers premium products for guitarists who love to chase tone.
Curt Mangan electric guitar strings are a great choice for guitarists who want to fine-tune their tone & string tension. Offering a number of custom string sizes & materials, Curt Mangan provides guitarists with a unique & customisable string which will be able to meet your exact needs & wants as a guitarist making them some of the best electric guitar strings available today.
These strings are created by wrapping nickel-plated steel around the core wire of the string, this is made from tin-plated high-carbon steel. This works great for all styles of music & offers a balanced tone across the frequency spectrum.
If you feel that nickel-plated strings won’t work for you, Curt Mangan also offers pure nickel strings; these produce a softer, vintage tone which is great for guitar purists.
These strings are hand-made in the USA, this increases the quality of the product & allows each & every string to sound great & most importantly be durable.
- They use nickel plated & pure nickel strings.
- Their custom string sizes are great for the guitarist who is looking for the ‘perfect’ string.
- They are a relatively small company & handcraft all of their guitar strings.
- The strings offer a balanced tone throughout the bass, mids, & treble frequencies.
- The overall flexibility of this electric guitar string may give beginners option paralysis.
- More expensive than st&ard strings.
Best Strings For Gibson Guitars
Gibson Brite Wires
Gibson is famous for producing electric guitar models such as the ‘Les Paul’, ‘335’, ‘SG’ & ‘Firebird’. However, they also produce their own guitar strings, the ‘Gibson Brite Wires’. These are developed by their own luthiers in Nashville, Tennessee & come as standard on every Gibson USA guitar.
Gibson Brite wires are great for guitar players who specifically use Gibson guitars. As these guitars use humbucker pickups, they can often have a darker tone. This can be problematic for some guitarists as it often leads to your guitar sounding muddy & unclear.
These are notoriously bright & improve the clarity of your instrument. This is due to the material & overall construction of the string. The swedish steel hex core improves the tuning stability on your guitar, which is never a bad thing.
The negative of these strings is that they are specifically designed for ‘Les Paul’ guitars, meaning they may not be as good on stratocasters, telecasters or other popular models of guitar. Despite this, they are a solid choice if you are a Gibson guitar player.
- The swedish steel hex core enhances the overall stability of the string.
- The nickel wound material gives the string it’s bright tone & enhances volume & sustain.
- The reinforced carbon material improves string durability
- They work fantastically with Gibson style guitars.
- Performances may vary on other models of guitar.
- Limited versatility in string sizes compared to other brands.
Best Strings For Jazz
Thomastik-Infeld is known for producing some of the best electric guitar strings for jazz guitarists. Their artist roster features some of the best electric guitar & bass players on the planet, including George Benson, Stanley Clarke & Carol Kaye. They also offer strings for a variety of orchestral & folk instruments.
If you’re a jazz guitarist, Thomastick-Infeld strings provide a warm & smooth tone which is perfect for swing & bossa nova. The round core of the string provides an excellent balance of tuning stability, & longevity. Some players claim that these strings get even better with age.
These strings have less percussive attack than their competitors & provide good definition whether you’re playing chords or individual notes.
Although these are the best guitar strings for jazz, they may not be suitable for rock & pop guitarists. The heavy nature of these strings means that they are much louder than normal strings. Although this is great for sound projection, some players could find this tough on the fingers & may experience issues with fitting larger strings on their guitar.
- Great for jazzier guitar sounds.
- These types of string tend to last much longer than regular strings.
- There is no audible noise when you change frets on the guitar.
- These strings can be more comfortable than regular strings due to the nature of the material.
- Very expensive for guitar strings.
- These strings may not suit other genres.
Best Unique Strings
DR Multi Coloured Strings
DR Strings were first established in 1989. Based in the USA, artists such as Adam Clayton (U2), Derek Trucks & Fredrik Akesson (Opeth) have all used DR Strings.
DR pride themselves on setting a high standard & are known for producing handmade round core strings with the highest quality materials available.
The DR multi-coloured electric strings are a cool & fun way to brighten up your guitar. The UV light effect of the strings, can dazzle any audience member & make you stand out from the crowd.
Just like many other strings on the market, these strings are made from nickel-plated steel, use a hexagonal core & come in a variety of sizes suitable for most players.
As well as this, these strings work perfectly with the video game ‘Rocksmith’. ‘Rocksmith’ is a learning platform which helps people to learn guitar. On that platform, they colour code the strings to make things quicker & easier for beginners. This is a fantastic way of learning & can accelerate your guitar progress.
However, some users have claimed that they don’t last very long & the colour can start to wear after a few days of use.
- Multi-coloured strings are great for beginners who are just starting to learn what each string is.
- They’re a fun addition for more seasoned professionals.
- The UV lighting means they glow in the dark, making them great for dark stages.
- Works great with the ‘Rocksmith’ method of learning.
- The strings don’t last as well as other competitors.
- Some users claim the coating feels strange.
|Ernie Ball Regular Slinky||Ernie Ball Paradigm Strings||D’addario NYXL||D’addario XL||Elixir Optiweb Strings||GHS Boomers||Curt Mangan Nickel Wound Strings||Gibson Brite Wires||Thomastik-Infeld Flatwound Strings||DR Multi Coloured Strings|
|Material||Nickel but other materials are available.||Nickel Wound.||Nickel||Nickel but other materials are available||Nickel||Nickel||Nickel but other materials are available||Nickel but other materials are availabl||Nickel||Nickel|
|String Coating||No||No||No||No but coated versions are available||Yes||No||No, but coated versions are available||No||No||Yes|
|Sizes available?||8-38, 8.5-40, 9-42,|
9-46, 9.5-44 9.5-46, 10-46, 10-48, 10-52, 10-54, 10.5-48, 10.5-52, 11-48, 11-52, 11-54, 12-56, 12-62.
Best Electric Guitar Strings – Buying Guide
The three main factors that must be considered when buying the best electric guitar strings are:
- String material.
- String gauge.
- Flatwound or round wound strings.
All of the best electric guitar strings are made out of some kind of metal. Here are the most common types:
- Pure Nickel – From around 1954 pure-nickel strings were used on electric guitars in Europe & from around 1957 in the USA. Pure nickel strings have a smooth, comforting tone with moderate output. These types of strings are perfect for jazz, blues, & rock musicians who seek a softer tone. As well as this, this material is less abrasive on the frets of your guitars & tends to last longer.
- Nickel-plated – These electric strings were introduced in the late 60s & 70s and go under many names, this includes nickel wound, nickel plating strings, nickel plated steel wrapped strings. This string type has become one of the most popular string materials & is used on most electric guitars & basses. These strings are brighter & have more output than pure-nickel strings. As well as this, the nickel keeps life in the string & stops it from corroding easily. Although these strings sound bright at first, this quickly wears off as the strings get older
- Stainless Steel – If you’re looking for a bright, snappy tone that will make you stand out in the mix, some of the best electric guitar strings that you can buy are made out of stainless steel. Furthermore, the nature of stainless steel enables the string to last longer & resist corrosion. One downside to this material is that it’s strong and can wear your frets out quicker.
- Other Alloys – Other string materials include Cobalt, Zinc Plated Steel, & many more. These materials can enhance the longevity and tone of your guitar.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference. Luckily, guitar strings are relatively cheap, so if you want to experiment with your sound, it’s not too expensive to do so.
What Are String Gauges?
A guitar string’s gauge is how heavy or light the string is. If the number is lower, the size of the string will be thinner & have less tension. If the number is higher, the size of the string will be thicker & have more tension.
- 8s are the lightest gauge strings. These strings are comfortable, easy to play and are great for guitarists who don’t hit the strings too hard. One downside of these strings is that if you hit them too hard, they may go out of tune, but if you want the guitar to feel easy, these are a great choice.
- 9’s are the most common string gauge found on electric guitars. These strings are thinner & as a result don’t require as much tension when fretting notes. These are perfect for genres of music like pop & country due to the lighter tension.
- 10’s strike a good balance between being lighter gauge strings and heavy gauge strings. They’re great for rhythm and lead guitar playing and offer stability for the intermediate/advanced player.
- 11’s are the hardest strings to play & provide greater stability for guitarists who play blues & for heavier players who are into drop tunings. The main advantage of heavier strings is that they provide a thick, resonant tone. Although they are difficult to play, it’s nothing that your hands can’t get used to.
Round wound or Flatwound Strings?
The main difference between flatwound & roundwound strings is the way that they are constructed. Roundwound guitar strings use a round wire that wraps arounds the string, whereas flatwounds use a flatter material. The difference in construction changes the overall feel & tone of the strings.
- A round wound string is the most common type of electric guitar strings. They have a bright consistent tone which works well for Rock, Blues, Pop, Country & Funk. These are available in a number of different sizes & materials. One downside of these strings is that they can produce an audible ‘squeak’ when moving your hands around the fretboard. This isn’t a huge problem, but can frustrate some players. As well, these strings can wear your frets faster, meaning that you may need to refret your guitar more frequently.
- Flat wound electric guitar strings are most commonly used by jazz guitarists. They have a much darker tone & are smooth to play. The softer material is much easier on your fingers & guitar frets. These types of strings are less common than standard strings, meaning they tend to be more expensive & don’t have as many string gauges available. Although these strings are easier to fret, some guitar players may find these hard to bend.
Is Ernie Ball Better Than D’addario?
When looking for the best electric guitar strings, it mainly comes down to the player’s individual preferences. For one person, one brand of strings will feel amazing but for a different guitarist they may dislike those strings.
Luckily, for guitarists, strings are relatively cheap. So, if you want to experiment with different brands, it’s relatively cheap to do so.
If you’re not sure what strings to purchase, try & think about what you want out of those strings. Do you want them to last a long time? Do you want them to be bright? Do you want them to be easy to play or do you want a challenge?
The more you think about these questions, the quicker you’ll be able to find the right string for you.
What are the brightest sounding electric guitar strings?
The brightest sounding strings are nickel plated steel strings.
How do I know when I need to change my strings?
This can depend on how often you play guitar, but there are three key factors that will tell you when to change your strings:
- They’re rusty.
- They no longer stay in tune & are not correctly intonated.
- They sound dull & lifeless.
Following these rules will keep you and your guitar sounding great.