All electric guitar strings are not created equal.
There are plenty of criteria to differentiate between different strings. For instance, some are designed to be easy to play, or for increased longevity, others are designed purely on strength or even for cutting down on finger noise.
Whatever your choice of string, regardless of their materials, coating, gauge, or manufacturing processes, you can be sure that all electric guitar strings have their own unique qualities and tonal signature.
The selection of strings is genuinely staggering. However, we’ve selected what we believe to be the best guitar strings to cover most guitarists’ needs.
So, let’s go through them and find the perfect set of strings for you…
- Top 6 Best Electric Guitar Strings To Buy In 2020 Reviews
- Best Electric Guitar Strings Buyer’s Guide
- So, What Are The Best Electric Guitar Strings?
Top 6 Best Electric Guitar Strings To Buy In 2020 Reviews
1 D’Addario EXL110-10P Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings
D’Addario knows a thing or two about guitar strings. They should do since they’re one of the best known and best-selling string manufacturers in the business. Made in America, D’Addario is frequently the go-to string choice for professionals and amateurs alike. They make high-quality acoustic, classical, bass, and, of course, electric guitar strings.
Well, the thicker gauge .026, .036, .046 D’Addario EXL110-10P strings are precision wound, nickel-plated steel wrapped around a hexagonal high carbon core. The thinner gauge .010, .013, .017 strings are made from plain steel.
The nickel-plating on the string creates bright and warm tones with excellent intonation. The strings emphasize the higher frequencies without sounding overly-bright or shrill. The cool thing is that the strings are also long-lasting, which, when combined with their great sound qualities, makes them highly versatile electric guitar strings.
The EXL110-10P Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings is undoubtedly a solid, all-round, and play any genre kind of a string.
- Bright tone.
- Suitable for a wide range of musical genres.
- The nickel-plated coating is easy on the fingers.
- High quality of manufacture
- Not the best string where smoother tones are needed.
2 Elixir Strings 16542 Electric Guitar Strings
This American based company based out of New Jersey has an interesting history. They are a relatively new company, founded in 1989, and only brought their Elixir string to market in 1995. However, despite their brief history, they make some, if not the best, coated electric guitar strings on the market.
They designed ELIXIR coated strings from the ground up and have a number of patents for their strings. These patents feature in various combinations of the Polyweb® coatings and also their ultra-thin Nanoweb® coatings.
Elixir has worked tirelessly to develop a string with the thinnest possible coating that does not inhibit the natural tone of the string. They make strings for a variety of stringed instruments, but the question is, how have they got on with the 16542 Nanoweb electric strings?
The set we’re looking at here is .010 .013 .017 .026 .036 .046. These are a nickel-plated steel-string with their proprietary Nanomeb coating. The plain steel strings feature an anti-rust plating to increase their life expectancy and resist the perils of tone-deadening corrosion.
Elixir strings set their selves apart from the competition by coating the gaps in the wound string as well as the outer surface. They claim to hold their tone longer than any other string on the market, and we can’t argue with that. We think they do.
Despite their efforts to produce a string that does alter the tone of the uncoated string, they’re not there yet. There is an ever so slight loss of brightness and also sustain. It should be emphasized that this is very slight, very slight indeed, but it’s still there.
So, yes, we agree, these string do hold their tone, but what’s for you to decide is, are you’re happy with that tone in the first place?
Elixir strings also claim to last longer than any other string, and we can’t argue with that either. They seem to last forever. As a bonus, they also feel smooth and easy to play, so they’re definitely the best electric guitar strings for a beginner on our list. And would be perfect for putting the Best Electric Guitar for Beginners.
Other than possibly the tone, the only other downsides to these strings are that they’re expensive, and also, after a while, they can leave an annoying residue of plastic on your fretboard. This is the remnants of the Nanoweb coating as it erodes.
- They don’t lose their tone.
- Strings don’t corrode.
- They seem to last forever.
- Easy and comfortable to play.
- They’re expensive.
- Strings leave a residue as the coating erodes.
- Loss of brightness and sustain because of the coating.
Ernie Ball electric guitar strings are legendary.
Ernie Ball has been making guitar strings for around 50 years and have been pioneers in guitar string development. They have clocked up numerous firsts in string making techniques, the use of materials, and in changes to string gauge combinations.
The Regular Slinky we’re reviewing here, one of a range, is the most popular choice of electric guitar strings in the world. The rest of the Slinky range comes in a variety of string gauges from as low as 8-38 to as high as 11-48. What’s more, they also make sets with half-sized gauges. Namely; 9.5-44 and 10.5-44.
The Regular Nickel Wound Slinky string gauges are .010, .013, .017, .026, .036, and .046. The lowest three strings are nickel-plated string wound around a tin-plated, hexagonal, high carbon steel core. The highest three plain steel strings have a series of twists to prevent slippage and to reduce the likelihood of potential string breaks. All the strings have a brass ball end.
The Slinky Regular Nickel Wound Set is capable of producing a well-balanced and classic tone. These are possibly the best rock guitar strings, and let’s face it, if they’re OK for Eric Clapton, John Mayer, and Steve Vai, they can’t be too bad. Can they?
- They have a well-balanced tone.
- Maintain their tone well.
- They’re comfortable and easy to play.
- They are not the best string for playing pinched harmonics.
These strings are legendary too.
The Ernie Ball Super Slinky Nickel Wound Sets have all the quality and history behind them as the Regular Slinky’s we’ve just reviewed. If for whatever reason you’ve come straight here, but want to know a little more about Ernie Ball, skip back to the previous review on the Regular Slinky’s.
The Super Slinky Nickel Wound gauges are .009, .011, .016, .024, .032, and .042. They have the same composition as the regular strings with the three lowest strings constructed from a hexagonal, tin-plated, high carbon steel core with a wound nickel-plated exterior.
The three higher strings are made from plain steel with a series of twists incorporated into their design. The twists are there to stop any potential slippage and to reduce the potential of any string breaks. In common with all the Slinky range, they have brass ball ends.
Basically, the choice of a lighter string has the benefits of them being both easier to bend and easier to fret. This, therefore, makes them easier to play. There will potentially be some small loss of tonal quality, but these are very small margins. Joe Bonamassa, Jimmy Page, and Angus Young all get on perfectly well with Super Slinkys, so we don’t think you’ll need to worry too much about this.
- Easy to bend and fret.
- Easy to play.
- They maintain their tone.
- Tonally slightly thinner than a Regular Slinky set.
5 Fender 150R Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings
Well, basically, pure nickel strings have some interesting tonal qualities and differences compared to the more commonly used nickel-wound strings. Pure nickel strings are on the whole warmer than a nickel wound string. Additionally, they have less mid-range definition but tend to create a fuller bass tonality.
In our experience, if you’re looking for a brighter, crisper sound with lots of mid-range emphases, then it’s probably best to steer clear of the Fender 150R Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings and start looking for something else.
The very best of materials and the very best state of the art manufacturing goes into making Fender 150R Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings. The three lower strings are made from quality pure nickel and wound around a hexagonal core. The higher three strings are made from plain steel. All the strings are non-coated and the regular sizes are: .010, .013, .017, .026, .036, .046.
If the regular size doesn’t float your boat, there are both smaller and larger gauge sets available.
The strings are able to consistently able to deliver vintage, full tones. Suitable for playing a wide variety of musical genres, Fender believes that they have the right string for rock, blues, and jazz.
And maybe they’re right!
- High quality of materials.
- High standard of manufacturing.
- Warm sound.
- Full bass.
- Less mid-range definition.
- Life-span may be short.
6 DR Strings HI-DEF NEON Electric Guitar Strings
These are undoubtedly the best electric guitar strings for Rocksmith players. The string colors match the ones used in all the Rocksmith videos and materials, so they are a total no brainer to use if you’re learning the Rocksmith way.
If you’re not a Rocksmith player and you want to cultivate some serious stage presence at your next live gig, then these would also be a great choice. There’s no doubt about it; these strings are going to stand out and get you noticed.
We love the way these strings look.
The higher three DR Neon strings are made from plain steel. The lower three strings are made with a hexagonal core-based wire and are wound with a silver and nickel-plated outer steel core. The string gauges are .010, .013, .017, .026, .036, and .046.
There are smaller and larger sets of sizes available but also other color choices too. If you’re not a Rocksmith player and just want to light up the stage with a full set of yellow, pink, orange, or green strings, DR Neon has the strings for you.
DR Neon uses a K3 neon-colored coating on all of their strings. The colorful coatings help to improve string longevity and playing comfort as well as adding a bit of flash. More good news is that the coating also lasts a long time.
However, unfortunately, it’s not all good news as there are a couple of negatives to these strings. Firstly, the strings sound slightly duller than non-coated strings. They also are more difficult to string. And finally, when the strings begin to wear, they leave an annoying layer of neon flakes all over your guitar.
Despite a few negatives, we still love these strings. They bring a sense of fun and enjoyment to guitar playing, for young and old players alike. And that can’t be bad. Can it?
- Great for Rocksmith players.
- They feel smooth and comfortable.
- Thye will help generate stage presence.
- The neon coating is long-lasting.
- They’re fun!
- They sound duller than non-coated strings.
- The coating flakes off onto the guitar.
- The colors on the two highest strings are difficult to see.
Best Electric Guitar Strings Buyer’s Guide
Other than price, there are three main determining factors that need to be considered when purchasing guitar strings. These are string gauge, string material, and string coating.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these in turn…
A guitar’s string gauge will affect the guitar’s tone and will also have an impact on how easy it is to play.
Thinner string sets usually have the highest ‘e’ string with a diameter/thickness measuring .009”. Though there are super thin string sets available which have the high ‘e’ string starting at just .008”. Some manufacturers also make half sizes between the two. Namely, with the highest ‘e’ string starting at .0085.
Thinner strings tend to be brighter with less full sounding tones than their medium or thicker string counterparts. Depending on the desired tone you’re after, this could be either a positive or negative.
One definite positive for beginners and seasoned guitarists alike is that they’re easier to play. They are easier to fret and easier to bend, so take less toll on the fingers and require less strength in the hands. These are a good choice for any player who has not built-up either their finger toughness or strength.
Medium string sets usually have the highest ‘e’ string with a diameter/thickness measuring .010”.
Medium strings deliver a well-balanced tone, which is perfect for playing a wide range of musical genres and styles. Medium strings offer a happy halfway house of having sufficient size to be able to play heavy rhythms, whilst being sufficiently thin to be able to fret and bend with relative ease.
Thicker string sets usually have the highest ‘e’ string with a diameter/thickness measuring .011” or higher. Realistically, any string sets starting with a higher ‘e’ string diameter than 0.12” are going to take some serious hand strength to play anything other than rhythm. There are players able to adeptly bend these gauge of strings, but they are few and far between and the thing of legends.
Stevie Ray Vaughn’s ability to do just that with 13s comes to mind.
Heavy gauge guitar strings are frequently used when playing hard and loud, where fatter tones are required. These strings are the best guitar strings for Metal, or possibly the best guitar strings for Hard Rock or for putting on the Best Blues Guitars. Or, in fact, in any situation where your frequently heavy strumming. In these circumstances, the strings offer more sustain and are additionally less likely to break.
Electric guitar strings are usually made from pure steel and a steel-nickel plated combination. The three highest strings are usually made from pure steel with the lowest three strings made from a carbon-steel core with a wound nickel-plated exterior.
Alternatives to this include; silver-nickel plated, all-steel plated, or pure nickel strings.
The fact is that nickel-plated steel strings are easily the top choice for most guitar players. These are suitable for playing all genres. What’s more, they create a warm tone whilst providing a bright attack.
Pure nickel strings are less popular. These strings are used where a more vintage, more traditional tone is required.
Finally, all-steel plated strings, the least popular choice of strings, have a balanced tone with a bright attack. These strings are more corrosive resistant than either nickel or nickel-plated strings. Consequently, they tend to have a longer playing life.
Coated or Non-Coated?
Coated strings are undoubtedly a popular choice amongst a wide variety of players.
Coated strings are basically normal strings with a plastic polymer coating. The coating works as a barrier to things like sweat, skin dirt, or any kind of gunk or muck you can think of. The coating protects the strings from these external corrosive elements and thereby extends the strings life as well as its playability.
So that’s all pretty positive.
Other positives include the fact that they’re smoother and are usually easier to play. Furthermore, they are less prone to squeaking than uncoated strings.
Indeed. Sadly, it’s not all good. The negatives are that it is possible for higher sound responses to be lost, though it should be stressed that this is minimal. Another negative is that as they get older, depending on the string, they can leave an annoying residue of plastic on your fretboard as the coating erodes.
And the final negative is the cost. Not surprisingly, coated strings are significantly more expensive in comparison to uncoated strings. The increased longevity of a coated string, in many cases, can easily offset this expense. However, it’s still a consideration.
Strings, strings, and more strings…
Need some strings for your favorite acoustic? If so, check out our reviews of the Best Acoustic Guitar Strings on the market. You may also be interested in our reviews of the Best Guitar Strings currently available, which covers options for all types of guitar.
So, What Are The Best Electric Guitar Strings?
So, there you have it.
A diverse selection of popular strings that should satisfy the requirements of the vast majority of guitarists. If you were undecided on what to buy before reading this, we genuinely hope one of the strings we’ve reviewed is suitable for your playing style and needs.
But, before go, we’d like to leave you with our number one pick from the six best electric guitar strings we’ve reviewed. Despite the diversity, there was a clear winner for us, our top pick being the…
We feel these stings rightly merit the top slot for a number of reasons. The reasons include; their excellent versatility played across all musical genres, their well-balanced and classic tone, their playing comfort, their longevity, and, last but not least, their affordability.
That’s a lot of reasons. So, hardly surprising that Slinkys are the world’s most popular electric guitar strings.
That’s all from us; we’re off to bash out some tunes