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Although often overlooked, the strings you use on an acoustic-electric guitar also play a major role in determining every aspect of its sound, and playability.
An acoustic-electric guitar’s tone is largely dependent on its onboard electronics, the blend of tonewoods used to construct it, and of course the shape of its body. But changing the strings can improve your tone and playing comfort.
The sheer number of strings available for acoustic-electric guitars can make identifying the most suitable set for your playing style a difficult task.
In the following guide, we’ll present the best options we’ve come across when testing a wide range of strings.
- In a Rush’ Round-Up
- How We Tested
- Acoustic Electric Guitar Strings Reviews
- Acoustic-Electric Guitar Strings Buyer’s Guide
- Things to Consider When Buying Acoustic-Electric Guitar Strings
- Choosing The Right String Gauges
- Frequency of Changing Acoustic-Electric Guitar Strings
- String Materials and Construction
- Acoustic-Electric Guitar Strings FAQs
In a Rush’ Round-Up
How We Tested
To accurately score each set of acoustic electric guitar strings, we’ve assessed several key attributes. These include testing their prominent frequencies and tonal qualities, their resistance to corrosion and longevity, and how comfortable they feel to play.
We also determine whether the strings are good value for money, by combining the sonic and tactile aspects to get an overall picture of their quality. You can see the best findings from our tests in the remainder of this guide.
Acoustic Electric Guitar Strings Reviews
Elixir Strings are amongst the most prolific and well-respected producers of acoustic guitar strings worldwide. The 16052 Nanoweb set proves that their string is also suitable for electro-acoustic guitars.
I’ve used many varieties of the Nanoweb strings in the past and always find myself impressed by their feel. Rather than feeling overly refined, these strings provide a nice amount of roughness under your fingertips.
The benefits of Elixir String’s innovative Nanoweb design aren’t limited to feel, though. The coating also prevents the inner core of the strings from corroding due to sweat or dirt build-ups, resulting in fewer replacements in the long term.
If you own an acoustic-electric guitar that sounds a little on the dark side, installing this set of light-gauge strings will significantly brighten it up and allow your playing to be more expressive.
By using phosphor bronze for the coating material, Elixir has ensured that each note that is struck, strummed, or picked is well defined and has a long-lasting sustain. You can also get considerable volume out of these strings by digging in with a plectrum.
- Gauges from .012-.053
- Phosphor bronze winding
- Round wound design
- Reduces unnecessary finger friction
- Naturally bright and expressive tone
- The coating prevents dirt build-up
- May sound too bright for styles that require darker tones
I’m a huge admirer of D’Addario’s acoustic guitar strings, as they consistently deliver smooth playability and a long-lasting tone.
The D’Addario EJ16 strings feature a steel core cased in phosphor bronze winding, a classic combination that promotes longevity produces a warm, immersive sound.
This bulk package contains a total of 10 sets of acoustic electric guitar strings, which is ideal for guitarists who like to play with energetic styles that come with the unavoidable risk of breaking a string now and then.
When the EJ16 strings are played through an amplifier, their tone is reproduced with impressive consistency. The bass notes are full-sounding for light gauge strings, and the mid-range is filled with warm character that is ideal for chord playing.
In addition to their tonal qualities, these strings also impress in the dynamics department. They produce a considerable amount of sustain across the fretboard, and can therefore be used for lead parts or melodies.
D’Addario’s long history in the guitar string manufacturing business has allowed them to perfect their designs to ensure that these strings last for longer than your average set.
- .012-.053 gauge range
- Phosphor bronze winding
- Contains 10 packs of strings
- Produces a warm, well-balanced tone
- Suitable for a range of styles and genres
- Great for fingerstyle playing
- Prone to breaking if used for aggressive playing
C.F Martin & Co. may be best known for their range of top-end acoustic guitars, but they’re also one of the most proficient string manufacturers around.
These Martin MA540T are ideal strings for electric acoustic guitar, as they provide the ideal amount of mid-range prominence for a powerful amplified tone. Their light gauge ensures no muddiness in the low end and the high sparkle.
Martin subjects their Lifespan strings to a unique treating process, which we found increases their lifespan considerably compared to most other acoustic strings. They reject any dirt or grime that comes into contact with the string and keep it feeling fresh.
In terms of playing comfort, the MA540T strings feel incredibly smooth underhand. Whether you prefer to fingerpick or play with a plectrum, you will find these strings effortless to play.
The round wound 92/8 phosphor bronze layer is largely responsible for the immersive feel of these acoustic-electric guitar strings. They cause very little tension when playing even the most intricate of chord shapes with your fretting hand.
- String gauge ranging from .012-.054
- 92/8 phosphor bronze winding
- Round wound design
- Specially treated for longer life
- Retain their fresh tone and feel
- Promote note separation
- Ultra-smooth feel may be undesirable to some guitarists
Acoustic-electric guitar strings must provide the clarity and brightness that can often be subdued when the instrument is plugged in. These D’Addario strings produce focused high mid-range and singing highs which are retained after amplification.
With three packs of EJ15 strings included in the EEJ15-3D pack, D’Addario has recognized that the extra light gauge may lead to strings breaking, especially when they are strummed energetically with a pick.
One of the things that stood out to me when putting these strings to the test was their compatibility with a wide range of playing techniques.
They sound detailed and articulate when fingerpicked quietly, and although the thin gauge does mean a slight reduction in bass frequencies, there’s enough low-end clarity for flat-picking and other similar techniques.
If you find that your acoustic guitar’s onboard electronics tend to dull the tone or make the instrument sound darker, these D’Addario strings will inject some much-needed color into the output.
- Gauge range from .010-.047
- 3 sets of strings are included in the bundle
- Phosphor bronze winding
Perhaps most famous for their Slinky electric guitar strings, Ernie Ball has enjoyed decades at the forefront of the industry. Their exceptional acoustic strings are somewhat of a well-kept secret.
The first thing that caught my attention when analyzing the Ernie Ball 2570 strings was the use of aluminum bronze, which deviates from the usual choice of phosphor bronze windings.
This change impacts the performance of these strings in several ways. Firstly, aluminum bronze is generally more robust and resistant to corrosion than phosphor bronze, which means these strings should retain their fresh feel and sound for longer.
Furthermore, these strings feel less refined under your fretting hand. The slightly rough texture makes it easier to feel your way into chord positions, which is especially valuable for beginner guitarists.
Due to Ernie Ball’s expert knowledge of electric guitar strings, it’s no surprise that this set sounds great when you plug in your acoustic-electric.
Using their trademark steel hex core, the manufacturer has ensured that their Slinky tone has been well translated from electric to acoustic electric strings.
- .010-.050 gauge range
- Aluminum bronze winding
- Maraging steel hexagon core
- Bright and expressive tone
- Smooth, refined feel
- Good resistance to corrosion
- May be too bright sounding for darker guitar styles
Acoustic-Electric Guitar Strings Buyer’s Guide
When it comes to shaping the tone of an acoustic-electric guitar, we often focus on the most obvious aspects such as the onboard electronics, the body style, and the tonewood blend used to construct the instrument.
Indeed, all of these factors significantly impact the sound of the guitar, but changing the strings is an instantaneous and effective way to improve your tone. Also, it’s a fairly inexpensive and easy improvement to make.
It’s especially important to choose the right strings for an acoustic-electric guitar because the details of the one will be more noticeable when the instrument is plugged into an amplifier, P.A system, or recording device.
The great thing about acoustic-electric guitar strings is that you can experiment with different varieties to see which suits your playing style, due to their relatively low cost.
Once you find the strings that you enjoy the sound and feel of the most, you’ll probably stick with them for a long time, so it’s important to give them plenty of consideration.
Things to Consider When Buying Acoustic-Electric Guitar Strings
Consider the string gauge
Do you require thin gauge strings that are easier to press against the frets to make chord shapes or play single notes? Or does the extra resistance provided by high gauge strings better suit your style?
Identify your ideal tone
The strings that you choose will impact the tone that your acoustic-electric guitar produces, both when unplugged and amplified. Do you prefer a darker tone, or a brighter, more trebly sound?
Consider the string material
Acoustic-electric guitar strings are made from various material blends. For example, 80/20 bronze strings are renowned for a bright tone, but age quite quickly. Phosphor bronze strings retain their fresh sound and feel for longer, with a darker tone. The genre and style you like to play will determine the best-suited string material for your needs.
Think about the quantity you need
High-end electric acoustic guitar strings cost around the same for a single set as some sets of three, five, or even ten more affordable options. If you often break your strings, it may be wise to invest in a multipack of strings so that you can always replace them when required.
Choosing The Right String Gauges
When deciding which strings to install on an acoustic-electric guitar, one of the most important things to consider is the string gauges. The gauge simply means the thickness of the string.
If a guitarist says that they prefer “12 gauge strings”, this means that they use a set with a first string that has a .012 gauge. String manufacturers often display the thinnest and thickest gauges on the string packages, for example, .012-.053.
Using thicker strings on your acoustic-electric guitar will result in more pressure needing to be applied to push the string against the frets. If you’re used to playing with thin gauge strings, it will take some time to adjust and build up the required finger strength.
Here are some of the most common gauges used for acoustic guitar string sets:
- .010-.047 (extra light)
- .011-.052 (light)
- .012-.053 (medium)
- .013-.056 (heavy)
Heavy gauge guitar strings generally cause a deeper, richer sound with a prominent low-end and strong resonance.
Light gauge strings are better for intricate, technical styles and make it easier to bend notes and reduce the tension on your fingers.
Regular or medium gauge strings are a good choice for guitarists who require powerful projection but haven’t built up the finger strength needed to form chord shapes on heavy gauge strings.
Frequency of Changing Acoustic-Electric Guitar Strings
The frequency at which you will need to change your acoustic-electric guitar strings depends on several variables, such as how often you play the instrument, whether your hands produce a lot of sweat, and how the guitar is stored.
If you play your guitar for around an hour per day, you’ll need to change the strings at around 3-4 months. Strings usually start to degrade after around 90 hours of usage, but some guitarists enjoy the worn-out tone that they produce before they need replacing.
There are measures that you can take to extend the lifespan of your acoustic-electric guitar strings. It’s a good idea to wash your hands before you play the guitar, to remove any sweat or dirt and prevent a build-up on the strings.
Sweat is highly corrosive to guitar strings, and will cause them to lose their freshness more quickly. You can also gently wipe any dirt from the strings every now and then if you notice it building up, using a soft cloth.
Avoiding storing your acoustic-electric guitar in an environment where the temperature fluctuates will likely increase the lifespan of the strings.
String Materials and Construction
The materials that acoustic-electric guitar strings are composed of also affect the tone and dynamics of the instrument.
Strings consist of a core metal wire, which stretches through the middle and is attached to the brass ball end. The metal core is then encased in another wire, which is known as the wrap, and is the layer that your fingers press against when playing a note on your acoustic-electric guitar.
If you’re looking for a thicker, vintage-style tone, choosing strings that have a steel round core is advisable. Hex cores are the most common variety, and they result in a brighter tone with a sharper attack.
The two most common types of acoustic-electric guitar strings are 80/20 bronze, and phosphor bronze.
The latter variety is simply bronze strings with the addition of phosphor to the allot material, and they generally sound warmer than 80/20 bronze strings, which are made from 80 percent copper and 20 percent zinc.
Acoustic-Electric Guitar Strings FAQs
Which Acoustic-Electric Strings are Best for Beginners?
If you’re a beginner, it’s a good idea to start with extra light or light gauge strings on your acoustic-electric guitar.
String with a gauge of .010-.047 or .011-.052 will allow you to play for longer without experiencing soreness in your fingers. Thicker gauge strings force you to push harder to apply the required tension, which will cause discomfort.
As your fingers and hand muscles get stronger, you can then experiment which heavier string gauges. These strings will produce a louder, richer tone but will be more difficult to play initially.
Should I Learn Electric or Acoustic Guitar First?
Acoustic and electric guitar share the same chord shapes, tunings, and basic physical aspects. However, these instruments produce vastly different tones and sounds.
When you’re first starting out, it’s recommended to learn on an acoustic guitar initially as this will build up your finger strength more quickly. It’s also much easier to switch from acoustic to electric than the reverse.