Best acoustic guitar strings 2024: outfit your acoustic with the strings it deserves

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Close up of acoustic guitar strings

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1. Product guide
2. Buying advice
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Restringing your guitar with a set of the best acoustic guitar strings is the cheapest, quickest and probably most effective bit of maintenance you can carry out on your beloved acoustic.

Over time, as dead skin, sweat and dust starts to gather in the grooves of the strings, they will start to sound dull and lifeless. You might not notice as it does happen gradually, but as soon as you replace them with a set of new acoustic strings, you’ll hear the difference straight away. You’ll hear more top end, you’ll get a generally brighter and fresher sound, plus restringing can often solve tuning and intonation issues. 

Restringing isn’t a big job and we’d recommend doing it fairly regularly, to get the most out of your guitar. Finding the right set for you can take a little trial and error, but we’ve also put some buying advice together further down the page to help you on your way.

Best acoustic guitar strings: Product guide

There are lots of different brands out there, many with similar marketing tactics offering you the best sound, longest life etc, but we’ve hand-selected what we reckon are the best acoustic guitar strings on offer right now. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner looking to restring for the first time, or a seasoned pro with a range of acoustics all needing some TLC - there’s something for every player here.

Best acoustic guitar strings: Buying advice

Soundhole, pickguard and upper frets of a spruce-topped Walden acoustic guitar

(Image credit: Future)

Choosing the best acoustic guitar strings for you

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Choosing the best acoustic guitar strings for you is quite a personal thing. What’s right for somebody else might not be right for you, so don’t worry if it takes a few goes to get something you’re really happy with.

Whilst you would be able to put electric strings on an acoustic, they wouldn’t sound as good due to the different types of metal being used. Strings for classical guitar are also different, so if you’ve got a steel stringed acoustic, then it’s worth making sure you’re replacing them with the correct type of string. 

What are the best acoustic guitar strings you can buy today?

We have to mention the Ernie Ball Aluminium Bronze strings - they’re really good ‘all-rounder’ strings that work well for both fingerpicking and strumming. They project nicely, and they sound clear and balanced - definitely one of the best acoustic guitar strings on the market. 

Elixir also make some incredible coated strings that help preserve that bright, freshly-restrung sound for up to 3-5 times longer than uncoated strings - they’re also what Taylor use on all of their steel-strung acoustics. Acoustic experts Martin also make a range of strings to suit quite literally any style of player.

What are acoustic guitar strings made of?

Acoustic guitar strings are essentially a metal core - usually stainless steel, with the thickest four strings wrapped in thinner metal windings. The exact materials can vary, but usually they’re made from bronze or copper. This differs from electric guitar strings which are usually wound with steel, or nickel so that they work better with the magnetic field created by the pickups.

It’s worth noting here that you don’t want to fit steel acoustic strings to a classical guitar either - doing so could end up causing damage to it.

Close up of acoustic guitar strings

(Image credit: Future)

What types of acoustic guitar string are there?

Acoustic guitar strings differ greatly when compared to electric guitar strings, and are manufactured differently. The main two types of acoustic string you’ll see are 80/20 bronze, and phosphor bronze. 80/20 bronze, or brass, is an alloy made from 80% copper and 20% zinc. Phosphor bronze is simply bronze, with phosphor added to the alloy. Whilst this all might sound a little boring, the two types of string do actually make quite a difference to the sound of your acoustic guitar.  

Generally, 80/20 bronze strings tend to be brighter, with a more pronounced top end. Phosphor bronze on the other hand are often mellower, and slightly warmer sounding. Considering what sort of tone you’d like can be a good starting point when looking for the best acoustic guitar strings.

Acoustic guitar string gauges explained 

A key factor when looking at guitar strings is the gauge – that is, how thick they are. Gauge is measured in thousandths of an inch, which sounds tiny, but small differences in gauge can have a big impact on how they feel under the fingers.

Thicker gauge strings means there is physically more string there to push down on, so if you’re a beginner then generally you’d be looking at lighter or more medium gauges (although there really are no hard and fast rules). Some players claim that thicker strings lead to a better tone, and there is some evidence to back that up, but honestly, you’re going to get a better sound if you’re comfortable with what you’re playing. Heavier gauge strings are also great if you tune down, as they will hold their tuning a little better. If you know that you have quite a heavy strumming hand, then heavier strings can help with this too as you’re going to be less likely to snap a string when playing. 

A lighter gauge means you will have slightly thinner strings. This can make it a little easier for some players, and some fingerpickers with a softer touch will get a better dynamic response from lighter strings as they’re able to control them more. 

With gauges, it really is a case of trying a few out and seeing what works for you. If you’re not sure, go for something in the middle – you can’t go far wrong with a set of regular or medium gauge acoustic strings, regardless of what style you play. 

What are the benefits of coated acoustic guitar strings?

Coated strings have become more and more popular over the last decade or so. Some of the best acoustic guitar strings have a coating around the string that helps prevent dirt and sweat from getting into the grooves, making them sound like new strings for longer.

Coated strings are usually more expensive, but you won’t have to replace them as regularly, because they retain that fresh, bright sound for a longer period. Some coated strings have a slightly different feel, but if you’ve never tried them before then they’re worth investigating.

Close up of Martin D-28 bridge and strings

(Image credit: Future)

Which is better, Phosphor or 80/20 Bronze?

Usually you’ll find that the thickest four acoustic guitar strings consist of a stainless steel core, with windings wrapped around; the thinnest two are plain. Generally speaking the windings are made from either phosphor bronze or 80/20 bronze; both of which have particular tonal characteristics that make them less or more appealing to different players. 

Phosphor bronze acoustic strings tend to be a little warmer and mellower, with a balanced response, whereas 80/20 bronze strings sound brighter, with some nice detail. They also tend to have a good bass response, with almost a slight natural mid scoop.   

How often should I restring my acoustic guitar?

How regularly you need to change the strings on your acoustic guitar will also vary. If you’re playing it a lot, then once every 6-8 weeks or so will keep your instrument in good shape (you can wait a little longer if you’re using coated strings). If you’re playing it more, or playing it live, then maybe more regularly, and vice versa. 

How we test acoustic guitar strings

Close up of acoustic guitar strings on a Gibson Murphy Lab SJ200

(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to testing acoustic guitar strings, it's essential that we put them through their paces to ensure they are fit for your beloved guitar. Now, that means putting them through a bunch of everyday tests. 

We'll start by stringing the guitar with a fresh set of strings and observing how long they take to "bed-in". In this test, we are looking to see how long the strings take to become stable in their tuning. Of course, we are looking for this to be as quick as possible, with the best acoustic guitar strings taking minutes rather than hours. 

Next, we need to test how the strings feel under our fingers. Naturally, we are looking for smooth strings, that allow us to glide effortlessly up and down the fretboard. When it comes to coated strings, we prefer not to notice the coating while we play - we'd rather just notice the anti-corrosion qualities. Speaking of corrosion, that brings us on to the longevity of the strings. To test this, we'll keep the strings on our guitar for as long as possible and take note of when they start to discolor, tarnish and lose their spark. 

Now, obviously, how a set of strings sounds is very important. To test the tone of the strings, we make sure to play a wide variety of styles to see how the strings handle the different musical genres. We'll pay close attention to how the EQ of our guitar has changed with the addition of the new strings. 

Read more about our rating system, how we choose the gear we feature, and exactly how we test each product.  

Chris Corfield

Chris Corfield is a journalist with over 12 years of experience writing for some of the music world's biggest brands including Orange Amplification, MusicRadar, Guitar World, Total Guitar and Dawsons Music. Chris loves getting nerdy about everything from guitar gear and synths, to microphones and music production hardware.

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