Best electric guitar strings 2023: the finest electric guitar strings for every budget and playing style

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Close up of Telecaster pickups and strings

(Image credit: Future)

1. Product guide
2. Buying advice
3. How we test products

Replacing your old, dull, lifeless strings with a set of the best electric guitar strings is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way of breathing new life into your instrument. Regular restringing is the most efficient bit of maintenance you can carry out on your guitar, as it can make it sound a whole lot better, and it doesn’t cost a lot. 

Over time, the strings on your electric guitar will corrode and get all sorts of dirt and sweat stuck between the grooves of the winds – the thinner strings may even start to rust. You might not notice it, as it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s gradual, but you can lose some top end and note definition, and you can experience problems with tuning and intonation. Slap a new set of the best electric guitar strings on there, and you’ll instantly hear and feel the difference.

A new set of strings feels better under the fingers, and all that top end and presence that you’ve gradually lost over the last few weeks or months is back. Restringing your electric guitar really can make it feel new again.

Finding the right set for you might take a few tries, as different players like different brands and gauges, but we've put in the hours testing all sorts of string sets, from the biggest and most innovative brands in guitar to bring you our pro guide to the best electric guitar strings currently on the market, as well as some buying advice below.

Chris Corfield author image
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 guitar gear down to a molecular level - and yes, that includes guitar strings.

Best electric 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 electric 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 electrics all needing some TLC - there’s something for every player here.

Best electric guitar strings: Buying advice

Work bench with guitar strings, cutters and string winder

(Image credit: Future)

How to choose the best electric guitar strings for you 

You can trust Guitar World Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing guitar products so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Although guitar strings are a pretty inexpensive purchase compared to something like a new acoustic guitar or pedalboard, they can help you break out of a creative rut by giving your guitar a new lease of life. 

There are many, many different sets of electric guitar strings out there, and different players will find that certain brands and gauges (thickness) work better for them than others. It’s a fairly subjective thing, so it’s worth trying a few different sets out and seeing what you prefer.

It’s hard to talk about electric guitar strings and not talk about Ernie Ball Slinkys - you’ll probably recognise the packet and to be honest, they’re difficult to fault. They offer loads of different gauges to suit personal preference and they sound great - the same can be said for the D’Addario EXL range too. 

We love the Elixir Optiwebs too - these have to be some of the best electric guitar strings on offer because of their unique coating which helps them sound fresher for much longer. Recently, the D’addario XT range have made some pretty great strides as well, offering a protective coating on all six strings, as opposed to just the three or four wound strings.

What are electric guitar strings made of?

The best electric guitar strings are made from various materials but most will consist of a metal (usually steel) core, with windings wrapped around the bottom three strings. Some heavier gauge strings might feature a wound G string too. The windings tend to be either nickel plated, pure nickel or stainless steel – though there are others like cobalt. 

Nickel plated strings are the most popular as they yield a balanced and even response. Nickel strings tend to be fairly warm and mellow, and steel strings are brighter, so nickel plated steel is a great combination of the two! You can think about the pickups on the guitar you’re restringing – if the pickups are naturally bright sounding, you could mellow them out with some pure nickel strings, for example.

What are the benefits of coated electric guitar strings?

The market now has more coated strings than ever. As the name suggests, these have a very thin coating around the strings that helps prevent dirt and sweat from corroding them. The result is strings that last longer and retain that fresh ‘new string’ sound for longer too. However, they do tend to cost more, and some players don’t like the feel of the coating. That said, there are newer coated strings, like the D’addario XTs, that feel almost the same as non coated strings.

A man changing the strings on a Fender Stratocaster

(Image credit: Future)

Which string gauge should I use?

One of the main considerations to make when shopping for the best electric guitar strings is the gauge. The gauge refers to the thickness of the strings, and is measured in thousands of an inch – you’ll often hear them referred to as 9s or 10s. This means that the top string is .009 or .010 of an inch thick. This can make quite a big difference to how the strings feel under your fingers. 

The main contact between you and your guitar happens at the string, so it’s important to find the right gauge for you. Players with a heavier touch might prefer heavier strings as they might knock them out of tune less. Those who tune down below standard also tend to gravitate towards thicker strings as they will hold tuning better.

Lighter strings mean there is physically less string to move, so bending is easier. For some, light strings are too easy to bend, and find themselves going too far with it – it really is about matching your left and right hand touch with the right gauge, which might take a little trial and error. 

There’s no right and wrong when it comes to gauges – it all boils down to personal preference. While most beginners tend to find it easier using lighter strings, many professionals stick with them as they get used to the touch and know how they respond. Some claim that you’ll get better tone from thicker strings, but we’d suggest finding what’s more comfortable for you – that’s the most important thing!

When should I replace the strings on my electric guitar?

As previously stated, there are no hard and fast rules for when you should change your strings. A lot of players do it every couple of months or so, but if you’re playing for three hours every day, then you’re going to wear the strings out much quicker. If you’re playing live, then you’re probably going to sweat more which will wear them out quicker too - most pros will usually change strings after every gig.

Time for a change?

The amount you'll need to change your strings will also vary. Regular performers will want to change strings for every show to ensure their guitar sounds the best it can. Ditto if you're spending time in the studio. On the other hand, if you're only playing at home you'll probably look to change them once a month or so. 

The reason you should change strings so often in certain situations is that strings have a short period of time when they're performing at their optimum level. 

Things that can affect this include temperature and humidity changes, sweat and other corrosive materials, and your own playing technique. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the best electric guitar strings on the market today.

Read our feature showing you how to restring an electric guitar

Can you use electric guitar strings on an acoustic?

Whilst acoustic strings might fit on your electric, they aren’t going to sound good. The best electric guitar strings are made using materials that work well with the pickups on your guitar, whereas acoustic strings are made differently.

How we test electric guitar strings

For us, testing electric guitar strings is a rather enjoyable process, as it involves, well, playing our guitars! Therefore, we put them through several everyday situations to make sure we are thoroughly testing the strings.

We'll start by stringing the guitar with a fresh set of strings and observing how long they take to settle in and hold their tuning. We are looking to see how quickly the strings become usable in this test. Of course, ideally, we would like this to be as quick as possible, with the best electric guitar strings taking minutes to become stable in their tuning, without the need to excessively pull and stretch the strings. 

Next, we need to test how the strings feel to play. For us, the best strings should make playing the guitar a joy. The strings should feel smooth and not sticky. When it comes to coated strings, we prefer not to notice the coating while we play. Speaking of corrosion, that brings us on to the longevity of the strings. To test how long a set of strings lasts, we'll keep the strings on our guitar for as long as we can, taking note of when they start to tarnish and lose their bright, snappy sound. 

Now, how good a set of strings sounds is very important to every guitar player. 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, paying close attention to how the overall tone 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.  

Best electric guitar strings: SIT Power Wound Electric Guitar Strings

(Image credit: SIT)

11. Dunlop Heavy Core

The sound behind Lamb Of God and Rammstein


Spec: 8% nickel-plated steel cover wrap over a hexagonal-shaped core

Reasons to buy

The choice of big name players
Range of gauges available

Reasons to avoid

Hard to come by

All-American string company SIT prides itself on the fact that its strings Stay In Tune, and that's down to their carefully considered construction. That's what made SIT's Power Wounds the strings of choice for powerful players such as The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, Lamb Of God's Willie Adler and Rammstein's Richard Kruspe.

A combination of an 8 percent nickel-plated steel cover wrap over a hexagonal-shaped core – all sourced in the USA, no less – produces a bright treble response with long string life. During testing, we found that not only does the brightness introduce extra clarity your tone, but these strings also provide some real guts and low-end too. 

They're not exactly easy to come by - especially if you live in Europe, but if you can get some, then you'll definitely enjoy them.

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