Best Acoustic Guitar Strings of 2020 – Complete Round-up

As the term suggests, acoustic guitar strings are those strings used on acoustic guitars. The difference between acoustic and electric guitar strings is that while the acoustic strings use copper-based alloys, electric strings make use of steel and nickel. 

Copper is better at preserving an acoustic instrument’s tone compared to nickel, which is suitable for electric guitars.

Guitar strings are the most vital parts of your tone. The sound of the guitar strings is barely audible because the tone that originates from the electric guitar is always colored by pedals and an amp. In acoustic guitars, however, the tone is heard without any amplification.

Your choice of guitar strings will, therefore, have a significant impact on the tone. When it comes to purchasing your first guitar string, there may be a lot of confusion as you may not really know what you want. 

Luckily for you, we have got you sorted with this comprehensive review of the best acoustic guitar strings.

Comparison Chart of the Best Acoustic Guitar Strings

PRODUCT
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Martin SP Lifespan

  • Improved tone and timbre
  • Best acoustic guitar strings overall
  • Are available in the light/medium gauge
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D'Addario EJ17 Phosphor Acoustic Strings

  • Available in gauges 13-17-26-35-45-56
  • The EJ17 strings have a wrapping around the hex-core that is computer-controlled
  • The phosphor bronze alloy will retain its flexibility and fantastic tone even after many hours of playing
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Ernie Ball Aluminium Bronze

  • More clarity and projection
  • Increased resistance to corrosion
  • Best acoustic guitar strings for the money
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Martin 'Clapton's Choice' Acoustic Guitar Strings

  • Legendary tone
  • Best Acoustic Guitar Strings for Beginners
  • Available in light gauge 92/8 Phosphor Bronze
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Elixir Nanoweb HD Light

  • Rich and full-bodied tone
  • Best Sounding Acoustic Guitar Strings
  • Constructed using phosphor bronze wrap wire
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DR Strings Zebra Acoustic-Electric Guitar Strings

  • Consistency in sound and tone
  • Best Acoustic-Electric Guitar Strings
  • Better output tone than similar strings
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D'Addario Nickel Bronze

  • Uncoated strings provide great tone
  • Best Acoustic Guitar Strings for Warm Sound
  • Engineered to generate your guitar’s natural voice
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D'Addario Pro-Arte EJ45

  • Silver-plated wound strings
  • Best Nylon Strings for Acoustic Guitar
  • Available in gauges 28-32-40-29-34-43
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Ernie Ball 2146 Earthwood Acoustic Guitar String Set

  • Natural feel that is softer than most
  • Excellent projection without the effort
  • Best Acoustic Guitar Strings for Sore Fingers
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Gibson Masterbuilt Acoustic Guitar Strings

  • Incredible playability
  • Bright and crisp tone
  • Best Steel Acoustic Guitar Strings
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How Do I Know if My Guitar Strings Need Replacing? 

The following 5 signs should warn you that it is time to replace those guitar strings:

  • Your strings will be out of tune: you will start experiencing problems tuning your guitar strings.
  • Your guitar tone turns dull: the tone will lose its crispness and brightness
  • Discoloration of your strings
  • Your strings will start feeling stiff
  • Your strings will feel dirty

How Long Do Guitar Strings Last For Acoustic?

On average, a set of uncoated guitar strings lasts between one and 3 months. This is dependent on the frequency of playing. Coated ones, e.g., Elixir, last longer (for around 6-9 months). 

It can also depend on a list of variables:

  • String size and gauge
  • String construction quality
  • Amount of sweat.

How Often Should I Replace Guitar Strings?

The amount of time you will take before replacing your strings depends on the way you feel about the string’s sound. Most people will change theirs after many hours of playing. Others will change them monthly. Elixir strings can play for 3 months before needing any replacement.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Your First Acoustic Guitar Strings

These factors - type of the string, required tone, age of the guitar, cost, and string gauge - need to be considered. Once you understand these factors, you will gain the necessary knowledge and confidence in determining the strings that are tailored to meet your needs.

Cost

Of course, this is the fundamental factor you have to consider when buying your guitar strings. You can avoid paying more money for your acoustic guitar strings by doing an internet search, inquiring from guitar players, and visiting a music shop to get the best price offers.

String Type

For starters, nylon strings are the best. They can bend and move easily, and also offer less tension to the fingers. If you are playing classical acoustic guitars, continue using nylon strings. 

Folk players are advised to use ball-end nylon strings. These strings are heavier compared to nylon and are more favorable for a strumming style.

String Gauge

This is the diameter of the string. For acoustic guitars, there exist 4 main gauge options:

  • 10-46 extra light gauge: These strings are easy to play and offer the least strain. It is the best option for newbies, but it creates a thin sound.
  • 11-52 custom light gauge: These strings maintain playing simplicity and produce a sound that is slightly richer and fuller.
  • 12-54 light gauge: Many music artists use these strings. Their tuning stability is higher, and due to the higher tension it offers, it does not suit budget acoustic guitars.
  • 13-56 medium gauge: This is one of the topmost gauges. The strings are very big and have a rich tone. They, however, offer high tension and are thus challenging to play.

Required Tone

Guitarists tend to look for a specific tone in the guitar. Different strings have different features:

  • Bronze type: These strings are very clear. They have a bright tone and tend to fade.
  • Phosphor bronze type: Their sustainability is longer and tones warmer.
  • Coated type: They have a long life and a rich tone.

Guitar Age

A new acoustic guitar is strong enough to give the guitarist an option of strings to choose from. Extra care should be taken if you play a vintage guitar instrument. Older instruments were tailored to use a light gauge and be strung with gut strings.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best Acoustic Guitar Strings

This review will look into the fundamental features, advantages, and disadvantages of the best acoustic guitar strings. It will also feature reviews from buyers and additional information explaining why each of them was listed as a top product.

Best Overall:
Martin SP Lifespan

PROS

  • Perfect for beginners
  • Tone and volume is great
  • Top-quality manufacturing
  • They are uncoated and therefore sound incredible
  • They exert just the right amount of tension on the guitar

CONS

  • They easily wear off because they are uncoated

What Recent Buyers Report

Most reviewers applaud the string manufacturing. They find the light/medium gauge interesting, which makes sense even though this gauge range isn’t widely available. Where too stiff medium strings and too brittle light strings fail, light/ medium gauge comes into the picture. One reviewer liked the medium pressure they exert and the fantastic tone and volume.

Why it Stands Out to Us

One of the topmost recommended models, the SP line, is available in 80/20 Bronze, and 92/8 Phosphor Bronze. Also, these strings will produce the perfect tone and volume. If you have never strung an acoustic guitar, then you will definitely notice how different Martin SP strings are compared to the Elixir strings.

Who Will Use This Most

These strings are specifically tailored for beginners as they navigate through the different keys to obtain the desired tone. They are easy to play and exert little tension on your guitar. However, if you have a bit more experience, these strings will suit you perfectly as well.

Bottom Line  

The SP Phosphor Bronze are worth your money given their tone. You will definitely go searching for the best available tone, and uncoated strings are the key to that perfect tone. You will, however, need to be ready for the constant change of strings because of corrosion and dirt.

PROS

  • Resistant to breakage
  • Reliable and affordable
  • Consistency of sound and tone
  • Good quality and extended life
  • Incredible timbre that most will enjoy

CONS

  • They are uncoated and, therefore, easily wear off
  • They will need regular replacement due to corrosion and dirt

What Recent Buyers Report

Some of the reviewers have no intention of switching to other strings. They were happy about the dark and rich bass tones the strings generated. They said that the strings allow the notes of a code to be heard clearly. Many praised their longevity and retaining of their tone.

Why it Stands Out to Us

A string package consists of 6 strings. Each of these strings is kept in a corrosion-proof bag that is sealed to ensure no oxidation occurs as they sit next to each other. Their ball ends are color-coded. This is a helpful visual indicator when playing your guitar, as it tells you that you have placed the right string in its rightful position.

Who Will Use This Most

They are perfect for guitarists who want the feel of coated strings but could do without the coating. Many loved these strings for the sweet melodies they bring out and the extra strings they allow you to keep on hand as you play, so if you are a performer, these are ideal for you.

Bottom Line    

If your taste is halfway between uncoated and coated strings, D'Addario strings may just be the perfect match. The light (.012-.053) gauge is recommended for those with no strong gauge preference. Another option is the EJ16 model.

Best for the Money:
Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze

PROS

  • Excellent build quality
  • Good tone with extended life
  • Made from an aluminum and copper blend
  • Available in medium light gauges .012 - .054
  • Made with Aluminum Bronze wrapping wire and Ernie Ball Maraging Steel hex cores and that provides brilliant highs and more pronounced lows

CONS

  • Looks tarnished
  • Not ideal for rigorous play

What Recent Buyers Report

One reviewer marveled at how brand new they looked even after playing them for four weeks. Another was disappointed that even though he bought them for their brightness, the sound was just an artificial quality on them as its quality deteriorated in the shortest time.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This set of guitar strings is quite durable for normal playing thanks to the great build quality. The tone produced will appeal to most people. The projection and clarity is quite impressive, especially considering the price of these strings.

Who Will Use This Most

They are a perfect choice for those who have trouble choosing between Elixir and Martin strings. Whether you are a beginner or a professional, if you play an acoustic guitar and want strings that offer great value for money, these are the strings for you.

Bottom Line    

These are D’Addario Phosphor Bronze’s worthy competitors. The medium-light gauge is a perfect starting point. Their build quality ensures that they will not wear out or snap easily, and the tone that these strings produce will have you wanting to play more than ever before.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings for Beginners:
Martin’ Clapton’s Choice’ Acoustic Guitar Strings

PROS

  • Warm and bright tone
  • Affordable for most players
  • Designed to resist corrosion
  • Incredible playability and excellent tone
  • Perfect for beginners or more experienced players

CONS

  • Lacks consistency

What Recent Buyers Report

Some reviewers said they weren’t as bright as they thought they would be; however, the tone is great and quite consistent. Most of the reviewers revealed that before they tested out these strings, they were D’Addario fans and have not gone back since they heard the warm and bright tone they produced.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Safety is guaranteed with these strings as there will be no cases of corrosion, leaving your strings strong and durable. Also, the tone is superb, and almost everyone can afford these strings, making them the perfect addition to your guitar case for when you need an extra set.

Who Will Use This Most

Most of the clients would be beginners who need practice with simple equipment. Intermediate guitarists will also enjoy using these guitar strings thanks to the timbre and warmth that they produce as well as the durability which allows for more rigorous playing.

Bottom Line    

These strings are highly recommended to anyone who is looking for new strings for their guitar, especially beginners. Their feel, the tone they generate, and affordability are just a few of the factors that should make you fall for them.

Best Sounding Acoustic Guitar Strings:
Elixir Nanoweb HD Light

PROS

  • High-end clarity
  • Good tone and consistency
  • Good build quality ensures longevity
  • Combination of both warm and bright tones
  • NANOWEB coating protects against corrosion

CONS

  • Expensive to purchase

What Recent Buyers Report

Some reviewers shared how their expectations of good sound were met. Others commended them for their exceptional feel and action but faulted their stiffness. According to one of the reviewers, the string coating decreases the string noise, is easy on the fingers, and durable.

Why it Stands Out to Us

One thing that stands out for these strings is their longevity. They are coated, so you can string them for as long as you want, and they will still be in good shape. They aren’t affected by dirt and corrosion, and therefore frequent changing won’t be necessary.

Who Will Use This Most

People that love the feel of coated strings would love these. Beginners may not want to purchase these based on the price, but the high costs will, in the end, even out. Considering that they sound so good, they are worth the spend.

Bottom Line 

The light gauge is highly recommended for beginners. It produces the best tone and loudness mix and also inserts just the right amount of pressure on your fingers. If you love coated strings, we have got you covered. If you don’t, there are several other recommendations we have for you.

Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Strings:
DR Strings Zebra Acoustic-Electric Guitar Strings

PROS

  • Longevity and durability
  • Extra-light and easy to play
  • Desirable tone that most enjoy
  • Available in gauges 10, 14, 22, 30, 38, 48
  • Have alternating nickel-plated steel and phosphor bronze wrapping wires every other coil

CONS

  • Expensive

What Recent Buyers Report

Many reviewers registered their satisfaction in the quick delivery. Some, however, were disappointed by mix-ups. In one case, two strings were put in each sleeve and, therefore, randomly mixed. This brings about problems during restringing and cutting to length. Complaints were also made about the tone quality.

Why it Stands Out to Us

These strings offer excellent consistency, which means that you can rely on the sound quality and timbre of the strings. They are very durable and strong, so you do not need to worry about the strings snapping when you are playing more demanding songs.

Who Will Use This Most

Most beginners would likely purchase this to help in their practice sessions. Intermediate guitarists can use them too, especially if they enjoy a more bright and warm tone to their electric acoustic guitar.

Bottom Line  

DR Strings have done a good job with these strings. They have a consistent tone and are very durable, which is very important if you are a performing guitarist that doesn’t want to have to worry about their guitar strings snapping in the middle of their performance.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings for Warm Sound:
D’Addario Nickel Bronze

PROS

  • Long life and durability
  • Favorable for heavy strumming
  • Good tone, consistency, and quality
  • Unrivaled clarity, projection, and resonance
  • Features D’Addario NY Steel cores for tuning stability and break resistance

CONS

  • Pricey
  • Easily breaks
  • Doesn’t match the loudness of phosphor bronze

What Recent Buyers Report

Some reviewers found the phosphor strings too brash and bright. When they tried the Nickel Bronze ones, they loved the experience. They brought with them a warm tone. Others expressed their frustrations concerning the sound, calling it muted. It lacks any sparkle for some people.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The uncoated strings provide the ultimate crispness and clarity. This means that your guitar sings in the way it was intended to by the manufacturer. The durability of these strings allows you to rely on these strings no matter when or where you are playing.

Who Will Use This Most

They would be most suitable for full-band occasions in which the guitar has to sit nicely in a mix. They are mostly used for electric strings and perform a good task of accentuating mid-range frequencies.

Bottom Line  

The uncoated strings let the tone come out in its natural way. If you are looking for something durable and consistent at the same time, this is the way to go.

Best Nylon Strings for Acoustic Guitar:
D’Addario Pro-Arte EJ45

PROS

  • Normal-tension
  • Nylon trebles that are clear
  • They stay in tune for a long time
  • Long-life thanks to the durability
  • Nice tone and high-quality build

CONS

  • It is prone to breakages

What Recent Buyers Report

Some reviewers praised its smooth texture which is easy on the fingers. Most of them said the strings still looked bright even after being used for a long time. Plus, they do not go out of tune very quickly, which is great if you do live performances.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The high-quality build of these strings is quite good, and their tone is very enjoyable to listen to. The warmth and fullness is something not often achieved when using nylon strings, so those who like the feel of nylon strings that also want a warm sound will want these strings.

Who Will Use This Most

It would be the best choice for beginners since it gives a little pressure on the fingers to train them to be used to the strings, but they are still easy to play. Also, the strings have a soft texture and a great sound, so intermediate players will like these too.

Bottom Line   

The nice tone it generates and its long life is everything you could look for in a guitar string. The price is affordable, and the strings are durable, so if you are looking for decent nylon strings that won’t break each time you use them, these are the strings to choose.

Best Acoustic Guitar Strings for Sore Fingers:
Ernie Ball 2146 Earthwood Acoustic Guitar String Set

PROS

  • A rich and warm tone
  • Good tone and quality
  • Extended life thanks to the durability of the build
  • Crafted in South Carolina using the finest materials
  • Packaging extends string life and keeps the strings in a fresh state

CONS

  • Lacks consistency

What Recent Buyers Report

Many reviewers registered their satisfaction with these strings. They, however, commented that the sound is only great when the strings are fresh. After a few gigs, it starts to fade. Many of them were happy about the quality and feel of the strings.

Why it Stands Out to Us

They sound great, clear, warm, and nice. They have just the right brightness levels. Ernie Ball’s Element Shield Packaging is used in packaging them, thus ensuring they remain in a fresh state and do not undergo premature oxidation.

Who Will Use This Most

They are suitable for beginners who are still looking for their way in the game. Intermediate guitarists can also use them. Professional guitarists shouldn’t use these as they are just for learning the basics.

Bottom Line  

With the excellent projection, natural feel, and even longevity, these strings come in a beautiful package. Paul McCartney, Brad Paisley, and John Mayer all use these strings. This paints a picture of just how capable they are. This is the way to go for beginners and even intermediate players.

Best Steel Acoustic Guitar Strings:
Gibson Master built Acoustic Guitar Strings

PROS

  • Bronze alloy wound strings
  • Consistency in sound and timbre
  • Long-life thanks to a durable build
  • Good tone that is pleasant to listen to
  • Available in gauges 12,16,24,32,42,53

CONS

  • Thicker than the others

What Recent Buyers Report

Most reviewers praised the customer care service. They indicated that both the product and price were okay. Some revealed they had found their new favorite strings and would recommend potential buyers.

Why it Stands Out to Us

These strings are long-lasting thanks to their high-quality build. They are slightly thicker compared to their equivalents but produce the brightest of sounds. Because they are thicker, they are good for beginners or those with sensitive fingers.

Who Will Use This Most

Beginners would love practicing on these strings. They are easy to play and have a smooth texture. Intermediate players can also enjoy using these strings as they are consistent and have excellent playability that you will love.

Bottom Line  

Gibson has done a splendid job with the Gibson Master built strings. The good tone and longevity are all worth your money, and if you are just starting out and want strings that sound good without breaking the bank, these are worth a look.

Aspects to Consider Before Buying Acoustic Guitar Strings

The below factors will assist you in buying the guitar strings that suit your needs best:

String Gauge

This describes how light or heavy the strings are. This is a fundamental element in the playability and tone of the guitar. It has a huge impact on the sound that will be generated. Gauge is the string thickness. 

When referencing gauge preferences, players will usually refer to the size of the high E. For instance, a guitarist who says they use 12s simply means that the first string gauge is 0.12. An acoustic set that is light and average ranges between 0.12 and 0.53. 

Why should you consider gauge when choosing your strings? The thicker your string, the more tension will be exerted; the more tension in the string, the more difficult it will be to fret. Some guitarists use unusually large strings. It is, however, not advisable to jump to those gauges until you have strung for some time.

Also, switching gauges could cause your guitar neck to use some adjustment because of more or less tension in the string.

String Construction

There are a lot of components that unite to generate the sound that comes from your guitar. A metal core wire exists in the string’s middle. This core wire is fixed to the ball end (a ferrule made of glass). 

This ball end bonds the string to the bridge. Around this wire is another. This is the portion against your fingerboard that the fingers press. All these parts come together to breathe life into your sound.

Core

Typically, guitar string cores are manufactured from steel. The core is the string’s center. Windings rotate the core to form large wound strings. Round and hex are the basic cores. Round cores provide a tone that is fatter, more flexible, and balanced. 

Hex cores have a better grip on the windings to give a sound that is brighter, and a performance that is more consistent and has greater tension.

Material

There are two basic guitar string varieties: 80/20 bronze or phosphor bronze. Phosphor bronze strings have phosphor put into the alloy. The tone they produce is warmer and lasts longer. 

The 80/20 bronze strings have a copper content of 80% and 20% zinc content, which make up the alloy. It produces a brighter sound. In most acoustic guitars, the strings with higher pitches will be steel (plain). 

Coating

A thin coat is applied to the strings in order to prevent corrosion that may result from oils and sweats. Although they are pricey, coated strings tend to have a longer lifespan.

How to Change Acoustic Guitar Strings

Restringing a guitar is not as hard as it sounds. Learning to do it on your own rather than taking it to a music shop to be re-stringed will save you money and time. However, you have to be careful because there is a lot of pressure exerted on the strings. If they snap, they can hurt your eyes.

After carrying out the procedure, ensure you carefully dispose of the old string to avoid accidents with pets that may chew them. Roll them up and wrap them in paper, then dispose of it safely.

Follow the below procedure:

1. Remove

Make sure each string is slackened by 5 turns or more. Make sure they are slack to the point of eliminating the possibility of a note. You can then proceed to cut them at the 12th fret. You should then remove them from the pegs (tuning). 

You can then use fingers or even pliers to remove string pins. Pluck the remaining strings. In case a string was broken, there is a possibility of the ball on the string’s end falling out of the sound hole.

2. Clean the Guitar Neck

Get the strings off to clean your guitar neck. You can use Lemon Oil.

3. Replace

Make sure each string is kinked. You should then place the string’s ball end inside the hole and do a replacement of the peg. Watch out to see if the peg looks like it is coming out. Continue pushing the peg in quite hard and make sure it is pulled tight.

4. Attach the String to the Tuning Peg

The most vital part of this step is making sure the string is on the peg’s correct side. This is how to do it:

  • Line up the hole into the peg so that it is facing down the neck.
  • Let the string go through the hole. Pull it to achieve some slack. Depending on the string thickness, the slack amount needed will vary.
  • Hold the live string and wrap the peg’s top with it. Most Fender guitars will require you to wind clockwise while Gibson style guitars will require you to wind in an anti-clockwise direction.
  • Hold the part you plan to play down to the guitar neck and begin winding the tuner for the live string to wrap under the dead one.

5. Tune-up

In this stage, you tune your string. You can use your TC Electronic Polytune on the pedalboard. Tune it to the desired note.

6. Stretch in

Try stretching the string in. Using your right hand, pull gently on your string while using the left one to hold your string in the right position inside the nut. Continue doing it until you no longer have to.

Conclusion

Provided above are ten types of acoustic guitar strings. The choice is entirely yours. However, go for those strings that will suit your needs and are also pocket-friendly. Do not forget about durability and tone quality.

People Also Ask

If you have read through the article and still have some questions, take a look below to find out more.

How Much are Acoustic Guitar Strings?

The prices range from as low as $3 to as high as $33.

How Do You Lower Strings on Acoustic Guitar?

Acoustic guitar action is the height of the strings that are above the fretboard. It also describes the general playability and feel of your guitar. High action in a guitar simply suggests that your strings are off your fretboard too high. 

The following tools can be used to lower your guitar action:

  • The StewMac Basic Guitar Setup Kit
  • The Spring Action Gauge Height Ruler
  • The String and Fretboard Radius Gauge
  • Truss Rod Wrenches

How High Should Strings Be on An Acoustic Guitar?

On the bass E string, 3/32” is the typical action height for acoustic guitars. 1/16” is the action height on the treble E string. You take these measurements from the guitar’s 12th fret.

How Do You Slot an Acoustic Guitar Nut for Larger Strings?

Here is a step by step procedure:

  1. Clean your nut slot
  2. Choose the nut material
  3. Shape your nut roughly
  4. Determine the spacing between the outer E-rings.
  5. Cut starter slots
  6. Select the files you require
  7. Remove the nut
  8. Take the final slot height
  9. Mark the nut’s final size
  10. Do final shaping of the nut
  11. String your guitar

How Many Strings Does an Acoustic Guitar Have?

It has 6, with string number one being the thinnest. Counting begins from the bottom. The tuning goes this way: EADBE. Both the last and the first strings have the E major tune.

How Do You Tie Acoustic Guitar Strings?

  1. Place the guitar on your knees with the guitar head facing in the left direction. Passing it through the Bridge hole, carefully thread your string from the left to the right direction.
  2. Using the right hand, hold the string, pass around, and at the back of your main string.
  3. Pass the string end through the loop and place it against the bridge bottom
  4. When you look in the direction of the bridge from the right direction, your string has to be trapped to prevent slippage.

What is the Standard Gauge For Acoustic Guitar Strings?

Most of them will be standard with strings that are 12 gauge. Heavier strings like 13’s and lighter ones like 11’s are also available.

What is The Lightest Gauge For Acoustic Guitar Strings?

It is typically 0.10 for the lightest strings.