Best Electric Guitar Strings – 2019 Complete Buyer’s Guide

Have you considered how important your strings are? Some of us might actually consider instruments or amplifiers as the most important aspects of our performance; however, this is not necessarily the case. Selecting the right type of strings for your electric guitar is crucial and a major asset to your performance. Keep reading to find out more details about electric guitar strings and which are the best on the market.

I used to think having a favorite set of guitar strings was like having a favorite brand of toilet paper. It’s the materials and thickness that make the real difference; not the brand. Yet, many players use the same brand of guitar strings over and over again… why?

To test the myth, I tried out different sets of guitar strings. I also read through hundreds of forum conversations to see how other players’ experiences compared to my own. As it turns out, there are some key differences between string brands, especially in terms feel and durability. However, string gauge and material are ultimately much bigger factors.

In this guide, I’ll share my research on guitar string brands, then provide an overview of string gauge (thickness) and materials (e.g. nickel vs steel) to help you find the perfect set of strings.

Comparison of the Best Electric Guitar Strings

Product

Rating

Price

Ernie Ball Slinky

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Set, .010 - .046

Best Overall

Fender 150R Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings, Regular

Fender 150R Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings, Regular

Runner-up

D’Addario XL

D'Addario Electric Guitar Strings Regular Light Gauge Round Wound with Nickel-Plated Steel for Long Lasting Distinctive Bright Tone and Excellent Intonation (EXL110)

Best for the Money

Gibson Brite Wires Electric Guitar Strings, Light 10-46

Gibson Brite Wires Electric Guitar Strings, Light 10-46

Best Electric Guitar Strings for Beginners

DR Strings Zebra - Acoustic-Electric Round Core 11-50

DR Strings Zebra - Acoustic-Electric Round Core 11-50

Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Strings:

GHS Boomers

GHS Strings GBL Guitar Boomers, Nickel-Plated Electric Guitar Strings, Light (.010-.046)

Best Electric Guitar Strings for Rock

D'Addario EPN110 Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings, Regular Light, 10-45

D'Addario EPN110 Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings, Regular Light, 10-45

Best Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings

Are All Electric Guitar Strings the Same?

Well, of course not. Electric guitars usually use steel and nickel strings, which satisfy different needs and music styles. Most electric guitarists prefer steel, while the three thickest strings are nickel-plated. However, pure nickel and pure steel are regaining their popularity. The main difference is that steel strings offer brighter and livelier sounds compared to nickel alternatives; thus, there is a higher presence of high-end response. 

On the other hand, nickel strings have warm tones, particularly useful if you enjoy playing older music genres, especially blues. They are great for rhythm work because they increase the overall richness and body. 

On the middle ground, there is nickel-plated steel strings. They have both body in the low-end response; however, they also maintain the cutting lead tone. They have a balanced brightness and the warmth of the tones with more attack. 

Therefore, you can choose pure steel strings for metal, country, and rock, where you require an aggressive lead tone. Nickel strings are better for warmer and mellower genres, such as blues and any other music genre that requires a low level of distortion. 

How to Choose Electric Guitar Strings

Before making a purchase, you first need to select the option that is best suited to your needs. Here are a few features to consider to make the process simpler:

String Gauge

Gauge is the thickness of strings, measured in thousandths of an inch. It is one of the most important factors in how a guitar plays. Although this topic is fully dealt with below, it is one of the main features you need to consider when purchasing electric guitar strings because it impacts the playing style and music genre. A lighter gauge makes them easier to play, so lighter gauges are perfect for fast leads and intense rhythm chording.

However, if you play rock, you might want to choose heavier gauges. Blues and classic rock players might want to choose a medium gauge, which successfully combines easy bending with richer, fatter, and darker tones. Most electric guitars come with light gauge strings, which might be a good choice if you are a beginner; heavier strings are harsher on your fingers. 

Lighter gauges (thinner) are easier to bend, and more forgiving on the fingers, but also harder to grip. If you're playing bar chords, for example, you might have trouble holding down a pitch.

Heavier gauges (thicker) are more rigid, but allow you to strum the guitar more aggressively. You can usually get a much bigger sound out of heavier gauge strings, but you'll need to build up those calluses first.

Here’s a simple overview of where string gauges fall on the spectrum:

  • 8-9: Light, easier to play.
  • 10: Medium
  • 11-12: Heavy, harder to play, but stronger tone.

Note that when comparing gauges between packages, the highest string is used. So “11 gauge” would refer to the thickness of the highest E string (0.011 inches).

Durability

It is also important to choose strings according to your playing frequency. If you are occasionally playing, durability is not so important (although might still be for some); however, this feature is crucial for professionals or devoted novices. Durable strings can improve your experience with your electric guitar. 

Construction Material

As previously mentioned, the construction material is very important because different materials suit different needs. Nickel-plated steel is today's standard, but you can explore many other options if you're feeling adventurous.

Quick Take: 
Top 3 Picks

Review of the Best Electric Guitar Strings

Time for the reviews -- here's our complete round-up and overview of each set of strings:

Best Overall:
Ernie Ball Slinky

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Set, .010 - .046

PROS

  • Signature slinky feel.
  • High Carbon Steel hex core.
  • Rich and well-balanced tone.
  • Prolonged life due to Element Shield Packaging.
  • Comes in a large variety of styles, making it suitable for any playing style and guitar type.

CONS

  • Reduced richness of tone on acoustic.
  • Slightly chunky lows for low chording.

What Recent Buyers Report

Ernie Ball Slinky strings are better than other alternative products because they are comfortable, they sound better and they are extremely versatile, from blues to metal. They offer good value, as they last for a long time and hold their tones; they are high-quality and extremely dependable.

Why it Stands Out To Us

These are the top products on the market, and they have been preferred by musicians such as Eric Clapton, Green Day, and The Rolling Stones. They are a great asset to any musician due to their sturdy composition, which is based on nickel-plated steel wrapped around a tin-plated high carbon steel core, which offers a balanced tone and high versatility.

Who Will Use This Most

This product is perfect for professional guitar players because it is high-quality and can last for a long time without getting decrepit. They are extremely dependable and comfortable compared to other alternatives. They are also suitable for beginners and for practicing, due to the fact that they are comfortable and durable.

Bottom Line

Overall, Ernie Ball Slinky Strings offer high quality, dependability, and comfort, combining versatility with balanced tones that make them suitable for any musician, any genre and any guitar, especially electric ones.

Fender 150R Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings, Regular

PROS

  • Versatile.
  • Color-coded for easy identification.
  • High-quality wires used in production.
  • Warmer sound than other nickel wound options.
  • Combines vintage tones with contemporary manufacturing techniques.

CONS

  • Dual sound.
  • Poor quality control.
  • Go out of tune relatively quickly.

What Recent Buyers Report

Fender 150R Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings are versatile, allowing you to play tones consistent with blues, rock, and jazz styles. They sound good, and their nickel composition reduces saddle and fret wear. They are durable and they last for a long time (2-3 weeks for regular players, 60-80 hours of play).

Why it Stands Out To Us

This product will impress musicians with high standards and is suitable for blues, jazz, and classic rock, making it highly versatile. The high-quality wire and nickel construction offer them many benefits compared to other stainless steel alternatives due to the fact that pressure on the saddle and fret is reduced.

Who Will Use This Most

These are extremely useful both to professionals and beginners. They are color-coded in order to identify the strings easily by comparing them to the chart provided, and they are also suitable for professional guitarists because they are durable and last up to 80 hours of play. They are made from nickel, which reduces the wear on the saddles and the fret wire.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, Fender 150R Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings are a great choice for electric guitarists because of their high-quality features and the fact that they last for a long time without the need to change them. However, many users reported poor quality control of the product.

Best for the Money:
D’Addario XL Nickel Wound

D'Addario Electric Guitar Strings Regular Light Gauge Round Wound with Nickel-Plated Steel for Long Lasting Distinctive Bright Tone and Excellent Intonation (EXL110)

PROS

  • Avoids premature wear of the frets.
  • Highly versatile; suitable for any genre and playing style.
  • Package is corrosion-resistant, ensuring freshness for a longer time.
  • Precision wound with nickel-plated steel; long-lasting and distinctive with bright tones.
  • Resistant to corrosion due to air/moisture/skin perspiration and oils exposure.

CONS

  • Might sound too bright.
  • Too lightweight for down tuning.

What Recent Buyers Report

These strings are perfect for corrosive climates, mostly due to the recyclable waterproof inner packaging, which allows storage for a long time. In addition to this, they have high-end clarity and they stay in tune. These make the sound richer and bolder and they are durable even for hard rock and metal players. 

Why it Stands Out To Us 

D’Addario XL are consistent for electric guitars; they prevent corrosion and wear and offer a great overall music experience. Similar to other products on this list, these are wound with nickel-plated steel onto a high carbon steel core, which ensures bright tones and long life while avoiding premature fret wear. 

Who Will Use This Most 

These are great for any electric guitar player, both professionals and non-professionals. They are sturdy, durable, and considerably reduce wear on the frets, remaining supple, flexible, and soft for a long period of time. The strings produce full, satisfying sounds that are smooth but textured. They are affordable for gigging musicians and produce pleasing tones; they also remain in tune for longer. 

Bottom Line

Overall, D’Addario XL for electric guitar are a perfect choice for those looking for nickel wound, durable and reliable strings. They are suitable for a large variety of music genres and playing styles. They offer premium quality at a reasonable place, and they allow you to pursue your dreams and passion in a comfortable way.

Best Electric Guitar Strings for Beginners:
Gibson Brite Wires Electric Guitar Strings

Gibson Brite Wires Electric Guitar Strings, Light 10-46

PROS

  • 2-3 hours on tune.
  • High-quality stable sounds.
  • Consistent quality with crisp and vivid sounds.
  • High-end; made from nickel-plated steel.
  • Suitable for any electric guitar, playing style, and music style.

CONS

  • Poor quality control in limited cases.
  • More vibration compared to other alternatives (great mostly for high-end sounds).

What Recent Buyers Report

These strings have brighter tones and sharper attack than other options, making them perfect for lead playing. They are exceptionally high-quality, their sounds are vivid and crisp, and they come at an affordable price. They play clean and can be tuned up extremely easily, staying in tune for 2-3 hours.

Why it Stands Out To Us

Gibson Brite Wires offer a crisp attack to electric guitars, while the nickel plating adds warmth to the tone. They have increased tuning stability, lasting for a longer time. They are great for both rhythm and lead; they feel smooth and are easy on the fingers.

Who Will Use This Most

This product is best for beginners who play often (1-2 hours at a time) because the strings do not come out of tune so quickly; they are mild on the fingers and are perfect with any electric guitar. They are also great for professionals, as they stay tuned for much longer compared to other products on the market, therefore reducing the need to tune them between every song.

Bottom Line

Overall, Gibson Brite Wires are characterized by their high-quality crisp yet vivid sounds, high stability, and smooth feel. They are great for both beginners and professionals and they are the perfect choice if you are looking for a set of strings that stay tuned for longer and are consistent in delivering high-quality sounds.

Best Acoustic Electric Guitar Strings:
DR Strings Zebra - Acoustic-Electric Round Core 11-50

DR Strings Zebra - Acoustic-Electric Round Core 11-50

PROS

  • High-quality sounds.
  • Great colored design.
  • Ideal for archtop jazz guitars.
  • Hybrid combination of nickel-plated steel and phosphor bronze wrap wires.
  • Great for acoustic-electric guitars, especially for focusing on the acoustic signal.

CONS

  • On the electric side, they are a little stiffer than steel alternatives.
  • Only recommended for electric-acoustic guitar (with piezo pickup installed and magnetic pick-ups).

What Recent Buyers Report

Usually, nickel-plated steel strings are not suitable for acoustic-electric guitars; therefore, these hybrids are the best on the market. In addition to this, playability is extremely enhanced; they are durable and combine both bronze and steel for the best acoustic-electric experience.

Why it Stands Out To Us

DR Strings Zebra are high-quality, offering durability, great sounds, and improved playability. These produce realistic sounds due to their hybrid composition, while their acoustic sound is as great as the pure phosphor-bronze; humbuckers deliver the same volume as the acoustic pickup.

Who Will Use This Most

DR Strings Zebra - Acoustic-Electric Round Core 11-50 are the best choice for any acoustic-electric guitar player. They are ideal for beginners, as they are easy to play and are not tough on your fingers. In addition to this, professional players can benefit from a durable, high-quality set of acoustic-electric strings that are made to last and deliver the highest quality for a long period of time.

Bottom Line

Overall, DR Strings Zebra - Acoustic-Electric Round Core 11-50 are the best set of acoustic-electric strings; they are durable, stable, and ensure high-quality performance. They cannot be used on instruments other than acoustic-electric guitars, but they have a hybrid composition that makes them the perfect choice for any acoustic-electric guitarists.

GHS Strings GBL Guitar Boomers, Nickel-Plated Electric Guitar Strings, Light (.010-.046)

PROS

  • Easy on the frets.
  • Consistent delivery of quality.
  • Offers pleasing and balanced tones.
  • Durable, able to last long periods of time before becoming flat.
  • Great nickel-plated steel option for any music type and play style.

CONS

  • Relatively short tuning.
  • Individually packed (36 individually packed units, instead of 6 packs).

What Recent Buyers Report

These rarely break, making them one of the most durable products on the market. The gauges are comfortable and balanced, and still sound the same after a month of playing. They are long-lasting, have a tough build, and are the preferred options to most buyers.

Why it Stands Out To Us

GHS Strings GBL Guitar Boomers are not likely to break or rust, staying in tune for long periods of time. They have warm bright tones and keep their features for longer than most of the other alternatives on the market.

Who Will Use This Most

These are suitable both for beginners and professional electric guitar players. They make the guitar similar to play and feel to an acoustic one, thus they are great for musicians who are transitioning. They are suitable for any guitar and music style, remaining in tune for a long period of time.

Bottom Line

Overall, GHS Strings GBL Guitar Boomers are a superb, long-lasting option for your electric guitar. Their reasonable price makes them affordable to anyone, and they offer consistent quality and tones for many weeks.

Best Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings:​
D'Addario EPN110 Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings

D'Addario EPN110 Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings, Regular Light, 10-45

PROS

  • Increased playability.
  • Warm, vintage tones.
  • Package reduces corrosion.
  • Remain strong and stable for a longer time.
  • Best for traditional blues, classic rock, and more.

CONS

  • High E string too weak.
  • Best for traditional music styles, especially blues and classic rock due to nickel composition.

What Recent Buyers Report

D’Addario EPN110 Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings are stable, strong, and offer warm tones, perfect for traditional rock, blues, jazz, country. They are pure nickel and they have enhanced playability, being suitable for novices as well as veterans. They are smoother than other brands, and the 1st and 2nd strings can do 2.5 step bends without unwinding or slipping off the ferrule; you can count on these to break less than other products.

What Recent Buyers Report

This set is perfect for traditional music styles due to the composition of pure nickel, which simulates those used by early 20th century musicians. However, they come with high-quality, warm tones and are exceptionally durable. In addition to increased playability, they have warmer and darker tones compared to regular nickel alternatives.

Who Will Use This Most

These are great for electric guitar players who enjoy traditional vintage sounds. They are great for blues, though they come with increased playability, making them a perfect match for beginners and professionals alike. Their warm tones and pure nickel composition bring great advantages to any guitarist.

Bottom Line

Overall, D'Addario EPN110 Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings are the best choice if you are an electric guitarist looking for warm, dark tones. The pure nickel composition makes them noticeable straight away. They do not have the brightness of other strings, which makes them the perfect match for you and your guitar if you play jazz, blues, or country.

Why Should I Get New Electric Guitar Strings?

Getting new electric guitar strings is important for a number of reasons. Let’s take a look at a few:

High-Quality Sounds

Brand-new strings produce more vivid sounds compared to used or shoddy strings. The reviewed products are some of the best on the market, ensuring that your performance is always flawless. 

Improved Durability

Choosing a top product such as those described above not only improve your performance, but they also come with improved durability compared to other products. The main benefit here is that you do not need to change your strings too often, even if you are a professional guitarist who plays many hours a week. 

Enhanced Playability

A brand-new set of strings also eases your work, since they are not so harsh on your fingers and can encourage you keep playing for hours at a time, avoiding calluses. 

Types of Electric Guitar String Gauges

The gauge represents the strings’ actual thickness. They come in three different ranges, from light to medium and finally to thick ones. 

.010 - .046

One of the most popular gauges for 6-string electric guitars is .010 - .046. The .010 is the lightest and smallest first string, while the .046 is the last or largest one. These offer balanced tone and playability.

.009 - .042

The best choice for beginners would be this range because they are the easiest to play, which is a result of decreased tension. However, this does not sound as heavy as larger gauges. They are very flexible, and they are perfect for light touches and perfect for long play. On the other hand, they are more unstable in tuning and intonation, while fretting out is more likely. 

.011 - .048

The heaviest gauge implies more tension, allowing you to play harder; they are not so flexible and it could also come with plain third string or with windings (like fourth, fifth, and sixth strings). The windings change the tonal complexity of your guitar by sounding darker and are more difficult to bend. 

Gauges above .011 are either for extra-low tuning or are chosen by jazz players because they have extra warm tones. 

Conclusion

Overall, electric guitar strings are as important as any other part of your music performance, including amps and instruments, considering that they can seriously alter your sound. It is important to choose the best quality and most suitable strings in order to make your and your audience’s experience the most enjoyable. 

While there's a lot of different materials out there to try, most players end up with nickel-plated strings. Being the standard material for over 5 decades, many amps, pedals, and guitars themselves have been designed with these types of strings in mind.

In other words, you can't go wrong by sticking with a standard 10-gauge nickel plated strings. I personally opt for D'Addario since they've held up better on my guitars than any other brand. However, it often takes some trial and error to find what works best for your specific setup and playing style.

People Also Ask

Strings might seem less important than other aspects; however, they can be quite complex accessories. Here are the most frequently asked questions and answers:

How Often Should I Replace My Strings?

Ideally, you should change your strings every 100 hours of play or after a maximum of 3 months. However, when they need to be changed, you will see that they sound worse, you may struggle to get them in tune, or they can even break – this is the perfect moment to change them. 

What is a Coated String?

A coated string was treated with polymer (usually happens to wound strings). The main purpose is to avoid corrosion and keeps them fresh for many months, reduces fret wear, and enhances tuning capabilities.

Ernie Ball vs. D'Addario vs. GHS Boomers: What's the Difference?

Sure enough, the differences between brands were subtle, and at times, confusing. Guitar players had passionate and conflicting opinions about which sounded the best, and which snapped too easily. Ultimately, however, there were some pretty clear differences.

For one, most everyone agrees that Ernie Balls feel easiest on the fingers, which makes them great for beginners and noodlers who want a lot of room to bend. D’Addario XLs and GHS Boomers are a bit stiffer, making them better for chord-heavy players who don’t want to bend out of pitch. That said, bear in mind that changing your string gauge will have a much bigger impact.

A more significant difference was how the strings held up over time. Users overwhelmingly found that Ernie Balls snap and rust more easily than the others. This was echoed with my own experience. During several months of using Ernie Balls, my higher strings would routinely snap. As soon as I switched to D'Addarios, this problem went away. Boomers, in particular, are praised for lasting a long time, and maintaining their quality of tone.

That said, a few players found the opposite to be true: Ernie Balls last a long time, while D'Addarios or Boomers snap easily. This is likely because some guitars simply react to strings in different ways, due to the way strings are capped. It may take some trial and error to figure out exactly which set performs the best on your guitar.