One of the most common questions that is constantly bantered about on guitar forums and Facebook groups is, “What are the best strings to use on my guitar?” Month after month and year after year, people post the same question and of course get dozens of responses with varying answers.
I’m here today to try to put an end to your quest for the “right answer.” When it comes down to strings, there are so many factors that come into play—string gauge, materials used, brand and tension. Certain types of woods tend to prefer one composition over another, but even that is never a steadfast rule.
Personally, I have had several guitars with mahogany back and sides that really sounded best to my ears with a nickel string such as Martin Retros. But that being said, I have had other mahogany guitars that really sounded somewhat dead and lifeless using the very same strings!
Most people believe that phosphor bronze strings sound the warmest, 80/20 strings sound a little brighter, coated strings sound even brighter but last much longer (such as Elixirs, Cleartone, D'Addario EXP, XT and XS strings) and nickel strings (such as Martin Retro) tend to have a more broken-in, fundamental quality. Oddly enough, in my personal experience, 80/20 strings sound a little warmer than a straight phosphor bronze.
Ultimately, you can see that there is a lot of variety and tonal qualities that can be very subjective and are hugely based on my own ear. This is going to be the truth for you as well. As much as we may like to save the time and money of trying out lots of different strings ourselves, it’s truly the only surefire way to discover the best strings for your guitar and your personal preference.
You may have to spend $100 to go through several sets of strings over the coming weeks or months, but the reward will be getting the “best” sound out of your individual guitar that pleases you most. And that, my friends, is priceless.