The 10 Best Bronze Guitar Strings

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This wiki has been updated 22 times since it was first published in October of 2016. If you're an acoustic guitarist, you know that your instrument is only partly responsible for creating the tonal richness you hear when you give it a strum. The strings you use make a big difference, and if you've ever heard a cheap set played on an expensive guitar, you'll understand why it's worth spending a little extra for quality. Here we've ranked the best bronze-alloy sets on the market. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. D'Addario EJ16-3D

2. Martin MSP4100

3. Elixir 80/20 Acoustics

Editor's Notes

August 15, 2019:

When it comes to bronze alloys, there are important differences that may be helpful to understand before you make your purchase. Bronze strings consist of different ratios of metals, each with its own unique characteristics. Traditionally, bronze strings were made of a a 80/20% copper-to-zinc mix. Using "bronze" as a descriptor for this blend is a misnomer, because in actuality bronze is a copper-and-tin-based alloy. What copper and zinc actually create is brass. Still, using bronze to describe the typical copper/zinc alloy has become an accepted norm in the industry. The resulting sound of this alloy is bright, clear, and tends to project well.

In the 1970s, phosphor bronze was introduced and quickly became a popular alternative to 80/20% options. While ratios differ, these usually consist of ~92% copper, ~8% tin (and thus, real bronze!), and small amounts of phosphorous. This exact formulation can be found in our #2 choice, the Martin MSP4100, for example. Phosphor bronze strings are known to be a bit warmer in tone than 80/20% options, so they're great for those who do lots of fingerpicking. The phosphorous also helps protect the wires from oxidation and corrosion.

Other alloys include aluminum (like our #10 pick by Ernie Ball) or nickel (#6 by D'Addario), which some prefer. Figuring out what you do and don't like about each particular alloy's qualities takes experimentation. You might find a set that has great projection and smooth tonal warmth across the frequency range, but also suffers from terrible longevity as a result of its composition. Depending on your needs, though, you might not mind having to change your strings often. For example, gigging professionals with heavy schedules change their strings frequently, anyway, so such a trade-off might not matter much to someone in that position.

Since a set of strings only costs a few bucks, we'd recommend buying two or three different sets to begin with. After a few weeks or months, replace the first set and give the second a go. As seasoned musicians already know, over time, you'll develop an ear for your tonal preferences as you gain experience with different-sounding strings.

Finally, we'll note that while new strings can make a crummy old guitar sound a lot better, as the saying goes: you can't polish a crummy old guitar. Or something like that. If you're in the market for a new acoustic guitar, check out the list we've curated here.

4. Fender Phosphor Bronze

5. Ernie Ball's Acoustic Earthwoods

6. D'Addario Nickel

7. Gibson SAG-MB13

8. Martin Marquis Extra Lights

9. Ernie Ball Aluminum

10. Vibe Strings

Daniel Goldstein
Last updated by Daniel Goldstein

Daniel is a writer, musician, and frequent traveler with a bachelor’s in creative writing from the State University of New York. In recent years, his writing chops have developed alongside his musical skills, thanks to a rich double life. During the day, he apprenticed with “Rolling Stone” journalist and critic Will Hermes, and when the sun set, he and his NYC-based, four-piece band gigged at high-end venues across the northeastern United States. His affinity for sharing things he's passionate about has culminated in nine years of experience as a music teacher at elementary schools, where he honed his ability to simplify and elucidate concepts to the uninitiated. All considered, he feels most at home writing about instruments, audio electronics and backpacking gear.

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