Are you shopping for new guitar strings but not sure if you should splurge on the more expensive sets out there?
Are expensive guitar strings worth it?
It depends. Few things can make your guitar sound better than new strings, but they come with a price tag. There are factors to consider when deciding if expensive strings are worth it for you. Consider your preferred style of playing, as well as your guitar’s make and model, when choosing a set of guitar strings.
What To Look For In A Set Of Guitar Strings
If your playing style involves shredding or tapping excessively, or if you play regularly in venues where smoking is allowed, then the extra longevity of coated strings could be worth the spend.
Some coated strings offer other benefits beyond added longevity. For example, D’Addario offers a few coated string sets that feature their patented Silk Coating finish, which locks in string vibration for improved tone and sustain while reducing finger squeak.
If you play a variety of music and need to switch between different strings, then have a look at sets that have multiple gauges or types of strings within one package. For example, D’Addario offers a set of steel core strings as part of its Signature series.
If your favorite guitarist uses a particular set of regular strings for electric guitar or acoustic electric or acoustic guitar, have a look at the model. For example, even though it’s a bit pricey, you may want to consider picking up a D’Addario Rondo Pro guitar string set to see what kind of difference you can hear in your acoustic or electric guitar. Ernie Ball makes some excellent options too. The strings are coated with clear lacquer that enhances the tone and sustain, while the gauges allow for different tension for different playing styles.
What To Consider When Deciding If Expensive Strings Are Worth It
While new strings will always be a good idea, there are plenty of other factors to consider here as well. For example, some guitarists have a difficult time getting used to the feel of coated strings. Plus, most coated strings will not last as long as uncoated ones. This is due mainly to the fact that you will most likely experience more string breakage with coated formulations.
Depending on the type of strings you currently use, there’s a chance that your guitar may not be compatible with coated strings. For example, if you prefer roundwound strings then coated strings may not be an option. If you’re in this boat, then there are plenty of options available when it comes to choosing which brand and type of string will work best for your playing style.
If you are looking for longer lasting strings, like Elixir strings, but don’t want to deal with coating compounds, then consider the tone tradeoff.
Generally speaking, uncoated strings will have a more responsive feel to them. In addition, you won’t have to deal with any squeaking from brand new strings.
For many guitarists, the added tone that coated strings provide is very important for their genre of music. If that’s the case for you then it may be worth spending a bit more on a quality coated string set.
Cheap Vs Expensive Strings
There are a number of differences between cheap vs expensive guitar string. First though, I would consider “cheap” to be anything under $5 per set. Expensive is over $10.
- Tone differences – Expensive strings will produce a bigger, clearer tone. The difference is often not noticeable, but there is a big difference in the actual sound that is produced.
- Durability – If you play often, or travel with your guitar, cheap strings will break down faster than expensive strings. The most expensive strings are also the strongest, so they won’t break after a few weeks of playing.
- Resonance – High quality strings produce more vibration, giving them a warmer tone. This is due to the internal metal wire that is used in making these strings. Cheap strings do not produce as much vibration, and they don’t tend to have the same sound.
- Feel while playing – If you like the way that an expensive set feels while playing, then this is another reason to spend more. A good set of strings should feel like silk when you play them, and the different gauges within a set should feel different.
Do Cheap Strings Sound Bad?
Well, no, not really. They do sound different than expensive strings. Your guitar will still sing. Cheap strings are made of lower quality metal that produces less vibration (warmth). This makes the tone less clear. Some people may notice this, but for most, it’s simply a difference in sound.
If you are looking for an edge to give your playing that extra kick, then it may be time to spend some cash on new strings.
Do String Brands Make A Difference?
While there is no difference in tone between different manufacturers, there are definitely differences.
Since there are so many different string brands out there that offer coated or uncoated strings, the right set for you will depend on your playing style and needs. Traditionalists can get away with uncoated setups while hybrid players should look at coated ones.
In this article, I covered a number of things when it comes to choosing new guitar strings. I detailed the major factors to consider when shopping for a new set, and I also included a list of specific brands that can give you an idea on what type of string will work best for your playing style.