“Highest quality” strings (acoustic)

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sev112sev112 Frets: 1139
Ignoring (if possible) subjective likes such as bright/ brassy/ flat and 80/20vsPhosBronze etc. 

I can buy Martins and EB and similar acoustic strings in the £6 - 8 range
i can by Martins and Elixirs and similar which are coated in the say £15 range

what I am paying for there is the coating technology which is based on increasing the life of the strings; so be it and all well and good if you like / need that.

but, are there out there in the marketplace Higher Quality strings ?  Perhaps that are made out of a higher quality or purity base metal perhaps that just sounds better.  Or is it all marketing and taste and preference and the actual strings are much of a muchness.

if you bought the most highest quality hand made and crafted acoustic guitar,  would it come with “off the shelf” stings ?
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  • droflufdrofluf Frets: 1198
    Pulls up chair and sits back :)

    String quality is very subjective; what one person likes won't appeal to  another and strings that sound great on one guitar may sound terrible on another. Once you get above the eBay £1.99 a set strings quality-wise Martin, Elixir, D'Addioro are all  fairly similar and it all comes down to marketing and personal preferences.
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  • sev112sev112 Frets: 1139
    drofluf said:
    Pulls up chair and sits back :)

    String quality is very subjective; what one person likes won't appeal to  another and strings that sound great on one guitar may sound terrible on another. Once you get above the eBay £1.99 a set strings quality-wise Martin, Elixir, D'Addioro are all  fairly similar and it all comes down to marketing and personal preferences.
    That was what I was deducing myself, but thought I would explore if there were “custom shop” equivalents

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  • earwighoneyearwighoney Frets: 2805
    edited April 30
    sev112 said:
    Ignoring (if possible) subjective likes such as bright/ brassy/ flat and 80/20vsPhosBronze etc. 

    I can buy Martins and EB and similar acoustic strings in the £6 - 8 range
    i can by Martins and Elixirs and similar which are coated in the say £15 range

    what I am paying for there is the coating technology which is based on increasing the life of the strings; so be it and all well and good if you like / need that.

    but, are there out there in the marketplace Higher Quality strings ?  Perhaps that are made out of a higher quality or purity base metal perhaps that just sounds better.  Or is it all marketing and taste and preference and the actual strings are much of a muchness.

    if you bought the most highest quality hand made and crafted acoustic guitar,  would it come with “off the shelf” stings ?
    IMO, it's more important to find the 'right' set of strings for your guitar more than the most expensive one.

    Different string sets suit different guitars, actions, playing styles and so on.  For your needs it could either be a £30 set of Thomastik strings or a £5 set of D'Addario 85/15's.

    From my experience, coated strings like Elixirs etc sound a little different to their uncoated counterparts, and it depends whether your needs will need coated strings. If you string once a year, then go for it, but if you switch between alternate tunings constantly then maybe look to change your strings on a more frequent basis.

    IMO, I'd spend £30 or so buying a selection of strings, different alloys, different brands, different gauges to see which ones suit you and your guitar the most.

    EDIT - I've tried so many different brands of strings I can barely remember, but I think standard 80/20 or PB D'Addarios are a good place to start and to move from there.
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  • mgawmgaw Frets: 4093
    the ones i prefer are GTS co from the USA...tried pretty much every other brand and settled on theirs
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  • artiebearartiebear Frets: 612
    edited April 30
    You can spend a lot of money of strings like anything else. The problem is that, if you play a lot and even if you don't, strings, custom or not, have a finite window of usefulness. As someone who plays for a living, I have tried quite a few options over the years, a lot  of which just didn't suit me, regardless of price etc., but that's personal preference.
    A longtime ago I concluded that, because string die off through heavy playing, especially night after night live, or because of  the affects of time and the elements ( I have tried all the longlife variants, they just don't feel all sound good to me personally, plus I can still kill a set very quickly indeed  ), it is more cost effective to have boxes of the strings that do sound good fresh and change then very often indeed ( for me that's D'Addario PB's  in the gauges I need ).
    I don't really buy into the different brands etc for different guitars myself, preferring consistency, the instrument itself giving the variation required. 
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  • Tone71Tone71 Frets: 475
    I'll be first to leap in with Newtone, having put them on very recently (and working out the right gauge), they sound superb.

    https://newtonestrings.com/shop/heritage-series-acoustic-6-string/ ;

    I know they are new and have that new zing to them but they have noticeably less tension which I find really pleasing, now picking up my other acoustic with my old favourites on confirms that I wont be going back.

    I don't personally like Elixirs but get that loads do...I guess it's personal choice
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  • bbill335bbill335 Frets: 1138
    newtone
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  • markjmarkj Frets: 527
    Mangans, just superb on my HD28
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  • sev112sev112 Frets: 1139
    Thanks, as in the op, I want to ignore personal taste and technical differences.  I’ve been playing since mid 80s and always just bought e.g Martin / EB etc, and stick with what I want for a while

    but at no point have I ever been aware of premium, or luxury strings, and that’s what I’m trying to understand. Is there such a thing?

    thnaks for whoever said Newtone and Thomastik, I shall look them up
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  • earwighoneyearwighoney Frets: 2805
    sev112 said:
    Thanks, as in the op, I want to ignore personal taste and technical differences.  I’ve been playing since mid 80s and always just bought e.g Martin / EB etc, and stick with what I want for a while

    but at no point have I ever been aware of premium, or luxury strings, and that’s what I’m trying to understand. Is there such a thing?

    thnaks for whoever said Newtone and Thomastik, I shall look them up
    Newtone are a bit more expensive than D'Addarios, I think they are around a tenner a set but IMO they are the best strings on the market for my needs.

    I'm not sure about this particular issue, but for guitar players who use a lot of open tunings they seem to be a brand guitarists are very enthusiastic about.

    The new Santa Cruz adjusted tension strings are supposed to be very good.


    Aside from Newtone, I can't think of any other acoustic guitar string makers who make their strings according to tension.

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  • LewyLewy Frets: 1891
    There are the Santa Cruz "parabolic tension" and Martin Titanium Core strings which might fall into that upper echelon kind of category in terms of cost and claimed benefits. I've never tried either.
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  • moremore Frets: 108
    edited April 30
    Most of the better string brands are of equal quality.  In the end, they are all made of wire. But, there are some small differences. The core wire can be round or hex. Also, the gauges of the core wire, in the same gauges, can be different and this will affect how the strings sound and how they feel. Matching the gauges to the tunings will have an impact.   Custom sets are often more expensive, because of lower demand. but will often sound better when tuned to the correct tunings. There are so many variables to guitars and the players, it all a personal choice.
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  • stickyfiddlestickyfiddle Frets: 16699
    I’ve tried tonnes of strings over the last few years - almost all 80/20 as that’s my general happy place. Basically all were similar quality in terms of longevity, and I had very little breakage - in all cases any breaks were a b or e string after a bout of open tuning changes. 

    I actually settled on Martin Retros- “Monel” which I believe is a nickel alloy. They simply sound better to my ears
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  • DavidRDavidR Frets: 123
    I’ve tried tonnes of strings over the last few years - almost all 80/20 as that’s my general happy place. Basically all were similar quality in terms of longevity, and I had very little breakage - in all cases any breaks were a b or e string after a bout of open tuning changes. 

    I actually settled on Martin Retros- “Monel” which I believe is a nickel alloy. They simply sound better to my ears
    ....and last 3-4 times longer. So considerably cheaper. I agree Martin MM12 favourites with me for a year or so. Less brassy/bright. Tone has a complexity across all frequencies. More steely. Play nicely. Worth a try (at least once).
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  • ICBMICBM Frets: 55379
    I also think Newtones are very high-quality strings.

    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone." - Walt Kowalski

    "Just because I don't care, doesn't mean I don't understand." - Homer Simpson

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  • artiebearartiebear Frets: 612
    sev112 said:
    Thanks, as in the op, I want to ignore personal taste and technical differences.  I’ve been playing since mid 80s and always just bought e.g Martin / EB etc, and stick with what I want for a while

    but at no point have I ever been aware of premium, or luxury strings, and that’s what I’m trying to understand. Is there such a thing?

    thnaks for whoever said Newtone and Thomastik, I shall look them up
    You cannot ignore "technical difficulties"  A string is a degrading piece of metal, which will lose elasticity and tone over a fixed period of time. You can spend £100 on a "custom " set of strings, they are no better than an £8 set of strings that last three  weeks ( pretty much the norm for any serious amount of playing, depending on your perception of what is acceptable quality of tone, I know some people like the sound of dead strings, but then why pay more than fiver ?) . 
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  • TheMadMickTheMadMick Frets: 33
    If you play with a pick, you might like to try changing the size and stiffness of your pick. It makes a lot more difference than a change of strings.

    I find Martins are brighter than D'Addario but maybe that just me?
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  • sev112sev112 Frets: 1139
    Everyone is talking about tone and personal likes and needs, which I was trying to ignore in my question 

    are guitar strings the only product in the world that has no actual quality difference in for example the base materials.  
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  • artiebearartiebear Frets: 612
    sev112 said:
    Everyone is talking about tone and personal likes and needs, which I was trying to ignore in my question 

    are guitar strings the only product in the world that has no actual quality difference in for example the base materials.  
    What is the point of asking the question, if you want to disregard the option of those who go out of their way to answer on a guitar forum. Just do a price comparison, buy the most expensive and tell us what you think. 
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  • droflufdrofluf Frets: 1198
    sev112 said:
    Everyone is talking about tone and personal likes and needs, which I was trying to ignore in my question 

    are guitar strings the only product in the world that has no actual quality difference in for example the base materials.  
    I think you need to define quality to get an answer to that question. Perhaps refer to Pirsig? 
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  • bugilemanbugileman Frets: 33
    I hate elixir strings, in my opinion biggest con going. I find the Earthwoods fantastic, for reasonable money.
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  • TanninTannin Frets: 370
    I think Sev112 has already defined "quality", Drofluf, at least after a fashion: it is "the thing which is the difference between £5 guitar strings and £20 guitar strings". 

    OK, so what is that difference? The main thing is coatings. Elixir charge way more than most brands because their strings are coated. Other coated strings tend to also be expensive. Is that "better quality"? If you like the sound and feel of coated strings, sure it is. Coated strings last much longer and have much less unwanted noise. On the other hand, they sound different and feel weird, so a lot of players dislike them. Scratch coatings, those are a matter of taste.

    What else is there? Well, there is the attention to detail in construction and winding. Is that quality? Sure, but the reality is that once you get past the cheap and nasty E-bay and counterfeit level, any string you can buy is very likely good enough for any practical purpose. So scratch that one: it's unimportant.

    What about alloys? Yes, some exotic alloys cost more. So put an asterisk next to anything made from, say, titanium alloy or monel. They will cost a few percent more. Unusual alloys cost more too (even if the materials are bog-standard) simply because they are unusual and there are no economies of scale. Suppose Rotosound or D'Addario wanted to start making an 88/12 brass string instead of the usual 80/20 and 85/15 ones. They would have to get the wire manufactured to special order, and  of course pay extra. So yes, alloy type can be a real difference with more expensive strings, but usually isn't. It's not hard to pay top dollar for bog-ordinary phosphor bronze strings, after all. 

    Finally, there is country of manufacture. There are low-wage countries such as China, Indonesia, and India, and there are high-wage countries such as Germany, the UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The USA loves to think that it's a high wage country too, but it pays a lower hourly rate than any of those countries just mentioned. Higher than places like India though, so maybe count it in the high-wage group. Strings made in high-wage countries cost more than strings made in low-wage countries. Personally, I can never work out whether it is more honest and decent to support underpaid workers in (say) Bangladesh by buying something they got paid practically nothing to make, and were very likely punished for even thinking about joining a union, or whether it's better to support local manufacturers, or at least (where there are no locals) manufacturers in a country similar to and allied with one's own, ones who pay decent living wages and care at least a little bit about health and safety. Make your own decision on this question.

    There you have it Sev: all in all, the main difference between expensive strings and cheap strings is the price. 

    Does this mean you should always look fort the cheapest strings that you can find? NO! First, avoid the rubbish. Buy from real shops, don't go slumming on E-bay or Ali Express or Facebook or Amazon. If you want to mail order, deal with reputable businesses like stringsbymail.com or Stringsdirect.co.uk or else go direct to the manufacturer - many makers offer this facility. Or, of course, support your local shop. All of these are better options than the Internet junkyards mentioned previously.

    Second, strings cost bugger-all compared to the other things we shell out for. We all do it. Blimey, last week I paid a deposit on a custom guitar without even knowing what the final price will be (other than that it will be quite a few thousand dollars by the time we are finished). Didn't turn a hair. That same week I found myself comparing prices for the same brand of string at a couple of local (Australian) shops, in the US, and in the UK, looking to save 50c. How dumb is that? Seriously, what does $1 here or  £1 there matter in the scheme of things? It's chickenfeed. Just buy the strings you like. 

    On one of my guitars I use Elixirs at $30 a set. Why? Because they work so well on that one. On another one I use SIT Silencers at $9. Why? Because that guitar sounds great with them. And on the other three I'm still using any number of different strings (32 types at last count) while I work out what goes best on them.
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  • sev112sev112 Frets: 1139
    Tannin said:
    I think Sev112 has already defined "quality", Drofluf, at least after a fashion: it is "the thing which is the difference between £5 guitar strings and £20 guitar strings". 

    OK, so what is that difference? The main thing is coatings. Elixir charge way more than most brands because their strings are coated. Other coated strings tend to also be expensive. Is that "better quality"? If you like the sound and feel of coated strings, sure it is. Coated strings last much longer and have much less unwanted noise. On the other hand, they sound different and feel weird, so a lot of players dislike them. Scratch coatings, those are a matter of taste.

    What else is there? Well, there is the attention to detail in construction and winding. Is that quality? Sure, but the reality is that once you get past the cheap and nasty E-bay and counterfeit level, any string you can buy is very likely good enough for any practical purpose. So scratch that one: it's unimportant.

    What about alloys? Yes, some exotic alloys cost more. So put an asterisk next to anything made from, say, titanium alloy or monel. They will cost a few percent more. Unusual alloys cost more too (even if the materials are bog-standard) simply because they are unusual and there are no economies of scale. Suppose Rotosound or D'Addario wanted to start making an 88/12 brass string instead of the usual 80/20 and 85/15 ones. They would have to get the wire manufactured to special order, and  of course pay extra. So yes, alloy type can be a real difference with more expensive strings, but usually isn't. It's not hard to pay top dollar for bog-ordinary phosphor bronze strings, after all. 

    Finally, there is country of manufacture. There are low-wage countries such as China, Indonesia, and India, and there are high-wage countries such as Germany, the UK, Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The USA loves to think that it's a high wage country too, but it pays a lower hourly rate than any of those countries just mentioned. Higher than places like India though, so maybe count it in the high-wage group. Strings made in high-wage countries cost more than strings made in low-wage countries. Personally, I can never work out whether it is more honest and decent to support underpaid workers in (say) Bangladesh by buying something they got paid practically nothing to make, and were very likely punished for even thinking about joining a union, or whether it's better to support local manufacturers, or at least (where there are no locals) manufacturers in a country similar to and allied with one's own, ones who pay decent living wages and care at least a little bit about health and safety. Make your own decision on this question.

    There you have it Sev: all in all, the main difference between expensive strings and cheap strings is the price. 

    Does this mean you should always look fort the cheapest strings that you can find? NO! First, avoid the rubbish. Buy from real shops, don't go slumming on E-bay or Ali Express or Facebook or Amazon. If you want to mail order, deal with reputable businesses like stringsbymail.com or Stringsdirect.co.uk or else go direct to the manufacturer - many makers offer this facility. Or, of course, support your local shop. All of these are better options than the Internet junkyards mentioned previously.

    Second, strings cost bugger-all compared to the other things we shell out for. We all do it. Blimey, last week I paid a deposit on a custom guitar without even knowing what the final price will be (other than that it will be quite a few thousand dollars by the time we are finished). Didn't turn a hair. That same week I found myself comparing prices for the same brand of string at a couple of local (Australian) shops, in the US, and in the UK, looking to save 50c. How dumb is that? Seriously, what does $1 here or  £1 there matter in the scheme of things? It's chickenfeed. Just buy the strings you like. 

    On one of my guitars I use Elixirs at $30 a set. Why? Because they work so well on that one. On another one I use SIT Silencers at $9. Why? Because that guitar sounds great with them. And on the other three I'm still using any number of different strings (32 types at last count) while I work out what goes best on them.
    Sorry for requoting in full, but many thanks @Tannin and for your previous answered - extremely helpful and grateful for your time :)
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  • JCA2550JCA2550 Frets: 247
    edited May 1
    For day to day good value and excellent consistency, Daddario are the starting point, benchmark on electric and acoustic 6 and 12 string sets and Rotosound for bass (but only bass) for me.

    Step up the spend a bit to slightly pricier, subtly "better" brands and it gets more subjective. I've tried and really liked Curt Mangan (most types I've tried) DR Blues and Newtone. Currently enjoying Newtones on bass, electric and acoustic guitars, all sound and feel great for different reasons. So the only single brand that scores across the board for me.

    Then the law of diminishing returns kicks in.

    A good analogy is wine. You can find a few tasty, acceptable, reliable, even enjoyable wines for £5 - £6, you're spending about 80% of that on packaging, tax and duty, distribution and profit margin and 20% on the wine itself. Apart from VAT, these are pretty much fixed costs. If you double the budget, £10- £12, the increase in quality and variety is huge and your paying more but paying for what's in the bottle. Double that and now you're entering the world of seriously great hand made wines but does it taste twice as good as your favourite £10 bottle?
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  • TanninTannin Frets: 370
    My pleasure Sev. Thank you for saying so. 
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  • JayceeJaycee Frets: 143
    I think @Tannin and @JCA2550 ; more or less summed it up.

    I used Olympia strings for years, they are inexpensive and to my ears sounded as good as any other that I have used.

    I have just put a set of Smith and James strings on my Alvarez acoustic which souned a bit bright at first but a few hours playing over a few weeks thay sound great. I'm not sure if they have settled in or I got used to the sound.
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  • Ive been liking the Ernie Ball Paradigm strings recently. I went through a phase of trying loads of different strings on my Yamaha Silent guitar... no body to it so for my limited understanding the strings should be one of the most important elements to the tone. The strings seem to keep their tone for longer too. Had far too many breakages with Elixirs, Newtone were good too. 
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  • rogdrogd Frets: 306
    When I was gigging regularly I settled on LaBella 12's on my Martin D41. Back in those days Martin strings didn't seem to suit it.  LaBella's were more consistent and lasted longer. Martins have improved a lot in recent years and I tend to use them now as I just play at home these days.
    The whole area of strings is very subjective.
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  • jazzlemmingjazzlemming Frets: 26
    Thomastik Spectrum are probably my favourite acoustic strings. They also make my favourite electric strings. Made in Austria.
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