Dansm's Acoustic Page

Dansm's Acoustic Guitar String Page
Welcome to Dansm's Acoustic Guitar Strings Page! My name is Dan Smith, I'm a senior at Cornell, and I've been playing guitar for 4 years now. This page is designed to outline my experiences with acoustic guitar strings. As I experiment with more brands and types of strings, I will add them here. Please note that I play mostly fingerpicking stuff on a Martin D-1, so this will affect my opinions immensely. Also, my taste in sound is a significant determinant of how much I like a given set of strings. Don't treat my opinions as Gospel, please try these strings out and use this page only as a guide. I mean, for $6, what do you have to lose? For an explanation of the criteria I judge the strings on (like brightness, tone, etc), see below. For the best prices on the web on many brands of strings, try Mostly Strings. The strings below are listed in order from best to worst.

The strings currently in my Martin D-1 are:
Dean Markley Blue Steel Medium Light

Buy them at
Musician's Friend Homepage




Thomastik-Infeld Plectrum Acoustic Light
Thomastik-Infeld Home Page
Price Paid Brightness Tone Balance Sustain
$12.00 4 4 5 3
Ease of Playing Tuning String Life # of Sets Overall Score
4 4 4-5 weeks 1 4
Comments:
These strings were fantastic. The basic design is this: the 1-2 strings were unwound, as usual. The 3-5 strings were flat-wound so when you slide along them they don't squeak. The 6 string was round-wound for bass sound. It works great! The flat-wound strings feel awesome, and whatever the strangs are made of, it sounds great (some silk-and-steel mix, I think). Brightness was wonderful, tone was great, balance was great, tuning was great. They're expensive, but they are worth it. I did have one problem: the third-string winding broke after about 3 weeks, but it didn't seem to matter too much. Enjoy these strings!





Dean Markley Blue Steel Medium Light
Dean Markley Home Page
Purchase These Strings from Musician's Friend
Price Paid Brightness Tone Balance Sustain
$9.00 4 4 4 3
Ease of Playing Tuning String Life # of Sets Overall Score
4 3 5-6 weeks 2 4
Comments:
These strings were awesome. They felt wonderful and they sounded better. They had great bass, which was a real plus. My guitar just booms with amazing volume and tone, and it's a wonderful sound to hear. The medium-lights are much better than the lights (which were way too thin). This cryogenic stuff must actually do something, because the strings are incredible!





Martin SP 80/20 Bronze Custom Light
Martin Strings Home Page
Price Paid Brightness Tone Balance Sustain
$7.00 4 4 4 3
Ease of Playing Tuning String Life # of Sets Overall Score
3 3 4-5 weeks 1 4
Comments:
The Martin SP strings combined with my Martin D-1 generated a really great sound. The tone and balance went very well with the guitar. It seems that Martin (hmmm...I wonder why) designed these strings with their guitars in mind. So if you own a Martin, or perhaps any other guitar, try these strings. They were significantly better (though more expensive) than the Martin Marquis.





D'Addario Phosphor Bronze Light
D'Addario Home Page
Purchase These Strings from Musician's Friend
Price Paid Brightness Tone Balance Sustain
$6.25 4 4 4 3
Ease of Playing Tuning String Life # of Sets Overall Score
4 3 4-5 weeks 2 4
Comments:
D'Addarios are bright, with a beautiful tone and good brightness. They keep tune pretty well, but like most light strings don't have much sustain. I've seen better feel, but these are some of the best all-around strings you can buy. Basically, I love 'em!





Martin Marquis Acoustic Phosphor Light
Martin Strings Home Page
Price Paid Brightness Tone Balance Sustain
$6.25 4 4 4 3
Ease of Playing Tuning String Life # of Sets Overall Score
2 3 5-6 weeks 1 4
Comments:
These strings sounded really wonderful. It took them a while to settle in, but once they did they were awesome. Unfortunately, they are killer on your fingers so prepare to go through some pain while building up those calluses. Otherwise, they have great sound: great bass, really loud volume, wonderful tone, good brightness; they are a great set of strings. Much better than the straight "Phosphor Bronze." Enjoy!





GHS Bright Bronze Light
GHS Home Page
Purchase These Strings from Musician's Friend
Price Paid Brightness Tone Balance Sustain
$5.95 4 4 4 3
Ease of Playing Tuning String Life # of Sets Overall Score
3 3 5-6 weeks 1 4
Comments:
These strings have really good brightness, tone, and sustain. They were significantly brighter than the GHS White Bronze. Their tuning was pretty good, and ease of playing was decent. They were a really good set of strings, so try them!





GHS White Bronze Light
GHS Home Page
Purchase These Strings from Musician's Friend
Price Paid Brightness Tone Balance Sustain
$5.50 4 4 4 3
Ease of Playing Tuning String Life # of Sets Overall Score
4 2 4-5 weeks 1 4
Comments:
These strings feel incredible. I love sliding my fingers across them. Their brightness varies a lot depending on how I hold the guitar, but when I am standing and using a strap they are just as good as D'Addario. Their balance is a bit heavy toward the bass strings, but sustain is very good for light strings and tone is great. They do seem to come out of tune, especially in drop-D tuning, but I guess you live with that. They do seem to tarnish less than regular bronze strings. I like them a lot!





Gore Elixir Acoustic Light
Gore Music Home Page
Purchase These Strings from Musician's Friend
Price Paid Brightness Tone Balance Sustain
$14.00 4 4 5 3
Ease of Playing Tuning String Life # of Sets Overall Score
3 3 8-10 weeks 1 4
Comments:
These strings have been all the rave in RMMGA, so I had to try them out. The bottom line is this: the strings sound good. Brightness, tone, balance are there. They took a long time to settle in, but once they did they work well. The PolyWeb coating takes a while to get used to, and seems to make the strings a bit harder to work with. They just weren't as easy to play as strings without it. I don't know about the integrity of the coating, but it seems to protect the strings from a lot of the stuff that makes them die. The coating itself gets grimy and starts to peel off from the strings slightly, but the metal stays pretty much intact, giving them incredible life. Unfortunately, the strings are a little stiff, so your calluses are going to be bulking up for a while before the strings don't hurt anymore. Try these out, bet on the fact that they last twice as long to make up for the cost, and see how you feel. They weren't the best strings out there, but you probably won't be disappointed.





DR Rare Phosphor Bronze Medium Light
Price Paid Brightness Tone Balance Sustain
$7.00 3 4 3 3
Ease of Playing Tuning String Life # of Sets Overall Score
4 3 6-8 weeks 1 3
Comments:
These strings were good and lasted a long time, but their brightness and balance could have been better. They would be a good string to try, though, because I think they will give better results on certain guitars. I'll have to try them again, because I didn't end up changing them for over 2 months so I don't remember exactly what they sounded like in their prime.





Ernie Ball Earthwood 80/20 Bronze Light
Ernie Ball Strings Home Page
Price Paid Brightness Tone Balance Sustain
$6.00 3 2 3 3
Ease of Playing Tuning String Life # of Sets Overall Score
3 2 3 weeks 1 3
Comments:
These were a decent set of strings, though they did have some problems. Their balance was far toward the high strings; too much so for my liking. Tone and playability didn't seem to be there, but the brightness wasn't bad. But the 3rd string winding broke at the second fret after 3 weeks, forcing me to remove them. My advice is to try them, because they may sound great in your guitar.





John Pearse Acoustic Bronze Wound Light
John Pearse Home Page
Price Paid Brightness Tone Balance Sustain
$5.00 3 3 3 2
Ease of Playing Tuning String Life # of Sets Overall Score
3 3 3 weeks 1 3
Comments:
The Pearse strings sounded like they would be decent when I first put them on, but they were nothing special. They had OK brightness, OK tone, and they just didn't feel that great. They died really quickly, too. So try them, but don't expect too much.





Dean Markley Bronze Light
Dean Markley Home Page
Price Paid Brightness Tone Balance Sustain
$5.95 3 3 4 2
Ease of Playing Tuning String Life # of Sets Overall Score
3 2 3 weeks 1 3
Comments:
The strings were decent all around, but never seemed to excel anywhere. They didn't have tremendous brightness or tone, and they didn't stay in tune too well. But they weren't horrible either. I'd say they were average, and nothing to write home about. I'll have to try the brass...



This table will explains the meaning of each of the criteria I judge the strings on.
Remember that each (except for "price paid" and "# of sets") is a subjective measure of the strings' performance.

Price Paid
The price I paid in a local store. You will probably pay a bit less. Remember that some stores charge outrageous prices for strings, so shop around. Price in $US.
Brightness
A measure of the high, "shrill" sound that I love to hear. This category measures the brightness after the "new string" sound has worn off. Some people don't like brightness, so don't necessarily listen to me. I like a moderate amount of brightness so when I pick the string with my fingertip it sounds good. Score out of 5.
Tone
The overall sound of the string. This should be well-rounded, strong, and defined (not wavering). If a string has good tone, I will be content to simply sit and play notes for hours. Score out of 5.
Balance
The relative volume of the strings. Each string should have a similar volume to ensure a level, balanced sound, with the high strings being a bit louder than the bass strings. This also depends on your guitar's sound and your personal preference. Score out of 5.
Sustain
The duration of a note once it is plucked. Ideally, notes should last forever, but they don't. Sustain is a subjective measure of the time it takes for a note to decay; the longer the better. Score out of 5.
Ease of Playing
The ease of sliding and moving your hands across the strings; also the ease of fretting notes. This will determine how enjoyable it is to play around on the guitar. Score out of 5.
Tuning
The tendency of these strings to stay in tune. Some strings inherently don't stay in tune. Score out of 5.
String Life
The time it took for the strings to start getting dirty or sounding dead. I play at least 1 hour every day, so my strings wear out pretty fast. I try to wipe my strings after use, to ensure their longevity.
# of Sets
The number of sets of strings upon which I am basing these ratings. Strings must have been in my Martin D-1 (I won't use ratings from my Washburn).
Overall Score
A composite of the other categories. This tells how much I liked the strings. Basically, brightness, tone, and playability count most. Score out of 5.



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(c) 1998 Daniel E. Smith. Last updated 10-27-98