If you're looking for acoustic guitar strings for a warm sound, look no further. I've handpicked a few sets from well known brands which differ in construction and price, but all of them deliver a pleasantly warm tone.
In this brief guide, I'll go through my top picks, and explain the properties of each set, to help you decide if it's a good fit for your needs.
4 Best Acoustic Strings for a Warm Sound
Table of Contents
- 4 Best Acoustic Strings for a Warm Sound
- How Do Guitar Strings Impact the Tone?
- Warm vs. Bright Tone
- How Do Strings Get Their Tone?
- Choosing The Right Gauge
- Do Electro-Acoustic Guitars Need Different Strings?
Knowing their reputation in the guitar world, it's hard not to include D'Addario on this list. Their XT Phosphor Bronze strings produce a really warm, full sound. In particular, the 13-56 set works well for this kind of tone, although slightly different gauges can also work well depending on your preferences.
What makes these strings so interesting is their construction. The phosphor and bronze alloy which is wrapped around these strings has two benefits.
Firstly, the coating makes the strings more durable and longer-lasting. As long as the coating is still on, you shouldn't have any issues with rust. This means that the strings will keep their signature new-strings sound for a long time.
Secondly, this particular coating adds some warmth to the overall tone. These strings produce enough warmth, while still managing to retain some of the much needed attack.
Although not as famous as some other brands, Elixir strings have been gaining more and more attention among guitar players of all genres, especially over the past decade.
Although more expensive than average strings, Elixir strings are very well-known for their durability. You can keep your tone almost as fresh and resonant as the first day that you've put them on.
They're mostly known for bright-sounding strings with a very strong attack. But their 'Polyweb' series of strings retain plenty of warmth in tone thanks to their coating.
Yes, you'll still have a nice attack with them when needed, and as an added bonus, these strings are also very smooth and extremely comfortable to play as a result of that coating.
What Gibson and Fender are for electric guitars, Martin holds a similar position when it comes to acoustic guitars. But aside from guitars, they're also well known for the quality of their strings. And while there's plenty of options to choose from, I specifically recommend their Marquis Silked set, featuring a 92/8 phosphor and bronze combination.
This combination of materials gives a lot of warmth in the tone. Anyone seeking that controlled warm, mellow sound can't go wrong with these strings.
Although it comes down to personal preferences, the lack of any kind of coating can be somewhat of a downside. This is in no way a deal-breaker. However, the longevity of these strings would've been definitely improved if they had some coating, although it would've also made them costlier.
Overall, these are great strings for a mellower sound, and excellent playability.
What Ernie Ball did to the world of guitar is unmatched. Even with so many great companies today, they're the ones who set the standards high. Their 2144 Earthwood set (I recommend the 13-56 variant) offers a very pleasant, mellow tone which is full of warmth.
These strings are built with 92% of copper, 7.7% tin, and 0.3% phosphorus. On the wound strings, the wire is wrapped around the hex-shaped steel core. This combination results in a very warm tone.
The attack is not as pronounced compared to other strings we mentioned, but it's not a big deal if you're more interested in a warmer tone. The low-end is very tight, and these strings really come in handy for a variety of genres. However, I really love how they sound with some bluesy and jazzy stuff.
These are uncoated strings, and it's common at this price point. Still, they can last for a while, depending on how much you play and how you maintain your guitar. But since the price level is relatively low, so you can perhaps buy two packs of these instead of one premium set.
How Do Guitar Strings Impact the Tone?
While we mostly focus on tonewoods, hardware and other elements of a guitar, we tend to overlook the strings. But the thing is – strings have a huge impact on your tone.
After all, they are what actually vibrates and generates the initial tone. So, no matter how great your guitar is, if the strings aren't as good, your tone will suffer.
In most of the cases, guitar strings impact some of the tone's main characteristics. For instance, a type of strings that you use can determine the attack.
At the same time, they also determine the overall brightness and sustain of your guitar. Warmer-sounding strings are usually made of bronze and phosphorus combinations.
Warm vs. Bright Tone
No matter the style of music, you're free to choose the right tone for your needs. And there is no right or wrong way to do this.
However, you need to bear in mind that some genres and some settings require a more mellow tone. This is the case with blues or jazz music, as well as the settings where you're playing a lot of rhythm parts and open chords with a vocalist.
How Do Strings Get Their Tone?
Just like how the wood that a guitar is made from determines its tonal qualities, the materials that strings are made affect their tone.
Certain materials produce a brighter sound and others are warmer. Knowing how different materials affect the tone can help you choose the strings you want for a certain tone.
This is how different materials affect the tone of acoustic strings.
- Bronze: Bronze strings are clear and bright, but they do age quickly as bronze oxidizes easily.
- Phosphor Bronze: An alloy of phosphor and bronze, these strings have a warmer tone than bronze while still being quite crisp. The phosphor also helps the strings last longer.
- Aluminum Bronze: Clearer than phosphor bronze, these strings have a more prominent bass and crisp treble.
- Brass: A very metallic, jangly and bright tone.
- Polymer-coated: These strings are coated with a special material to make them resistant to rust. The coating also makes them warmer with more presence than uncoated strings.
- Silk and Steel: These are steel strings wrapped in either silk, nylon or copper. They produce a softer tone and are not as harsh on your fingers.
Choosing The Right Gauge
There are a few things to consider when picking the string gauge you’re going to put on your guitar, apart from what you find comfortable of course.
The size and style of the guitar’s body can require certain string gauges. Acoustics with smaller bodies will generally sound better with lighter gauges.
Lighter strings also apply less tension on the guitar which will mean that there’s no risk in the strings bending or damaging the neck or body.
Larger bodied guitars will benefit more from heavier strings that resonate better with the larger sound chambers.
Depending on the type of music you play and the way you play, you might need lighter strings as well.
Especially if you play a lot of finger picking or flamenco style, lighter strings won’t be as harsh on your fingers as a heavier gauge.
This means they’ll be more comfortable to play and you’ll be able to play for longer.
If you have a vintage guitar, or a guitar that isn’t in the best shape, it’s a good idea to also use lighter strings on the guitar.
Vintage guitars especially aren’t as durable as they were new, and using lighter strings on them will help prevent any unnecessary damage to the instrument.
Certain tone work better with certain string gauges. Heavier strings for example have more bass and are better suited to a mellow tone.
For a brighter tone, with more attack, lighter gauges are better.
As I mentioned above, the material of the string also affects the type of tone you’ll get.
Do Electro-Acoustic Guitars Need Different Strings?
For the most part, any regular acoustic strings should work just fine on an electro-acoustic guitar.
If the guitar uses a sound hole pickup, or any magnetic pickup, go for strings with a higher amount of steel. Since pickups use magnets to pickup the string vibrations, a higher amount of magnetic material in the string works better.
Even after all these years of technological advancement in the world of music, there's still something so appealing about acoustic guitars. Yeah, the electric guitar brings almost infinite possibilities in making different tones.
But while that's most certainly fun and engaging, nothing can still beat the natural tone of the good old acoustic guitars. Although they're not as flexible in this sense, there are still a few ways how you can change the tone. And one of the best ways is to use different kinds of strings. This is why we decided to dive deeper into this topic and shed new light on this great instrument.
Since they're an important factor for your tone, it's important to choose the right strings for your needs. And even if you're looking for a specific tone, like the warmer one we discussed here, it's always a good idea to buy a few different products and try them out. What works for one player not be the best option for another.