Electric guitars are among the most beloved stringed instruments in Western music and are popular around the world. An integral part of stringed instruments, as their name would suggest, are the strings.
There are plenty of electric guitar brands and models out there. To offer even more variety to these beautiful instruments, there are also numerous companies that produce electric guitar strings.
Related article: Top 13 Best Electric Guitar Brands In The World
Finding the best strings for your electric guitar largely dependent on your particular instrument and preferred playing style. Though the brand of strings is far from the most important factor, it's worth considering. With so many brands out there, we'll focus our attention, in this article, on the top 11 best electric guitar string brands on the market.
Though obviously subjective and prone to biases, I've done my best to list out these brands based on the following metrics (in no particular order):
- Company reputation
- Variety of guitar strings
- Performance of the strings
- Currently in operation
With all that being said, let's list out the brands.
The top 11 best electric guitar string brands on the market are:
- Ernie Ball
- GHS Strings
- Dean Markley
- DR Strings
Let's detail each of these brands and explain why they belong in the top 11 best electric guitar string brands. I'll share their country of origin, some history, an example of a notable set of strings, and a link to their official website.
D'Addario is one of the most successful string brands in the world. The company's electric guitar strings can be found all around the world. Furthermore, D'Addario's extensive OEM contracts pretty well guarantee that they've been played by any guitarist who wanders into a handful of music stores during his or her lifetime.
Since 1974, D'Addario has built its reputation as the tested-and-true benchmark for strings.
Speaking of which, their XL series is the standard by which all other strings are judged. That said, the company has been investing in sound innovation for decades, and the results are just awe-inspiring. For example, the XT series with carbon steel cores and a treatment to avoid corrosion is as good and high-tech as strings get.
Similarly, players like Neil Rodgers, Tosin Abasi, and Chris Scholar choose the NYXL D'Addario strings to push their sonic boundaries further. According to the company, NYXLs are more stable and will stay in tune for longer.
If you are an electric player, you likely have used D'Addario strings in the past and, without a doubt, should in the future.
Notable electric guitar strings: NYXL1046 Nickel Wound Electric Strings – .010-.046 Regular Light 3-Pack (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
D'Addario was founded in 1974 by members of the D'Addario family in Lynbrook, New York. Today, the company headquarters is located in Farmingdale, New York, USA.
Official website: daddario.com
D'Addario is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Ernie Ball is another huge name in electric guitar strings. The company began as California's first guitar-only shop and, since the early 1960s, has built its reputation as a go-to option for stringing electric guitars.
Ernie Ball was a visionary musician and entrepreneur who opened the first guitar-only shop in the USA in 1958. With California base, he noticed certain stiffness in the third string of Fender packs he was selling. He tried approaching the company with his concern but was rebuffed.
Ernie didn't give up and convinced a guitar string manufacturer to create a non-wound, bendable third for a string pack he would sell at his store. By that moment, in the early 1960s, The Beach Boys, The Ventures, and Merle Travis were his customers.
That iconic moment was the birth of the Slinkys, strings used by Sir Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page, Angus Young, and Joe Bonamassa, among millions of others in 120 countries worldwide.
Still, the company didn't plateau at being Jimi Hendrix's string of choice; they went further, developing other lines that would accommodate other players. In that vein, they were among the first to experiment with cobalt, which enhances strings' magnetic qualities.
Buying your strings from Ernie Ball is stepping into the pantheon of great musicians. Ernie Ball is a sure bet if you are looking for punchy strings with great attack.
Notable electric guitar strings: 3221 Regular Slinky Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings – .010-.046 Factory 3-pack (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
Ernie Ball was founded in 1962 by Ernie Ball in Tarzana, California. Today, the company headquarters is located in San Luis Obispo, California, USA.
Official website: ernieball.com
Ernie Ball is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
From the Stratocaster and Telecaster to the Jazzmaster, Jaguar and Mustang, the name Fender needs no introduction to guitarists.
The same passion applied to the instruments goes into their string department. Although not their primary selling point, strings like the “Bullets” are well-known and used worldwide because they are the best match for Fender instruments.
Electric guitar players can choose a plethora of materials, including flat wound steels and the not-so-common pure nickel strings. These strings are special because they are made in an old-school way, adding mellow warmth to the tone, that's the perfect contrast to Fender's natural brightness.
A company the size of Fender doesn't simply disembark in a business niche; it always goes the extra mile to conquer it. Trying Fender strings in your instrument might be a discovery; give them a chance, and you won't regret it.
Notable electric guitar strings: 250L Super 250's Nickel-Plated Steel Electric Guitar Strings – .009-.042 Light (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
Fender Musical Instruments Corporation started as “Fender's Radio Service”, founded in 1938 by Clarence Leonidas Fender in Fullerton, California. In 1946, the company changed its name to Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. Fender began producing guitar pedals in 1954 with their first volume pedal. Today, the company is headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, USA.
Official Website: fender.com
Parent Company: Servco Pacific
Fender is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
It is safe to say that Elixir created a new business niche and set the course for guitar string innovation when they came up with their coated strings. Their patented fluoropolymer coating extends their lifespan by protecting them from debris, sweat, and other elements threatening their integrity, including corrosion.
Elixir Strings began as a branch of W. L. Gore & Associates to test cables and coat them with polytetrafluoroethylene. Soon after, they started playing with the coating material to make guitar strings that sounded great and were also corrosion-free.
After being tested by 15,000+ guitar and bass players, Elixir Strings was officially born. Since the first prototype, the company has experimented with a nano polymer evolving the coating into a microscopic layer that doesn't affect killer tone.
The superb tone and musicality of Elixir's electric guitar strings are enhanced by outstanding longevity, making them popular choices for amateurs and professionals alike.
Notable electric guitar strings: 12052 Nanoweb Electric Guitar Strings – .010-.046 Light (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
Elixir was founded in 1997 as a division of W. L. Gore & Associates. The company headquarters is located in Newark, Delaware, USA.
Official website: elixirstrings.com
Parent company: W. L. Gore & Associates
Elixir is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
What is the link between Jack White, Carlos Santana, Tom Morello and David Gilmour? Well, they are all superstars guitarists who play GHS strings.
The company was founded in Battle Creek, Michigan, in 1964 by three people: Gould, Holcomb, and Solko, thus, the name GHS. By 1975, it was bought by Robert McFee, who remains chairman of the board to this day.
The company's Boomers are comparable to Slinkys (Ernie Ball) and XL (D'Addario) in terms of popularity and availability around the world.
Guitar players can choose from 13 electric models, including “Sub-Zero” strings that go through a cryogenic process to reinforce the core and “Progressives”, which are magnetically active strings.
GHS is regarded, together with D'Addario and Ernie ball, as one of the most important string manufacturers in the world. Their reputation is well-deserved; pick one setup and find out what made your idols use them.
Notable electric guitar strings: GBXL-5 Guitar Boomers Electric Guitar Strings – .009-.042 Extra Light 6-pack (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
GHS Strings was founded in 1964 by Gould, Holcomb, and Solko. The company headquarters is located in Battle Creek, Michigan, USA.
Official website: ghsstrings.com
GHS Strings is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Gibson is another giant in the guitar manufacturing game. It's a multinational corporation manufacturing and distributing its own family of brands worldwide.
Gibson makes amazing strings that are up to the task of matching their premium-level instruments. In other words, they use them in guitars well over $1,000 expecting to blow away customers with a killer tone right out of the box. That is exactly what you can expect from Gibson strings.
They offer a plethora of variants for each instrument. In the case of electric guitars, the company developed a pack with Les Paul and, taking the same co-designed hex-core steel base and pure nickel wrapping, made their own “Brite Wire” line. These strings feature a high-carbon steel hex core for a superior attack, making them the perfect match for humbuckers and pure gain.
Gibson wouldn't compromise the tone of their instruments with cheap-sounding strings. Thus, you can expect to enhance your sound by using them.
Notable electric guitar strings: Vintage Reissue Electric Guitar Strings – .010 – .046 Light (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
Gibson was originally founded as the “Gibson Mandolin-Guitar Mfg. Co. Ltd.” in 1902 by Orville Gibson in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA. In 1944, Gibson was purchased by Chicago Musical Instruments, which was acquired by ECL in 1969. In 1974, Gibson became a subsidiary of Norlin Musical Instruments, and in 1986, Henry E. Juszkiewicz, David H. Berryman, and Gary A. Zebrowski bought the company before it went bankrupt. In 2018, the company filed for bankruptcy and has since emerged. Gibson Guitar Corp. is headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, USA.
Official Website: gibson.com
Gibson is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Dunlop is perhaps best known for producing the quintessential “Cry Baby” wah-wah pedal. This brand excels at producing musical accessories for guitars, including pedals, straps, picks and, of course, strings.
Guitarists who favour rocking tones will find that Dunlop strings are made for that style. Furthermore, the “Heavy Core” line is specifically designed to be extra stable for players tuning below standard to achieve heavier tones.
If you are a rocker, Dunlop strings might be a match made in heaven for your instrument and style.
Notable electric guitar strings: RWN0738 Rev. Willy's Lottery Brand Electric Guitar Strings – .007-.038 Super Fine (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
Dunlop Manufacturing was founded in 1965 by Jim Dunlop in Glasgow, Scotland. The company moved to Benicia, California, USA, in 1972, where it is still headquartered today. Dunlop owns MXR, Cry Baby, Way Huge, Authentic Hendrix and Dunlop Electronics brands.
Official Website: jimdunlop.com
Dunlop is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Just like Ernie Ball is the first and last name of its founder, so is Dean Markley. Dean founded this company in 1972 after successfully selling his own-made strings and accessories in his Santa Clara, California, music store. His break to fame came when Peter Frampton used his Talkbox pedal in “Show me the way”.
Since that moment, Dean Markley has grown significantly and is regarded today as one of the world's top acoustic and electric strings brands.
Electric players will also use the “Black Hawk” line for their instruments. The high-carbon nickel-plated steel wire core is then coated, and the strings can last up to four times as much as ordinary strings.
Additionally, one of the most remarkable achievements by Dean Markley is the Blue Steel line. The company treats these strings cryogenically to remove transient materials and enhance tone while also making them last three times as much as other strings.
Dean Markley is one of the greatest string makers in the industry, almost sharing the podium with Ernie Ball, D'Addario, and GHS.
Notable electric guitar strings: 2552 Blue Steel Electric Guitar Strings – .009-.042 Light (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
Dean Markley was founded in 1972 by Dean Markley in Santa Clara, California. The company headquarters is now located in Glendale, Arizona, USA.
Official website: deanmarkley.com
Dean Markley is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
The sound of the “British Invasion” lives in each string RotoSound puts into the market. The company was founded by James How in 1958 in Sevenoaks, Kent, England, where it still keeps its main headquarters and production facility.
Although it all started with classical instruments for RotoSound, clientele such as The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and The Shadows quickly changed the panorama.
Soon, the emerging European rock scene embraced RotoSound, and Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, and others joined the brand. With artists' input, RotoSound kept refining their strings to create perfection. Perfectionists such as Brian May and John Deacon from Queen joined RotoSound shortly after. Nowadays, the brand is held to the highest standards around the world.
Guitar players have a wide array of options to choose from, but bass players won't find as much diversity in any other brand. With a staggering amount of 61 different options, there's no way to go wrong using RotoSound strings.
If you love strings with a lot of attack and are ready to rock, RotoSound is the choice for you.
Notable electric guitar strings: R10 Roto Yellows Nickel On Steel Electric Guitar Strings – .010-.046 Regular (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
RotoSound was founded in 1958 by James How in Sevenoaks, Kent, England, where it is still headquartered today.
Official website: rotosound.com
RotoSound is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
DR Strings was founded in 1989 by Mark Dronge in New Jersey, where the company still holds its headquarters. Mark Dronge is the son of Alfred Dronge, who happens to be the founder of Guild Guitars.
Because his father always wanted to build a string manufacturing facility, Mark set out to create the best. In that sense, DR Strings is revolutionary: they brought hand-wound strings back into the market.
The insight from building world-class instruments allowed DR Strings to reverse-engineer the string-making process. But can a human make the difference versus modern-day machinery? According to the company, no machine can make the tiny adjustments needed for a superior string. Plus, all materials are US-sourced and US-manufactured.
DR Strings sound great because they are humanly wound to perfection using the best materials available. Regardless of the style you play, you won't regret buying a pack of DR Strings. Furthermore, their neon series allows players to choose from a plethora of colours to dress their instruments for the ultimate stage presence.
Notable electric guitar strings: PHR-10 Pure Blues Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings – .010-.046 Medium (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
DR Strings was founded in 1989 by Alfred Dronge and Dr. Benzion Rapoport in Westwood, New Jersey, USA, where the company is still headquartered to this day.
Official website: drstrings.com
DR Strings is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!
Thomastik-Infeld might not have the same publicity or marketing investment as the previous brands, but their commitment to excellence keeps them up there with the best.
Perhaps, one of the main reasons behind this lack of popularity is that the brand has a long heritage from classic, unfretted instrument strings. Indeed, they are one of the main brands in the world within that niche, and their orchestral strings can be heard in the most prestigious concert halls around the world.
As you would expect, nylon and classical players will find in the Thomastik catalogue a wide array of options.
Moving over to the electric realm, Thomastik's Blues Sliders and Power Brights are among the most responsive, punchy strings in the market. The newest addition, their “Infeld” strings feature a new alloy-reducing signal-to-noise ratio; this makes them perfect for high-gain situations.
Thomastik-Infeld strings are the best-kept secret for electric players and a proven ally for classical ones. If you haven't tested them out, give them a chance, they will surprise you.
Notable electric guitar strings: JS111 Jazz Swing Flatwound Electric Guitar Strings – Light .011-.047 (link to check the price at Sweetwater)
Thomastik-Infeld was founded in 1919 by Dr. Franz Thomastik and Otto Infeld in Vienna, Austria. The company headquarters is still located in Austria today.
Official website: thomastik-infeld.com
Thomastik-Infeld is featured in other top brand articles at My New Microphone. Check out these articles here!