9 Best Acoustic Guitar Strings for a Warm Sound

9 Best Acoustic Guitar Strings for a Warm Sound

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In this cold world, we seek warmth in the refuge of music.

Perhaps that’s why Vinyl is experiencing what can only be described as a Renaissance, even cassettes are getting more love these days than they had in decades.

Even though in music studios, a computer can theoretically, accomplish any task and run circles around analog equipment, so many studios maintain a collection of vintage or analog gear.

And all these analog aficionados have one goal in common. That warmth, man!

You might think that this warm sound might seem like an elusive goal with your current guitar, but with the right knowledge and the right acoustic guitar strings, you can achieve it.

I want to take you on this journey that not only will help you grasp the true meaning of this warm sound but how to achieve it with the acoustic strings on our list.

If however, you want to get straight to the point, here are the top contenders!

Best Overall
Ernie Ball Earthwood Strings
Ernie Ball Earthwood Strings
9.9
  • The Phosphor Bronze Strings offer a warm and balanced tone.
  • Available in a three-set element shield packaging that will prolong the life of your strings.
Best On A Budget
DR Strings Rare
DR Strings Rare
9.6
  • These bronze strings offer a deeper tone for the guitarists that seek a unique and warm voice.
  • The DR strings are handmade, and they are made to last.
Longest Lasting
Martin Retro Monel Strings
Martin Retro Monel Strings
9.7
  • Monel wrap will help add more warmth to the sound of your acoustic guitar.
  • You can play these strings more aggressively without ruining your sound with harsh overtones.

What Do We Mean By Warm Sound?

What exactly is it we’re all chasing?

Actually, those who say vinyl records are the highest-fidelity form of audio are flat-out wrong, when it comes down to it. But they’re not wrong to appreciate the unique character of vinyl.

The medium has a few limitations. One is that recordings can’t have too much bass… or the needle is liable to physically skip out of the groove!

To compensate for the anemic bass, engineers would bump the low-mid frequencies (~100-250 Hz.) Add that to all the subtle distortion introduced into vinyl recordings at pretty much every stage of the music’s creation, and there is your warmth.

What we experience as a warm sound is pretty much defined by audio frequencies. We experience different ranges of the frequency spectrum as different feelings. The low-mids are warm. The upper mids (around 2500 Hz) are present and can be harsh if overdone. The highs (10k Hz and up) are air, and “breathiness.”

So different balances of frequencies create different worlds!

A sound with muted mids and boosted highs will sound “cold.” Ever notice how a lot of 80s synth-based music like the Depeche Mode had a cold sound?

Conversely, music that’s heavy in the low-mids, with muted highs, has that characteristic warmth, that you can clearly hear here.

How To Choose Acoustic Guitar Strings For A Warm Sound?

The acoustic guitar is an iconic and evergreen instrument for a reason. Well many reasons, but one is that it actually has an incredibly rich and saturated sound. Check out this screenshot I took of one of my acoustic guitar recordings in a spectrum analyzer.

Acoustic Guitar Spectrum Analyzer
Acoustic guitar’s sonic character, as seen through a spectrum analyzer.

The instrument has a very full sound, from the low-mids all the way up to the highest frequencies the human ear can hear.

If you play acoustic guitar, your string choice can be one of the simplest yet most dramatic ways to affect your tone. And I hate to break it to you, but pretty much every acoustic player should probably be replacing their strings more often than they are, myself included!

With that in mind, why not try some new strings that will give you a warm tone?

String Gauge

Gauge refers to the diameter of your strings. You will usually refer to string gauge in shorthand terms like “lights,” “mediums” or “heavys” or by the diameter of the thinnest string.

For instance, a player referring to “thirteens” is talking about a pack of strings whose high E string is 0.013” gauge, which is a medium gauge for acoustic guitars.

Playing on lighter strings is physically easier because they have lower tension. It’s less fatiguing to play for long periods and easier to barre chords or bend notes.

However, if you want to achieve a warmer sound then heavy gauge strings have that deeper, fuller tone- a warmer sound overall, while lighter strings can sound thin and even brittle.

String Material

The range of materials for acoustic guitar strings is surprisingly broad which means that you’ll get to achieve the sound and tone you want.

While string material choice affects many aspects, the tone is the most immediate. Basically, players choose strings of different materials based on tone.

Phosphor bronze is essentially the default today. I wouldn’t be surprised if 90% of the world’s acoustic guitars were strung with phosphor bronze strings.

Phosphor-bronze strings were invented with the goal of getting a warmer, more balanced tone out of bronze.

That’s probably why so many guitarists that seek warm strings seem to gravitate towards phosphor bronze.

Other popular choices include bronze, brass, silk, and steel.

Bronze and brass strings are known to have a very bright, present sound, so they might not give you exactly what you want.

Silk and steel are worth a try as well. These strings actually contain a layer of silk (or more likely these days, a synthetic material) between the core and wrap.

As a result, silk and steel strings are known for a softer, more mellow tone. The tone is described as a cross between a typical steel-string and nylon-string sound. Silk and steel strings are also lower-tension, so they are easier on your fingers.

String Core Shape

They say, the devil is in the details, and in this case, the core shape of your strings can also have an impact on the sound they produce.

Hexagonal cores are the easiest to find, but if I were I would avoid them and go for the round ones.

Not because the round cores are going to give you a warmer sound, but the hexagonal cores have a lower density and they are more likely to increase brightness.

Aside from warmth, round core wires also offer more advantages since they’re more flexible and longer-lasting.

Flatwound Strings

You usually have three options when it comes to the winding type, roundwound, flatwound strings, and the more rare option and halfwound.

Now I’m going to go straight to the point and tell you that flat wound strings are more likely to give you a warmer sound.

However, they can be more costly but they also last much longer so you should get your money’s worth.

Roundwound strings on the other hand are more common, they are more affordable and they are more flexible. Instead of a warm sound, you usually get more brightness, volume, and sustain out of them.

As you can imagine halfwound is an in-between option.

Coated vs Uncoated Strings

Getting coated strings is much easier nowadays, and since you’re after a warm sound that’s good news for sure.

Coated strings are usually preferred because they are long-lasting and they are less susceptible to corrosion which usually happens because of sweat.

The thing is coated strings don’t sound as snappy and bright as uncoated ones, and that’s exactly what you need.

Even if the coated strings don’t increase the warmth they will definitely reduce the brightness especially if they have a thicker coat.

Old Strings

The sound and tone that guitar strings produce can depend on how old they are, and while I’ve mentioned that changing your guitar strings is important, there can be an advantage to older strings.

With time your strings will stretch out and they will also accumulate the oils from your hand which will mellow out the sound coming from the strings.

Basically, new strings can sound more plastic and there will be a brightness to them, but this doesn’t mean they won’t need changing eventually.

Our Top 9 Acoustic Strings For A Warm Sound

When it comes to acoustic guitar strings there are plenty of choices out there, but when you’re in search of that unique warm sound things can get a little more complicated.

So, let’s untangle this mystery!

Best Overall: Ernie Ball Earthwood Strings

Best Overall
Ernie Ball Earthwood Strings
  • These bronze strings offer a deeper tone for the guitarists that seek a unique and warm voice.
  • The DR strings are handmade, and they are made to last.

I mentioned earlier that musicians get a bit fierce with string brand loyalty. Well, full disclosure, Ernie Ball is totally my brand. Right now, my acoustic and two electrics are all strung with Ernie Balls.

If you’ve missed their name then that’s because they are relative newcomers. Yet somehow they have quickly built up an amazing and excited fan base.

Musicians love Ernie Ball, there’s no better way to put it, and in my (obviously slanted) opinion, the reputation is warranted.

Ernie Ball strings are nearly always a solid choice, no matter your approach.

They are on the side of a heavier gauge so you will definitely get that warm, deep, and rich tone with each stroke of your hand, without sounding muddy.

Their price is usually on the low end, and the quality control is solid. They also have a huge range of choices, so you can invest in different guitar strings to achieve a different feel from your beloved instrument.

But if you want acoustic guitar strings that accentuate bass and midrange frequencies and have a great treble response Ernie Ball Earthwood strings are what you need.

My only complaint is that you need to be more careful when you tune them up, especially since the high E strings can be quite delicate and snap.

You can check the glowing 24,000+ reviews, their fun branding, and imagery, as well as see today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

 

Best On A Budget: DR Strings Rare

Best On A Budget
DR Strings Rare
  • These bronze strings offer a deeper tone for the guitarists that seek a unique and warm voice.
  • The DR strings are handmade, and they are made to last.

I consider DR a dark horse string manufacturer. They might be unknown to the average guitarist, yet their strings shine in various unexpected contexts.

Whether it’s flat-picking or finger-style when it comes to that warm acoustic guitar tone, DR Rare strings should not go unchecked!

The heavy-playing bluegrass guitarist Steve Kaufman actually swears by them and the fact that they’ll last you for an unusually long time.

The phosphor bronze wrap wire is the key ingredient that’s going to give you that warmth, while the hexagonal high-carbon steel core might add some brightness.

Aside from the deeper sound you should also notice better tone, depth, and sustain, while the strings will feel softer on your fingers.

Another awesome thing about the DR Rare strings is that these mid-heavy bad boys come at a really friendly price.

Additionally, if you’re someone who is just starting your journey towards a warmer sound and you want good results that will not hit your wallet hard DR Strings Rare is in my opinion a great option.

The only drawback for me is that the strings are not vacuum-packed, instead, they come in a paper envelope inside a box.

If you want to check the price on Amazon or read some of the reviews then check the price on Amazon or read some of the reviews then click here.

 

Best Phosphor Bronze Strings: Martin’s MSP4100 SP

Best Phosphor Bronze Strings
Martin MSP4100 SP
  • The bronze alloy will help you achieve rich, warm, and deep sounds.
  • These Martin SP strings are long-lasting and will get you through daily rehearsals, sessions, and gigs.

When it comes to string material you know that phosphor bronze strings are a great choice specifically for achieving this warm sound.

That’s why I had to have Martin’s MSP 4100 series as our top phosphor bronze strings on the list.

With this line of strings, you can achieve great deep notes without sacrificing the quality of your sound.

The bass frequencies are more prominent and while the higher sounds are present and add some brightness they are more subdued.

As you might know already, guitars can react differently to different strings.

When using Martin’s MSP 4100, your guitar might produce a medium and bright tone at the start, but it should mellow after some use. For some this can mean a week for others it might be a few hours of play.

While these strings are an excellent, well-rounded choice, I must admit that the price is not as friendly.

Nonetheless, because the Martin SP strings are designed to repel the sweat, dirt, and oils that our hands produce they should last you a long time so they’re well worth the investment.

You can check some of their features and check some of their features and today’s price on Amazon.

 

Longest Lasting Strings: Martin Retro Monel Acoustic Strings

Longest Lasting
Martin Retro Monel Strings
  • Monel wrap will help add more warmth to the sound of your acoustic guitar.
  • You can play these strings more aggressively without ruining your sound with harsh overtones.

If you know anything about guitar strings then you know that Martin strings are mentioned more than any other and there’s a good reason for that.

Martin is mostly known for their high-quality and premium-priced acoustic guitars. With their reputation for quality, so, it’s not surprising that they make strings worthy of their own instruments.

Martin brings a unique offering with their Monel Retro line of strings. These strings are actually made from a different material than any I’ve already mentioned above, named Monel.

Monel was first developed in the early 1905’s and this type of alloy consists of 66% Pure Nickel, and 31.5% Copper, with small amounts of iron, manganese, carbon, and silicon.

What makes Monel alloy so great is that it’s much stronger than pure nickel and it’s resistant to many agents including seawater, and that includes sweat. So you know what you’re getting from the Martin Monel strings.

Aside from their natural long-lasting qualities, with fewer breakages and less rusting, Monel strings also have a unique tone, and you can expect your acoustic guitar to sing in more earthy sounds.

With Monel strings, you can also achieve a vintage vibe since the round core adds more flexibility and warmth to their strings.

Even if your guitar is considered to be a bright and twangy instrument with these Monel strings you can achieve a warmer tone and you’ll be able to tame that twang.

So, for those of you who are looking for a mellow and deeper tone these Martin Retro Monel strings will give you exactly what you need.

You can read more about them and check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here!

 

Best Coated Strings: Martin’s SP Lifespans

Best Coated Strings
Martin's SP Lifespans
  • These coated strings are great for rock, blues, and folk style guitarists and they won't peel off or flake.
  • The 80/20 Bronze material produces a truly rich warm sound with minimal brightness.

The coating on coated strings varies depending on the manufacturer, but if you’re going for premium quality, Martin SP Lifespans represents the perfect coated string.

As the name suggests all six strings are treated with Lifespan proprietary technology that will repel any oils and dirt that they accumulate through daily use.

So, while these strings are not as budget-friendly you’ll be getting your money’s worth since they last much longer.

Now more about that warm sound!

If you’re going for a really deep and warm sound then these strings might be the real deal since they are somewhat less bright and warmer than your typical phosphor bronze strings.

Overall they maintain their tone for longer because as most guitarists will tell you strings’ tone tends to get flat and dull as they age.

Now if you’re someone who owns a guitar that is warm, then the Martin Lifespan strings are going to magnify the natural tone of your guitar which is great news if that’s the effect you’re going for.

You can read the reviews and check today’s price on Amazon by check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

 

Best Thin Coated Strings: Earnie Ball Everlast

Best Thin Coated Strings
Earnie Ball Everlast
  • Your fingers won't even notice the super-thin coat that will keep your strings well protected.
  • The Phosphor Bronze offers warm and rich bass tones.

First of all, let’s talk about the coat.

If you’re interested in coated strings, but you just don’t like how they feel then I’m a little blown away by Ernie Ball’s Everlast line.

This brand uses groundbreaking nanotechnology that will repel the salty moisture and oils our fingers produce.

Not only will this prolong their life, but also their sound, but we’ll talk about that in a minute.

The coat itself is incomparably thin, and it’s applied to both the inner hex core and outer wrap wire.

Feeling your strings is part of the experience and with the Everlast strings, you can play for longer without even realizing that they are coated.

Now when it comes to sound, Everlast strings produce a warmer and fuller tone without sacrificing the bright trembles.

As you can imagine, I’ve actually talked about these strings before, and I must mention again that Andy McKee actually plays on Ernie Ball Everlast.

He says that like many fingerpickers, he enjoys experimenting with different tunings, and he found that the Everlast strings could withstand that treatment.

When it comes to the price Everlasts are quite reasonable for what you receive especially when you compare it to other coated strings out there.

So, check today’s price and the reviews on Amazon.

 

Best For Fingerstyle: Ernie Ball Earthwood Silk and Steel

Best For Fingerstyle
Ernie Ball Earthwood Silk and Steel
  • The layer of silk that is wrapped over the steel core and covered by bronze will make sure to produce a warm and mellow tone.
  • The soft feel of the strings will allow you to play longer on your guitar.

While bronze strings might be the most popular material, I have to admit that there’s nothing softer on the fingers than silk and steel strings.

Especially if you’re just getting started and your hands aren’t covered in callouses, the Ernie Ball Earthwood Silk and Steel strings will go easy on you.

More so, they are a great option for those of you who want a more economical option without missing out on a high-quality sound.

But don’t get me wrong, these strings are not just beginner-friendly and if you have been finger styling for years then you are more likely to appreciate the warm tones these strings can produce.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that has compared the tone of these strings favorably to an electric archtop since they fit his jazz/blues approach well.

I’d definitely go for a heavy gauge here, particularly because they are known to be more forgiving to play on anyway.

While the price is friendly, I must admit that the fact that these Earthwoods are uncoated means that they’re not as long-lasting.

If you want to give silk and steel a go Ernie Ball Earthwood you can check today’s price on Amazon by check today’s price on Amazon by clicking here.

 

Best Guitar Strings For Flatpicking: John Pearse

Best Guitar Strings For Flatpicking
John Pearse
  • The bronze creates a well-defined bass and a full-bodied and defined sound overall.
  • These strings are great for Bluegrass guitarists.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve only discovered John Pearse strings recently, but their strings are well-regarded!

Apparently, bluegrass players in particular favor John Pearse strings, although interestingly, the man himself was a British guitarist.

In any case, his namesake strings are a unique and reasonably-priced choice.

Though I must admit that these strings have a specific character that is not for everyone.

Their fans however speak of their unique and warm tone, as well as clarity. And if you like bluegrass, you can bond with other players over your experience with John Pearse strings!

If you’re looking for that warm and mellow sound the John Pearce medium gauge is a great option, but as always you also need to consider your guitar requirements.

If you’re not a bluegrass type of player then the John Pearse strings can still work for you and your style, but aggressive players particularly will have a good time with these bad boys.

As always you can expect some brightness for the first few days, but they will mellow down without losing their punch.

So, if that sounds like a good deal to you then check today’s price on Amazon.

 

Best Guitar Strings For Studio Recording: Thomastik-Infeld Spectrum Bronze Strings

Best Guitar Strings For Studio Recording
Thomastik-Infeld Spectrum Bronze Strings
  • These spectrum bronze strings with the silk inlay technology are going to give you a polished sound, both warm and brilliant.
  • These strings will produce the perfect sound during your recording sessions and live performances.

I did a double-take when I saw this brand name. I checked, and sure enough, this Austrian company is famous (well, among violin string enthusiasts!) for inventing synthetic core violin strings, essentially setting the standard against which all modern violin strings are measured.

How about their acoustic guitar strings?

Their Spectrum bronze strings are definitely not the friendliest when it comes to price, but they live up to the aspirations of their price point!

A good recording session will depend on the studio itself, your instruments, and of course the strings on your guitar.

Spectrum strings are designed with studio recording in mind when you need to capture your guitar sounding its best.

The deep basses and superb midrange doesn’t take away from the crystal clear high frequencies giving your guitar a unique voice across the board.

For those of you who are looking for that mellow vintage vibe that will give your guitar a bass sound then don’t hesitate and give the Thomastic Spectrum strings a try.

I do want to warn you though that these strings might be harder on your fingers than most, but the quality of your sound might as well be worth it.

Spectrums are worth a shot, so check today’s price on Amazon.

 

Conclusion

The acoustic guitar is a powerful instrument, and its complex and rich tone can be a blessing or a curse.

The right strings can manifest a deep, warm, satisfying aural experience, but the wrong strings may just as easily sound grating or thin.

So, if you’re going for that warm tone it’s well worth the time finding the right strings for your style. Once you find it, you’ll likely never go back.

Keep working, and feel the joy of the music!