Review: Classical Guitar Strings

On this page I’ll be reviewing classical guitar strings. Please realize that I can only review strings I’ve tried out. If you know of a string company I’ve not listed let me know about it. Strings are matter of preference and are also affected by the guitar, player, and performance space. Therefore, these are generalizations at best. Also, quality control issues are probably rare but I’ve nevertheless commented on it because it affected me personally. If you are the string company, feel free to contact me about any issues.

What is a good string? What is musical? This is all very subjective. Every string has good qualities and can be perfect for your unique guitar and playing style or repertoire. Also, the idea of a string being ‘musical’ is a silly concept as it depends on what musical quality you are highlighting. One string might be warm and have a smooth sound whereas another string might be bright but well balanced.

I’m always curious to try new strings (or get sponsored): If your strings aren’t listed here I’m very interested in trying out new ones and would be open to sponsorship. Contact me: bradford@thisisclassicalguitar.com

Bradford is Currently Using 

  • D’Addario Half Set with Hybrid Carbon G Hard Tension – I use these for solo playing because they are warm, smooth, and kind of normal and plain. I like the smooth warm nylon on E and B but a tighter sounding carbon G cleans up the balance. I use the high tension trebles and combine them with normal tension basses. Although, after using Aquila or Savarez these feel a bit like plastic toy strings. I could be convinced to switch but D’Addario are available everywhere, affordable, and have good quality control. Also, these are very forgiving to students as the tone is generally warm and mellow. These are only the treble strings, you have to buy basses separately. Also see normal tension.
  • Aquila Zaffiro – See full review below. I use these. Plant based, better projection and intonation, not as legato as nylon but close, between nylon and carbon.
  • D’Addario Carbons – I sometimes use these for ensemble playing. They are bright and stiff but with better intonation and projection than nylons. Depending on your guitar, they might be a bit too intense for solo playing. If you guitar seems dull or overly warm these will clean up the sound making them great anything. They are vibrant and loud making the guitar come to life and project amazingly (it’s really hard to go back to nylon after). Excellent string for loud, clear ensemble playing.

Aquila Classical Guitar Strings

  • Aquila is such a cool string company both for their historical strings for early music (think Nylgut) but also modern experimentation and the variety of styles and sounds of their strings. Visit Aquila and read about their strings at their website. My favourite set so far are the Zaffiro that sound somewhere between nylon and carbon strings, but all their strings are super high quality with above average projection and intonation. I am seriously considering using the Zaffiro or Alchemia permanently. They make some other nylon strings sound like plastic toy strings. Bravo.
  • Aquila Zaffiro – The treble strings are Nylonplant 100% derived of plant materials which is cool. Aquila’s description: “medium brightness and at the same time rich sound, allowing fair expressiveness.” I agree. They feel a bit stiff like carbon strings but are smoother and more legato like nylon. Quite expressive with good sustain and vibrato capabilities. Brighter and better projection than regular nylon strings but less intense as a carbon string such as Savarez Alliance. Sweet bell sounds exist but less so with a bit more of the woody quality of the guitar and a bit of pluck. Basses are the traditional silver-plated copper, wound on a multifilament core in supernylgut; good mix of projection, clarity, and mellow richness (and not very squeaky either). Quality, intonation, and projection are all good and above average nylon. No tension options, but they feel good for me, similar to hard tension trebles, normalish basses. Overall an excellent string that sounds and feels somewhere between nylon and carbon strings. I would use these for concerts or recording and like them the most of all the Aquila strings I’ve tried.
  • Aquila Alabastro – Nylgut. Aquila’s description: “excellent performance qualities similar to gut strings, with a better brightness than nylon but not as much as fluorocarbon, excellent sound attack.” Again, I agree. I really like the unique character and feel but if you’re looking for a smooth silky string this might not be it. Nylgut is a modern synthetic material that imitates (and improves) early music gut strings and this is an update that brings it into a modern guitar string family. Excellent volume, projection, and intonation (amazing, really). Lively, bright, and ultra clean sound. Bright might not be the correct word, more ‘direct’ with intense projection. Not harsh, more on the plucked instrument side. I wouldn’t call them expressive in terms of left hand vibrato etc but the increased balance improves some repertoire dramatically. They really clean up the sound and balance, not mushy at all and cross-string trills never sounded better. They feel somewhat stiff, both the material and the tension (I tried the normal tension, they come in three levels). Very high quality and interesting string that would be great on stage but beginner students should not venture here as they will not be forgiving to bad nails or technique. A great string for specific types repertoire.
  • Aquila Rubino – Aquila’s description: “the brightest and sharpest sound ever, superior to Fluorocarbon, sharp and clear promptness on sound attack, good timbre modulation.” Overall true but I wouldn’t use the word ‘bright’ too literally. Maybe a better word would be direct, focused, and intense but not harsh. The material is very interesting, a small diameter string and yet they sound thick but not dull. Reminds me a bit of the Savarez rectified strings but smoother, smaller, and better. Not a super silky smooth sound, the high e is certainly not lush but there is some warmth in it and would sound good in a hall. I tried the normal tension which felt like a hard tension, so be cautious of the harder tension options. Excellent projection, balance, and intonation. To my ears this has all the qualities of an intense carbon string but with a thicker and less glassy quality. Cool dark red and chocolate colour. I would recommend this string to professionals and advanced students looking for balance and projection without sacrificing much legato or risking a brittle sound. A great string for concerts and ensemble playing.
  • Aquila Alchemia – Polymer blend. Aquila’s description: “bright sound similar to Fluorocarbon but at the same time gives high performance in vibrato, great timbrical variation responding to variations of the right hand, surprising sustain.” Yes, I agree. They are very similar to a bright carbon string such as Savarez Alliance. If you want all the qualities of an intense carbon string but less potential for harsh brittle sounds this is a great string for you. I tried the normal tension which felt like a hard tension so be cautious of the harder options. Again, excellent projection, balance, and intonation. These had the most ‘pop’ of all the Aquila I’ve tried. Brings the guitar to life. Might be too bright and intense for some people, especially the high e string, but I like it and it sounded more smooth than the Rubinos. A great string for concerts and ensemble playing.
  • Other Aquila String Sets (that I haven’t tried yet): Perla, Cristallo, and Ambra.

D’Addario Classical Guitar Strings

  • D’Addario Half Set with Hybrid Carbon G Hard Tension – I use these for solo playing. Highly recommended.  It’s great having the smooth warm nylon on E and B but a tighter sounding G. The carbon G really cleans up the balance and sound. I never like Pro Arte strings much until now. I use the high tension trebles and combine them with normal tension basses. I like the legato sound of nylon even if you loose some projection compared to carbons. These are only the treble strings, you have to buy basses separately. Also see normal tension.
  • D’Addario Carbons – I will use these for ensemble playing. These are bright sound and stiff feeling but with better intonation and projection than nylons. Depending on your guitar, they are a bit too intense for solo playing. If you guitar seems dull or overly warm these will clean up the sound a ton making them great for solos as well. However, these are vibrant and loud making the guitar come to life and project amazingly. Excellent string for ensemble playing.
  • D’Addario Pro Arte Clear Nylon Strings – I like hard tension. Quality clear nylon string with a fantastic price. These are a standard and the quality is always consistent. The trebles sound can sound a bit muddy/plasticy on some guitars but the basses are full and rich. The trebles do sound much better after a few days. When I judge other strings I compare them to these because these are a standard. A nice legato sound and good overall but have less projection and clarity compared carbon strings (which can be a good thing). However, an excellent student string as they are warm and mellow. They come in Light, Normal, Hard and Extra-Hard tension.
  • D’Addario ProArte DynaCore Basses w/ Titanium Trebles– A bit more bright and better projection than the nylon equivalent above but still a decent diameter. These are pretty good and might be great for some people. Not as smooth and legato as clear nylon but definitely better projection and clarity overall. A bit thuddy and plasticy sounding though. In general, a decent string and a good move for the company as this is somewhere between clear nylon and carbon strings. The DynaCore basses are supposed to be a “unique and contemporary tone: rich, round & full with dramatically improved string life, tuning stability and consistency.” I can’t tell a huge difference but it’s likely true.
  • D’Addario Recording Set – Polished Basses for less squeak. Pro string but pricy, they feel a bit weird to me but sound pretty good. They do reduce squeak so it works, but maybe not in the way you think. For recording I’d consider using these but for live playing I wouldn’t worry about it…

Savarez Classical Guitar Strings

  • Savarez New Cristal (various tensions and basses) – All nylon or with Alliance (carbon) G. I prefer the normal tension and Cantiga basses. These are very legato and and smooth sounding string. I find that they are more clear and project better than most clear nylon strings. I use these when I want to sound musical and legato. Sometimes, especially for the first few days, the basses overpower the trebles but that evens out after some playing. The corum basses are fairly bright and clear. They have a new bass set called Cantiga. I find the Corums keep their clarity longer than most but don’t give the deep dark sound of D’Addario basses. Depends on your guitar as dark can also be muddy. These are more expensive than D’Addario clear nylon but generally better.
  • Savarez Corum Alliance (various tensions and basses) – Amazing brightness, projection, clarity, and balance. The whole guitar will come alive! They project across the universe and you’ll be heard by everyone in the concert hall and beyond. That said, they might be too intense, harsh, and high tension for some players (especially students). With good nails and technique these can sound great but they are not forgiving or for the faint of heart. Trebles are composite trebles monofilament (carbon). These project sound wonderfully and have the greatest clarity of all the strings I’ve tried. I use these when I need to cut through the texture, be heard loud and clear, or just want maximum balance and clarity. These are small diameter strings with a bright sound so they can make beginners sound overly thin and even brittle. Also, some people like the feel of thicker strings so these might seem small. However, in the hands of a profession or advanced player they can really bring the guitar to vibrant life. Legato, in terms of smooth, soft, and warm sound is reduced but the sustain is excellent so high quality legato is very possible. Excellent strings for ensemble playing or when you want volume and clarity. I prefer the sets with Cantiga basses.

Other Strings

  • Oasis Carbon Strings: Similar to the Savarez Alliance treble strings but a little bright/harsh (not always a bad thing). They are clear and project just as the Savarez Allience but maybe with a bit more body to the sound. However, beware that hard tension here is intensely hard tension (hurt my left hand) so maybe go with lighter tensions. These won’t give you the warmth of a nylon string but will certainly give you clarity and projection. I didn’t like the bass strings, maybe I received a bad set or something but the basses sounded completely dead on my guitar. You might prefer these over the Savarez Allience if your guitar is already fairly bright. Also, I’ve had a couple break on me…maybe a fluke, quality control issues?
  • Galli Strings Genius Carbonio  – I like these Galli carbon strings but sadly I’ve encountered some quality control issues (some kind of ‘peeling’ or de-threading issue). I’ve ordered strings twice before in packages of 3 sets and each time one out of the three have been defective. Sad because I think they are one of the best strings out there. A little calmer than the Oasis strings and maybe more musical. Still balanced, bright, and excellent projection. Spectacular strings but the quality control! Maybe they’ve fixed it by now, I haven’t ordered them in 2 years (send me more Galli *hint hint nudge nudge).
  • Augustine Classic/Red Strings – I bought a pack of these specifically to review but the 1st string was defective. If I had to bet why it’s because they pack the trebles in with the basses and when pressed together too hard in shipping or wherever the bass ate away at the treble. Very disappointing. Also, the packaging and their website doesn’t mention that these are a monofilament string (carbon). That said, good projection and clarity but a bit dull to my ears. I wish I could try a non-damaged set to give a more accurate review (points down for quality control).
  • Augustine Regal and Imperial Strings – I’ve heard great things about these and plan to try them out.

More reviews coming soon!

Share

Help Support the Site


This is Classical Guitar is an independent classical guitar publication and the website and lessons are free for everyone. But it’s difficult and expensive work. Corporations and social media are taking over and revenues are falling fast across the web. If you like and value the site or newsletter, please consider supporting its future.  Visit the support page to help out.

Subscribe to the site via Email Newsletter, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube.


9 Comments

  1. I would like to see if you would review the Pepe Romero fluorocarbon strings. I tried them and they seemed pretty incredible, but pretty high tension for my old fingers. Wondering what you would think of them? Should I just get use to them?

  2. Great reviews!

    I wonder if you’d review the Hannabach Goldin strings. Also, I’m curious to know whether you dislike Augustine and Aquila strings as much as I do.

    Incidentally, I totally agree with your thoughts on the D’Addario strings. They used to make a set with two G-strings; a clear one and a coffee-colored one. I’m going to look after a set of those trebles in HT and the normal tension basses per your recommendation.

    • Andrzej Kwiatkowski on

      Hi. It’s funny how people’s experiences vary of different makes of string. I am sure it as much down to the types/quality of people’s guitars as much as aural preferences.
      I have tried D’Addario Pro Arte HT strings on my Kimbara Cedar (which dates from 1983 and may be suffering from deafness!) and my Raimundo Cedar, and the results have been extremely disappointing, to the extent that i don’t rate them at all. I have as yet to try them on my 3 Spruce guitars, which are more responsive. I have actually had good results with Aquila Alabastro and Aquila Ambra 800 on both cedar and spruce guitars, but not Aquila Perla (dull basses). I find vibrant strings work better on spruce guitars, and use Galli Crystal/Carbon/Titanium, with good results. With the cedars, Savarez Corum Alliance and Red label strings (but not Crystal!) seem to work well but the darker tones of Augustine Black, Royal Classics Serranito and Aquila Alabastro Superior suit best. In the end following the guitar manufacturers’ recommendation (if any) seems a safe bet, but experimentation is always revealing!
      Hope these observations are of interest.

  3. Thanks for the reviews. I too am wondering about Hannabach Silver strings- I may try some but I’d like to know what a more experienced player thinks of them, especially on shorter scale guitars like 630.

  4. It seems clear that your next review should be of Hannabach strings. I perceive that the most popular of their line are the 815’s. I have tried these in their high tension on my Raimundo cedar and in super high tension on my Raimundo spruce. In both cases, they’ve replaced my previous favorite (D’Addario Pro Arte Composites, extra hard tension). I tend to like strings with lots of warmth and complexity, since I play mostly solo. However, I do not like the Hannabach Goldins at all. My Raimundo cedar just sounded dead and the Medium-High tension (the only tension I could find them in) was just too floppy. I’d be curious about your views on Hannabachs. I’m currently auditioning other Hannabachs. Stay tuned. They are more expensive, but I now consider them worth it.

    • Andrzej Kwiatkowski on

      I did leave a long reply but, as i had not logged on, it disappeared.
      In short, i have had good results with Royal Classics Serranito, Aquila Alabastro Superior 20c ht, Savarez Alliance Corum and La Bella Professional 500P on my cedar guitars. With my spruce guitars, i have had excellent results with Galli Crystal CR 60, Galli Carbonio GR90 and Galli Titanio CR40. In common with most respondents, i found D’Addario Pro Arte disappointing. Hannabach strings may be wonderful on Luthier/high end guitars, but the above strings i have found to be good and inexpensive.

      Andrzej Kwiatkowski

  5. I really love the sound of Oasis High Tension strings on my New World Player classical, but like the author, I seen a lot of string breakage. This usually is the D bass and it pops on its own rather than when being played. I’m now trying D’Addario EJ46 and like them so far. A big advantage they have over Oasis is that they can be found in local shops.

  6. Re: Augustine Classic/Red Strings –”Also, the packaging and their website doesn’t mention that these are a monofilament string (carbon).”

    Are you sure about that? I don’t believe that’s correct. Really?

Leave a Reply