Classical guitar string reviews. On this page I’ll be doing mini-reviews of strings so you can find the best classical guitar string for your guitar. I can only review strings I’ve actually tried out so some are missing. Strings are matter of preference and are also affected by the guitar, the player, and performance space. Therefore, these are generalizations at best.
What is a good string? What is musical? Every string has good qualities and can be perfect for your unique guitar and playing style or repertoire. The idea of a string being ‘musical’ is a confusing concept as it depends on what musical quality you are trying to highlight. One string might be warm and have a smooth sound whereas another string might be bright but well balanced. Also, certain guitars respond differently to various strings.
I’m always curious to try new strings: If your strings aren’t listed here I’m very interested in trying out new ones. Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Beginners and Students, I’d recommend you start with a basic and affordable string such as D’Addario Pro Arte either normal or hard tension. Do not get extra-hard. Don’t get bogged down with string choices, just get a standard string and focus on playing and practicing. Then, as you gain experience if you need something brighter or warmer you can start experimenting.
- Aquila Zaffiro – I use these for the majority of my recording and playing. Plant based, better projection and intonation than nylon, not as smooth as nylon but close, sounds somewhere between nylon and carbon and brings out a bit of the woody quality of the guitar.
- Augustine Imperial/Red Medium – Nice all around full sound. I’ll sometimes use these when I need something warmer.
- Savarez New Cristal Creation – Creation combo with clear nylon B and E with Alliance (carbon) G. I prefer the Cantiga basses. These are very legato and smooth sounding strings. I find that they are a tiny bit more clear and project better than most clear nylon strings.
- D’Addario Carbons or Savarez Corum Alliance – I sometimes use these for ensemble playing. They are bright, stiff and have 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 for any kind of playing. They are vibrant and loud making the guitar come to life and project amazingly (it’s really hard to go back to nylon after). Beware of the stiffness of the string if you have hand problems. Also the high E can be too bright. Otherwise, excellent string for loud, clear ensemble playing. I’d say the D’Addario are a bit less intense than the Savarez here.
Albert Augustine Strings
- Augustine Strings – Imperial Red or Blue (Medium or Hard Tension) – Really nice all-around string for traditional repertoire. Warm and round but nicely balanced. I like these better than the Regals below, they seem more balanced and less muddy on the 3rd string. I wouldn’t call them clear or bright but the not dull either, maybe just thick sounding. Nicely forgiving as they generally all produce a nice sound. Medium tension is plenty hard enough for me. These will certainly be in my regular collection of string that I use for solo playing.
- Augustine Regals Strings (Extra High Trebles / High Basses) – A nice sounding string, mellow and warm basses and warm round trebles but not without clarity. Projection is good overall for a clear nylon string. The third string is a bit thuddy and thick but that goes for all companies using clear nylon. Anyone who likes carbon strings or some of the above mixes I mention might want something brighter but these do sound beautiful and are a step up from D’Addario pro arte (less plasticky). If you want a beautiful, warm string with decent projection these are good. Most similar to Savarez New Cristals. I’d be happy to play on these but would love a hybrid set with a carbon G. I made a full post here.
- Augustine Classic/Red Strings (Regular Trebles / Medium Basses)- I ordered 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 and the bass ate away at the trebles but who knows. That said, fair projection and clarity overall but I couldn’t listen properly as I was annoyed. I wish I could try a non-damaged set to give a more accurate review…maybe in the future.
- Augustine Imperial Strings – I’ve heard great things about these and would like to try them out.
- Augustine Paragon Carbons – Haven’t tried them, would like to.
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.
- Aquila Zaffiro – The treble strings are Nylonplant 100% derived of plant materials. 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 than a carbon string. Sweet bell sounds exist but less so with a bit more of the woody quality of the guitar and a bit of pluck. Nicely balanced. 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). Quality, intonation, and projection are all good and above average nylon. No tension options which is too bad, but they feel good to me, similar to hard tension trebles and normal 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 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. Lively, bright, and ultra clean sound. Bright might not be the correct word, more ‘direct’ with intense projection. Not harsh, just plucky. 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 go here as they will not be forgiving to bad nails or technique. A great string for a specific sound.
- 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. The material is very interesting, this is a small diameter string and yet they sound thicker than I though they would. Reminds me a bit of the Savarez rectified strings but smoother, smaller, and better. Not a silky smooth sound, the high E is certainly not lush and was a bit too thin for my guitar but could good for others. 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 less of a glassy quality. Dark red and chocolate colour. I would recommend this string to professionals and advanced students looking for balance and projection without sacrificing much legato. 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…
La Bella Strings
- 2001 Classical Guitar Strings (medium) – A nice nylon string with a warm full sound. It has a little more thickness than D’Addario nylons and is most similar to Savarez New Cristals but maybe a bit fuller with less edge. If you’re looking for a nice nylon string this is good. The basses are also full sounding and balance well with the trebles.
Savarez Classical Guitar Strings
- Savarez New Cristal (various tensions and basses) – All nylon or Creation combo with Alliance (carbon) G. I prefer the normal tension and Cantiga basses. These are very legato and smooth sounding strings. I find that they are a tiny bit more clear and project better than most clear nylon strings. Sometimes, especially for the first few days, the basses overpower the trebles but that evens out after some playing. I prefer the Cantiga basses.
- Savarez New Cristal Creation – As mentioned above. Creation combo with Alliance (carbon) G. Cantiga basses. High quality.
- 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.
- 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 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, but my guess is 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. This was a few years ago so they might have fixed the problem, if they send me some I’ll re-review. 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).
More reviews coming soon!
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?
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.
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.
@A. Walters: D’Addario still sells the coffee-colored composite material G string in two full sets, one trebles set, and also singly:
1) the EJ45C Composite set ($15 at Strings by Mail just for a reference price point from a website with excellent service); I only name the normal tension ones but you can look up other tension options) https://www.stringsbymail.com/daddario-ej45c-pro-arte-composite-nt-guitar-strings-full-set-125.html,
2) the Lightly Polished set (EJ45LP Composite Lightly Polished, NT, $15 at SBM https://www.stringsbymail.com/daddario-ej45lp-composite-lightly-polished-nt-guitar-strings-full-set-151.html),
3) the composite trebles set (EJ45C NT Composite 3rd Guitar Strings CGN-3T, Treble Set $5.09 https://www.stringsbymail.com/daddario-ej45c-nt-composite-3rd-guitar-strings-cgn-3t-treble-set-5829.html),
4) and also singly as J4503C (D’Addario Pro Arte J4503C – 3rd string (g) Composite .036) for a whopping for $3.59 at SBM https://www.stringsbymail.com/daddario-pro-arte-j4503c-3rd-string-g-composite-036-127.html , a bit steep for a treble string compared to all their other singles; it’s a better value as the treble set or the EJ45C full Composite set.
And they sell the Dynacore and Pro Arté bass sets separately if you want to change the pairing. Unfortunately they don’t sell XT Pro Arté basses separately, but you CAN get XT Pro Arté trebles with XT treated Composite basses (D’Addario XT Silver Plated Copper Classical Guitar Strings, Normal, Model: XTC45, $17 https://www.stringsbymail.com/daddario-xt-silver-plated-copper-classical-guitar-strings-normal-22519.html) and then just pick up the spare coffee G (total, $20.58).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
What part? The packaging not mentioning it or that they are composite style strings?
For what is worth, after 40 years of playing classical guitar, once I have discovered Hannabach, I have never used anything else.
I do dislike the sharp and metallic sound of Goldin trebles but the basses are superb.The issue disappears with time – one gets used to the tone and stops noticing it. But the silver special, 815 series, is much cheaper and better balanced. Trebles blend almost perfectly with the basses and do not exhibit excessive sharpness as Goldin do. On a well built guitar, 815 is fit for concert performance.
Hannabach provides a variety of strings in individual packaging so one can experiment and mix the strings until one achieves the desired sound. If one does not mind having strings of different colours on their guitar… I don’t. It does look a bit disturbing and probably is not something to do for an important concert, but the result can be spectacular so I personally do not really care what people think about the strings’ colours. Music is about the sound, not the colours of the strings.
Hi Glenn. I too have started using Hannabach strings recently, on my Raimundo Cedar guitar. I tried the 800HT’s and found them a ‘good’ fit (i assess my string as ‘best fit/good fit/average fit /poor fit), so category 2 was nice. I then bought and tried some 815HT Silver Special strings on the same guitar after 12 days; and found these the ‘best fit’. Hence it’s worth experimenting. In fact, i have recently dared to try LaBella Pro500p strings on my Salvador Cortez spruce guitar and Aquila Ambra 800 on my S/c cedar, and although the jury is out untill they bed in, the signs sound good. I said ‘dared’, as i was almost wedded to Galli Carbonio for the spruce and Savarez Alliance Corum for cedar, as they appeared perfect fits. I can always go back. I have accumulated 6 classical guitars (3 spruce, 3 cedar) so have been able to experiment; the aim is always to keep my ‘stringed girls’ happy. Hope this of interest
I recently tried the Aquila Sugar strings. While they sound great, I couldn’t get past the squeaking on the trebles. Did you notice any squeking on the Alchemia set?
Maybe a bit, I didn’t think it was an issue.
FYI, Aquila seems to have identified that issue and now prominently advertises their new formula as “squeakless” – they even added a silver sticker to the package saying “Squeakless!” to reassure people that they are buying the new, improved formula.
Very useful review! Thank you, Bradford.
Can you please recommend one brand/type of strings that are in your view the most soft, warm, mellow and quiet. I am going to replace Savarez High Tension strings on my new Cordoba C12.
Well, I always start with D’Addario pro-arte as a baseline test for middle ground and go from there. Savarez New Cristals for smoother or some carbon strings for brighter.
Until now I was using D´Addario EJ44 Pro, EJ44C and others from Daddario
I´ve tried Hannabach extra high tension in a Paco Castillo 205 with spruce top guitar I liked very much the results.
I´ve just tried for first time carbon strings, Savarez Corum alliance hard tension, but I find them too much bright.
Find a carbon set with the darkest sound it would be great.
At the moment I think I would use only the third g string in carbon and the rest nylon strings
Ya, I mainly use carbon strings when playing ensemble music where I want to cut through the texture and be clearly heard. But it depends on the string, the player’s tone, the guitar etc etc….
Great reviews. I have been experimenting with Aquila lately and find them very interesting – rubino my favourite so far, but haven’t tried them all – so many strings. Also I hear that Knobloch are supposed to be very good – they have a Barrueco set. A guitarist could go broke trying all the strings
I was Interested to read this very good review as I’ve used few types of strings. I have mostly used Daddario pro arte medium tension, but today I bought Savarez Alliance normal tension just to try something different. I see you have written that because these strings are stiffer, to be aware of this if you have ‘hand problems’…What kind of hand problems do you think could be affected by the use of these strings? And surely would that not apply to any higher tension string which would be stiffer? I have arthritis, and playing guitar actually helps it from getting worse.
Yes, you are correct. The higher the tension string the more to beware depending on your level of technique. But I have found that most carbon strings, even normal tension ones, are higher tension than nylon ones.
I have used several of the string sets you mention here: your reviews are spot on, fair descriptions of their features.
Could it be you never ever tried the so-called 80/20 bronze wound (bass) strings, not even once and out of curiosity? If you did, I’m sure you have a precise opinion on them.
Have you tried the Aquila Ambra 2000 yet? If you have I’d be interesting in your comparison with the Alabastro.