The Best Nylon / Classical Guitar Strings

The Best Nylon / Classical Guitar Strings

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Nylon has been the material of choice for flamenco, classical, and many fingerstyle guitarists for decades. First introduced as an alternative to the gut strings used before the material’s introduction, nylon has proven itself to be a valuable alternative due to its affordability and resilience.

Just like steel strings, nylon guitar strings are available in a wide variety of different options. However, the materials used in the strings, their composition, and their tension aren’t as well documented as the variables that create the tone of a steel string.

Because nylon strings aren’t as widely discussed as steel strings, it can be hard for beginning musicians to find the best nylon strings for their skill level, preferences, and desired tone.

For this 2019 update, we made improvements by arranging our recommendations according to tension (high, regular and low) as well as a separate portion where we select the best ball-end classical guitar string set. This increased our shortlist from 23 to 33 different sets from various manufacturers. We examined over 7,500 reviews and rating sources to come up with our new recommendations.

We also provide an in-depth look at the materials used and the differences between them, including information on ball-end nylon strings. There is also additional information about string tension and a quick tutorial on how to change nylon guitar strings.

The Best Nylon / Classical Guitar Strings

Normal Tension Classical Guitar Strings

La Bella 820 Elite Flamenco Red Nylon

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$8
La Bella Elite 820

The La Bella Elite 820 is tuned to be brighter for Flamenco guitars. The strings can also be used to brighten up dark sounding guitars and provide additional attack.

Features:

  • Red nylon treble strings
  • Silver-plated wound bass strings
  • Treble gauges: .029, .034, .041
  • Bass gauges: .029, .034, .042

Pros

Users loved the bright sound and the sensitivity to being plucked. Longevity is also reported to be very good. It is also reported to give more clarity to instruments with a warm base tonality.

Cons

One report of breakage during re-stringing but no other details were outlined.

Overall

The La Bella Elite 820 Flamenco strings are generally regarded by users as a great set for darker/warmer toned guitars or to provide additional snap and attack to players with mellower playing styles.

D’Addario Pro-Arte EJ45

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 1900+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$9
D'Addario Pro-Arte EJ45 Classical Guitar Strings

D’Addario EJ45s are a standard among entry and mid-level classical guitar players The treble strings are made from nylon. The windings on the bass strings are silver-plated copper, a combination that offers a balanced combination of clarity and warmth.

Features:

  • Rich tone
  • Nylon and silver-plated copper strings
  • Treble gauges: .0280, .0322, .0403
  • Bass gauges: .029, .035, .043

Pros

These strings are considered by reviewers to be one of the most consistent sets available, with reports of quality concerns being few and far between.

Cons

Strings take some time to settle in according to some reviews.

Overall

Because of their composition, these strings are a great fit for classical guitar pieces of all styles and levels. The silver-plated copper winding helps to tighten up the bass response, though darkly voiced instruments may lack the high-end response necessary to give the treble strings an articulate tone. And while they may not compare to high-end nylon strings they are widely considered to be a very good value.

Savarez 500AR

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$20
Savarez 500AR Classical Guitar Strings - Normal Tension

As far as classical guitar string tech is concerned, Savarez offers some of the more advanced in terms of material composition. The 500AR set features a special formulation for the treble strings and special winding and polishing for the bass strings.

Features:

  • Alliance KF Carbon Fiber treble strings
  • Silver plated copper wound bass strings
  • Treble gauges: .024, .027, .033
  • Bass gauges: .027, .034, .043

Pros

Users report great sustain especially in the higher registers of the fretboard. One user who was mixing and matching strings from different sets and brands found he didn't need to do so with this set.

Cons

One report of detuning over time while a couple of users didn't like the way the treble dulled more quickly than they expected - these reports were from a tiny minority of users.

Overall

The Savarez 500AR strings are generally applauded as being one of the best premium sets available in the market today. For those who feel that no set gives them everything they want, the 500AR might be worth a shot for your next string change.

Low / Light Tension Classical Guitar Strings

D'Addario Pro-Arte EJ43

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$9
D'Addario EJ43 Pro-Arte Classical Guitar Strings

The Pro-Arte series is arguably one of the most popular being available at nearly every guitar store. The EJ43 set is a light tension set for those who prefer a softer touch coupled with a more mellow tonality.

Features:

  • Nylon treble strings
  • Silver-plated copper Bass strings
  • Treble gauges: .0275, .0317, .0397
  • Bass gauges: .028, .033, .042

Pros

Several people report that the set improved the playability of their guitars; particularly older guitars with compromised string action due to body warping or age. Affordability and availability were also a plus for people who are looking to consistently use the same set.

Cons

Several low rated reviews point to the strings stretching and not staying in tune over time. Volume and depth were also said to be lacking by other reviewers.

Overall

If you are looking for a string set that will improve your guitar's playability and that you can get almost anywhere, the EJ43 set by D'Addario is a consistent favorite as evidenced by the thousands of Pro-Arte reviews from our sources.

Hannabach 815 LT

88
GEARANK

88 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$24
Hannabach 815 LT - Low Tension Nylon Classical Guitar Strings

The Hannabach 815 series is the brand's best selling set of strings and is presented as an all-rounder for most playing styles. The LT or Lower Tension set has lower gauges for lighter feeling playability.

Features:

  • Nylon treble strings
  • Silver-plated Bass strings
  • Treble gauges: .0280, .0319, .0398
  • Bass gauges: .0280, .0350, .0429

Pros

Users report that despite being a lighter gauge, the volume and projection were very good. A few reviews commended the feel and balance of the set.

Cons

There are very few negatives in user reviews - one report of early string breakage.

Overall

The Hannabach 815 LT is a set for those who want both light tensions without sacrificing balance and volume.

Hard / High Tension Classical Guitar Strings

D'Addario Pro-Arte EJ46

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 650+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$9
D'Addario EJ46 Pro-Arte Hard Tension Classical Guitar Strings

D'Addario strings go through machine selection in their string making process as a means to ensure consistent string sets. The EJ46 Pro-Arte Hard Tension set offers increased resistance and stronger projection over lower tension strings.

Features:

  • Clear nylon treble strings
  • Silverplated Copper wound on Nylon bass strings
  • Treble gauges: .0290, .0327, .0410
  • Bass gauges: .029, .036, .044

Pros

The general availability of this set is what brought several users to purchase them. On their tone, players with a harder attack and playing style appreciate the added tension and the strings' ability to translate their nuances.

Cons

Given the manufacturing process, there are conflicting accounts of consistency by users; while many say the strings are consistent enough to buy regularly, some have had negative experiences with batch quality, but these were most definitely in the minority.

Overall

If you want to be heard and every bit of your attack on the strings felt, the D'Addario EJ46 Pro-Arte Hard Tension set can handle almost any level of aggressive playing styles.

Savarez 520R Rectified Nylon

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$15
Savarez 520R Rectified Nylon High Tension Classical Guitar Strings

Rectified nylon strings are extruded and then ground to playing quality. Savarez 520R Rectified Treble strings have a slightly more textured feel than clear nylon. This is to prevent finger slippage and allow for a different tone than clear nylon.

Features:

  • Rectified nylon treble strings
  • Silver plated copper wound bass strings
  • Treble gauges: .0280, .0325, .040
  • Bass gauges: .030, .0335, .043

Pros

Reviews generally note how the texture helps secure their fingers on the strings while fretting. The textured feel also allows them to hold complex chords easier even with the higher tension.

Cons

Users say that string noise is a problem with the set as the textured feel gives off squeaks when changing fretting positions.

Overall

If you want more control over your playing, particularly on the treble strings, the Savarez 520R may be the set for you. If string noise bothers you, look elsewhere.

Ball-End Classical Guitar Strings

Martin M260 80/20 Bronze Ball-End - Regular Tension

87
GEARANK

87 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$6

The M260 80/20 ball-end strings offer a rich tone from the crystal nylon trebles and deep and warm tones from the 80/20 bronze bass strings.

Features:

  • Crystal nylon treble strings
  • 80/20 bronze bass strings
  • Treble gauges: .028, .032, .040
  • Bass gauges: .030, .035, .043

Pros

Ball-end strings like the M260 are generally easier to string up as reported by most reviews. Longtime players say they don't notice much of a difference in feel or tone from traditional string tying. Great for beginners who have yet to learn how to tie strings securely.

Cons

Some reports of the ball-end coming off and breaking the string.

Overall

If you're a beginner and still learning how to securely tie your strings or if you're a veteran that just wants the convenience of a ball-end when restringing, the Martin M260 80/20 is our highest rated pick for ball-end classical guitar strings.

Things to Consider When Buying Nylon Guitar Strings

Every term you’re going to need to know to make an informed purchase is explained below, and we would encourage you to refer back to this section before you make a final purchase. This way you can be sure you’ve got a good idea of how your strings will perform.

Nylon vs. Classical Strings: Is There a Difference?

Nylon and classical guitar strings are the same. There’s not a type of string which is considered to be the classical guitar string. Rather, players use a variety of different types (we’ll go into these different types in more depth below) based on their preferences and what works well with their instrument.

However, some strings are marketed for flamenco guitar exclusively. Flamenco guitar is characterized by its bright and percussive tone, and strings intended for flamenco are meant to emphasize these elements. These strings may pair well with a darkly voiced instrument, but they’ll offer less of the overtone-ridden and gentle sound that defines the classical guitar. They also tend to sustain less than other nylon strings, making them a good fit for flamenco and some fingerstyle arrangements but a poor fit for a more traditional classical playing style.

With that being said, even flamenco players use a variety of different strings. If you’re looking to play flamenco guitar strings designed for the genre are a good place to start, but they aren’t your only option.

Materials

There are three main types of nylon string: genuine nylon, fluorocarbon (technically not nylon, but deserves to be included due to its popularity) and titanium nylon. To avoid repeating ourselves, we would like to state that the differences inherent to each type of string are going to vary based on your technique, the instrument you use, and the proficiency/intent of the manufacturer. Consider the information below a rough guide as to what you should expect from these strings, not a definitive guide as to how they sound.

Genuine nylon strings are what most players think of when they hear the term “nylon guitar string.” These strings are made from nylon, and the three bass strings are coated with a bronze or silver alloy. These strings have a warm and rich tone, though they don’t have the volume of the other types. Cheaper nylon strings also tend to sound muddy when compared to cheap titanium or fluorocarbon strings. Another advantage of nylon strings is that they help to facilitate vibrato more so than the other two types of strings.
Fluorocarbon strings, commonly referred to as carbon fiber, are voiced brighter than classical strings. These strings have more volume than nylon and a very articulate tone, but there are instances where they suffer from intonation issues. They also lack sustain when compared to nylon strings, which depending on the pieces you play may or may not be a good thing. Faster pieces benefit from the articulation that comes from a lack of sustain, but slower pieces may sound brittle and/or unemotional.
For a look at how these two (carbon and nylon) strings compare, check out this video:
Titanium nylon strings are either made from a titanium-nylon polymer or a polyamide (a repeating molecule chain linked by a certain type of chemical bond) formula, depending on the manufacturer. Galli’s GR45 Titanium Genius is of the former category, while others are called “titanium” strings due to the coloration caused by their composition. These strings have a brighter sound than nylon strings but have a lesser representation of mid-range frequencies than true nylon or fluorocarbon strings. Some musicians state that the strings have a more metallic sound than a traditional nylon string.
The video below doesn’t have the same guitar player using the same guitar showing off the differences between different strings so it doesn’t provide as accurate of a comparison, but it does help to give you a basic idea of how titanium nylon strings respond.

Classical Guitar String Tension and Gauge

The playability and tone of steel strings are largely decided by their gauge. Gauge is the thickness of the string, with thicker strings having a higher representation of low to low-mid frequencies and thinner strings having more high-mid and treble frequencies.

Nylon guitar strings are generally divided by tension. Tension is the tension the strings are under, with low tension strings feeling easier to play and high tension strings feeling stiffer. Compared to steel strings, the difference between low and high tension strings isn’t quite as dramatic, but tension has a huge impact on tone. Gauge has the same impact on the tone of nylon strings that it has on steel strings, but the main variable is tension.

Tension influences the following variables: volume, playability, and frequency representation. Low tension strings have the least volume and are easier to play, with high tension having the opposite characteristics. Medium tension strings are a middle-ground between the two.

Low tension strings have more “body” and a higher representation of low and low-mid frequencies. Body is the presence of overtones, so a low tension string will generally have a more complex and musical tone. High tension strings have more high-end representation and more “attack.” Attack is the immediacy with which you hear a note, so the more attack a string has the more notes seem to leap out of your guitar.

Another thing to note about tension is that some instruments may not be able to hold up to the strain of high tension strings. Older instruments, in particular, aren’t designed to hold up to the strain, so before you slap on a set of high tension strings research the specifications of your instrument. If you can’t find them, take your guitar to a luthier and get their opinion on the issue before you commit to high tension strings.

If you’d like a bit more info, check out this video. It’s a bit long, but it goes into the topic in way more depth.

Platings

The bass strings (the thickest three) are usually plated, almost always with a metal. Different manufacturers use different metals and alloys, all of which have their pros and cons. The general rule of thumb with platings is that denser materials offer more clarity, while less dense materials create more warmth.

Pairing Your Strings with Your Guitar

The two biggest variables on how your strings are going to perform are the tonewood the instrument is made from as well as your technique. For the sake of brevity, we’re not going to go into much depth here, but as a general rule, you should look for strings that balance out the tone of your guitar. If you have a darkly voiced instrument (cedar topped guitars are a perfect example of this) you’d likely get great results from a brightly voiced string. The inverse is true with spruce-topped instruments, which are considered to have a brighter and more lively voice.

What About Ball-End Nylon Strings?

Nylon strings are a bit of a hassle for beginners because you have to learn how to tie them, which takes some practice. So rather than learning how to properly tie nylon strings, many beginning musicians prefer ball-end strings. Ball-end nylon strings have a ball-end just like steel strings. You just feed one end of the string through the bridge, wind it around the peg, tune it up, and you’re good to go.

Nylon strings also come in more price tiers than steel strings, with some strings being aimed at beginners and others at more advanced musicians. Because they’re more convenient for beginners, ball-end strings get a reputation of being beginner-tier strings. Companies don’t launch professional quality ball-end nylon strings because professional classical guitarists generally won’t buy them due to their reputation.

With that being said, ball-end strings aren’t any better or worse than other strings in the same price tier. However, you do limit your options by not knowing how to tie plain end nylon strings.

How to Change Plain End Nylon Strings

Once you purchase a set of plain end nylon strings, refer to this video (or follow the link and bookmark it). It’s a solid tutorial on how to change a nylon string, and once you watch it through a couple of times you’ll be able to get a handle on how to tie the necessary knot (generally the same knot, tied two or three times).

Best Classical Guitar Strings Selection Methodology

We looked at all the ranges of nylon strings available from major online retailers. We collected user comments and reviews from retailers, magazines and forums and analyzed them with the Gearank Algorithm to produce the scores out of 100 you see above - we used over 7,500 sources for this process. Finally, we selected the highest rated sets per tension category as well as having a separate section for the best ball end classical guitar strings. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.

Comments

This is a really excellent

This is a really excellent presentation on nylon guitar strings. Overall, the best I've seen.

Thank you very much Wayne,

Thank you very much Wayne, the Gearank team really appreciates that kind of support and acknowledgement.

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