Medium / Normal Tension Classical Guitar Strings
La Bella 820 Elite Flamenco Red Nylon
The La Bella Elite 820 is designed and tuned to be brighter for Flamenco guitars. The strings can also be used to brighten up dark sounding guitars and provide additional attack. The Red nylon Treble strings are laser-sorted for consistency per set.
- Red nylon treble strings
- Silver-plated wound bass strings
- Treble gauges: .029, .034, .041
- Bass gauges: .029, .034, .042
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.
One report of breakage during re-stringing but no other details were outlined.
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.
Some guitarists prefer strings that aren't necessarily bright but have the "fresh from the pack" tone a little longer. D'addario EXP45 strings have the bass strings treated with the company's proprietary EXP coating to prolong the "new string" tone.
- Laser-sorted nylon Classical Strings
- Nylon and EXP-coated silver-plated copper bass strings
- Treble gauges: .028, .0322, .0403
- Bass gauges: .028, .035, .044
Users appreciate the length of time before the strings start sounding dull. They retain their snappy attack and strong projection for longer than most strings some users have tried.
Might be -too- snappy and bright for some that prefer a "broken-in" tone from the pack. If you play intensely and don't want to hear brightness all the time, you might want to look into more mellow strings.
If you prefer a bright tone that accentuates the attack and retains the character longer than uncoated strings, the EXP45 is the pack for you.
D'Addario EJ49 Pro-Arte Black
According to the D'Addario website, the EJ49 Pro-Arte Black is their best-selling string set. The black nylon strings offer a balanced tone, comfortable feel, and a wide dynamic range of projection. Being widely available means it's easy
- Laser sorted black nylon strings
- Silver-plated wound bass strings
- Treble gauges: .0280, .0322, .0403
- Bass gauges: .029, .035, .043
Aside from good comments on the aesthetic of black nylon treble strings, users report that the set has an even, balanced tone with moderately good projection. The tension was also said to be comfortable without being too light.
Multiple reports of the strings needing to settle and stabilize after restringing. They benefit from a good stretch. Some reviewers still had some tuning issues after prolonged use.
For an even, balanced tonality with good playing comfort, the EJ49 Pro-Arte Black is a versatile pick.
Savarez 540R Alliance
Savarez have been making strings since 1770. The Savarez 540R Alliance set features carbon composite nylon treble strings and silver-plated copper wound bass strings. Savarez 540R composite strings are brighter and closer to gut strings in terms of projection and balance.
- Carbon composite nylon treble strings
- Silver-plated copper wound bass strings
- Treble gauges: .0244, .0272, .0331
- Bass gauges: .0295, .034, .043
While there is not much literature on some Savarez string sets, users who stand by them praise their tone, longevity, and consistency. The 540R in particular gets great reviews from the everyday guitar player to the concert virtuoso for its bring, snappy attack. Flamenco players that prefer a strong attack use the 540R as their string of choice.
While the strong attack may be a plus for some, for others that want a more mellow or balanced sound didn't like the 540R's snap.
If you prefer a snappy, almost brassy and metallic attack to your sound, the 540R might be the string set for you.
Low / Light Tension Classical Guitar Strings
D'Addario Pro-Arte EJ43
The Pro-Arte series is arguably one of the most popular available, 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.
- Nylon treble strings
- Silver-plated copper Bass strings
- Treble gauges: .0275, .0317, .0397
- Bass gauges: .028, .033, .042
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.
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.
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
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.
- Nylon treble strings
- Silver-plated Bass strings
- Treble gauges: .0280, .0319, .0398
- Bass gauges: .0280, .0350, .0429
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.
There are very few negatives in user reviews - one report of early string breakage.
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 EJ46 Pro-Arte
The D'Addario EJ46 is one of the more popular nylon string sets. Like all D'addario nylon strings, each plain string is laser measured for consistency. It features a standard clear nylon treble and silver plated copper wound bass strings.
- Nylon treble strings
- Silver-plated Copper wound bass strings
- Treble gauges: .0285, .0327, .0410
- Bass gauges: .030, .036, .044
"Power" is a word mentioned more than once by different users. The EJ46 Pro-Arte is said to have great punch, projection and sustain. Unlike other strings that sound snappy but thin, the EJ46 is said to have an authoritative bass string sound and the trebles have depth.
Some users report short string life as the tone loses it's edge a bit fast. Others complained about how the G-string had lower volume than the others.
For more aggressive styles that require big tone and an authoritative punch, the EJ46 Pro-Arte from D'Addario will serve you well.
Savarez Corum New Cristal 500CJ
Gypsy Jazz legend Django Reinhart famously used Savarez strings on his Selmer guitar. Nearly a century later, Savarez is stll making qualtiy strings with new developments in technology. The Savarez Corum New Cristal 500CJ strings are designed as a high tension set with propietary materials and processes. The set features "Cristal" Nylon trebles and "Corum Polished" silver-wound bass.
- Cristal Nylon treble strings
- Corum polished-silver-wound
- Treble gauges: .029, .033, .041
- Bass gauges: .030, .036, .043
Despite being high tension, users found the playability to be excellent. Most high tension strings have some strings that sound louder than the others. String to string volume was reported to be balanced despite the high tension.
The higher tension means tying them needs to be done carefully and securely as improper tying leads to tuning instability and slippage. There were some reports of this set being more difficult to secure than other strings.
This is a great set of strings for the guitarist that wants more resistance while having a balanced tone across all strings.
Ball-End Classical Guitar Strings
Ernie Ball 2069 Earthwood 80/20 Bronze
For those that prefer converting a regular folk guitar into a nylon classical-style guitar, ball-end strings are the easiest solution. The 2069 Earthwood 80/20 Bronze String set by Ernie Ball is one of the most, if not, the most popular string set in this category.
- Nylon treble strings
- 80/20 bronze wound nylon core bass strings
- Treble gauges: .028, .032, .040p
- Bass gauges: .030 .036 .042
For stringing up folk guitar-style bridges with studs, the 2069 is reported to be a great sounding, balanced set. The feel is said to be a bit lighter but the tuning and intonation are said to be stable. Many of the reviewers mentioned they bought the set to convert a steel-string guitar for classical playing.
For conversions, string diameters on the set means some filing at the nut slot may be required. Some negative reviewers mistakenly bought the set thinking it was a set of steel strings.
If you're looking for the best ball-end nylon string set, the 2069 is certainly a community favorite. It's tone, feel and convenience earns it a spot on our top picks.
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 that genre are a good place to start, but they aren’t your only option.
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.
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.
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 first checked all available Nylon string sets from various major online retailers. Our data consists of compiled user ratings and reviews, as well as user discussions in forums up until August of 2020. These were then analyzed by the Gearank Algorithm to produce scores out of 100 that indicate overall user satisfaction with the product. Over 13,700 rating and review sources were taken into account 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 our methods see How Gearank Works.