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The Best Electric Guitar Strings for a Warm Sound (2023)

If you’re looking to add some warmth to your guitar tone, choosing the right strings can certainly help. It is worth noting that your guitar and amp settings will make the biggest difference to your tone, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try out some new strings to find your sound.

There are a few things to look for in guitar strings for a warm sound. Thicker string gauges, pure nickel winding, and flatwounds will all give you a warmer sound. Since guitar strings are relatively inexpensive and need to be changed regularly, it’s a great opportunity to experiment with some different string types.

Our Top Picks

  • Ernie Ball Classic Rock n Roll (Best Overall) – These pure nickel strings from the tried and trusted Ernie Ball are a great place to start. Consistent quality at a great price.
  • Stringjoy Broadways (Premium Choice) – The Stringjoy Broadways are also pure nickel but have a premium quality that comes at a cost.
  • D'Addario XL Chromes (Warmest Sound) – For the warmest sound, you’ll want to try a set of flatwounds like the D’Addario XL Chromes.
  • Elixir NANOWEB (Long Lasting) – If you’re looking for strings with a longer lifespan, Elixir NANOWEBs in a heavy gauge are worth checking out.

In the rest of this guide, I’ll first walk you through what to look for in electric guitar strings for a warm sound, then take a look at my top picks, before finally answering some frequently asked questions.

Electric Guitar Strings for a Warm Sound (Buyer’s Guide)

String Gauge

String gauge is the measurement of a string’s thickness in 1/1000 of an inch. You will sometimes see strings called 9-gauge or 10-gauge, for example. This refers to the gauge of the high E string. They are also sometimes referred to as light, heavy, extra-heavy, etc. In general, strings range from 7-gauge on the low end to 13-gauge which are really thick strings.

For a warm sound, you’re going to want to choose thicker strings. I would recommend 11 or 12-gauge. Thicker strings have more tension which results in a fuller, warmer tone. Thicker strings also benefit from staying in tune longer and being harder to break.

It isn’t all positive with thicker strings though. They can be harder to play, especially for beginners. Bending in particular can be quite difficult with thicker strings.

Whenever you change string gauge, you will need to set up your guitar again for optimal performance. Thicker strings will create more tension which affects the action and neck relief of your guitar.

Material

Electric guitar strings are made up of two parts: a core and the winding. The core is always made from steel. However, the winding around the bottom three strings (E, A, and D) can be made from steel, nickel, or (most commonly) nickel-plated steel.

Strings with a pure nickel winding will give you the warmest tone, pure steel will give you the brightest tone, and nickel-plated will be somewhere in the middle. Ideally, you should be looking for pure nickel strings.

Roundwound vs. Flatwound

The difference between roundwound and flatwound strings is the shape of the winding. It’s fairly self explanatory: roundwound strings are wrapped in a round wire and flatwound strings are wrapped in a flat wire. Roundwound strings are generally more common, but flatwound strings are very popular with jazz guitarists.

Flatwound strings have a warmer, smoother sound which is why they are so popular with jazz players. They’re definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a warm tone. They also last a really long time (quite a few months) and produce less noise from your hands.

The downsides are that they are more expensive than roundwound strings (although their longevity makes up for this) and they are harder to bend. They can also sound a little bit dull and muted which may or may not fit into the type of warm sound you’re looking for.

Flatwound strings aren’t for everyone, but worth checking out when you’re looking for a warm sound.

Coated vs. Uncoated

Coated guitar strings have a thin protective coating that prevents the oils and sweat from your hands from corroding the strings. The idea is to give the strings some extra life and last a bit longer. Coated strings can feel a bit slippery which isn’t to everyone’s taste, and the coating takes away some of the brightness. Coated strings are also quite a bit more expensive than uncoated strings.

Coated strings can help you get a warm sound to some extent since the coating takes away some of the brightness. However, I’ve never come across pure nickel strings so you would have to go with nickel-plated strings, preferably with a heavy gauge.

If you get sweaty hands when playing guitar or find you need to change strings often, then it could definitely be worth trying a set of coated strings with a high gauge.

Brand

When it comes to guitar strings, the brand isn’t too important. The main thing you should be focusing on is the type of string you want. However, it is a good video to stick with well-known established brand to play it safe (e.g. Ernie Ball, D’Addario, Elixir, Fender, DR Strings). There’s nothing wrong with trying out a smaller brand though as you may come across a hidden gem.

Some brands market themselves as more “premium” than others and their prices reflect that. The price might be worth it for you, but note that plenty of players prefer the sound of less expensive strings so don’t be afraid to experiment.

The Best Electric Guitar Strings for a Warm Sound


1. Ernie Ball Classic Rock n Roll (Best Overall)

Ernie Ball Power Slinky Classic Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings, 11-48 Gauge (P02250)
  • RECOMMENDED GAUGE: 11 – 48
  • WRAP WIRE: Pure nickel (roundwound)
  • COATED: No
  • PROS: Trusted reliable brand / Good quality strings / Very good price
  • CONS: Not the longest lasting

The Ernie Ball Classic Rock n Roll strings are a great starting point when looking for a warm tone. They are roundwound and uncoated so probably not too diferent from the strings you’re used to. However, they are pure nickel which will give you that slightly warmer tone.

Ernie Ball are a well-established brand and the choice of strings for many pro guitarists. WIth Ernie Ball, you get consistent, quality strings at a really good price.

Other strings might get you a warmer tone, and these Ernie Ball strings aren’t the longest lasting, but they’re a great choice if you don’t want vastly differnet strings and just want a slightly warmer tone.

The Ernie Ball Classic Rock n Roll strings are available in 8, 9, 10, and 11-gauge sets. I would recommend the thicker 11-gauge strings which will give you a fuller, warmer tone.


2. Stringjoy Broadways (Premium Choice)

Stringjoy BR1148 Broadways Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings, (Classic Medium Gauge - 11-48)
  • RECOMMENDED GAUGE: 11 – 48
  • WRAP WIRE: Pure nickel (roundwound)
  • COATED: No
  • PROS: Excellent feel, tone, and playability / Stay in tune really well
  • CONS: Not the cheapest

If you have a higher budget for your guitar strings, the Stringjoy Broadways are worth checking out. They’re similar to the Ernie Ball strings being pure nickel, roundwound, and uncoated.

What makes the Stringjoy Broadways stand out is their premium quality. They sound, feel, and play better, plus they stay in tune really well. The downside is that they are considerably more expensive than other strings like the Ernie Balls.

If you have money to throw at guitar strings then these are great , but otherwise the Ernie Ball strings sound great for the price.

The Stringjoy Broadways are available in 9, 10, 11, and 12-gauge sets. I would recommend 11-gauge for most people for a balance between a warm tone and playability. You could also try the 12-gauge strings, just beware that they will be harder to play.


3. D'Addario XL Chromes (Warmest Sound)

D'Addario Guitar Strings - XL Chromes Electric Guitar Strings - Flat Wound - Polished for Ultra-Smooth Feel and Warm, Mellow Tone - ECG24 - Jazz Light, 11-50, 1-Pack
  • RECOMMENDED GAUGE: 11 – 50
  • WRAP WIRE: Flatwound
  • COATED: No
  • PROS: Very warm tone / Less finger noise on the strings / Last a very long time
  • CONS: Not the cheapest / Hard to bend / Can get a bit muddy

A set of flatwound strings like the D'Addario XL Chromes will make quite a difference to your tone, helping you achieve a warm sound.

Not only will they give you a warmer tone, but they also last a verly long time due to the fact that there aren’t any ridges for dirt and grime to build up in. You can expect them to last quite a few months.

The downside is that they’re expensive. However, when you take into account their lifespan, it does balance out. You should also beware that flatwound strings are more difficult to bend and can sound muddy when using overdrive or distortion.

The D’Addario XL Chromes are available in sets of 10, 11, 12, and 13-gauge. I would recommend the 11-gauge strings for most people. Any heavier than that and you’re going to have issues with playability and bending.

Overall, a good choice if you want to try something a bit different to achieve a warmer tone.


4. Elixir NANOWEB (Long Lasting)

Elixir Strings - Nickel Plated Steel Electric Guitar Strings with NANOWEB Coating - Elixir Electric Guitar Strings - Heavy (.012-.052)
  • RECOMMENDED GAUGE: 12 – 52
  • WRAP WIRE: Nickel-plated (roundwound)
  • COATED: Yes
  • PROS: Last a long time / Coating helps reduce brightness / Good for sweaty hands
  • CONS: Not the cheapest / Strings can feel slippery / Expensive

Finally, we have the Elixir NANOWEB coated guitar strings. If you get sweaty hands or find yourself having to change strings regularly, these are worth checking out.

They are roundwound and nickel-plated so probably not too different from the strings you’re used to, but the coating will help to protect the strings and also take away some of the brightness giving you a slightly warmer sound.

They are expensive compared with non-coated strings and the coating gives them a slick, slippery feel which is not to everyones liking.

The Elixir NANOWEBs are available in 9, 10, 11, and 12-gauge. I would recommend 11 or 12-gauge strings if you’re looking for a warm tone.

Overall, a good choice if you’re looking for longer lasting strings but don’t fancy flatwounds.


FAQs

How Else Can I Achieve a Warm Sound?

Whilst strings can affect the warmth of your tone, they are not actually going to make the biggest difference. Your guitar and amp settings will have a bigger impact.

On your guitar, you can turn down the tone knob to give you a warmer sound or try using the neck pickup or a combination of your neck and middle or bridge pickup.

On your amp, cutting the trebble and boosting mids and bass can help you get a warmer tone, just becareful it doesn’t turn into a muddy sound.

You can also play around with your technique to get a warmer sound. Using your fingers instead of a pick can give you a softer sound, and picking closer to the neck can also help.

How Often Should I Change Guitar Strings?

This depends on the type of strings, how often you play, and personal preference. For example, if you use uncoated roundwound strings, are a frequent player, and like fresh strings, you might want to change strings every few weeks. However, if you play flatwounds, are not a frequent player, and you don’t mind older strings, they could last quite a few months before a change is needed.

Strings tend to lose brightness and snappiness over time so you might find you prefer slightly older strings for a warmer tone.

How Can I Make Guitar Strings Last Longer?

The best way you can make your guitar strings last longer is by keeping them clean. Guitar strings wear out due to dirt and grime building up in the ridges (which is why flatwound strings last much longer).

Washing your hands before playing and wiping down your strings with a cloth after playing can help to reduce the amount of dirt and grime, extending the lifespan of your strings.

Which Players Use Flatwound Strings?

Flatwound strings will give you a warmer tone than roundwound strings. They are very popular with jazz guitarists but there are a few notable non-jazz players that use flatwounds including Mark Speer from Khruangbin and Bob Weir from Grateful Dead.