Buying guitar gear is always a fun experience – if you’re anything like me, it allows you to dive head first into the technicalities of guitar playing, browse the web for new goodies, and learn something along the way. However, it’s undeniable that it can be a confusing experience at the best of times. From the different types of tonewood to the latest electric guitar pickups, there’s a ton of lingo that you need to learn to navigate the minefield that is the guitar gear market!
Out of all of these accessories, something that I have struggled with more than anything is guitar strings – particularly 6-string 80/20 guitar strings. I had no idea what this meant when I first needed to purchase them, let alone the properties that I should look for in them and which brands offered the best products.
Thankfully, I learned a lot around that time about 6-string 80/20 guitar strings, and I’m happy to announce that I will be sharing my learnings with you today. Throughout this guide, I’ll be informing you on what to look for in the best 6-string 80/20 guitar strings, along with some of my top recommendations. Read on to find out more!
Bottom Line Up Front
When it comes to buying 6-string 80/20 guitar strings, make sure you check out the reviews and as long as they’re positive and have an appropriate gauge, you should be good to go. Something like GAK’s Elixir 11052 80/20 Bronze Nanoweb Acoustic strings will be fantastic if you have the cash to splash, but if you’re looking for a cheaper alternative, the less durable D’Addario string set will be sufficient.
What are 6 String 80/20 Guitar Strings?
Whether you’ve recently been told that you need to grab some 6-string 80/20 guitar strings for your new guitar, or if you already use them yet don’t know much about them, it’s going to be useful for you to understand exactly what you’re getting into. Before we look into the most important properties of these famous strings, let’s discuss exactly what they are.
6-string 80/20 guitar strings are a type of guitar string that, unsurprisingly, are suitable for 6-string guitars. However, something that is less clear is that they are specifically for acoustic guitars – they are specifically designed for this purpose, so if you’re an electric guitarist, these strings aren’t what you’re looking for.
80/20 strings were first invented in the 1930s making them some of the oldest mainstream guitar strings out there. They’re made out of 80% copper and 20% brass, which explains why they have that confusing name. Due to this compound makeup, they age quite quickly (as brass is known to corrode quicker than brass), but this is canceled out by the fact that they provide a bright and whole tone when played. This is exactly why they are so popular, the tone that they produce is highly desirable!
Overall, 80/20 strings are excellent options for any guitarist who plays on a 6-string acoustic guitar. They may not be the most durable strings out there, but they’re cheap as chips and easy to replace, and the bright and full tones that they provide make their lack of durability 100% worth it. Just don’t go buying these if you’re an electric guitarist, because trust me, I’ve been there and it was a regrettable decision!
Before we dive into what you should look for in 80/20 strings, I think it would be crazy if I didn’t mention Phosphor Bronze strings. The reason for this is that Phosphor Bronze Strings are the main competitor in the acoustic guitar string market, with many people preferring them. For this reason, I think it’s important that you consider your options and understand why people prefer Phosphor Bronze strings, because who knows – perhaps you could be one of them!
Phosphor Bronze guitar strings are similar to 80/20s in that they are also specifically designed for 6-string acoustic guitars, however, there are some significantly different properties. For starters, Phosphor Bronze strings could be renamed as 92/8 Strings, as they contain 92% copper and 8% brass as opposed to 80/20 strings containing 80% and 20%. This may not sound like a big difference, but it makes Phosphor Bronze strings a lot more durable. It also makes them less prone to corrosion from the user’s sweat.
It’s undeniable that Phosphor Bronze guitar strings hold some benefits over 80/20s, particularly in terms of durability. After all, this will mean that you will have to replace them a lot less often, and you won’t have to worry about corrosion from sweaty guitar fingers. This makes them a great option for people on a budget who can’t afford to regularly replace their strings.
However, these benefits come at a cost – 80/20 strings simply sound so much better than Phosphor Bronze strings due to their bright tones and fullness. Some people still prefer the sound of Phosphor Bronze strings, but in my opinion, this is simply because it’s what they are used to.
I think there’s no denying that 80/20 strings sound better as long as you’ve heard both of them. Furthermore, strings do not cost that much, so as long as you’re willing to spend ten bucks now and then, I doubt that you’re going to struggle to pay for an occasional string replacement.
What to Look For in the Best 6-String 80/20 Guitar Strings
Now that we’ve taken a look at exactly what 6-string 80/20 guitar strings are and why you’ll probably prefer them to Phosphor Bronze acoustic guitar strings, let’s dive a little deeper into what you should be looking for when purchasing them. Much like any other guitar gear available online, there are lots of properties that you should research to avoid disappointment. Let’s take a look!
Price Vs Quality
There are tons of different properties that you should look out for when purchasing 6-string 80/20 guitar strings, but in my opinion, the most important is to compare their price vs their quality. Many people fall into the false impression that all 80/20 strings are of the same quality and a similar price, but this is simply not the case.
Conduct a quick search online and you will quickly realize that the prices of different 80/20 strings vary dramatically. On the low end, you’ll often find seemingly excellent value-for-money strings that cost half as much as others, and it can be seriously tempting to grab them. However, the material that these are made from can sometimes be abrasive to the skin, and may even leave your fingers feeling dirty and smelling strange.
On the other hand, it may be tempting to invest more money into a ”premium” brand of 80/20 strings, yet these are commonly only more expensive due to having fancy branding. The packet may feature the name of a famous guitarist or have a fancy color scheme, but really, they’re the same as any others.
My advice would be to simply find a nice middle ground. You certainly shouldn’t be looking for the cheapest 80/20 strings that you can find, as these will most definitely be abrasive to your skin, put a gross residue on your fingers, and maybe even sound bad. However, there’s no point in splashing out on a premium brand simply because it features Jimi Hendrix on the packet.
Find something that is a normal, middle-ground price and that has excellent reviews (more on this later), and you’ll easily be able to find a good price-to-quality ratio. Don’t forget to shop around and check out as many packets as you can locate, as you never know when a bargain might be just around the corner!
Number of Strings
This next criterion may sound a little strange – you need to consider the number of strings that are included in a packet of 80/20 strings! You’re likely thinking, “well surely any 6-string 80/20 guitar strings are going to include 6 strings, right?” This would be the case in an ideal world, but there is a variety of different string quantities out there.
For starters, many brands sell their 80/20 strings individually. Whilst this might sound strange, many guitarists will be reluctant to spend $20 on a full set of strings when they only seem to be needing to replace their high E string regularly. For this reason, many 80/20 guitar string brands will sell their strings individually at the fraction of the price of a pack, allowing guitarists to save money and prevent wastage by only replacing specific strings.
For this same reason, some guitar brands will sell their 80/20 strings in packs of five, six, or even ten, which may initially seem like a bargain. However, this is often because they are selling the same string (most likely the high E) in bulk, due to this string being particularly susceptible to snapping. The last thing you want is to buy a pack of six strings thinking that you’ll be receiving a full set, only to discover that you have six of the same string!
Should you buy guitar strings in bulk? Read here to find out.
Another classic problem that I have come across is buying 80/20 strings for guitars that have more than six strings. Whilst this is uncommon as 80/20 strings are typically designed around the use of a six-string guitar, some brands still offer them for seven, eight, or even twelve-string acoustic guitars. This can be a real pain as the string gauges will be different from what you need due to the different tension requirements of alternative guitars, and even if they are suitable for your six-string, you’ll be paying for additional strings that you can’t even use!
As long as you carefully read the description of 80/20 guitar string listings, this shouldn’t present itself as too much of a challenge to you. After all, most guitar brands have your best interest at heart and will clearly state the number of strings listed and the types of strings that they are. However, it’s always best to stay vigilant, because I’ve seen some seriously confusing string quantities out there!
As I mentioned earlier, guitar strings are quite cheap. You may even only have to pay $10 for a full set of 6-string 80/20 guitar strings if you find a bargain. However, if something seems too good to be true, it often is, and this is certainly the case with guitar strings. One of the prime examples of this is when the shipping cost of a pack of guitar strings is through the roof.
If you’ve ever bought a pack of guitar strings before, you’ll know they are pretty small. They’re wrapped around each other in a coil-like fashion, allowing them to fit in a small 2.5” by 2.5” packet. I remember one time when my young nephew ran out of his allowance and didn’t have the money to afford a new set of 80/20 strings for his acoustic guitar. I had a spare pair, so I put them in a standard envelope and sent them to him for the cheap cost of a postage stamp.
Many 80/20 guitar string retailers will send them to you for free, as they’re buying postage stamps in bulk and therefore it costs them hardly anything to send you them. However, this is sadly not always the case – a lot of companies out there are looking for any way to make more profit from you, and this includes overcharging you for postage.
I can remember countless times when I’ve found a set of 80/20 guitar strings for only $15, only to discover that they were charging a further $15 for shipping! What a rip-off! You want to look out for crooks like this because it can easily make a set of strings seem far cheaper than they are.
A company that does this may not have negative intentions but instead may be sending their product from another country or continent. It’s always best to seek out 80/20 guitar strings that are shipped from your own country – that way, you can be sure that you’re not going to spend too much for delivery, and they’ll arrive nice and quickly too!
I briefly mentioned this earlier, but I think that it deserves its section – reviews. No matter what you are purchasing online, you should always check the reviews. Not only can they outline when a product is of excellent quality thanks to happy customers, but they can also reveal negative aspects of dodgy products. Sometimes I have found that reviews contain far more information than the product listing itself!
As we discussed earlier in this guide, there are a variety of things that can go wrong with 6-string 80/20 acoustic guitar strings. From snapping too easily or sounding bad to leaving residue on your fingers or just straight up feeling awful to play, some strings simply don’t meet the criteria of excellence, but the product listing is never going to mention this.
I recently found a new brand of 80/20 guitar strings online offered at a bargain of a price, and I nearly added them to my basket without reading the reviews. Luckily I caught myself at the last minute, and discovered that the last five purchasers left negative reviews due to the items never even turning up at their mailbox! Even the past customers who did receive their items had something to complain about.
Reading reviews will only take a few minutes of your day, yet they can save you from buying dodgy products. It’s also great to find positive reviews of products, allowing you to feel comfortable that you are purchasing your guitar strings from a decent brand. Don’t forget to leave a review too when you receive your 80/20 strings in the post, because you never know who it could help in the future!
My Top 3 6-String 80/20 Guitar Strings Recommendations
Now that we’ve taken a look at exactly what you should look for in the best 6-string 80/20 guitar strings, I think it’s time for me to share some of my top recommendations.
There are so many different strings out there and it can be a little overwhelming, so I hope that my recommendations can help make the choice process a little easier for you.
The first set of 6-string 80/20 guitar strings on my list is the GAK Elixir 11052 80/20 Bronze Nanoweb Acoustic strings. Earlier, I mentioned how it’s always important to purchase your strings from a reliable brand, and GAK couldn’t be a better example of this.
If you’ve ever bought guitar gear before, you probably already know about them – they have a fantastic reputation, and these strings match that perfectly.
These strings boast a light design of 12-53, an excellent tone, and a long life span considering the durable nature of 80/20 strings. The price is a little expensive, but the delivery is cheap and the reviews boast an overall rating of 5 out of 5! You can’t go wrong here.
- GAK is a highly reputable brand
- Includes all six strings
- Long life span for 80/20 strings
- Boasts the classic bright tone expected from 80/20 strings
- Excellent reviews
- A little on the pricier side, but you’re paying for quality
Next up is the Ernie Ball Earthwood 2006 80/20 Bronze Extra-Light Set, sold on many websites including the reputable Gear4Music. Something interesting about these strings is that they are branded by Ernie Ball and feature a sleek design, yet the price is even cheaper than the last pair! At under ten bucks, you really can’t go wrong here – just take a look at the Trustpilot reviews for Ernie Ball products and you’ll see what I mean.
The only problem here is that the gauge is ultra-light at 10-50, and whilst this means that the tone they produce is even brighter than other recommendations here, it also means that the durability is significantly lower. However, if you’re looking for the brightest tones possible, you can’t argue with grabbing a few of these string sets.
- Ernie Ball strings are well known for excellent products, represented by its high TrustPilot rating
- It’s ultra-light 10-50 gauge means that the tone is even brighter than standard 80/20 strings
- A sleek package design
- Crazy cheap!
- The cheap price is due to the strings’ ultra-light gauge, making them significantly less durable than other 80/20 strings
My last recommendation is the D’Addario 80/20 Light 12-53 Guitar Strings, a significantly cheaper product than the last set I mentioned. Despite this low price, D’Addario is another fantastic brand that has a great reputation for producing high-quality guitar products, although they’re mainly designed for beginners. These strings boast a deep, bright, and projecting tone with a light gauge of .012-.053, and they’re made in the USA which always provides that extra comfort of quality.
You can even buy this product in packs of three for a discount, and considering the lack of durability that 80/20 strings have, this might be a wise decision. It’s a top-notch product from a top-notch brand, and the reviews say it all – 4.5 stars across over 22,000 ratings, that’s insanely good!
- D’Addario is another well-respected brand
- A light gauge at 0.12-0.53
- Very high rating with over 22,000 reviews
- A cheap price, excellent if you’re on a budget
- Comes in packs of one or three
- The price is cheap, and this is reflective of its slightly lower quality
Well, that just about brings us to the end of my guide to the best 6-string 80/20 guitar strings on the market. Before I leave you, let’s round things off quickly with an FAQ – hopefully it will help to answer any final burning questions!
Question: What are 6-String 80/20 Guitar Strings?
Answer: 6-string 80/20 guitar strings are a type of strings designed for 6-string acoustic guitars that boast a bright resonance, tone, and projection.
Question: What’s the Difference Between 80/20 Strings and Phosphor Bronze Strings?
Answer: 80/20 strings are a far lighter gauge than Phosphor Bronze strings making them bright and more resonant, although this also means that they are less durable and can be corroded by your fingers’ sweat.
Question: What Gauge is 80/20 Strings Usually?
Answer: Most 80/20 guitar strings have a gauge of around 0.12-0.53, although some ‘ultra-light’ designs are as low as 0.10-0.50.
I hope that this guide to the best 6-string 80/20 guitar strings has helped you on your acoustic guitar journey! 80/20 strings are fantastic for acoustics, especially if you’re looking for bright tones and don’t mind replacing your strings occasionally.
If you’re willing to spend a little extra for ultra durability, I’d certainly recommend the GAK’s Elixir 11052 80/20 Bronze Nanoweb Acoustic strings. However, if you’re on a budget then the D’Addario string set will do you just fine. Whichever you choose, good luck on your guitar journey, and don’t forget to read those reviews!