You’re trying to decide, “D’addario, or Ernie Ball — which set of strings do I buy to fit my needs? I hardly know anything about them!” You begin to panic until you stumble upon this wonderful article. An article that will put your worries to rest, as we run through and make a proper D’addario vs Ernie Ball strings comparison.
Because, as an aspiring, professional, or active musician, it’s only natureal to care about our instrument’s overall sound, feeling, and characteristics that set it apart from other guitars on the market.
Your strings are no different, as a major piece that gives your instrument its own playability, sound, and feeling — we absolutely want the right strings that can make this baby sing.
What Traits do They Share?
As you’ll come to discover with these two brands of guitar strings, is that they share many of the same qualities that make them shine! We should review this section, to make sure that they fit the criteria of the ideal guitar strings you would love to see on your instrument.
Firstly, they seem to cost just about the same as each other. It typically doesn’t matter too much where you purchase these strings from, regardless of state or province, and their taxing differences. The ball ends of each brand are generally made the exact same way, the only thing really separating them in this regard is what color they are.
Finally, although, D’Addario won’t show as much physical wear as Ernie Ball strings, it doesn’t change the fact that they both share the same lifespan and/or playing time. The reason Ernie Ball will generally show more wear on the strings is that they are the shinier of the two.
What Sets Them Apart?
In order to potentially save you a lot of time and money through continuous testing of these two brands, it’s important to know the driving factors that make them different from each other.
Let’s first discuss the important qualities of the D’Addario strings
EXL strings are wound with nickel-plated steel, known for it's distinctive bright tone and reduced fret wear.
What you’ll first notice when you strum or pluck the D’Addario strings is that they have more attack — this is especially noticeable when you pair them with humbucker pickups. These strings also tend to have a wider sustain and are a tad bit louder acoustically.
When amped up, however, these strings can sound more defined when paired with a foot pedal, fat fuzz, or the aforementioned humbucker pickups. The overall feeling of these strings is more textured, thus improving the grip, primarily on the unwound strings, G, B, e. Furthermore, the winding of the strings is found to feel completely different than Ernie Ball strings, as they are flatter and taller.
Now, onto the Ernie Ball strings
These strings, sound brighter, overall, and cleaner sounding. This can be perhaps due to having more definition. There happens to be less of a “buzz” sound when playing slide guitar on these strings — in fact, the vibration of the strings seem to “mellow out” after the first half-hour of playing, which is a relief for people who might be testing it for the first time, wondering why the vibration is out of whack.
After continuous playing, roughly 4 hours in, it will lose the “new string sound”, which is liked by a fraction of guitarists. The winding of the strings ultimately feels shorter, more round, and spaced out than the D’Addario strings.
Finally, they stay in tune a lot better and break in easier than D’Addario strings. This can be done by pulling on each string for roughly 10 seconds and retuning the strings, followed by playing for five minutes. This often takes several retunes for the D’Addario strings to settle in.
These two brands, D’Addario and Ernie Ball; both bring a lot to the table. However, it mainly depends on what you are seeking out of your instrument. Are you looking for something with a nice grip? Does it sound bright, or warm? Does it have sustain or resonance? What kind of coating does it use, if any at all? Are the longevity of the strings an important factor for you? These might be some questions you will want to answer when buying strings for your instrument.
Do keep in mind, however, that when you are buying strings for your guitar, a lot of it is trial and error. You may decide that the coating on the strings is ruining the resonance, and therefore want an alternative option, because you still have a desire for the strings to last a long time.
There are plenty of options when buying guitar strings. Furthermore, while D’Addario and Ernie Ball are two reliable brands, especially for their individual purposes, you don’t have to go with either! You just might decide that neither of these is for you, I’m going with Elixer or Martin.
Behind the Brands
D’Addario is a brand that had begun all the way back in the 17th century. This was during the age when strings were not made from steel nor nylon, but gut. To be more specific, fiber from the walls of animal intestines — which come from sheep, goats, cattle, donkeys, hogs, horses, or mules, otherwise known as “catgut”. Times have changed since, and they no longer do that.
They had shifted to constructing nylon strings in the 1930s and from there on continued without the use of “catgut”. It was finally in the 1970s where strings have appeared branded with the D’Addario name. Onward, they continued to develop such strings for various instruments, including the guitar, bass, viola, violin, and cello.
The company is still owned and operated by the D’Addario family, which is centered around guitars as their primary instrument. Furthermore, they’ve become a renowned force in the music business, as many famous and well-known artists swear by these very strings. (Lenny Kravitz, Joe Satriani, and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers very own Josh Klinghoffer).
Ernie Ball much not quite like D’Addario has a less extensive history and had started up in 1962, constructing electric guitar and bass strings. While they might not share the history that D’Addario has, they certainly are a fierce competitor in the music business as another supplier of quality strings.
Artists such as Eric Clapton, Slash from Guns N’ Roses, and even Paul McCartney from the Beatles have used and supported these strings. Nowadays, Ernie Ball is known for its wide selection of quality strings — for a wide selection of instruments.
Instruments like the Ukelele, banjo, guitar, bass, and mandolin. It’s said, “whatever type of string you happen to be looking for, look no further than Ernie Ball.”
More on Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
Firstly, you’ll notice that the sound of your strings carries more dynamics and are therefore more expressive. These strings are covered in Aluminum Oxide which prevents string corrosion.
The benefit of which doesn’t coat the string, negatively affecting the tonal qualities. It carries lower frequencies well, and the packaging helps it maintain its lifespan — “good as new” as they say. Lastly, they were made in the United States, California with only the freshest materials.
More on finding your ideal acoustic guitar strings
In your endeavors of finding your ideal set of guitar strings, you will first want to decide whether you need acoustic strings or nylon strings. This is an important characteristic that greatly affects your guitar’s overall tone.
Nylon strings tend to be warmer, and steel strings tend to be brighter and crisper. Furthermore, it’s important to know what your instrument needs — a steel-string guitar, cannot have nylon strings, and a nylon string guitar cannot have acoustic strings.
Next, you’ll want to check the string thickness. Different sets of strings come in varying thicknesses otherwise known as the string’s “gauge”. If you enjoy strumming your instrument, perhaps even if it’s just around a campfire for a group of good friends, then thicker strings are what you’ll likely want. Thicker strings produce more low-end frequencies, thus giving the guitar a warmer tonal quality.
However, if you are a beginner, thicker strings are generally more difficult to play — however, they do tend to last longer. Thinner strings, on the contrary, are very bright sounding and are excellent if you are intending on fingerpicking your guitar. The downside to these strings, however, is that they are prone to snapping. If you want all-purpose guitar strings, it’s best that you find something in between these two gauges.
Lastly, you will want to decide on what coating is best. There are many pros and cons to deciding on certain coatings. While some coatings may reduce corrosion from sweat and things of the like, the downside is that the tone and resonance may suffer. This takes some time and effort on your part, in trying different strings out and deciding which coating you prefer the most.
Question: Are Ernie Ball Strings the Best?
Answer: Yes, Ernie Ball strings are in no doubt some of the best guitar strings you’ll find. In particular, Ernie Ball’s “Regular Slinky Strings” is desired by many professionals alike. Bands like Green Day to the Rolling Stones can attest to using these strings on a regular basis. Not only are they top-notch strings, but they are also quite affordable — offering much bang for your buck!
Behind the strings: Ernie Ball had a goal he set out to accomplish, and that goal was to create guitar strings that can match the gear for creating unique tones. For over 50 years, Ernie Ball has worked hard to bring top-quality, but very affordable strings capable of being in the hands of every musician.
While it’s suggested that Regular Slinky Strings are the go-to set of strings from Ernie Ball, you want to make sure it’s for you!
Firstly, at its core, it consists of a tin plated high carbon steel hex wire, which provides it much durability. It carries a balanced tone and a fair bit of consistency and intonation all due to its nickel-plated wound electric guitar cords. Finally, it has plain electric guitar cords, inclusive with a series of lock twists — this helps remove any “slippery elements” from the string.
Question: Which D’Addario Strings are Best?
Answer: The D’Addario EXL strings for the acoustic guitar tend to please a lot of buyers. The best feature of these strings is that they contain reduced noise for recording purposes. Furthermore, it contains a natural feeling, pleasing to guitarists of traditional tastes. These strings also last longer than un-treated strings. Lastly, these strings come at a very affordable price, with the option to upgrade to an ultra-premium set for $5.o0 USD more.
As stated prior, it’s highly recommended that you make sure these strings, are for you. It’s suggested that you test out many different brands and sets of strings before deciding, “these are the ones that I want”.
Question: Which Brand of Guitar Strings is the Best?
Answer: There are a lot of really excellent guitar strings brands, so many that it can be hard to choose. To narrow it down, we’ll divide which strings are the best for acoustic guitar, and which are best for the electric guitar. Currently, without a doubt, Ernie Ball takes the cake for the best brand of acoustic guitar strings on the market. When it comes to the electric guitar, it’s a tight choice between D’Addario and Elixer.
Question: Why are Ernie Ball strings so good?
Answer: Ernie Ball strings are so good because when you factor in the different elements, the thickness, materials, coating, and overall cost of the guitar strings — the Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze acoustic guitar strings fit the criteria for excellent guitar strings covering these points.
Question: Why are Elixer Optiweb Coated strings so good?
Answer: Elixer Optiweb Coated Strings are so good because Firstly, they give off a very bright, yet warm resonating tone. The Optiweb gives it a nice and natural feel, providing a unique playing experience to the handler. Furthermore, the coating actually helps against corrosion and debris buildup.
This allows for the strings to have a longer lifespan than the other coated or uncoated variants. Furthermore, regardless of it being coated, it sounds just as great as it was uncoated, so you don’t lose out on any of the nice sound and tonal characteristics. The strings also contain an anti-rust plating, which maintains the tone’s lifespan throughout the duration of using these strings.
Question: Is Ernie Ball Owned by Fender?
Answer: No, Ernie Ball not owned by Fender. Music Man owns them, which is a company that manufactures high-end electric and bass guitars, much the way Fender does. They were acquired by Ernie Ball in the year 1984.
Question: Why are D’Addario EXL strings so good?
Answer: D’Addario EXL strings are so good because they are wound with nickel-plated steel, which gives off this distinctive bright tone. The strings are packaged very nicely, so much that they remain just like the day you bought them. They were constructed in the USA, so you know they’re of quality. Lastly, they come for plain steel, .010, .013, .017 — and for nickel wound strings, .026, .036, .046.
D’Addario and Ernie Ball are both excellent suppliers of guitar strings, they have quite a history of leaving their mark in the world of music. A history that you now know, that you likely haven’t before! It’s quite amazing what one component of an instrument can do.
As stated by Ernie Ball, “Great strings can’t cure a bad amp, an s-curve neck, or lousy room acoustics; but when all of these primary elements are correct, strings become bottom line!” guitar strings play a large part in the overall tonal characteristics of an instrument, including its material qualities.
It’s apparent that both of these brands serve their individual purposes better than one another, therefore bring something unique and of their own to the table.
Would you prefer to buy an Ernie Ball set of strings? Or would you prefer D’Addario strings? Does this give you a deeper respect for everything that goes into the craftsmanship of a fine instrument? What do you think of coating on strings?
This bundle gives you a 3-pack of high-quality Ernie Ball strings with Planet Waves' Pro-Winder for fast string changes.
EXL strings are wound with nickel-plated steel, known for it's distinctive bright tone and reduced fret wear.