Best Acoustic Bass Strings For All Styles (2021)

Choosing new strings for your instrument is always one of the two – Either you have a go to brand that you buy without any second thought, or you mindlessly scroll through the endless catalog of strings available.

Of course, that applies when deciding upon the best acoustic bass strings as well. If you fall into the latter category, then keep reading. We’re going to make bass string shopping easier for you.

In this article, I’ll showcase some of the top-selling products across a wide variety of string types – Phosphor Bronze, Tapewound, Roundwound, Flatwound Acoustic Bass Strings, you name it.

I’ll also recommend some of my favorite picks that I personally use, and there’s a quick buying guide later in the article.

Let’s begin!

Best Acoustic Bass Strings

Here a quick list of all my recommendations:

ImageProductDetails  Price
backpacD’Addario EPBB170Material: Phosphor Bronze
Gauge: .045, .065, .080, .100
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacElixir Strings w NANOWEB CoatingMaterial: 80/20 Bronze
Gauge: .045, .065, .080, .100
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacRotosound RS88LDMaterial: Black Nylon Flatwound
Gauge: .065, .075, .100, .115
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacD’Addario EPBB170-5Material: Phosphor Bronze
Gauge: .045, .065, .080, .100, .130
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacErnie Ball EarthwoodMaterial: Phosphor Bronze
Gauge: .045, .055, .080, .095
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacD’Addario EXPPBB170SMaterial: Phosphor Bronze
Gauge: .045 .065, .080, .100
Scale: Short Scale
Check Price
backpacD’Addario EPBB170Material: Stainless Steel Flatwound
Gauge: .045 .065, .080, .100
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacDR Strings RAREMaterial: Phosphor Bronze
Gauge: .045 .065, .085, .105
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacD’Addario ETB92Material: Black Nylon Tapewound
Gauge: .050, .065, .085, .105
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacD’Addario ENR71Material: Nickel
Gauge: .045 .065, .080, .100
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacIBANEZ IABS4XC32Material: Carbon coated 80/20 Bronze
Gauge: .040 .060, .075, .095
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacThomastik-Infeld AB344 AcousticoreMaterial: Phosphor Bronze
Gauge: .041 .053, .068, .186
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price

My Favorite Picks

1. D’Addario EPBB170 Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Bass Strings – Best Overall

Pros:

  • Excellent value for money.
  • Rich bright tone with great sustain.
  • Will suit most styles – jazz, blues, rock, slap etc.
  • Sufficiently loud.

Cons

  • None.

D’Addario is my go-to brand for acoustic strings both for guitar and bass. I’m sure it’s the same for a lot of you guys too. It’s a semi-round wound medium gauge set perfectly designed for acoustic basses with its high carbon steel hex core and phosphor bronze alloy on top.

Super bright and zingy right out of the box and also tend to settle in quite nicely. They seem to hold tune very well and have the perfect amount of tension when tuned up. D’Addario offers both the 4-string as well as 5-string variant of these strings, both of which are equally impressive.

These are full-scale 34” strings and will fit pretty much any bass out there. You do get good results when tuned down as the tension seems to be pretty tight on them. It’s hard to go wrong with this set, especially given how inexpensive they are.


2. Elixir Strings 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Bass Strings w NANOWEB Coating – Long-Lasting Acoustic Bass Strings

Pros

  • Best-in-class durability and life.
  • Retaining their crisp tone for several months.
  • Smoother feel.
  • Less finger squeak.

Cons

  • A little expensive (but well worth it!)

Elixir have done an impressive job of retaining the tone and articulation on these strings, something we always worry about in case of coated strings. The NANOWEB coating not only keeps the gunk at bay, but it provides a much smoother feel and reduces the finger squeak while sliding across the strings.

Elixir gives you the option for medium, long or extra-long scale, as well as even a 5-string bass set. Rich bright sound and the substantially longer life makes them a go to choice for a lot of acoustic bass players. It’s no surprise given you get time to spend practicing up the instrument without worrying about changing the strings every month.


3. Rotosound RS88LD Black Nylon Flatwound Bass Guitar Strings – Best Tapewound Option

Pros

  • Black!
  • Excellent sound for genres that ask for a deep and smooth tone.
  • Less finger noise.

Cons

  • Higher gauge; Might need to adjust your bass guitar’s nut.

Rotosound is one of the oldest brands for bass and guitar string manufacturing, and their Tru Bass strings have been extremely popular among some iconic bass players around the world. These are a bit higher gauge at 65, 75, 100, 115 due to the nylon coating, so not the best option for slap/pop.

Apart from that, it’s hard to find a better sound at this price for genres like jazz, soul, reggae, Motown etc. This RS88LD Black Nylon string set is designed to offer a sound closer to an upright bass. Whether you use them on either electric or acoustic basses, you’ll be really really impressed with their deep resonating tone and balanced timbre.

Although the coating makes them a bit thicker, they are perfectly suited for standard tuning. It might make them a bit stiffer, but the obvious plus point of the higher gauge is deeper low-end and a substantially “heavy” feel. Note that the strings themselves are really smooth and easy on your fingers, thanks to the nylon coating.


How to Choose the Best Acoustic Bass Strings

Now that you’re familiar with my top picks, here’s a short buying guide for all the beginners among us, highlighting the important factors to look out for in bass strings.

Apart from the number of strings, which should be obvious, there are a few other factors to consider while buying the best acoustic bass guitar strings. Here’s everything you need to know about strings explained in a beginner-friendly manner.

1. Scale Length

The distance from the bridge saddle to the nut is what we call as scale length. Typically, bass strings come in specific scale lengths to match that of your bass.

The most common scale length is 34” – known as long-scale, and this is what you’ll find in most 4-string basses like the Fender Precision or Jazz Bass.

5 or 6-string basses often have 35” or longer scales – known as extra/super long-scale. Short-scale basses are uncommon and generally have scale lengths between 30” and 32”.

Quickly check your bass guitar’s scale length either from the manufacturer’s website or by measuring it yourself. You don’t want to end up with strings too long or too short.

2. String Material

We are talking about the actual metal (or alloys) used in the construction of the strings. Composition and coating material can heavily affect the tone as well as the durability of the strings.

When it comes to electric bass strings, stainless-steel and nickel are the most common materials used. But for acoustic strings, bronze is the preferred metal choice, with 80/20 bronze and phosphor bronze being the two common kinds of bronze used.

Well, it turns out that you can use electric strings on an acoustic bass, although you won’t get the same tone and volume out of the instrument. Nonetheless, here we cover all the common string metals used.

Acoustic Strings

80/20 Bronze – This type of bronze offers a much brighter tone than phosphor bronze; 80/20 bronze (80% copper, 20% tin) is softer than steel yet retains great corrosion resistant properties.

Phosphor Bronze – Similar to bronze but with a little bit of phosphor added to it; It’s said to offer rich warmer tone and also last longer than 80/20 bronze. They also have a bit of a reddish tint to them as opposed to the golden color on the bronze strings.

Electric Strings

Nickel-plated Steel – Most popular material choice for electric bass strings; Offer a balanced middle of the road experience with the great attack and brightness of stainless steel and the warmth of pure nickel.

Stainless Steel – Highly corrosion resistant; Brightest of them all with a sharp and snappy attack; Popular among rock, metal and fusion genres where the bass needs to cut through the heavy mix.

Pure Nickel – Much warmer and broken-in sounding than nickel-steel alloy. Offer a vintage tone that’s associated with the country, soul and ‘50s pop bass sounds.

Copper-plated Steel – Retain the bright and resonant tone of steel and add rich overtones and harmonics. Common in acoustic-electric basses.

3. Core & Winding

Best Acoustic Bass Strings

There’s not much to the string core wires except that they are usually made from steel and come in two shapes – Hex and Round cores.

Hex Core – The most common core type; Offers a much brighter sound as the winding sits much tighter on the hexagonal surface but still leaves a lot of space between the two; Ideal for slapping, tapping or performances due to the stiffer tension.

Round Core – Darker, vintage-like sound due to lower tension and constant contact of the winding with the core; The lighter tension makes it easier to play and is ideal for fingerstyle playing.

Winding is probably the most important aspect for bass strings. The type of winding will largely decide the sound of your bass and the playability as far as the fretting hand is concerned.

The four most common types of windings are explained below:

Roundwounds

This is the most common winding type for bass strings. Roundwound simply means that a cylindrical steel or nickel wire is wound around the core, leaving a series of ridges along the string.

Roundwounds offer the most brightness and sizzle among all winding types making them ideal for slapping, popping, tapping and other styles where a spanky sound is desired.

They’re also the most painful for your fingers as well as the frets/fretboard on the bass. If you’re picking the bass for the first time, you may find them a bit too harsh on your fingers.

Flatwounds

Flatwounds are the original bass strings prevalent since the times of the upright bass, and were the only string type in use up until the 1960s. As the name suggests, a flat wire is wound around the core giving it a smoother feel.

Sonically, flatwounds are much more mellow and warmer than roundwounds, which makes them ideal for blues, jazz, country and vintage rock. They just don’t have that snap needed for slap bass, which is roundwounds’ territory.

A beginner will have an easier time playing a set of flatwounds. Besides that, flatwounds cause less wear and tear on the fretboard which is why they are preferred on fretless basses.

Half rounds

Also known as Groundwounds, Half-round strings are essentially a mix of roundwounds and flatwounds, giving a nice balance between the two.

Take the super-bright roundwounds and ground their outer ridges to a flattened surface and you get halfwound strings. This reduces the harshness, fret wear, finger noise and brings it a step closer to the smoother feel of the flatwounds.

This essentially means that you get the brightness almost similar to the roundwounds, while easing up the stress on your fingers and the fretboard.

Tapewounds

This unique winding involves wrapping a layer of nylon around the normal roundwound string, making them – you guessed it – even softer and silkier to touch. Tapewounds are not that common, but can be used to achieve a tone akin to the upright bass.

Tapewound strings are usually black in color, giving a nice dark tone with a short decay. These can be fairly interesting for an acoustic bass guitar, offering a warm sound with more thud.

4. Coating

Some strings come with a thin layer of coating over them, which is there to protect the strings from oil and sweat. Coated strings will usually last much longer than non-coated ones, but are also quite a bit more expensive.

Like the string material, you also get different choices for the coating material. Common ones include synthetic polymers, copper or even some proprietary materials such as with Elixir’s NANOWEB coated bass strings. Color-coated strings also tend to offer specific colors for a distinctive visual appeal.

4. Gauge

Some people seem to complicate string gauges too much, which is not required. Of course, gauge is super important, so here’s an easy way to figure out the right gauge for you.

Gauge simply refers to the diameter (or thickness) of the strings. These numbers are expressed in thousandths of an inch. The thicker the gauge, the fatter the tone and it’s harder to fret at the same time.

Higher gauges are preferred when you need a more robust low end (like in metal and stoner doom), or if you tune down a lot. But it will demand a greater strength from your fingers.

Lighter gauges offer more solace for your fingers and also the percussive-ness and snap at the cost of some low end. That’s why these are ideal for jazz, funk and slap bass.

If you’re new to playing bass, start with a lower gauge. The standard set for most basses is the medium set – 0.045 – 0.105, but if you have smaller fingers or haven’t developed calluses yet, a lighter gauge would be perfectly fine.

Here are the gauge numbers as a reference to the most common 4-string sets:

  • Light – .040 / .065 / .080 / .100
  • Medium – .045 / .065 / .085 / .105
  • Heavy – .050 / .075 / .090 / .110
  • Extra Heavy – .060 / .080 / .100 / .120

Some sets go even lighter or heavier than this. In the end, choose according to your preference and genre. You can even pick up individual strings from different gauge sets if you prefer.

ImageProductDetails  Price
backpacD’Addario EPBB170Material: Phosphor Bronze
Gauge: .045, .065, .080, .100
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacElixir Strings w NANOWEB CoatingMaterial: 80/20 Bronze
Gauge: .045, .065, .080, .100
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacRotosound RS88LDMaterial: Black Nylon Flatwound
Gauge: .065, .075, .100, .115
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacD’Addario EPBB170-5Material: Phosphor Bronze
Gauge: .045, .065, .080, .100, .130
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacErnie Ball EarthwoodMaterial: Phosphor Bronze
Gauge: .045, .055, .080, .095
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacD’Addario EXPPBB170SMaterial: Phosphor Bronze
Gauge: .045 .065, .080, .100
Scale: Short Scale
Check Price
backpacD’Addario EPBB170Material: Stainless Steel Flatwound
Gauge: .045 .065, .080, .100
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacDR Strings RAREMaterial: Phosphor Bronze
Gauge: .045 .065, .085, .105
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacD’Addario ETB92Material: Black Nylon Tapewound
Gauge: .050, .065, .085, .105
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacD’Addario ENR71Material: Nickel
Gauge: .045 .065, .080, .100
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacIBANEZ IABS4XC32Material: Carbon coated 80/20 Bronze
Gauge: .040 .060, .075, .095
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price
backpacThomastik-Infeld AB344 AcousticoreMaterial: Phosphor Bronze
Gauge: .041 .053, .068, .186
Scale: Long Scale
Check Price

FAQs

1. What are the best acoustic bass strings?

D’Addario EPBB170 Phosphor Bronze Strings are the best value for money acoustic bass strings.

2. Can you put electric bass strings on an acoustic bass?

You can certainly put electric bass strings on an acoustic bass, but you won’t get the same volume, brightness and tension as the bronze alloy strings.

3. How often should you change bass strings?

How often you change strings will depend upon how frequently and heavily you play the instrument. Some people will go months on end before putting on new strings while others may change it every couple weeks. In any case, you should change the bass strings once they start sounding dead.

4. How do I know if my bass strings are dead?

Your bass strings are dead when they become dull or muffled sounding and lose most of the sustain. Another sign is accumulated rust or dark spots on the strings.

5. How long does it take to break in bass strings?

It should not take a long time to break in bass strings, typically 1-2 hours of playing and tuning.

Conclusion

The D’Addario EPBB170 remains my recommended choice for Phosphor Bronze acoustic bass strings. You can also get the 5-string bass variant of these strings.

For a short scale bass, the D’Addario EXPPBB170S is the best option. Apart from that, I covered my top picks across all the popular string types in this article, so go ahead and grab the one you like.

That was it from my side.

What are the best acoustic bass strings for you?

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