Best Guitar Strings For Metal and Hard Rock | Full review

Finding the best guitar strings for metal isn’t just about getting the best sound, but it’s also about getting the right feel for your playing style. It sounds complicated because there are as many different kinds of strings as there are guitar styles, but we’ve done some of the legwork, and we think we’ve got a selection of guitar strings that will give you a head start.

No matter if you’re doing some blazing solos or if you’re just providing the powerful rhythm guitar, we’ve got the string that is going to make you sound and feel like a well-seasoned metal god.

What is the best guitar strings for metal?

We’ve searched high and low through many different brands and chosen five different models to compare. Have a look through all our pros and cons for each one to find your guitar strings for metal.

Our Best Guitar Strings For Metal Picks

Image
Brand
Model
Our Rating
Our Rating

Ernie Ball

Ernie Ball M-Steel Regular Slinky 

4/5

D‘Addario 

D’addario EXL117 Nickel Wound

4/5

DR Strings

DR Strings Tite Fit Electric Round Core 11-50

 

4/5

D’Addario

D’Addario NYXL1052 Nickel Plated Electric Guitar Strings

4/5

Ernie Ball

Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom Nickel Wound Set

4/5

Ernie Ball M-Steel Regular Slinky

Our Rating
5/5

Ernie Ball’s Slinky strings are famous around the world for having quite a unique design. While being available in various sizes, their 10-46 set is the thickest gauge and most fitting set for metal and drop tunings.

Ernie Ball insists that this product of theirs is the loudest and most expressive of all guitar strings. Their frequency response, strength, and ability to be played at lower tunings make them suitable for our list.

M-Steel stands for Maraging Steel. This material is usually applied in defense and aerospace technology, so it is extremely strong and hard-wearing. The alloy produces a thick and full tone great for the standard sounds we associate with metal. They are even designed to stay in tune better and for longer than any other.

On the flip side, Ernie Ball M-Steel Regular Slinky is a bit pricier than other products on the market. However, it is absolutely fit the bill and certainly louder than many of the other strings you may have tried. It has a little more give and bend than the other products and stay in tune brilliantly. Though the upgrade compared to Dunlops or D’Addarios isn’t huge, many guitarists swear by the Slinky range.

Pros
Pros

D’addario EXL117 Nickel Wound

Our Rating
5/5

 

D’Addario produces an enormous range of different strings, including everything from jazz to rock to metal accounted for. There are a couple of sets in their range which make extraordinary metal strings, yet we’ve chosen the EXL117.

These hybrid gauges are incredible for drop tuning and are specifically designed with “D” tuning in mind. From our point of view, they’re the best guitar strings for drop D and full ‘D’ tuning, a whole step down from standard. The strings are Steel .011, .014, .019, and Nickel Wound .032, .044, .056 – three of each is where it gets its ‘hybrid’ name.

The round, nickel higher strings give a clean high-end sound, great for soloing and making these versatile strings for distorted chugs or clean solos and riffs. The only time you may encounter a problem is if you are playing extremely low tunings (even lower than D).

The strings are manufactured in the USA with exceptional build-quality, from a brand with centuries of history. The EXL117 are also affordable enough so that you don’t have to break the bank every time you need a new set of strings and can keep a few sets in your gig bag as spares.

Pros
Pros

DR Strings Tite Fit Electric Round Core 11-50

Our Rating
5/5

There are things that are better when they are thicker than when they are slim. Fortunately, there are also exceptions to the rule that prove your predispositions and superstitions wrong, which means that you are shown that sometimes even medium gauge can perform just as good as a heavy-duty gauge. The proof is in the sound and in the durability of the guitar strings, even in the face of heavy metal odds.

The DR Strings Tite Fit Electric Round Core 11-50 medium gauge string set is one of those rare items in the musical worlds that stands out and proves that bigger does not mean better. Well, let me fix that, since everybody in the music world knows that. These strings are the slender contenders that stand out among their thick rivals as the best strings for metal. The fullness of sound they have is something rarely seen in this gauge range, and the durability of the strings themselves, lasting as long as they do through as much use as they do, is something of a legendary feat.

The affordable price of the strings is something of a bonus, one that beginner guitar players with metallic ambitions and shallow pockets will appreciate as much as I am right now. This is definitely a solid choice no matter how you look at it.

Pros
Pros

D’addario NYXL 1052 Nickel Wound

Body and neck
5/5

The D’Addario NYXL strings come in multiple ranges no matter what your metal genre requirements can be. These strings have a high-carbon steel core with a superior break resistance and a steel alloy wrapping for a smooth play style.

I like how the NYXL series offers freedom and improves finger dexterity. You can feel high-tension resistance clearly when you bend the strings or use the whammy bar. The note sustainability is more than impressive, and I think that the intonation is spot on even at higher string gauges.

D’Addario is also noted for its use of high-end automatic winding technology, which is known to enhance the durability and tension resistance of the guitar and bass strings.

 

What resonates most with me is the NYXL’s tuning’s stability in lower tunings. I also like the combination of plain steel and nickel-wound strings for the higher and lower strings, respectively. I find this to be a superior combination for lead metal guitarists as it increases brightness during solos.

Pros
Pros

Ernie Ball Skinny Top Heavy Bottom Nickel Wound Set

Our Rating
5/5

This string set is one of the must-haves if you are searching for affordable guitar strings for metal. Just like other higher end Ernie Ball M-Steel string series, this nickel-wound set comes in various gauges. Yet, I recommend the .010 to .052 gauge for anything, including black metal and metalcore.

The nickel-wound strings are steel plated and feature the world’s most popular string alloy for electric guitar strings. The playstyle is smooth, and the strings offer a medium-to-high output. However, they may not provide the most massive tone.

While the note sustainability is good for soloing, heavy chugging riffs don’t have the same power or presence that you will find in more expensive guitar strings. Of course, that’s understandable due to the different winding methods and materials used.

Still, I recommend these strings for practice and backup. I also recommend them to players who do not want to pay a large amount of money, but don’t want to trade off too much on string quality either.

Pros
Pros

Buying guide: Choosing the right metal guitar strings

 When you think about metal guitar, you would need to have durable guitar strings so that you won’t have to worry about your performance. There are a myriad types of guitar strings, but only a few are considered the right ones for your metal guitar.

  •       First of all, you would want to have heavy strings. The thickness of these strings allows for a more excellent volume and sustain. They ensure durability, and they make playing aggressively a lot easier. However, there is still a downside to having heavy strings. They are typically difficult to play with, as you need greater effort and pressure just to fret the note or strum the guitar.
  •       Choosing to have heavy strings can also be detrimental, especially if you are just a beginner. This is the reason why hybrid strings are usually chosen for both beginners and the more advanced guitarists. You can leave the heavy strings for the superstars. Hybrid strings have a varied gauge; thus, it makes soloing very easy.

The combination of heavy bass strings and lighter trebles allows for a thicker low-end tone while still maintaining the ease of play for beginners. The best way to introduce playing a metal guitar to a beginner to have hybrid strings so that it would be much easier to play.

  •       Another key factor worth mentioning when you are about to buy guitar strings for metal is the core. Normally, guitar string core is made of steel. Round cores offer a balanced and flexible tone while hex cores, which are more common, give a more consistent sound. The materials that make up the strings should also be considered. Nickel/steel allows strings to have a more subtle sound, with steel having a brighter tone to it.
  •       As part of your learning experience in playing the metal guitar, one should also learn when to change your strings. You will need to change your strings when the old strings begin to sound bad. You will notice if the strings are getting difficult to get in tune; hence this should be the right time to change your strings to new ones.
  •       Moisture is the number one enemy of guitar strings. Moisture in guitar strings later develops into rust. Rust slowly erodes the strings; thus, they slowly lose their tone and become difficult to tune and play. One way to prevent moisture from your strings is wiping your strings before and after you play the guitar. Washing your hands and drying them before playing also prevents rust from forming, thereby expanding the lifespan of the guitar strings.
  •       Aside from taking care of your guitar strings, you are recommended to change strings once every 3 months. However, if you are taking good care of your metal strings, then this can extend to several more months. This is the reason why taking care of your strings is essential. Not only that, but choosing the best metal strings is also significant as it dictates the materials being used to make the strings.
  •       Lastly, a factor that should not be overlooked is the price. Many of us think that price should determine how we purchase a product, and the same principle is applied when purchasing guitar strings. Price is usually a decisive factor, especially if the product is already known to have high quality. If you can come across a set that offers great features and has a very affordable price, then you might have hit a very good bargain. Those who are still in dilemma whether the price should trump quality, it still depends if you are willing to shell out of a few bucks for a quality product that you can always find in some other brand. Needless to say, it still all boils down to preference.

 

Conclusion

There are certainly multiple factors to consider when you are going to buy your next set of strings. A string upgrade is never a bad idea if you can accommodate it financially. The difference in the price is nominal for some guitar string brands and can mean a whole lot for your resonance and even improve your playing style if they provide a better tactile response.

It is not easy to compare strings side by side unless you have two identical guitars. Any new string set will sound relatively better compared to the previous set but top strings make much more of an impact than others. Some strings will do a guitar very little justice at all.

Be honest with yourself about your requirements especially concerning your ability. Don’t jump immediately to the strings you want if you are a beginner as they may not be suitable and that could be detrimental to your early progress.

As with any instrumental investment what you need on an individual level differs tremendously from what other people might need so understanding product descriptions is vital to making a well-informed choice. With a bit of luck, we have helped answer some of your questions and provided a few products to peruse.

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