Our Favorite 12-String Guitar Strings

12-string guitars have featured on some of the world’s most iconic tracks, from Pantera’s Suicide Note, Part 1, to The Eagles’ Hotel California. Many write off 12-strings as a folk instrument, but this definitely isn’t the case. A big part of the defining sound of a 12-string guitar is the strings themselves, whether electric or acoustic.

In this KillerGuitarRigs Guide, we’ve taken an in-depth look at the best strings for 12-string guitars. We’ve broken it into two distinct sections, giving you our Top 3 string choices for Electric 12-string and Acoustic 12-string.

For the electric 12-string test, we loaded up a beautiful Epiphone G-1275 SG Double Neck, and played clean through a Katana Boss 50 MK11. For the acoustics, the test was performed on a Breedlove Pursuit 12-string (as featured in our roundup of the best 12-string guitars under $1,000).

In both cases, we were primarily looking for:

  • String Durability
  • Tuning Stability
  • Feel
  • Tone

Read more about our review process.

Editor's Choice
Gibson Accessories SEG-BW12L Brite Wire 'Reinforced'

Gibson Accessories SEG-BW12L Brite Wire 'Reinforced'

Features: Nickel plated steel wrap, High carbon steel core, Hex core design

Benefits: Clear and bright tone, Excellent strength, Superb sustain

Best Value
Ernie Ball 2230 Regular Slinky

Ernie Ball 2230 Regular Slinky

Features: Tin-plated hex steel core, Nickel-plated steel wrap, Custom gauge

Benefits: Great feel, Well balanced tone, Fast break in

Best Budget
D'Addario EXL150 XL

D'Addario EXL150 XL

Features: Hexagonal steel core, Corrosion resistant packaging, Roundwound construction

Benefits: Excellent corrosion resistance, Strong tuning stability, Consistent feel

Our Top 3 (Electric)

Our Top Pick for electric guitar went to the Ernie Ball Regular Slinky in Nickel-Plated Steel. EB Slinkies are widely available, are excellent quality, and always sound great, making them a solid choice when balancing price and performance.

Our choice for Best Budget strings was the D’Addario EXL150s in Nickel-Plated Steel. With these strings, you’re getting the famous D’Addario tone and build quality at an unbeatable price.

Those looking for the very best strings for your electric 12-string need look no further than our Editor’s Choice – the Gibson Brite-Wires in Nickel-Plated Steel. These strings are outstanding in almost every way – tone, playability, durability, you name it.

Our Top 3 (Acoustic)

We named the Elixir Nanoweb in 80/20 Bronze as our Top Pick in this review. Elixir strings are great on any platform and they sounded (and felt) especially good during our 12-string guitar test. They offer great tone and superb longevity.

Our Best Budget choice was the Ernie Ball Earthwood in 80/20 Bronze. These strings were bright and shimmery, held tune well, and felt great. They outperform other uncoated strings sometimes costing more than double. For that, they deserve your consideration.

We found our Editor’s Choice, the D’Addario XS in Phosphor Bronze, to be the cream of the crop. The use of phosphor bronze really set them apart. Feel was exceptional, as was tone and tuning stability. We were unable to find any fault with these strings, and they come highly recommended.

Individual Reviews

Top Pick Electric
Ernie Ball Regular Slinky

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky

Impressive quality and consistency meet great feel and tone.

These strings offer the bright and shimmery tones that 12 string guitarists demand. They are well made, and offer excellent consistency between packs. They are comfortable, with strong tuning stability, and an overall great choice for your electric 12 string.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Ernie Ball also makes their most popular strings available to 12-string players. Of course, they’re as reliably good as their 6-string counterparts, as well as other extended-range guitars.

We found the Regular Slinkies worked really well on 12-string, although this was a custom gauge, measuring from .008 – .040. So they were really on the lighter side. Our initial concern was that they’d sound thin, but we actually found they worked beautifully with the hot Epiphone pickups.

Tones were bright and super shimmery, and note separation was very good. Sustain and overall resonance were phenomenal. In fact, it was hard to believe these aren’t expensive, high-end strings. As with the rest of the Slinky lineup, they’re uncoated and made with nickel-plated steel and a hex core.

Because this set was so light, tension was super low, making this probably the most comfortable electric 12-string set we’ve ever had the pleasure of trialing.

Once we got these strings onboard and stretched, they held firm at the correct pitch. Of course, while restringing we had to be especially careful of the plus octave strings given the light gauge, but as long as you’re aware of this before you start tuning, you’ll be fine. We’d definitely recommend avoiding string winders and instead wind by hand, at least for the + octaves!

Verdict: This is an impressive string set that massively outperformed its price tag. Tones were impressive both clean and with FX, and we didn’t notice much of any dulling between the start and end of the test. You can’t go wrong with these strings at any price, but considering the low cost, it’s worth buying these a few packs at a time!

Best Budget Electric
D'Addario EXL 150

D'Addario EXL 150

Bright tones and quality construction without breaking the bank.

Considering their low price, these D'Addario strings offer exceptional performance. They offer great presence, fantastic brightness, and superb sustain.

D’Addario unfortunately don’t make their incredible XS series strings for electric 12-strings, but worry not – their EXL series are a strong alternative and best of all, they’re incredibly affordable.

These are uncoated, nickel-plated steel strings. They’re about as basic as strings come, but they’re well made and consistency between packets is always good. If you’re trying to find “your strings,” knowing that every pack will feel the same is important.

This set was a medium-light, ranging from .010 to .046. This gave them a lot more presence than we’d usually expect from a budget string, leaving us pleasantly surprised. The extra string weight helped the resonance and sustain a lot. The big downside of this gauge, however, was the comfort factor.

There was quite a lot of tension held on these strings, making them quite tiresome to play for extended periods. If you’re only planning to play in short bursts, or if you’re used to acoustic 12-strings, this shouldn’t be too much of an issue for you.

We found that the EXLs were incredibly bright, but this mellowed pretty quickly. They didn’t become dull, but the drop in brilliance was noticeable.

Tuning stability was good. The stretch and settle did take a little longer than the other strings on trial, but it didn’t become an issue. Within an hour or two, they held pitch well.

Verdict: Electric 12-string players looking for consistency and good tone while trying to stick to a lower budget have likely experienced finding a set of strings you can afford, only to discover they sound terrible. With these D’Addario EXL 150 strings, you really can have strings that sound great and come in under budget.

Editor's Choice Electric
Gibson Brite Wire

Gibson Brite Wire

Exceptional strings from the maker of some of the most famous 12 String Guitars.

These Gibson strings offer incredible quality and brilliant tones. They are bright, and require little to no stretch period, making them stable right out of the packet. They utilize a high carbon hex core for excellent flexibility, which translates to long sustain, and phenomenal playability.

If asked to think of an electric 12-string, there’s a good chance you pictured a Gibson SG double neck. Gibson know 12-string electrics and it stands to reason they know how to pair strings with them. These are Gibson’s OEM spec strings for all their 12-string electrics, both off the shelf and custom shop.

These strings also happen to be OEM spec for our test rig – an Epiphone SG double neck. They really did sound great, exactly how you’d want a 12-string electric to sound – shimmering highs and almost tambourine-like jangle. They’re finished in nickel-plated steel and we found them to be bright, clear, and the sustain was excellent.

They stretched out quickly and tuning stability was almost instant. The core is high-carbon steel, which helps provide additional tensile strength and gives these strings rock-solid stability.

Gibson lists these as a light, but they play closer to a medium – the gauge range was .010 – .046. The feel was good and despite not being as light as the Ernie Balls, they remained comfortable, probably due to the additional flexibility afforded by the high-carbon hex core.

Verdict: Gibson Brite-Wire strings for 12-string guitars are simply put, some of the best all-around strings available for this style of instrument. They’re bright, resonant, and offer superb note separation. We found them to be reliable and long-lasting, with little to no loss of tone during the duration of our test. Feel was great and they still provided enough flexibility to play expressively.

Top Pick Acoustic
Elixir 80/20 Bronze Nanoweb

Elixir 80/20 Bronze Nanoweb

Unbeatable longevity without sacrificing feel and tone.

Elixir strings require no introduction - they are pioneers of coated string technology, and they do a great job of staying at the forefront. These Nanoweb strings offer wonderful feel, and exceptional lifespan, meaning you'll spend less time changing strings and more time playing!

When it comes to coated strings, or long-life strings, the first name most players immediately think of is Elixir, and with good reason. They’ve carved a niche for themselves over the years with top-quality, premium coated strings that feel great, play great, and sound great.

The Elixir Nanoweb strings are made from an 80/20 bronze alloy, which of course sounds great on acoustic guitars. They’re treated with Nanoweb polymer, which is Elixir’s proprietary blend. This coating is so thin, we barely noticed it at all. So it was a little unusual to have such an uncoated feel paired with almost no string squeak. That unwanted noise is especially painful on 12-strings, so this alone would have been worth the additional cost!

This was a light gauge set (.010-.047) and we found the feel to be great. They’re pliable enough to avoid discomfort and, despite being light, we didn’t find that they sounded brittle or thin.

Over the period of the test, the strings only ever sounded bright and clear. Not even a hint of degradation or dulling. They stayed bright, resonant, and retained wonderful note separation throughout.

Getting these strings installed and up to pitch was as straightforward as it gets. The stretch and settling period was over and done with almost instantly, and tuning stability afterwards was close to perfect.

Verdict: If you’re looking for a long-life set for your 12-string, look no further than Elixir Nanoweb 80/20 Bronze 12-Strings. They fully deserve the reputation they hold as some of the best-feeling strings on the market. By the end of our test, these strings sounded exactly the same as the day we installed them. No corrosion, no pitting, and absolutely no loss of tone.

Best Budget Acoustic
Ernie Ball Earthwood

Ernie Ball Earthwood

An incredible combination of tone and value.

These strings might be simple, but that takes nothing away from their wonderful tones. They offer incredible brightness, and all of the sparkle you expect from a 12 string acoustic. They offer exceptional value for money, and would still be a bargain at twice the price.

Earthwood strings from Ernie Ball are a perfect example of basic strings done right. There’s a good reason for them being so popular for beginners and professionals alike. At any price, these are great-sounding strings that complement any 12-string acoustic.

Ernie Ball has gone to great lengths to ensure these strings are factory fresh when they reach the player. Each string was sealed in special packaging, an “Element Shield”. This is a nice touch given 80/20 bronze’s tendency to corrode after exposure to oxygen. Every string came out of the packaging in perfect condition, so it’s safe to say the Element Shield did its job.

The feel of these strings was excellent. They were comfortable, with even texture, and there were no pitting or rough patches anywhere on any string. As with all Ernie Ball strings, they’re made in the USA and overall quality and consistency is excellent.

Tonally, the Earthwoods were fantastic. Incredibly bright and resonant, with all the jangle and sparkle you could ever ask for. They were nice and responsive to variations in attack, and handled fingerstyle very well. Sustain was excellent, also.

We were very happy with the tuning stability. If you’ve read our How to Tune a 12-String Guitar guide, you’ll be familiar with the potential pitfalls of restringing these guitars, but we had no issues with these strings. No breakages and no excessive time required to settle and hold pitch.

For longevity, of course they weren’t able to match the Martins or the Elixirs we had on test, but nobody is expecting that from 80/20 Bronze. Regardless, the brightness remained intact for most of the test period, with a slight warming of the tones towards the end.

Verdict: The Ernie Ball Earthwoods are definitely some of our favorite strings for 12-string acoustic guitars. You can’t beat the shiny look of a fresh packet of 80/20 bronze strings and the shimmering brightness was absolutely wonderful. Consistency and quality was great. If you don’t want coated strings, you can’t do much better! 

Editor's Choice Acoustic
D'Addario XS Phosphor Bronze

D'Addario XS Phosphor Bronze

The ultimate coated strings for your 12 string acoustic.

These are high end coated strings for the discerning 12 string player.Every string in the packet is treated with D'Addario's exclusive polymer coating, and it makes a world of difference. The feel is exceptional, and they last longer than anything else on the market. Despite the coating, they're still wonderfully bright and responsive, and tuning stability is fantastic.

Trying to find the best of anything in the world of guitars can often be subjective, but it’s hard to deny that D’Addario’s XS Phosphor Bronze Strings stake a pretty good claim. So much so that we named them our Editor’s Choice among acoustic strings for 12-string guitars.

We found the main difference-maker was the coating on the wound strings and the unwound strings. It’s fairly uncommon even for 6-string sets to have the unwound strings coated, but even rarer with 12-string packages! They had an insanely smooth touch, which kept them comfortable for hours.

Tuning stability was rock solid here and D’Addario’s Fusion Twist technology definitely played a part in that. They use an improved method of securing the ball end to the string. This helps to reduce slippage over time, keeping the strings in tune better than standard connections. We didn’t suffer any breaks during the test, nor did we experience any loss of tone.

Given they’re made from a phosphor bronze alloy, they had a notably different tone than the other strings on test, which were both 80/20 bronze. The phosphor certainly gave them a warmer tone than we heard from the Elixirs and the Ernie Balls. Regardless, they remained clear and the sustain was huge when considering they’re coated.

Verdict: We loved pretty much everything about these D’Addario XS Phosphor Bronze strings, from the feel to the beautiful warm tones. They were exceptional for fingerstyle, but still sounded excellent strummed with a pick. On top of the beautiful tones, they blend incredible longevity with extreme comfort. In our opinion, they’re the best acoustic 12-string strings out there.

How to Choose The Right Strings For You

When it comes to purchasing strings for your 12-string guitar, the philosophy is pretty much the same as it is for any standard or extended-range guitar. The plus octave strings on a 12-string set are made from the same materials and to the same specifications as the standard 6 they’re paired with.

Keep reading to learn more about this:


Since 12-string guitars are available in both electric and acoustic, it stands to reason that there are strings designed for both styles. Acoustic strings are made with particular alloys because their sound profiles are appropriate to the instrument. However, acoustic strings lack the required magnetic properties to sound good on an electric guitar. Similarly, strings designed for electric guitars are made with magnetic field interaction in mind. While there’s nothing stopping you from putting them on an acoustic guitar, they’ll likely sound thin and twangy.

Electric Guitar Alloys

  • Nickel-plated Steel – the most common electric guitar string alloy, bright and clear
  • Pure Steel – excellent pickup response, bell-like clarity and great resonance
  • Pure Nickel – warm with great sustain

Acoustic Guitar Alloys

  • 80/20 Bronze – the most common acoustic guitar string alloy. Bright and resonant, but dull quickly.
  • Phosphor Bronze – warmer than 80/20 bronze, excellent clarity, and increased lifespan due to the phosphor content
  • Aluminum Bronze – some of the brightest acoustic strings, with excellent longevity, but can lack depth


A strings gauge is its width, or thickness. For 12-string guitars, string shoppers are actually still looking for the same numbers they would with a regular 6-string. The packaging will still provide the gauge range from the thinnest string of the first course to the thickest string of the sixth course. For example, you’d still see .010” – .046” written on the package, despite the fact that the thinnest string in the pack is the + Octave string on the G course at .008”.

On 12-string guitars, gauge plays a big role in overall comfort. There’s a lot of tension on the strings and while you aren’t likely to be playing full-step bends, the increased pressure to depress notes can result in finger fatigue if you choose an excessive gauge for your skill and experience level.

Final Thoughts

Resources for 12-strings are surprisingly limited, so we’re pleased to have been able to bring you our guide to the best strings for this instrument. To recap, if you’re looking for a blend of solid performance at a moderate price, the Ernie Ball Regular Slinkies for electric 12-strings or the Elixir Nanoweb are our recommendations.

If you’re shopping on a tight budget and you want good strings at the best possible price, take a look at the D’Addario EXL 150s for electric, or the Ernie Ball Earthwoods for acoustic.

Players looking for the best possible 12-string sets, regardless of cost, should invest in a set of Gibson Brite-Wires for electric 12-string guitar or the D’Addario XS Phosphor Bronze for acoustic.

  • Simon Morgan

    Simon is an Orlando based musician, but originally hails from Newcastle, England. He started playing bass and guitar in 1998, and played the local scene throughout his teen years before running away to work on ships. These days his passion is budget guitars, amps and pedals - though he's not afraid of the finer things.