The Stratocaster is one of the world’s most popular guitars. Not only is the design iconic, but the sheer versatility of this instrument means that it has universal appeal across pretty much every genre of music. Part of what makes the Strat such a dynamic instrument is its ability to handle a wide range of string types, from extra light to ultra-heavy, and still sound great.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Guide we’ve put 5 of the best string sets on the market for Stratocasters to the test. Each set was loaded onto an American Performer Stratocaster and played clean through a Bugera V22 Infinium tube amp in order to listen to the unadulterated qualities of each set.
This test was designed to look for:
- Tuning stability – How quickly did they settle, and how well did they hold tune?
- Playability – How was the feel and were they comfortable during extended play?
- Overall tone – Did the strings properly compliment the Stratocaster’s tones?
- Our Top Three Picks
- Fender Hendrix Voodoo Child Bullet End – Our Top Pick
- Ernie Ball Super Slinky – Best Budget Option
- D’Addario NXYL Nickel Wound Electric – KGR Editor’s Choice
- Fender Yngwie Malmsteen Signature
- GHS GB-DGF Guitar Boomers David Gilmour Signature
- Best Guitar Strings for Stratocaster; Buyer’s Guide
- Final thoughts on the Best Guitar Strings for Stratocasters
Our Top Three Picks
Our top pick in this test was the Fender Hendrix Voodoo Child, with bullet ends. These strings are a heavy high/light low arrangement, which results in some outstanding tones when paired with a Stratocaster.
Our best budget option was the Ernie Ball Super Slinkies. Ernie Ball Super Slinkies are one of the most popular string sets on the planet for a lot of reasons. They are inexpensive, consistently reliable, and feel great.
For those of you looking for the best of the best, you’ll be interested to read about our Editor’s Choice – the D’Addario NYXL1046BT. This is a balanced tension set that feels incredible on a Strat.
Fender Hendrix Voodoo Child Bullet End – Our Top Pick
A unique combo of high heavy and light low provides incredible feel
Like many of the other big brands in the guitar world, Fender has been producing their own strings for a long time, and have always made high quality, innovative products, and these Hendrix Voodoo Child Bullet End strings are definitely no exception.
It’s worth noting that these aren’t the actual strings that Jimi Hendrix played, however, they are made to the same gauge as his preferred setup – .010 – .038. The low end is incredibly light, which we found made these strings incredibly easy to play.
Contrary to popular belief, this seemingly backwards gauge layout wasn’t intended to make strings easier to bend, but rather so that Jimi could actually fit strings in the nut of his upside down right handed guitar. But like everything else about his setup, it worked out perfectly to create a signature sound. Of course, it just so happens that the light low end does make bends much easier, which really let us get expressive across the entire fretboard.
They are made from a fairly standard nickel plated steel, which resulted in a nicely balanced tone that works well with a Stratocaster SSS setup. They really shine in the upper mids, especially in the neck/middle pickup position.
Tuning stability is a real strong point for these strings. The bullet ends are a Fender invention that assists in maintaining tension consistently. Traditional ball ends can twist and snag, especially when using the tremolo arm, whereas bullet ends like these sit securely in the trem block at any angle, ensuring that the strings always return to the correct pitch. The results lived up to the hype from Fender – they settled immediately and held tune perfectly throughout the test.
Verdict: Considering how reasonably priced Fender’s Hendrix Voodoo Child strings are, the performance is excellent. The unusual gauge might put some off, but they’re definitely worth trying. They sound excellent, they’re some of the most comfortable strings on the market.
One of the World’s most popular strings for one of the World’s most popular guitars
Ernie Ball Super Slinkies are the string of choice for countless pros and amateurs alike. They’re inexpensive, they feel great, and inconsistencies between packets are almost unheard of. They are a .009-.042 gauge, which is what Ernie Ball refers to as a custom light.
The light gauge makes these strings almost effortless to play. Bends are easy, tension is low, so even beginners with no calluses will find them comfortable. We didn’t suffer any breaks throughout the test, which is testament to the excellent build quality.
The nickel plated steel wrap is bright and clear, and really compliments the shimmery tones that Strats are famous for. Mids are punchy, and note separation is fantastic in all pickup positions. Performance was strong throughout the test, and there was very little loss of tone by the end.
They took very little time to settle after the initial tuning, and once stretched out, stability was solid – even after some spirited use of the tremolo arm.
Verdict: Ernie Ball Super Slinkies are truly a do it all kind of string. They work for metal, blues, rock, country, you name it. This is why they work so well on Strats, which are widely considered as one of the most versatile guitars in history. It’s impossible to argue with the value that these string bring, simple technology, made well at a fair price.
D’Addario NXYL Nickel Wound Electric – KGR Editor’s Choice
The ultimate Stratocaster strings for just about any style
D’Addario NYXL strings are widely regarded as some of the best premium strings, but when you pair these balanced tension NYXLs with a Strat, something magical happens!
The dynamism of these strings was striking. If you want to play soft and mellow, they’ll react accordingly. If you kick things up a gear and hit them with a sharp attack, they react perfectly with a huge punch in the middle, while still giving you sweet overtones at the high end to cut through a mix.
The set we tested was in a .010-.046 gauge, which works well on the Stratocaster we used in testing. This is a medium gauge and it allowed us to play huge bends comfortably, while still keeping enough low end presence to avoid sounding thin.
If you’re easily geeked out by guitar tech, you’ll definitely be a fan of these strings. They’re made with a high carbon steel core, which allows the strings to retain strength and elasticity over time. This means fewer breaks and better tuning stability. On the topic of tuning stability, we found that they were quick to settle, and didn’t faulter at all during the test.
Tonally, we found that the nickel plated steel wrap gave us just the right amount of brightness, and the extra magnetism created by the high carbon steel core works well with the single coil pickups, making them sound a little hotter than something like a tin plated mild steel core would.
We loved the feel of these strings. The round wound wrapped strings weren’t rough, and playability was spot on. The balanced tension technology makes the feel consistent across all six strings, too, which really encourages fretboard exploration.
Verdict: If you’re looking for the best possible strings for your Stratocaster and the cost isn’t a concern, we implore you to go with the D’Addario NXYL BT. They feel amazing, they outlast most other nickel plated steel strings, they’re strong, they hold their tone extremely well, and tuning stability is as good as it gets.
Yngwie Malmsteen is one of Fender’s most iconic signature artists. Countless players look to emulate his lightning fast style, yes, having access to his signature model guitar, complete with scalloped fretboard will help, but if you’re playing any other type of Stratocaster, stringing up with his signature strings is a great start.
Like our top pick, the Hendrix Voodoo Child strings, these Malmsteen signatures are available with a bullet end, which for a Stratocaster are absolutely perfect. They hold tune brilliantly, which is really essential if you’re planning to use a lot of tremolo.
For playability, these strings are definitely better suited to guitarists with a lighter touch. The gauge is very light at the high end (.008), which can lead to easy breaks if you play too aggressively. Where these strings really shine is arpeggiated picking and sweep picks. The feel was great, and surprisingly slick for an uncoated string.
Solos and lead work are effortless, but open chords did tend to sound a little thin. Being a Malmsteen signature, the typical purchaser of these strings is likely to play lead, but it does tend to limit their versatility.
They’re made from nickel plated steel, which as most players know, is par for the course with electric strings. When the strings were fresh, they were extremely bright, and note separation was incredible, but by the end of the test tone loss was noticed, and the strings started sounding a little muddy.
Verdict: These are niche strings, but if you use your Stratocaster for shredding, and you’re ok with frequent string replacement, these Yngwie Malmsteen Signature strings are a solid choice. They’re fast, hold tune well, and can easily step and a half bends without choking.
Exceptional reliability and a great compliment to natural Strat tones
David Gilmour of Pink Floyd is one of the most legendary Strat players around, but always remember, the sound doesn’t all come from the guitar, much of it is the strings. Gilmour’s GHS Boomer signature strings are a great way to replicate his instantly recognizable tones.
This is a medium gauge set, coming in at .010-.048. They offer a great combination of depth and feel, which explains their ability to provide a warm, mellow tone when played clean, while still being able to break up into an ear pleasing crunch when necessary.
Overall quality is what makes these strings stand out. GHS takes such care with packaging that every string is nitrogen sealed in an individual packet to prevent premature aging. We love this because it means you’re able to buy in bulk, keep as many sets as you need in your gig bag, and you can almost guarantee they’ll be factory fresh when you come to use them months, or even years later. Our experience with the strings was just as advertised, perfectly bright out of the packaging.
Tuning stability was good, although the initial break in and settling did take a couple of hours of play. We also found them to be comfortable even during extended play, which definitely helps if prog rock is your favorite style!
Tonally, while they were able to bring the warmth and crunch we wanted, they lacked some sparkle in the mids. We did notice this when we reviewed the standard non-signature Guitar Boomers in our Best Blues Strings review, so it may well be down to the nickel alloy they use for plating the wound strings.
Verdict: Given that these are a Dave Gilmour signature model string, they are absolutely designed with Stratocasters in mind. Single coil pickups like those on our test Strat aren’t always the warmest, so having strings like these GHS Guitar Boomers can really help to mellow your sound. Dynamically, these strings aren’t as strong as something like the Ernie Ball Super Slinky, but if you’re only looking for bluesy warmth, you might want to give them a try.
Best Guitar Strings for Stratocaster; Buyer’s Guide
Stratocasters come in many forms, so there’s no real one size fits all approach, but depending on how you use your Strat, and which style you have, you should be able to make an informed decision as to which of these top 5 strings for Stratocasters will work best for you.
Imported Strats, such as Squiers or other “S Style” guitars from Asian plants, aren’t always built to full Fender specifications, and this includes the body width. Less wood means lower cost to make, and often more comfort for newer players. But having reduced body width also impacts your tone.
When the body is thinner, the resonance is reduced. If you have one of these lightweight Strats or Strat copies, you might want to consider a set of strings with a heavier gauge to help compensate for the loss of sustain.
Stratocasters can really do it all. You’ll find these guitars on stages and in garages around the world, providing the rhythm, or shredding solos.
If you play lead, you should look at strings with a lighter gauge. This will make solo work more comfortable and will allow for more expressive bends and vibratos. You can always up to a heavier gauge as you progress in your playing, but light gauges, like the Yngwie Malmsteen signatures, or the Ernie Ball Super Slinkies will work well.
Rhythm players might want to look more at a medium or medium to heavy gauge like our Editor’s Choice, the D’Addario NYXLs. They will stand up well to heavy strumming, and provide enough presence in the mid range to keep your band sounding full.
The genre of music you play is another factor to consider when choosing the best strings for your Stratocaster.
If you play heavier styles, heavy gauge strings will allow you to drop tune and retain tension.
If blues is your preferred style, something light will have lower tension, allowing you to play expressively without hurting your fingers and snapping strings.
Finally, if you don’t want to box yourself into a single genre, a medium set will provide you with all the versatility you need to play anything you want to and still sound good.
Final thoughts on the Best Guitar Strings for Stratocasters
We really enjoyed putting this test together for our readers – many of you play Strats and Stratocaster style guitars, and we’re often asked what are the best strings, and we’ve finally been able to answer that for you.
To recap – if you want a great all around string for your Strat that will allow for some crazy low end solos while still providing huge all around presence, the Fender Hendrix Voodoo Child strings are solid bet.
If you’re looking to keep costs down, but you want something that sounds great and is good enough for some of the world’s greatest guitarists, you won’t be disappointed by the Ernie Ball Super Slinkies.
Finally, if you want to string up your Strat with the very best that money can buy, our recommendation is the D’Addario NXYL balanced tension. They sound amazing across the genres, they’re comfortable to play, and they’ll last way longer than you’d ever expect an uncoated string would.