Our Favorite Long-Life Guitar Strings

If you’re finding yourself frustrated with frequent string changes, you need to look beyond the basics and check out the best long life electric guitar strings, and we think the first set you should try is the Elixir Nanoweb electric guitar strings. These strings are best known for their “barely there”, micro-thin (5-micron) coating which significantly extends lifespan by protecting against sweat and debris. The coating also contributes in a big way to their smooth feel, and high end playability and comfort. One feature you’re sure to quickly notice if you’re coming from uncoated strings is the reduced finger squeak, which is great for both live performances and recording, as you’ll have less in the way of background noise. Ultimately, the Nanoweb coating results in less frequent string replacements, saving you both time and money. Overall, the Elixir Nanoweb electric guitar strings offer a great blend of durability, playability, and consistent performance thanks to their proprietary coating and construction, and that’s why they earned our Top Pick award for the best long life electric guitar strings.

If you’re looking for serious longevity, and you don’t mind spending a bit more, The Ernie Ball Super Slinky Paradigm electric guitar strings are a great choice. Not only are they designed to resist rust and breakage, Ernie Ball actually guarantees against it, making them a great string set for aggressive players or those who might play outdoors or in humid conditions more frequently. Despite their durability, they retain the classic Slinky tone and feel, avoiding the numb tone and dead feel often found in coated strings. They offer a balanced, dynamic, and smooth sound, much like the naked Slinkys. These strings are some of the strongest on the market, and can put up with serious tremolo abuse, making them ideal for players of heavier genres and styles. Thanks to their extreme strength and durability, we named the Ernie Ball Super Slinky Paradigm strings as our best long life electric guitar strings Editor’s Choice winner.

Players who want a long life, but who might not want to spend the kind of money that coated strings command should look towards the Ernie Ball Super Slinky Stainless Steel electric guitar strings. These strings offer a brighter tone than nickel plated options, and an inherently extended lifespan, thanks to the corrosion resistant stainless steel wire wrapped around a tin-plated hex-shaped steel core. Because of their natural resistance to rust, they achieve similar life spans to coated strings, while still retaining a traditional feel. Like all Ernie Ball strings, they come with precision brass wire ball ends, helping to reduce slip, and providing improved tuning stability over the life of the strings. They are suitable for pretty much every playing style and genre, and thanks to their low cost (and long life), they took our best long life electric guitar strings Best Budget award.

Read more about our review process.

Editor's Choice
Ernie Ball 2023 Super Slinky Paradigm

Ernie Ball 2023 Super Slinky Paradigm

Features: No-break/No-rust Guarantee, Everlast nano coating, Round wound

Benefits: Exceptional feel, Well balanced tones, Borderline indestructable

Best Value
Elixir Strings 12002 Nanoweb

Elixir Strings 12002 Nanoweb

Features: Nanoweb coating, Nickel plated steel wrap, Steel core

Benefits: Smooth feel, Great sustain, Ultra long lifespan

Best Budget
Ernie Ball 2248 Super Slinky Stainless Steel

Ernie Ball 2248 Super Slinky Stainless Steel

Features: Uncoated stainless steel wrap, High carbon hex core, Color coded ball ends

Benefits: Bright tone, Naturally corrosion resistant, Great price point

Individual Reviews

Top Pick
Elixir Nanoweb Nickel Plated Steel

Elixir Nanoweb Nickel Plated Steel

The last word in coated long life strings.

Elixir is the go to brand when it comes to coated strings. They were some of the earliest adopters of polymer coatings for guitar strings, and these nanowebs are the rsult of many years of experience. They offer exceptional feel, and brightness comparable with uncoated strings, and the coating provides a huge lifespan.

Elixir is probably the biggest name in coated guitar strings. They offer several options with various alloys, different coatings, and, of course, a variety of gauges. In my mind, however, the flagship Elixir Nanoweb strings are their most outstanding product.

The coating on these strings is about as thin as it gets, which is great for anyone unsure about coated strings or who may have had bad experiences with them in the past. The coating definitely has a “barely there” feel but still has the playability benefits of coated strings, including a slick feel and noticeably less finger squeak.

As far as reliability goes, these strings were very impressive. After four weeks of heavy use, there were no breaks, and as they mellowed, they sounded perhaps even better than the day they were installed. The coating did its job, as no signs of corrosion or pitting were found by the end of the test.

Many players are often wary of coated strings because of their usual lack of sustain, but we were definitely impressed with these Elixirs. Not only was the sustain great, which could be down to the super thin coating, but the tone was bright with plenty of midrange focus. Under the coating, these strings are round wound with a nickel-plated steel wrap wire, which resulted in a nicely balanced sound profile.

Verdict: Coated strings are definitely an acquired taste, but if you’re looking to start using them, Elixir Nanoweb Strings are a great starting point. Yes, they are about double the cost of uncoated equivalents, but you get a set that lasts at least twice as long and sounds great right until the day you change them out.

Best Budget
Ernie Ball Super Slinky Stainless Steel

Ernie Ball Super Slinky Stainless Steel

Naturally corrosion resistant strings at an unbeatable price.

If you aren't a fan of coated strings, but you're seeking longer lifespans, take a look at these stainless steel Ernie Balls. As stinless steel is inherently corrosion resistant, these strings don't oxidize in the same way as their nickel plated counterparts, keeping them sounding much fresher for way longer.

As we’ve made clear in quite a few reviews, coated strings aren’t for everybody! Having said that, you don’t need to go coated to get a good set of long-life strings. For example, you could opt for a set of Ernie Ball Super Slinky Stainless Steels.

By its very nature, stainless steel is corrosion-resistant. So when it’s used for guitar strings like these, in theory, they should resist the development of oxidation and pitting, both of which contribute to reduced life. This was definitely the case with this string set.

Over the four-week test, they didn’t falter – no breaks and no loss of intonation or tuning stability, even with heavy play under tough conditions. They still felt strong, and there were no issues when pushing hard and even playing huge bends.

The biggest downside of these strings compared to the coated options on test was just how dirty they got. Truthfully, though, it was all surface dirt, and it had no overall impact on string strength and reliability.

Out of the packet, these were the brightest strings on trial by a huge margin. The solid stainless wrap really made them shine across the mids and highs, and they cut through the mix beautifully.

Feel-wise, they were pretty typical for an Ernie Ball set – you can tell that they’re well-made from quality materials. They were especially comfortable during long sessions, which is high praise, seeing as they were reviewed alongside some of the best coated strings on the market.

Verdict: The Ernie Ball Super Slinky Stainless Steel Strings are great if you’re looking to avoid coated string prices but still want better than average resistance to tone loss and corrosion, as well as the feel and feedback that comes with uncoated strings.

Editor's Choice
Ernie Ball Super Slinky Paradigm

Ernie Ball Super Slinky Paradigm

Impossibly strong strings for the most demanding players.

Players who are hard on their strings should take a look at these coated strings from Ernie Ball. They are so confident in their strength and longevity that they even offer a warranty against corrosion. They sound great, they feel good, and more and more pro musicians are stringing up with them.

Ernie Super Slinky Paradigm Strings is one of the newest products from this fabled brand. As with pretty much every other Ernie Ball string on the market, they’re made to the highest standard and trusted by some of the biggest names in music.

Even after four weeks of incessant hard playing, full step bends on all strings, and even a fair bit of time outdoors in the heat and humidity, these strings held up with no breaks and no obvious corrosion.

These strings are made from nickel-plated steel and are nano-treated with Ernie Ball’s proprietary polymer coating. They were super comfortable and the super slick surface made them lightning fast.

Tonally, these strings are very mid-focused. They’re tight, with a touch of shimmery overtone, which really stands out when playing clean. Tone was consistent from day one right through to the end of the test, which is a huge plus – it’s great to have strings that don’t break, but if they don’t sound good after a couple of weeks, is the longevity truly worth it?

Verdict: The Super Slinky Paradigm Strings are simply next level, and we found them to be worth every penny. They felt as great as they sounded and played hard right through the 4-week test. They’re the most expensive strings on test by quite some margin, but they will outlast pretty much everything else out there.

How to Choose the Right Strings For You

If you’re new to guitars, you might be wondering what exactly makes a string a long-life string. Most long-life strings are coated, while others are made from corrosion-resistant alloys. Keep reading to learn more:

Coated Strings

Coated strings began emerging in the 1990s and were developed after years of feedback from guitarists who became tired of having to change their guitar strings frequently. Especially those who perform live.

String manufacturers dipped their existing strings in Teflon, a polymer well known for its lubricant properties (you may know this material from its use in non-stick pans!). By doing so, they created a smooth outer surface on the string that significantly reduced the buildup of dirt, oils, and skin cells that typically accumulate in the gaps on the wound strings. It also created a barrier that prevented the strings from oxidizing, which in turn slows corrosion.

Early coated strings had a relatively thick layer of polymer, but as manufacturers have improved the technology with proprietary blends, they’ve managed to get the coating thickness down to nanometers. Having the thinnest possible polymer coating gives players a best-of-both-worlds situation, getting the long life of a coated string and the feel and tone of an uncoated string.

Corrosion Resistant Alloys

The alternative to coated strings for players who want maximum tone and feel is an uncoated string made of alloys naturally corrosion-resistant. Stainless steel is a great example. These alloys don’t oxidize the same way as metals like mild steel, and oxidization is the root cause of rust.

When strings rust, they lose tone completely, feel terrible, and will break very easily. To combat this, alloys like stainless steel and even titanium have become commonplace to make long-life strings without a polymer coating. They have exceptionally bright tones, unparalleled tensile strength, and a familiar feel, although since they are very hard metals, they can accelerate fret wear. In my opinion, it’s the biggest drawback of these strings.

Final Thoughts on the Best Long-Life Strings

Long-life strings are great for players who hate changing strings regularly (and are typically the go-to string style for 7-string players). While the initial purchase cost of long-life strings is typically higher, the extended life usually makes them a better value proposition.

So, to recap, Elixir Nanoweb strings are fantastic all round strings. I’m not typically a coated-string player, but I’d absolutely consider a switch over to Elixirs. If you aren’t a fan of coated strings, whether due to feel or just looking for something less expensive, Ernie Ball Super Slinky Stainless Steels are a great choice. Finally, if money is no object and you’re looking to get something nigh indestructible, take a look at the Ernie Ball Super Slinky Paradigms.

  • 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.