Replacing guitar strings is something that every guitarist has to live with. But if you have to replace your strings every few weeks, the costs can quickly add up.
That’s where coated strings come into the picture. They offer much more longevity than regular uncoated strings, and generally come with a higher price tag.
Top 3 - Coated Electric Guitar Strings
In this guide on coated guitar strings, I’ll list and discuss some of my favorite options among the best coated electric guitar strings.
Not everyone prefers them, but if you can live with slight tonal differences, any of these sets can definitely last much longer than your usual strings and reduce the frequency at which you need to restring your electric guitar.
3 Best Coated Electric Guitar Strings
Elixir strings are my favorite when it comes to electric guitars. They’re often my immediate recommendation whenever anyone asks me what strings they should buy. I’ll quickly explain why I like them so much.
Elixirs are very smooth sounding and soft to the touch. For me, they have a nice bright sound without being sparkly or jangly. I do feel like the strings are a bit tinny when they’re still fresh, but once they’re broken in, they sound fantastic.
Even though the strings are coated, I find that they still feel natural and they don’t have that slight plastic feeling that other coated strings sometimes have. They also don’t cut into my fingers as much, even on heavier gauges.
They’re also incredibly durable since I’ve never had an Elixir snap on me. I recently restrung a guitar that had Elixirs on it that were probably about three years old.
I played on the guitar for about 20 minutes before restringing it, and not a single string even showed signs of wanting to snap. Of course, I can’t say much for the grime and dull sound, but it’s still impressive.
This brings me to how long these strings last. From my experience, I usually have to change Elixirs every two or three months, depending on how much they’ve been played. This is also usually because they’re not as bright as I want them to be, and not because of any wear or corrosion.
They aren’t perfect, however, and I do have a few gripes with these strings. The biggest issue I have is with the high E string.
I feel like the high E is a bit slippery at the saddle and it can easily pop out. This is especially a problem on a Floyd Rose-style bridge that requires the ball-end to be cut. It usually takes me two or three tries to get the string to stay in place.
2. D’Addario XT
I’m a bit more familiar with D’Addario’s regular, uncoated strings. Naturally, I was quite curious to see how their coated strings perform. I can happily report that I wasn’t disappointed.
The coating does affect more than just the lifespan of the strings, however. The first thing I noticed was just how different the tone was. To me, they sound less bright, especially when I pair them with single coils.
The strings seemed to lose quite a bit of twang on single coils, but I found that the opposite was true on humbuckers. On humbuckers, the strings had a much meatier and fatter sound.
I think this is because the strings emphasize lower harmonics a bit more, which sound much better through a high-output humbucker than a single coil. Rolling back the volume, I noticed the strings would become very dull, which I think, is due to them not being very bright to begin with.
The strings felt a bit different than what I was expecting. D’Addario claims that they offer a ‘natural feel’, but they felt a bit smoother than what I would call ‘natural’.
They don’t feel bad though, and it’s a very soft, almost pleasant smoothness. I didn’t experience that plastic feel some other coated strings have, and it didn’t take long to forget that they even were coated.
What impressed me the most about these strings was how well they stayed in tune, almost like they refused to lose their intonation. No matter how hard I picked, how far I pushed my bends, these strings just wouldn’t budge.
As for their lifespan, after about a month I didn’t notice the strings lose any of their tone or their ability to stay in tune, or any noticeable wear and tear.
Everyone I know who plays these strings also swears by their longevity, with a few even saying they only replace their strings every three months or so.
The regular Ernie Ball Slinkys are also one of my favorites. They feel nice, sound great, and they’re probably also the easiest to replace and break in.
So logically, the Paradigms should offer the same, and then some, considering how much more expensive they are. In my experience, that’s exactly the case.
The best way I can describe Paradigms, and it seems to be the case for most people, is that in many ways, they’re more Slinky than your regular Slinkys.
Tonally, I feel like Paradigms might be the most well-rounded strings out there. They have a lot of brightness while still having a nice bottom end and emphasizing the mids.
They also work well with both single coils and humbuckers, in my experience. On a single coil, you’ll get all the twang you need from them while being able to growl with the best of them on a set of humbuckers.
Even when I switch from playing jazz to funk, and then crank up the gain to play some metal, I never feel like the strings are lacking for any style.
These strings are also a joy to play since they’re so smooth, and even though they stay in tune incredibly well, they aren’t stiff. I can easily switch between techniques and my bends are super fluid.
I do think they might be a bit too smooth, though, since I do have the occasional finger slip. I’ve only noticed this happen during a particularly extended bend or heavy vibrato, but as long as you dig into the string a bit more, slipping can be avoided.
I would also put the Paradigms up there in terms of tuning retention and durability. I can easily pick up my guitar after two days of not playing it, and the strings will still be perfectly in tune.
They’re also, along with Elixirs, the only strings I feel comfortable keeping on my guitar for three months before needing to replace them.
Why Go with Coated Strings?
The main reason behind choosing coated strings is longevity - they just last much longer compared to uncoated strings. They’re generally recommended for those of us with sweatier hands, but I think that anyone will benefit from coated strings.
As far as tone is concerned, I don’t think the difference is big enough to become a deal-breaker for most people.
The only real problem with coated strings is that they can sometimes feel less natural and even a bit slippery. I’ve found that going with strings that have a little less coating can resolve this issue.
If you find yourself replacing strings more often than you feel you should, or your strings just aren’t lasting as long as you want them to, consider setting your guitar up with some coated guitar strings.
I hope this guide helps you find the best coated guitar strings that will help to keep you rocking for as long as possible.