Best Pure Nickel Guitar Strings for Blues, Classic Rock & More!

Author: Dedrich Schafer | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

There have been times while playing guitar where I wished I could add a little bit of warmth and dial back the twang of my sound.

No matter what I tried, I just couldn’t get my guitar to sound the way I wanted it to. Then one day someone recommended that I try out pure nickel strings.

I was introduced to a whole new world of possibilities on that day, and I would love to do the same for others. So, here are a few of my picks for the best pure nickel guitar strings.

Best Pure Nickel Electric Guitar Strings

I have to admit that DR Strings aren’t my first choice when it comes to strings in general. After spending some time with the Pure Blues, however, I think that I will certainly be considering them and at least recommending them from now on.

After putting the Pure Blues on, the first thing I noticed was how soft and smooth these strings feel. Nickel strings are known for being soft. But to me, these feel softer than usual.

I also like that they aren’t very tense strings. There is this nice balance between tense and loose. This balance makes the Pure Blues quite quick and easy to play, but I never had them slip and the bends felt very good.

Feeling good to play is one thing but the strings also need to sound good. Thankfully, the Pure Blues deliver in tone just as much as feel.

They have a very warm and smooth tone. They actually remind me a bit of the blues sound of the 1930s. These strings have a very vintage sound for sure.

Pure nickel strings can sometimes venture into muddy territory, but I didn’t really get that muddiness with the Pure Blues. They have enough crispness to still sound nice and clean. The sound is still fairly mellow and I had to push the volume and gain to get some bite from the strings.

I would suggest putting these strings on your guitar a few days before any gigs or recording sessions. They take a few days to really settle and be at the right stretch and strength.

I am also not a big fan of how DR Strings puts two strings per envelope. I understand this is to cut costs and likely wastage, but it is a bit annoying to have to untangle strings and then figure out which is which.

PROS

  • Nice balance between tense and loose
  • Very little noise when moving your hand across the strings
  • Warm and smooth tone that is still crisp and clear

CONS

  • Two strings packed per envelope
  • Takes a few days to settle on the fretboard

D’Addario strings have a great track record with me and countless other guitarists. That meant that the bar was set pretty high for the XL Pure Nickel strings, and I think they lived up to that standard.

As is expected from pure nickel strings, the D’Addario XLs are soft to the touch. There was nothing out of the ordinary for me about the feel of these strings. What I did find extraordinary was their strength.

I was able to do some fairly crazy bends without feeling like the strings were going to snap. At one point, I was doing full two and a half tone bends before feeling like I had to back off again.

The XL Pure Nickels were able to handle a lot more punishment than I expected. I was really digging into them and they simply brushed it off. This does come at the cost of the strings being a bit more on the tense side. You can play more aggressively, but you do have to work a bit harder for it overall.

The situation on the tone side of things is much the same. The XLs have the warmth and smoothness that I expect from pure nickel strings. What stood out for me though, was the amount of sustain these strings have. I felt like I could hold notes for days before they would start to fade out.

They are also a bit brighter than a lot of other pure nickel strings I have played. I was able to get quite a nice attack and they seem to handle higher levels of gain quite well.

I did notice some small spots of corrosion after about a week of playing them. These were pretty small and not very noticeable and I didn’t notice any dip in tone quality.

My experience with other D’Addario strings makes me think that it might just be a fluke and these strings will likely last a few weeks before they have to be replaced.

PROS

  • Very durable strings that can handle more aggressive playing
  • Warm and smooth tone with a brighter top end
  • Excellent sustain to let notes ring out for longer

CONS

  • Slightly higher tension requiring a bit more effort to play
  • Lifespan might not be as long as other pure nickel strings

Ernie Ball strings have been my go-to strings for many years now, but I had never heard of the Classic Rock N Roll Slinkys until now. This made me very intrigued and excited to test them out.

They feel a lot like other Ernie Ball strings to me. They are of course softer to the touch since they are pure nickel strings. Besides the slight difference in touch, I think they are pretty much the same as something like Regular Slinkys.

The Rock N Rolls are incredibly durable and have a very nice balance between tension and looseness. They do feel a bit less tense than other Ernie Ball strings and I didn’t have to work as much to bend them. Also, they felt a bit faster overall.

These strings also stay in tune incredibly well. I think I only retuned the strings once or twice, and even then I only had to make very small adjustments.

Classic Rock N Roll is a very fitting name and describes the sound of these strings perfectly. Unlike other pure nickel strings that have a more vintage 50s and 60s sound, the Classic Rock N Rolls are firmly 70s and 80s.

I knew when I first saw the name, I just had to play some Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and AC/DC to test these strings. They are excellently balanced strings, with a nice open and bright top end, a full and warm bottom, and a beefy mid.

The thing that always amazes me about Ernie Ball strings and what keeps me coming back to them is just how long they last. I haven’t had the Rock N Rolls for long enough to be sure but after about a week they still feel and sound as fresh as the day I first put them on.

I can’t find any faults with the Classic Rock N Rolls, and I am almost tempted to call them flawless. If I had to pick a flaw though, it would be that they do have a slight tinniness at first. But after being broken in, they sound amazing.

PROS

  • Perfect balance between tension and slack
  • Incredibly durable and handles aggressive playing well
  • Very well-rounded tone with a beefy midrange
  • Captures the 70s and 80s rock sound perfectly

CONS

  • Slight tinniness to sound until broken in

Why Choose Pure Nickel Strings Over Steel or Nickel-plated

For me, the main reason to go with pure nickel strings over steel strings is to warm up my tone and make it a bit more mellow.

Pure nickel is naturally warm and smoother than steel and even nickel-plated strings. They have a lot less brightness at the top end that also mellows out the tone more.

There are several reasons why you would want to have a warmer sound. The first being that you get a more vintage sound for playing blues. Pure nickel strings help tame the inherent twang on guitars like Strats and Teles.

This brings me to the second reason. If your guitar or amp is very bright, you can use pure nickel strings to tame the brightness by adding some more warmth.

Are Pure Nickel Strings Durable?

Nickel is very soft compared to an alloy like steel. This does mean that it’s more brittle and thus, less durable.

If you don’t play very aggressively, pure nickel strings can last almost as long as steel strings. There are strings with nickel wrapped around a steel core. This does add some brightness to the tone but makes the strings much more durable than a pure nickel wrap and core.

This probably won’t make them last as long as steel strings if you play aggressively, but will still mean that you need to replace your strings less often.

Conclusion

Pure nickel strings are an excellent way to add some warmth to your sound if you want a more vintage or classic rock sound. They are perfect for blues and jazz players who want a mellow sound.

There are many pure nickel strings out there and these were just a few of my picks for the best pure nickel strings.

About Dedrich Schafer

Dedrich is a guitar player, songwriter and sound engineer with extensive music production and studio experience. He mostly listens to classic rock and punk bands, but sometimes also likes listening to rap and acoustic songs.

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