Ernie Ball Vs Elixir: Which is the Better Guitar String? (2023 Edition)

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If you’re curious about Ernie Ball vs Elixir guitar stings and how they compare, you’ve come to the right post!

Ernie Ball Strings

Ernie Ball is one of the most important people in the world of guitar. He started his famous Slinky string brand way back in the 1960s. Even though he eventually started his guitar-making business with Music Man, Ernie Ball strings are still his most famous product.

At this point, the company makes acoustic, electric, bass, and classical nylon strings. There’s such a wide variety of choices, especially with electric guitar strings. Some of the biggest names have used them over the years. Here are some of the current string sets:

  • Slinky Classic
  • Slinky Nickel-Wound
  • Paradigm Slinky
  • Slinky Cobalt
  • Slinky RPS Nickel-Wound
  • Slash Signature Set

Slinky Classics are your standard nickel-wrapped rock-oriented strings. They’re the vintage go-to standard with a somewhat neutral tone. Slinky Nickel-Wound also, obviously, comes with a nickel wire. However, the steel core is tin-plated.

If you want something special, Slinky Cobalt and Paradigm Slinky are interesting. The Cobalt variant brings a slightly scooped tone. You can notice a boost in bottom-ends but it retains some brightness.

Paradigm Slinkys are pretty advanced and more expensive. Aside from the strengthened steel core, these come with a specially treated wire. They’re super durable and they sound fresh even after months of heavy use.

Although they’re not as famous, Ernie Ball’s acoustic strings are pretty interesting as well. There are two Paradigm options with the same principles as with the aforementioned electric guitar strings. Then there’s also the Aluminum Bronze set that brings stronger projection and brightness.

Of course, Ernie Ball’s regular Slinkys remain the most popular. Nickel-Wound and Slinky Classic are affordable and sound pretty great. You’ll see anyone from beginners to pros using these.

Elixir Strings

While Elixir isn’t that big of a brand, they have their following among guitar players. And, in all honesty, they’re one of the best on the market.

The brand does come with a bit of a limited choice. In particular, they solely focus on steel strings with protective coatings. However, they’re pretty good at it.

Although they offer both acoustic and electric guitar strings, the choice isn’t all that big. All of their strings come with special coatings including Nanoweb, Optiweb, and Polyweb. The main purpose of these coatings is the same. However, they affect the tone in slightly different ways.

Optiweb strings are more neutral. Meanwhile, Polyweb is slightly smoother and warmer. You’ll notice more bottom-ends and lower mids. Nanoweb, on the other hand, brings a brighter tone.

Acoustic sets come with Nanoweb and Polyweb coatings. You have 80/20 bronze and phosphor-bronze with Nanoweb. And Polyweb comes on a special 80/20 bronze set. Nonetheless, I noticed that acoustic Elixir strings always come with strong projection and more brightness compared to most other brands.

Electric guitar strings all have a nickel-plated steel wire but with the three different aforementioned coatings. The differences between these three sets are nuanced. Overall, they too bring more brightness. And I also noticed some serious sustain with them.

There are a few rules that apply to all Elixir strings. Firstly, they tend to be brighter on average, no matter the coating. Secondly, they’re fairly durable, lasting for several months with heavy use without breaking. And, finally, they keep the fresh tone as long as the coating is on them.

Ernie Ball Vs Elixir: How Do They Compare?

Ernie Ball Versus Elixir Strings (5 Month Experiment)
Check out this video comparison of Ernie Ball and Elixir string wear.

It’s pretty obvious that Ernie Ball has a much wider choice of strings. This is especially the case with electric guitar sets.

Ernie Ball’s Paradigm strings are pretty similar to all Elixir sets. It’s just that Elixir focuses solely on these types of sets. And, above all, Elixir is a company solely dedicated to strings.

Paradigms have special treatment while Elixir comes with a very thin foil-like coating. Overall, they both last pretty long.

But what’s interesting is that Ernie Balls Slinkys, in all forms, are the most popular. Firstly, they’re fairly cheap. And, secondly, they proved to be a pretty great deal for those who play their instruments for many hours every day.

Technically, they don’t last as long. However, if you were to use Ernie Ball Paradigm or any Elixir set that much, most would still want to replace them after a few months. The cost, in the end, turns out to be bigger in the longer run. This is why Slinky sets are so widespread.

If you tend to switch your guitars often and don’t play one every day, Elixir strings are a great choice. I can say the same thing if you don’t play that often and want strings that won’t go rusty on you. From my experience, Elixir strings can last a very long time this way. Even a couple of years or more in some cases.

Additionally, Elixir strings are popular due to their brightness. You can get a stronger attack even on a smoother-sounding guitar. For instance, an all-mahogany acoustic guitar can do wonders with Elixir strings. And an electric guitar with humbuckers gets a more snappy and jangly tone.

Getting the Right String Brand for Your Needs

With the guitar string market as saturated as it is, it’s easy to get confused by the abundance of string choices. If you feel like that, I’d recommend trying as many different brands as possible. Ideally, record yourself playing with each and compare them.

But if you don’t feel like doing all this, I’d advise going with Ernie Ball Slinkys. These are your average go-to strings.

If we’re talking about established brands, you’ll rarely stumble upon something bad. It just comes down to what you want and what you’re willing to pay. Both Ernie Ball and Elixir are pretty great.

However, my personal choice is Elixir. It’s been for several years now. I just enjoy adding some brightness to the tone, especially on my guitars with humbuckers. But that’s just me. It took me years of experimentation to find what suited my needs.  

Ernie Ball vs Elixir: Conclusion

I hope this article has helped you think through this string choice!

And if you have further questions about this or another guitar-related topic, feel free to leave a message in the comments below.

And if you want to read more about guitar strings on this blog, check out:

3 Responses

  1. Could you please give me a direct review to compare the specific heading of Ernie Ball superlight nickel wound 9 to 14 extra light string to the elixir brand nickel covered steel strings also in super light gauge 9 to 42 with a number on the Ernie Ball of 2223 on the package The elixir string comes with a not 19002 on the barcode

    1. Hi there,

      I’d go with the Elixirs. But that’s just my personal preference. Ideally, you’d get to play with both sets of strings at some point and then make your conclusion from there. You can always just pick one and the next time you need to restring, use the other set and see how they compare!

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