Phosphor Bronze vs 80/20 Bronze Guitar Strings

What’s the difference between 80/20 Bronze and Phosphor Bronze Guitar Strings?

This is a short article just to highlight the difference between two types of Bronze guitar string that you will encounter in our store.

All metal guitar strings are made using a single core (usually steel) with or without an outer winding or wrap. The biggest factors in the sound of any acoustic guitar string is the metals used to make the outer wrap wire.  Tone will vary between guitars due to the tone woods used to make the instrument as well as the strings used. Here we are comparing 2 types of acoustic guitar string.

The two main categories are 80/20 Bronze and Phosphor Bronze.

80/20 Bronze sets

The wrappings on 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings are made of 80% Copper and 20% Zinc mix which produces a bright tone from day 1. After some playing (the actual time will vary) these mellow to a warmer tone before dulling. When dulled, you should replace them to get the nice bright tone back.

Phosphor Bronze sets

These sets have a wrapping made of 92% Copper and 8% Zinc (plus a small proportion of Phosphorous) and that difference in the alloy makes them sound bright and warmer at the same time. These strings will also become warmer over time but should last a little longer because the higher Copper content means they are slightly more corrosion resistant. Again, change them once they dull.

Coated Strings

We sell 80/20 and Phosphor Bronze sets which are coated to make the strings last longer.
The reason strings corrode is a combination of skin secretions and oxygen in the atmosphere. Unfortunately there’s very little you can do about either of those factors in the long run!

String manufacturers have counteracted the effects of corrosion on string metals by coating them with a microscopic layer of polymer (e.g. PTFE or Teflon) which protects the surface of the string from corrosion. These guitar string sets cost around twice the price as uncoated sets, but last between 3 and 5 times as long before they need replacing. This increased life makes them an essential purchase for anyone who changes their acoustic guitar strings regularly.

Coating strings has no noticeable effect on either the feel, playability or tone of the strings, they just last longer.

Cleaning strings

We sell several string cleaning agents which if used regularly will extend the life of your strings. These act by removing the serbaceous secretions from the surface of your strings. One product is highly recommended as it cleans strings and leaves behind a protective film afterwards adding protection to the string next time you play it. This double effect is the best protection to extend the life of either coated or uncoated strings.

How long should strings last?

There is no one answer to this question. Most string sets will last 4-6 weeks but that’s no guarantee as the players style, personal biochemistry and the environment the guitar and strings are exposed to, all act to vary that time radically.

As a home player starting out it will be several weeks, a gigging musician playing every night for 2 hours would expect a shorter lifetime.

In most cases, change your strings when they start to sound dull and lifeless which will be every 1 or 2 months on age. We see many people who eventually break a single string (often the top E) and replace just one string. The new string will sound a lot brighter than the remaining 5 old strings. It is always best to change strings as a complete set unless they are very new for the best results.

What gauge strings should I use?

This will depend on your style of playing. If you play mainly chords and want a good overall tone from your guitar, try a light set (12 top E). For people who detune their guitars and use down tuning (e.g. GADAD) you would choose a slightly heavier set (13 top E). For players who play fast riffs & string bend, a lighter set will be suitable (e.g. 10 or 11 top E).

For any advice regarding guitar strings or any other aspect of music, please feel free to talk to one of our sales staff or teachers.

We do offer a re-string service from just £15 including non-coated strings. You can see our repair prices here.

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