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You don’t always think about them, but you do need them.
Whether you’re on the road or at the studio, or even in the practice room, it’s a good idea to keep a spare pack of acoustic guitar strings on hand.
When you break a string, you need to replace it. When your strings sound dead, you need to replace them.
The interesting part is that there are a lot of products to choose from. You might think they’re all the same, but that’s not so much the case anymore.
So, let’s look at the best acoustic guitar strings for various playing styles and even sore fingers.
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Best Acoustic Guitar Strings For General Use
We will be looking at a variety of string types in different categories.
The few that follow are good for general use. That means standard tuning and most musical styles.
Let's get into it.
D’Addario XT Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
The D’Addario XT phosphor bronze acoustic guitar strings come with an extended lifespan treatment using high carbon steel wire and Fusion twist technologies. They also come with players circle Code for product identification, registration and authentication (you can collect points for D’Addario product rewards).
Manufacturer claims the strings stay in tune 131% better and last four times longer than traditional strings.
In addition to acoustic, XT strings are available for electric guitar, bass guitar, classical guitar, mandolin and banjo.
The good – many players said these strings sounded great, played well and lasted a long time.
The bad – some buyers found these strings didn’t last long at all. They are in the minority though, so it’s possible they ended up with the wrong set.
D’Addario has become synonymous with guitar strings, and as such, their name appears multiple times on this list. So, they are a brand worth checking out. Of course, there are others, and we’ll be looking at those too.
Item weight: 0.16 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.8 x 1 x 4.8 inches
Fender 70L 0730070403 80/20 Bronze Ball End Acoustic Guitar Strings
The Fender 70L 80/20 bronze ball end acoustic guitar strings offer projection and clarity. Manufacturer claims the strings can even bring a dull sounding guitar to life.
Fender doesn’t seem terribly interested in offering more information based on the product listing as well as their broken website but if you like Fender strings, I can’t imagine you’d go wrong here.
Buyers said they liked the sound and price of the strings.
Some said the Fender strings weren’t as durable as expected though.
Overall, the strings seem to be on par with just about any other brand or model available.
Item weight: 0.64 ounces
Package dimensions: 5.1 x 4.3 x 0.8 inches
Godin Guitars 008995 Seagull A6 LT Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
The manufacturer doesn’t have much to say about the Godin Guitars Seagull A6 LT phosphor bronze acoustic guitar strings. But they have a near perfect rating, so I figured I should have a look.
So, what do people love most about these strings? Their tone. Reportedly, they sound bright, warm and even give you excellent harmonics.
The strings are well-matched to Godin Guitars but I assume they would work with just about any acoustic guitar. If you like what Godin has to offer, then you should check these out.
Item weight: 0.32 ounces
Package dimensions: 3 x 3 x 0.2 inches
DR Strings RARE – Phosphor Bronze AcousticHex Core
The DR RARE phosphor bronze AcousticHex Core guitar strings feature a phosphor bronze wrap wire over a hexagonal high-carbon steel core. This gives them a bright and balanced tone with more projection and bass.
Many buyers loved the tone and feel of these strings. Others found the tension to be a bit excessive and even said the strings break a little too often.
DR can still be a worthy option if you find the right product, and there are others worth looking at. But the RAREs might be the right pick for some.
Item weight: 1.6 ounces
Package dimensions: 4 x 0.3 x 4 inches
GHS Strings VN-L Vintage Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
The GHS VN-L vintage bronze acoustic guitar strings come packaged in air-tight Fresh Pack & NitroPack singles. They are made of 85/15 copper zinc alloy on a hex core and offer a warm and rich tone, which can help tame brighter sounding guitars.
Users liked the strings for their tone – warm and strong bass along with clear highs. Others did not like that these strings featured lower tension and sounded somewhat lifeless.
The GHS Strings could still be worth a look depending on what you’re looking for though.
Item weight: 1.28 ounces
Package dimensions: 0.5 x 4.5 x 4.5 inches
Top Acoustic Guitar Strings For Fingerstyle/Fingerpicking
Fingerpickers can be picky (pun intended).
They like strings that don’t stick and offer good sonic separation.
They don’t want too much finger noise, because their picking fingers are going to produce plenty of noise all on their own, thank you very much.
Fortunately, the acoustic guitar world has heard the demands of fingerpickers and has even created products that are more suitable to them.
Here are some options worth considering.
Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze Medium Light Acoustic Set
The Ernie Ball Aluminum Bronze acoustic guitar strings were made for those looking for a more dynamic and expressive string.
The aluminum oxide prevents corrosion and the strings also feature Maraging Steel Hex cores for enhanced low end and note separation.
Additionally, the Element Shield Packaging prolongs string life and keeps them fresh. These babies were made in U.S.A.
These strings are used by the likes of Andy McKee, Antoine Dufour, Mike Dawes and Preston Reed.
Reportedly, these strings offer a bold sound and great feel. But some customers found the strings dying on them relatively quickly.
Item weight: 0.32 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.2 x 0.2 x 5.5 inches
Martin MEC12 Clapton’s Choice Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
The light gauge Martin MEC12 Clapton’s Choice phosphor bronze acoustic guitar strings are, of course, Eric Clapton’s string of choice. When it comes to acoustic guitars, Clapton is a Martin lover, so this should hardly come as a surprise.
I’ve slotted these under strings ideal for fingerpicking/fingerstyle, because if you see Clapton playing an acoustic guitar these days, it’s usually with his fingers and not a guitar pick. This would suggest that these are good enough for god himself and should prove good enough for mortal men and women too.
Buyers found these strings to hold up to quite a bit of abuse and they found the tone to be mellow but pleasant.
Some people didn’t like the feel. Since feel is highly individual, it’s not surprising that the Claptons wouldn’t be for everyone.
Item weight: 1.6 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.8 x 4.2 x 0.4 inches
Martin MA540FX Acoustic Guitar Strings
The Martin MA540FX acoustic guitar strings are made of 92/8 phosphor bronze. This specific set is the Tommy Emmanuel signature series, making it great for fingerstyle and string bending.
The design reduces finger fatigue and offers a good balance between comfort and tone.
These strings could also be great for beginners thanks to the fact that they are soft to the touch.
There aren’t any critical reviews for the Martins, so you might want to give these a try.
Item weight: 1.44 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.8 x 4.2 x 0.4 inches
DR Strings DSA-2/12 DRAGON SKIN Acoustic Guitar Strings
The DR DRAGON SKIN acoustic guitar strings feature DR’s K3 coating on a phosphor bronze wrap wire. This helps keep dirt and perspiration from getting to the hexagonal core wire, which helps prevent corrosion.
The ultra-hard K3 coating doesn’t dampen vibration, giving the strings vibrance, projection, clarity and articulation.
Some buyers felt DR struck the perfect balance of quality and value with these strings. People also praised their tone.
Others said the strings went dead rather quickly, though they are in the decided minority.
Item weight: 1.92 ounces
Package dimensions: 3 x 3 x 0.3 inches
Martin MSP4100 SP Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
The Martin MSP4100 SP phosphor bronze acoustic guitar strings are made from 92/8 composition alloy. This gives the strings brilliance, clarity and longevity.
Some buyers say they have done extensive testing with a variety of acoustic guitar strings and these came out on top. Others said they liked the balanced tone.
More critical reviewers said these strings are about average. The price point might demand something more, but you might give these a try anyway and see for yourself.
Item weight: 1.6 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.2 x 4.2 x 0.4 inches
Ernie Ball Everlast P02546 Medium Light Coated Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
Ernie Ball Everlast P02546 phosphor bronze acoustic guitar strings feature the Everlast treatment, which has been applied to both the inner hex core and the outer wrap wire. This gives the strings protection without sacrificing tone.
Ernie Ball claims the coating is 1,000 times thinner than any other string coating technology available. They also say the string give your guitar a rich, warm tone.
The Element Shield Packaging extends string life and keeps them fresh. These babies are made in California, U.S.A.
Buyers found these strings to be versatile, affordable and even long-lasting. Others liked the warm, smooth tone they offered.
More critical reviewers said the coating didn’t last long and even lost tone after a small amount of use.
Nevertheless, here’s another set of Ernie Balls that might be your cup of tea.
Item weight: 1.28 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.5 x 0.5 x 5.5 inches
DR Strings Sunbeam – Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Round Core
The DR Sunbeams are hand wound on round cores. This gives them added sustain, which can be harder to find with phosphor bronze strings.
These bright and rich sounding strings are flexible as well.
The good – buyers said these strings fulfilled on the promises to a T.
The bad – inconsistent quality. Others said they didn’t keep tune or didn’t necessarily like the tone.
Item weight: 0.8 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.2 x 5 x 0.8 inches
Best Acoustic Guitar Strings For Strumming
What’s interesting about acoustic guitars is that there are those that work well for strumming and those that work well for picking/fingerstyle. It’s a rare guitar that works well for both.
So, choosing strings based on your playing style makes a lot of sense. While the difference between strings is sometimes exaggerated, it’s fair to say they do make a difference in terms of tone, feel and playability.
We believe if a string isn’t prone to breaking, then it’s probably well suited to strumming. After all, depending on your strumming technique, you can put your strings through a lot.
So, let’s look at the best strings for strumming.
Elixir Strings 80/20 Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings With NANOWEB Coating
The Elixir 80/20 bronze acoustic guitar strings are made from 80% copper and 20% zinc bronze wrap wire (now you know why they are called 80/20 strings).
The ultra-thin NANOWEB coating gives you that “uncoated” feel. But as every user of Elixir knows, these babies are coated, primarily for longer life and usage. They also protect against corrosion.
These strings will give you a bright, crisp tone and a vibrant presence.
The good – some enthusiastic buyers said these strings made their older guitars come alive. Other users also liked their tone.
The bad – some people don’t like the feel of Elixir Strings, which is not uncommon (good idea to test a pack to see if it’s right for you). Others found the coating, which is the main value proposition, tends to fray easily.
As with most strings, these aren’t for everyone, but if you’re looking for strings that tend to offer a great tone and extended life, you might give these a try.
Item weight: 0.48 ounces
Package dimensions: 0.6 x 4.1 x 4.7 inches
Gibson Masterbuilt Premium Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
The Gibson Masterbuilt Premium phosphor bronze acoustic guitar strings are, as the name suggests, phosphor/bronze-wound strings.
These babies are American made, and give you bright attack, sustain and warmth.
Gibson, of course, is a well-known brand in the guitar space. They’ve created some legendary acoustic and electric instruments, and it’s only natural they’d know a thing or two about strings as well.
Users found these strings to be ideal for Gibson guitars and even noted that, in some cases, it brought their Gibson acoustics back to life!
Some buyers, however, found these strings to be dull and lifeless.
In general, Gibson makes great products, and the Masterbuilt Premiums are highly rated, so depending on what you’re looking for, they might fit the bill.
Item weight: 1.6 ounces
Package dimensions: 1 x 1 x 1 inches
D’Addario NB1252BT Nickel Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings, Balanced Tension
The D’Addario NB1252BT nickel bronze acoustic guitar strings have been optimized for even feel across all strings.
Manufacturer claims this makes it easier to play your guitar for longer, while giving you a full tonal spectrum, unlocking your guitar’s unique tonal characteristics.
These strings come with increased corrosion resistance and feature D’Addario’s exclusive high-carbon NY steel for strength and tuning stability. These strings are made in the U.S.
Customers say these are great sounding strings. What some didn’t like was the feel.
Feel is certainly a matter of preference. Fortunately, D’Addario offers plenty of products. If this one isn’t quite right for you, they may have another that would suit your needs.
Item weight: 0.32 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.8 x 0.3 x 4.8 inches
Martin Authentic Acoustic Guitar Strings – Lifespan 2.0 Treated
The Martin Lifespan 2.0 treated acoustic guitar strings are made of 92/8 phosphor bronze, are made using Martin’s patented technology and are treated for long life.
These strings offer excellent tuning stability, are corrosion resistant and are highly playable.
Martin, of course, is responsible for creating some legendary acoustic guitars, and for that reason alone, there are plenty of acoustic guitar players that trust them (and maybe them alone) to make acoustic guitar strings.
Users said these strings feel natural and offer a bright sound. Less enthusiastic users said they thought these strings were about average, which isn’t surprising for the price.
Item weight: 1.28 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.7 x 5.9 x 4.7 inches
Top Acoustic Guitar Strings For Beginners And Students
As a beginner, you probably don’t know a lot about strings, and you might even be overwhelmed by the choices available.
For better or for worse, most string sets aren’t any easier or harder to put on your guitar, and they aren’t necessarily easier or harder to play either.
But in this section, we will be looking at strings with lighter gauges or strings offering a playing experience that might be better for beginners.
Let’s get into it.
D’Addario EFT16 Flat Tops Phosphor Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
The D’Addario EFT16 phosphor bronze flat tops offer reduced finger noise, a flat and smooth playing surface, and the tone and sustain you’d expect from phosphor bronze strings. They are U.S. made and come in corrosion resistant packaging.
Where most strings are round all the way around, flat tops truly do have a flat surface, and they create a unique playing experience that some players prefer.
In some ways, flat tops can be easier on your fingers, which is what might make them better for beginners. Of course, intermediate and advanced players are welcome to check these out too.
Many buyers loved the sound and sustain that these strings offered. Some found they reduced fret noise nicely as well, making them a good option for recording sessions.
Other buyers said there are better options out there, and fingerpickers found these a little hard to work with. Good to know!
Item weight: 1.44 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.4 x 4.3 x 0.3 inches
Stringjoy NB1254 Natural Bronze Acoustic Guitar Strings
The Stringjoy NB1254 natural bronze acoustic guitar strings offer tuning stability, balanced tension, even performance, full and warm sound and extended lifespan.
Stringjoy may not be as well-known as some of the other brands, but their commitment is to make strings that sound better, play better and feel better than the alternatives.
Many buyers found these strings to offer excellent tone, comfort and quality. Some say, however, that you can find product just as good for less money.
You won’t know for sure unless you give it a try. Your next favorite set could be Stringjoy.
Item weight: 2.4 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.5 x 1 x 4.5 inches
DR Strings Black Beauties Acoustic Guitar Strings – Black Coated
The DR Black Beauties acoustic guitar strings feature a hexagonal core and a phosphor bronze wrap wire. They come with the ultra-hard K3 coating for more longevity, projection, clarity and articulation.
The strings, as you would expect, are colored black, which can be fun for beginners.
Many buyers liked the Black Beauties and their tone. Some weren’t crazy about their subdued tone though.
This can still be a reliable choice for beginners and the price point isn’t overly high either.
Item weight: 0.8 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.8 x 4.1 x 0.6 inches
Best Acoustic Guitar Strings For Sore Fingers
What works for beginners also tends to work well for sore fingers.
Lighter gauge strings can be extremely helpful. Flat tops might come in handy. Nylon strings can be easier on the fingers.
Ultimately, as a guitar player, you must build up those calluses. But that doesn’t mean the experience must be unpleasant. You can build up gradually while leaving your fingers less sore.
So, let’s look at strings you might find a little easier on your fingers.
Ernie Ball 2146 Earthwood Medium Light Acoustic Phosphor Bronze String Set
The Ernie Ball 2146 Earthwood medium light acoustic phosphor bronze strings come with a rich, expressive sound and enhanced clarity.
The strings are made in the U.S. with 92% copper, 7.7% tin and 0.3% phosphorous wire. The Element Shield packaging prolongs string life.
In addition to the standard gauges (we’ll be looking at this in more detail later) of Medium, Medium Light, Extra Light and Light, these strings also come in Rock & Blues, for that acoustic lead player that needs more control over the high strings for bending, but still wants the full richness of thicker bass strings.
Users loved the rich sound of these strings and found them to be easy on the fingers.
Others had issues with strings not fitting properly or breaking often. This is the same issue I tend to have with Ernie Ball strings, but if this isn’t a problem for you, then you don’t need to entertain that notion.
Plus, at this price, you could probably afford to replace your strings every couple of weeks.
Item weight: 1.44 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.5 x 0.2 x 4.5 inches
Ernie Ball Earthwood Folk Nylon Ball End Set, Clear And Gold
The Ernie Ball Earthwood folk nylon ball end set comes with medium tension, 80/20 bronze wrap wire and are intended for classical guitars.
The strings are made of solid nylon clear filament. The ball ends make it easier and faster for you to put on your guitar.
It should be noted that these strings may not work well on steel string acoustic guitars, so if you don’t have a classical style guitar, you may want to keep looking (also note the somewhat unusual gauge).
Some buyers loved the sweet and warm sound the strings offered, while others said they don’t stay in tune and even rust easily.
While these strings are highly rated, the reviews certainly are mixed, so make sure you know what you’re getting before committing to these.
Item weight: 1.12 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.5 x 0.1 x 4.5 inches
D’Addario EJ32 Folk Nylon Guitar Strings, Ball End, Silver Wound/Black Nylon Trebles
The D’Addario EJ32 folk nylon guitar strings come with ball ends and feature black nylon trebles and silver-wound basses.
The strings come in corrosion resistant packaging and are made in the U.S.A. They should work for traditional acoustic guitars based on my research (not just classical guitars), but don’t take my word for it – do your own research too!
Users found these strings to be strong, durable and affordable.
Some had issues with breakage and others had issues with buzz as well.
If you’re willing to experiment, however, I think you will find a set of nylon strings that works well for you, because they are a lot easier on your fingers.
Item weight: 0.96 ounces
Package dimensions: 3.4 x 4.7 x 4.7 inches
What Should I Look For In Acoustic Guitar Strings?
Purchasing acoustic guitar strings doesn't represent quite the commitment buying a guitar does.
If you buy a guitar at $1,800, and don’t have any money left for another guitar, you’re basically stuck with the same guitar until you can afford another.
Strings don’t just cost less – their lifespan also tends to be much, much shorter than that of a guitar.
Strings don’t last forever, and the more you use them, and the harsher conditions they are subjected to, the sooner they will become unusable. You'll need to restring.
So, even if you buy a “wrong” pack of strings once, it’s not a big deal. You can choose something different the next time around.
And, like I said earlier, it’s good to experiment with a variety of products.
Anyway, if you’re still undecided, here are some important buying factors to consider:
Let’s take a closer look at each.
The role that strings play in a guitar’s tone is sometimes forgotten. So, don’t forget – if you aren’t happy with your guitar’s sound, it might be time for a new set of strings.
Now, if you slap a new pair of strings on a guitar, it will inevitably sound better than the old strings. So, that’s not a fair comparison when it comes to different products and brands.
When I find something I like, I tend to stick to it and don’t deviate too far from the old standby, so I haven’t used every type of string out there.
I tend to go with D’Addario phosphor bronze strings because I get consistent results with them.
But I know some people swear by Martin and I’m sure others like the Ernie Balls too.
I think the best way to do a comparison would be to buy a bunch of different packs, and record yourself playing with each (using the same guitar and microphone, of course, to keep the test fair).
Assuming you aren’t impatient with the process, however, you’ll find the path of experimentation far more fulfilling and reliable.
When it comes to guitar strings, I will happily sacrifice some tone for durability.
In my observation, however, unlike electric guitar strings, acoustic guitar strings tend to hold up to quite a bit of abuse.
Results will vary, of course, but most strings should hold up to quite a bit of play before they start to go dead or break.
I think it’s worth experimenting with a variety of strings to find what you like, because rest assured some preferences will begin to emerge as you keep playing.
Different strings can affect the playability of guitars differently.
This mostly comes down to string gauge, something I will be talking more about in a moment, but sometimes simply swapping out the product can have an impact on your guitar’s playability.
Obviously, the more playable the better, and if you don’t mind spending a bit of extra money, you can get your guitar set up (by a guitar tech) to accommodate the new set of strings for minimal friction.
Generally, the lighter the strings, the easier the guitar will be to play. Of course, you might sacrifice tone if you go lighter.
But you can still find highly playable strings that are a little heavier. A reasonable balance can be achieved, so it’s okay to keep looking until you find it.
The Right Gauge
Guitar strings come in a variety of gauges.
This is to serve different needs and different markets, usually based on playing style.
Sometimes, string gauge can positively or negatively affect the playability, performance and tone of an instrument, so that’s also a relevant factor.
Here are the most common gauges:
- Extra light (10s): .010, .014, .023, .030, .039, .047
- Custom light (11s): .011, .015, .023, .032, .042, .052
- Light (12s): .012, .016, .025, .035, .042, .054
- Medium (13s): .013, .017, .026, .035, .045, .056
- Heavy (14s): .014, .018, .027, .039, .049, .059
Most acoustic guitarists opt for 12s or Light gauge strings.
On an electric guitar, 12s would be quite heavy, but on an acoustic guitar, they tend to be just right.
In my experience, heavier gauges will give you more body and tone, while thinner strings will give you more cut and spank. Of course, you will get a thinner sound overall from thinner strings.
As well, heavier gauges are typically reserved for alternate tunings.
A pack of strings (usually ranging from about $5 to $20) should never break the bank.
Of course, guitarists often find themselves in need of more than one pack of strings and may be inclined to purchase multiple sets simultaneously.
We can’t imagine you’ll go broke buying guitar strings, but just in case, please be mindful of your budget. Don’t overspend. If you need to save up, save up.
And, for those paying three or four times the baseline cost of strings for a fancy pack, don’t feel guilty. It can be worth spending more for quality.
What Are The Top Acoustic Guitar String Brands?
The top acoustic guitar string brands are undoubtedly those covered above.
With that in mind, you might be interested in learning a little more about each company and what they stand for.
So, here’s an overview of each of the top brands.
D’Addario is well-known among every type of guitarist and bassist, who at one point or another, has probably used a set of their strings (sometimes without even knowing it).
The company was founded in 1974 and offers a variety of accessories in addition to strings.
Ernie Ball Music Man is perhaps best known for their premium, finely tuned instruments. I own an Axis myself, which I think is one of the finest guitars available.
Ernie Ball was an entrepreneur and musician who made a name for himself developing guitar related products.
C.F. Martin & Company is an American guitar manufacturer. They were founded in 1833 by Christian Frederick Martin.
As I said, they’ve built some legendary guitars and they are loved by the likes of Ben Howard, David Crosby, Dierks Bentley, Ed Sheeran, John Prine and plenty of other well-known names.
They know a thing or two about strings, too, it seems.
Elixir has certainly made a name for itself in the coated string market. Others have come along and made their own coated strings, of course, but Elixir is still the go-to brand in this regard.
The company was founded in 1995.
Fender is perhaps best known as a pioneer of electric guitars, and it’s fair to say their Stratocaster and Telecaster are timeless, much-copied designs.
I love their electric guitar strings myself but can’t comment on their acoustic guitar strings. If they’re anything like their electric guitar strings, however, they are highly durable.
Gibson, like Fender, is largely known for their timeless electric guitar designs – Les Paul, SG, E-335 and more. They’ve made a dent in the acoustic guitar world too, especially with the J-45.
They make good strings as well.
GHS is probably best known for their Boomers (electric guitar strings). But since they specialize in strings, they have a strong reputation overall, for any type of string.
DR Strings re-introduced the wonder of hand-made round core strings in 1989.
Overall, their brand is well regarded, and their artist roster would impress the best.
Canadian guitar manufacture Godin Guitars makes strings that are well-suited to their expertly crafted instruments.
Stringjoy is a boutique guitar company located in Nashville, TN. Founded in 2014, they are still a relative newcomer.
Guitar strings are highly individual.
When it comes to electric guitar strings, my favorites are the Fender Super Bullets.
I see a lot of players swear by Ernie Balls, but I’ve found that these strings break so easily that it’s not even worth the asking price.
But maybe you just need a week or two of awesome tone, and you’d be perfectly happy replacing your strings every couple of weeks, in which case, you’d probably like Ernie Balls.
And, so it is with acoustic guitar strings too. So, take your time, experiment, find what you like. Once you feel like you’ve found a set of strings that meet all your needs, stick with them. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.