What are the Best Stratocaster Pickups?

Stratocaster PickupsThe Stratocaster is one of the most flexible guitars ever made. When compared to many Gibson models such as the Les Paul or SG, there is a dramatic difference with regards to your customization options. Whether you want to change the sound or the feel of your instrument, you are only limited by your imagination. One of the most popular areas of focus for Stratocaster modification is the pickups. This change will have the most dramatic effect on your guitar’s sound.

There are a zillion options out there for pickups. Some good, some great, and some just plain awful. Among the “great” options, the “right” pickup depends on not only your budget, but also your taste. This is a very subjective area and opinions differ. So while some may prefer a vintage-style / low-output Stratocaster pickup, others may opt for a noiseless or active model. There are no right or wrong answers here, just what works best for you. Hopefully this list will help you get started in making this choice.


Vintage Stratocaster Pickups

Lindy Fralin Strat Style Vintage Hots

Lindy Fralin pickups are very popular among serious tone-chasers. The Vintage Hots are not only popular, but they are dripping in serious vintage tone. Lindy goes all out with the beveled magnets and cloth leads, for a true vintage vibe.

Of course, none of this matters unless you remove your pickguard and actually look at the pickups, but for some, just knowing that the specs are “true vintage” is a good feeling : – )

http://www.fralinpickups.com/stratstyleVH.asp


Lindy Fralin Blues Special

A little bit hotter and darker than the Vintage Hots, these are a great choice for Blues. Not just because the name says so, but because it is just a good fit. There are more mids, so youve got more puch / growl for your leads. Also important: these clean up very nicely.

http://www.fralinpickups.com/stratstyleBS.asp


Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Staggered Strat

Imagine if you could fit a P-90 into the pickguard slot. That’s pretty much what you get with the Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound. Bigger alnico 5 rod magnets magnets translate to a serious kick in the mids. You still get the chimey bell-like tone when you wanna clean things up, so there is plenty of range here. But make no mistake about it: these are passive / vintage style, but they are pretty loud, and have lots of head room.

http://www.seymourduncan.com/pickup/quarter-pound-staggered-strat


Fender Custom Shop Texas Special Strat Pickups

Very hot, very blusey. That is pretty much it. These pickups really handle drive well. They are vintage style, so you can get into a bit of trouble if you use too much gain, but most use these for Blues (so “too much drive” should not be in your vocabulary, right? : – )

These pickups are dripping in tone. Very tangy, but also very chimey when played clean. Forget the whole “SRV” connection, these just sound amazing.

http://shop.fender.com/en-US/accessories/pickups/fender-texas-special-strat-pickups/09921110

Noiseless Stratocaster Pickups


Seymour Duncan Classic Stack Plus Strat

You really have to give it to Seymour Duncan: they pretty much invented the whole “Noiseless” genre. Their Classic Stack was the first hum-canceling Strat pickup that I can remember. This reincaration uses the same reliable blueprint, with modern construction. Pure strat, no hum. Nice.

http://www.seymourduncan.com/pickup/classic-stack-plus-strat-bridge


Lindy Fralin Strat Split-Blades

Lindy’s Split-Blade is a full humbucker that fits right into a Strat pickguard mounting. He’s really pulled-off something pretty special here: these pickups have all the girth and attack of a humbucker, but retain that chimey Strat sound when cleaned up. The Youtube demos below are great and really show you what these pickups can do.

http://www.fralinpickups.com/stratstyleSB.asp

Active Stratocaster Pickups


EMG Pickups SA

When it comes to active pickups, EMG is considered by some to be the standard. The SA is very strait forward; just an active single coil pickup. It does clean very well, and when using high gain, the tone is very aggressive.

http://www.emgpickups.com/sa.html

EMG Pickups SAV

It may seem like an un-likely combination, but if you want an active Stratocaster pickup that offers the look and tone of a vintage model, the EMG Pickups SAV is a great choice. Other than the “EMG” logo, it looks identical to a vintage Strat pickup, and is available in black, white or ivory. The sounds are great; shimmering cleans, plenty of Strat-ish “duck quack” and serious kick when you dial-in the drive. For Vintage enthusiasts who want an active Strat pickup, this is a “best of borh worlds” scenario.

http://www.emgpickups.com/guitar/single-coil/strat/sav.html

Fender CD 320AS Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar Natural

Fender CD 320AS Dreadnought Acoustic Guitar A straight-ahead Dreadnought, the CD 320AS offers minimal features, yet a great sound.

In some ways, this was a hard instrument to write about. This Dreadnought is built using solid mahogany for the back and sides, and solid spruce for the top. Fairly standard stuff. I kept digging for something that made this guitar exotic – a standout in some way, but alas, it was not to be. Even the neck-woods are impressively unexciting; a Mahogany back and Rosewood fretboard. Sigh…..

But in searching for interesting features, I overlooked the most important fact: the Fender CD 320AS sounds great. The Rosewood bridge offers a nice balance to the snappy spruce top. I’ve included a few videos here so you can hear for yourself. Chords are full and complex, while the overall tone has plenty of warmth. This 20-fret acoustic guitar may not have a lot of sexy features, but that simplicity is part of its charm. At 25.3″ (64.3 cm) scale length, the strings will be in that “goldilocks” zone: not too tight, but not too “mushy.” Overall, the CD 320AS is a very simple acoustic guitar that is not only sounds great, but comes at a very reasonable price.

Egnater Renegade 212 65W 2×12 Tube Guitar Combo Amp

Egnater Renegade 212 65W 2x12 Tube Guitar Combo AmpA 2X12 dual-channel combo that offers both “Tweed” and “British” voicing.

Egnater’s Renegade is an impressive product. The engineering that went into this amplifier shows a great deal of thought. I actually believe that guitarists were involved in the design of the amp! : – )

It’s a two-channel design with the classic approach: Clean and Overdriven. Each one has its own three-band EQ, as well as “Tight” and “Bright” switches, which help to alter the overall high/low end. Each channel also has its own low-wattage switch, allowing you to push the amp harder and enjoy more power-tube saturation. The mix of power-tubes is what really knocked my socks off. The Renegade comes with a complement of both 6L6s and EL34 tubes. The ability to toggle between a classic “California / Tweed” or “British” voice is a pretty big deal. So far, everything I’ve mentioned can be selected via the footswitch, as can the Reverb.

I think the speakers are worth noting.. There is a Celestion Vintage-30 and a 12″ Elite-80 Speaker “by Celestion”. It’s a somewhat odd mix, but it works. The main thing is that the Vintage-30 is great for glassy highs, combined with a creamy mid-hump.

When using the clean channel, the Renegade is capable of shimmering / glassy tones. The drive channel yields plenty of grit, but can be tamed, which, I think, is an important factor. Between the two channels there aren’t too many sounds that elude this amp. I don’t think it will fare well for those who spend their time playing Metal as it’s just not that kind of amp. But for Blues, Rock, Pop, Country and similar styles, the Egnater Renegade 212 is a top-shelf boutique-ish combo with a lot to offer.

Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue 40W 1×12 Combo Amp

Fender Blues Deluxe ReissueWant tweed? you got it. The Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue is a classic remake of the “Deluxe” amp that pretty much delivers as promised.

There is not too much mystery here: Fender’s Blues Deluxe Reissue is for Blues players. Of course there is a range of styles that could work fine, but in my opinion, Fender targeted Blues players. Aesthetically, this amp is what most will like: that classic “tweed” look. Sonically, it is mostly a clean amp that plays well with drive pedals.

The clean channel is super clean. If you want any grit, you’ll need to step on your favorite overdrive. It does lack bottom a bit, but for the most part, it’s not too bad, and the “bright” switch does add a nice sparkle to the top end. And the drive channel offers more gain. It won’t exactly put you into “shred” territory, but it is a notch above the clean channel. Both channels are footswitchable, and the drive channel has independent gain and master volume.

At 40 watts, there is enough power here for most rehearsal situations, but you might struggle when going head-to-head with a Marshall or other 100-watt amplifiers. The effects loop is a great feature that you don’t always find in a combo of this size.

Seems like the average price of this amp on all the big online sites is $769. That is definitely not a “budget” amplifier. But as it is in the sub-$1,000 range, you have to wonder: “where did they cut costs?” In my opinion, it’s the speaker. Any time I see something silly like: “Eminence special-design speaker,” I think to myself: “ok, they cut a deal with Eminence for some cheapo model. Also, I believe this model is assembled in Mexico, which is another way in which Fender was able to “pass the savings onto you” : – )

Overall, I’d say that the Fender Blues Deluxe Reissue 40W 1×12″ Combo Amp is a good choice for Blues, Pop, Funk, old-school R&B or Country. This is definitely not for heavy Rock, or Metal.

Roland VG-99 V-Guitar Multi Effects Processor System

Roland-vg-99 LogoModel a wide range of electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitars, synthesizers and amplifiers.

This is an all-in-one package that is impressive. At the heart of the VG-99 are two completely independent signal paths. You can Model classic guitars, basses or amplifiers, and then assign up to 11 effects, twice. You can then use those two channels independent of each other, or simultaneously. Using an optional floor-based controller, you can do all of your channel switching or blending,

The acoustic guitar modeling is not bad. While it may not sound 100% perfect, it’s close enough for most demo and home-recording projects, and beats the cost of purchasing a steel string and a nylon string guitar. I was actually pretty impressed with the bass modeling. Another impressive feature is the alternate tunings. These are synthesized tunings, so your guitar won’t be physically re-tuned, but it will sound as if it is. The upside here is that your guitar’s neck won’t need to endure the physical stress of the constantly changing string tension, and the strings will always feel the same. Some may feel that the downside is exactly that: you won’t have the added visceral dynamic of how the strings really feel in an alternate tuning.

The D BEAM and Ribbon Controllers can be assigned to any parameter in the VG-99 and provide fairly impressive real-time expression. I find them a bit odd though, because you generally need both hands when playing guitar. But you can certainly wave your guitar neck across the D BEAM controller. For example, you can play a chord, “freeze” it, and then play over the chords.

Summary

This is a product with a lot of features. The modeling alone is worth the price of admission. But the dual-channel design makes it even more dangerous. When you add in the MIDI and USB interfaces, you have a pretty serious little machine that is perfect for home-recording.

Comprehensive Demos

Tutorials

Electro-Harmonix Epitome Multi-Effects Guitar Pedal

Zoom G5

What do you do when you have three super-popular stomp boxes in your product line? Combine them into one pedal, of course. Fortunately, Electro-Harmonix didn’t just slap any old pedals together; they combined an octaver, a flange/chorus, and a reverb.

The Electro-Harmonix Epitome pedal consists of the Micro POG, Stereo Electric Mistress, and the Holy Grail Plus. All three are top-notch pedals on their own. When combined, they produce a product that is a dangerous little gem.

Each effect has its own dedicated on/off foot switch. So, it is literally three stomp-boxes in one. But the interplay between the effects is what adds up to a “fourth” member of the party that is hard to describe. This is because there really is more than just the “sum of the parts” here. Twisting / turning / tinkering produces some incredible results. What really impresses me is the stereo in; this way you can process two simultaneous channels, which really comes in handy. Your rig is, in-fact, stereo before it hits this pedal.

The polyphonic tracking of the Micro POG is surprisingly good. When combined with the chorus or flanger effects, the range of possibilities is quite impressive. According to the Electro-Harmonix web site, the “shimmer” setting “…transforms the Grail into a digital delay.”

If you take a look at the videos here, you will see that there is a ton of fun sounds here. From 12-string to a rotating leslie, there are quite a few combinations here that are really a joy. I think the Octaver is where you will find most of your oddball effects. But when you combine that with some “flerb,” or kick in the “shimmer” effect, things start to really take off.

Electro-Harmonix has combined three top-quality digital effects into one package. Although the world of electric guitar effects seems dominated by desktop or amp-based digital modeling units, some folks still prefer the context of a floor-based stomp box with big ‘ol knobs. If you are a member of that group, this is one pedal that will keep you up all night tweaking and tinkering.

HBS Zoom G5 Guitar Multi-Effects & Amp Simulator

Zoom G5What do Dave Mustaine, Wayne Krantz and Eric Struthers all have in common? They are fans of the Zoom G5. Be careful… if you take a closer look at this multi-effects pedal, you might be too.

It’s amazing how multi-effect technology keeps on progressing. Zoom’s new G5 is yet another impressive unit that delivers an overwhelming amount of value and flexibility. I have to rave about one feature first: the multi-dimensional expression pedal. In addition to moving the pedal up and down, you can twist it to the right or left. Do the math…. yes, significantly expanded levels of expression and real-time parameter changes. The end result is that you can assign up to four parameters to the expression pedal. Nuts.

Based on their popular G3 model, the G5 is a great balance of digital processing and what can feel like old-school stomp boxes. I say “feel like” because while there are not actually any stomp boxes under your feet, the G3 is designed in such a way that the experience is the same. This is not just because there are four heavy-duty switches, but also because each one has three real control knobs, each with its own small LCD display. Needless to say, this is all highly programmable. Once again, do the math. There is an insane amount of fiddlin’, tweakin’ and savin’ available here.

There is a 12AX7 tube built into this pedal, which is cool. But what’s really cool is that it can be turned on or off with the flick of a switch.

There are too many impressive features to list here, but the few other ones that really impressed me are:

  • Up to nine simultaneous stomp-box effects
  • 16dB boost via foot-switch, with dedicated tone control
  • More than 120 effects
  • More than 150 patches designed by well-known guitarists
  • Up to 60 seconds of looping / phrase recording
  • More than 40 drum patterns
  • Balanced XLR output
  • Free “Edit & Share” software that allows you to send your custom settings to friends

There is a lot to shout about here. The most important detail is, of course, the sound, which is great. Zoom has done a nice job of crafting analog sounds out of digital models.

Zoom G5 Product Page: http://www.zoom.co.jp/products/g5

Videos

Zoom G5 Guitar Multi-FX Processor Demo – Sweetwater Sound – YouTube
Eric Struthers, guitarist with Aaron Neville Quintet does a really nice job of discussing and demonstrating the G5. Not only the different sounds, but he explains why some of the features are particularly useful for him. This is a really helpful video because as a working musician, his discussion is as “real world” as it gets.

Dave Mustaine Demos the Zoom G5 Guitar Effects & Amp Simulator Pedal – YouTube

Dave Mustaine intro overview of the G5 is great. He explains all of the high-level features and what makes this pedal such a standout. What makes this video pretty cool is that in the second half, his guitar tech walks you through a few patches. It’s interesting to get his perspective because he gets into a very technical discussion of various parameters. Even if you are not a Dave Mustaine fan, this is a good video for getting a nice demo of the pedal.


Wayne Krantz demos the Zoom G5 Guitar Effects & Amp Simulator pedal @ Sound Service TV – YouTube

The intro is a little unusual. Wayne seems like a slightly odd bird, but he’s a pretty monster guitar player, and that’s what counts. Here he demonstrates some of his favorite sounds from the G5. The video gives you a pretty good sense of what the pedal is capable of. Wayne is a highly respected guitarist, so I’d say this is a pretty big endorsement.

Seymour Duncan SHPR-1s P-Rails – a P-90 and a Strat Pickup in a Humbucker-Sized Package

Seymour duncan hpr p-railsIf your guitar has humbucker-sized mountings, yet you dream of the sounds of a P-90 or a Strat, the Seymour Duncan SHPR-1s P-Rails can make this a reality.

First things first: If you are looking for a full-fledged humbucker, go out and buy a full-fledged humbucker. Just wanted to put the whole “…well, it’s not really a real humbucker” argument aside. This pickup is meant for folks who have a humbucker-fitted guitar, yet are looking to get P-90 and or Strat tones out of it.

Some might say: “well, why don’t you just put a P-90 or a Strat pickup in the guitar?”

A: Because some folks cannot or do not want to make such a change. A perfect example would be a Les Paul or SG, which if already routed for a humbucker, is not a good candidate for further cutting.

So, if you have to stay with your humbucker-sized mounting, the SHPR-1s P-Rails from Seymour Duncan is lovely. All three of the sounds in this pickup are terrific. Keep in mind though, when you are in “humbucker” mode (i.e. both coils in series), this one is not going to sound like a normal full-fledged humbucker. It’s not. You will still have that “Strat-ish” kind of sparkle and snap, but then again, that is what you came here for.

Search eBay for Duncan shpr-1s

Keep in mind that you will need to get jiggy with a mini-toggle switch (double-pole / double-throw is probably your best bet) and a soldering iron. But let’s assume you are, or you know someone trustworthy who is. Once you pop these babies in and wire ‘em up, you are in for some pretty fun stuff. P-90 kinda stuff, Stratty bell-like charm, and fun combinations of both are on the menu. Of course if you play a Les Paul Jr or a Strat, when then… duh! But if you are stuck with a mucho-macho humbucker-focused guitar and really want to get these two classic sounds under your fingertips, the Seymour Duncan SHPR-1s P-Rails are a brilliant product that kill two birds with one stone.

Rock Solid Guitar Stands – All Wood Guitar Rack Sees Solid Growth

Rock Solid Guitar Stands
Rock Solid Guitar Stands – All Wood Guitar Rack

We just received an update from the awesome folks at Rock Solid Guitar Stands:

Designed by a collector tired of a chaotic studio and cluttered living space, Rock Solid Guitar Stands is an emerging brand nationwide. They are designed not only to safely organize and protect guitars, but to showcase your collection and compliment the home as a piece of furniture. Rock Solid is the first multi-guitar stand made of real wood in its price range, allowing our audience to range from young adults to veteran collectors.

Along with the aesthetically pleasing design of the stands, each model is adorned with soft neoprene foam on the bottom rails and neck slots to allow optimal protection. All models have adjustable floor risers, wood veneer covers and a light birch plywood center. Our stands are even safe on nitrocellulose finishes! Rock Solid is a classic piece of furniture for your home, with three quintessential finishes including dark cherry, honey and ivory.
The three models available today are the Classic 4, Show 5 and Classic 6—each of which holds electric or acoustic guitars, basses, banjos or similar instruments.

  • The Classic 4 is for the collector with limited space, holding four guitars and measuring at only 33” wide x 28” high x 18” deep.
  • The Show 5 is our most unique design; fitting five guitars and giving you space to show off your favorite and have it accessible at all times.
  • The Classic 6 holds six guitars, measuring at 44” wide x 28” high x 18” deep. These saving-space designs give our customers a distinctive place to organize and admire their collections.

Rock Solid Guitar Stands has captured the attention of the industry through exceptional reviews from Premier Guitar, DolphinStreet.com, Home Recording Weekly, The Fret Wire, Guitar Noize and a five star rating from blogger Sean Maine. In merely two years, Rock Solid Guitar Stands has amassed a loyal following of over 3,000 users combined on Facebook & Twitter.

Rock Solid is the ultimate multi-guitar stand doing double-time as a space-saver and quality piece of furniture.

Contact: Jeff Negrin
Tel: 516.764.0400
Email: Jeff@rocksolidguitarstands.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/rocksolidguitarstands
Twitter: www.twitter.com/rocksolidstands
Official website/Online shop: www.rocksolidguitarstands.com
Available Online: shop.rocksolidguitarstands.com & www.themusiczoo.com

Dimarzio’s “Pickup Picker” makes choosing the right product a snap

Dimarzio Logo
Dimarzio’s “Pickup Picker” is quite useful

Instead of browsing through multi-level menus, find the right Dimarzio pickup in three easy steps.

Pickup makers such as Dimarzio and Seymour Duncan are great. They make high-quality products at a reasonable price. But sometimes, it is not easy to find the right pickup to suit your needs. Maybe you are a Telecaster player, but which Tele pickup should you buy? Vintage? Noiseless? 7-String? Ugh… there number of variables adds up quickly. Then you have to consider what kind of body wood are using, what is the problem you are trying to solve? Overall sound character? {insert migrane headache here]. Understandably, deciding which awesomely amazing guitar pickup to buy is a challenge. There is some good news though:

Dimarzio has done a nice job with their new “Pickup Picker”. This web site feature prompts you for very simple and easy-to-understand questions, and based on your answers, recommends three pickups. The whole “Step 1, step 3, step 3” approach really works. I gave it a spin today and here is a rundown of my experience:

Step # 1: Select a size. There are only two choices: “Humbucker” or “Strat”, simple enough.

Step # 1
Step # 1

Step # 2: Choose the pickup position: “Bridge”, “Middle” or “Neck”.

Step # 2
Step # 2

Step # 3: Answer several very basic questions.

Step # 3
Step # 3

View your suggestions: After clicking the “Find my pickup” button, the pickup picker shows you your suggested products, with links to each one:

Dimarzio's Pickup Picker's suggested choices
Dimarzio’s Pickup Picker’s suggested choices

Summary

Making the right choice with regards to your new guitar pickups can be an overwhelming experience. Dimarzio’s Pickup Picker is pretty cool. What impressed me most is that they made it simple, simple simple. Any time you see a 3-step approach to any consumer-related product, you know that some thought has gone into usability.

Here is a link to the Dimarzio Pickup Picker: http://www.dimarzio.com/pickup-picker