Great Blues tone is just an upgrade away. If you are a Strat player looking for the best Blues pickups, the below list should point you in the right direction.
It is possible to upgrade your guitar at a reasonable price: change the pickups. Quite often, the results can be significant, especially with lower priced guitars in which the quality of the pickups is questionable. It is possible to get the sound you are looking for simply by selecting the right pickups rather than buying a new guitar. Pickups are fairly easy to change yourself, as they require minimal knowledge and a few tools. There are probably more brands of pickups than brands of guitars and amps combined. That said, it’s no surprise that there are pickups for virtually every style of music, type of player, and type of guitar. Naturally, it can be hard to know where to begin when faced with so many options. This post narrows it down to a Stratocaster body style, with three single-coil pickups, and a five-way switch configuration, but any of these should also be available as a single. From smoothe David Gilmour to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Texas tone,” or from vintage to modern, this list covers most Blues players.
Fender Custom Shop Texas Special Strat Pickups
As the name suggests the Fender Texas Special Strat guitar pickups are designed to give you that Texas Blues sound. If you are looking for replacement pickups and you would like to get a sound similar to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bonnie Raitt, or Johnny Winter then these are recommended. They start with staggered Alnico 5 magnets for more focus and dynamics, and it’s this staggering that allows for a more even and balanced tone across all strings. Next, they add over-winding to the single coil pickups to provide a hotter signal that can supply more gain, clarity, and sustain to the amplifier. They reverse wire the middle pickup, which dramatically reduces the amount of noise and interference that plague most single-coil pickup designs when you are using the neck/middle or the middle/bridge pickup selections. Texas Specials use an enamel-coated magnet wire, which is the coating used in vintage equipment to help provide a warm vintage tone. Installation of pickups is straightforward, requiring only about an hour.
Seymour Duncan SSL-5 Custom Staggered Single-Coil Pickups
The Seymour Duncan SSL-5 Custom Staggered Single-Coil Pickup, as the name suggests, is a high output single coil pickup designed to be perfect for Texas Blues, Rock, and even some Heavy Rock. This single-coil, single-conductor pickup features staggered Alnico 5 magnets. It sounds best with brighter sounding guitars, and while it will really help boost the bridge pickup to better match the volume of the neck pickup, it can be used in any position. Some players use the SSL-5 for a David Gilmour type guitar sound. With some high gain settings on your amp and more aggressive playing it’s easy to get a Stevie Ray Vaughan sound. The higher output coil will drive the input stage, which translates to a more natural overdrive. The SS-5 really brings out the harmonics of your guitar and is capable of increased sustain.
Lindy Fralin Blues Specials Strat Pickups
Lindy Fralin Blues Specials Strat Pickups provide a thick, warm, and fat sound that’s perfect for the Blues. These pickups are over-wound just a little bit, generating 5% more gain and taking away about 5% of the highs, compared to the standard Lindy Fralin guitar pickup. Also, the bridge pickup is hotter, to compensate for the louder volume of the neck pickup. The Lindy Fralin Blues Specials are a great choice for guitars that are on the bright side, or if you are looking to add a little body to your tone, without introducing any muddy or boomy tones. The pickups have an open sound that is not too compressed and a low-end growl that is perfect for rhythm and lead playing, without the notes becoming too thin or brittle-sounding. Available in white, black, aged white, or green. these pickups feature Alnico 5 magnets, and can be arranged in the “Stock Stagger” or the “Hybrid Stagger” configuration. An optional base plate for the bridge pickup will cut down on feedback and fatten up the tone.
Lindy Fralin Steel Pole 42 Strat Replacements
A cross between the standard Fender style single coil and a Gibson P90, Lindy Fralin’s Steel Pole 42 is somewhat of a hybrid. The tone of the Steel Pole 42 is more full-bodied than you might expect from a single coil, yet it retains plenty of clarity and bite. There is an emphasized midrange here, which means you are less likely to need an EQ bump from your amp or pedals (perfect for Blues). It all starts with the ceramic magnet, which has a little more output and a slightly brighter tone than their Alnico brothers. This helps give the pickups their “beefiness,” growl, and overall aggressive tone. The bridge pickup will be calibrated to match the neck pickup. Not only are these wound with a thicker 42-gauge wire, but the individual pole pieces are adjustable. These pickups are available in white, black, aged white, or green.
Seymour Duncan Antiquity Texas Hot for Strat Set
Seymour Duncan’s Antiquity Texas Hot for Strat Set provides outstanding tone in the vein of Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix. Hot, but not too aggressive, with plenty of chime and sparkle. Special degaussed Alnico 2 magnets soften the treble just a bit and keep the high notes under control. These pickups are hand built and wound with a vintage style north polarity like the originals. Continuing in the vintage tradition, the pickups are lacquered and potted in black paraffin wax, this is not just the vintage way, it protects the windings and does its part to reduce interference and microphonic feedback. Each of the Alnico magnets are hand ground and expertly calibrated to deliver just the right tone. The bridge pickup is calibrated to match the neck pickup in volume. Also, in the complete set, the middle pickup is reverse-wired, to allow noise cancellation in the second and fourth positions. One of the most unique things about these pickups is that they are each aged magnetically and cosmetically to really drive in that vintage sound.