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 Texas Specials Stratocaster Pickups really are Special

Fender Texas Specials
Fender Texas Specials

If you want a vintage Strat pickup that is extra hot, these pickups are seriously worth considering

It’s hard to believe that these pickups just celebrated their 20th anniversary. They first made their debut in January 1992 as the stock pickups in the Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster. Not too long after, they became available as a standalone product. SInce then, they have become quite popular.

Keep in mind: these are Stratocaster pickup; they are dripping in Strat-ness. So again, not meant for situations where you need a humbucker. But if you are a Strat player, and the vintage realm is where you tend to spend your time, the Fender Texas Specials have a lot to offer.

What always impresses me so much about these pickups is the versatility. They do super-clean extremely well. But they also sound incredible with moderate amounts of gain. Granted, these are not meant for crazy amounts of distortion, so if you are a Metal player I don’t think these are the right pickups. But, if you play Blues, Jazz, Pop, Rock, Rock and Roll, Funk, etc… these pickups are quite versatile.

The clean sounds are second to none; plenty of snap, and twang, and bell-like chime. When you start to apply drive, all kinds of wonderful squeaks and squawks start to pop out of your amplifier. While they are vintage pickups (i.e. non hum-canceling). they are surprisingly quiet for vintage pickups. If you are considering upgrading your Fender Stratocaster pickups, and do not want hum-cancelling, Texas Specials are seriously worth considering. Take a listed to the videos below for a pretty good sampling of how they sound.

Fender Texas Specials Product Page

Search eBay for fender texas special