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Today we are looking at various strat pickups and how they serve different purposes. The “best” pickup is always going to be subjective – it’s a matter of personal taste when it comes to tone and output. This article reflects the opinions of players who have used or own different types of single coil strat pickups and who have provided insight into their experience with them. Based on this feedback, we have put together recommendations on pups to suit different styles and genres.
Vintage Sound Pickups vs Noiseless Pickups
There are dozens of ways to break down single coil pickups for the stratocaster into various categories. Two of the most encompassing segments we can use is the vintage pickup and the noiseless pickup. It seems that no one has quite yet nailed down the technology that will provide the tonality of a vintage pickup while also being completely noise-free. Therefore, players generally find themselves torn between choosing one or the other.
Best Vintage Pickups
A vintage style pickup is simply a modern-made pickup designed similarly to older style which allows for a replicated sound or tone. They typically have moderate output and aren’t structured to prevent noise and electronic interference. Vintage sounding pickups tend target the era previous to 1970, but that date is constantly being updated as more time passes. So when you hear a vintage pickup in a strat, it’s likely going to echo the sounds of classic rock and early blues rock.
- Seymour Duncan Antiquity Texas Hot Strat Pickup Set – $249 per set (Amazon)
- Seymour Duncan SSL-1 Vintage Pickups – $59 per pickup (Amazon)
- Lindy Fralin Vintage Pickups – $285 per set (Amazon)
- Seymour Duncan Antiquity II Surfer Strat Pickups – $95 per pickup (Amazon)
- Fender Pure ’65 Pickups – $109 per set (Amazon)
- Klein Jazzy Cat Pickups – $250 per set (KleinPickups.com)
- Fender V-Mod Stratocaster Pickups – $169 per set (Amazon)
- DiMarzio DP402 Virtual Vintage Blues Pickup – $75 per pickup (Amazon)
Best Noiseless Pickups
Noiseless pickups are a newer development in the history of music. Many guitar players contend that a noiseless pickup can never truly replicate the tone of a vintage style pickup because the structure actually changes it from technically being a true single coil. The clean, bright, sparkle of single coils seems to be lost a bit. However, many others contend that they can barely notice a difference (and not always in a negative way) while at high volume with overdrive or distortion, there is very little difference. The advantage to noiseless pickups is that you have much less or no signal interference and you don’t get the irritating 60 cycle hum that you do from standard single coils.
- DiMarzio Area Series Pickups – from $79 per pickup (Amazon)
- Lace Sensor Pickups – from $175 per set (Amazon)
- Fender Vintage Noiseless Strat Pickups – $139 per set (Amazon)
- Seymour Duncan Stack Series – $229 per set (Amazon)
Best All-Around Versatile Pickups
If you use the same guitar to play lots of different styles of music, then you need pickups that will be able to work in all kinds of situations and produce a multitude of tones. This is one of the hardest categories because pickups are generally built with a specific style in mind. But if you need pickups that can do everything from chicken pickin’ to shredding metal, Seymour Duncan’s are a good bet.
- Seymour Duncan SJBJ1 JB Jr. Electric Guitar Pickup (bridge) – $85 per pickup (Amazon)
- Seymour Duncan SSL-1 (neck) – $59 per pickup (Amazon)
- Seymour Duncan Little ’59 – $85 per pickup (Amazon)
Best Blues Pickups
Blues players might just be the pickiest guitarists when it comes to tone. In a lot of blues bands, the guitar player is the only guitar in the band and may be accompanied by only drums and bass. The guitar needs to carry 100% of the melody and every single note has to be riddled with character and soul. Blues guitarists also use the full range of tone control, regularly switching between pickup positions, using fingers, and rolling the tone and volume knobs back and forth. Just within the blues genre, there are tons of different tones musicians like to use – but most use some type of vintage pickup with a medium to high output.
- Seymour Duncan California ’50s Strat Pickup Set – $159 per set (Amazon)
- Fender Pure Vintage ’65 Strat Pickups – $109 per set (Amazon)
- Seymour Duncan SSL Series – from $59 per pickup (Amazon)
- Tone Specific Blues Pickups – from $310 per set (Chelsea Guitar shop on Reverb.com)
- Fender Tex-Mex Pickups – $77 per set (Amazon)
Best Rock and Metal Pickups
Rock and metal is a tricky category for single coil pickups. The majority of rock and metal players use a multi-coil coil pickup like a humbucker to achieve a thicker, heavier tone. However, some guitarists make it work with flying colors. As you can imagine, the list here is a bit limited.
- Seymour Duncan SL591 Little 59 White Bridge Strat Pickup – $85 per pickup (Amazon)
- DiMarzio DP408 Virtual Vintage ’54 Pro Strat Pickup – $75 per pickup (Amazon)
Best Country Pickups
Usually when talking about single coil pickups we are referring stratocasters. However, the telecaster also uses single coils but has been made less famous than it’s cousin. In country music, the telecaster is a staple for the trebly twang that guitarists use so frequently. There are a few options for the strat, but the telecaster provides much more.
Stratocaster Country Pickups
- Cavalier Bakersfield Lion Pickup – from $55 per pickup (CavalierPickups.com)
- Fender CS ’54 Pickup – $199 per set (Reverb.com)
Telecaster Country Pickups