The 8 Best Stratocaster Pickups for Your Guitar (2024)
If you’re not satisfied with your guitar’s tone, one of the first moves you can make is to change pickups. A great thing to know is that you don’t have to spend a fortune on Custom Shop models if you want to get that genuine vintage tone. Sometimes, it is just enough to install new pickups.
Some players would like to have something louder, something that can push much more gain. This is a great way to upgrade entry-level guitars and make them sound significantly better.
When it comes to Strat-type guitars, it’s mostly about single coils, which are characterized by a bright and super precise tone. Of course, they can vary in many ways. Therefore, the offer of single-coil pickups is huge. There are differences in terms of design, output, color, etc.
My top recommended Stratocaster pickup is the Fender Custom Shop Pickups Strat Texas Specials. This is a high-end custom vintage pickup with excellent sound.
My second recommended Stratocaster pickup is Fender Tex-Mex Strat Pickups. This is a more affordable option but with the genuine Fender sound.
- The Best Stratocaster Pickups for Your Guitar (2024) – At A Glance
- 1. Fender Custom Shop Pickups Strat Texas Specials
- 2. Fender Tex-Mex Strat Pickups
- 3. Fender Pure Vintage '65 Strat Pickups
- 4. Seymour Duncan California '50s Strat Pickup Set
- 5. DiMarzio DP110 FS-1 Strat Single Coil Pickup
- 6. DiMarzio Area '61 DP416AW Pickup
- 7. Fender Strat Hot Noiseless Pickups
- 8. Seymour Duncan 11205-02 SHR-1b Hot Rails Strat Guitar Pickup Bridge Black
- What makes Single-coil pickups good?
- How do you change Guitar Pickups?
- What Pickup Configuration should you use?
The Best Stratocaster Pickups for Your Guitar (2024) – At A Glance
And now onto the full list:
If you’re looking for a genuine Texas blues tone, this is the right set of pickups for you. Designed by Fender Custom Shop, these pickups are the perfect choice if you want to sound like SRV. However, that’s not the only sound you can get.
These are pretty versatile pickups, characterized by well-rounded, perfectly clear highs and tight lows. Still, mid-range tones are where these pickups really shine, no matter the position.
Another thing you should know is that these are some of the highest output pickups from Fender, so they can deal with tons of gain as well. Since we are talking about Custom Shop pickups, keep in mind that the price is notably higher compared to most strat pickups. Still, you get much more in return.
Many see Tex-Mex pickups as a perfect alternative for expensive Custom Shop Texas Special pickups and that’s pretty much correct. Still, there is a slight difference in tone, as Tex-Mex pickups sound a little bit brighter.
The tone is well-rounded and quite warm at the neck position, though the overall impression is that there is a little bit more treble in this case. Also, keep in mind that these pickups feature a little bit lower output compared to Texas Specials.
All in all, these are some of the most popular strat pickups around for a good reason. You get a pretty big tone for more than a reasonable price. Moreover, they can sound pretty impressive with the right wood choice. In my own experience, these pickups sound perfect on ash Strats.
If you need to go back to the original era of the Stratocaster, you don’t need a time machine. These pickups can do the same job. The whole design of these pickups is pretty authentic. Just like in the original units, these pickups feature an old-school bobbin design and wiring that was typical for the era.
This results in a genuine vintage tone, which is characterized by a splendid super-warm tone with an amazing edge. As we are talking about low-output design, these pickups unmistakably deliver that crystal-clean tone.
Another great thing to know is that the price is actually quite affordable, given the authentic tone you get in return.
Of course, you don’t necessarily need to use original Fender pickups to get a genuine strat tone. There are tons of options around, various pickups that offer tone characteristics that perfectly resemble the original units, but also add a little bit of their own flavor. The California ’50 pickups are a perfect example with a reverse-wound feature.
These pickups are designed in traditionally. We are talking about Alnico V pickups with the coiling technology that was typical for the era. The result is a bright, glassy, and bell tone, which brings you directly to the golden era of music.
It is possible to find more affordable pickups on the market, as we are talking about one of the most renowned pickup makers around. Still, the amount of quality that you get in return is impressive.
5. DiMarzio DP110 FS-1 Strat Single Coil Pickup
The FS-1 is a perfect choice for all those who want to add a little bit of a modern flavor to their Stratocaster. These pickups feature notably higher output compared to most stock Strat pickups and they are a perfect choice for those who don’t like that bright sound of a bridge pickup.
Speaking of the bridge position, that is the natural place for the FS-1, though the pickup actually sounds great in all positions. You can get the whole set of FS-1 pickups and be sure that your ax will sound impressive.
Area ’61 has several strong points and that may be the reason for a little bit higher price. The first thing I should mention is that this is a noiseless pickup, so you won’t hear any hum that is so typical for single coils.
On the other hand, this is a typical vintage pickup in terms of tonal characteristics, so you may say it combines modern and old-school characteristics very well.
As I’ve just mentioned, this is a vintage pickup and the main reason lies in the accentuated treble. This pickup nails that good-old vintage Strat tone and covers pretty much everything from the 50s and 60s, without a single hum.
When someone mentions no-hum single coils, the first thing that comes to mind is the set of Fender noiseless pickups. The company offers several different types of such pickups and they don’t have too many things in common, except for the complete absence of hum.
When you see “hot” in the name of some Fender pickup, you know it has a pretty high output. This is one of the company’s loudest pickups, which can be found on models like Jeff Beck’s signature Stratocaster.
This set will provide you with lots of gains, but you can count on excellent clarity as well.
If hot single coils aren’t loud enough for you, you may try a humbucker. These pickups aren’t a new thing in the guitar world, as Super Strats appeared decades ago. The only problem with such a pickup is the fact that it features much bigger dimensions, so you will have to replace your pickguard as well.
An excellent alternative is to pick a so-called single humbucker. Practically, these pickups are humbuckers packed in the size of a single-coil pickup. With such a design, you get a big tone in a small unit.
Hot Rails are particularly popular among Stratocaster players and SHR-1b is the loudest single humbucker that Seymour Duncan has on its offer. This is a perfect choice for those who want to make a genuine Super Strat from the 80s.
What makes Single-coil pickups good?
Since single-coil pickups are most common with strat guitars, what makes them shine? Well, single-coil pickups are considered classics, in a way. Fender Stratocasters are the ultimate vintage sound that many guitarists look for like the classic Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix sound.
When it comes to electric guitars and single-coil pickups, the vibrations converted produce a warm, clear, and somewhat ‘right’ tone. Also, they have a slightly lower output which is by no means bad since you already have the support on an amp.
How do you change Guitar Pickups?
Implementing strat pickup sets is a pretty straightforward deal. First and foremost, you have to have the following tools if you’re making switches. This includes the pickups, mounting hardware, wire cutters for the magnet wire, a screwdriver, wire strippers, and soldering iron.
As each pickup system features delicate parts like cloth wiring, enamel-coated magnet wiring, or heavy formvar wiring, it is best if a visual representation is presented in order to know exactly what you’re doing. This includes either the neck, bridge, or middle pickups.
What Pickup Configuration should you use?
When it comes to pickup configurations, these are the 5 most used and popular options:
- SSS – Single – Single – Single
- SSH – Single – Single – Humbucker
- HSH – Humbucker – Single – Humbucker
- HH – Humbucker – Humbucker
- HHH – Humbucker – Humbucker – Humbucker
The SSS and SSH are considered optimal for a classic strat. If you want Fender’s pure vintage tone, these are the ones to go for. The other three options offer more versatility for much harsher genres like raw rock and high gain metal as opposed to the classic tone of classic rock. Plus, the natural sustain is unprecedented.
An important thing you should consider is whether you want to replace the whole set or just one pick up on a specific position. A good thing is that you can find lots of amazing pickups on the market that come in a set of three units, but there is also a huge amount of pickups that are designed for a specific position and that are sold separately.
My top recommended Stratocaster pickup is the Fender Custom Shop Pickups Strat Texas Specials, a high-end custom vintage pickup with excellent sound.
My second recommended Stratocaster pickup is Fender Tex-Mex Strat Pickups, a more affordable option but with the genuine Fender sound.