Gear: mid 90's Marlin strat clone (SSS), Fender Princeton 65 solid state amp, MXR 10 band eq.

The amp and eq work nicely with an Ibanez GAX 70 that I've put GFS Gibson '59 clones into, so I think this part of the setup is OK (the Ibanez stock pickups were really muddy, but the GFS replacements made a world of difference). I'm really happy with the Ibanez, so that's a finished project.

Tonight's job was to get the Marlin up to par. No matter what height I put the pickups, I can't get a decent clean sound out of any of them. If I pick very lightly, the sound is OK, maybe a little muddy, but as soon as I pick harder or play chords, it's as though the pickup signal becomes saturated. It's not distorted like a fuzz box sound, but all the mid and lows become weak and all that's left is trebly and harsh. Even the lowest pickup height doesn't make this any better. Pulling down on the highs with the eq doesn't do much except to turn harsh into mud.

Is this a sign that the stock pickups are crap and need to be pulled for something better? I've been looking at the GFS vintage strat SSS set with Alnico II's as good candidates. I've only been playing for a year, and a full, clean tone is what I'm after. Our church group doesn't use much distortion, and I'll be doing lots of chords and clean rhythm guitar work.
Last edited by jds2 at Nov 20, 2013,
Quote by Invader Jim
Are you absolutely sure the wiring is good? Is the pickup baseplate grounded?

Thanks for mentioning it. Yes, the wiring is definitely good. It's not that the guitar tone sounds terrible or like it's broken, it just doesn't sound as *good* as I think that it should.