#1
Hey all! I've got ~2011 American Stratocaster, and I'm thinking about swapping the stock pickups for something else. I've tried to find an article that lists out the differences between the many different pickup options that are popular on strats (i.e. the many lace sensor, tex-mex, gold foil, custom shop, etc), but can't seem to find anything very helpful. Could anybody explain to me the differences and what pickups you would use for different sounds/tones/genres?
#2
Quote by k.mccarthyander
Hey all! I've got ~2011 American Stratocaster, and I'm thinking about swapping the stock pickups for something else. I've tried to find an article that lists out the differences between the many different pickup options that are popular on strats (i.e. the many lace sensor, tex-mex, gold foil, custom shop, etc), but can't seem to find anything very helpful. Could anybody explain to me the differences and what pickups you would use for different sounds/tones/genres?


Well you're not going to find a comprehensive article on this because it's so subjective that it just would be impossible to really write one. I'll give you a few pointers that should help point you in the right direction to find the right combination of pups that will give you the sound that you are looking for.

I'm also assuming your strat is a S/S/S config.

There are three big categories of pick-ups that are used in this kind of a config:

1. Classic single coil pick-ups, such as your Fender Fat50's. These things are not noiselsss, and if you ask a guy like Eric Johnson, he believes that the noise is part of the sound, so that's a good thing. Typically voiced in a more vintage output style your standard single coils are going to net you a very classic Stratocaster sound. Again, there are a ton of different options here and the sound will vary greatly, but the noisy single coil pick-up is the original pick-up of the strat (whatever flavor you get it in).

2. Noiseless Single coil pick-ups - Well these are awesome in my opinion, I like a noiseless pick-up because I like to play with a lot of gain, so these are ideal for me. I don't find you sacrifice any tone personally, even on the cleans. Again there are a million different options here, but you can find many in a set, such as Fender's N3 noiselss pick-ups, or a set of Jeff Beck Fender hot noiseless pick-ups, or a set of fender vintage noiseless pick-ups. In my case, I fell in love with the Seymour Duncan Yngwie Malmsteen single coils. They are so incredibly silent, they eat gain with ease, have a very vintage output for a classic sound and the mid-pick-up in particular sounds beautiful to my ear (for my thing) when lowered a lot. Which works for my play style as I pick right over that middle pick-up often and having it low ensures my pick attack doesn't hit the pick-up.

3. Humbucker's, in single coil size! Here's the last category, humbuckers in single coil size. Seymour Duncan sells a set called the "everything axe" and it's pretty sweet:. You get a JB Jr. in the bridge, duck bucker in the mid and a Little 59 in the neck for a very versatile and fat sound that is definitely not a traditional Stratocaster character but turns it into a completely different guitar.

So I'm not trying to point you in any one direction here, just giving you some of the main categories of types of pick-ups there are and some common selections for the S/S/S strat. It's up to you to decide what type of pick-ups and what flavors of that type are going to suit your tastes and musical style. Not to mention your playing style. Unfortunately (or fortunately in my mind!) there are no hard and fast rules with regards to what pick-ups are better for what genre/tone. You can play metal with a set of Fat 50's, there is no rule saying you can't. Maybe the way YOU play and your rig will make it sound absolutely bad ass!

The best advise I can give you is to get your hands on some guitars that have these pick-ups and try them out. Search online for samples of people playing strats with these pick-ups, see what you like the sound of, see what you think will suit your musical tastes the most. You can also directly contact Seymour Duncan, Dimarzio, Fender etc. and they have reps that will provide you with recommendations and pick-up combinations that they know work well. Honestly going straight to the source is always good, they built the pick-ups they know which ones pair well and which ones do not pair well.

Hope this helps you out a bit.

Cheers
-Signature Stratocaster 'Super Galaxy'
-2015 Ibanez RG655 Prestige
-1990 Jackson Fusion Pro (MIJ), Customized w/ JB, Vintage Rails & Little '59. Kill-switch mod replacing the mid-sweep.

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#3
3a. P90s in a standard singlecoil size. P90s are a kind of singlecoil, with a tone somewhere between humbuckers and standard singlecoils.

4. Charlie Christians. Like P90s, these are a singlecoil with a beefier tone than standard singlecoils, but not as high output as a P90. They also always have rail style tops as oppose to individual poles.

5. Lipstick pickups. These are an old form of singlecoil that typically has a different tone from standard singlecoils. Their name came from the original pickup makers using lipstick tubes as housings.

6. Active singlecoil pickups, which use battery-powered magnets to generate their magnetic field. All ot the other pickups mentioned in the prior categories are passive using standard, unpowered magnets to generate their field.
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Last edited by dannyalcatraz at Sep 7, 2016,
#4
6* Active pickups don't use electromagnets, they're still passive/permanent magnets. The classic EMG design uses weak magnets and a differential preamp between the coils to bump the output way up while further exploiting the noise cancellation from the coils. The actual coils are still a fairly recognizable "wire wrapped around some magnets" setup under the hood.

To the original question, let's start by getting some information about the kind of music you play, what you might like to sound like, what amp you're using, and what your budget looks like. That will help us narrow it down. As you say, there's a lot of options out there.
#5
Thanks for the correction! Electronics...not my strong suit.
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

Why, yes, I am a lawyer- thanks for asking!

Log off and play yer guitar!

Strap on, tune up, rock out!
#6
dannyalcatraz Roc8995

Thank you for expanding on that list! haha I was definitely going for the compact list but man, he's got a lot to consider now! Special nod to the lipstick's, those are damn cool.
-Signature Stratocaster 'Super Galaxy'
-2015 Ibanez RG655 Prestige
-1990 Jackson Fusion Pro (MIJ), Customized w/ JB, Vintage Rails & Little '59. Kill-switch mod replacing the mid-sweep.

*****
Orange OR15
Orange PPC2x12
Effects: Vox Satchurator, Fullton Fatboost FB3, Dunlop Zakk Wylde Wah, Boss Waza Craft DM-2w Delay, Boss Super Chorus CH-1, Boss GE-7 Equalizer
#7
Yep! And as you pointed out, that's just assuming a SSS Strat...
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

Why, yes, I am a lawyer- thanks for asking!

Log off and play yer guitar!

Strap on, tune up, rock out!
#8
I have really came to love lace's stuff for single coils.

I will defer to Danny on further details though.
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#9
The only Laces I have bought so far are Alumitones. And I'm getting ready to buy more of those- possibly Deathbuckers- for a pickup upgrading a JKG maple solidbody and/or for a small JKG hollowbody. The latter would probably top out at 3.5-5lbs- perfect for travel.

Something like the bottom right model.


Closeup of another of the same model.


I know a lot of other happy customers- mostly of the Sensors- though. And I like what I've heard of their signature HBs for various metal guitarists.
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

Why, yes, I am a lawyer- thanks for asking!

Log off and play yer guitar!

Strap on, tune up, rock out!
Last edited by dannyalcatraz at Sep 8, 2016,
#10
Roc8995

That's a fair point
Quote by Roc8995
6* To the original question, let's start by getting some information about the kind of music you play, what you might like to sound like, what amp you're using, and what your budget looks like. That will help us narrow it down. As you say, there's a lot of options out there.


Fair point, sorry I didn't think to do that before! Yes it's a SSS strat. Big guitar influences for me are David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix, and Josh Homme (though if I start aiming to replicate his tone I'll probably use my humbucking LP instead). I've mostly played in folk rock bands and brass bands. I'm soon relocating though, and would like to focus more on Soul/R&B music and experimental/post-rock (think Explosions in the Sky). I play out of a Vox AC15, and don't really know pickup pricing well enough to say a budget. Unless it starts getting really up there, I've got a nice egg saved away and money shouldn't play too big a part.

Also, thank you SO MUCH to everyone that's contributed to this discussion. It's already given me a lot to think on
#11
Well, David Gilmour has a few different Strats, one of which uses EMG-DG20 active pickups. They can be bought individually, in prewired pickguards, and sometime, builders will make Stratclones with them, like this:
http://www.fernandesguitars.com/retrorocket/retrorocket-deluxe.html
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

Why, yes, I am a lawyer- thanks for asking!

Log off and play yer guitar!

Strap on, tune up, rock out!
#12
Quote by dannyalcatraz
Well, David Gilmour has a few different Strats, one of which uses EMG-DG20 active pickups. They can be bought individually, in prewired pickguards, and sometime, builders will make Stratclones with them, like this:
http://www.fernandesguitars.com/retrorocket/retrorocket-deluxe.html


Yeah but Hendrix never used EMGs and really, if somebody told me 'I want Gilmour and Hendrix tones out of a strat' I don't think the DG20 set is what I would recommend personally. I'd even prefer something simple like a Fat '50s set or a Fralin Vintage Hot.
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#13
Quote by k.mccarthyander
Roc8995

That's a fair point

Fair point, sorry I didn't think to do that before! Yes it's a SSS strat. Big guitar influences for me are David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix, and Josh Homme (though if I start aiming to replicate his tone I'll probably use my humbucking LP instead). I've mostly played in folk rock bands and brass bands. I'm soon relocating though, and would like to focus more on Soul/R&B music and experimental/post-rock (think Explosions in the Sky). I play out of a Vox AC15, and don't really know pickup pricing well enough to say a budget. Unless it starts getting really up there,


Well based on these artists you mentioned, specifically Hendrix and of course, in a more soul-ful and R&B or experimental/post-rock kind of vibe, perhaps you might want to take a look at a set of Hot Fender Noiseless pick-ups: http://www.musiciansfriend.com/stratocaster-pickups-humbucker/fender-hot-noiseless-3-pickup-set

These were designed for Jeff Beck, clearly a guy that needs a lot of versatility and blurs genre lines whenever he wants to. They're a very versatile set, I've played them, they definitely do the Hendrix thing very well, the first thing I started to play when I tried these was Voodoo Chile and I just ended up jamming out the whole thing with a wah because it was so much fun in the store, they even let me throw a backing track on into a PA . These are easy to come across in a shop, I suggest going in and trying them out.

Cheers!
-Signature Stratocaster 'Super Galaxy'
-2015 Ibanez RG655 Prestige
-1990 Jackson Fusion Pro (MIJ), Customized w/ JB, Vintage Rails & Little '59. Kill-switch mod replacing the mid-sweep.

*****
Orange OR15
Orange PPC2x12
Effects: Vox Satchurator, Fullton Fatboost FB3, Dunlop Zakk Wylde Wah, Boss Waza Craft DM-2w Delay, Boss Super Chorus CH-1, Boss GE-7 Equalizer
#14
Quote by H4T3BR33D3R
Yeah but Hendrix never used EMGs and really, if somebody told me 'I want Gilmour and Hendrix tones out of a strat' I don't think the DG20 set is what I would recommend personally. I'd even prefer something simple like a Fat '50s set or a Fralin Vintage Hot.


True, but if the particular tone he seeks is typified by DG's use of those EMGs, he needs to be aware of that, because the stated goal may not be achievable.

That said, I'll also point out that Godin produces certain Stratclones with what they call their High Definition Revoicer- or HDR- system. Simply put, the HDR lets pickups behave as passive or active pickups at the flip of a switch. Don't know if they'll nail the DG EMG tone, but it hints that it may be possible to have the tine and Hendrix's tone on tap from a single axe.

http://godinguitars.com/godinpassion_rg3_31061_31078.html
http://godinguitars.com/godinpassion_rg3_31085_31092.html
http://godinguitars.com/godinprogression_40889_40872.html
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

Why, yes, I am a lawyer- thanks for asking!

Log off and play yer guitar!

Strap on, tune up, rock out!
#15
Quote by dannyalcatraz
True, but if the particular tone he seeks is typified by DG's use of those EMGs, he needs to be aware of that, because the stated goal may not be achievable.

That said, I'll also point out that Godin produces certain Stratclones with what they call their High Definition Revoicer- or HDR- system. Simply put, the HDR lets pickups behave as passive or active pickups at the flip of a switch. Don't know if they'll nail the DG EMG tone, but it hints that it may be possible to have the tine and Hendrix's tone on tap from a single axe.

http://godinguitars.com/godinpassion_rg3_31061_31078.html
http://godinguitars.com/godinpassion_rg3_31085_31092.html
http://godinguitars.com/godinprogression_40889_40872.html


Yeah but all of the classic PF tones weren't done with EMG pickups. He started using EMG in the mid 80s (way after all the classic Gilmour songs) til maybe the late 90s/early 00s because otherwise I don't see him using EMG loaded guitars anymore. So if Gilmour is the aim, I still don't think EMG is the first choice unless you're a big fan of his early 90s tones.
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#16
Perhaps, but I'd rather err on the side of information inclusion...because God knows I'm no mind reader!
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

Why, yes, I am a lawyer- thanks for asking!

Log off and play yer guitar!

Strap on, tune up, rock out!