Price paid: £ 34
Purchased from: Amazon.co.uk
Sound — 8
I'm still fairly new to electric, having played mostly on acoustic since I started. I was recently gifted a Squier Affinity SSS Strat, but was looking to get a bit more versatility out of it, and decided that a HSS mod would do just what I needed, so I set out ordering parts. After looking at £5 pickups knowing they'd be awful, and despairing at the idea of spending £100 Duncans or other expensive pickups, I decided at £35 it was at least worth a shot.
Straight away I loved the sound, which is quite well balanced with the singles already in the guitar (since it's quite a low output vintage style pickup). It gets plenty growly if you roll the tone off and throw it through a distortion, but you can still get enough treble out of it if you want to go for a cleaner sound.
I have it wired up to a push-pull so I can split it if I need that pure stratty sound back, and honestly it sounds great split, without losing a huge amount of volume. It essentially just sounds a little less boomy and a little brighter when it's split, so it's extremely versatile in that sense. There's no need to fiddle with volume when going from unsplit to split, which is dead handy for chaning tone mid song. I usually play beside my computer, so pretty much as noisy an environment as you can get, but this thing chops the noise right down. It's not perfect, though some of that could be from the pickguard which isn't perfectly shielded. Still fantastic for £35!
Reliability & Durability — 9
As pickups go it seems extremely well made. The wiring is all shielded with 4 conductors, and it didn't seem like it would fall apart when I was installing it. I got the unshielded model so it basically came with 2 screws, 2 springs, and the exposed pickup, no chrome covers here. The springs and screws are what you'd expect, and the pickup seemed well finished, with no sharp edges, and well aligned wrapping tape, with no bits hanging off or marks to be found.
The presentation in the box was simple but very useful, including a pamphlet showing polarity and wiring, a quick install guide, coil split options for either the screw or slug coil, or series/parallel switching, and a diagram of a two pickup 4 control wiring scheme i. E. Les Paul or SG style controls, making installation pretty simple. Wish they would have a strat wiring guide on the back just for completeness, though there are plenty available online, and they do give contact details for issues like this right at the top of the card.
Overall Impression — 8
I play mostly indie, light rock, alt rock, so a mix of cleans, light distortion, sometimes even pretty fuzzy stuff, and this pickup tackles it all without being over the top. I haven't found a tone yet it doesn't seem capable of. It's always going to be a little brighter due to it's bridge position, but it does a good job of tempering that brightness down to a much more useful level.
I'd say it's perfect for any guitarist looking for an upgrade on a budget, guaranteed to be better than pretty much any stock pickup on any guitar sub £500, and with the added versatility of being 4 conductor (so coil split is always an option down the line), it's a no brainer. If I were to upgrade from the Affinity Strat, I'd absolutely pull the pickguard with this pickup off and carry it over to the new one. I like it so much, I'm planning on investing in Tonerider's strat single coils to replace the stock affinity pickups currently paired with it as well to improve all areas of the tone.