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Best Strat Pickups for A Superb Guitar Tonal Facelift 

 June 9, 2021

By  Zen Chung

Although the design of strat pickups continues to change over the years, some of us may still prefer to stick to the classic layout. Whatever the case is, we've assembled the best strat pickups for you to choose from. We've done great research to create for you a list of the best of the best in the market for you.

Some of our options offer you the typical single-coil sound, while others will give you a bit more than you ask for. Depending on your budget and preferences, you get to choose the best one to suit your needs. Let's look at the best Stratocaster pickups for you.

Best Strat Pickups

1. Fender Tex-Mex Strat Pickups

Our first pick is a popular choice among guitar players worldwide. This official fender tone option allows you to upgrade all your three spots at once. The best part is that this Fender Tex-Mex strat pickup is affordable. This strat pickup also gives you a signature vintage style high output grit.

It does this while still maintaining its crystal highs with nothing but sparkling sustain. To say that this is impressive would be an understatement given the hotter sound and nature of these best Stratocaster pickups. You can also get the Stratocaster drop cap wiring accoutrements that come with this purchase, and you still won't break the bank.

These best strat pickups are easy to install and built to last. You can tweak the poles of this Fender Stratocaster to emulate various notorious Fender set-ups. These Fender Stratocasters are all PAF styles and have the go-to Alcino magnets that you'll find in most vintage models.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Have a hot distortion
  • Have Jimmie Vaughn vibes
  • Give a bright and powerful sound
  • Have a great sustain

Cons

  • Have some bite to them

2. Musiclily Loaded Strat Pickguard

Musiclily SSS 11 Hole Strat Guitar Loaded Pickguard Prewired Scratch Plate...
  • 11 mounting screw holes, 3Ply SSS strat pre-wired loaded style pickguard, fits...
  • 3 single coil pickups with Ceramic magnet
  • Come with full set of 2 tone & 1 volume knob, 5-way pickup switch, pickups and...
  • Included mounting screws
  • Package includes: 1Pc Loaded Pickguard Set

If you're looking for cheap pickups to upgrade your Strat with, this is the option for you. Other cheap pickups will have a hard time competing with this Musically Loaded strat pickup. Although it's an incredibly cheap option, this strat pickup comes pre-wired to save you the time and hassle of figuring everything out.

With 11 mounting screw holes, this option fits any USA/Mexican Standard Strat. All you need to do is solder the hot and ground leads into the input jack, and you're good to go. These Stratocaster pickups come in a variety of colors to give you options for upgrading your guitar look as well as its tone.

These three single-coil pickups come with a Ceramic magnet and two-tone and 1 volume knobs. You'll enjoy using these active single coils. The mounting screws for these single coils are also included. Therefore, you don't have to struggle with the assembly process.

Pros

  • Easy to install
  • Comes with a deluxe pickguard
  • Required minimal wiring
  • Has a Fender pure vintage-style tone
  • Very cheap option

Cons

  • Can be noisy
  • Has mediocre pots

3. Fender Tex Mex Prewired Stratocaster Pickguard

Fender Tex Mex Prewired Stratocaster Pickguard - 3-ply White
  • Tex-mex pickups
  • Polysol-coated magnet wire
  • Staggered pole pieces for balanced output
  • Alnico 5 magnets for focus and Enhanced dynamics
  • Reverse-wound middle pickup to eliminate hum

Another Fender special, these pre-wired best Stratocaster pickups are made to Jimmie Vaughn's exacting specifications. These beautiful creations also feature Polysol-coated magnet wires and Alnico V magnets to give you maximum output and that punchy response.

The middle of these Fender strat pickups is reverse wound for good hum suppression. Everything on this Fender Stratocaster is dropped into this premium package that's ready to be loaded into your guitar. The staggered pole pieces ensure that you get a balanced output.

You are sure not to be disappointed, especially with the Alnico V magnets and reverse-wound middle pickup that eliminates any hum. Let us know which feature you love most in this best noiseless strat pickup.

Pros

  • Has Polysol-coated magnet wires for a punchy response
  • Has good annoying hum-suppression thanks to the reverse-wound middle pickup
  • Balanced output
  • Have Alnico V magnets for a punchy sound
  • Has enhanced dynamics and focus

Cons

  • Has a plastic Vintage Bobbin construction

4. EMG DG20 David Gilmour Pickguard Set

Sale
EMG DG20 David Gilmour Active Pickup Guitar Pickguard Set
  • Pro Series David Gilmour custom design
  • Custom 11-hole white pearl pickguard with white knobs
  • Utilizes Alnico loaded single-coil pickups, Guitar Expander, and presence...
  • Increased treble and bass frequencies and enhanced earthiness and mid-range
  • Complete and ready to mount to your guitar

These loaded pickguards from EMG are a dream come true for you if you want the best strat pickups that are a breeze to install. These best pickups come with all the electronics you need to give your instrument the tonal facelift it deserves.

Just wire the input jack, and you're good to go. This pickup design is made to David Gilmour of Pink Floyd’s exact standards. You can make your guitar sing like this legend's iconic guitar with a simple installation.

If you'd like a pickguard set that has designs that match Kirk Hammett and Steve Lukather's designs, you can also get them on EMG's store on Amazon.

Pros

  • Noiseless pickups
  • Has unique tone controls
  • Has a completely solderless installation process
  • Has enhanced earthiness and mid-range

Cons

  • Not expressive as passive pickups
  • Requires the use of a 9V battery

5. Seymour Duncan Little 59er Pickup Black Bridge

Seymour Duncan Little 59er Pickup Black Bridge
  • Direct replacement, single-coil size
  • Sound of a '59 humbucker
  • Adjustable pole pieces
  • A whole set of Little '59s will deliver a rich, open sound; or a bridge Little...
  • Plus, it's a direct replacement for single coils

Our fifth pick allows you to get a Les Paul vibe and strat sound. This Seymour Duncan vintage strat pickup is very well constructed and is versatile enough to give you the iconic sound you want. Remember how we mentioned that some strat pickups on this list would be classical while other pickups won't be? This is one of the unique ones.

This Seymour Duncan pickup is a double-coiled Humbucker. This design strays away from the usual single coils that you're accustomed to. Even the cheaper pickups cannot compete with these Seymour Duncan pickups. This PAF-styled passive pickup features ceramic magnets.

This Seymour Duncan dual pickup system helps you cancel out annoying signal hums and is just as good as the Seymour Duncan California 50s strat, if not better. This then enables you to deliver note signals that ring with beautiful individual clarity. These Seymour Duncan pickups are wired with a four-conductor lead wire. This means that you can comfortably split it up or hook up a switch. You can also get a neck pickup version of this Seymour Duncan model too.

Pros

  • Has a single-coil sized Humbucker
  • Made with high-quality materials
  • Has great tonality
  • Has easily adjustable pole pieces

Cons

  • Can be slightly expensive for some

Factors to Consider When Getting the Best Stratocaster Pickups

1. Type of Pickups

When getting pickups, you can either get single-coil or humbucker pickups. Let's look at these cool options in more detail.

a). Single Coil Pickups

First invested in the late 1920s, single-coil pickups are often referred to as the classic Stratocaster pickup. Leo Fender and Seth lover are some innovative designers that later improved and perfected this design. The single-coil pickup is known for its bright and punchy tone, giving your guitar an excellent high-frequency response.

If you want an expressive and lively tone, this single-coil pickup is for you. The name of the single-coil pickup comes from these pickups featuring thousands of copper windings around one single coil. They can either have a bar magnet spanning all six strings or individual magnets for each string.

One drawback with this single-coil pickup is that it can pick up interference and hum from other electronic sources. Amplifiers, monitors, and lighting can affect this active single-coil pickup. Nonetheless, you'll find that this type of active strat pickup is common among Strat players.

b). Humbuckers

If you don't like the hum that comes with the option above, you can get this alternative option. This dual-coil pickup rejects hum and any other interference. Active humbuckers are renowned for their aggressive and full note and are mostly heard in rock and roll sounds since the late 60s.

However, the disadvantage with this type compared to the single active coils is that they lack the liveliness or high-end response that the single-coil pickup set is known for. Therefore, comes down to which you prefer and what you can do without.

Another factor is that these humbuckers are usually twice the size of a single-coil pickup. However, manufacturers like Seymour Duncan are creating humbuckers with smaller single coil housing. This allows you to drop it into your standard Stratocaster.

2. Circuitry

Another factor to consider when choosing your desired pickup set is whether you want an active set or a passive set. Both single coils and humbuckers have both of these types. Active or passive referred to how the pickups receive power to allow them to pick up your strings' vibrations.

Passive pickups have thousands of copper windings around each coil, while active pickups have far fewer copper windings. Active pickups also have weaker magnets compared to their passive counterparts. Therefore, if you go with single active coils, you'll need to boost the signal with a battery-powered preamp before the single being sent to the amplifier.

Several guitarists love passive pickups because of their organic tone, superior reliability, vintage sound, and expressiveness. However, if you love modern music, you may enjoy active pickups as they produce a more digital sound.

3. Pickup Location

When it comes to pickup locations, you'll find that the ones nearest the bridge sound the brightest with the shortest sustains. The ones in the neck positions sound warm and full and have the longest sustain. The ones in the middle have a balance of these two.

Therefore, when choosing the best strat pickups, decide whether you want a bridge pickup, neck pickup, or middle pickup. If you want the brightest sound, bridge pickups are the best option for you. You can choose to get the same pickups for all the locations and then move them as you see fit.

You can move the bridge pickup to the neck and so on. On the other hand, you could also choose a different pick-up for each position and accent or offset the tonal variations. You can get a different bridge pickup from the neck and the middle. The choice is up to you.

4. Wiring

When it comes to humbucker wiring, you either have a parallel or series connection. For a modern-day strat sound, the parallel pickup wire connection is best. Series wiring connection is more of a custom modification.

For the parallel wiring, the electric signal is split into two at the start and then re-combined at the end. What you get is a brighter sound that has a comparatively lower output from the individual pickup.

For the series wiring connection, the signals travel along one single path through both of the coils. What you get is a warmer sound with a higher output. Ensure that both pickups of your humbucker are engaged.

5. Magnets

Magnets have a significant impact on your pickup's output and tone. The layout of your magnets or enamel-coated magnet wire can affect the kind of sound you get. The popular layouts are the blade style, steel poles, and individual magnetic poles.

The individual magnetic poles type of layout will produce a thinner and brighter sound. Whether it is a vintage strat sound or not. These layouts are commonly found in Fender guitars and other single coil-sized humbuckers. You can go to the Fender custom shop if you're interested in this layout.

The steel poles extending from the magnetic bar layout produce a dark and fatter sound. You'll find this kind of layout in Gibson guitars. Even a pickup set with a humbucking option can have this.

Finally, the blade-style has more consistency with string bends. This layout replaces the individual magnetic pole pieces with one single metal bar.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What makes the best strat pickups?

Whether they are single-coil pickups or not, the best strat pickups need to feel good in your hands. Good Stratocaster pickups also sound great to your ears and entice you to play more as you enjoy the sound from your electric guitar.

The best single-coil pickups or vintage-style pickups are also easy to use and set up without much problems on your part. If you want to play country music or any other modern or vintage sounds and classic tones, choose the best Stratocaster pickup for you.

2. Does pickup height affect the strat tone?

Yes. When set too high, your strat pickups will cause problems when you're playing. When set too low, your Stratocaster pickups will be inefficient and weak. Therefore, get a balance between the two.

Whether it's the bridge position or any other position, ensure that it is well balanced for the most iconic and unique sound. Even the st strat vintage voice single option can do great if the height is properly balanced. 

Zen Chung


I'm Zen Chung, a piano and violin teacher based out of Plano, Texas. I started this blog because my students (and their parents) kept asking about the best musical instruments to buy online. Look no further I'm here to save the day! 

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