Can anyone recommend me some vintage-correct strat pickups?

Beebe

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Looks like Revel has a nice option:

 

itsGiusto

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Also, do you play with a wound 3rd? If not, you probably don't want a "vintage correct" stagger.
That's a good point. I don't use with a wound 3rd, and I wasn't sure if vintage stagger had more to do with the wound 3rd or the very round 7.25" radius. Or maybe both.

What happens if you use a vintage stagger with non-wound third? Is the G string way too soft or something? What do people do to deal with this?
 

schmee

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Thanks!

TBH, I have two strats right now, one is a MIJ ST54 from 1995, and other is an MIM from 2010ish. (Both are ceramic btw.) I love the sound of the MIJ, and dislike the sound of the MIM. The MIJ is much lower output and sounds much more mellow to me, so that's what I'm basing my preference from.

So that's the sound that I'm trying to get closer to, the sound that that pickup was based on. I assume, but do not know, that the ST54 pickup was trying to replicate the sound of a 1954 strat (since the ST54 was pretty close to 1954 specs in most regards), which I think would have had alnico III magnets.
Yeah, ceramics are a different thing.
I dont dislike the MIM ceramics, they are a bit gainy or dirty compared with real clean Strat pups, but it's not huge. In some ways one could think of them as "good dirty" like old P90's. But I have never kept a pair in long. I've had MIJ Strats but neither had ceramic bar pickups like the MIM does. I think I still have a couple of the MIJ non ceramic pickups here. They are low wind and pretty good replicas of the old USA low wind IIRC.
 

schmee

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That's a good point. I don't use with a wound 3rd, and I wasn't sure if vintage stagger had more to do with the wound 3rd or the very round 7.25" radius. Or maybe both.

What happens if you use a vintage stagger with non-wound third? Is the G string way too soft or something? What do people do to deal with this?
IIRC the stagger is a high pole on the D and G string, it is on the CS54 and 69's, so just the opposite I suppose. Seems to me the G string is one of the loudest strings on guitar anyway...?
 

LowCaster

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I like the Seymour Duncan California 50’s set, which I think is just 3 ssl1’s

Sounds great to me in my strat
Yes I have those too. It’s the standard vintage set in the SD lineup, very clear, dynamic, open, yet not harsh. The three ssl-1 pickups have the same output (this is part of the vintage correct vibe). The middle pickup is RW/RP for noise cancelation in position 2 and 4. They sound good. They would look vintage correct if you’d swap the covers or remove the SD name. Overall they are very good but quite expensive compared to what you can buy from Fender or from other small builders.


That's a good point. I don't use with a wound 3rd, and I wasn't sure if vintage stagger had more to do with the wound 3rd or the very round 7.25" radius. Or maybe both.

What happens if you use a vintage stagger with non-wound third? Is the G string way too soft or something? What do people do to deal with this?
Vintage stagger meaning the pole piece is closer to the G string. So with non-wound G string, the sound is louder compared to D and B. It doesn’t bother most players. It is supposed to be more balanced when you use the proper Wound G string set.

On the opposite, flat / non staggered pickups may be a bit scooped in the mids due to the radius thing you mentioned. Very subtle.

If that bothers you, get P90s or humbuckers with adjustable pole pieces.
 

beyer160

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That's a good point. I don't use with a wound 3rd, and I wasn't sure if vintage stagger had more to do with the wound 3rd or the very round 7.25" radius. Or maybe both.

What happens if you use a vintage stagger with non-wound third? Is the G string way too soft or something? What do people do to deal with this?
The vintage stagger was to compensate for the wound 3rd being quieter. With a plain third, the G string winds up being too loud. Flat stagger is better but the D and B strings wind up being a little quieter, but it's subtle.

Lots of guys play a plain 3rd with vintage staggered pickups and don't notice or care. If you're having pickups made custom though, there's no reason to replicate the vintage stagger if you're not using a wound 3rd. A lot of guys will do a "modified" stagger to even everything out, and on pickups with plastic bobbins you can push in the magnets and do it yourself. Don't do this with a "vintage correct" set with fiber bobbins though, you'll break them.
 

deytookerjaabs

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It's hard to get an idea what an old strat sounds like without finding something that's legit non-butchered or at least painstakingly restored. '54's and that short period those pickups & guitars were made are probably the most even and full sounding IMO. I've not gone down that rabbit hole for that year but it's worth a try. Get some good studio headphones and listen to some hi-def samples.



I've had numerous '57/'62 sets, they don't get there. They get in the ball part of chimey strat sound though but they don't have the same thing going on that you'd get with a real '57. A mid to slightly late 50's strat pickup when not butchered has an obvious mid range compression/muffle thing going on that's really a blast. '57/'62's don't compress like that, they're more in your face chime/sizzle. Again, real vintage strats may or may not have been messed with but when you hear the sound of a legit mid-late 50's one it's obvious.







I would say.... I've never owned a Klein set but his '54 "epic" and '56 "epic" samples online seem to get in the ball park of those two years. Don Mare and JM Rolph both have huge reputations in this department but both also have wait times AFAIK.

My experience with Lollar, Fralin, & SD's is to me they are more interpretive concoctions of what those folks think a certain guitar player with that era guitar sounds like. I had the SD Texas Antiquities in a guitar and they're nice sounding but are not like an old strat at all. They're more like trying to sound like SRV without being SRV or something, hard to describe. The Lollar's I've owned were too smooth to be confused with an old strat and Fralins were kind of the other end of that equation. For the most part with Fender CS & reissue pickups they always seem to have more bite/percussive thing out of the box to my ears.

Whereas, I have a set of Rolph '60 pickups I got used and they sound like a damn vintage strat. I might get a set of Klein '56 for my old strat too just to see if they do the trick.

My best advise: get VIPots, a strat with the vintage radius (a flatter radius with vintage stagger will react different than the original formula FWIW), wire the guitar identical to what you're looking for and in the case of it being a '54 get the right cap, Luxe makes perfect repros. Then? Get the "boutique" replica pickup of your choosing. You'll be 99% there IMO.


 

jvin248

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...I love the sound of the MIJ, and dislike the sound of the MIM. The MIJ is much lower output and sounds much more mellow to me...

Drop the MIM pickups so they are flush with the pickguard, that will weaken them up. Adjust up to the tone you want. The MIM Standard ceramic pickups were designed for higher output than Alnico could get when close to the strings -- pushing face melting distortion (buyers that complained regular alnico were too weak/thin). To get more traditional tones you need to lower them.

.
 

adjason

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I have the 54 set and the 57/62 set in strats and like them both BUT to my ears just as good is the Fender classic series 50/60's pickups or the vintera 50's or 60's pickups. I tried the 56 set which is alnico 3 as I tend to like alnico 2/3 in teles but these were just too quiet for me to keep. I like low output but these were real low. really there are lots that sound like good strat pickups- 69 set. 59 65 etc etc. really hard to go wrong with any of them.
 

carpenter

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I got an email from Seymour Duncan last week. They had loaded strat pickguard it was the Jimi Hendricks model. I think it was under or just over $400.00. It won't cost anything to look.
 

Swirling Snow

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Leo would probably recommend these:

https://g-l-online-store.myshopify.com/products/clf-research-clf-100-alnico-sc-set-white

The G&L site is rather modest, but here is one of their stores telling the story:
These Alnico wonders aren’t just another flavor-of-the-week, having been carefully refined by G&L’s Paul Gagon for personal guitars since the late 1970s. Back then, Gagon was an R&D engineer at another company when he was tasked with finding out what was so special about the early bolt-on guitars many players raved about. Gagon analyzed many examples of what were considered “holy grail” guitars, spending time out on the shop floor talking to builders still working in the pickup department since the ‘50s, all on a quest to discover where the real mojo was – and wasn’t. What he learned from the builders matched his own engineering analysis. You see, back in the day, the actual spec of pickups coming that down that old production line varied considerably.
What they apparently can't mention is the 'other company' was Fender, so Paul had access to all the historical records.
 

Ascension

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One of the best sounding sets of Vintage Style Strat Pickups I have owned have been the Kiesel Marks singles. First time I heard these they floored me. Kiesel has a new Pickup builder on the website now with Specs. Folks forget that Kiesel is older than Fender has never sold out of the family and started as a Pickup and Amp company in 1946. The early Kiesel pickups from the 1940's are very sought after. I don't care for their newer metal oriented humbuckers Jeff Kiesel pushes however the lower gain more traditional pickups that his dad Mark Kiesel is designing right now are spectacular.
In particular on the singles the Johnny Hiland set and Marks singles are very very good. I have Duncan Antiquity Texas Hots in one guitar and Retrospect Surfer II's in another. I like the Kiesel Marks singles I have as well or better than both. They do have hotter bridge pickups ( right at ( 9.4 K which I want for the fatter tone and more punch ) but the neck and middle at 6.4 K middle and 6.2 K neck are very very good true vintage toned Alnico II Strat pickups. Very glassy sweet and clear pickups.
 
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Ascension

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I’m happy with these Lollars:


i got the “Dirty Blonde” set with a slightly overwound bridge, but they don’t seem to market that set now.
When I was looking for a set to go in my rare USA Custom Washburn Silverado it came down to the Dirty Blonds and the Duncan Antiquity Surfer II's. Like the Lollars a lot but in the end went with the Surfers. Saying that like my Kiesel Marks singles in another guitar more than the Surfers. Most only know the awful shrill metal oriented pickups Kiesel is putting in a lot of their guitars. However they also have several more traditional pickup lines that are very very good. The Marks singles and Johnny Higland single coil sets are very very good in particular
 

chezdeluxe

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The G&L George Fullerton model from the 90s deliberately used the Seymour Duncan SSL1 pickups specified by George himself.

They really are the gold standard for early Stratocaster sound.
 

Cosmic Cowboy

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Usually the vintage winds are the thinner more 'ice picky' sound.

If you want something warmer and fatter, i would actually go with a modern wind.
 

Vibroluxer

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I feel like I hear about PAF clones all the time, everyone's always talking about which is better, Seth Lovers vs Tonerider vs ThroBack, etc. But people don't seem to talk too much about vintage-correct strat pickups.

I'm in the market for something that would be pretty vintage correct for a '54 strat, does anyone have recommendations? I'm also looking to keep it below something like $400. I think, if I'm not mistaken, that probably alnico II or alnico III would be the way to go, is that right? Maybe this Angeltone pickup set is a good way to go, does anyone have experience with it?

I think I tend to like strat pickups that are lower in output, and slightly less ice picky and harsh than some of the more modern ones, but that are still nice and "chimey".

The Bootstrap 54 Sparkles are nice. Alnico lll.
 

archetype

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Well, I guess that's part of my question. I don't really know any sets I want to copy, I don't have ideas about this, and have very little knowledge about what's out there, and what was being done in 1954. Like I say above, I love my MIJ ST54, which is ceramic, but I believe based on a 1954 strat sound, and I want to get a set that might have been what that might have been based on.

Not really. The ST-54s were cosmetically similar to an early 50s Strat, but were not a reissue, replica, or feature perfect copy. They're just pickups and not an effort to create a '54 tone.
 

telemystix

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I have the same specs on my strat and I am very fond of the 54 strat specs.

I would look at the Fralin 54's

or

the Bareknuckle Apache sets - both are Alnico III and both are stellar.

I did not want to change my entire set as I really like my Vanzandt True Vintage in the neck and middle -
but I did install the Fralin 54 w/baseplate in the bridge and I feel like it is the perfect set.

If I were to acquire another strat I would most definitely buy the Fralin 54's or the Apaches!

I really like alnico 3's myself and i feel they are the chimiest sparkliest toneful strat pickups.
 




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