Stratocaster Pickup Recommendation

telemnemonics

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To have had a Strat you liked and then put all those fine pickup sets in a parts Strat you have yet to like as much as your old plain jane US Strat, I'm going to say the guitar is just a dead sounding bunch of parts.

Allowing that a rack of same model Strats all sound different, we know that the guitar has an influence on the pickups.
Some will stamp their feet and claim the guitar cannot possibly play a role in its own tone, only the pickups matter.
Yeah sure OK next!
I've been swapping Fender parts around since 1980 and some assemblies of neck body and bridge are just kinda dead.
Some players may find some sounds they like in a dead bones guitar.
You seem to need more than deadwood to be happy.

I've also swapped possibly hundreds of Strat pickups, but like a good number of us, I find that the whole rest of the guitar can be better or worse, and pickups just might not fix a worse guitar.
You gave this one a good run, really good run.
Try another body, maybe another neck.

What body and neck is this dead dull guitar we speak of?
 

63 vibroverb

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The stock pickups on my Classic 70's MIM strat were actually pretty sparkly and articulate, but just a little too thin and weak. Being 18 years old at the time, I naturally didn't have much money so I tried some pickups that were taken out of a Highway One strat. Think I paid around $60 for the set from stratosphere. They were Alnico 3 and overwound really hot. They definitely cured the thin and weak, but man were they dark and no touch sensitivity! The bridge pickup was actually killer though.

Years go by and I kinda just tolerated the sound of my strat. Still loved it, but always felt meh about the clean tones. Out of nowhere, I came across these Bare Knuckle Mother's Milk pickups at a Mom & Pop shop. Loved the name of them and was aware of the Frusciante reference. I had some extra money at the time, so I just said "f*ck it, why not?". Once I soldered them in and got the heights adjusted right, it was a revelation. The clarity and touch sensitivity is amazing. And they sang with a natural sustain that's beautiful. The MM's made me love my strat like the first day I got it, but even more so. It can mimic Hendrix, Gilmour, and Blackmore so well (and of course Frusciante).

I guess I didn't do too bad finding the right ones after the 2nd pickup change. But these are definitely never coming out! I also heard the 63 Veneers from Bare Knuckle are very similar, about 90%, just slightly different.

In case it wasn't mentioned yet: good quality 250K pots definitely go a long way! And this may be silly, but the tension springs in the back can also make a difference.
 
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oyobass

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In case it wasn't mentioned yet: good quality 250K pots definitely go a long way! And this may be silly, but the tension springs in the back can also make a difference.

I'm intrigued with the reference to springs making a difference. Could you expand a bit on that?

I usually use a bit of felt, or even a used dryer sheet wrapped around the springs to deaden their vibration. That's the only spring mod I've ever done.
 

oyobass

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get a new neck
At first I chuckled at this and thought it was ridiculous, but I think you have something here. With all the quality pickups the OP has been through with no joy, it is high time to look at the chemistry between body and neck. Even changing the brand/gauge of strings might help. Anything to change the balance of the chemistry in your favor- a new neck, a different body, someone even suggested different trem springs. You could even carefully remove the strings and put an entirely different guitar under them to ultimately achieve your goal.

Some guitars are much more than the sum of their parts, others are considerably less.
 

pinchegil

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Find a local winder. In Denver area we have Plant Tone, hand wound using original spec materials for under $150. I’m sure there are similar guys in your area. You get to talk to the guy that actually winds your pups and tell him what you want. These are guys squeaking out a living doing what the love and you can hear it.
 

SRHmusic

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You mentioned the DiMarzio Area 67. Also consider the Pro 54. I have this in the neck of my #1 (an alder Fender body from an American Deluxe Strat) and it's just great. It's hotter still than the Area 67 or 61, but mates well with them. I have the hotter of the two (61 or 67) in the middle.
 

scelestus

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For some reason people think he used Higher output pickups , he didnt.....Vintage style pu´s , tune down half a step ,Tube Screamer , and be prepared to turn a decent amp up higher than ever before.
Bed room level players will never get that sound , Im sure
I'm not any kind of authority on SRV tone, but for a lot of famous players it comes down to sheer volume.
 

ndcaster

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At first I chuckled at this and thought it was ridiculous, but I think you have something here. With all the quality pickups the OP has been through with no joy, it is high time to look at the chemistry between body and neck. Even changing the brand/gauge of strings might help. Anything to change the balance of the chemistry in your favor- a new neck, a different body, someone even suggested different trem springs. You could even carefully remove the strings and put an entirely different guitar under them to ultimately achieve your goal.

Some guitars are much more than the sum of their parts, others are considerably less.
yes

don't forget the speakers -- I was playing a tele through a 12" Celestion V30 for years until @muchxs said to try an Eminence Alessandro

it perked things right up
 

stmoves

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Hello all,

My first strat was a 1995 American strat and ever since I've been fascinated by this instrument. I don't have the 95 strat anymore, it's been gone a long time. Since then I've had several strats including American Vintage (New production), real vintage Strats and Custom Shop strats.

Right now I only have one strat, it's a partscaster that I put together a few years ago, I have had several different pickups on this guitar:
  • Fralin Blues Specials
  • Fralin Vintage Hot
  • BG V60 Pickups
  • Booststrap Oatmeal Stout
  • Van Zandt Plus Strat
  • Rio Grande Muy Grande
  • Fender Texas Specials
  • Others I can't rememeber right now...
Currently has the Oatmeal Stout and even though it sounds ok, I'm not yet 100% satisfied, my guess is that I have always chosen the higher wound style pickups as I'm a HUGE SRV fan but I guess I've come to the realization that maybe I should look at true vintage wound pickups.

Upon looking I came across very highly regarded brands like: Virgil Arlo ($1500 a set) these seem INSANE prices for just a strat pickup set. Also heard Don Mares are amazing but not readily available.. there's a waiting list.

I've come across some other brands new to me that look more like viable options pricewise:
  • Raw Vintage 50 ($200)
  • Rocketfire Rockin '54 ($300)
  • David Allen Tru '59 ($250)
  • Bare Knuckle Apache ($280)
  • Manlius Vintage '54 ($180)
  • DiMarzio Area 67 ($80 per pickup)
I'm trying to get your opinions as to which one I should try this time around. I don't want to spend anymore that $300 for the set. If you have any other suggestion not listed here I look forward.
. If your trying for the sound of your 95 and it was unmolested I’d look at Lace pretty sure that’s what Fender used up until 96.
 

GGardner

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I have had several different pickups on this guitar:
  • Fralin Blues Specials
  • Fralin Vintage Hot
  • BG V60 Pickups
  • Booststrap Oatmeal Stout
  • Van Zandt Plus Strat
  • Rio Grande Muy Grande
  • Fender Texas Specials
  • Others I can't rememeber right now...

New amp? I find that pickups are more fun but amps are more important.
 

Phrygian77

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I'm late to the party, but as a few others have said, go with a vintage type output.

The Area 58s that I just recently put in an HSS Strat are very impressive. They are in the same ballpark, with slightly less top end, as the Monotone 59 clones that I have in my own Strat.
 

Sax-son

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On the high dollar boutique line:

Lindy Frailin Vintage Hot
Lollar Blonds

On the budget choice:
Fender pure vintage 59's
Bootstrap 54 pro's

I have only ordered the Cavalier Telecaster pickups so I have no experience with his Strat Pickups. However, one might do their research on those as well.
 

63 vibroverb

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I'm intrigued with the reference to springs making a difference. Could you expand a bit on that?

I usually use a bit of felt, or even a used dryer sheet wrapped around the springs to deaden their vibration. That's the only spring mod I've ever done.

Yes, I used to stuff cotton swabs into my springs to muffle them from ringing.

Sometime down the line, I bought a 2nd 70’s strat used and the seller had swapped out the original springs for cheap squier springs. They looked and felt just a little different from the originals in my other strat. Definitely much more rigid and stiffer. This stiffness made my strings have more attack, but less sustain. Kind of like when strings are too heavy for a certain acoustic guitar and it chokes out. This also made the springs themselves resonate a dissonant high pitch any time I picked a note or strummed anywhere on the neck. Reason for the cotton swabs I mentioned above.

At the time, I thought it was silly that the springs could make a difference. But comparing the pull on the ones in my 2 strats felt too different to not try out new ones. Turns out they all had different tensions and that affected the sound and feel of my strats! The Fender black springs and Raw Vintage have the least tension, followed by Fender silver springs, with the stock Squiers being the tightest.

Man are strats the most temperamental guitar design. They’re beautiful once you get them balanced out though.
 

2HBStrat

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I'm intrigued with the reference to springs making a difference. Could you expand a bit on that?

I usually use a bit of felt, or even a used dryer sheet wrapped around the springs to deaden their vibration. That's the only spring mod I've ever done.
I like the sound of the springs. I have one Strat in which the springs are especially ringy, almost like reverb
 

oyobass

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I like the sound of the springs. I have one Strat in which the springs are especially ringy, almost like reverb
I thought about that as I was wrapping the used dryer sheets around my Black Strat tribute springs. The spring resonance adds a little magic and mystery (mojo?) to the sound, doesn't it?

My problem was that the mojo seemed to be dissonant to most of the keys I usually play in.
 

Cheap Trills

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I like the Klein's, and I don't see them on your list of ones you've tried. Good luck! I've found, for me, the variation in my playing ability due to practice affects tone much more than pickups. But, also, I play with my fingers so more variability when I'm out of shape.
 

Jack Clayton

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As a few have said, if you haven't found a soul mate among all these options, maybe the pups aren't your issue. What is your current wiring situation? The wrong setup in that area can hold you back, even if your pickups are great.
 

63 vibroverb

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To have had a Strat you liked and then put all those fine pickup sets in a parts Strat you have yet to like as much as your old plain jane US Strat, I'm going to say the guitar is just a dead sounding bunch of parts.

I was afraid to say this, but unfortunately this could be a possibility.

Bodies that are too light and not dense enough always sounded too unfocused, shallow, and no sustain to me. At least for strats/teles in my experience. I was never able to remedy that with pickups, hardware, or neck changes.
 




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