Stratocaster Pickup Recommendation

Audiowonderland

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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 to it.

Thanks so much.
Stevie didn't have over wound pickups did he? About 6k or less is what I recall hearing. Over wound / hot pickups will give more mids and take away some high end which is not what you want if "open" is the goal.

I would try the Boot Strap 54 Vintage Pro Set. I think that is probably closest to to what SRV had in #1 from the Boot strap line.
 

teleman78

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Ok my friends, here's the update... Took a while to post because I didn't get the Bootstrap pickups up until last night. I ended up getting the Vintage Sparkle set with Alnico 3 magnets. For the bridge pickup I installed the DiMarzio Chopper with Ceramic Magnets for added versatility. Here are other upgrades I made along with the pickup change:

- Removed the anodized aluminum pickguard and installed a plastic one
- Switched the light weight aluminum tremolo block for the steel one that came with the Gotoh tremolo I had
- Got rid of the old electronics and installed the Emerson Custom Blender circuit kit
- Got rid of the old tremolo springs and installed 5 springs from Raw Vintage
- Changed paint job from Vintage White to Seafoam Green (Not that it matters tonewise but I figure might as well since I was taking the guitar apart)
- Reshaped the neck profile a bit, the Fat C from Musikraft was just too much, I like the fat necks but this was just too much for me, now it feels more like a 52 tele neck which I love.

I know I'm probably never going to know what made the most difference, however I'm pleased to report that I am in shock as to how amazing this guitar sounds. The airiness and openness of the sound is exactly what I always wanted. The bridge position is really awesome for dirty sounds.

All in all I'm a happy camper. This was my last attempt to make this guitar work out, so I really had to try everything. Turned out to be a beautiful, awesome sounding and versatile guitar. Finally hit the jackpot ☺️

Please see pictures attached.

Thank you all for your input.
 

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Jakedog

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First of all, I would definitely recommend vintage style winds on an SRV tone quest. His guitars never had super hot overwound pickups. Fender did that to try and compensate for tge fact that he played very, very loud, used very heavy strings, and had hands like vice-grips. In their infinite wisdom they decided that just making the pickups hotter would allow mere mortals to achieve the same sonic territory. It didn’t work, but it did spawn a lot of internet myth, tomfoolery, and general controversy over the years.

I haven’t tried them yet, but Bootstrap are real affordable, and get glowing reviews from pretty much everyone who tries them. I would never spend huge money on pickups. It’s not like they’re a big secret. With a few notable exceptions, the materials aren’t super rare or hard to find, and the tech was unlocked decades ago. It’s not like these things are super hard or expensive to make.

I think the 635JM pickups in my PRS are absolutely fantastic. They don’t have fiber bobbins, or cloth wire, or any of that vintage materials mojo. They still sound awesome.
 

Jared Purdy

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I've been thinking about going down this tone quest rabbit hole as well. However, I'd likely stick to Fender PU's as there are just too many options out there. I don't want a "Baskin Robbins" experience.

That being said, I was looking at the product descriptions for the Fender Custom Shop 69's and the AM Vintage 59's and the 65's. The PUs that I have on my 2011 Custom Shop Deluxe are Master Design by John Cruz. There aren't any specs on them, so I have no idea what they're based on. They sound "good", "okay", but as we know, curiosity gets a hold, and then..... I've had this guitar for about ten years, bought new from a local store in Toronto.

My paying style is not rock n' roll (so I'm not interested in any of the "fat" inspired PUs). I move around between blues, "sort of rock" as it fits with the blues that I do, and minimal jazz inspired. I finger pick mostly and use a flat pick occasionally. Anyone have any experience with either of these PU's?
 

CowTownPickers

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I use BrandonWound pickups in all my guitars. My 2 Strats have them, 1 is what they call "Sally's" which are Clapton/Meyer 63/64 set. Glassy with no tone but add some tone knob and get that great Blues tone! The 2nd has the " Early 60's" set and that is the sound you get of an early Strat, Great pickups! My Tele's have them too. You can go online to look and listen.
 

CowTownPickers

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I've been thinking about going down this tone quest rabbit hole as well. However, I'd likely stick to Fender PU's as there are just too many options out there. I don't want a "Baskin Robbins" experience.

That being said, I was looking at the product descriptions for the Fender Custom Shop 69's and the AM Vintage 59's and the 65's. The PUs that I have on my 2011 Custom Shop Deluxe are Master Design by John Cruz. There aren't any specs on them, so I have no idea what they're based on. They sound "good", "okay", but as we know, curiosity gets a hold, and then..... I've had this guitar for about ten years, bought new from a local store in Toronto.

My paying style is not rock n' roll (so I'm not interested in any of the "fat" inspired PUs). I move around between blues, "sort of rock" as it fits with the blues that I do, and minimal jazz inspired. I finger pick mostly and use a flat pick occasionally. Anyone have any experience with either of these PU's?
Sounds like you already have a nice guitar! Take your guitar out amp shopping! What a difference a good tube amp can make.
 

Jared Purdy

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Sounds like you already have a nice guitar! Take your guitar out amp shopping! What a difference a good tube amp can make.

I've got pretty well all I need in tube amps, and I've had ample amps over the years. What I currently have is a Fender 57' Custom Deluxe and a Fender 64' Custom Hand Wired PR. So ya, I'm covered. Definitely happy with my amps.
 

Linkslover

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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 to it.

Thanks so much.
Very subjective question. No right or wrong answer.

Personally, I wound up buying an American Standard a few years ago after playing one of my buddy's that had the Fender Custom Shop Fat 50s on it. Really liked the variety of tones different switch settings provides.

Played the "new" American Professional with different pups and they were nowhere near as expressive.

LL
 

moosie

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Either Fralin or OC Duff.

I've had a set of Fralin Vintage Hots (which are not very hot) in my mid-60s style MJT partscaster for a decade. Love 'em.

OC Duff is my new favorite maker. I used his Buckaroo Tele set in my latest Nashville build, and for the middle I used his Fillmore Strat, which is meant to sound like late 60s. The tones are very sweet, and the parallel positions are strattier than my actual Stratocasters.

That's just what you want for those sweet Hendrix / SRV ballads, in my opinion.
 

Refugee

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One more for the huge pile. I am a bit surprised I didn't see anyone else mention Suhr ML's (Mike Landau). Especially the neck. It's just so stratty!
To the OP, I'm happy you got it where you want it. But, Suhr's are really nice. But yeah, a bit pricey.
 

Zepfan

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I really like the Neodymium magnet Strat pickups Vladimir at Deneb-Tone makes.
For Alnico, check out Cavalier Pickups.
 




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