Stratocaster Pickup Recommendation


Silver Supporter
Jan 5, 2018
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.


Jan 20, 2011
Miami, FL. USA
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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Last edited:


Ad Free Member
Mar 26, 2003
The North Coast
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.

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