Getting a little tired of the sound of those stock pickups on your Strat? In the need of a replacement set that’s a little more fine-tuned to your personal tastes? Or maybe you just want to check out a list of the best replacement pickups for the Strat! No problem! Us Pros here at PAL have stepped away from the confines of our
inevitable tombs lofty cubicles and have gotten together to compile a list of what we feel are the top five replacement pickups for the Fender Stratocaster. While there are plenty of great sets to choose from – not to mention conflicting preferences among different players – the following five pickups are what we feel stand out above the rest.
The company’s best selling set to date, these pickups are wound with 42 gauge Heavy Formvar wire and have beveled magnets and cloth leads. The neck and middle pickups are average 50s specs, while the bridge is as hot as possible with this wire. Slightly hotter than stock Fenders but not as aggressive as the Texas Specials, Fralin’s Vintage Hot pickups allow for more chimey harmonics that highlight the upper frequencies. When paired with a classic tube amp, these babies produce a very lovely growl and it’s pretty clear that the company didn’t mind sacrificing output for top-end and clarity. These hand-wound pickups are definitely for tone connoisseurs!
These babies are an amplified set of vintage-style Stratocaster electric guitar pickups that feature staggered, hand-beveled Alnico 5 magnets and Forvar magnet wires wound for classic bell tones and clear harmonic enhancement, but those aren’t the only reasons they made our list. The bridge pickup is calibrated for increased, balanced output. Overall, there’s more emphasis on the lower-end compared to the standard plastic bobbin variety found in today’s Strats. There is enough bite on the treble without losing its mellow flavoring that really make the CS ‘54s shine. Those looking for a more modern sound might find the tone a bit thin but if that vintage sparkle and glassy voice of a ’54 Strat is what you crave, you will find these pickups can certainly sing! Just make sure to remember one thing; these are NOT hum canceling – real Strat fans only
Although Van Zandt Pickups was started in the late ‘80s, founder W.L. Van Zandt had been repairing and rewinding pickups around theDallas/Ft. Worth area since the early ‘60s in his garage. He began by rewinding the magnets on pickups for friends and other players and pretty soon he had a small business going as his reputation grew by word of mouth. Today, they are among the best hand-wound pickups around and the Rock Model set itself is one of the company’s most popular brands. Built for rock, heavy metal, and alternative rock, the Rock Model has a lot of top end and growl to allow for overdrive of amp or distortion box. Boasting a stronger output than stock for better lead work while still allowing the Strat’s signature chime and quack to shine, these pickups might not be as well known as some of the others on this list but they definitely deserve much praise!
Long story short – these pickups are brimming with that classic ‘60s tone that made the Stratocaster a legend in the rock world! Fender’s Custom Shop ’69 Stratocaster pickups were designed to produce one of the most signature and sought after sounds in popular music history – the thick, punchy late ‘60s blues rock tone that ruled the era and can still be heard in today’s modern records as well. Because of the transparency and clarity created by unique coil wind and magnet stricter, the Custom Shop ’69 pickup design works extremely well with pedals, allowing the end frequencies to stand our without degrading the high end one bit. Think Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix or even David Gilmour. These pickups have a typical scooped mid tone with very clear top along with a well-balanced lower end. The transparency of the tone in particular along with the fairly low output makes these pickups ideal for keeping your sound clean when called for. It’s no surprise that Fender remains firm in their support of the Strat’s classic sound as the search for the tones that defined an era are still as popular as ever!
Matched and calibrated, these vintage staggered Strat pickups have that signature biting tone perfect for surf, country, blues and classic rock. If you want incredible, full lows, smooth yet not overpowering mids, pristine highs and an overall sound that is not too harsh (much less than the Texas Specials for one), these California ‘50s make an excellent replacement for the stock set. They are also very responsive to pick attack and finger picking. If you’re looking for a set of hot pickups for increased signal strength, don’t buy these; buy theCalifornia‘50s for the love of that pure, vintage Strat bell tone.