Fender Custom Shop '69 Stratocaster Pickup Set Review

Have you taken a look at our Daily Deal section of ProAudioLand? If you haven’t, you definitely should (located at the top right of our front page) as it is by far the best way to snag a product at a one-time-only extremely low price – often as much as 75% off MSRP! Today, we’re featuring the Fender Custom Shop ’69 Stratocaster Pickup – a single pickup that can be used for neck, middle or bridge – as part of the promotion. That’s right – normally this pickup goes for $99.99 but you can snag yourself one at the unbelievable price of just $39.99 (for 3/27/13)! Not too familiar with the Custom Shop ‘69s? No problem! We installed three of these bad boys on one of our own company Strats and are more than happy to give you our impression. Long story short – this pickup is 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.  

Although I tend lean towards the thick warm sound of humbuckers when playing high gain modern rock or metal, I have always preferred the classic tone of a single coil with just the right amount of overdrive whenever a bit of vintage flavoring was in need. The Custom Shop ‘69s offers just that. Think Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix or even David Gilmour. And it’s no surprise that Fender remains firm in their support of the Strat’s classic sound as the search for the unique tones that defined that particular era and genre are still as popular as ever.

But like most anything else in music, these pickups’ specific tone might not be for everyone. Trying to decide on which pickups to get is a lot like searching for a stompbox for your board; it highly depends on the gear you already own and what kind of tone you are looking for. Vintage style single coils are often thought of as one of the more versatile pickups out there but again – they’re not for everyone, specifically if you lean more towards the highly distorted heavy metal of today rather than the classic ‘60s and ‘70s rock. One of the more common complaints with these ‘69s is that they tend to be a bit too bright and that they don’t have enough output but what these critics fail to realize is that that’s the nature of vintage single coils. In any case both of these ‘problems’ can be alleviated by making a few adjustments on your amp or pedal settings and making sure that the height on the pickups is correct.  

I have always been a fan of Eric Clapton’s infamous ‘Woman Tone’ along with David Gilmour’s guitar sound on “Animals” – two of the most sought after tones in classic rock, and for good reason – which is why I was extremely happy that the Custom Shop ‘69s capture just that – the power and edge of both sounds. It is pretty well known that Gilmour’s black Stratocaster had stock Fender late ‘60s pickups but were later replaced in 1972 by a set of Fender ’71 pickups – both of which the Custom Shop ‘69s are based on. Later on in ’79, Gilmour replaced the bridge puckup with a custom Seymour Duncan SSL-1, which is basically just a hotter version of the Custom Shop ’54 but again – very similar to the ‘69s.

As far as specifics go, the Custom Shop ‘69s 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 – not to mention making your sound blend nicely with most pedals. Compared to the Custom Shop ‘54s, the ‘69s offer a bit more bass but all in all, they are very similar. I would personally go for the ‘69s on inherently bright sounding guitars such as those made with alder or basswood bodies while the ’54 would work better on ash bodies for a slightly brighter tone.

All in all, Fender’s Custom Shop ’69 Pickups nailed down perfectly the classic Stratocaster tone that made it a legend in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Not only can you find plenty of tones from the greats of that era but you can also create some pretty convincing modern sounds as well. At $99.99, the Custom Shop 69 was a great deal for anyone looking to infuse that signature vintage tone to their sound but at $39.99, there’s no better time to take the plunge!

Leave a Reply