Stacks VS Single-Coil Sized Rail Humbuckers

A lot of solid-body guitars have pickup cavities that can only fit single-coils. This means that installing humbuckers on them would require some serious surgery on both the pickguard (if it has one) and the body itself. Sure, it can be done, but if you're not experienced or careful, you can easily ruin your guitar. Or you might have a vintage model and don't want to drastically change its appearance. This is where single coil stacks and rail humbuckers come in, pickups designed to give the hum-cancelling abilities of dual-coiled pickups without the size requirements. Below, we take a look at both of pickup designs and see exactly how they work.



Single Coil Stacks

As the name entails, single-coil stacks comprise of two single-coils stacked on top of each other, compacted to fit into the size of a regular single-coil. Because they look like a normal single-coil, they are often marketed as "noiseless" single-coil pickups, retaining the tone of a traditional single-coil while having the hum canceling ability of a humbucker.

When it comes to stacks, many argue that since they are humbuckers by nature, they lack the signature brightness and tone that true single-coils are known for. And while there are definitely stacked pickups that proudly convey their humbucker innards through their warmer, higher output tone, there are several stacked designs made to retain the traditional single coil tone with the hum canceling nature of humbuckers.  In fact, many of these designs are so close that by the time you add every other piece of the signal chain into the equation, they are hard to tell apart from true single-coils.

Take Seymour Duncan, who have a selection of stacked pickups based on many of their popular single-coil models. For example, the STK-S6B Classic Stack is directly based on the SSL-5 single coil, which was originally developed as a bridge pickup for David Gilmour. With that in mind, check out the video below to hear for yourself just how well the STK-S6B Stacks comes to recreating the well-known single coil tone of the SSL-5:



stk-6s classic stacks

STK-S6B Custom Stack Plus @ $85.00. A noiseless version of the popular SSL-5 Custom Staggered for Strat pickup, the Custom Stack Plus will give you all of the extra output and drive without losing that unique Stratocaster voice. The low notes are tight and snappy but the high end is focused without being overly bright, and the midrange has a slight vocal quality that adds an extra layer of expression to your sound. And it's dead quiet. This pickup is designed to look like a traditional Strat single coil, and it works great in the neck, middle, or bridge positions, or you can pair it with the Classic Stack Plus Strat in the neck and middle positions.

Click here for more single-coil stacks!



Rail Humbuckers

Moving on to the next design, we have rail humbuckers. While stacked pickups are able to fit two pickups into the size of a single coil by placing them on top of each other, rail pickups do the same by making each half as thick, leaving them side by side like you would with a regular humbucker. In order to make them thinner, rail pickups comprise of two thin pole pieces that resemble a rail. And unlike single-coils stacks, which are usually made to retain a single-coil tone, rail humbuckers are made to sound like true humbuckers

Single-coil sized rail humbuckers are often used in conjunction with stacked pickups in order to create a very high output pickup. In these designs, you are essentially fitting in four single coil pickups into the size of a single humbucker.

The rail design isn't just used on single-coil sized pickups either and can be found on normal sized humbuckers too. For example, the late Dimebag Darrell was well known for using regular sized rail humbuckers in the bridge position. As far as tone goes, they tend to sound thicker, with a higher output and attack than single-coil sized rail humbuckers.




SHR-1 Hot Rails @ $85.00. Seymour Duncan's Hot Rails pickup is one of the highest output pickups Duncan makes, and also one of the most popular. The Hot Rails uses a pair of blades coupled with a strong ceramic magnet and powerful coil windings to create a pickup that's full and fat with a ton of sustain - perfect for classic rock, but also lending itself very well to more aggressive tones such as garage rock or metal. Best of all, these humbuckers - and all their beefy tone - fits inside a single-coil-sized pickup. Add girth to your tone with the Hot Rails!

Click here for more hot rails!



Hopefully, the information above has given you a good idea on both single-coil stacks and rail humbuckers. If you would like to add either one of these designs to your own single-coil capable guitar, make sure you browse our selection of pickups, available at the best prices around! If you have any questions regarding the purchase of a pickup or any other piece of gear, don't hesitate to chat with one of our friendly PAL pros by using the live chat feature below or by calling us toll-free at 1 877-671-2200!



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