Need help choosing bridge pickup for HSS Strat

Promit

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Okay, so right now I've got hot wound BG Vintage 60s (AlNiCo V at 6.5K, very close to Texas Specials) in neck and middle, and a BG Hellabucker in the bridge. I adore the singles but I've had a somewhat rocky relationship with the bucker. It's a very heavily overwound pickup with A8 pole magnets, and I find it a little too aggressive and also with a sort of bright mid spikiness that doesn't really fit well with my guitar and signal chain. Guitar is alder strat with maple neck/fretboard and noticeably bright acoustically.

I have a pretty good idea of what I need but pickup research is a real pain and I thought you guys could help short-list it for me. There's a couple key points:
* I always play the pickup dirty, right up through very high gain applications. I need something that will remain clear and defined, with good string separation through aggressive drive in standard tuning.
* Need something fat/warm/thick without muddiness. The guitar is quite bright already.
* Just barely enough output to match well with the middle pickup for the traditional strat quack sound (and ideally no more). I don't care about its single coil tone on its own.
* Traditional look. Seriously. (Possible exception for D Sonic/Crunchlab.)
* $80 max. This largely limits me to Duncan and Dimarzio, unfortunately no BKPs.

Right now I'm looking seriously at the Tone Zone and Super Distortion on the Dimarzio side. On the Duncan side, Black Winter, Pearly Gates, and especially the Custom Custom. I'd like to know your thoughts on the pickups I've mentioned, or suggestions of other buckers to look at.
 
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Wildwind

Member
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I run a DiMarzio Transition (neck version to better balance with the singles) in mine. Absolutely fantastic. Don't let the ceramic magnets fool you - this sounds great. And I love the Pearly Gates normally, but not in a Strat. Can't talk about the others from personal experience.
 

cratz2

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11,301
I'd talk to Bryan about those specific needs to see what he says. Mention that you are on TGP and Harmony Central and keep in mind, you'll be able to sell the BG you have to help offset that cost.

I'm personally very happy with an Air Norton in one Strat. It's beefy enough for me though some folk's 'beefy' is another person's 'muddy' so it's pretty subjective. I've also enjoyed a Custom 5 in one guitar, a '59 in another and a Breed neck pickup in the bridge position of yet another and I have 36th Anniversary bridge pickups in two guitars in addition to more vintage-voiced pickups in more vintage vibey guitars.

Overall, I like the Norton and the Breed the most for modern type tones and the 36th Anniversary when going for vintage that is still able to pull off more modern tones as well.
 

Promit

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2,470
I'd talk to Bryan about those specific needs to see what he says. Mention that you are on TGP and Harmony Central and keep in mind. You'll be able to sell the BG you have to help offset that cost.
Already talked to Bryan, he told me that the Hella is the warmest pickup he makes. But it really doesn't seem to fit well. I'm inclined to try something new anyways.
Aside from the "traditional look" I'd say look into the late great Wilde Bill's L500L
I have a spare L-500XL sitting in the parts drawer that I've thought about trying, but I am really quite intent on the traditional look. I specifically had it and the Alumitones in mind when writing that requirement.

Honestly I think I need to back off the output first and foremost, but it's difficult to figure out exactly which humbuckers will combine well with the singles. I'll probably email Duncan and Dimarzio both on Monday but keep em coming in the meantime. I think my singles are quite similar to the Texas Specials which Adrian Smith uses with a Super Distortion in the bridge, so I'm definitely thinking hard about that combination.
 

Lewguitar

Senior Member
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5,663
It important to choose a humbucker that sounds good with 250K pots if your Strat has 250K pots.

There are not many humbuckers that do not sound a bit muffled with 250K pots - most like 500K pots.

A Duncan JB does sound good with 250K pots.

I've been told that the Duncan Pearly Gates bridge model also does.
 

scott520

Silver Supporting Member
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2,107
my new favorite is Seymour Duncan's Antiquity. It's one of the warmest well balanced PU's I've owned.
 

Totally Bored

Member
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9,172
It important to choose a humbucker that sounds good with 250K pots if your Strat has 250K pots.

There are not many humbuckers that do not sound a bit muffled with 250K pots - most like 500K pots.

A Duncan JB does sound good with 250K pots.

I've been told that the Duncan Pearly Gates bridge model also does.
I was gonna type this up but you did it for me thanks :dude

JB's sound great in a Strat or a Les Paul IMO
 

Promit

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2,470
I have 250K tone pots and 500K volume. I think I'm going to stick with that formula. I was looking at the JB but "For balanced and warm instruments. Works especially well with rosewood fingerboards." doesn't sound like my axe. Also concerned that it may be too aggressive.

[EDIT] On second thought, maybe I should move to a 250K volume... the singles have been a bit bright too after all.
 
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frankencat

Guitarded
Gold Supporting Member
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Pearly Gates bridge sounds GREAT with 250k pots in a Strat. It's my all time favorite Strat bridge 'bucker. I like JB in a Strat with 250k as well. I would put a Super D in the bridge of a Strat in a second. I think it would work better with 500k though.
 

BoogieManSC

Silver Supporting Member
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1,750
Pearly Gates bridge sounds GREAT with 250k pots in a Strat. It's my all time favorite Strat bridge 'bucker. I like JB in a Strat with 250k as well. I would put a Super D in the bridge of a Strat in a second. I think it would work better with 500k though.
Excellent choice, no doubt. I've had one in a HSS strat for 5 years or so. You'll need the "TB" or "trembucker" spacing on the Pearly Gates. I have it paired with 2 Antiquity TX Hot single coils in the neck and middle positions. The Pearly kicks f'n ass in this strat. Articulate and sings while still being organic sounding.
 

83stratman

Silver Supporting Member
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6,217
Yep, your right. For me though, I'm one of those weirdoes that prefer a 500k pot in HSS Strats.

It important to choose a humbucker that sounds good with 250K pots if your Strat has 250K pots.

There are not many humbuckers that do not sound a bit muffled with 250K pots - most like 500K pots.

A Duncan JB does sound good with 250K pots.

I've been told that the Duncan Pearly Gates bridge model also does.
 

fool

Uncouth Savage
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,855
I have a spare L-500XL sitting in the parts drawer that I've thought about trying, but I am really quite intent on the traditional look. I specifically had it and the Alumitones in mind when writing that requirement.
The XL would not work well for the sound I think you're looking for. The L would sound great, but won't have six poles.
 

doc

Silver Supporting Member
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7,229
I've been thinking about new pickups for an HSS as well. I have a Washburn that has a JB along with 2 SSL-1s and its okay, but the JB is a bit louder than the singles - I think that's an issue with most humbuckers. I wouldn't worry too much about getting it too bright - playing with a lot of gain and wanting good articulation you need some top end and don't want a lot of bass. I'm actually leaning toward using a HB sized P90 like the BG Pure 90 or GFS Mean 90 for mine. If I were to stick with a true HB I'd probably consider a Dimarzio 36th Ann. or Duncan Antiquity first - I think you'll find something like a Tone Zone doesn't match up well with the wimpy single coils. I'd definitely look with something with a lowish output and not too dark.
 

snow and steel

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7,002
Even hot single coils don't have the output of hot humbuckers, so if you're trying to balance the sound, volume and output, a vintage type PAF style would be a great idea. Dimarzio and Seymour Duncan offer several types, and the Fender Atomic humbucker is actually a pretty good sounding pickup in its own right.
 

Promit

Member
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2,470
Just to be clear, I want the split bridge humbucker to match volume wise. I have no interest in getting the overall output of the bridge pickup to be similar to the singles.
 

cratz2

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
11,301
I've had three guitars wired so that they automatically split the HB when in the bridge+middle position. I did a strat that I built up that way, had another strat that I built using TexMex single coils and some type of HB that matched perfectly and currently have a mid-level Pacifica that does that. The HB by itself doesn't really thrill me, but it's very serviceable.
 




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