Strat Pickups... which out of this list?!...



I'm completely overwhelmed by the huge amount of choice out there when it comes to settling on a set of Strat pickups.
My quest started a while back with the Bare Knuckle Mother's Milks, and it's been a bit a love/hate relationship. Sometimes I love them but at other times I find them to be too bright and a little thin sounding. I really would like something a touch warmer in the neck position and definately want something warmer in the bridge position too, (I barely use the bridge pickup as it's just too shrill to my ears).
But there are aspects of the neck and middle that I really like, they seem very articulate and defined compared to the stock pickups I had in there and they definately have that vintage vibe going on.
So, I guess what I'm looking for is something that retains that vintage vibe but gives me a slightly warmer and more even/balanced tone.
So far, after many hours... possibly days of reading, I've narrowed it down to the following...

Don Mare Josie/Vaughan
Van Zandt Vintage Plus
Van Zandt Blues
Fender Custom Shop 69
Lollar Blackface
Lollar Special Series
Bare Knuckle Irish Tour or Apaches

Godamn it's so tough to choose! PLEASE HELP ME!!! :crazy

Xan :)


I think a great combination is the Lollar Blonde neck, Lollar Blackface middle, and a Lollar Special bridge. The neck does not get woofy, the middle gets a bit more mid warmth and the Special for the bridge is big and full without the shrill. Throw in a .047 cap and you are in vintage land!

Tidewater Custom Shop

Performance Enhancing Guitarworks
Silver Supporting Member
The only ones on your list that I haven't tried are the Josie's and the Bare Knuckle's.... and I've tried many, many more.

You can read all you want, but in the end, you gotta try them on your guitar hooked to your elex to truly judge what's best for your rig.

It sucks. I know. It's a long process. But you can buy used pups for decent money these days, then turn around and sell the ones you don't like for about what you paid.

If it's any consolation, what I've kept are my favorites to date:

Fender Abigail Ybarra signatures (not the CS69 initialed)
Sheptone AB's
Rocketfire Total 60's

The Sheptone's are the smoothest... I couple them to a vintage .1uf ceramic disc cap on the tone pots.

The Abby's are rolly, fat, round... man, just great pickups all around. These came stock on my CS56, and I'm keeping it stock. It has the little ceramic .022uF cap, which opens these up nicely.

The Rocketfires are probably the most pronounced... every string is complimented by a clarity that I haven't heard before. With these I'm using a PIO .047uF cap.


Silver Supporting Member
Here's another opinion to ponder.
It seems to me that one buys clarity with warmth. The bright, ringy articulate pups are compromised in the lower mids and vice-versa. Some simply do not have either covered well.
Another factor is how loud you play. Those more shrill but articulate pups shine as the volume increases, with their clarity, but tend to OD harshly. The fat, warmer ones sound great at lower levels and gradually mush out in a louder environment.

Looking for the do it all pup is is another holy grail search.


Lindy Fralin will exchange them if you don't like them. He does custom winds too.
Hard to beat that!


The Mare's are good. Hate to admit it, because I am not fond of his customer service.

I AM quite happy with his pickups, however.


I like to buy from my country as much as possible. Here in Canada there are a few good pups makers. So if I was you I would be getting Barekunckle.


Gold Supporting Member
I don't like any of the ones you list for what you describe

I would go Fralin Vintage Hot for what you describe for a little more
warmer than vintage

Pups with "Blues" and "Special" are a bit more, don't usually fall into vintage

Like the Suhr V60LP s

Fralin is great to work with as well, if want warmer, or brighter, he'll
wind you the set you like


Silver Supporting Member
Lollar Blackfacepups have served very well.

I also have have a Suhr Pro S1 that has V60 LP's, also excellent.


In true TGP fashion, half of the responses recommend pickups other than the ones you ask about. Of the seven you listed, the ones I've tried are the Mare's, CS69's, and both Lollar offerings. Of those, my favorite were the Lollar Blackface. IMO the vintagey-ist, while maintaining warmth and clarity.

But again, in true TGP fashion, I have to recommend that you also consider Lollar Blondes and something from Klein. My experiences with Chris have been well above average.


I'm completely overwhelmed by the huge amount of choice out there when it comes to settling on a set of Strat pickups.
Godamn it's so tough to choose! PLEASE HELP ME!!! :crazy

Xan :)

If you can't make a set of Lindy Fralin pickups sound like that, you either need a new guitar, a new amp, or a new hobby. Stop reading 'honeymoon reviews' of 'flavors of the month' and go with a pickup that has been around for a long time and still is respected as (at the very least arguably) the best replacement vintage strat pickup. And spend those days playing instead of reading.


They are warmer and smoother output.They sound like I always wanted my Strat to sound.I play mostly original stuff but my tones are based on classic rock tones.If you want Dire Straits cleans I use it with a compressor.For classic distortion I use a Zendrive and or a Lunar Module.I haven't found anything to complain about these pickups. If you have questions call Loller .Tell him what you are looking for and he can make it. He literally wrote the book on pickup winding.It's out of print at the moment[no joke!]:warning


I've tried a lot of different sets and my favorites are Don Mare Supersports.They do it all pretty well. I've had Strat pickups that did high gain a little better but overall these are very versatile.

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