Ugh... think I’m going down the pickup rabbithole

RDerek59

Senior Member
Messages
2,715
Now that I’ve successfully replaced my stock MIM Strat pickups I’m already researching what I should try next. I should just put all these tools in a corner of the garage and never look at them again.
 

PartoftheDark

Member
Messages
1,775
Try to isolate what it is you like and don't like about your current load out and address it in steps with mods and adjustments before going to new pickups right away. Maybe a tone control on the bridge pickup. Maybe a series/parallel switch. Maybe they're too high or low. That kind of thing.
 

David Garner

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
6,000
The Strat was the hardest for me. I've posted this here before, but I hope it will help you get where you're going.

Normal Strat pickups come in 3 basic types:

50s -- maybe 54-57 or 58 or so -- lower wind, some had A3 pickups but quickly moved to A5, sweet, glassy sounding -- Duncan SSL1s are the reference tone here. Also Fender 54s, Fralin Vintage Hots, etc. I use BKP Apaches and love them.

Early-to-mid 60s -- basically 59 or 60 to 65 or 66 or so. Like the later 50s pickups with A5s, but hotter winds. More midrange. More thump. More low end. Texas Specials, Fralin Blues Specials, Antiquity Surfers, etc.

Late 60s -- super low winds and scooped to hell and gone. Hendrix. Mayer. Fender 69s are probably the reference tone here. Duncan's Psychadelic Strat set is good too.

Most people like 50s winds as a good all-rounder. They aren't as hot as the early-to-mid 60s, nor as scooped as the late 60s. They just sort of sit "right" with most folks. If you know you want hotter, the early to mid 60s winds are great. If you know you want that super-scooped John Mayer or Hendrix tone, late 60s are also great.

They all sound good. They're all in the same ballpark. If you get the 60s winds nobody is going to say "that doesn't really sound like a Strat." everyone will know what it is. But in terms of preference, the above is sort of the generic ballparks you'll be playing in. If you kind of have an idea which one of those three basic groups you want to land in, it makes the search easier.
 

grooveht

Member
Messages
518
Try to isolate what it is you like and don't like about your current load out and address it in steps with mods and adjustments before going to new pickups right away. Maybe a tone control on the bridge pickup. Maybe a series/parallel switch. Maybe they're too high or low. That kind of thing.
I agree with the above so much ; if you're going to make an adjustment, have a target. I've been guilty of just swapping out parts because, hey, better parts. But if I tweaked what I had and played it seriously, then tweaked some more and really tweezed out every last bit, bet that I would have been most of the way there. This does not apply to noiseless pickups or putting a humbucker in a bridge posish that used to be a single coil, etc.

That said, there are some interesting things out there in addition to what David wrote above. Some companies like Seymour Duncan have tele - like bridge pickups like the Twanger Banger, or kinman and fralin have single - sized almost p90s. People keep saying golden age of guitar technology, but it's the truth imo.

Edit : once you figure out what's missing, after you've played for a while, then you can realistically shoot for your target. Sorry, left my earlier thought completely unfinished. And remember you have a signal chain, from strings to bridge and saddles to pickups to pots to jack. Changing your cheap pots for one's within spec, or moving your tone pot from middle to bridge can influence things significantly
 
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ripgtr

Member
Messages
9,063
If the MIM are the early ceramic ones, ugh. I had those, not great. I hear the newer ones are alnico, don't know about those.

I went through a bunch of pickups a few years back. Back story - I have an old strat, that is too valuable to take out to a lot of places. It was my main (only) guitar til the early 90s. I put together a nice partsocaster back then, went through some pickups, settled on some Van Zandts. But then I got to play my old one at some gigs and the newer ones just weren't right. So I went on a pickup hunt.

Honestly, the dif between all the alnico 5 pickups of the same approx wind (my strat is a 60, the stock bridge pickup is 6.8k, so as @David Garner was saying, fatter) was not that great. I was trying to get a particular sound, though. I ended up with the Mare formvar 50s, and they have been in there since. I did try a set of Apache, as they are alnico 3, for a bit, I liked them but went back to the Mares. Not sure if I will keep them, I don't have a lot of strats. Here is the thing, one of the contenders, that just barely didn't make the cut, were a set of chevalier pickups - he was a guy up in Canada, doesn't look like he is still in business. When I got the set, the bridge pickup was super microphonic. Instead of sending it back, he just sent me a replacement. I had the pickups in my slide guitar strat for a while, sold them. Recently, I put the extra bridge pickup in the slide guitar - I just wrapped it with tape and the microphonics are gone. It sounds great in that guitar. High action, heavy strings, it just sings. It didn't win in the partsocaster but it is staying in the slide guitar. Heck, I'd send him money for the pickup, since it was supposed to be "defective" but I found a way to use it, if he still had a site. So, there is a lot of "it depends" here.

So, long story to say - there isn't that much dif in alnico 5 winds of about the same wind. A little and if you are looking for something in particular, yea, it can be worth it. All of the ones I tried sounded really good, each had it's own sound but they were very, very close. All sounded like good strats.

I'm pretty much done swapping out pickups. I might grab a set of Ron Ellis if I ever get a wild hair and some money I don't need, lol. Other than that, I'm good.
 

EC Strat

Member
Messages
253
The Strat was the hardest for me. I've posted this here before, but I hope it will help you get where you're going.

Normal Strat pickups come in 3 basic types:

50s -- maybe 54-57 or 58 or so -- lower wind, some had A3 pickups but quickly moved to A5, sweet, glassy sounding -- Duncan SSL1s are the reference tone here. Also Fender 54s, Fralin Vintage Hots, etc. I use BKP Apaches and love them.

Early-to-mid 60s -- basically 59 or 60 to 65 or 66 or so. Like the later 50s pickups with A5s, but hotter winds. More midrange. More thump. More low end. Texas Specials, Fralin Blues Specials, Antiquity Surfers, etc.

Late 60s -- super low winds and scooped to hell and gone. Hendrix. Mayer. Fender 69s are probably the reference tone here. Duncan's Psychadelic Strat set is good too.

Most people like 50s winds as a good all-rounder. They aren't as hot as the early-to-mid 60s, nor as scooped as the late 60s. They just sort of sit "right" with most folks. If you know you want hotter, the early to mid 60s winds are great. If you know you want that super-scooped John Mayer or Hendrix tone, late 60s are also great.

They all sound good. They're all in the same ballpark. If you get the 60s winds nobody is going to say "that doesn't really sound like a Strat." everyone will know what it is. But in terms of preference, the above is sort of the generic ballparks you'll be playing in. If you kind of have an idea which one of those three basic groups you want to land in, it makes the search easier.
great post +1
 

Wag

Member
Messages
458
Don't put those tools away.....just yet.

If you've never owned a set of Bill Lawrence pups you owe it to yourself to read up on them. There's no charge for learnin' about new stuff. It's totally free. Besides....Bill's story is very interesting and he was a major influence in music industry.

If you've never played a set of Bill Lawrence pups you owe it to yourself to try them. Bill Lawrence pups are some of the best on the market. They are also some of the least expensive.

Do NOT mistake BillLawrenceUSA pups for Bill Lawrence pups. They are NOT the same. Genuine BL pups are only available from his website.

( I have no affiliation with either company)

http://www.billlawrence.com/
 

b_goatman

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
1,324
Don't put those tools away.....just yet.

If you've never owned a set of Bill Lawrence pups you owe it to yourself to read up on them. There's no charge for learnin' about new stuff. It's totally free. Besides....Bill's story is very interesting and he was a major influence in music industry.

If you've never played a set of Bill Lawrence pups you owe it to yourself to try them. Bill Lawrence pups are some of the best on the market. They are also some of the least expensive.

Do NOT mistake BillLawrenceUSA pups for Bill Lawrence pups. They are NOT the same. Genuine BL pups are only available from his website.

( I have no affiliation with either company)

http://www.billlawrence.com/
I bought a set from Bill & Becky 20 years ago to replace the pups on a Lonestar Strat - what a difference! And I was so fortunate to speak with them on the phone. Highly recommend the product.
 

Anacharsis

Member
Messages
1,762
I challenge myself to stick with one pickup swap per guitar, and I only swap out pickups on less expensive guitars. It's not a rule, but it keeps me out of rabbit holes, and makes me think through my pickup buys. I've swapped pickups on 5 guitars so far, and I have another 4 I'll probably do soon (first set has already arrived). I keep the stock pickups for at least a year after the swap, in case I want to sell the guitar - in which I include them in the sale. I don't sell any more, so that's no longer a factor. I just sell the stock pickups on ebay. I got the Fenders below with money found of a sort - "points" at MF or an Amazon gift card I got a few years ago.

Done:
Fender MIM Strat: Fender PV 59s
Squier VM Jaguar: Fender PV 65s
Squier VM Jazzmaster: Fender PV 65s
Squier VM 72 Thinline: Mojotone 72 Clones
Squier CV Thinline (69 style): Fender PV 64s

In progress:
Fender Modern Player Thinline: Mojotone 56 Quiet Coils
Gretsch Pro Jet: Vaughn Skow Holy Grail V-Trons
Gretsch Pro Jet: TBD - Maybe Mojotone Fat Mojo'Trons
Gretsch Pro Jet (Bigsby): TBD - Probably TV Jones T-Armonds

But I think through the options for weeks at a time, because the stock pickups in each guitar were actually good.
 




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