10 best Stratocaster neck pickups
If you’ve delved into our primer on the ins and outs of Stratocaster pickups, now is the time to mix and match your new single coil set with our handy guide on the ten best Stratocaster neck pickups. Best start practicing your SRV shuffle.
1. House Of Tone House Special S Type 1960
The House Special S Type 1960 (HSST 60) set was conceived as an ‘idealised’ 1960 Strat tone, based on readings taken from several genuine examples. Components include 42 AWG heavy formvar wire and hand-bevelled alnico V magnets. We haven’t heard any set that nails the pre-CBS slab ‘board sound better than these.
Price: £155 (set)
2. Monty’s Guitars Full Monty Strat Pickup
The brains behind Monty’s Guitars claim their Full Monty pickup aims to take your humble Stratocaster or S-type and “feed it some wholesome tonal pies and fatten it up.” A tonally versatile pickup, the full monty neck can easily range from modern pop jangle to classic rock growl, all with the sweep of your volume pot. With the volume wide open it leans into P-90 territory, whilst position two and four on your switch retains that all important Strat ‘quack.’ And for those of you that are concerned about vintage correct accuracy, it also features vintage-correct cloth pushback wire and forbon flatwork.
3. Fender Tex-Mex Strat Pickups
Previously seen on the great Jimmie Vaughan’s signature Stratocaster, the Fender Tex-Mex pups are now available in a standalone package. Offering a higher output and sparkling highs, these pickups can offer that traditionally chimey Stratocaster tone on a wallet-friendly budget. While they’re not going to compete with something from Fender’s Custom Shop range or a more high-end boutique offering, this versatile set will get you much closer to your desired Strat tone, and the middle pickup’s reverse polarity to eliminate that all too familiar hum is a nice touch, too.
Price: £115 (set)
4. Seymour Duncan Antiquity Texas Hot Neck
Don’t let the photo above fool you, these are in fact modern pickups, painstakingly aged by the Seymour Duncan team. The Antiquity Texas Hot Neck from the Santa Barbara based company is reminiscent of the pickups made by their Californian neighbours way back in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Claiming it possesses a tonal character commonly associated with a decades old pickup, created using vintage, cloth push-back lead wire, custom aged cover and aged mounting hardware. Each is lacquered and potted in lamp black paraffin wax, like the originals. Hand made by their custom shop team, the Texas Hot one of the closest iterations of a true 50s Strat you’ll find on the market.
5. Radioshop ID:Chris Buck Signature Strat Single
South Wales guitarist Chris Buck is one of the emergent standard bearers for the Mayall/Clapton/Slash school of blues and rock guitar playing. His new partnership with Radioshop has breeded some great new pickups, which are also available as a set and even as a preloaded harness. What’s immediately apparent is the richness of tone and the evenness of output across all the switch positions. Also the pole-piece stagger makes for a very even response across the strings.
6. Bare Knuckle Pickups PAT Pend ’63 Veneer Board Neck
This set is based on the best examples of the Strat pickups Fender was making when the fingerboards changed from slab to veneer. The slugs became slightly narrower in diameter and the extra space on the bobbin allowed the coils to be wound a little hotter, to add beef to balance the narrow slug’s extra brightness. These are scatter-wound by hand, with heavy formvar.
7. Klein 1969 Epic Series Stratocaster Pickups
Classic Strat tone can mean late-60s as well as pre-CBS, especially if you like Clapton, Gilmour and Hendrix. This set features grey baseplates, alnico V slugs and ‘flash potted’ 42 AWG plain enamel wire. Right-handed Hendrix fans can order left-handed pickups at no extra charge for the reversed stagger.
8. Fender Pure Vintage ’65 Strat pickups
Featuring vintage bobbin construction and original-era cloth wiring, Fender’s Pure Vintage ’65 Stratocaster pickups are wound to clear-cut specifications for the authentic tone and performance associated with traditional Fender models of yesteryear. With an enamel coated magnet for vintage warmth, plus staggered pole-pieces for accurate and balanced volume, these vintage-inspired pups from Fender are one of the best vintage replicas available today.
9. Lindy Fralin Vintage Hot
The Vintage Hot is Lindy Fralin’s best selling Strat-style pickup, and with good reason. This pickup has been a go to option for Stratocaster aficionados for the best part of three decades, and its name suggests exactly why. Possessing the most vintage sound that Fralin have to offer, both open and airy with lots of sparkle on top alongside well-balanced lows, these pickups are difficult to contend with. Although Fralin recommend that you buy this offering as a full set, in order to avoid pickup polarity issues.
10. EMG SA
If it’s good enough for Gilmour, it’s good enough for you. The EMG SA is not your traditional S-type pickup, nor is it trying to be. Strat pickups are known for their noise issues, especially when recording, but EMG’s SA variation is here to save your backside with their hum cancelling pickup, thanks to internal shielding and a low impedance preamp, giving you a virtually noiseless pickup without sacrificing that Alnico 5 tone. It also comes in a variety of colour palettes, so not only will your Strat sound cool, it’ll look the part, too.
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