Are you looking to buy your first Strat? Or you want to bring new energy into an old favorite with a Strat tone? Worry not because we have the answers for the best strat pickups you can get this year. Pickup upgrades offer the best value for your money if you know how to optimize a guitar that produces good acoustic sounds.
- Our Top Stratocaster Pickup Recommendations
Remember that a quality pickup is just a finishing touch and not a miracle remedy. One of the best sonic features of great-sounding Strat pickups is a certain level of microphony. The upshot has a higher degree of upper-harmonic sheen. You want to ensure that it has a vibrant touch of dynamics to enliven your guitar. Please have a look at the top ten recommendations and their full reviews, price and rating.
Our Top Stratocaster Pickup Recommendations
1. Fender Original ’57/’62
Fender Original ’57/’62 Strat Pickups are bright. If you need all the distinguishing characteristics of a vintage Stratocaster tone, this set will not disappoint. At a glance, the Original ’57/’62 Strat Pickup set features:
- Alnico 5 magnets
- Aged white pickup covers
- Formvar-coated magnet wire
- Period-specific wiring covered in cloth and fiber bobbins
- Staggered hand-beveled poles
- Single-coil set
- Bridge, middle, and neck positions
For over six decades, Fender Stratocaster has played an essential role in music evolution by famous artists, including Jimi Hendrix, Gilmour, and Clapton. The charms of the ’57/’62 set are a source of wonder to many guitarists. The whole combo was reverse-engineered from its predecessor, 1963 Strat, to deliver a real vintage vibe and sound. These pickups yield warm lows and glassy highs, as you would hear from an authentic vintage pickup. The hand-beveled pole pieces are designed to yield a balanced output, while the Alnico 5 magnet enables focused dynamics. The magnet wire (Formvar-coated) is responsible for a bright and glassy tone. Fender went ahead to dye the white covers with a yellow tinge, giving the whole package a genuinely vintage look.
2. EMG SA Active
- Alnico magnets
- Three active single-coil pickups
- Volume control
- 5-way selection switch
- Output jack
- Two tone controls
- Battery clip
- 3 Quick-Connect cables, springs, and screws
- Bridge, middle, and neck positions
The EMG designed this set of pickups with three alnico magnets to rev up the midrange response. While delivering a high output, you will realize more bell-like harmonics and sustain on the high end. This is the famous signature of the early Strat coming with a unique twist. The EMG SA pickups have been a favorite of Steve Lukather and David Gilmour thanks to its versatility. It is the best single-coil pickup for canceling unwanted hum. It is available in white, ivory, red, and black. The Alnico bar magnets yield airy and brightly sounding tones with a rich bottom. You get nearly noiseless pickups with the internal shielding plus a low-impedance preamp. This comes without compromising the right single-coil tone. While it may not have the vintage specialty, it allows you to pick the color that matches your scratchplate.
3. Seymour Duncan Antiquity Texas Hot
Want to give your Stratocaster a warm and bell-like chime that is usually reserved for vintage fiddles? Then you cannot go wrong with the Antiquity Texas Hot Neck pickups. The main features are as follows.
- Alnico 2 Magnets
- Non-aged cover
- RW/RP middle pickup
- Hand-crafted set of bridge, middle, and neck
- North-polarity/reverse-polarity coils that mimic humbucker
This vintage-style single-coil pickup set has a pristine look with the aged for an authentic vintage feel. Expect the famous spanky Stratocaster tone from this Seymour Duncan strat set. However, there is a sweet tonal quality that can only come from decade-old strat pickup. The treble attack is very soft, courtesy of the Alnico 2 magnetic poles. You will get the right amount of grime, sweat, and smoke for a perfect grit. The middle RW/RP pickup yields superb hum-free sound in the second and fourth positions. This Texas Hot custom bridge is wound tighter than the neck and middle models to produce an overall balance. It increases the versatility of the pickups without sacrificing the vintage impression. Experience the spank and sparkle from a high output. It offers just enough midrange that allows the tone to pop in where a typical strat bridge pickup hits the skids. The chords are harmonically rich, while the single notes sound robust. Since the Alnico 2 magnets have minimal string pull, you can expect more sustain from the Antiquity Texas Hot set.
4. Fender Custom Shop Fat ’60’s
Fat 60’s Strat Pickups is a single-coil model with an abundance of crisp articulation. Expect the sweet sound of the 1960s single coils. With an overwound design, you can have that extra low-end punch with a high-octane attitude. The Fender Custom Shop Fat ’60’s pickup set is designed with:
- Alnico 2 magnets
- Formvar magnet wires
- RW/RP middle pickup
- 3-pickup set- middle, bridge, and neck
- Period-correct material design and fiber bobbin
- White cover
Custom Shop Fat ’60s offers the earliest bases for the 60s pickups with the added advantage of modern features, including the RW/RP for a noiseless operation. The staggered magnets are hand-beveled to cover the exposed magnet’s edges, hence providing the ideal balance across the strings. Something to behold in the fat 60s Stratocaster pickups is the enhanced bass response, making a single-coil sound beefy.
The Alnico 2 magnets capture sumptuous vintage-inspired tones, including mellow highs, rich midrange, and warm lows. The magnets have a staggered height for a balanced sound. The reverse-wound reverse-polarity middle pickup is ideal for canceling unnecessary hum in positions 2 and 4. Any lead guitarist deserves such a set of Strat pickup with excellent expressions.
5. Fender Strat Hot Noiseless
Need hot and punchy pickups for your Stratocaster without noise? Prefer those big clean sounds or the magical bluesy grit? Revamp your favorite guitar with Fender Strat Hot Noiseless. It turns a single-coil strat into a blues-rock tone machine with these features:
- Ceramic magnet
- Created for Jeff Beck
- Zero 60-cycle hum
- Hot, edgy single-coil sound
- Rich and punchy the middle, bridge, and neck
- Ultra-low-noise performance
- Incredible definition
Jeff Beck needed robust sound with a broader range of tonal dynamics than typical single-coil pickup offers. So he got the Hot Noiseless model with a bluesy feel and warm and punchy neck tone. The bridge pickup screams a high gain, with the clean tone being crystal clear and full. The pickup set has the best sensitivity and definition for gracing a Strat. If you didn’t know, ceramic magnets are more potent than alnico magnets. High-end frequencies characterize a stronger magnetic field. Their output is not only big but also hotter and full of tonality. Fender’s Hot Noiseless pickups have a type of punch that makes dynamic plays quite satisfying. Feel free to take them to the studio or for stage performance. It is one of the best ways to stand out in any form of musical environment.
6. Lace 21073-01 Sensor Gold
Since 1985, Lace has been manufacturing world-class patented pickups. They were very exclusive to Fender until 1996. Lace 21073-01 Sensor Gold is created to mimic the earliest single-coil pickups by Fender. The qualities range from bell-like to crisp top-end. It uses modern tech to produce excellent tones that contemporary guitarists want. The unique qualities of the Lace Sensor Gold Pickup are:
- Patented Micro-Comb Technology
- Field Barrier system around the magnet
- Low-noise vintage 3-pickup set
- White-covered with Lace Sensor Gold logo
- 5.8k ohm resistance
- Distinctive appearance
- 3600 peak frequency
The Sensor Gold pickup comes with a radiant Field Barrier system around the magnet and coil to minimize the troublesome 60-cyle hum. Ordinary electric pickups read-string vibrations of 6 magnetic bars. But the Lace Sensor can generate 36 different magnetic fields. They are the reason behind a more dedicated pitch and increased sustain. Traditional pickup bobbins have been replaced by Lace Micro Combs, giving a more significant range of tone and high-efficient string balance.
The pickups still sound like the standard strat, but they get cleaner when needed and grittier if the distortion is turned on. Expect neither hum nor buzz. It is only a clean and smooth tone. Apart from sounding great, the unique look is something to behold. You may choose black, cream, or white.
7. Fender Pure Vintage ’65
Enjoy the powerful crystal clear surf rock tones from the mid-60s with this carefully constructed pickup. Capture the timeless music sounds in history with Fender Pure Vintage ’65, whose characteristics are vintage-correct. Behold the specific features.
- Alnico 5 magnets
- Enamel-coated magnet wire
- Single-coil pickup set
- Era-correct construction
- Wax-potted pickups
- Cloth-covered lead wire + fiber bobbin
- 5.9k DC resistance
- Staggered pole pieces
- 2.6 Henries inductance
The original-era cloth wires and vintage bobbing construction give Fender Pure Vintage ’65 an authentic tone and performance. The enamel-coated magnet brings warm and harmonically rich tones to Alnico 5 magnets. Then the magnets add focus to improve the dynamics. With the Staggered pole pieces, you will experience a balanced output and volume across all the strings. Not to mention, the Pure Vintage ’65 is wax-potted to reduce microphonic problems. It is precisely what you need to upgrade your Stratocaster or add that vintage tone to your guitar.
The rationale for beautifully clean tones is the low output of Pure Vintage ’65 pickups. In a uniquely musical way, they can still get dirty if you want to, e.g., when you play well through fuzz or distortion pedals. If cranked up, they shine bright, but you must be a brave guitarist.
8. Seymour Duncan California ’50s
This is arguably the best guitar pickup replacement you can get. One of the reasons pro guitarists swear by Seymour Duncan California ’50s is that it is rock star approved. It has been used by renowned musicians like Scott Handerson, Alanis Morissette, and Doug Pettibone. Here are the qualities that make them good:
- Vintage-correct materials
- Hand-ground, sand cast, Alnico-5 magnets in a staggered pattern
- Lacquered forbon bobbins
- Heavy Formvar magnet wire
- RW/RP middle pickup
The vast majority of musical styles based on an electric guitar are centered on single-coil pickups. This is what Seymour Duncan California ’50s replicates. Just like the original pickups, the manufacturer created a staggered pattern of sand-cast Alnico 5 magnets. Such a design produces the sweet bell mids and the sparkling quack of the classic strat. Moreover, materials like the hand-made forbon bobbins and Formvar magnet brings a perfect grit for rhythm-style strumming. There is extra flexibility that comes with the reverse wound middle pickup. The reversed polarity combines and cancels the bridge and neck phases at positions 2 and 4. Then it yields the classic single-coil strat tones at positions 1, 3, and 5. This means it acts like a humbucker, something the many vintage single-coils cannot do. We highly recommend this pickup for basswood, alder, and ash instruments. It also compliments better a rosewood fingerboard.
9. Fender Yosemite
- DC Resistance magnet
- Alnico 4 (Neck and Middle) and Alnico 2 (bridge) magnets
- Aged white cover
- Flat-staggered pole pieces
- Plain enamel coated magnetic wire
- Three single-coil strat pickups
These are the new-age pickup sets for modern tones. They are designed with a combination of Alnico magnets (2 and 4) and enamel-coated wire. This results in definitive and expressive sounds, highly dynamic and musical. When combined, the two offer the most balanced EQ and midrange. They make the bass and highs tighter. Note that Alnico 4 yields softer highs compared to Alnico 5.
Pickups without coating tend to be microphonic or live. However, they often give a high-pitched squeal when a guitar plays loud. But Fender Yosemite Stratocaster is designed with enamel coated magnetic wire for articulate and rich sounds. The RWRP has been included to dwindle hum while the staggered pole pieces give a higher output without sacrificing the high-end. This allows your instrument to shine with a natural voice. Then the shellac coating helps to control runaway feedback while keeping the response on the track.
10. Fender Generation 4 Noiseless
Here is a modern classic offering an audio equivalent for cold fusion. It combines a noise-free output with the original vintage Fender tone. When it comes to pickups technology, the Fender Generation 4 Noiseless marks the pinnacle of all designs. Its cleans are clear, crisp with gigantic overdriven tones bursting with rock energy. The features of this single-coil strat pickup set include:
- Alnico 5 magnet
- A set of 3 pickups
- Noise-free, vintage tone
- Shielded wire
- Two wire conductors
- 10.3K DC resistance
- Six strings
- Vintage white-covered
Alnico 5 magnet is the best pickup magnet for balancing extended highs, mids, and lows. The tight low-end, brash mids, and clear highs of the three-piece single-coil pickups can push through any mix. Punchy midrange and clearly defined high-end allow you to tap into new levels of sonic excellence. We bet there is no better replacement for the OEM parts of Generation 4 Noiseless pickups. They are correctly installed for the ultimate performance. Being genuine and reliable gives unheard-of tones and noise-free performance. The shielded wire guarantees a further noise reduction.
There is a whole lot of tone transformation you can do to a Stratocaster. That’s why we featured the best pickups so you can choose one that suits your musical style. If you are interested in buying one of the best strat pickups, make sure you have the right features. A trio with single-coil pickups makes a great combo. Opt for polarity that is reversed between them. Go ahead and pick a high-end option if budget is not a constraint. And in case you need an affordable option, ensure that the model has a diverse set of features to help you create unique tones.
Looking for more great options to go along with your Strat? Look at my article on the 5 Best Amp For Stratocaster Guitars Options For 2021.
More related reading: