7 Best Strat Pickups (2024) That Enhance Tone

By upgrading your guitar with a set of the best Strat pickups, you can completely change your, without having to spring for a whole new guitar, or lose the feel of a guitar you love playing – one of the best sets on the market is the Fender Original ’57/‘62 Stratocaster 3-piece Pickup Set. These pickups come with formvar-coated magnet wire and staggered hand-beveled pole pieces for balanced output, and Alnico 5 magnets for tight, focused dynamics. They offer shimmering highs and warm lows with low output, just like early Strats. They deliver incredible clean tones – a must for any good Strat, and still manage to retain excellent articulation when pushed into overdrive. The overall balance of this set is genuinely fantastic, and we can’t recommend them highly enough, which is why they’ve earned our best Strat pickups Top Pick. 

If you’re looking for something pro grade, we’d suggest checking out the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Psychedelic Strat Pickup Set. These pickups are custom engineered to recreate the late 60s Hendrix vibe, using period correct materials and manufacturing techniques. With clean amp settings, they deliver a snappy, clear tone, while still providing the legendary quack in positions 2 and 4. When driven, these pickups maintain excellent definition across the whole frequency range, making them extremely adaptable to just about any genre or style of play. The  Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Psychedelic Strat Pickup Set is definitely towards the higher end of the pricing spectrum, but it’s totally justified by the incredible tones and overall performance – we loved them enough to give them our best Strat pickups Editor’s Choice award!

Anybody working with a cheaper Strat and who wants to upgrade their pickups without breaking the bank needs to stop what they’re doing and head straight for the Fender Tex Mex Single Coil Set. These are one of the most popular aftermarket pickup sets on the market, and it’s easy to see why. They offer increased output, creamy mids, and real vintage warmth, all while remaining incredibly affordable. They’re made with Alnico 5 magnets, and feature staggered pole pieces, ensuring that they retain the classic Strat sound while adding a unique flavor. Whether you’re building a partscaster, or upgrading a Squier or other S Style guitar, then the Fender Tex Mex Single Coil Set is one of the easiest ways to improve your sound on a tight budget – this is why they “picked up” our best Strat pickups Best Budget award. 

Editor's Choice
Seymour Duncan Psychedelic Strat

Seymour Duncan Psychedelic Strat

Features: Made with period correct materials,1960's Accurate winding, Alnico V magnets

Benefits: Authentic '60s tone , Mid-scooped voicing, Excellent clarity

Best Value
Fender Original 57/62 with RWRP Middle Position

Fender Original 57/62 with RWRP Middle Position

Features: Aged off white covers, RWRP middle pickup, Hand beveled pole pieces

Benefits: Excellent hum cancelation, Well balanced tones, Superb responsiveness

Best Budget
Fender Tex Mex Stratocaster 3 Piece Pickup Set

Fender Tex Mex Stratocaster 3 Piece Pickup Set

Features: Staggered pole pieces, Alnico V magnets, Polysol coated magnet wire

Benefits: Bright shimmering tone, Nicely balanced output, Hardware included for easy installation

Individual Reviews

Our Top Pick
Fender Original 57/62 with RWRP Middle Position

Fender Original 57/62 with RWRP Middle Position

A vintage strat pickup set for the modern player.

This 57/62 Stratocaster set of pickups from Fender offers a spot-on recreation of the original strat tone. This set was reverse-engineered using a 1963 Strat. The result is a particularly authentic vintage tone, feel, and overall vibe.

The Fender Original 57/62 with RWRP Middle Position pickups gave us genuine Stratocaster tone from one of the most sought-after eras for vintage sound. This set includeed an RWRP mid pickup for hum-free function. This reverse-wound, reverse-polarity middle pickup allowed us to play with a decent amount of gain, without having to worry about excessive hum

In our tests, these pickups provided the sparkling highs and warm lows that have helped make Strats such a beloved and useful guitar. The clean sound we got (plugged straight into the amp with no effects) had that beautiful Fender Strat openness to it.

We then put this set of pickups through its paces through the Tube Screamer. Even though these pickups have an output that is considered low to moderate, they sounded great with high gain. 

The bridge pickup provided that classic overdriven bite that just cuts through a mix, while the neck pickup provided a warm and present sound when overdriven. 

The reverse-wound middle pickup sounded great when we switched it on with the 2nd and 4th positions, both overdriven. 

When we dialed in more of an aggressive distortion, positions one and two were our favorite, offering that characteristic Strat chime and bite. It had a bit of a Stevie Ray edge to it, with a nice sustain and powerful tone. 

Verdict: The Fender Original 57/62 with RWRP Middle Position set offers a classic tone without excessive hum. In addition to sounding great in a variety of situations and at differing levels of tube saturation, they were well-made and presented no challenges during installation.


Best Budget Choice
Fender Tex Mex

Fender Tex Mex

Increased output set of strat pickups at a low price.

This set of strat pickups gives you a Texas-sized tone and grit that will surely fit your budget. Whether you are looking for those sparkly clean Strat tones or the saturated bite that they're known for, this set of pickups delivers.

The Fender Tex Mex Stratocaster Pickup Set gave us that renowned Strat clean tone, as well as some great distorted tones, at a great price. This pickup set was designed with increased output and comes with Alnico V magnets.

We started with our strat on clean and got that open sound. These pickups featured vinyl-coated lead wires as well as staggered pole pieces, delivering a classic sound that is balanced and quite useful for today’s player.

Although all three pickups in this set delivered what we expected, our favorite was the bridge pickup. It gave us some serious output because it’s overwound, and we loved how it paired up with our Tube Screamer distortion dialed in at various levels. We got some serious growl that was a bit more aggressive than standard wound pickups, but we still found them to be balanced and focused. 

We also liked how position 4 sounded, especially when clean. The sound we got was great for blues and similar applications. Here we got a nice combination of bite and balance that can come in handy in a variety of situations. 

Another great feature of the Tex Mex pickup set is the middle pickup which was designed with reverse wound and reverse polarity. In our tests, we noticed that positions 2 and 4 greatly benefited from this, as there was no audible hum.

Verdict: The Fender Tex Mex Stratocaster Pickup Set is great for players looking to upgrade their Strat on a budget. You get higher output and standard strat tone with some of that Texas bite and sparkle, all for a fantastic price.


Editor's Choice
Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Psychedelic Strat Set

Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Psychedelic Strat Set

A fantastic Strat Pickup Set featuring materials and winding from the 1960s.

These pickups are designed with period-correct materials, in order to give you that chime and single-coil tone from the sixties. Wound in the classic way, this set is for that discerning player that is willing to go the extra mile in the name of authenticity.

The Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Psychedelic Strat Set delivered late sixties tone with period-correct materials and attention to detail. These pickups were hand-wound in the traditional way in order to reproduce vintage Strat tone.

We found that the pickups in this set were voiced with a scooped-mid sound. Our tests revealed a deep and full tone in every position, in both clean and distorted settings. 

We particularly liked our clean sound on the bridge pickup as well as position 2. In both, we got a very clear clean that was present but never with that icepick quality that Strats sometimes display. We didn’t even have to roll down the tone knob, as both positions 1 and 2 sounded great at different tone levels. 

Position 4 was also one of our favorites, not only for that typical blues sound and bite, but for some jazz fusion once we dialed in some overdrive. The sound here was balanced and warm, thanks to the mid-scooped voice that these pickups have. 

For more aggressive distortion, our favorite position was 2. We found that the bridge and middle pickup worked great in tandem to produce a nice bite that was controlled and balanced. The distorted sound here worked great for a blues solo and even for some power-chord chugging. 

Verdict: The Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Psychedelic Strat Set offers an authentic sixties tone for the discerning player. These pickups are voiced with the mids slightly scooped, which makes them sound fuller without deviating from that beloved sixties sound. In short, a fantastic set of Strat pickups for those who seek the very best.


Also Consider
EMG DG20 David Gilmour Signature Pre-Wired Pickguard

EMG DG20 David Gilmour Signature Pre-Wired Pickguard

A combo of pickguard and single coil set for true David Gilmour tone.

If you are a fan of David Gilmour's unique sound this EMG set of strat single coils is for you. It features EMG's exclusive solderless Quik-Connect design and comes with a pre-wired Pearloid pickguard in white. Alternatively, you can also get the DG20 in black.

The EMG DG20 David Gilmour Signature Pre-Wired Pickguard features the company’s ivory alnico SA single-coil pickups. It comes with an EMG EXG expander for increased fatness, and an EMG SPC (Strat Presence Control) as an enhancer for your Strat tone

Starting with clean tones, our tests revealed a bright and chimey Strat tone with a nice bottom and no hum. The clean sounds were quite balanced and round, but still authentically Strat.

One of our favorite tones in clean came from the neck pickup or position 5. It was nicely rounded to play some jazz, with a tone that was still Strat-like but with a deeper depth to it.  

The fatness on this set of pickups comes from the EXG design, delivering a fuller sound that remains focused and doesn’t turn muddy.  

With a bit of overdrive, we got a very expressive blues tone, especially in position 2. The sustain here was nice, but we were especially happy with the bite and pep in the tone.

When dialed in with more saturation, position one really came through with a forward but very musical tone with clear note separation for power chords. We also liked position three for a bit of soloing in a distortion-heavy context. 

It is important to mention that this pickguard and 3-pickup set are pre-wired with solderless connectivity, making it easy to install in your Strat. 

The one drawback is its price, which some may find too steep, especially if not particularly interested in mimicking David Gilmour’s tone.

Verdict: The EMG DG20 David Gilmour Signature Pre-Wired Pickguard and its set of three single-coil pickups provide great tone that resembles the iconic guitarist’s sound. While many would pay handsomely for Gilmour’s tone, some might find this set to be a bit costly, especially non-Floyd fans.


Also Consider
Fender Gen 4 Noiseless

Fender Gen 4 Noiseless

A single coil pickup set that delivers vintage Strat tone with no noise.

This set of Strat pickups offers authentic Fender tone with that timeless vintage flavor but without the burden of noise. Featuring a shielded wire design, as well as Alnico V material for the magnets, these pickups produce classic strat sound for today's guitar player.

The Fender Gen 4 Noiseless set featured three single-coil pickups with 10.3 K resistance each, for authentic Strat tone. An added benefit is the true Strat chime, with far less of the hum that is often associated with single-coil pickups.

We started by testing this set in clean. The sound we got had a defined high as well as a tight low end. The mids were a bit too forward, although that can still come in handy in a busy mix.

Position one gave us the classic Strat bite. It was very useful for bright rhythmic parts to cut through. Although positions 2 and 4 also produced a nice tone, we found that the middle pickup (position 3) was a little overpowering.

Once we dialed in a bit of overdrive, we got a nice bluesy tone with a tight low end. This was particularly true in positions 1 and 2, which also responded well with more distortion, especially for soloing.

For a rock tone, we turned up the saturation and got a punchy and round tone for chunky chords on positions 1, 2, and 4. Interestingly, all three positions also worked quite well for single lines, with nice sustain and that unmistakable classic Strat tone. 

We also noticed that noise or unwanted hum was much less prevalent, which is a fantastic feature to have, particularly in quieter settings or for recordings.

Verdict: The Fender Gen 4 Noiseless vintage white set delivers on its promise, offering an authentic Strat tone without the noise. Although they sounded good and had a tight low end and sparkly high end, the mids were a bit too aggressive, particularly on the middle pickup.


Also Consider
Seymour Duncan Hot Rails

Seymour Duncan Hot Rails

A set of humbucker pickups on a single-coil size.

This set of Seymour Duncans allows you to modify your start by replacing its single-coil pickups with humbuckers in an easy way. These humbuckers may look like single coils because of their dimensions but are capable of offering more sustain and output for your strat. 

 

The Seymour Duncan Hot Rails are a great choice for any player looking to get the power of humbuckers on their Strat without having to carve up the guitar itself. The three pickups here take up the same amount of space as single coils and their installation is simple. 

It became obvious we were dealing with humbuckers as soon as we started playing with this set. Throughout our tests, we got fat tone, full sound, and remarkable sustain, all with very responsive playing.

We went straight for distortion, which is precisely where these pickups shine the most. You get a very powerful sound in all positions, with tons of sustain and a tone that is appropriate to heavier styles of music than we’d typically associate with a Strat. 

Our power chords and riffs came through with less effort and a lot more in-your-face tone. Positions 1 and 4 were particularly good for rhythm playing, and position 1 was our favorite for aggressive lead guitar.

This set of pickups provided more output and a thick humbucking tone. Naturally, the quack and bite that Strats are known for was no longer there, so there is a tradeoff involved.  

That said, many players love the Strat because of how it feels when played, but may also want a powerful humbucker tone in all three pickups. If that’s the case for you, these Seymour Duncans certainly get the job done. 

Verdict: The Seymour Duncan Hot Rails are a set of humbucker pickups in a single-coil size. They offer more output, sustain, thickness, and power than a single coil and are great for metal, punk, and the like. As expected, you lose that typical Strat tone, but that might be exactly what you’re after.


Also Consider
Fishman Fluence Loaded Pickguard

Fishman Fluence Loaded Pickguard

Active pickup set with two distinct voices per pickup.

This set of active pickups offers a strat tone without the hum and comes preloaded in a white pickguard for easy installation. If you want a single coil sound but what to do away with the noise, this is a good option.

The Fishman Fluence Loaded Pickguard active single-coil set features classic Strat tone minus the noise and inductance issues. This is done via active electronics that require a power source (Fluence rechargeable battery pack or 9-volt battery).

Fishman designed these pickups to offer two different voices, selectable via a push-pull mechanism on the tone knobs. In other words, each pickup features a classic single-coil sound and a beefier hot Texas type of tone.

We started our tests in position one clean, giving us that unmistakable Strat sound we all know. We then pulled the tone knob and got a more muscular tone commonly associated with overwound pickups, but without losing those pronounced Strat high frequencies.

All five positions were tested in clean. At each one, we got that classic Strat tone but none of the hum. The same was true when we engaged voice 2 by pulling on the tone knob: no hum on an overwound tone.

Moving on, we added some distortion to test out these pickups. Position 2 provided a really killer sound for blues, especially with voice two engaged. We got plenty of sustain, a balanced voice, and great responsiveness, but no hum. 

Position 1 and 5 also sounded really good with heavier distortion. The tone was classic Strat in voice 1 but a bit more modern and aggressive for voice 2, which was fantastic for a current rock sound. 

This set of pickups sounds really good and gives you options, without all the hum. However, you have to deal with making sure a battery pack is charged or keep a spare 9-volt battery handy. 

Verdict: The Fishman Fluence Loaded Pickguard gives you classic Strat sound with a modern overwound tone. This active pickup set sounds great and operates via a battery pack or 9-volt battery.


How to Choose The Right Pickups For You

Stratocaster-type guitars can have different types of pickups as well as different configurations

The most common type of pickups for Strat are single coils in all three positions, known as SSS configuration. However, humbuckers in strats have also become popular over the last 40 years, especially in SSH configuration. Here, a humbucker pickup is placed in the bridge position, while both the middle and neck position feature single coils.  

Another type of configuration is HHH. While not as common, this configuration has gained popularity among players of more aggressive styles of music like metal. Let’s see what the true difference between a single coil and a humbucker is. 

Single Coils 

Stratocasters were originally designed with single-coil pickups on all three positions or SSS configuration. These were invented in the late ’20s and were later perfected by groundbreaking visionaries like Leo Fender and Seth Lover.

Single-coil pickups have a unique tone and flavor that many players prefer. They feature a bright and twangy tone, with a superior high-frequency response. These pickups are responsible for the sound of guitars in the early days of electric guitar music, particularly in rock ‘n’ roll and blues. 

These types of pickups are designed with thousands of copper windings around a single coil. Their construction features individual magnets corresponding to each string or a single bar magnet that covers all six strings. 

A magnetic field is generated by the pickup at the vibration of a string, and the signal turns into sound waves that go into an amp. 

Single-coil pickups are susceptible to hum and interference from various electronic sources, which is often an undesirable side effect. However, many players welcome the hum and consider it part of a true Strat sound, incorporating it into the music. 

It is fair to say that an overwhelming majority of Strat players use at least two single coils in their pickup setup. 

Humbuckers

As their name implies, these types of pickups buck the hum. They came into prominence as an answer to the hum and interference that is typically present in single coils.

Humbuckers are characterized by their fuller and more aggressive tone, and have been widely used in many contexts, especially rock ‘n’ roll from the late ’60s until today. 

Humbuckers do a great job of rejecting hum and interference as well as providing a more in-your-face tone. Although commonly associated with guitars like Les Pauls and hollow bodies, they have become relatively common in Strats and Teles. However, they do not have the liveliness and high-end response that made single coils so beloved. 

Most humbuckers occupy twice the space of single-coil pickups, as they are essentially two single coils put together. However, companies like Seymour Duncan produce humbucking pickups in a single coil housing. This caters mostly to the Strat player who wants to have a humbucker (or three) without having to alter their pickguard. 

Active vs Passive

Both single coils and humbuckers can be either active or passive. This is defined by how a pickup receives its power in order to pick up the strings’ vibration. 

Passive pickups are characterized by thousands of copper windings around each coil, as well as a strong magnet that generates an electromagnetic field around the strings. They are the most common type of pickups today. 

On the other hand, active pickups have far fewer copper windings as well as weaker magnets. These low wire windings characterize an active pickup and deliver a very low output. This in turn makes an active pickup far less sensitive to interference, so you end up with a quieter pickup. 

Active pickups come with a preamp that boosts low output to produce more volume and less noise than an active pickup. The preamp is powered by a 9-volt battery or rechargeable battery pack.


Final Thoughts

One of the best things about Stratocaster ownership is the incredible amount of aftermarket parts and accessories available for modifying your guitar, including a huge variety of pickups. Pickup changes can completely transform the sound and performance of an instrument, and the Strat platform makes these changes pretty easy in most cases.

To recap, the Fender Original 57/62 with RWRP Middle Position is a very strong choice for authentic Strat single-coil tone. Those on a budget are going to love the Fender Tex Mex Stratocaster pickups. And for those whose main criteria is quality, the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Psychedelic Single Coil Set offers genuine late-sixties tone and feel with awesome detail.

Author

  • Rodrigo Sanchez

    Rodrigo is an award-winning songwriter (Best Popular Song Of 2018 for Ibermúsicas), and has worked with the prestigious EMI Music Publishing Latin America. He has production credits on artists such as Descemer Bueno, and has also composed alongside Grammy and ASCAP award-winners such as Sebastián De Peyrecave and José Luis Morín.