The legendary Stratocaster has been ranked among the most popular guitars in the world and is THE most popular electric guitar in the world. Since its inception in 1954 till today, the Strato has taken on many forms, also several little tweaks and improvements have been made to it.
But the base has always remained the same- this guitar comes equipped with a deeply contoured ash body, 21-fret one-piece maple neck, triple single coil pickups, a pickup switch with 3-5 modes, and an adjustable tremolo.
Older versions of the Strato used to have five suspension springs for the bridge, allowing players to move the tremolo arm up or down in order to shift the tonal response.
Nowadays, Stratocasters come with three suspension springs, an adjustable tremolo, and 5 pickup switch modes (neck, neck/bridge, middle, middle/bridge, and bridge). The iconic double-cutout, highly contoured, and “two-horn” design of this guitar has been copied by countless other guitar makers.
So, how do you select the proper humbucker pickup for your Strat guitar?
Honestly, any decent humbucker is going to sound great on a Strato, given the natural resonance characteristics and incredible construction of these beauties. You can choose to replace any one of the three included single coil pickups with a humbucker, or you can simply replace all 3 of them.
The pickup switch will still work like it used to, and we recommend that you choose humbuckers which come with either Alnico 3 or Alnico 5 class magnets. This way, your guitar will deliver plenty of overdriving lows and mids to the preamp of your tube amplifier, and the end result will sound much more powerful, with enough headroom for aggressive playback.Also, pay attention to the overall build quality of the respective humbuckers as well as their noise isolation characteristics.
Also, pay attention to the overall build quality of the respective humbuckers as well as their noise isolation characteristics.
Here are some of the best humbuckers for Strat guitars currently available on the market. Choose on the basis of your playing style, if you are interested in rock, metal and such, get something with extra turns on the bridge side and Alnico 3/5 magnets.
Estone Dual Hot Humbucker Rail Electric Guitar Neck PickupPro: Tons of output power, good noise isolation
Con: Some Strato models may not accept this particular pickup
If you want a humbucker with dual rails, a solid noise-proof construction, and an affordable price tag, then this Estone Dual Hot right here might be perfect for you. This passive pickup is mounted onto the top of your Stratocaster via 4 screws, and it features a quad cable design. All of the 4 wires have been thickly wrapped to shield them from unwanted interference, as well as physical damage.
The dual coil windings are wound opposite to each other in order to cancel out external interference or signal distortion. Output is plentiful, and even though these don’t offer the same level of distortion as the much costlier humbucker pickups, they are still amazing for the price and are perfect for gigging artists, or for people who are just starting out their professional career and plan to practice their Stratocaster skills at home (or in the garage).
Musiclily Dual Hot Rail Blaster Humbucker Guitar PickupPro: Chrome dual rails, standard single coil pickup size, 4-wire, 10k resistance
Con: Overall build quality is not the sturdiest
Despite its standard single coil pickup style form factor, this is in fact a humbucker pickup. It has been designed specifically for the Stratocaster guitars and features dual opposite coil windings on two chrome rails. The opposite winding eliminates external interference by creating two opposite magnetic fields that cancel out each other and the quad wiring scheme on this passive pickup means that it can be split into single as well as dual coil modes which allows you to achieve a much larger range of tonal responses.
Couple that with the 10k resistance, and you have yourself an absolutely stunning budget pickup that sounds rock solid, with plenty of overdrive headroom and loads of power between the low to mid ranges.
Bill Lawrence L250 StackedPro: Stacked coil design, compact single rail form factor
Con: Output is not as high as expected
If you’ve always wanted that extra “crunch” in the low-mid ranges of your Fender guitar, but never really found a conventional humbucker that quite suits your playing style, then take a look at these. This humbucker is the Bill Lawrence L250 Stacked model, and features a super-compact single hot rail design with dual coil windings that give it tons of extra power output and a really unique tonal response in the low frequency ranges.It can shriek, scream, distort, roar, and shine- but the output is still not as high as that of a traditional dual rail humbucker, since the strength of the magnetic field generated by the L250 is somewhat limited.
It can shriek, scream, distort, roar, and shine- but the output is still not as high as that of a traditional dual rail humbucker since the strength of the magnetic field generated by the L250 is somewhat limited.
DiMarzio PAF DP103 HumbuckerPro: Open and warm sound, lots of output, vintage sound
Con: Might sound flat and dark with some mahogany guitars
DiMarzio always makes absolutely great musical instrument accessories, and DiMarzio passive pickups are renowned for their powerful, open sound that is a favorite among professional metal and rock players. These pickups are no different, and they deliver that unique 1950’s vintage sound thanks to the heavy ceramic magnets and solid noise isolation shielding.
There are 4 cables, so you can also run this beast in split mode. It is perfect for serving as a bridge pickup in your dedicated rock/heavy metal guitar. The one downside to these is the fact that the output is already a little dark to begin with, especially on the upper mids-highs. So if you hook this up with a mahogany guitar then the overall soundstage will seem overly dark and flat due to the inherent resonance pattern of mahogany. However, they should be fine for most Fender Stratocaster guitars.
DiMarzio DP102 X2N PickupPro: Sound Twin wide-bar pole pieces, tremendous overdrive capability, universal spacing
Con: Might not be suited for jazz and blues
This particular dual coil passive pickup has been engineered to serve one purpose- deliver the best possible sound for rock and heavy metal. It delivers thunderous crunch on the low end and will send your amp into overdrive with ease, resulting in that sweet distortion sound that we all look for. The lows and mids are not dark, but they are not overly bright either. The universal spacing means that you’ll be able to play with any string configuration and they are extremely versatile.
Moving back to the sound and tonal characteristics of these pickups- they are among one of the most powerful and extreme sounding humbucker pickups ever created, and you won’t even have to try in order to sound aggressive or heavy with these as the sound is full and deep at all frequency levels from the low to the mid. Sensitivity is also highly commendable.
Seymour Duncan 11205-02 SHR-1b Hot Rails Strat Guitar Pickup, for BridgePro: Tons of sustain and fat sound, complete noise isolation, heavy ceramic magnets
Con: You’ll have to have a really tough amp to handle the extreme power output, might sound too hot to some
Do you like heavy rock music? Do you want a ton of sustain and output power with loads of fat, full sounding lows and mids? Well then, be ready to shell out a premium for one of these. Because once you try them on your Stratocaster you just won’t be able to choose another passive pickup for the same purpose.
That said though, these are not the best for music types other than rock or metal. With that in mind, you need to make your choice as to whether you should get one of these for your Stratocasters bridge or not. The thin dual bladed design and extreme resistance dual coil winding deliver intensely strong magnetic fields, so strong that they will literally smash through the stage if you hook these up with an amp worthy of handling such output.
Taking your amp into overdrive won’t even require any effort on your part, and you can get all the distortion that you want without making the lows sound funny or colored. If you’re up to the challenge and have a nice amount of cash in your wallet, get one of these. You surely won’t regret the decision, but your neighbors definitely will.