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best single coil pickups

Best single coil pickups: Get that open single-coil sound

Single coil pickups provide a sound all their own. They have a clarity, openness, and articulation that you can’t get from other styles of pickups like humbuckers. They’re also one of the most versatile types.

You can play everything from smooth jazz to heavy rock with them – depending on the type you use.  In this guide we’ll go over some of the best single coil pickups, how they’re built, and why they should be on your guitar radar.

We’ve gone over some of the best humbuckers. Here are five of the best single coil pickups.

Best single coil pickups overall: Fender Vintage Noiseless

fender vintage noiseless pickups
best overall
fender vintage noiseless
If you’re looking to inject your guitar with vintage Fender sound these are your best choice.
Pros
Vintage Fender single coil sound
Come as a full set
Noiseless
Cons
Not for those looking for a new sound

It’s tough to choose a “best overall” in any category. But when it comes to single coils it often comes down to tradition. For almost 75 years, the Fender single coil sound has been the go-to tone for a variety of styles of music.

Fender’s Vintage Noiseless series is a modern homage to the pickup sound that put two of the most legendary guitars of all time – the Stratocaster and Telecaster – on the sonic map. A sound that tone seekers still cherish today.

They come in Strat and Tele versions. So no matter what guitar you prefer, the classic tones that put Fender on the map are available to you. You get the vaunted vintage sound without the hum associated with the older models. Both versions feature alnico II magnets in pickups voiced to give you a clear, defined sound.

If you’re looking for the beloved vintage Fender sound in your favorite Strat or Tele style guitar you play – these single coil pickups will get you there right away.

Best single coil pickups for Stratocaster: Fender Original ’57/’62

fender original 57 62 pickups
best for stratocaster
fender vintage noiseless
This set is reverse-engineered from a vintage 1963 Fender Stratocaster.
Pros
Flawless 1963 Strat sound
Great sound across frequencies
Cons
Only sold as a set

All Stratocasters harness Leo Fender’s no-holds-barred spirit. There are so many different models on the market that a lot of them don’t even come close to the traditional “Strat sound”. But retrofitting your guitar with the Original ‘57/’62 3-piece pickup set can give you the smooth, chimey sound that made so many guitar players fall in love with the sound of the iconic guitar.

These pickups were born to give you the tone of Fender’s golden age at a very affordable price point. Fender took great lengths to reverse-engineer the pickups from an original 1963 Strat so they could accurately reproduce the legendary sound and feel.

How accurate they are won’t surprise you. Alnico V magnets, fiber bobbins, Formvar-coated wire, lead wires covered in cloth, hand-beveled, staggered pole pieces – it’s all here. How do they sound? Pleasant lows, sparkly highs, and a glassy tone that has been on countless recordings. The covers are even aged for aesthetic authenticity!

That said, they’re not for everybody. But if you’re chasing a sound over half a century old that’s still desired today, you might not have a clearer choice. It also comes in a pre-wired pick guard option.

Best single coil pickups for Telecaster: Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound

seymour duncan quarter pound pickup
best for telecaster
seymour duncan quarter pound
If you want the classic Telecaster bridge pickup sound but need more output, look no further.
Pros
High powered Telecaster sounds
Great range of volume
Cons
Might be too hot for some

Telecaster pickups have a sound all their own. Some swear by the bridge, some prefer the neck. A lot of traditional Tele pickups are underpowered, which required the use of a powerful amp or boosting them with an overdrive pedal.

With Seymour Duncan’s Quarter Pound Tele set you’ll get all of the traditional Tele twang we’ve all come to love. But if you want to push things over the edge you’ll have the option of additional output to kick things up a notch. The set gets its name via the larger pole pieces that are ¼ inch in diameter and custom coil winding. They create a stronger magnetic field that increases the signal.

They might have a higher output but provide all of the thick midrange and punchy treble that Telecaster pickups are known for. They’re balanced between neck and bridge, and work well with all kinds of fretboard woods.

Best active single coil pickups: EMG SA

emg sa single coil pickup
best active
EMG SA
The SA is a great active pickup in a standard single coil size. And the kit comes with everything you need for installation!
Pros
Active pickup in a single coil size
Great high gain sounds
Kit comes with everything for installation
Cons
Won’t suit everyone’s sound

You don’t really associate active pickups with single coil pickups. They’re much more common in a humbucker format. But everyone has their preferred type of guitar and manufacturers have taken notice. Some traditional SSS Strat players want to put active pickups in their guitars. Look at David Gilmour!

EMG is one of the major players in the active pickup game, and in the SA they have created a unique beast. It gives you the Strat tone players crave with additional headroom, sustain, and harmonics.

The alnico V magnet provides a clear, balanced sound with as much headroom as you can use. You’ll get increases harmonics, sustain, and everything you need to integrate it into your guitar is included. Items included are the pre-wired control set that includes volume and tone controls, quik-connect cabling, the battery clip, and output jack.

The SA fits in a standard single coil slot so you won’t have to do any routing or buy a separate pickguard. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a unique take on what a traditional single coil pickup can do.

The SA is used by some of the best in the business like David Gilmour and Steve Lukather.

Best high gain single coil pickups: DiMarzio The Chopper

dimarzio the chopper
best high gain
dimarzio the chopper
This affordable stacked humbucker fits in a single coil slot and is great for high-gain sounds.
Pros
Stacked humbucker that works in any pickup position
Balanced frequency response
Very affordable
Cons
Might be too high-gain for some
Buy From

If you play a heavier style of music you know that for those high-gain sounds – standard single coil pickups just don’t cut it. You need a pickup that can really cook. If you fall into this category, you certainly have a lot of options available to you. One of the best and most affordable is the DiMarzio DP184, also known as The Chopper.

It’s a stacked humbucker, and because of its dual-blade, ceramic magnet design works in any pickup position. Compared to more standard single coil pickups you’ll notice fatter low end, a more cutting midrange, and better bite on the high end. The four-conductor wiring lets you configure it in a variety of ways.

Regardless of how you like to wire your pickups, the 4-conductor wire means that all the options are available to you. It integrates well with other types of pickups too. So you can get creative with your additional pickup options if you choose to use one. It sounds especially good when paired with a humbucker.

FAQ

Which single coil pickup is best?

It depends on what sound you’re going for. For the traditional Strat or Tele sound we think the Vintage Noiseless pickups are the best. But not everyone is chasing that tone. Ask yourself what sound you’re searching for and that will give you a starting point.

Are P90s better than single coils?

P90s are a type of single coil. They are constructed differently, and have a different sound altogether. They are not better — just different.

What is the best single coil humbucker?

We like the DiMarzio Chopper. Another great option is the Seymour Duncan Hot Rails.

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