25 Best Strat Pickups in 2021 (All Price Ranges)

The electric guitar has seen thousands of variations produced since the instrument’s original inception in the 1930s, but one model still stands out almost unchanged from its original design is the almighty Fender Stratocaster. It features a classic double-cutaway body design, paired with a very comfortable maple neck and a “6-in-line” headstock. You’ll find the Stratocaster guitar model used in an abundance of genres, anything from jazz to blues, heavy metal subgenres, and even pop music.

Best Strat Pickups (Featured Image)

Although the Stratocaster is produced in many different spec variations, one of this instrument’s most popular traditional characteristics is the three single-coil pickup configuration. Along with the use of a simple 5-way selector switch, this Strat configuration has a reputation for packing some pretty versatile tone-shaping options. And despite the technological advancement over the years, many guitar players still prefer this particular configuration. This triple-single formation allows for some very “twangy” and “jangly” tones, which still makes Stratocaster guitars quite popular among blues, country, as well as surf rock players.

There are a plethora of different Stratocaster pickups on the market these days. Whether you’re playing a Fender Strat or any other alternative Stat style guitar (be it a cheaper or a more expensive one), you can always customize your guitar to capture that tone you’re looking for. I’ll start this article by reviewing the best Strat pickups at each price point. I’ll specifically focus primarily on the SSS configuration, but I’ll also have some interesting options to check out. If you would prefer to dig a little deeper into the fundamentals of Strat pickups check out our buying guide at the bottom of the page here.

Name of ProductImage of ProductDescriptionPrice RangeFull Review
1. Fender Texas Special Set (Best For Blues)Fender Texas Special SetType: SSS set
Active or Passive: 
Passive
$230Read Full Review Below
2. Lace 21073-01 Sensor Gold (Best For Modern Tones)Lace 21073-01 Sensor GoldType: SSS set
Active or Passive: 
Passive
$180Read Full Review Below
3. Fender Original 57/62 Prewired Stratocaster Pickguard Fender Original 57/62 Prewired Stratocaster PickguardType: SSS set w/ pre-wired pickguard
Active or Passive: Passive
$200Read Full Review Below
4. Fender Tex-Mex (Best Value)Fender Tex Mex PickupType: SSS set
Active or Passive: Passive
$100Read Full Review Below
5. EMG DG20 David Gilmour Signature Prewired Pickups and Pickguard (Best Active Circuit Pickups)EMG DG20 David Gilmour Signature Prewired Pickups and PickguardType: SSS set w/ pre-wired pickguard
Active or Passive: Active
$330Read Full Review Below
6. Seymour Duncan Billy Gibbons Signature Red Devil Set (Best Mini Humbucker)Seymour Duncan Billy Gibbons Signature Red Devil SetType: HHH set
Active or Passive: Passive
$300Read Full Review Below
7. Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster SetFender Eric Johnson Stratocaster SetType: SSS set
Active or Passive: Passive
$220Read Full Review Below
8. EMG SAVX SetEMG SAVX SetType: SSS set
Active or Passive: Active
$290Read Full Review Below
9. EMG SX SetEMG SX SetType: SSS set
Active or Passive: Active
$275Read Full Review Below
10. Suhr V60 SetSuhr V60 SetType: SSS set
Active or Passive: Passive
$240Read Full Review Below
11. Suhr Michael Landau Standard Single-Coil SetSuhr Michael Landau Standard Single-Coil SetType: SSS set
Active or Passive: Passive
$240Read Full Review Below
12. Fender V-ModFender V-ModType: A set of three single-coils
Active or Passive: Passive
$200Read Full Review Below
13. Wilkinson Lic White STWilkinson Lic White STType: SSS set
Active or Passive: Passive
$40Read Full Review Below
14. Fender Generation 4 Noiseless Stratocaster Pickup SetFender Generation 4 Noiseless Stratocaster Pickup SetType: SSS set
Active or Passive: Passive
$200Read Full Review Below
15. Lace Sensor 44513-02Lace Sensor 44513-02Type: SSS set w/ pre-wired pickguard
Active or Passive: Passive
$260Read Full Review Below
16. Milisten HSS Prewired Pickguard SeMilisten HSS Prewired Pickguard SetType: HSS set pre-wired pickguard
Active or Passive: Passive
$150Read Full Review Below
17. EMG RA-2 Prewired Pickguard SetEMG RA-2 Prewired Pickguard SetType: SSS set w/ pre-wired pickguard
Active or Passive: Active
$280Read Full Review Below
18. Lace Sensor Rainbow PackLace Sensor Rainbow PackType: SSS set w/ pre-wired pickguard
Active or Passive: Passive
$260Read Full Review Below
19. Fender Pure Vintage ’59 SetFender Pure Vintage '59 SetType: SSS set
Active or Passive: Passive
$150Read Full Review Below
20. Fender Pure Vintage ’65 SetFender Pure Vintage '65 SetType: SSS set
Active or Passive: Passive
$150Read Full Review Below

Here Are the Best Stratocaster Pickups

1. Fender Texas Special Set (Best For Blues)

Fender Texas Special Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $230

Type: A set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: If we’re talking about Stratocasters and single-coil pickups, Fender Texas Specials have to be in the discussion. In fact, these are probably the most popular single-coil pickups for all Strat players as they’ve defined that classic Texas Blues tone. The secret behind this unique sound is in extra wounds that adds a little boost in the bottom ends and mids. This way, the pickups manage to deliver that much-appreciated punch, all while retaining the sharp attack and brightness that single-coils are known for.

What’s pretty interesting is that these pickups manage to cover a lot of different musical styles. Although they’re really popular among Stratocaster-rocking blues players, you can get a whole lot of things going on with the Texas Special pickups.

Bottom Line: Fender’s Texas Special single-coil pickups are some of the most popular ones on the market. Pretty close to classic Stevie Ray Vaughn tone, they’re pretty bluesy, yet manage to add some power in the mix. Overall, I would say the Fender Texas Specials are the best Strat pickups for blues and they work well for many other musical styles as well.

2. Lace 21073-01 Sensor Gold (Best For Modern Tones)

Lace 21073-01 Sensor Gold
Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $180

Type: A set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: The classic triple-single formation comes in many different versions, covering a lot of different sonic options. However, the classic “twang” and the sharp attack remain on almost any of the examples that you can find on the market these days. The first one that we want to look into is the pack of three 21073-01 Sensor Gold single-coil pickups that have become pretty popular in recent times.

Using the latest innovations in pickup production, Lace brings a lot of clarity and brightness with their Sensor Gold single-coil pickups. However, it goes way beyond just the classic accentuation of high-ends in there as these pickups allow for a lot of dynamic control. And this is one of the best things about them as they’ll be able t fit your playing, no matter what your preferred musical styles are.

Looking further into these pickups, they come with the company’s amazing Field Barrier technology, which is present in the entire Lace Sensor series of pickups. This particular feature helps them reduce the mains hum noise that single-coils are usually known for. But despite the noise-reduction technology, the pickup poles still have a pretty wide area where they pick up the signal of the vibrating string, which adds a pretty rich harmonic content to the full sonic equation.

Bottom Line: This is a pretty versatile yet underrated combination of pickups. They’re oriented mostly towards the modern tones, although they come in handy for some old school musical styles as well.

3. Fender Original 57/62 Prewired Stratocaster Pickguard (Editor’s Choice)

Fender Original 57/62 Prewired Stratocaster Pickguard

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $200

Type: Pre-wired pickguard with three single-coil pickups and basic Strat controls.
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: Going through Fender’s long history, they had a lot of different types of pickups to offer. While these are mostly single-coil pickups, there’s still a diversity in choices in their wide arsenal of products. But what’s also really great is that they offer those awesome pre-wired Stratocaster pickguards with pickups and all the needed controls on it. If you’re looking for something vintage-oriented that can still deliver an awesome modern-oriented tone, we’d recommend you check out Fender’s Original 57/62 pickup set. These pickups have actually been reverse-engineered from an old 1963 Stratocaster model, which means that they deliver an authentic tone as if they were made back in the old days.

Aside from Alnico V magnets, we also have a Formvar-coated wire which impacts the tone and makes it pretty unique. The pole pieces are also staggered, making the overall sonic output very controlled and balanced all over the audible spectrum. They come with a noticeably bright and clean tone, although you can do some smooth stuff with them as well if you implement the tone pots the right way. This is one of the most effective and versatile pickup configurations for Stratocaster guitars out there and it’s certainly worth looking into if you’re a fan of vintage-oriented stuff.

Bottom Line: This particular set of pickups works the best for those who like old school tones of the 1950s and the 1960s. Nonetheless, their performance qualities shine in other settings as well. In my opinion, there are easily some of the best Fender Strat pickups out there.

Popular Related Articles: The Most Incredible Fender Statocaster Guitar Models Available

4. Fender Tex-Mex (Best Value)

Fender Tex Mex Pickup

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $100

Type: Set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: Barely any company out there can even compete with Fender when it comes to single-coil pickups. Of course, they have an abundance of different pickup models to offer. The first one that we’ll get into is the Tex-Mex triple-single-coil pickup set. What’s rather exciting about these pickups is the fact that they come with a somewhat higher output compared to regular single-coils. At the same time, they still retain some of the much-appreciated qualities of Fender’s single-coil pickups, including the sparkling bright tone and the overall clarity in there.

These pickups are equipped with Alnico V magnets and also come with the staggered pole pieces. Along with other of its features, they bring the best of vintage and modern-oriented stuff into one fully diverse package. Utilizing these traits and your instrument’s controls, you get a lot of options to shape your sonic output. Anything from those bluesy old school vibes and even up to heavy metal leads, you’ll be able to cover a lot of territories with them. However, no matter the setting, these pickups always keep their most notable sonic trait that includes the “sizzling” sharp sound that truly makes them stand out from most of the other single-coil pickups for Stratocasters in the market these days.

Bottom Line: Bearing standard Alnico V magnets, staggered pole pieces, and relatively lower output, they’re great for blues and jazz music. However, more wounds on the bridge pickup add some boost for this position, making it useful for hard rock music as well.

5. EMG DG20 David Gilmour Signature Prewired Pickups and Pickguard (Best Active Circuit Pickups)

EMG DG20 David Gilmour Signature Prewired Pickups and Pickguard

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: Over $330

Type: A set of three single-coils with a prewired pickguard and standard Strat controls
Active or passive: Active

My Review: We’ve already discussed some of the EMG pickups in this list, which comes as a bit of a surprise as they’re mostly known for their high output active humbuckers. However, there’s a lot more great stuff in their arsenal that’s not intended for harsh-sounding metal riffing and soloing. For instance, they also have specially designed David Gilmour signature pickups that give some of the best qualities you’d expect from single-coils.

And what’s rather interesting is that these are active pickups. Sure, we always automatically assume that active pickups are intended for heavier music. However, EMG’s DG20 pickups will have a better dynamic response and will add those sparkling bright overtones to the mix, all while keeping things under control. What’s more, there’s a noticeably reduced hum with these pickups, despite them having a “hotter” output signal. The whole thing is rounded up with an additional EXG Expander control that lets you blend between a “scooped” and a mid-heavy tone. These are extremely versatile and are especially useful for lead guitar players, or those who are only guitarists in their band. It’s also worth noting that this is a prewired pickguard combo and it’s designed in such a way that it’s super easy to put it in your Stratocaster.

Bottom Line: Done in collaboration with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, these pickups come with some great expressive qualities and have pronounced yet controlled high-ends.

Popular Related Article: 17 Amazing Acoustic Guitar Pickups

6. Seymour Duncan Billy Gibbons Signature Red Devil Set (Best Mini Humbucker)

Seymour Duncan Billy Gibbons Signature Red Devil Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $300

Type: A set of three humbuckers in a single-coil size and design
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: While we’re at Seymour Duncan pickups, it’s hard not to mention yet another one of their awesome products for this list. However, here we have something a little bit different. We talked about how those dual-coil pickups packed in a smaller-sized single-coil format can be quite useful for Fender Stratocaster guitar players who like to have those humbucker tone qualities in there. Well, if this sounds like what you’re looking for, then you should definitely consider taking a closer look at Seymour Duncan’s Billy Gibbons signature pickup set called the Red Devil.

These pickups, featuring Alnico V magnets, have a relatively lower output. However, they still can deliver that “sizzling” and “fuzzy” tone due to their specially-conceived design. And this is exactly what enables guitar players to have complete dynamic and sonic control over their output. These are especially useful if you have some of those old school-inspired tube-driven amps and want to have that extra harmonically rich content in there. What’s more, they even work great in clean settings, allowing those sparkling tones in all three of the positions. In case you love Stratocasters, but also love that fuzzy tone that Billy Gibbons is known for, then a set of Seymour Duncan’s Red Devil pickups is definitely worth considering.

Bottom Line: Three dual-coil pickups that are the size of regular single-coils are not that common and will make you sound unique. Additionally, these feature a pretty great tone for hard rock and blues rock and will help you have those ZZ Top vibes.

7. Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster Set

Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $220

Type: A set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: Looking through all the big names in the world of guitar, there’s hardly any musician that could emulate what Eric Johnson does. And, just like many virtuoso players, Johnson is well-known for his use of Fender Stratocasters and even has his amazing line of signature Strats with the company. However, these are super expensive, but you can always get a huge portion of their tone by getting your hands on his signature pickup set.

Of course, as you’d expect from a guitarist like Eric Johnson, these are mostly vintage-oriented and have that overall feel of some old school Strats. This is due to their design, which includes a mix of Alnico III and Alnico V magnets, staggered pole pieces, as well as cloth-covered lead wire. Additionally, the bridge pickup is a bit hotter, making it useful for some potential riffing as well. Nonetheless, things are pretty balanced all over the spectrum and you can get a lot of different tones going on, although you’ll always notice those vintage vibes in there.

Bottom Line: This is arguably one of the best single-coil pickup sets out there. While predominantly vintage-oriented, they manage to keep things pretty versatile. If you’re a versatile guitarist who’s into progressive rock, these will come in handy. Considering its price and performance, this is easily one of the best Stratocaster pickups out there

8. EMG SAVX Set

EMG SAVX Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $290

Type: A set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Active

My Review: Now, we all remember EMG for their metal-oriented pickups. The most notable ones are their 81 and 85 models, which are active pickups that you often find on guitars of those who prefer their tones extra heavy and extra compressed. However, the company has a lot of exciting stuff to offer, something for everyone’s taste. If we’re talking about Stratocasters, then the SAVX single-coil set works rather well. But although single-coil, these have some traits that are more common for modern-oriented instruments, especially those “Super Strat” kind of guitars. Being completely flat and featuring no staggered poles, they are super useful for guitars that feature flatter fretboard radius.

But what’s pretty interesting with these pickups is that they come with active electronics. Combining this with these pickups’ overall vintage-oriented basic design, you get the best of both worlds in one awesome package. To put it simply, the dynamic response with these pickups is impeccable. What’s more, you get a lot more room for tone-shaping maneuvers with them, allowing you to make even some of those smoother and darker-sounding tones. And they work well in pretty much all settings, anything from those super squeaky cleans and up to heavily distorted fuzz-drenched tones.

Bottom Line: Being active single-coils, this set of EMG SAVX adds a lot of expressive qualities and high-ends in there. They’re great for some modern crystal clear tones.

9. EMG SX Set

EMG SX Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $275

Type: A set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Active

My Review: Of course, EMG is a company that has a lot to offer. And, as we already mentioned, they’re mostly known for their metal oriented stuff, although we can find a lot of diverse types of pickups in their arsenal as well. Another EMG’s single-coil pickup set for Stratocasters that we’d like to include in this list is the SX set. Once again, we have active electronics on our hands, paired with a slightly vintage-oriented focus that most single-coil pickups are very well-known for.

Aside from a chimey and “twangy” tone that a lot of guitar players prefer, you’ll get a lot of clarity and dynamic response with EMG’s SX pickups. And one of the main goals here was to have an almost noiseless operation. This is due to their special design, with a strong accent put on their shielding. And despite the reduction of that constant and annoying hum that comes with single-coil pickups, the EMG’s SX set will still deliver all the main qualities and characteristics that we love.

What’s more, they also come with a stronger output while also keeping the overall dynamic control in there. Along with the parameter knobs, you’ll be able to control them in plenty of different settings. We very much like how they work with some distorted high-gain tones when you roll off the volume a little. You can hear that juicy “swelling” when you turn it all back up.

Bottom Line: Similar to the previous example by EMG, the SX is an active set of single-coil pickups. They come with a bit of a quieter operation though and might add some more bottom-ends in there.

10. Suhr V60 Set

Suhr V60 Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $240

Type: A set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: What other older guitar manufacturing companies developed over the years, Suhr took to a whole new level with their innovative approach in instrument building. For quite some time now, they’ve been making some of the best electric guitars that you could find on the market. Sure, they’re pretty expensive, but they’re worth every single penny. In addition, you can also buy the company’s pickups, some of which could be perfect for your Stratocaster guitar. The one set that we want to look into here is the wonderful V60 triple single-coil combo.

Knowing how Suhr is a company dedicated to making quality instruments and setting standards way up high, it’s only obvious that you’re going to get some pretty awesome pickups with them. The V60 set is specially voiced to replicate the sonic qualities of what we could hear on those legendary Fender Stratocasters from the 1960s. And although we have pronounced and very clear high-ends, these pickups aren’t that “chimey” and “thin” with their output. Quite the contrary. We also have a very nice balance with a solid influx of the bottom ends as well as mids in there. As a result, you get that very punchy yet controlled tone that’s perfect for blues-inspired music. These pickups are also specially voiced for each position, providing players with a nice balanced output, no matter the pickup switching position and additional effects that you’re using.

Bottom Line: Suhr pickups are pretty versatile and they have a perfect blend of old school and modern sonic qualities. However, they are designed according to the Fender pickups from the 1960s, so you’ll hear a lot of those frequencies in the mix.

11. Suhr Michael Landau Standard Single-Coil Set

Suhr Michael Landau Standard Single-Coil Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $240

Type: A set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: Of course, Suhr has a lot of other great pickup models to offer, especially if you’re into Stratocaster stuff. And most of these pickups are inspired by old school tones, all while adding in some modern-oriented sonic qualities into the whole equation. This is exactly what we can notice with the ML single-coil pickups, or the Michael Landau signature. While these pickups manage to pronounce the higher end of the spectrum and bring that much-appreciated sharp attack in there, they still have that “beefiness” in the bottom end. Although not pronounced, the midrange manages to keep things fresh as well, allowing for pretty balanced and controlled performance. Additionally, the ML pickups come with staggered pole pieces, which gives out those vintage-oriented vibes in there as well.

These come with Alnico V magnets and they’re specially adapted for each of the three Stratocaster positions. However, all three of them keep some of the same easily recognizable characteristics. The slightly boosted bottom end gives a lot of maneuverability in terms of playing some tighter-sounding stuff. Interestingly enough, even some hard rock and heavy metal riffs can sound pretty great with these single-coils.

Bottom Line: Made by Suhr, these pickups are pretty versatile for different settings. They’re also pretty balanced all over the audible spectrum, although they still retain classic single-coil sound qualities.

12. Fender V-Mod

Fender V-Mod

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $200

Type: A set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: Going back to Fender and their products, we’d like to take a look at another one of their great single-coil Stratocaster pickup sets. Here we have the V-Mod pickups, with each of these three being specially voiced and tweaked to fit their respective positions on a standard average Stratocaster. But while most pickups these days feature Alnico V magnets, here we have Alnico II, Alnico III, and Alnico V combination. Although it seems a little “unconventional,” the results are definitely interesting and worth checking out if you’re a fan of classic single-coil “twangy” and “jangly” tones.

Switching through all of the 5 pickup positions and combinations, you’ll notice that things are evenly balanced and that nothing quite sounds louder or much quieter in some places. There’s also a pretty amazing balance throughout the whole range that a standard 6-string guitar covers. This is due to Fender’s decision to use different types of magnets for different strings on the same pickups. V-Mods are definitely one of the most innovative and interesting Stratocaster pickups on the market. They’re especially useful if you favor an overall balanced performance between all the positions and all the strings.

Bottom Line: These are classic Fender Stratocaster pickups that you find on a lot of the company’s guitars. With a combination of different types of magnets, they feature a pretty balanced tone, making them fairly versatile. These are some of my favorite pickups and I’d say they are easily some of the best strat pickups available.

13. Wilkinson Lic White ST

Wilkinson Lic White ST

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $40

Type: A set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: Looking through all of the pickups on the market, most notably those intended for Fender Stratocaster guitars, you’d notice that things can get a bit pricy. However, there are some budget-friendly options to check out, and we thought that some of them are definitely worth mentioning here. Although not getting that close to some stuff that we already mentioned here, the Wilkinson Lic White ST pickups truly do a great job for their price. In fact, these are ridiculously cheap and yet still manage to deliver more than just a decent average tone that you’d expect to hear on some cheaper guitars.

These three pickups in one set are each voiced to fit their respective position the best. What’s more, we even have the classic staggered pole pieces, giving them that slightly vintage feel. But, of course, you can’t expect a pro-level tone with them knowing that the entire set here is half the price of an individual pickup in some of the other examples that we mentioned in this list. On the other hand, they’ll do the job just right if you want to freshen up a Squier Strat or any other cheaper Strat version.

Bottom Line: Wilkinson Lic White ST pickups are one of the best budget options on the market these days. They’re very useful if you want to upgrade a cheaper Strat, like those made by Squier.

14. Fender Generation 4 Noiseless Stratocaster Pickup Set (Hum Canceling)

Fender Generation 4 Noiseless Stratocaster Pickup Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $200

Type: A set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: But among all of Fender’s pickups, the company is especially proud of their Noiseless single-coils. For quite some time now, they’ve been surprising the lovers of classic Stratocaster tones with the almost hum-free operation. And the Generation 4 of their Noiseless pickup series is no exception to this rule, bringing that classic twang and jangle, all while keeping things as quiet as possible.

Needless to say, it’s impossible to completely get rid of that background noise with those individual single-coil pickup positions. However, Fender gets pretty close to it with this particular set. This is all due to the company’s special design and shielding solutions, which somehow manage to keep those single-coil sonic qualities and keep things quieter and controlled.

Sure, they’re not that cheap when you check out the price tag, but you can’t ever go wrong with these. What’s more, they’re also fairly versatile and can come in handy for almost any musical style and setting that you prefer. These will be able to sparkle in the clean settings and roar in the heavily distorted lead settings.

Bottom Line: These are pretty similar to classic stock pickups on Fender Strat guitars. However, they have significantly reduced hum, making them quieter.

15. Lace Sensor 44513-02

Lace Sensor 44513-02

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $260

Type: A set of three single-coils with a pre-wired pickguard and standard Strat controls
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: We already mentioned one Lace Sensor model here. And although the brand is not that widely known, they make some surprisingly great pickups that are worth checking out. Looking through their line of products, the 44513-02 set stood out to us. Despite a somewhat uninteresting dedicated name, this particular single-coil pickup combo truly delivers a wide palette of tones that you can make with them.

These are actually three completely different pickups. We have Lace Red in the bridge position, Lace Silver in the middle position, as well as Lace Blue in the neck position. They’re also available in the form of a completely prewired pickguard, which makes things a lot easier. As far as sonic properties go, we have a pretty versatile combo here, with each pickup well adapted for its respective position. These are super useful for those extra twangy tones, like for funk or country music, although they also work well in other settings.

Bottom Line: Although this set is mostly modern-orient, these pickups are very balanced in their output and can be used for almost any musical style.

16. Milisten HSS Prewired Pickguard Set

Milisten HSS Prewired Pickguard Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $150

Type: A set featuring one humbucker and two single-coils and a pre-wired pickguard with modified Strat controls
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: As you already get the whole picture at this point, the market has a lot of stuff to offer in this territory. You can get pretty much any kind of pickup sets for your beloved Stratocaster guitar. But if you’re into those HSS combos and want to have that tighter and heavier riffing tone with a bridge position pickup, then you can look into this fine example by Milisten. Sure, it’s not as big or a brand compared to other stuff that we’re detailing here, but this prewired pickguard with a full set is well worth the price.

But even though it’s a humbucker pickup in the bridge position, it still comes with a slightly brighter tone that would help you retain some classic Strat qualities in the tone. However, there are a couple of “unexpected” features here. First off, we have only one tone (or treble roll-off) control for all three of the pickups, which is somewhat unusual for Strats, although it keeps things a little simple. Secondly, there’s an additional switch for coil-splitting which practically turns it into a standard triple single-coil configuration. We’d say that these pickups are worth it, especially due to the price which is slightly lower since Milisten is not as famous compared to some other brands.

Bottom Line: Considering their price, these Milisten pickups are a pretty great deal. The addition of a humbucker in the bridge position makes it useful for anyone who likes tight riffing as well as classic bright single-coil tones. The main difference is that we have one volume and one tone control, as well as a coil-split switch for the bridge position.

17. EMG RA-2 Prewired Pickguard Set

EMG RA-2 Prewired Pickguard Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $280

Type: A set of three single-coils with a pre-wired pickguard and standard Strat controls
Active or passive: Active

My Review: We’d go back to EMG once again and closely examine yet another one of their single-coil combinations. The RA-2 comes with a fully prepared pre-wired pickguard and features the standard triple single-coil formation that most of the Fender Strat lovers prefer over other options. Now, there are two really interesting things about this one. Of course, just like other EMG examples that we mentioned here, these come with active electronics, making them very useful for lead players. Additionally, the entire pickup can be fitter without any additional soldering. You can just remove the old one, put this one into your guitar, and you’re ready to rock.

The tone of these single-coils, however, is focused on bringing those classic Surf rock vibes. It’s slightly “thinner” compared to some others here, and it can cut through the mix like a hot knife through butter. Additionally, we also get a lot less noise with the RA-2 pickups, all while keeping the vintage tone qualities that we all love.

Bottom Line: Another great set by EMG, these active pickups have quite an accent on the brighter side of the spectrum. This is especially useful for the musicians who play country music and old school rock ‘n’ roll.

18. Lace Sensor Rainbow Pack

Lace Sensor Rainbow Pack

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $260

Type: A set of three single-coils with a pre-wired pickguard and standard Strat controls
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: We’ve already mentioned a couple of different Lace Sensor Stratocaster pickup combinations here. But there’s another one that we thought would be interesting to all those who like Fender Stratocaster guitars and improved sonic options with them. This so-called “Rainbow” pack comes with three different single-coil pickups, each specialized for its respective position. There’s the Emerald in the neck position, Silver in the middle, and Purple in the bridge position. This is all rounded up with a nicely done pre-wired pickguard, along with all the necessary controls in there.

The Purple Sensor strongly stands out here. This is due to the fact that this is the one pickup with the strongest output signal in the entire series, allowing for some razor-sharp and even heavy tones. But things are nicely balanced with two other pickups, Emerald and Silver, making this particular combo very potent and versatile.

Bottom Line: Once again, Lace Music Products deliver quite a versatile combo of single-coil pickups. The bridge pickup has a stronger output, making it a great option for hard rock and metal guitar players.

19. Fender Pure Vintage ’59 Set

Fender Pure Vintage '59 Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $150

Type: A set of three single-coils with a pre-wired
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: It would take us a lot of time to fully explain the greatness of Fender guitars and Fender pickups. And they’re especially interesting with the vintage-oriented stuff. The one pickup set that truly stood out to us was Fender’s Pure Vintage ’59. And, as the name suggests, these are heavily gravitating towards those old 1950s Stratocaster and the kind of tone that they had back in the day.

And the guys over at Fender truly did an amazing job at bringing the good old times back to life. The Pure Vintage ’59 set features real cloth wiring, as well as the vintage bobbin construction. The magnets of these pickups are encircled with layers of Formvar-coated wire, which adds a very noticeable accent to higher ends. But at the same time, you’ll be able to have other parts of the spectrum represented in there. These are the kinds of pickups that you’d want to have in an old school blues-oriented Fender Stratocaster, although they serve well in plenty of other settings as well.

Bottom Line: With all the vintage features, these pickups bring out the qualities of those Fender Stratocaster guitars made back in the 1950s. They’re a great option for anyone into old school rock ‘n’ roll, blues, and country music.

20. Fender Pure Vintage ’65 Set

Fender Pure Vintage '65 Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $150

Type: A set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: Fender’s Pure Vintage Series has some other great examples that are worth noting here. If you’re not exactly up for the 1950s, then you can always go with the 1960s and have those kinds of tones in there. Fender Strats made back in the ’60s hold a special place in the hearts of some vintage-loving guitar players. Aside from the somewhat unusual addition of rosewood fretboards, they also had some pretty unique-sounding single-coil pickups. Since they’ve achieved classic status, it was only a matter of time until Fender would try to replicate their awesome tone and feel. And this is exactly what we can hear with the ’65 set from the Pure Vintage series.

And, once again, we have an authentic replica of the pickups that were available back on those old Fenders. There’s the cloth wiring, as well as the vintage-oriented fiber-bobbin construction, making them as close as possible to the originals. What’s more, this is all followed by an Enamel-coated magnet wire, which helps add some warmth to the tone. Compared to the classic 1950s Fender Stratocaster tones, these are a little smoother and not as sharp and bright. This is especially useful if you like blues rock and hard rock music, and yet want to keep the single-coil vibes in the mix. But although we have this subtle accent on the mids and the bottom end, you’ll still get that classic punchy tone that Strats are known for.

Bottom Line: Fender Strats made back in the 1960s have their strong following. Right on the verge of the new era in rock music, the pickups of these guitars were a bit smoother and “beefier” compared to those made in the 1950s. And this is exactly what this set is replicating.

21. Homeland Surfing Triple Rails Prewired Pickguard

Homeland Surfing Triple Rails Prewired Pickguard

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $50

Type: A set of three hot rails pickups with a pre-wired pickguard and standard Strat controls
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: Despite the abundance of different options on the market, it’s not always that easy to find a nice Stratocaster combo that includes humbucking pickups. After all, this is a somewhat “unconventional” formation for any kind of a Stratocaster guitar, so the prices for these combos might get a little pricy, especially if there are Hot Rails kind of pickups involved. However, there are some budget-friendly options as well, just like this one by Homeland. Although a lesser-known brand, they still have some pretty great pickups considering the price.

Here, we have a standard pre-wired pickguard with three single-coil slots. However, these are three smaller-sized humbuckers, accompanied by one volume and two tone control pots. Of course, there’s also the standard 5-way switch in there. But what’s quite amazing is that you don’t often find a triple humbucker combo for such a low price. Sure, these aren’t exactly the pro-level pickups, but they are more than useful if you’re operating on a budget.

Bottom Line: This is a pretty cheap solution if you want to have a Strat with three humbucker pickups, all packed in a very practical pre-wired Strat-friendly pickguard. For the price, they’ll come in handy for a Squier Strat or any other cheaper alternative.

22. Seymour Duncan SSL-1 California ’50s Set

Seymour Duncan SSL-1 California '50s Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $160

Type: A set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: There’s a lot of exciting stuff in Seymour Duncan’s collection of pickups, so it’s pretty hard not to include yet another one of their Stratocaster sets. After all, the company is known for making some of the most expressive pickups, and that’s exactly what many Strat players truly love to have. In this particular case, we’re looking at the company’s SSL-1 pickups and a full triple set. These are often referred to as California ’50s pickups as they replicate the classic single-coil Fender Stratocaster tones from the 1950s. With this said, they are very bright and “punchy,” making them perfect for surf rock, rockabilly, old school rock ‘n’ roll, and old school blues music. Of course, they’re also useful for other genres, but just bear in mind that these are their strongest territories. Funk, pop, ska, and even hard rock music can also sound great with Seymour Duncan’s SSL-1 pickups.

These are made with standard Alnico V magnets and come with classic staggered pole pieces. We also have Forbon Bobbins, as well as a heavy Formvar wire for the magnets. These are exactly the components that are responsible for this vintage-oriented tone that the pickups produce.

Bottom Line: This set is Seymour Duncan’s twist on Fender’s classic 1950s single-coil pickups. It’s a pretty great choice for the fans of this kind of tone, especially if you’re into old school blues and rock ‘n’ roll.

23. Bare Knuckle Bootcamp Old Guard Set

Bare Knuckle Bootcamp Old Guard Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $160

Type: A set of three single-coil pickups
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: While there are certainly some better-known brands out there, we’d say that Bare Knuckle pickups are worth mentioning here as well. What’s more, this comes as one of the most underrated pickup-making companies as they certainly know their craft. As far as Stratocaster combos go, we’d like to take a closer look at their Bootcamp series and the Old Guard set of single-coils. Of course, as the name suggests, these are old school vintage-oriented kind of pickups. But what’s pretty interesting is that they’re popular among modern players as well. These are capable of bringing that sparkle and jangle that Stratocaster players love, all while preserving some punch in the midsection as well as the “beefiness” in the bottom ends. It’s also worth noting that these come with flat poles, which makes them more effective on guitars that have a flatter fretboard radius.

Bottom Line: While Bare Knuckle is not as famous of a brand compared to some other mentioned in this list, this set is more than worth the price. The tone is mostly vintage-oriented, but they do a pretty great job for other settings as well.

24. Fender Yosemite Set

Fender Yosemite Set

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $130

Type: A set of three single-coils
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: It seems that all things lead us back to Fender, right? Well, after all, they are the ones still making the best Stratocaster guitars out there, and they surely know what kind of pickups fit these guitars the best. So here, we’re looking at their awesome Yosemite pickup set that’s made especially for those who prefer to have a wide variety of sonic options, all while keeping true to classic single-coil Strat properties. Due to their design and features, these are useful for both modern and vintage-oriented stuff, making them a great choice for versatile and virtuosic players.

The bridge pickup features Alnico II magnets, while middle and neck ones have Alnico IV magnets. This is all accompanied by pretty well-done shielding, which results in a noticeably reduced noise. Nonetheless, expressive qualities are still there, making these pickups dynamically responsive. Using the standard Stratocaster controls, you’ll be able to create anything from sparkling funky tones and up to growling heavy leads.

Bottom Line: Fender’s Yosemite set is a pretty balanced and versatile one. In case you want an improved classic Stratocaster tone, this is the option to go with.

25. Seymour Duncan SSL-4

Seymour Duncan SSL-4

Check Amazon Price

Estimated price: $60

Type: Individual single-coil pickup
Active or passive: Passive

My Review: But speaking of any kind of pickups, it’s hard not to mention Seymour Duncan as they’re one of the most respected companies in this business. And it’s definitely justified, especially if we look into some of their single-coil pickups, like the SSL-4 model.

There are two pretty interesting things when it comes to the SSL-4 pickup. First off, we have its output power. Although it’s a single-coil pickup, and a passive one for that matter, we have a higher output. These “hotter” single-coil pickups are rather interesting, since they manage to keep the clarity and brightness, and yet they can work well for some heavier-sounding settings. The second thing that’s interesting is that this is a universal pickup in terms of its position on a guitar. This means that you can put it in the bridge, middle, or neck position and achieve good results. Therefore, getting three of these would definitely be a nice change for your Stratocaster, especially if you need a more modern twist to your tone, and yet feel like keeping all the basic essential qualities that come with single-coil pickups. What’s more, these pickups can deliver an output that’s somewhat close to what we have with P90s – that “thicker” and “fatter” tone that also works well with high-gain amps and pedals.

Bottom Line: Seymour Duncan pickups never disappoint, as is also the case with the SSL-4 model. Featuring more wounds around their magnets, as well as flat poles, these are more vintage-oriented compared to some other pickups mentioned here. Additionally, they sound “fatter,” similar to the classic P90 pickups.

Choosing the the Right Strat Pickups (Buying Guide)

This section is for those of you who want to learn more about strat pickups before reading reviews.

Stratocaster Pickups Configurations

Before you buy your new Stratocaster pickups, you should also get familiar with different options that are at your disposal. After all, we’ve mentioned how versatile and flexible this guitar is in terms of different adjustments. You can always go with the standard formation, but you can also do what you want in order to achieve your desired tone. So let’s get into this.

Triple-Single-Coil

Three single-coil pickups all put into a standard pickguard and body cover is a typical formation for Fender Stratocaster guitars. Almost all of the company’s Strat models come with this particular combo. Of course, it is also accompanied by one volume pot and two tone controls, as well as a standard 5-way pickup selector switch. What makes the combo so unique are some quite bright and “twangy” tones. You’ll get a pretty sharp attack with all of your notes, which is what some guitar players prefer. In order to “muffle” the tone a bit, you can always use the instrument’s tone pots. However, this combo remains pretty popular among those who prefer brighter tones. Whether it’s a clean, overdriven, distorted, or extremely saturated fuzz setting, these pickups will always bring a lot of high ends to the equation.

The only downside (and it’s probably not that much of a downside to many players) here is that single-coil pickups always produce that humming or buzzing noise in the background that you just can’t get rid of. This is due to the nature of these pickups and the fact that they serve as one-directional antennas. You just cannot imagine how much electric interference we’re experiencing at this time and age, and no shielding or special design features can protect single-coils from the hum. Even the so-called “noiseless” single-coil pickups will have some unwanted hums in there. Sure, you can also add some noise reduction pedals to your signal chain, but the humming will be present while the notes are being played, or more precisely when the noise reduction pedal is above the set threshold level. The only way to get rid of it is to have a humbucker, although this kind of a pickup completely changes the tone and lacks that much-appreciated Stratocaster “twang” and “jangle” that these guitars are so well-known for.

Humbucker-Single-Sngle

Another very popular combination of pickups for Fender’s or any other Stratocasters is the humbucker-single-single one. Although not as widespread compared to the triple-single formation, you’ll get some different sonic options with it. First off, the addition of the humbucker in the bridge position gives you an option to have some of those “chugging” heavy distorted riffing parts sounding pretty tight. As much as we all love single-coil pickups, they can sometimes lack that much-needed tightness in the mids. So some high-gain settings may sound a little “messy” when you play them through a single-coil pickup in the bridge position.

Due to high demands for this kind of tone, some Stratocaster guitars were produced with a humbucker in the bridge position, along with single-coil pickups in the mid and the neck positions. Additionally, many guitars with this humbucker-single-single formation have an additional coil-splitting option for the humbucker, practically turning this guitar into a regular old triple-single Strat with a push of a button. As far as Fender Stratocasters go, this is usually a trait of some relatively more expensive models. And it’s also not uncommon to find a humbucker-single-single pickup set to put into your Strat.

Hot Rails Instead of Classic Humbuckers

But one downside that comes with Fender Stratocasters and adding in new pickups is that you need to make room for a humbucker by cutting the pickguard. Although not much of a big deal, it still requires some precise cutting in order to make things work. However, all of this can completely be avoided with fairly practical Hot Rails pickups. To put it simply, these are technically humbuckers packed in a very convenient single-coil pickup size. Essentially, you get two coils within a pickup that fits a regular single-coil pickup slot.

These have become rather popular among Stratocaster and Telecaster players as they are pretty easy to set up. Additionally, they also don’t mess with the overall aesthetic features of these guitars that plenty of musicians and fans love. Of course, this kind of a pickup design may make it sound a little different compared to regular humbuckers that we’re used to. After all, the coils are much closer together and are positioned in a different way compared to normal-sized humbuckers. But nonetheless, the tone will still have those classic humbucker characteristics, including tightness and an accent to the mid part of the audible spectrum. Even some of the famous guitar heroes prefer to go with Hot Rails as it makes things much more practical and aesthetically pleasing.

Tripple Hot Rails

Of course, a Hot Rail pickup can be placed in any of the Stratocaster’s three positions. Although it mostly finds its place in the bridge position, you can pretty much put it wherever it works the best for you. However, one of the recently more popular formations includes three Hot Rails pickups in all three of Strat’s positions. This essentially brings a triple-humbucker formation in a more practical package. There is, however, a slight difference in tone compared to regular humbuckers, although this can make your Strat sound very unique. Nonetheless, even the triple Hot Rails combo comes with a standard 5-way pickup selector switch, giving you a lot of options to create different tones. This combination is not that common so you’ll get the chance to sound somewhat unique with it.

Two Hot Rails and a Single-Coil

While we’re at the topics of Hot Rail pickups, there’s another combo that you can see on Stratocasters these days. It includes two Hot Rails placed in the neck and the bridge position, as well as an additional single-coil conveniently placed in the middle position. And when we say “conveniently,” this means that the single-coil pickup here adds more “twang” and “jangle” in those “in-between” pickup selector positions. And what’s pretty useful here is that you don’t need much effort to put this combination into practice as there aren’t any edits and cuts that you need to make on your Strat’s pickguard and electronics cavity cover.

Two Humbuckers

Now, we’ve got a pretty unconventional pickup combination for Stratocasters here. Although you’d assume that the dual-humbucker pickup combo is reserved for Gibsons and Gibson-style guitars, they’re also found with some Fender Stratocasters. You don’t find these kinds of Strat models that often, but they are still a thing. However, they can also come with a 5-way switch, allowing more tone-shaping options compared to the regular 3-way switching that you find on guitars with just two humbuckers.

Triple-Humbucker

And if you want some pretty unconventional Stratocasters, then you can always go with a triple-humbucker combination. As far as Fender’s arsenal of products goes, there are those Limited Edition Mahogany Blacktop Stratocaster guitars that feature this particular setup. So to put aside some of the instrument’s awesome and unusual traits (including a very aesthetically-pleasing design), we’re mostly interested in its triple-humbucker formation here. You’ll be able to select any of the instrument’s five positions with its selector switch and get some pretty unconventional and almost unheard-of kind of tones. Of course, it’s a more expensive combination and requires special edits to the guitar’s electronics cavity cover in case you want to go with such a formation.

Humbucker-Sngle-Humbucker

Fender Stratocaster completely changed the world of electric guitar, ultimately causing the creation of those “Super Strat” kind of guitars. Aside from ergonomic and aesthetic features, which turned these instruments into real virtuoso machines, they came with some awesome pickup combinations. Although not as nearly as common as those triple-single or HSS combinations, you can also find Strats with the humbucker-single-humbucker formation of pickups. These are, however, the results of different kinds of custom-made adjustments and Fender doesn’t quite make guitars like these. But nonetheless, if you go with such a combo, you’d definitely have a lot of fun with it, especially if you’re playing heavier music.

Two Single-Coils

Lastly, we would also like to look at a very unconventional Strat pickup formation. Although it’s common for Telecasters and some other guitars, there are Strats with two single-coil pickups to be found. In fact, Fender is making Jazz Strats as a part of the company’s Parallel Universe series. These guitars feature two Pure Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster pickups, which are pretty similar to Gibson’s classic P90s. But even besides this particular combo that some players prefer to have, you can always do some adjustments to your Strat and go with two single-coil pickups instead of three. This will give a rather unusual but fairly interesting twist to your Stratocaster.

How Fender Stratocaster Came to Be and What Makes It So Special

But before we go more into these pickup sets, let us first explore the history of the Fender Stratocaster, as well as some interesting facts about it and what makes this particular guitar model so special. In order to share the story, we first need to go way back to the early 1950s. It all started with the concept of a solid-body electric guitar. Of course, Leo Fender wasn’t the only one thinking about this as a young musician and inventor going by the name of Les Paul – we’re sure you’re familiar with his name – was also trying to make a breakthrough with solid-body electric guitar ideas. However, at the very beginning of the 1950s, there were no guitars like these that were commercially available. Sure, plenty of companies and luthiers experimented with the concept in the 1930s and the 1940s, but none of these instruments made a breakthrough. In this race, Leo Fender won when he finally launched his Esquire guitar model in 1950. It was later improved and released as a two-pickup version, known under the name of Broadcaster. For a brief period, we also had unmarked Broadcasters, also known as the “No-Casters.” However, the guitar finally got its famous name that you already probably know of, the Telecaster.

Although Gibson launched their single-cutaway Les Paul solid-body guitars in 1952, nothing could have stopped Fender from improving their guitars and staying relevant on the market. A major breakthrough, not only for Fender but for the entire world of music, came with the almighty Stratocaster. The instrument development started in 1952, finally seeing its official release in 1954. Although we kind of take this guitar for granted these days, thinking that it brings nothing new to the table, its design and features marked a real revolution in the world of guitar.

First off, we had a double-cutaway body design with uneven yet very stylish horns. Next up, the headstock featured a new design, bringing the whole “6-in-line” concept to a more aesthetically-pleasing level. However, we saw two of the most important traits that changed the way other companies approached their guitar building business. The guitar came with three single-coil pickups, allowing players to have five different combinations, providing them with quite a versatile palette of tones. What’s more, the electronics were rounded up with the use of two Tone (or treble roll-off) pots, one for the bridge and the middle pickups, and the other for the guitar’s neck pickup.

But probably the most groundbreaking thing that the world saw with the launch of Fender Stratocasters back in 1954 was its rather innovative and (for the times) unconventional bridge. Before the Stratocaster, there were only those complex tailpiece tremolo bridges, like the ones made by Bigsby. But instead of packing his new guitars with a bunch of metal components on the visible part of the body, Leo Fender tucked it all in on the instrument’s backside in a very practically positioned body cavity. In it, we have three springs that keep the bridge in its original position. However, aside from this system, the tremolo bridge has also changed drastically compared to what we saw on the Telecaster (as well as the Esquire and the Broadcaster). Here, we have a very simple and practical bridge with six individual saddles, one for each string. These can be easily adjusted for both the distance from the guitar’s nut, as well as their height. On the treble side of the bridge, there was a nicely placed hole for the whammy bar handle. Despite so many innovative additions and bold decisions, the bridge was pretty reliable and the guitar stayed in tune, even after heavy tremolo arm use.

And you can only imagine the jawdropping reaction of guitar players and other guitar brands when Fender launched their Stratocaster guitars. Even to this day, most Fender Strats bear the same traits as the original models produced back in the 1950s. We have alder bodies, maple necks, maple fretboard, as well as the very slick contoured body design. Of course, we’ve seen many changes over the years, some including different body materials, as well as different fretboards. For instance, there are Strats with bodies made out of poplar, ash, basswood, and even mahogany in some rare instances. And aside from maple fretboards, there are Fender Strat models with rosewood, Pau Ferro, and ebony ones.

As far as the pickup configurations go, there have been a few other variants aside from the standard triple-single. For instance, it’s not rare to see a very useful combo with a humbucker in the bridge position and two single-coils in the middle and the bridge position. There are, of course even dual-humbucker Stratocasters, as well as those “Super Strats” that feature two humbuckers in the bridge and the neck position, as well as one single-coil in the middle. And, of course, there are even versions with three humbucker pickups, giving a rather unusual twist to this instrument.

One of the things Stratocasters are very well-known for is the “twangy” or “jangly” tone of single coils. This is also enhanced with alder bodies, as well as other material choices. Additionally, the instrument provides a lot of versatility in terms of innovation and different adjustments. This is due to the front cavity in the body, allowing you to add any kind of pickup that you want without having to drill additional holes or make other structural adjustments to the body. You can just cut out a larger hole in the plastic pickguard or even buy a new one that fits your needs. What’s more, there are examples of the so-called “pre-loaded” or “pre-wired” Stratocaster pickguards with all of the pots, pickups, wires, and other components packed into it. So instead of all the tedious soldering with new pickup sets, all you need to do is just solder it all to the guitar’s output jack.

Looking at all of the guitar’s specifications, it’s pretty obvious why Fender Stratocaster, in all of its variants over the years, became so widespread and popular. What’s more, the instrument finds its application in plenty of different musical styles. While it’s pretty common in country and funk music (where it’s almost mandatory), you can find Strats in rock, hard rock, heavy metal, jazz, blues, pop, and plenty of other genres. And the most surprising part is that the good old triple-single-coil Strats are still the most popular ones.

Leave a Comment