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Old October 1st, 2008, 10:14 AM   #1 (permalink)
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What Pickup delivers the Best Strat Tone?

I am looking into putting a set of CS 69s in a MIM strat. I currently have a set of 2008 American Standards that I got off of Ebay in it now.

Before I blow $180 on the 69s, I was wondering if they are even the set for me. I am looking for the bell tones with the tight bass. The American standards have great bass, but it is more like a smooth sound than that classic thump.

So, the question is what pickup set is going to give me that stick out from the crowd strat tone?

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Old October 1st, 2008, 12:24 PM   #2 (permalink)
 
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pup tones are so subjective..........what is classic for one guy is thin for the next guy! I have a nice collection of strats and I have different pups in each one and while some may say they sound similiar, if you listen carefully and through a good amp, they are different. I think when most try for a 'classic strat tone' they are referencing a late 50's type sound; the 69's you are referring to have a more bluesy bottom-end and a little more growl. I would highly recommend anything from Fralin especially the Vintage Hots. They are very very good sounding and give you the bell-tones but also a nice tight bottom. My favourites right now (just because they are the newest!!) are DeTemple pups (I think he has them wound by Jason Lollar) and they sound terrific. Slightly underwound so they have that clean clear tone in spades. But with the right amp, they really drive the tubes nicely. They don't sound as good through a amp sim; for that I use a strat with Fralin SP43's......they are also great sounding but have a little more grit. You will have a lot fun trying to decide!! Try the acme music pages where they have a bunch of popular sets in audio files that you can listen to........
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Old October 1st, 2008, 12:40 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Based on my own research, if you want to go strictly Fender, what I determined-- for myself of course-- was a set of Custom Shop '54s. If they sold sets of Eric Johnson pickups I would immediately buy them. But short of buying an EJ (which I did), the alternative was installing CS '54s in my Am. Std. Those seem to be the fattest available-- fatter than the 69s.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 01:51 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by softmonkey View Post
Based on my own research, if you want to go strictly Fender, what I determined-- for myself of course-- was a set of Custom Shop '54s. If they sold sets of Eric Johnson pickups I would immediately buy them. But short of buying an EJ (which I did), the alternative was installing CS '54s in my Am. Std. Those seem to be the fattest available-- fatter than the 69s.
Just as an illustration of what Thaus is saying. I have an EJ Strat and find it the weakest of my 6 Strats.

It's way too subjective
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Old October 1st, 2008, 03:46 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shades of Blue View Post
I am looking into putting a set of CS 69s in a MIM strat. I currently have a set of 2008 American Standards that I got off of Ebay in it now.

Before I blow $180 on the 69s, I was wondering if they are even the set for me. I am looking for the bell tones with the tight bass. The American standards have great bass, but it is more like a smooth sound than that classic thump.

So, the question is what pickup set is going to give me that stick out from the crowd strat tone?
Custom shop 69
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Old October 1st, 2008, 04:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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too many different styles of pups...my taste has found CS 54's and lace hot golds to be my fav's
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 09:57 AM   #7 (permalink)
 
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Here's a link on the ACME page that has some good audio clips of some strat pups.......

Acme Guitar Works - Guitar Parts, Pickups, Electronics, and Prewired Assemblies
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 04:58 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Wow, thanks for the great link thaus! I've spent some time listening to pickups on various sites, and I've come to some conclusions about what I like. First, to me single coil pickups sound much better than humbuckers, for the most part. Second, sow impedence singles sound best. HB's seem to come in more 'flavors' than single coils, but I don't care for most of those flavors. There are a few nice sounding HB's out there, but it seems like they're rare, or maybe they're just a lot harder to make than a good single coil. Also, single coil pickups with similar windings and magnet types tend to sound more similar regardless of who made them. In other words, if it's got alnico 5's and about 5.6k of windings it'll sound similar to others with those specs whether they're made by Seymour or GFS. Just my 2cent ;)
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 07:25 PM   #9 (permalink)
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The smart money is on the CS '54s.

As for the EJs: I heard and played great one and I've heard and played not-so-great ones. They're not all the same. I would never order one and have it arrive in a box, unplayed, as you just do not really ever know. The guitar is of a particular quality though, that if you can find a great one you've got a great guitar and unbelievable bang for the buck-- if it's a good one.

Case in point: The store gave me a nicked case which was also missing a screw on the designer tag on the inside of it, and also mangled case candy (as discussed in another thread). So the manager ordered me a new one. I guess he ordered a whole new guitar and was planning on slipping the "old" case to an unwitting buyer. But anyway, I had the opportunity to switch out the guitars if I so chose to. So I brought in the case with the guitar and we opened the new box and it was another sunburst EJ. Weight was pretty much the same although mine was a touch lighter. Finish on mine was prettier and better done-- even though mine came with a couple of minor store dings. The two body pieces on mine don't match exactly, but the colors are nice. On this one, the side not only didn't match , but the right side had a kind of greenish pallor to it. My pickguard was already warping and this bothered me. On the brand new one: warped pickguard. So, so far, the finish was nicer on mine and my neck was also noticeably nicer, cosmetically-speaking.

Then I plugged them in to A/B them. Fender '65 Deluxe. Not even close. I spent some time really listening and this one was not as special as the one I managed to land three weeks ago. I really love the EJ pickups.
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 10:10 PM   #10 (permalink)
 
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Dugg, you're probably right in your assumption that pups that are wound to similiar resistance will sound alike but one factor that really makes even the same pups sound different is the guitar and the wood around the pups. I have interchanged a few sets from one guitar to another and noticed a different tone from one guitar to the next. Granted, some just sound the same in whatever guitar they were in! For example, I recently bought a used set of DeTemple pups and put them in a MIJ 62 Strat..........they sounded amazing! Decided to try them in a partscaster that I am working on putting together (body is from a squier) and they suddenly didn't sound as good! It could have had lot to do with the wiring, wood, etc etc but they really did have different character from one guitar to the next.
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 11:50 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Just my $0.02...

I've had and tried the generic CS 60's that came in my '62 MIA RI, a set of CS 50's (maybe 54's or maybe the generic 50's), and a set of Van Zandt Vintage Pluses. Plus quite a few that were mounted up in strats I've bought/sold/borrowed/etc - enough so that while I didn't keep notes and can't recall exactly what was in all of them, I've noted trends...

To my ears, vintage SCs (let's say 5.7k or so and lower impedance), like the 50's pups (take your pick, at least with the CS ones I've been exposed to I can't really discern much difference) you get, well, vintage tone. A little on the weak/thin side by modern standards, but classic strat spank and squawk and to my ears what I might call brightness (or clarity) and bell tones. Of course that's what one might expect, since true vintage strats established that tone and the CS's are (at least supposed to be) faithful to that. On the downside my experience has been that (because of the lower output?) they don't drive amps hard at all and don't work well with nearly anything digital (including modeling amps and also a lot of FX pedals.)

When you get up into the 6k ohm range you are into what I believe most might term vintage hot. They retain a lot of the vintage character but are hotter. However, in my experience the hotter the pup the more pronounced the lows and mids are and the relatively thinner the highs are. Not that a vintage hot is giving up much, but as a general rule I believe this is the case.

Anyways, the Van Zandt Vintage Pluses I settled on for my '62 fit towards the bottom of that vintage hot range (low 6k's) and have become for me the gold standard of tone. I'm sure a lot of other vintage hots sound as good or arguably better and so much of it's subjective that I wouldn't take anyone's blanket statement(s) as meaning a whole lot. In my case Mike Lull highly recommended them when he put the custom Warmoth neck on the '62 and setup/reworked the entire guitar for me, and while I am still searching for that "perfect" tone, I also have been playing those for over a decade (as much as I've been playing, including two years in a blues band) and have not found anything I like better that I also didn't find something to dislike about sooner or later. For me that class of pups (and for me it's those specific pups, but allowing for brand allegiances and so on) are pretty much it. They are great for blues, and with just a TS9/808/etc in the signal chain, sound *very* sweet into a classic bluesman tube amp rig.

I think anything above about 6.5k to the high 6k's is getting into the modern/hot flavors. Definitely will drive an amp harder and etc, and are less finicky about what you put in the signal chain. However to my ears most pups above around 7k or so start to definitely lose the vintage strat vibe, and tend to sound slightly muddier (more mids and bass.)

I've not had much exposure to anything over the 6.xk range, but pups in those ranges are popular. My padouk strat has a set of Rio Grande Dual Cals in them, and those range from around 7k (neck) to upwards of around 8k (bridge) and are said to be a very good overall set for doing just about anything from blues to classic rock. But I've not had a chance to try them out yet.

As far as magnets go, I prefer AlNico magnets, to my ears they sound warmer (not hotter, but rounder or warmer), while (again to my ears) the ceramics tend to sound cleaner or slightly better defined but also (as always, to my ears) more dry or sterile.

Once the padouk strat is done and hanging in the music room, I hope to get a generic MIM etc strat to use as a test bed and start fooling around more with pups. I bought a set of the GFS 10k (super)hot alnico SCs, but currently don't have a strat that I care to tear down and use as a test bed.
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Old October 3rd, 2008, 06:43 AM   #12 (permalink)
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I find the CS 69's to be fantastic pickups, the neck in particular is real tight on the bass end. They have that "Hendrix" sound in spades. I also have the Fralin Vintage Hots and although they sound different, are also great classy pickups.
My ideal set is the 69 neck and middle with the Fralin bridge.
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Old January 4th, 2009, 08:27 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Lollar Blondes are the top of my list, more expensive than CS stuff yess but twice as nice. Lollar has many choices and one that can fit into most needs. Check them out, once you buy a set you never need any other!
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Old July 20th, 2010, 02:53 PM   #14 (permalink)
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I'm over a year late joining this thread but just wanted to thank Idelo for a great overview of single coils. I found this very useful reading.

If anybody is still out there I would like to ask for some thoughts on PUP choice.

Guitar is a MIK Lite Ash Strat - towards the low end of the line up but I have spent some time & cash upgrading this guitar to a nice spec and set up very well. The fundamental tone is good and there are stock SD Alnico staggered PUPs on it which actually sound very repectable for stock on a MIK guitar. Although I did put a Dimarzio hot rails in the bridge with a coil tap and cap jumper to the tone pot as the bridge was rather piercing. It has an ash body and maple neck & FB - quite bright.

I like the way this guitar sounds and plays. However, I am looking for a PUP change. Looking for classic strat tone for funk and jazz - bit of blues. Looking for clean lots of sweet complexity. A bit of mild overdrive - just enough for some push and hair on the tone.

I am not sure if CS 54's would be right - although they might be. Also thought about CS 57/62's. CS 69's may be too hot. Not sure.

Any thoughts gratefully received.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 04:26 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by jih68 View Post
I'm over a year late joining this thread but just wanted to thank Idelo for a great overview of single coils. I found this very useful reading.

If anybody is still out there I would like to ask for some thoughts on PUP choice.

Guitar is a MIK Lite Ash Strat - towards the low end of the line up but I have spent some time & cash upgrading this guitar to a nice spec and set up very well. The fundamental tone is good and there are stock SD Alnico staggered PUPs on it which actually sound very repectable for stock on a MIK guitar. Although I did put a Dimarzio hot rails in the bridge with a coil tap and cap jumper to the tone pot as the bridge was rather piercing. It has an ash body and maple neck & FB - quite bright.

I like the way this guitar sounds and plays. However, I am looking for a PUP change. Looking for classic strat tone for funk and jazz - bit of blues. Looking for clean lots of sweet complexity. A bit of mild overdrive - just enough for some push and hair on the tone.

I am not sure if CS 54's would be right - although they might be. Also thought about CS 57/62's. CS 69's may be too hot. Not sure.

Any thoughts gratefully received.
I've been happy with the way my Porter Moderns sound. I play all types of music and them seem to work great for me. There's just something special about handwound pickups. Also the Chevalier pickups are very good as well. Both pickup winders are members here. Maybe send them a message and they could help find what you're looking for.
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Old July 25th, 2010, 04:05 PM   #16 (permalink)
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I was considering putting 3 single coil EMG's in one of my strats, I would love some opinions on this, the more the better, I love the strat tone ,however just want more same tone w/higher output. bring on the chat, before i put down the cash. Thanks G

Last edited by bluesjunior64; July 25th, 2010 at 04:05 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old July 25th, 2010, 05:16 PM   #17 (permalink)
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I also wanted to add, Im using a fender blues junior Ltd edition 2 tone amp, with a texas heat speaker, is that the stock speaker? Playing a MIM lefty stock strat, how is the blues driver pedal by Boss? would anyone recommend it? boy lots of diff pick ups for a strat, how about the lace sensor???? thanks G
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Old July 25th, 2010, 05:41 PM   #18 (permalink)
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boy lots of diff pick ups for a strat, how about the lace sensor???? thanks G
Check this out! http://www.strat-talk.com/forum/pick...kups-poll.html
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Old July 25th, 2010, 06:00 PM   #19 (permalink)
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You may also want to consider the GFS vintage... Just to further confuse things.

There's no need to pay full retail for CS p/u's. The bay lists 54's, 57/62's, and 69's in the $135 range. Deals are also available on the Duncan California 50"s (three SSL-1's).
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Old May 1st, 2011, 07:43 AM   #20 (permalink)
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SETUPS

Hi Guys, I want to talk about setup. I have bought a lot of guitars used on line and have found that most are not setup very well. I learned to set them up myself (online instruction) and it is not hard just be patient. Some of the guitars i have bought have been unplayable but after a setup and new strings play fantastic. This begs the question re how some are so much better than others and in the shop i am not sure that having a play without a great setup and new stings will get you the right result and you may infact pass up a great guitar because it needs a setup.

Re my fav. Strat. Phew thats a hard one. Just when i think the Strat i am playing is the one i will go and pickup another fav. and then my ear changes and i think wow this one is the greatest. Currently i love my Big Apple Strat and my 57 re issue. But then again i love my Lonestars, oh and i love my Roadhouses, woops but them i love my two Jeff Becks. Woops but i also love my Strat pluses. Oh and my American Standards. No i am not confused a great guitar will always be a great guitar and it is good to be able to change from one to the other depending on your mood and what song you want to play.

Also a good guitar to me must also sound good pluged straight into the amp without effects first of all. If it needs effects to sound good then i don`t want it.

Cheers Guys from down under.


Quote:
Originally Posted by softmonkey View Post
The smart money is on the CS '54s.

As for the EJs: I heard and played great one and I've heard and played not-so-great ones. They're not all the same. I would never order one and have it arrive in a box, unplayed, as you just do not really ever know. The guitar is of a particular quality though, that if you can find a great one you've got a great guitar and unbelievable bang for the buck-- if it's a good one.

Case in point: The store gave me a nicked case which was also missing a screw on the designer tag on the inside of it, and also mangled case candy (as discussed in another thread). So the manager ordered me a new one. I guess he ordered a whole new guitar and was planning on slipping the "old" case to an unwitting buyer. But anyway, I had the opportunity to switch out the guitars if I so chose to. So I brought in the case with the guitar and we opened the new box and it was another sunburst EJ. Weight was pretty much the same although mine was a touch lighter. Finish on mine was prettier and better done-- even though mine came with a couple of minor store dings. The two body pieces on mine don't match exactly, but the colors are nice. On this one, the side not only didn't match , but the right side had a kind of greenish pallor to it. My pickguard was already warping and this bothered me. On the brand new one: warped pickguard. So, so far, the finish was nicer on mine and my neck was also noticeably nicer, cosmetically-speaking.

Then I plugged them in to A/B them. Fender '65 Deluxe. Not even close. I spent some time really listening and this one was not as special as the one I managed to land three weeks ago. I really love the EJ pickups.
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