Player Strat Pickup's: A Disappointment...

JRSIV

Stuck in the Middle Position
Silver Member
Sep 22, 2009
284
Las Vegas, NV
I've had my new 2021 Fender Player Stratocaster a little over a month now. I've written before how my #1 guitar is my 1991 Fender Standard Strat, so it's been interesting seeing what 30 years of Ensenada production has evolved into.

I love the neck, the weight is perfect, comparing the Player's black finish to my 2014 American Standard's black finish is like looking at the same guitar... Ensenada has done a great job putting together a basic workhorse Stratocaster.

However, as the threads title points out, I am just not feeling the pickups. My #1 '91 MIM Strat of course had ceramic single coils until I upgraded to Vintage Noiseless years ago. The Player Alnico pickups are more traditionally "Stratty" than ceramics are, but they are just very ho-hum to me.

I know my 2014 US Strat's Fat 50 pups and my 50's Road Worn with upgraded Custom '54 pups are so good they can spoil you but I'm really trying to dig the Player's pickups and it's not happening.

I am considering using the Tex Mex set that originally came with my Road Worn or getting some Custom Shop Fat '60's pickups to replace the stock Player pups. I heard Greg Koch playing a new 2021 75th Anniversary Strat that comes with Fat 60's and it incredible (of course Koch's going to make anything sound insane.)

Anyone have any experience with the Fat 60's or Tex Mex pickups? I've heard them in videos of course but I never had a guitar with Tex Mexxers.

Anyone else who has a newer Player series have a better experience with the Player pickups? Maybe I got a weak set or something?

Any input is appreciated...

View media item 34767
 

Guitarmageddon

Dr. Stratster
Apr 19, 2014
27,393
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
I've had my new 2021 Fender Player Stratocaster a little over a month now. I've written before how my #1 guitar is my 1991 Fender Standard Strat, so it's been interesting seeing what 30 years of Ensenada production has evolved into.

I love the neck, the weight is perfect, comparing the Player's black finish to my 2014 American Standard's black finish is like looking at the same guitar... Ensenada has done a great job putting together a basic workhorse Stratocaster.

However, as the threads title points out, I am just not feeling the pickups. My #1 '91 MIM Strat of course had ceramic single coils until I upgraded to Vintage Noiseless years ago. The Player Alnico pickups are more traditionally "Stratty" than ceramics are, but they are just very ho-hum to me.

I know my 2014 US Strat's Fat 50 pups and my 50's Road Worn with upgraded Custom '54 pups are so good they can spoil you but I'm really trying to dig the Player's pickups and it's not happening.

I am considering using the Tex Mex set that originally came with my Road Worn or getting some Custom Shop Fat '60's pickups to replace the stock Player pups. I heard Greg Koch playing a new 2021 75th Anniversary Strat that comes with Fat 60's and it incredible (of course Koch's going to make anything sound insane.)

Anyone have any experience with the Fat 60's or Tex Mex pickups? I've heard them in videos of course but I never had a guitar with Tex Mexxers.

Anyone else who has a newer Player series have a better experience with the Player pickups? Maybe I got a weak set or something?

Any input is appreciated...

View media item 34767

I can see by looking at the photo, that to me the pickups are too high - I set them so my neck pickup's cover is EVEN with the pickguard surface, REAL low, and middle 1/8 higher than neck, bridge 1/8" higher than middle pickup maximum....

I can ALSO see that the bridge saddles have never been setup for proper intonation, I would suggest getting a full setup including truss rod / relief, saddle heights, and intonation.....
 

AxemanVR

I appreciate, therefore I am...
Silver Member
Feb 8, 2014
5,888
Minnesota USA

Parts of your story are surprisingly similar to my experience... except for the Player Strat pickups.

I too have a 2018 Fender Road Worn 50s Strat that came with Tex Mex pickups. I decided to go with a more vintage set of Fender Pure Vintage ‘54 Alnico 3 pickups in that guitar.

I also had a 2012 Fender American Standard Strat with Fat 50s pickups. I really liked a couple settings a lot, but could never get them all to sound as great as I wanted them to be, so I eventually sold that guitar.

My experience with Fender Standard pickups from the 90s is similar to yours... they sucked.

Anyway, after pulling the Fender Tex Mex set out of the RW they sat for a while, until I completed my “high end” Fender partscaster project using a nice fat Fender American Original 60s neck and a Fender Custom Shop Relic body.

I was going for ‘65 clone thing on this one, so I was planning on getting a set of Fender Pure Vintage ‘65 pickups of course - well - that was until I installed that set of Tex Mex pickups in it “temporarily”.

For whatever reason those Tex Mex’s really work in this Strat and I’ve kept them in there ever since.

So, that’s my experience with them...

Good Luck!



868EF3F3-4E33-4A91-BADD-C1EF2CD7171E.jpeg
 
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AxemanVR

I appreciate, therefore I am...
Silver Member
Feb 8, 2014
5,888
Minnesota USA

Looking at things from a slightly different angle, this is the “other side” of my tone experience...

I’m not trying to start some heated debate on “tone wood” or “neck thickness “ etc, but as much as I wanted to love my 2018 Fender Road Worn 50s Strat, nothing I’ve done has made it stand out as exceptional.

I’ve had several sets of great pickups in it:

1) The original Tex Mex of course.

2) The Fender Pure Vintage ‘54s that are in it now of course.

3) A set of Fender Pure Vintage ‘56s.

4) A set of Tonerider Surfari pickups.

5) An early set of Squier Classic Vibe 50s pickups.

The Tex Mex and Classic Vibe sets sounded especially wonderful when installed in other guitars, but, for whatever reason, not so much in this one. I'm not saying the Road Worn sounded "bad", but I always felt like it was lacking in the "magic" department somewhat - something about its tone wasn't quite what I was hoping for.

I’ve changed electronics and tweaked and adjusted this guitar every which way but loose, with no significant improvement - so about the only conclusion I can come up with is that this guitar is just missing that special “something” I’m after.

My “Custom Shop ‘65 Clone Partscaster” on the other hand has a sweet ringing tone both plugged and unplugged.

People can scoff all they want at my observations, but all I can say is the difference between these two guitars is night and day.

The funny thing is that my Mexican Road Worn actually sounded better than the American Standard I had (which is ultimately the reason why I sold the Am Std in the end).

Anyway, my point is that it just may be possible that your Player Strat’s problem has less to do with the pickups than you think.

First try adjusting the pickups like @Guitarmageddon suggested. If doesn’t work then your next knee-jerk reaction may be to consider going down the “pickup swapping rabbit hole” - just be aware that doing so may take you on a long arduous journey which may yield unpredictable results...


 
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Lonn

Mod Admin
Staff member
Jul 6, 2014
18,457
Carmel IN
I can see by looking at the photo, that to me the pickups are too high - I set them so my neck pickup's cover is EVEN with the pickguard surface, REAL low, and middle 1/8 higher than neck, bridge 1/8" higher than middle pickup maximum....

Too high for you. I personally like my pick ups on the high side because that’s the sound I like. It’s not wrong, just a personal preference like everything else on the guitar.
 

Guitarmageddon

Dr. Stratster
Apr 19, 2014
27,393
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Too high for you. I personally like my pick ups on the high side because that’s the sound I like. It’s not wrong, just a personal preference like everything else on the guitar.

Don't you notice on a high quality strobe tuner that the notes don't stay consistent when the pickups are that high??

I sure do....the pitch warbles....

doesn't happen with P90s or humbuckers, only Strat alnico V single coils for me.....
 

JRSIV

Stuck in the Middle Position
Silver Member
Sep 22, 2009
284
Las Vegas, NV
I can see by looking at the photo, that to me the pickups are too high - I set them so my neck pickup's cover is EVEN with the pickguard surface, REAL low, and middle 1/8 higher than neck, bridge 1/8" higher than middle pickup maximum....

I can ALSO see that the bridge saddles have never been setup for proper intonation, I would suggest getting a full setup including truss rod / relief, saddle heights, and intonation.....

I appreciate your input but that photo was taken 2 minutes out of the box.

Here's one more recent:

View media item 34757
This picture is well after I adjusted the pickups from lower, to higher, to slanted with the crest on the bass strings to slanted with the crest on the treble strings.

I bought the guitar from Sweetwater and even though the 50 step process they do is pretty cool I always do my own set ups and adjustments. The guitar is intonated perfectly. I've owned lots of guitars and while the 'stair step' shorthand for bridge intonation adjustment is a good starting point I've seen plenty of saddles nearly parallel to each other and each string is perfectly intonated. Guitar intonation has many variables aside from just the appearance of the saddles.

@AxemanVR thank you so much for your insight, I love that you write novella's like I do, lol. I mean I'm on here to get information and to learn man! Nothing is more deflating than writing a multiple paragraph post and all the replies are one sentence or an emoji, lol.

My Road Worn has quickly become one of my favorites. It's body is so resonant that I can totally understand the attraction to Nitro finishes.
 

fattboyzz

Senior Stratmaster
Sep 24, 2017
3,324
Newnan ,Ga.
I like the MIM Player Strat pickups. I bought Player Strat electronics from Stratosphere when they came out a couple years ago.
Im a fan of the MIM Standard ceramics too.
Also a fan of the Tex Mex tone ;)
Ive got a 2020 CV Strat that sounds great too.

I guess my point is ,we have lots of great choices that dont empty our wallet .
 

AxemanVR

I appreciate, therefore I am...
Silver Member
Feb 8, 2014
5,888
Minnesota USA
My Road Worn has quickly become one of my favorites. It's body is so resonant that I can totally understand the attraction to Nitro finishes.

I’m glad yours is a winner - you obviously got a good one! (wanna trade? ;))...


D1F753F7-ECC2-408D-B16E-DA2DB34B27B3.jpeg


Okay, don’t get me wrong, my Road Worn a has a very unique tone all its own, which is why I still have it...

Sort of a “dryer/less vibrant" soft jazzy sound in positions 4 and 5 (middle+neck and neck alone) that actually works well with tremolo for instance (think The Doors' “Riders on the Storm”). Position 1 (bridge) has a nice fat (but clear) tone with a decent bite when the right amount of gain is added to it. Of course position 2 (bridge+middle) seems to work on just about every Strat... assuming a person likes that sound. But, most surprisingly to me, the best position on this guitar is the middle pickup alone - which is especially notable because it's the only Strat I've ever owned where I actually like the middle alone setting by itself!

That said, the ‘65 Clone is much more lively and three-dimensional in comparison though. I’m certainly NOT claiming the pickups don't play a major role (because they obviously do) but I can’t see how anyone can rule out the “timbre” side of how an electric guitar sounds by itself (unplugged).

Some have argued that the unplugged sound of a electric guitar has nothing to do with the plugged in sound, but I feel that it's my duty to point out one very profound similarity: Whether plugged or unplugged, both versions still sound like a guitar!

While pickups may “color” the sound, I don’t feel that they actually “make” the underlying sound, which is a characteristic unique to each individual guitar... electric or not...




 
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Hillebert

Strat-Talker
Jul 14, 2021
128
Germany
Interesting! I rarely use my 1990 American Standard even though shes loaded with C69, because my 2021 Buttercream Strat sounds so brilliant out of the box. She loves a Marshall Origin 5 c through a Xotic EP Booster. Sounds heavenly...
 
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Chicago Matt

Strat-O-Master
Sep 24, 2014
622
Woodstock
I would try your TexMex set first if I were you.

I played a 50s RW Strat recently and thought the stock TexMex pickups sounded great! As a longtime Strat player I still wish I had bought that guitar. I did buy a 2013 50s RW Tele though, and the stock TexMex pickups in it are also great IMO. I have a higher-end pickup in the bridge position at present, but the original was very good as well. I love the stock TexMex neck pickup in the Tele and, though I've tried 5 other neck pickups just to see, I keep going back to the stocker.
 

budglo

Strat-O-Master
Nov 21, 2009
596
ohio
After having an 08 MIA strat , I realized when I got my Player they would be hotter. I run mine with the volume at 8-9 and tone same for clean. My drri is set almost flat . They sound good.
 

CalicoSkies

Most Honored Senior Member
Gold Supporting Member
Jun 10, 2013
7,154
Beaverton, OR, USA
If you want to look for replacement pickups, why limit yourself to Fender pickups? In my experience, I haven't really liked Fender's noiseless pickups a whole lot (I've tried their Vintage Noiseless and the N3 Noiesless pickups). Currently, Kinman makes some of my favorite noiseless pickups. I've also used Zexcoil pickups and Lace Holy Grails, which I think are pretty darn good too. I also like Lace Sensors, though technically they aren't hum-canceling but are still fairly noise-free.
 

El Gobernador

fezz parka
Apr 21, 2011
35,673
Nunyo, BZ
Heights. The most overlooked adjustment on any guitar.

I dial out stratitis then use my ear after that to get the sound I want. Too high on the neck pickup you'll have it. Unless you have ceramic pickups. The magnetic field has a different shape than the magnetic polepiece. This is actual science, not opinion.
Take your hand and lie it flat on the instrument. This is the ceramic field. Now tip your hand so the heel of your hand is touching the instrument. Upright. This is the shape of the field for AlNiCo polepieces.
 

davidrf

Strat-O-Master
Dec 27, 2010
749
Italy
I love my buttercream player but I had to find the exact height for each pickup before I really liked them. Also, for some strange reason, the guitar seems to sound better with volume at 9.5 than full 10.

Anyway, the new Alnico V they put in Players are quite "Fenderish" and I like them (miles better than any ceramic), but we're still talking about "decent" pickups. not great pickups... I don't think you can excpet them to sound GREAT.
 


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