Texas Specials VS Custom Shop 54 Pickups for MIJ Classic 50s

Tratocaster

Strat-Talker
Mar 22, 2013
471
Colorado
I have a Vintage Hot Rod 50s Strat that has a Texas Special in the bridge with a '56 Strat in the middle and a PV '59 Strat pickup in the neck.

I like the Texas Special in the bridge position. and kind of lets you pull off those slightly higher gain and edge of breakup sounds very easily, while still giving you a fairly classic Strat sound in the in-between pickup positions.
 

Ebidis

Providing the world with flat bends since 1985
Nov 14, 2013
29,805
Alabama
Not sure why everyone seems to be twisted on that "bell-like tone". I don't care for it a tiny bit. That's the tone I am after:



and Texas Specials are perfect for it

I dig that tone.

I have a set of no name "Hot Texas Blues" pickups in my Strat. "Chime" is not my thing.
 

TrackerDan

Strat-Talk Member
Nov 10, 2012
63
N. California
I just purchased the MIJ Classic 50s Strat seen below. It comes with Texas Specials installed from the factory. I've never had a set of Texas Specials and I'm definitely willing to give them a try, but I was wondering if a set of Custom Shop 54s would give more of that bell like chime that you see on vintage Fenders. Are the Texas Specials much hotter than the CS54 and how do they compare to original 50s pickups?

Thanks! View attachment 553045
I have a 2014 Anniversary Strat with Fat 50's and it sounds extremely nice in a well balanced EQ'd enviroment. The bell like tones are very much like the old Strats I've experienced. Beautiful guitar by the way!
 

J-Mart

Senior Stratmaster
Jul 17, 2020
1,358
Tx
I use TS, and they don't really get "bell-like." They give more mids and "attack," "punch," "drive." People describe it differently. Just think "aggressive" or "cutting."
 

Smooth

Strat-Talker
Dec 7, 2011
404
Kentucky
Texas Specials are okay, and they are plenty glassy, bell-like, and all the old descriptions that are generally associated with A5 Strat pickups. The biggest thing to consider is they have an RWRP middle pickup, and a hot bridge pickup. The neck pickup is just slightly overwound. The neck pickup nails early KWS.

The RWRP mid pickup means, the 2 and 4 positions will sound more scooped in the mids than any vintage, or vintage style set that does not have an RWRP middle pickup. The middle pickup on the TS set is a little higher output than a typical CBS era plain enamel mid pickup, but that additional output will not make it thicker sounding in 2 and 4, however, it will sound thicker in the mids in toggle 3. The RWRP middle pickup results in mid frequency cancelations in toggles 2 and 4, and even though the middle pickup has more output, it will not have more mids in 2 and 4 than a lower output pickup with the same wind and same polarity as the neck and bridge pickups.

Tonally, the thing to know is, in toggle 4 they will have more of a John Mayer tone, than that of an SRV tone, even though they come in the SRV signature Strat.

The best balance of tone with the Texas Specials, or any Fender style pickup, should be with the treble side of the pickups higher. Especially the neck pickup. It needs to tilt a lot. The middle a little less, and the bridge should have the least tilt. You want to get more bass on the bridge pup, so the bass side will be almost as high as the treble side on the bridge pup for a balanced tone. There is a lot of bass in the guitar at the neck pickup area, so the neck pickup needs to be tilted down a bit more on the bass side.

Look at the magnets. The designer made the rods on the treble side shorter, and the ones on the base side longer, so the user can get the bass side of the pickup farther away from the strings, for a better volume and tonal balance across the strings. This enables you to get the coil farther away from the strings on the bass side, but with the same magnetic strength on the strings. The string being magnetized is what creates the current in the coil. The alternating current of the string's vibrations are what you are hearing being amplified by your amp. This tilted/staggered design works well for the neck and middle pickups, but not so much for the bridge pickup. It should be flatter, but I don't think any of Fender's pickups are designed that way.

A5 is pretty strong, so A5 pickups need to be adjusted a little farther from the strings than A3 pickups require, but I do not have my A5 neck pickups flush with the pickguard on my Strats, or any of my pups. Also, I never set any neck or middle pickups level, even if they have no stagger. In fact, I don't even have my lipstick tubes level, and the bar magnets are totally flat in them. The bridge pup is pretty level with my lipsticks.

Anyway,, the top of the plastic of my A5 Strat neck pickups are about level with the head of the height adjustment screw, and the treble side is a lot higher on the neck pickup. The middle pickup tilts a little less, and it is a little higher out of the pickguard, and the bridge pickup is the highest, and the flattest. If you adjust the pickup height gap by holding the low E and high E strings down, and set the gap the same between the string and the magnet rods, you will have a similar result. After adjusting them this way I tweak them by ear, until I get the sound I want. I always end up with more treble tilt up on the neck and middle, and I drop the neck bass side down.

Peace

By the way, here is a video I did years ago comparing RWRP and SWSP mid pickups, using the exact same middle pickup. Read the description of the video on youtube for all the info you need. The first half is SWSP, the second half is RWRP.
 

Synapse2k

Strat-O-Master
Nov 13, 2015
671
USA
Unless the previous owner put them in, it came with no such thing. You might consider the Fat '50s if that's your bag, Fender themselves wrote that some found the Custom Shop 54s to be too shrill. The Fat '50s are smoother, they say. Besides anything that says "Custom Shop" on the package is usually just an excuse to be more expensive.
They sure did. They've been making MIJ 50s strats with Texas Specials since about 2017. I have the fat 50s in my 2015 American Standard. They are nice.

1472033169-09079900.jpeg
 

Synapse2k

Strat-O-Master
Nov 13, 2015
671
USA
Texas Specials are okay, and they are plenty glassy, bell-like, and all the old descriptions that are generally associated with A5 Strat pickups. The biggest thing to consider is they have an RWRP middle pickup, and a hot bridge pickup. The neck pickup is just slightly overwound. The neck pickup nails early KWS.

The RWRP mid pickup means, the 2 and 4 positions will sound more scooped in the mids than any vintage, or vintage style set that does not have an RWRP middle pickup. The middle pickup on the TS set is a little higher output than a typical CBS era plain enamel mid pickup, but that additional output will not make it thicker sounding in 2 and 4, however, it will sound thicker in the mids in toggle 3. The RWRP middle pickup results in mid frequency cancelations in toggles 2 and 4, and even though the middle pickup has more output, it will not have more mids in 2 and 4 than a lower output pickup with the same wind and same polarity as the neck and bridge pickups.

Tonally, the thing to know is, in toggle 4 they will have more of a John Mayer tone, than that of an SRV tone, even though they come in the SRV signature Strat.

The best balance of tone with the Texas Specials, or any Fender style pickup, should be with the treble side of the pickups higher. Especially the neck pickup. It needs to tilt a lot. The middle a little less, and the bridge should have the least tilt. You want to get more bass on the bridge pup, so the bass side will be almost as high as the treble side on the bridge pup for a balanced tone. There is a lot of bass in the guitar at the neck pickup area, so the neck pickup needs to be tilted down a bit more on the bass side.

Look at the magnets. The designer made the rods on the treble side shorter, and the ones on the base side longer, so the user can get the bass side of the pickup farther away from the strings, for a better volume and tonal balance across the strings. This enables you to get the coil farther away from the strings on the bass side, but with the same magnetic strength on the strings. The string being magnetized is what creates the current in the coil. The alternating current of the string's vibrations are what you are hearing being amplified by your amp. This tilted/staggered design works well for the neck and middle pickups, but not so much for the bridge pickup. It should be flatter, but I don't think any of Fender's pickups are designed that way.

A5 is pretty strong, so A5 pickups need to be adjusted a little farther from the strings than A3 pickups require, but I do not have my A5 neck pickups flush with the pickguard on my Strats, or any of my pups. Also, I never set any neck or middle pickups level, even if they have no stagger. In fact, I don't even have my lipstick tubes level, and the bar magnets are totally flat in them. The bridge pup is pretty level with my lipsticks.

Anyway,, the top of the plastic of my A5 Strat neck pickups are about level with the head of the height adjustment screw, and the treble side is a lot higher on the neck pickup. The middle pickup tilts a little less, and it is a little higher out of the pickguard, and the bridge pickup is the highest, and the flattest. If you adjust the pickup height gap by holding the low E and high E strings down, and set the gap the same between the string and the magnet rods, you will have a similar result. After adjusting them this way I tweak them by ear, until I get the sound I want. I always end up with more treble tilt up on the neck and middle, and I drop the neck bass side down.

Peace

By the way, here is a video I did years ago comparing RWRP and SWSP mid pickups, using the exact same middle pickup. Read the description of the video on youtube for all the info you need. The first half is SWSP, the second half is RWRP.

Very interesting. Thanks for such a detailed post. It's very helpful.
 

Smooth

Strat-Talker
Dec 7, 2011
404
Kentucky
Glad to help.

Just so you know, I have a set of <5.95K> CBS style pickups I built and put in a red Strat (resistance varies by temp). All three have the same output, and the same wind direction. 42 gauge plain enamel, and A5. I also have a set I built like the Big Dippers/Texas Specials, and installed in a pink Strat (42 AWG plain enamel and A5. Mine are 5.95K neck (a little hotter than Big Dipper, and a little cooler than Texas Special, 6.3K mid and 7.5K bridge. This set in the pink Strat is RWRP mid pup. The red Strat with the 5.95K CBS style set is much fuller in the mids in 2 and 4 than the pink Strat with the calibrated RWRP set in 2 and 4. I use the red one to cover Riviera Paradise, and I use the pink one to cover Slow Dancing. If I swap the guitars, they do not capture the original sound nearly as well. However, the red one nails Riviera Paradise, and the pink one nails Mayer's Slow Dance tone.
 

Lone Woof

Senior Stratmaster
Nov 30, 2014
3,724
WI
My only experience with Custom Shop Texas Specials is in a Telecaster. I think they're too high output and have a "sterile" sound. In the process now of putting a Bootstrap Palo Duro in the bridge position.

I have CS 54 pickups in my Strat and am more than happy with the tones I get. It's the classic Strat sound, IMHO, and the bridge pickup is crispy enough to come close to a Telecaster sound.
 

Tratocaster

Strat-Talker
Mar 22, 2013
471
Colorado
The theme of setting your Strat pickups low/flush to the pick guard, etc. so you can get that "Stratty"sound seems to pop up in every thread about pickups.

A few weeks ago I picked up a Vintage Hot Rod 50's Strat and it sounded decent, albeit a little weak. The guitar has a Texas Special in the bridge and two vintage style Fender pickups in the neck and middle position. Turned out the pickups were set pretty low. Not flush with the pick guard low, but noticeably lower than factory specs. I took measurements and wrote down where they were in case I wanted to revert back later on and set them up per Fender factory spec:

Bass SideTreble Side
Texas Specials8/64" (3.2 mm)6/64" (2.4 mm)
Vintage style6/64" (2.4 mm)5/64" (2 mm)
Guitar came alive, especially those middle positions...more round and bubbly, "Stratty" sound IMO, fuller, more dynamic and just overall sound great now.
 
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