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Thread: Replacement bridge pickup for a Strat

  1. #1
    Forum Member ajwain's Avatar
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    Replacement bridge pickup for a Strat

    I have a number of Stratocasters of varying age and perceived 'quality' and I'm frustrated with the thin, wiry, un-charactertful nature of the bridge pickup in all of them!

    I won't go into what guitars or pickups I've tried, but suffice it to say that I still haven't found what I'm looking for (no pun intended). I want something that's rich and woody, balls-y and gutsy but with the articulation and transparency that a Strat pickup should have. My neck pickups all have it - why do I have to be disappointed when I switch to the bridge?

    Any suggestions gratefully received, but they'll have to be good, because I've been searching for the tone since I got my first Strat in 1978!!!

  2. #2
    Forum Member Don's Avatar
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    Re: Replacement bridge pickup for a Strat

    For years (from about 1986 on) I dreamed about putting a Tele bridge pickup in my Strats. Almost 20 years ago I put a set of Fralin Vintage Hot pickups in my Strat and eventually have become pretty satisfied with my bridge pickup sound. I think that had more to do with getting a 5E3 clone amp and also how I use the bridge pickup and my expectations of what it can do. I eventually even lowered the output of that bridge pickup and still find it to be to my liking. I still like a Tele bridge pickup more (though that's not the main reason why I prefer a Tele over a Strat) but I can mostly get what I want out of a Strat bridge pickup now.

  3. #3
    Forum Member chuckocaster's Avatar
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    Re: Replacement bridge pickup for a Strat

    Here's a couple things you can try that won't cost you anything. First, move the wire that is the tone control feed for the middle pup over one terminal on the switch. Or, you can add a jumper wire. This will allow you to have a tone pot on the bridge pup, adding some capacitance will help smooth it out some, even with the knob on 10. I do this to all the Strats I've owned or worked on. The other thing you can do is add a baseplate to the bridge pickup. This will increase the inductance, making it sound bigger and louder. Not a crazy amount, but usually enough. Anything magnetic will suffice. I've used razor blades, cut down sheet metal, anything that will magnetically couple with the pickup. I usually attach it with some double sided stick tape. Just make sure that it doesn't touch the pickup's lead wires.

    The next thing you can do is readjust your pup heights. IDK if you have them adjusted to Fender specs, but I don't do that, I always adjust by ear. Start with the bridge pup and get that sounding the best it can, then dial in the others to match that. You'll probably need to adjust the volume and EQ on your amp and any pedals you use. But I've found that by doing it this way I can alleviate the issues that I used to have. It balances out the tones better. Just the physics of string movement, the bridge pup is "seeing" less movement than the neck pup. It's therefore harder to get it sounding good because you're working with less.

    Try those first before you get into buying new pickups. They might just solve your problems. I've used these tricks as I too have struggled with the sound of the bridge pup. The other thing you can do is measure the DC resistance of your pups, maybe your neck pups are hotter than the bridges? Now, DC ohms doesn't really equate to output, it's more like EQ curve. But perceivable output is what we're going for here. So if you do have neck pickups that are higher DC, try flipping the positions and see what that does.

    In the past most guitar manufacturers didn't make specific bridge and neck pickups, they just grabbed 2 pups out of a box and threw them in. Now we have guys who spec everything out and are specific about what position each pup is.

    Past that, there's a lot of great companies making great products. Seems like you've tried a bunch already, so I won't inundate you with a list. Suffice to say though, I've usually been pleased with what I've bought, not always, but around 75% of the time. I usually get a set where the bridge pup is wound hotter than the others. So it'd be 7k, then 6k's, give or take of course. Best thing to do is talk with whoever is winding them! Tell them what you're wanting, what you've tried. What gear you're using, and anything else that might seem pertinent.

    Best of luck to you amigo!
    "don't worry, i'm a professional!"

  4. #4
    Forum Member ajwain's Avatar
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    Re: Replacement bridge pickup for a Strat

    Wow! Chuck, what a great reply; many, many thanks for that.
    I've never been a great one for experimenting, but I'll certainly try the tricks you describe.

    I've often thought of having either one or a set specifically wound, but it sounds like I can influence the sound of the one that's in there. I kind of agree with Don too, because a good Telecaster bridge pickup is more the kind of sound I'm looking for, and it makes sense now I'veread your post. The Tele pickup is mounted on a metal plate rather than hanging in a void from a piece of plastic in the case of the Strat.

    I'm a little nervous about dismantling my guitar, but nothing ventured, nothing gained (no pun intended there). I'd quite like to learn a little more about guitar electronics anyway.

  5. #5
    Forum Member chuckocaster's Avatar
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    Re: Replacement bridge pickup for a Strat

    You're welcome! And honestly, don't be afraid as it isn't that hard. I'll bet there's thousands of YouTube videos showing how to pull a pickguard.

    As for the baseplate, I do that trick sometimes with P90's. Different technique but the concept is the same.
    "don't worry, i'm a professional!"

  6. #6
    Forum Member chuckocaster's Avatar
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    Re: Replacement bridge pickup for a Strat

    Oh, and I wanted to say that on all my Teles I use a Strat neck pup paired with a Tele lead. I get the best of both worlds, and I LOVE the combo position!
    "don't worry, i'm a professional!"

  7. #7
    Forum Member Telenator's Avatar
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    Re: Replacement bridge pickup for a Strat

    I really love a Tele bridge pickup in a Strat. A Broadcaster or Nocaster that has a little girth to it. Sounds great in the tweener position and has a really nice bite when you play it alone.
    We've got the CuNiFe

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    Re: Replacement bridge pickup for a Strat

    okay here is my two cents , first if it is a alder body with a maple neck try the Fender fat 50's pickups (i have them in mine and they are nice) .Second if it is a ash body with or without maple try the Fender Texas special strat pickups.

  9. #9
    Forum Member RnBGuitars's Avatar
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    Re: Replacement bridge pickup for a Strat

    Rio Grande Muy Grande is an awesome bridge pickup. Plenty of beefy, punch & sparkle. Tele or Strat. Have a Rio Grande Dual Calibrated Strat set in one guitar. Nice p-ups!

    Good tips from Chuckocaster....

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