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Vintage Style Pickups Explored: Part 1 – Single Coil Stratocaster Replacements

With so many different types of pickups on the market, choosing one that’s just right for you can certainly be a challenge. For typical non-active pickups used in most guitars today, the materials used and how each pickup is constructed can make a large difference in the final tone achieved. Active pickups (i.e., those that have some form of pre-amplification built in that requires the use of a battery of some type) are a whole different category altogether.

For the sake of focus, this two-part series will discuss varieties of vintage style pickups. First, we’ll take a look at some single-coil options that you’d typically use in a Stratocaster. Next time, we’ll bring out the Les Paul and play with some vintage-voiced humbuckers. As we go through the various options, some vendors were kind enough to provide great educational info about how each pickup is made and why they’ll sound a particular way. This will be helpful for the person that may not necessarily be interested in a vintage-voiced pickup but can use the information to read over the specifications of another pickup and then perhaps get a better understanding of how each specification may affect the tone.
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Fender Stratocaster Plus Series

The Fender Stratocaster’s design, tone, and roster of famous past and current players clearly make it a legendary guitar. As with any other guitar model however, certain designs invoke a special feeling which deem it to be a classic or at least a legend in the making. The most prized Fender Stratocasters today are those known as pre-CBS (prior to the sale of Fender Musical Instruments to CBS in 1965) models, produced from 1954 through the early 1965. These instruments have a certain unique feel and sound as well as being historically significant since they were produced during some of the most interesting eras of rock and roll itself. As we moved into the 70’s, the Stratocaster became a more popular and more widely produced guitar, but also one that was constructed with less attention to detail. As a result of poorer quality control and materials used, the 70’s were seen as the low point of the Stratocaster.
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