It is important to have the best single coil pickups mounted on your Telecaster or Stratocaster. These are legendary guitars and deserve pickups of equal status.
Using a body kit to build your own guitar? Not happy with the pickups that came with your instrument? Or just simply looking for a project for one guitars? You’ve come to the right place!
In this article we’ll give you our picks for the top 4 single coil pickups on the market today! After that we’ll give you a little insight into what we look for in a pickup when we are shopping!
The Best Single Coil Pickups
Single Coils are known to have a reputation for superior sound quality and the most robust output when compared to their counterparts. They also have a trademarked tone that makes them stand out from the crowds.
Bad single coils can really struggle with gain and volume though, so picking the right model is important!
Fender V-mod Telecaster Single Coil Pickups
If you’re looking for the best single coil pickups, why not go to the source? When it comes to vintage tone, Fender’s got you covered.
The V-Mod Telecaster single coil pickups are engineered by guru Tim Shaw and the staff at Fender, and the result is a set of pickups that are sought after by guitarists across the globe.
Fender invented the single coil and have a proprietary blend of alnico magnet types continues to produce pickups that will make your Telecaster sing!
- Vintage Tone
- Tim Shaw Engineered
- Alnico magnet
- Neck and Bridge set
- Fender Name and Quality
- Installation can be tricky
Seymour Duncan AS-1s Blackout Singles
There’s no denying the popularity of these P-90 inspired pickups. Using a black insert for some serious tonal range and high end sparkle, these are awesome at both clean and dirty tones.
The AS-1n pickups are tuned specifically for the neck and midbody, while the AS-1b is calibrated for the bridge.
Seymour Duncan has been a big hitter in the pickup world and utilizes these great pickups on their own work of art, the legendary Mosaic Telecaster. If they are good enough for that guitar, we are guessing they are good enough for yours!
- #1 Aftermarket Pickup Brand
- Selectable Output
- Dual Pin Configuration
- Adjustable Output
- Humbucker quality noise canceling
Fender Tex-Mex Telecaster Single-Coil Pickups
The Fender Tex-Mex Telecaster Single-Coil Pickups are a classic setup designed to give you the great tone of a P-90 in a single coil, this will take away some of the distortion and fuzz that can happen at high gain.
More on-trend than the vintage 59’s, these pickups are available in 5 different colors ranging from black to brown, and have two different magnet types as well.
Thanks to the overwound design these pickups have a lot more tonal range than most single coils, and thus are much more versatile for a wide range of playing styles and genres.
- Overwound Design
- Alnico 5 Magnets
- Vintage Style Tone with extra output
- Full, Powerful Sound
- Great Mid Price Option
- Little Grittier than V-Mods
Wilkinson Vintage Tone Alnico 5 Staggered ST Strat Single Coil Pickups SSS Set
Our pick for best budget single coils, the Wilkinson Vintage Tone Stratocaster Single-Coil Pickups are great for beginners or anyone who bought a budget instrument and have found their stock pickups to be seriously lacking.
The staggered alnico 5 magnets give these pickups a great range of tones, and if you’re not a vintage tone kind of player you can still take advantage of the overwound design to get just a little bit more out of your instrument.
If you can’t afford the Seymour Duncan or Fender models we’ve already listed, these are a phenomenal value and hit way above their cost!
- 3 pack is perfect for Stratocasters
- Alnico 5 Magnets
- Middle Pickup has hum cancelling tech
- Great Value!!
- Screws not compatible with all guitars
Single Coil Pickup Buying Guide
When you are looking for pickups it can be very hard to know what you’re looking at. We’ve included a few things for you to consider if you don’t want to choose from our list!
Output and Tone
A strong magnet is usually associated with more output and a brighter tone. The drawback is that it reduces sustain and can cause intonation problems due to the extra pull on the strings.
You can also increase the output of a pickup by adding turns on the wire of the coil. If you see a pickup listed as “overwound” or “underwound” this is what it is referencing.
Gain is the name given to the amount of volume and high frequency response in a pickup. It’s usually measured in decibels (dB), and we can think of the volume as “loudness” and the high frequencies as “highs.”
Higher gain magnets can be more precise when picking notes, but also generate more noise, hum, and are less responsive to your playing style.
The Magnet Material
The most common metal you’ll find used for pickups is Alnico, but even it has 5 different formulations that have different tonal characteristics. The other two you might find are Ceramics and Neodymium.
Unless you have a very trained ear you probably won’t notice much of a difference between them as most of the pickups on our list are using Alnico V. There are some differences with the way they work:
Alnico II : The lower the Alnico, the higher the distortion and sustain.
Alnico III : This is a very rare metal that has a specific magnet structure but also has much more pronounced distortion and side-tone than Alnico II.
Alnico IV : The highest Alnico formulation, not as much use as the lower ones due to the harshness of the tone.
Alnico V: Probably the most common formulation for mid to high end pickups, the cost is worth the output these provide!
Ceramic : Much higher output than Alnico without as much sustain for playing styles that need a lot of attack.
NdFeB : A rare earth magnet with a very high output and much more chime than other magnet types, with better note separation and clarity.
Do I need Telecaster or Stratocaster Pickups?
Most single coil pickups you’ll find come in packs and are labelled for either the Strat or Telecaster. Traditionally, the Telecaster only has two pickups, a neck and a bridge, while the Stratocaster has a third that sits mid body.
Because pickups are calibrated for where on the guitar they sit, it is important to pay attention to the specifications in the product description. You could get a Telecaster set for your Strat, but then you probably want to grab a mid body calibrated Strat pickup to complete the set.
If you’re unsure as to which type or brand of pickups to get, we recommend going with the sets we’ve picked out. We intentionally chose two sets of each so we’d cover the best single coil pickups for both Strat’s and Tele’s!
The Final Note
So there you have it! The Fender V-Mod Telecaster single coil pickups are the best single coil pickups on the market for Tele’s, and we chose the Seymour Duncan AS-1s for the Stratocaster lovers in our audience!
If you are looking for P90 or humbucker pickups, we’ve written up those guides as well and you can jump over now!
Last update on 2021-09-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API