Sharp, twangy-sounding Telecaster pickups?
December 10, 2004 3:25 AM   Subscribe

I just bought my first electric guitar (Fender Telecaster Mexican) and I absolutely love it. Ever the gearhead, I really want to upgrade the pickups to get a better, tailored to me sound. I've searched around to find some kind of guide, but I have come up empty. I'm looking for a really clean, sharp and twangy sound with less extra noisy buzz than I am getting now. Any suggestions/resources?
posted by bakerwc1369 to Technology (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you hunt down the alt.guitar.electric faq, they have a lot of usefull information. Too lazy right now, and it's time for my smoke break.
posted by pemdasi at 3:31 AM on December 10, 2004

Also, here is some good info.
posted by pemdasi at 3:37 AM on December 10, 2004

  • GuitarGeek is used to answering this question for folks.
  • I can pretty much rattle off the answers myself, though.
  • Kinman AvN-60s are what you're looking for. Great tone, and hum-canceling.
  • Other things people really like include:
  • Joe Barden's pickups, but he went out of business due to employee embezzlement, and the price of a used set on eBay is now about $350.
  • Fender Custom Shop Texas Teles. Good tone, but not hum canceling.
  • Seymour Duncan makes a variety of aftermarket Tele pickups. The ones you'd want are called Vintage Lead Stack and Vintage Rhythm Stack. "Stacks" refers to their hum-canceling design; the sensing coil is 'stacked' atop the hum-canceling coil for drop-in replacement. Audio clips of the pickups are available on the site.
  • Lindy Fralin makes absolutely the world's best Strat replacements, as well as an extremely delicious PAF humbucker copy - I have a set of each - but you don't hear much about his Tele replacements. They wouldn't be hum canceling.
Hope that's helpful for a start. I'm looking to eventually get a set of Kinmans for my own lovely Tele.
posted by ikkyu2 at 3:57 AM on December 10, 2004

Also, it occurs to me to send you to the Telecaster Discussion Page (Re-Issue), where lots of serious Tele-heads hang out, and to direct your attention to Guitar Nuts - particularly the part about shielding your guitar. I shielded my Strat the way they recommend and ALL the buzz/hum went away.
posted by ikkyu2 at 4:02 AM on December 10, 2004

If this is your first electric guitar, I'd advise you to spend some weeks or months (depening on how much you play it) getting accustomed to the stock pickups in your Tele first. Standard Strats and Teles are the standard because they are capable of producing a wide range of sounds, so at least experiment with what you can get out of the setup you have:

Bridge and neck pickups, tone and volume controls, strumming/picking style, pick thickness, where abouts on the strings you play (towards the neck or towards the bridge), palm muting, plus all the settings on your amplifier!
posted by armoured-ant at 4:59 AM on December 10, 2004

Bardens are the classic snappy/twangy boutique Tele pickups. It's a shame he's either down on his luck or totally gone now so he's not doing business, like ikkyu2 said.

On a related question, not to hijack the thread, I'm looking for that less quacky, more twangy sound like a Tele, except maybe a bit less saturated sounding, on my Strat. I was thinking of Bardens, but I'm not sure if I'm willing to put in that money. (I'd just get a tele, especially cause the body is more beautiful, but I'm hooked on using a tremolo so far)
posted by abcde at 5:08 AM on December 10, 2004

If it helps anyone, I put a set of EMGs into my Mexican strat (the DG20) and they sounded great. Hotter than the stock pickups, with a mid boost and a mid cut control for a big range of tones including a fat humbucker-like sound, and no hum.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:18 AM on December 10, 2004

abcde: I'm looking for that less quacky, more twangy sound like a Tele, except maybe a bit less saturated sounding, on my Strat.

abcde: Your question's harder than bakerwc's, and these things are very subjective, so don't simply go by my word on this one.

I've always felt that a good deal of the distinctive sounds of the Tele and Strat were their bridge construction; especially the twanginess of the old 3-saddle Tele, and the slight bit of warble inherent to a floating Strat bridge. So in my opinion, even though the guitars share so much in common (Alnico V magnets; single-coil construction; high resonant peak; similar output; maple bolt-on necks; similar tuners and nuts; identical 25.5" scale length) they're never going to sound exactly alike.

That said, the Seymour Duncan Twang Banger for Strat, also called APST-1, is designed to do exactly what you want. I've not heard it myself, and of the two folks I know who've tried it, one liked it and one didn't. It's a drop-in replacement for your bridge pickup.

Here's the description:
APST-1 So you want both the twangy, muscular punch of a gutsy Tele®; and the chimey, bell-tone “quack” of a Strat®? No need to carry around two guitars. The APST-1 Twang Banger™ is designed to administer a big-time twang injection into your Strat for the best-of-both-worlds Tele®-plus-Strat® tone.
One of the secrets is the copper-coated steel bottom plate. Combine that with the aggressive coil windings, the Alnico II magnets wrapped in plain enamel wire, and the result is a high-output, single coil, twang-beast.
D.C. Resistance: 8.27K Ohms
Resonant Peak: 5.6 KHz
Hope that's a little helpful.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:48 AM on December 10, 2004

Seymour Duncan has demonstrations for their pickups in the neck, bridge, distorted and undistorted where it makes sense.
posted by substrate at 6:27 AM on December 10, 2004

As a bass player, I find that EMG's consistently sound better than anything else out there. Just sayin'.
posted by pepcorn at 8:31 AM on December 10, 2004

Can I ask why you bought a Mexican Tele instead of an American-built one? Was it simply cost? I ask because it's going take time, money and effort to upgrade your guitar and perhaps an American Standard has the sound you want without having to change a thing.
posted by tommasz at 9:47 AM on December 10, 2004

tommasz: I'd think its way cheaper to put new pickups in a Tele (less than $100, depending on what pickukp(s) you get) than to buy an American-built Tele in the first place.

When I bought my first "real" (non-Squier) Strat, I got a made-in-Mexico model. Why? Cost. It was $350, while the made-in-America model was more than twice that.

(mind you, I came into some money a couple of weeks later and turned around and bought the guitar I've always wanted, a made-in-America Stevie Ray Vaughan Signature Strat for just under a grand..)
posted by mrbill at 10:40 AM on December 10, 2004

What kind of music do you enjoy/want to play? Also, what kind of amp/setup are you using? There's plenty of good advice above, but I think these are relevant questions that might help answer your question more precisely.
posted by Heminator at 11:25 AM on December 10, 2004

I second the Lindy Fralin recommendation. I recently put a set of his standard Tele replacements in my '83 American-made, and I can't tell you how happy I am with them. For reference, I play professionally, and one of my other guitars is a '64 Strat with original pickups. As soon as I started bringing my Tele with the Lindy Fralins to gigs, people started commenting on how good they sound.

One caveat: there is a worse-than-usual tone loss when I turn down the volume. I know this happens on all guitars, but it's particularly bad on this guitar with these pickups. It may be the installation, or the instrument, or something else. I'd still strongly recommend the pickups.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 2:04 PM on December 10, 2004

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