You’ve been hearing it on countless records, and the single-coil pickup is definitely here to stay. Thinking about tones, tones, and tones, here are some of the best single-coil pickups you can lay your hands on. Read more to find out.
Overview (Single Coil Pickup)
There’s always that one guitarist who inspires us to play.
Whether it be the chugging riffs from Kirk Hammett, the blazing notes from Jimi Hendrix, the delicate phrasing of B.B. King, or the bluesy chops of Stevie Ray Vaughan, we all have someone we look up to.
But come to think of it, have you ever stopped to consider what makes it possible for you to enjoy those tones?
Sure. You can always take a look at their expensive rigs. From boutique amplifiers to signature guitars to rare pedals, name it. It can be borderline impossible to replicate their actual sound.
For starters, it helps to know that it’s not always about their pedals, their amps, or even their actual guitars.
Oftentimes, guitar pickups are overlooked.
What are guitar pickups, you ask?
They are the ones responsible for converting the vibration from your guitar strings into actual electrical signals. This makes it possible for your sound to be heard on speakers and amplifiers.
Now, it’s important to understand that these pickups produce different sounds. There are also different types of pickups that can suit you depending on the sound you are going for.
In general, there are two types of guitar pickups that artists opt for – single coil and humbuckers. The difference between these two is defined in a separate feature.
But in a nutshell, we will be talking about single-coil pickups in this specific article.
When I use single-coil pickups, I personally prefer them on the neck position (particularly with Stratocasters). It’s just round enough to bring you through solo or lead lines.
If you’re new to the world of guitar pickups (both single coils and humbuckers), then simply put, a single coil is favored by those looking for that bright and sometimes jangly sound.
Think of a Fender Stratocaster. For humbuckers, on the other hand, they are the much darker sounding variants, making it ideal for the rock and metal genres.
But this is not all there is. We are going to dive a little bit deeper into the realms of single-coil pickups and talk about some of the best ones available on the market today.
Let’s get started by touching the surface of how the single-coil pickup sounds.
The Single Coil Sound
At the top of my head, all I can think of is the intro to “Slow Dancing In A Burning Room” by John Mayer.
Plainly put, single-coil pickups generally sound thin, bright, twangy, glassy, and jangly, just to name a few.
They are commonly preferred by players looking for clarity and articulation with an emphasis on bright notes. Unlike humbuckers, single-coils are much more focused on the high end, with the treble shining brightest during live sets and recording sessions.
Single-coil sounds also pair well with overdrives, distortions, reverbs, delays, and other pedals. Thanks to their bright and clear nature, the sound characteristics of the pedals shine in a pristine manner.
With the sound of the single coil being already established, let’s get into the buying guide of some of the best single coil pickups.
When choosing a single-coil pickup, it helps to understand first what type of sound you are aiming for.
There are some single-coil pickups that are much “hotter” or have high-gain characteristics associated with them. There are also those designed specifically for producing that signature brightness that a single-coil pickup is known for.
Another thing you should consider is the configuration of your guitar – if you want to have a SSS (three single coils) or if you prefer to have a humbucker included in your setup. This makes it possible for you to be even more versatile in producing a variety of sounds when you play.
Lastly, always consider your budget. It’s a good thing for a lot of musicians that companies have already introduced a variety of cheap pickup options that touch the surface of the sounds of some of the most expensive variants out there.
Now, with all of the nitty-gritty out of the way, let’s get right into the list of the best single-coil pickups available out there today!
Spearheading our roundup is from a name that has been trusted for years with guitar and pickups.
Being renowned as one of the best options to go for when looking for a cheap way to sound great, the Tex-Mex Stratocaster pickups from Fender are a low-gain set.
According to several users, this specific set is perfect for blues, rock, and can even cover classic heavy metal, which makes it quite a versatile choice. It also delivers quite a good output, thanks to their Alnico V magnets covered with Formvar wire.
For players looking to add that bright and vintage 60s feel to their tone, then the Tex-Mex can be the set for you.
Coming in at number 2 is DiMarzio’s nod to arguably one of the greatest guitarists of all time – Jimi Hendrix.
The DiMarzio DP419 Area ’67 delivers a bright and punchy tonal characteristic to its wielder.
The Area ’67 also takes pride in being less noisy despite it being a single-coil pickup.
It also houses vintage wiring setups, with enhanced clarity and sustains thanks to DiMarzio’s patented Area technology.
Making its way into number 3 on our list is a high-output Telecaster pickup offering from Seymour Duncan.
The STR-3 is a pickup designed for the neck position of a Telecaster. But it offers much more than just twang and jangle.
It delivers crisp and huge tones perfect for both rhythm and lead parts. It’s also a pickup heavily producing bright high-end, a fat mid, and an equal frequency at the bottom end.
For players aiming for a borderline humbucker tone for your Tele’s neck position, then it’s possible that the STR-3 is something you should look into.
Who said that the best pickups need always be expensive?
The Wilkinson Srat SSS set is here to prove that “bang for your buck” is totally possible.
This specific set is perfect for the starting musician who is just a beginner in making a project guitar. It can also be decent aftermarket options when deciding to change your stock pickups for the first time.
It can also be a decent pair to opt for when you just want to explore your options and learn more about setting up your guitar.
Overall, the sound quality of the Wilkinson SSS set is balanced, while having medium output specs.
Completing our roundup is another offering from DiMarzio.
This is a pickup, which, from the name itself, produces that twangy sound that country, blues, and rock musicians all know and love.
For a player that aims for that bright tone, the Twang King is a decent option. This neck pickup boasts special wires, hand-calibrated Alnico V magnets, and also comes in a chrome cover.
What also makes it stand out is that it’s fairly easy to install, so replacing your stock pickups would be a breeze.
When starting out, the idea of pickups and all their technicalities can be a bit daunting. But once you familiarize yourself with the hows and whys of these magnets and ceramics, you begin to understand the beauty of it all.
We hope this feature helped you out in looking for your next sound engine. Have fun exploring and keep on playing!