Fender have long reigned as the undisputed king of guitars, partly due to their ageless, iconic sound. One of the key components that contribute to that sound are their pickups. So let’s take a closer look at Fender pickups, what makes them unique, and how they impact the overall sound of the guitars we love so much.
First, let's go back to basics: what is a pickup? A pickup is a device that uses a magnetic field to convert the vibration of guitar strings into an electrical signal. This signal is then sent to an amplifier, which amplifies the signal and sends it to a speaker. In layman’s terms they’re microphones for your guitar strings.
The most common pickup types are single-coil, which are what you find in most Stratocasters going all the way back to their inception. Single coils have a simple design, with one magnet and one coil of wire wrapped around it. This simplicity gives them a crisp, articulate sound and clear, bright tone, that's perfect for genres like country, blues, and surf rock.
Fender offers several types of single-coil pickups, including the Tex Mex and Texas Specials. The Tex Mex pickups are designed to emulate the sound of early Texas blues players like Stevie Ray Vaughan, with a slightly overwound design that gives them a hotter output and more midrange punch. The Texas Specials, on the other hand, are designed to capture the classic Texas blues sound with a more traditional, balanced output.
They also offer traditional pickup sets, including the American Vintage 59s and Custom Shop 69s. The American vintage 59s are modeled after the pickups found in vintage '59 Stratocasters, with a warm, clear tone and plenty of sustain. The Custom Shop 69s, on the other hand, are designed to capture the sound of late '60s Stratocasters, with a slightly scooped midrange and a brighter, more articulate sound.
For players who want the classic single-coil sound but without the noise and hum, you’re going to want something like the Vintage Noiseless, or Hot Noiseless. The Vintage Noiseless pickups use stacked coils to cancel out noise and hum, while maintaining the classic single-coil sound. The Hot Noiseless pickups use ceramic magnets, that give punchy, warm tones and screaming high gain at the bridge position - hum free.
The Telecaster, known for its bright, twangy sound, has it’s own fair share of pickup options. Tele pickups are larger than Strat pickups and have a distinct, percussive sound that's perfect for rock n roll, indie and pop.
One of Fender's newest and most popular Telecaster pickups is the Gen 4 Noiseless. Achieving the sonic equivalent of cold fusion—authentic vintage-style Fender tone combined with noise-free performance. A quantum leap in pickup technology, these pickup designs offer crisp, clear cleans as well as gigantic overdriven tones that are bursting with pure rock power.
Another popular Telecaster pickup is the Custom Shop '51 Nocaster. These pickups are modeled after the pickups found in the original 1951 Telecaster, which was originally called the Nocaster. They have a warm, rounded sound with plenty of midrange, and are known for their excellent clarity and articulation. They use Alnico III magnets and a flat pole piece design to achieve their unique tone.
There are so many competitors in the pickup game, whether it’s Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio or Lollar; they all have their own strengths and innovations, but none of them are Fender.