'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

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'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by andrew Ivimey » Wed Dec 02, 2015 2:30 pm

I have embarked on a quest to find out as much tonal variation / sustain / differences in Strat pickups. I have a few ...

It was going to be using a Squier but I've given that to my nephew - still, imho, Squier Strat pickups all sound a muchness - they work, wide tone range, no sustain and no soul.

Second out is an Aria SXL set (as the test guitar) - They look the same as Squier pick ups but have a warm woolly tone which really, imho, the Strat business at all.

I have US strat pick guard and Mex pick guards. They are indistinguishable - could even get them mixed up! The Aria's Strat pickguard is quite different when it come to to holes. The size is nearly the same.

Next up are a set of Wilkinson pickups - they too look like Squiers and there are no markings on them (modern ones are clearly marked 'Wilkinson') but ... I like them. Less power perhaps but a lovely tone.

Then came Tonerider Surfaris, borrowed in, so no time to look at the insides. Nice tone, sort of 'metallic' addition but sounding good - probably worth a punt for secondhand. I like them.

That's it so far.. I still have demarzio, Jap Strat, modern American (details when I find the box), nineties US Strat, 2002 ordinary Mexican pups, some ancient Jap pickups and Fender Lace Sensors - so later, much later. I have to go to work.
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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by Nick » Wed Dec 02, 2015 6:02 pm

Will be interesting to see what you find. I replaced they not very great stock pickups on my mex strat with some Custom Shop Fat '50s and are very happy with the result.
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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by Dave the bass » Wed Dec 02, 2015 9:38 pm

<FX> Tannoy announcement chime....</FX>

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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by andrew Ivimey » Thu Dec 03, 2015 10:00 am

Improbable as it may sound, this morning when I dug out the old Japanese strat pickups (with metal bases/underneath) - the make will come to me eventually...With them in a box looks like another set of Mexican Strat pickups.

Each Mex strat pickup, to me, has two bar magnets running down the bottoms of the pickups thus adding 'strength' to the pole pieces.
Of Squier strat pups, in my experience they have one bar magnet running down the length of the pup, directly underneath the pole pieces.

I haven't looked at the US pups yet - too precious.

Anyway today its the ordinary 2010 (I looked it up) American Strat - its a pleasure to play. And I think it has Custom 50s pups too! The whole guitar just sounds and feels so much better (to me). The pups have more power clarity and sustain - they just do. I will be able to compare these with 1989 US pups directly too.
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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by The Stratmangler » Thu Dec 03, 2015 10:46 pm

Dave the bass wrote:<FX> Tannoy announcement chime....</FX>

"Paging Mangler.... a Mr S Mangler... would you please report to the thread please, thank you."
It looks to be doing alright without any interjection from me :)
The standard pickups on the Mexican Strats have ceramic bar magnets. The pickups are OK, but they're not great.
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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by The Stratmangler » Sat Dec 05, 2015 9:16 pm

I'd just like to add that I too like the Fender "Fat 50s" pickups.
I have a set of the Hot Noiseless pickups in my Pearl White Deluxe Strat at the moment, and I like them, but I'm very tempted to switch 'em out for Fat 50s.

If I do decide to switch 'em out I'll get all the parts necessary to make up a complete wiring loom, and that includes the "no load" tone pot Fender use on the bridge pickup.

All that said, the most important part of a guitar's sound is in the skilled hands of its player.
The other stuff is of secondary importance, nice to have, but not as important.
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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by andrew Ivimey » Sun Dec 06, 2015 12:59 pm

Total thumbs up for fat50s then - I have a spare set boxed, NOS. Having just looked at the price of them, swell. you could buy a Squier guitar for the same price. (I paid £80) = this brings me onto a point which I'll get to later.

here's some (dull) pics to emphasise a point ... (don't know if it will work)
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Wilko3.JPG
Mex.JPG
Squier.JPG
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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by andrew Ivimey » Sun Dec 06, 2015 1:02 pm

The top ones are 'Wilkos' ... no idea where they come from - they sound like they should come from Sheffield - good solid steel, I'd shave with them.

The second pic shows the Fender Mex pickups - note the bar magnets.

The third is the Squier (I've seen four Squiers from the insides and the pups all looked like this.
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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by andrew Ivimey » Sun Dec 06, 2015 1:13 pm

Now one thing occurs, when looking at a fender strat pickup (any! strat pickup) there is very little to them. Its not like you are dealing with ruby cantilevers etc etc. If you have the machinary all set up and running why not just make good old boy fat 'custom' pickups'? It looks the same wire, the pole pieces look the same and how difficult is it to just make the same powerful pole pieces and wind an extraordinary amount of turns round them and bolt on extra magnets if you want to (on all or none).

Producing a FAt50 cannot cost much more (if at all) than a Squier pup...

Okay ceramic or alnico? Both have their virtues. Here, I'll visit a company that began in Kalamazoo ... I have a pair of 57Classic which are alnico and are everything I'd ever want in humbuckers. And Dirty Fingers which are Ceramic - these pickups are by far the most powerful pickups I have ever used. They go to 15, not 11 and 'just listen, no listen to the sustain...' They are , apparently, controversial but flippin'eck they get my seal of approval. Maybe the Classics have a sweeter tone. I have used both on real Les Pauls. The 57s are heading for an Epi Sheraton - marriage made in heaven.

Back to Corona, south of the border, apparently seventy or so miles away - come on you are not telling me that the Mex factory and the US factory don't use the same parts, same bodies, same necks, frets, wire, magnets etc etc etc etc. Well, they might, mightn't they. I don't know.
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57 (1).JPG
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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by andrew Ivimey » Sun Dec 06, 2015 1:36 pm

Why not use neodymium (spelling)? magnets? - Lowthers, for example, do. Still there you go...

Perhaps the difference between 'ordinary' bog standard, if they still make such USA Fender pickups and the Tex Mexs, Mexs, 62s fat50s etc etc etc is one of vagaries and the carelessness of Friday afternoons in Bakersfield, then Corona, poor pay, seething resentment, luck, better winding machinery and more besides, or its emperor's suit of clothes or, or, or.

And now it is not only the workers who are being exploited. We are spoiled for choice - whether we want it or not.

Now if Jimi Hendrix, for example, were to play a Squier, (I know, I know, he can't) it would sound extremely wonderful. Okay Eric Clapton and Mr Gilmour oh and Robert Cray, just as other examples, would sound wonderful tonight, comfortably numb and be heard next door whether they were playing with what they do or the worst Squier on the planet. But they don't. Nor do they have, in their wildest nightmare, I am sure, that they might have one day to play with Squier pickups. No hiccups there, it all goes sooooooooooo smooth for them.

Many of us play Squiers and many Mex's and fewer, US guitars. The US guitars are so very much better than Squiers on every count. It is easier to play a well set up US Strat than a well set up Squier etc etc but one thing (so far) I have found is this. The Futurama at 14yearsold I 'borrowed' off a mate and he never wanted back, was SH1T. When I got my 62 Strat in 73, it was beautiful - too beautiful and I was in awe. Ironically too, (Life can be, can't it!) I was playing bass guitar in the band (because no one else would and making music was far more important). The guitarist in the band had a seventies Strat - like Yuk and they'd just invented Demarzios just, I suspect, because Fender guitars were going into a fast nosedive to the arms of C, arrrrggghhh B arrrghhhh, S. Demarzios were loud.

A few years on I was working for Electro Harmonix and we had three (70s) Strats to play and experiment with. John was a drummer so not that interested, Rock(really) had not one but two women he was living with and no interest in guitars at all and I was a keyboard player but oh guitars!!!! and oh - these three guitars we used for 'work' were NOT VERY GOOD. Better than Futurama or Shaftsbury though. I don't remember what we used in New York, when I got there, for various reasons.

Actually that wasn't what I learned or realised but I'll tell you more of that next time. Today, if I get a chance the Fender Mex hiccups get their debut - I'll let you know, almost definitely, what I think about them later.
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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by Cressy Snr » Sun Dec 06, 2015 1:43 pm

:happy1:
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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by andrew Ivimey » Sun Dec 06, 2015 2:20 pm

Okay, just to whet your appetites, here's a POV shot of Mex Fenders being put through some paces, regrettably interrupted because I am wanted in the garden...
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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by andrew Ivimey » Sun Dec 06, 2015 9:50 pm

Just when I thought it was all plain sailing things just got tricky, Drat!

I put the Mex pups on the Aria, tuned up, plugged in and Cor!
Got the US strat with 50s on - plugged in and played

head scratching time....

Got the Jap Strat.

They are all dead loud as they should be and have lovely useful tonal width turning the volume knob down.

- The US Strat is, well, what you'd expect. Klanky complex bluesy with rock when you want it.
The Mex pups are 'dark' but oh so much better than the Aria original pups that were dark enough to be nearly deadish ish ish.
The Jap Strat is the klangkeeest Strat in the world but it A) has 9size strings and B) the front two pickups are Jap original Fender and the bridge Pup is a Demarzio. (they suit one another though).

Differences between them but none have more SPL. The US fat50s have more complexity but I don't want to sound like a sommelier here.

Squier pups are way down then... off the scale of acceptability. The Wilkos if wilkos they really be are a significant improvement. But things begin with Mex Pickups.

Where next then? The Jap Strat and old US Strat with LAce Sensors both need changing to size10 strings. I might keep the Aria with the Mex pups and change the old US Strat's lace Sensors for original bog standard US pups - this would give me the widest direct choice with the least soldering and mechanickking.

I had thought I'd just be able to keep messin' with the Aria. The Aria is physically very similar to the weight and feel of both US Strats.
The Jap Start has an extremely fast and fluid maple neck - all else is rosewood. The Jap Strat's body is slighty smaller than the US and Aria Strats - never noticed that before. Jap Strat is impressively heavy though.

(Another aside with the Jap Strat - much as I think the whammy bar is the stupidest - sort of Floyd Rose piece of scrap, it does work as a whammy bar very well and the guitar keeps its the very well. I've gigged with this guitar and its previous owner gigged several times a week for a couple of years before he passed it on to me. I'm sort of attached but I wish the whammy bar was the usual construction. I had it refretted some time in the late eighties and this makes me think 'just when was it made - its stamped on the heel of the neck - silly! Must check that out, mists of time etc. Anyway, the five way switch started to go wonky and got worse and worse till recently I bought a cheapo from Hong Kong.quick resolder jobbie and blammy, the guitar got seriously louder and more Klankeey - interesting!)

Just how much of a variable the actual guitars are making it is hard to know but one Squier Strat I did have briefly a good few years ago had a body that weighed as much as a spider's gossamer threaded web when compared to any other Strat or Strat copy I've had the pleasure of. Maybe it was made of balsa wood! This guitar's pickups were dead loud, had an acceptable range of tone but was lacking in the detail i.e. normal for an ordinary Squier (Have you tried the Classic Vibes? - verrrrrry interesting indeed.)
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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by andrew Ivimey » Sun Dec 06, 2015 10:06 pm

Now before I get back to serious comparing and contrasting - let's call this the intermission.

Imagine, if you will, queuing up for a choc-ice from the sexy young woman in the spot light down by the stage.

I consider myself to be fortunate in many aspects of what, in a fit of possible misplaced enthusiasm, we could call 'Life'. Things could be worse... a lot worse. I mean, even when they were worse there was plenty more to go so although I am not as healthy, wealthy and wise as I'd like, I have not yet been thrown out of an air lock of a flying saucer with no prospect whatsoever of being picked up safely before asphyxiation and other nastiness gets the better of me. I have, in other words, 'several' guitars. Can one have too many? On Desert Island Disks, Keith Richards was asked how many guitars he had and he replied '....thousands but I only play about fifteen.' - with a cheery laugh.

I do not have even 15.

But the one really dead good thing I have found with having different guitars is that having the diversity of Strats (which are quite different to play) to Telecaster to Sheraton to Les Paul to a lovely electro-acoustic, those guitars just being different and are different to play and when I'm discovering some thing interesting (chord sequence, riff etc) with one guitar I might not be able to play it but with a different guitar I can! And then I return to the first guitar and I can do it. Having different guitars adds so much more style and knowledge and gets my fingers into all sorts of complicated knots and some good tunes are the result. imho, there is no one perfect guitar. Having 'several' and playing them adds to the sum total in the way that saying makes so much sense when, looking into the middle distance the philosopher says, 'well that's just the whole being more than the sum of it's parts...'

Its the same with keyboards too.... for me.

Am I any good? you ask... And well you might. Ha!
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Re: 'Fender' Strat Pickups - interest?

Post by Nick » Sun Dec 06, 2015 11:15 pm

The US fat50s have more complexity but I don't want to sound like a sommelier here.
Don't know about that, but the complexity thing, is exactly why I replaced the mex pickups with the 50's. I thought the mex were ok, then I bought a American Standard, and found that I could keep happy just playing simple chord's, the sound was so much more interesting and complex. So the mex was fitted with a loaded pickgard of 50's and it too can make some nice sounds now.

I am sure you are not, but it sounds a little as if your measure of goodness is how loud the thing is.
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