If you’re looking for the best pickups for your Squire Strat, you’ve come to the right post!
Hot-Rodding Your Squier with a New Set of Pickups
Sure, Squier Strats are pretty cheap guitars, in most cases at least. But they are also pretty decent instruments for the money. Swapping a few parts can make a world of difference. This goes both for hardware and electronics.
In my opinion, a Squier Strat with a new set of pickups can give you some incredible results. I remember my guitar teacher hot-rodded his Squier back in the day. He put a set of new single-coils into the cheapest Bullet Strat. With a proper intonation and setup, this guitar sounded as good as any Fender.
Of course, pickups are not everything. But they’re crucial if you want a good tone. And, believe it or not, putting a new set of pickups on your guitar can make a world of difference.
Also, if you want to learn more about upgrading your guitar, check out the hot-rodding post on this blog.
This set of single-coils is not cheap but it’s not super expensive either. If you ask me, it outperforms its price category.
The guys at Fender made a blueprint for this set from an old 1963 Strat. The idea was to capture the same old tone from the early 1960s and the late 1950s.
This set has Alnico 5 pickups with a Formvar-coated wire, as well as cloth-covered lead wires. This is accompanied by hand-beveled staggered poles. They’re designed to fit your standard 9.5-inch fingerboard radius, giving a balanced tone. In addition, these pickups have covers that look aged, giving you a full vintage feel.
Fender’s Deluxe Drive set is a bit cheaper. However, it still delivers that true classic twang and jangle that the brand is famous for.
Here we have Alnico 3 magnets and a polysol-coated wire. There’s also the classic plastic bobbin and a vinyl-coated wire at the output. Other than that, you’d also find standard features, including staggered pole pieces.
What I loved about them is the inclusion of Alnico 3 magnets. This sets them apart from most standard single-coil pickups on the market today.
Another Fender’s set worth mentioning is Tex-Mex. These are also more reasonably priced.
Although they come with regular Alnico 5 magnets, there’s one thing that makes them special. These pickups have a slightly hotter output. In my experience, they worked well with those vintage or vintage-inspired Fender amps.
Crank up the volume and hit them hard. You’ll get your amp’s tubes into organic overdrive immediately. They’re not super hot but are hot enough to make your tube amp sparkle. I also love their dynamic output.
Wilkinson Vintage Voice Alnico V ST
In case you’re looking for something cheaper, Wilkinson has some stuff that you should check out. A simple Alnico 5 set of single coils will get you covered.
Sure, these aren’t Fender pickups. But they’re better than your average stock Squier stuff. You can also get this set along with a pre-wired pickguard.
Bear in mind that this is a budget-friendly option. These won’t serve you as well as other pickups on the list. You can’t expect those full-on vintage Fender tones. However, they’re more than a great deal for their price. And they’re a decent upgrade for a Squier Strat.
But if you want to go all the way, take Fender Custom Shop Texas Special set. These are the ultimate Fender single-coil pickups. You find these on some of their high-end guitars.
They not only have the signature twang. You also get a very nuanced dynamic response with these pickups. And sure, it might seem weird to have a super-expensive pickup set in a cheap Squier Strat. But I’ve tried such hot-rodded guitars and they worked like a charm.
These are overwound pickups. Such a feature gives them a louder output. However, engineers at Fender still made them sound very controlled. You still have that strong attack and crisp high-ends. That said, these pickups manage to get tight bottom-ends in there.
Overall, this is the classic Texas blues kind of tone. It’s what you’d hear in Stevie Ray Vaughan’s music. Overall, these are the ultimate single-coil pickups. Plug them into an old Fender amp and you’ll immediately get that classic overdriven tone.
As far as Seymour Duncan pickups go, I really love their California ’50s set. What’s interesting is that Seymour Duncan has been really good at replicating vintage tones. Some would argue that they’re better than Fender and Gibson at making Fender and Gibson pickups.
These pickups may not be as expensive as Texas Specials. However, they still gravitate towards high-ends. Nonetheless, they’re one of the best Strat pickup options on the market.
They come with Alnico 5 magnets and hand-made forbon bobbins. There’s also a formvar magnet wire which rounds out the whole vintage-inspired collection of ingredients. Such features bring that classic 1950s and the 1960s tone.
In my opinion, these work well for both old-school and modern stuff. You can even play some modern prog rock in the style of Polyphia and they’ll sound great.
Now, here’s something a little different. If you have a Squier Strat and prefer humbuckers, get a set of Seymour Duncan’s Hot Rails. These are practically dual-coil pickups in a single-coil-size form.
What’s also great is that you don’t have to modify your pickguard to fit a humbucker in there. Just install them as you’d do with any other single-coil set.
Essentially, you’ll get that tone of a triple-humbucker Les Paul within a Squier Strat. These are relatively hot. You can get those modern high-gain tones with the right amp.
While narrower humbuckers aren’t exactly the same as regular PAF-style stuff, they’re still pretty close. These have become pretty popular among Strat players who need a humbucker in the bridge. But why not get the full set?
We usually associate the EMG brand with those mean metal-oriented humbuckers. However, they have some pretty awesome single-coils. And a classic EMG SA set can get you some incredible tones.
Now, what you need to bear in mind is that these are active pickups. This may be a bit of a challenge to install. But if you’re up for some hot-rodding, these are more than worth it.
Active single-coils are kind of specific. You still get the jangle and twang of regular single-coils. However, they have increased output and a pronounced attack. They also sparkle a lot, especially on clean channels of tube-driven amps.
David Gilmour has used these over the years. So you’d be able to have those overdriven crunchy tones with these pickups. Just make sure to use tone and volume knobs for extra tone control.
Best Pickups for Squier Strat: Conclusion
I hope this article has given you some ideas for alternate pickup setups for your Squier Strat!
And as usual, feel free to leave a message in the comments below if you have questions about this or another guitar-related topic!