Musical Instruments

Best Pickups for Telecaster 2020 Guide to Understanding Telecaster Pickups

When Fender and his staff came up with the Telecaster, they created something that totally changed the music industry- the signature body, easy playability, affordability and the clear tone with a classic twang simply conquered every music style. As popular as the Telecaster was, the pickup system is something that players like to change or upgrade. If you have thought of this option, then choosing the right pickups is critical- expect to spend not less than 70$ on a good set. Today, we’ll take a look at the five best pickups for Telecaster with modern features that will turn your Tele into an ear-catching tone monster.

Best Pickups for Telecaster Reviews 2020

what should you consider before buying a Telecaster pickup ?

When purchasing your favorite Tele pickups, the leading factor should be to emulate your personal preference and style. Your preferred style of music can guide you to choosing particular pickups. If you play clean, with distortion or loud and aggressive, you can select pickups explicitly designed for that. However, many players use a specific type of pickups for so many different styles. 

Other than that, also consider the following:

Neck, middle or bridge pickups?

In most instances, Telecaster pickups are made to work in different positions based on the output, resonant frequency and general voicing. The three main positions are the neck, middle and bridge. Where the pickup is placed determines the kind of sound produced. Sound near the bridge is always brighter than near the neck. 

For a balance to be achieved, the pickups near the bridge are designed to give a higher output for them to be louder, since they receive less amplitude. Using the pickups in the right position therefore, yields the best results. 

Magnet metarial

The material used has a tremendous impact on the quality of output that you get. The ratio of the materials determines the magnet strength which has a corresponding effect on the Tele’s tone. Some of the most conventional magnet materials used include alnico (aluminum, nickel, and colbat) and ceramic.

Alnico 2 magnets give a soft, warm tone throughout the range, 3 provides more of a treble, while 4 produces a compressed equalized sound. Alnico 5 is the strongest version with a higher output and a bit of a treble.

The ceramic type is made from iron oxide and is molded with other solid compounds. This type is capable of producing a lot of magnetism for its size and tends to remain stronger throughout its lifetime. 

The material used has a tremendous impact on the quality of output that you get. The ratio of the materials determines the magnet strength which has a corresponding effect on the Tele’s tone. Some of the most conventional magnet materials used include alnico (aluminum, nickel, and colbat) and ceramic.

Alnico 2 magnets give a soft, warm tone throughout the range, 3 provides more of a treble, while 4 produces a compressed equalized sound. Alnico 5 is the strongest version with a higher output and a bit of a treble.

The ceramic type is made from iron oxide and is molded with other solid compounds. This type is capable of producing a lot of magnetism for its size and tends to remain stronger throughout its lifetime. 

Noise or noiseless pickups?

The Telecaster guitar is meant to use single-coil pickups which are compact and powerful but also come with their challenges. The magnetic field tends to produce a 60-cycle hum, which to some people is background noise. Some players ignore it, some are never bothered by it while others cannot stand it. 

If noise is an issue to you and you still want to keep the vintage charm of the Telecaster sound, your best option is to invest in noiseless pickups. Noiseless pickups stack magnetic coils to keep the pickup system slim enough for the Tele single-coil designs.

Standard pickups or Telecaster pickups?

There are significant differences between a Telecaster pickup and any other standard single-coil pickups that you will find out there. The difference in the design is responsible for the unique Telecaster tone. You may ask, how are Tele’s pickups unique? Well, when compared to other pickups, the Tele’s bridge pickup is created to fit the standard Telecaster style bridge, and so, you cannot buy just any pickup to fit your Tele’s bridge. 

In addition, the Tele neck pickup is taller but still smaller in size than the standard single coil pickup. In many cases, the Tele neck pickup is usually covered to reduce high-frequency output, uses a thinner gauge wire and features a smaller bobbin.

Below, we shall review the best pickups for telecaster that you can currently get in the market. We have included pickups from different price categories, for different Tele positions, various music genres and several magnet materials and multiple wiring options. Whether you are a lead or back up singer in relaxing blues, hard rock, heavy metal or classic country, you will definitely find something to treat your Tele. 

Best Pickups for Telecaster 2020 – Comparision Table

Product name

Out rating

Guitar position

Magnet metarial

Warranty

Noise

Fender Custom Shop Texas Special

#1(Editor choice)

Neck and bridge

Alnico 5

Return policy

Minimal

Seymour Ducan ST591 Little 59 Lead

#2

Bridge

Ceramic

Return policy

Minimal

Fender Vintage Noiseless Tele Pickups

#3

Neck and bridge

Alnico 2

1 year

Noiseless

DiMarzio DP172 Twan King

#4

Neck 

Alnico 5

Return policy

Clear

Tonerider TRT2 Hot Classic

#5

Neck and bridge

Alnico 3

Return policy

Clear

 1 Fender Custom Shop Texas Special

Texas Special Tele pickups come as a set of two- the neck and bridge. They are designed to deliver high output, consistent volume, noticeable presence, and midrange. These pickups produce anything from the classic Tele twang to the bassy tone.

Features
  • They are overwound pickups that use alnico 5 magnets mounted on a fiber bobbin then wrapped in an enamel-coated magnet wire for increased output.
  • The neck pickup features a nickel/silver cover that gives a clear warm tone.

  • The bridge has a copper-plated steel bottom plate and height-staggered pole pieces which are responsible for the scorching balanced output, presence, and midrange.

  • ​ Comes with all the mounting hardware
Pros
Cons
  • ​ Gives an impressive, powerful sound output and twang 
  • Superior picking ability of the highs and lows

  • ​ The four-way switch offers distinct sounds, all pure Telecaster
  • ​Improvessound and retains the Tele twang
  • Includes both bridge and neck pickup positions
  • ​ Be aware that the bridge is not grounded and is prone to feedback during high gain applications if the volume is rolled past 50%. If you are looking for pickups with a higher output for metal or jazz, get an alternative.
  • ​ Wiring instructions are not clear but do not be bothered by that. Look out for our installation guide after the reviews.
Verdict

Thesepickups are made by Fender, so they still have the powerful sound ofa Tele crunch. For this reason and their superior picking ability,they top the list of our review. Expect a loud, hot and powerfulupgrade, making them the best telecaster pickups for country, blues,pop or classic rock.

 2 Seymour Ducan ST591 Little 59 Lead Telecaster Pickup

Although little, this is a beast that is that is likened to installing a full-sized PAF in the bridge position of your Telecaster. It is a medium output telecaster that delivers a warm, smooth tone with a slight midrange that gives a full-bodied humbucker sound. Like all other Seymour Duncan, this Little 59 is also hand-built in Santa Barbara, California.

Features
  • ​ Is a hybrid designed for the bridge position of the Telecas
  • Replaces a Fender American Standard Telecaster sized pickup route

  • Single-coiled sized humbucker

  • ​ Has added versatility as it comes with a 4-conductor lead wire that gives you access to series, parallel and split wiring options 
  • Uses a ceramic bar magnet that is wax potted for squeal-free operation
  • Comes in black color onlyComes in black color only
Pros
Cons
  • ​ Controls the highs, mids, and lows and retains clarity
  • Easy to install and use

  • ​ Has multiple wiring options
  • Price is pocket-friendly
  • Inseries mode, it loses the twang in a Tele bridge pickup, but you canbring it back with the parallel mode

  • The high end is not very bright
Verdict

Without digging so deep into your pockets, you get one of the best telecaster pickups by Seymour Duncan. The Little 59 ST591 is not only a simple and very easy to use product but also one with a traditional tone that is all its own. They are exceptionally well-balanced and cover a lot tone-wise, making them an excellent choice for playing anything from country to rock. For the price, clarity, and ability to retain the vintage charm of the Telecaster, these pickups come second in our review. 

 3 Fender Vintage Noiseless Tele Pickups

ManyTele players admit that the excess hum and noise is not somethingthat makes the music any better. So, getting pickups that aneliminate the noise is something that many consider a godsend idea.If you are one of the players that desire to cut back on unwantednoise without cutting back on the classic Telecaster classic twang,then the Fender Vintage Noiseless Tele pickups are the bestselection. They are well-balanced with a consistent tone across therange and have added quietness for versatile heavier styles.

Features
  • ​ Made with special Alnico 2 magnets in a stacked configuration for a warm attack and balanced midrange
  • Has enamel-coated magnet for a warm vintage tone

  • Vinyl-coated output wire and plastic bobbin material

  • Comes with a 1-year warranty
  • Has both neck and bridge positions
  • The neck pickup has nickel-silver covering for additional clarity while the bridge pickup produces the traditional Tele tone

Pros
Cons
  • ​ Delivers a clear tone with no hum
  • Retains the 60s classic Tele twang

  • ​ Gives both an even and balanced sound
  • Is a set of both neck and bridge positions

  • A little difficult to install

  • Though it retains the twang, it is not as ultimate as the original Tele twang

Verdict

Fender Vintage Noiseless Tele Pickups are quite warm but still deliver a clear tone with an articulate output. With the special alnico magnets, enamel coating, wiring and noiseless technology, they produce a unique vintage sound that is quiet enough for any style- from clean acoustic tones to heavy Metallica, and anything in between.

 4 DiMarzio DP172 Twang King Telecaster Neck Pickup

The Twang King pickups stand out in several ways. First, they are created with controlled-tension windings, magnets are hand-calibrated, and the pots are double waxed for squeal-free performance. The pickups are also ultra-responsive to pick attacks, are clean and clear with a wide range of sounds. 

Features
  • ​ Hand-calibrated magnets
  • Double wax potting

  • Chrome color

  • Alnico 5 magnet
  • Single-coil type
  • Designed for the neck position

Pros
Cons
  • ​Excellentresponse to pick attack
  • Can handle a wide dynamic range of sound

  • Squeal free
  • Easy to install

  • ​Pairswell with other bridge position pickups
  • Not noise canceling. You get a hum but no microphone squeal.

  • Not meant for a very high gain pickup

Verdict

Designedto deliver vintage Tele tones with clean lows, highs and unequaledresponse to pick attack. When you play your Tele lightly, the pickupproduces a soft, quiet tone, and if you pick it hard, you get a hard,loud and more dynamic sound than your stock Tele pickups can giveyou. For this reason, the Twang King was not made for a specificgenre but was made to open up to hard attacks as well as softpicking. If you are looking for an authentic sound for Jazz andblues, you will never go wrong with the Twang King choice

 5 Tonerider TRT2 Hot Classic Tele Pickup

The fifth but not the least of the best pickupsis the Tonerider Hot Classics. The brand name may not be as big as Fender or Seymor Duncan, but they have incredible tonal transparency. The Tonerider Hot Classics are a must for any rocks or blues player who wants to hit better edges from the Tele because of their stronger midrange, fat bass, and impeccable upper register.

Features
  • Wound on Alnico 3 magnets for note separation
  • Strong midrange, thick bass, and a raunchy treble

  • Neck pickup features nickel-silver color for tone transparency and flat pole pieces

  • Bridgepickup features staggered pole pieces

  • The base is copper-plated and has black string wraps to add depth to the tone
Pros
Cons
  • ​ Has impressive tone separation- the tone rarely gets muddy
  • Both neck and bridge pickups are well-balanced

  • Great choice for heavy music styles
  • Well-designed

  • A bit difficult to install

Verdict

Justas the name implies, the Tonerider Hot Classic gives the classic hottone. Its high output level with a punchy low end, a smooth and clearhigh end make it the best telecaster pickup for bluesandrock. For a reasonable price, you get a surprisingly good sound and astrong punch that goes toe to toe with the bigger brands. 

How to replace or install your new Telecaster pickup

Once you pick your favorite Tele pickups, the next thing will be installing them. Most of the models on our pickups for Telecaster reviews come with wiring instructions although some are not very clear. That is why we have this part to show you how you swap without messing anything up. If you are a beginner or you are not so confident about opening your Tele, you can always learn something from your repairman.

Before opening your guitar, make sure that you know where the pickups are supposed to go. As we mentioned above, not just any type of pickup is meant for any guitar or any position- all the pickups in this review are made for any Telecaster, but they are meant for different positions. So, do not screw up and buy a bridge pickup for the neck not unless you want to experiment with the output sounds.

What will you need?

First, you will need a determined mind and an anticipating heart- determination to complete the job successfully and anticipation for output like no other.

You will also need:

  • ​Afull set of screwdrivers 
  • ​ A garment to lay the guitar on- a towel or bedsheet will do
  • ​ Soldering iron and solder
  • ​ Soldering iron and solder
  • A new pack of strings
  • ​Desolderingbulb
  • Pliersand hemostats
  • Electrical tape
  • ​Dikesand digital multimeter
  • Caliper (preferably digital)
  • ​ Small amp and chord for testing purposes
  • A printed diagram of the wiring

You may not need all the items since most of the products that we have reviewed come with all the mounting hardware. You may want to first countercheck what you have and what you don’t. 

Getting started

Ensure that you are working in a place that is well lit. Lay your Tele on the towel to protect it from scratches, then arrange all the items listed above. First, carefully study the wiring diagram and your Telecaster. There are tons of reviews on Youtube with directions on wiring and replacing parts of your guit
ar. Watch them as you study diagrams that come with your selected pickups several days or hours before the actual task.

Here is a sample video by Fender, on how to replace a bridge pickuphttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JW7dtmyj75E

Once you are ready, you may get started by first removing the guitar strings but if you are comfortable with them on you may keep them. To remove the strings, pull one string through the body at a time, to avoid introducing scratches. Watch out for the tips of the wires as they are sharp and can either scratch the guitar or dig into your flesh.

Then unscrew the backplate and remove the entire pickguard. Go slow, studying how you Tele goes together as you take it apart. If possible, take photos just in case you forget where something should go back when assembling it back. Be sure to keep all the screws and springs separate as per where they came from. Lay them in the configuration that they were in before you removed them. It will save you a great deal of time.

You will also need to desolder the wires coming from the pickup, especially if you are working with a single coil system. Once you have the standard pickup off, you may go ahead to install the new pickup. Place the pickup in its right position (neck or bridge) then use a screwdriver to drive it into the holes of the system. Use the new screws that come with your choice of pickups. Ensure that you tighten the screws evenly.

Once the pickup is in position, run the wires through the cavity (control panel for the bridge). Use the pliers to pull them through- it makes things easier. The next step is switching and wiring, and you will need the soldering iron hot. To check if the soldering iron is hot enough, either splash a little water and watch if it sizzles or hold it to a piece of solder over a piece of wood and see if the solder melts.

Begin by studying where the wires of the old pickups are soldered, then pick one wire at a time and desolder by placing the tip of the soldering iron onto the point that the wire is soldered onto the jack, pot or switch. If you have a desoldering bulb, use it to suck up excess solder. Next, take the same wire of now the new pickup then loop it or solder it to the point that the old one was. Do this for all the wires.

If you need to trim out some parts of the wire insulation, only do an inch or as per the product wiring diagram. Once everything is soldered securely, its time to test your new pickups. Plug your guitar into your mini amp (turned up high) then take the new pickup ad touch the screws or magnets with a screwdriver. If you get a popping sound each time you strike a screw or the magnets, then your task completion is worth a pat on the back.

You can then go ahead to screw the new pickup in place and enjoy your music style. It can take you as little as 10 minutes or as long as two hours. It is entirely worth it since you never know how your Tele will sound until all the pieces are bolted together.

Final thoughts

Itmay be hard settling on the single best pickups, but one of our bestpickups for telecaster willundoubtedly transform your guitar. Align your personal needs andmusic style with the most considerable number of unique features forany particular pickup, and you stand better chances of achievingsatisfactory results. With that, you will get things right with thefirst set of pickups that you try. The new set will help you to turnyour Tele into a great one without buying a new one and will prove tobe the missing link in your tone style.  

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