Best Sounding Strat Bridge Pickup?

I’m about to start my parts-o-caster build and I need help finding a good single coil bridge pickup.

I’m looking for a bridge pickup that:
-still has the strat twang
-still quacks in the ‘in between’ position
-is somewhat ‘fat’ sounding
-is not very midscooped, (I like nice mids)
-is slightly hot
-is still bright but not overly bright like most strat bridge pickups (I guess take off the extreme high end, slightly warmer)
-does that thing where after the note is done it sustains for a long time but the note changes and becomes harmonically different, smooth, around the same volume, and a bit higher frequency.
-sounds good clean and dirty

Also to take into consideration (especially about the bright thing) I will most likely be using 9-42 strings.

Hi @MrFlexx.

I finally settled on the Suhr ML in the bridge position (actually, all three positions) on my Strat. I think it meets your criteria, however:

In my experience, this is totally dependent on the amp. I can get this effect playing my Strat into my Cornfords but there is zero chance it will happen when I plug into S-Gear.

Also, it’s not “somewhat fat.” It’s huge.

I’d definitely recommend having one of your tone pots dedicated to the bridge pickup. Just having it in the chain, rolled all the way up, helps to take away some of the more shrill high end. When you roll back you can dial out the high end and get more midrange.

I’d also recommend getting a 4-pole 5-way superswitch so you can keep the tone rolled back on the bridge pickup and remove the tone pots from the signal chain in positions 2 and 4 for a fully quacky rhythm tone.

It might also be worth getting a push/pull pot so you can add the bridge pickup independent of the 5-way. The neck and bridge together is a decent imitation of a Telecaster, and you could do it in a manner that allows you to add the bridge to the middle without bypassing the tone control.

Also, and I know you didn’t ask for this…

Consider getting a Maxon SD-9. In my opinion (and Scott Henderson’s and Michael Landau’s), this is the best pedal to pair with a Strat bridge pickup for lead tones. I know a lot of guys don’t like the idea of a “distortion pedal,” but this is the only pedal I have ever tried which does not rob you of all your bass, and keeps everything sounding smooth and fat. It looks like a TS-9/OD-9 but it does not sound like one.

Huh, @Tom_Gilroy beat me to it, I also have a trio of ML Standards in one of my strats, and while I love them all, the bridge pickup was an especially pleasant surprise. It’s bright, but not shrill - it’s very glassy, with a rounded-off extreme high end but no shortage of brightness - sort of like maybe turning down the presence but not the treble, I guess. It’s hot, plenty of mids, but still sounds extremely “Strat-y.” Tom, I had no idea you used these pickups too - I swear by them. I also love the V60LPs, and they just seem “bigger” to me than draditional Fender singlecoils, like Fenders seem kind of filtered by comparison.

That said, my second favorite bridge singlecoil was the Fender Eric Johnson set - it has a similar glassiness to the brige position, and is also a bit overwound there for thickness and power.

I also like having the bridge on a tone circuit - my Strat with the MLs is wired up 1 volume 1 tone with the tone a master for all three, and the other with the V60LPS is wired up master volume, neck tone, mid/bridge tone. It probably smooths out the high end a touch further, but especially on the bridge pickup it’s a really nice option to have.

I suppose it’s hardly obvious given my avatar and the players I discuss most often on here, but I was totally a Strat guy for a long time. I’ve mentioned being a huge fan of eric Clapton and Eric Johnson on here, but I’m a big fan of Scott Henderson and Michael Landau, Jeff Beck and Ritchie Blackmore too.

I only have one Strat now. It’s pretty much exactly what I want a Strat to be, so I didn’t see the point in keeping the others I had. I love how it sounds, especially with the Maxon SD-9 (seriously, if you’re using the MLs you have to try the SD-9). It just doesn’t really work for the Holdsworth style legato tone.

My Strat is comfortable to play for what I would play on it, but I’ve been totally spoiled by my Canton headless guitar in that department.

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I generally go straight into a Mark-V and I love the sound of that thing, but I’ll look into that. :yesway:

The Strat is definitely the wrong instrument for holdworth stuff - it’s all attack, which is what makes it such a beautiful voice for a lot of things, but also absolutely awful for others. Different tools for different jobs, but it’s less surprising to me that you own a good Strat than it is you ALSO love the MLs, since everyone thinks I’m crazy when I start raving about Suhr singlecoils.

Totally true. Same in the other direction too of course. I have an ideal singlecoil sound and an ideal humbucker sound, I’ve made my peace with the fact that I can’t get them from the same instrument.

I guess we’ll be in the nuthouse together. My favourite “Strat” tones are from Scott Henderson and Michael Landau. Both of them use MLs, so I tried them.

I don’t think “Strat” when I hear Eric Johnson, I think “EJ”. His lead tones are a lot less transparent than Henderson’s or Landau’s. The “violin tone” is mostly the Echoplex into the Tube Driver, and the “beautiful buzzsaw” is mostly the TS-9 into a silicon fuzzface. The the pickups aren’t really the biggest component of those sounds. I did like the pickups in the EJ Strats I’ve played, but I haven’t tried them in a different Strat or with my equipment.

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Yeah - it’s less that people don’t like the ML - the handful of people who I know who have played them all think they’re awesome, even if they may prefer something else - it’s more that most people don’t even think of Suhr when they think of singlecoils.

For me, I’m actually not all that familiar with Landau at all, I’ve listened to a little bit here or there last summer or fall when someone pointed out if i like the MLs I really should check him out (could have been you, actually, come ot think of it). My love affair with this pickup started with an afternoon I spent down in Matt’s Music in Weymouth, MA with a buddy of mine who was interested in getting a Suhr, when we picked up a couple guitars to check out (the seven string I played is why I eventually ordered one, I loved the neck profile) and once one of us picked up a bare-bones oiled alder S-H with a floyd, we ended up just passing that guiotar back and forth for an hour or so plugged into a Splawn because neither of us could believe how awersome that singlecoil in the neck sounded. My buddy left without it… But called halfway home to arrnge to pick it up the next day. :rofl: I actually own the gutiar now because electrical interference at his place was so bad he couldnt use it, but he’s moved since so I should probably see if he want it back…

Incredible pickups, though. Thick, plenty of mids, but somehow still manage to sound very “classic” when you plug them into a clean amp, too.

I must admit I probably wouldn’t have thought of Suhr either if I hadn’t been listening Henderson and Landau.

Might have been, I don’t recall that though.

Dimarzio HS-2 split. Thank me later :slight_smile:

It is also less noisier (which you didn’t ask for but it comes with!)

Or the Antiquity II Surfer Bridge which is also hot (but the HS-2 does better).


If it was good enough for Eric Johnson in the late '80s and early '90s there has to be something to it.

Didn’t Yngwie use a split HS-1 for a while, too?

I know Yngwie used HS-2s for a while, but I thought he liked them in humbucking mode.

I’m not really an expert on Yngwie’s gear though. Great tone, just not really what I’ve been trying to emulate.

Both guys have probably used almost everything save for pickups they wound themselves XD (actually Eric may have tried it himself at one point or another).

Despite the hs-2 moniker and all its associations with EJ, YJM, 80s, even the horrendous shape when one lifts the pickguard, it has a good sound. If OP’s requirements can be diluted to a simple “fat and hot vintage black bobbin/grey bobbin hybrid,” this is it.

Of course, do try out the other (and perhaps even better) fantastic recommendations on here. After all, it’s just plastic and wire.

Peter did you ever try out the HS-2 in humbucking mode? I’m getting a new Strat soon and I’m thinking about swapping them out for humbuckers. I’m looking for a pick up that’s got a nice warm round sound that is a little bit hotter than a typical single coil from the 50s. :thinking:

No, because the particular construction of the pickup would make it such that I would get less output than in split-mode, and not just compared to split-mode, but perhaps even compared to a regular 5.5k-6k single coil.

The split mode gives you most output, and even has the added benefit of less hum (though in this respect the humbucking mode is obviously superior) because of the dummy coil.

If you need all the hum-cancelling singles (to be used as their original designs), I’m not the guy to be recommending stuff as I’ve tried very little.

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The guitar I’m getting has custom hand wound 64 Strat pickups so who knows they may sound so great that I won’t even swap them out. :man_shrugging:

The HS2 was definately on my radar too. I’ve been through many strats over the years. Lindy frailin ‘vintage hots’ were the best pure single coil set I played. I stll have the set on my MIJ Fujigen strat.

I’ll try to record them this weekend.

For the noiseless type I found the SD Fury set to be extremely versatile. Here’s a clip of the furies into a dimed 1959, 1960B SM57 and no EQ.

As good as any to my ears, I was exploring the amps dissonance character here I think.

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I’ve played a TON of the Dimarzio noiseless singlecoil options and have generally been impressed with the Area series. That said, “nice warm sound” makes me think that maybe you’re after something a little more humbucker-y in voicing, rather than something that sounds rather convincingly like a singlecoil…?

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Yeah pretty much. I’ve already got another Strat with real nice sounding single coils so just wanted another option with more of a hot rodded sounding Strat. I’m thinking pickups that work well with alternate picking so clarity and warmth if possible. As far as the neck pick up I would think the Yngwie HS-3 or his Duncan and for the bridge HS-2 or any other suggestions that fit my description? :thinking: thanks

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