The 4 Best Single Coil Pickups – Reviews 2023

best single coil pickups, single coil pickups for strat

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Singe coil pickups and humbuckers — as far as guitar pickups go, these usually form the two major groups. The major difference between the two is that singe-coil models are brighter, more crisp, and more expressive, while humbuckers are thicker, fuller and somewhat less articulate.

This time around, we opted to delve into the world of the first type in a bold attempt to name the best of best. There were plenty of quality single coil models out there, and we believe that the models listed below are all worthy of the flattering title within their respective price range. And, after our reviews, we go into what you should look for when selecting single coil pickups. So, without further ado . . .

Here are our recommendations for the 4 best single coil pickups on the market:

Fender Tex-Mex Strat Pickups

We’ll get this thing on the move with a pair of classy traditional pickups from Fender – the Tex-Mex Strat series. It is no secret that single-coil models are frequently associated with Fender Stratocaster guitars, and these puppies fit that classic Strat vibe to a T.

The product (see full specs) was crafted to offer a stronger output than average, with striking middles and trebles rounded up with warm basses. This allows your guitar to cut through the mix without sounding too dry or too saturated with middles.

When it comes to specific musical styles these puppies fit the most, we’d say staple brands of hard rock music, classic rock, blues rock, and even classic heavy metal when cranked up a bit.

As for specific instrument, it is very apparent from the get-go that these pickups were crafted for Fender Stratocaster guitars. In our experience, putting them into even a budget-oriented Mexican Fender Strat delivers a surprisingly strong punch and a well-rounded sonic attack.

The price tag is more than fair, making this set the best option for medium budget range. In a nutshell, if you want that classic vintage Strat sound at a good price, give Tex-Mex a spin. It just might be the perfect fit.

FENDER Tex-Mex Pickup Demo - Stratocaster

Seymour Duncan 11205-02 SHR-1b Hot Rails Pickups

Taking a shift towards the more high-end and advanced pickups, we bring you Hot Rails from Seymour Duncan, a highly versatile pickup that can essentially operate both as a single-soil and humbucker device.

The wiring combo that the manufacturer decided to utilize provides best of both worlds, combining the accuracy, brightness, and expressiveness of single-coils on one side with the richness and fullness of humbuckers on the other.

Thanks to those two thin blades and powerful coil windings, you will get top-level sustain and a juicy and meaty tone praised by a variety of rock and metal players in the world.

Available in black or white color, the pickup brings in one feature we particularly like – it’s highly responsive. As noted, we are looking at “best of both worlds” type of mixture, and one of the best characteristics of single-coils – the immaculate responsiveness – is very much present here.

This means that the pickup will react to even the slightest changes in your playing, strumming and fretting style, allowing you to truly express the unique character and tone of your performance. We are all about musicians being unique and memorable, and this pickup will help you to fin your musical six-string voice. All in all, this is one of the best single-coil pickups period (note, however, that this specific model we highlighted here is designed for the bridge position).

Seymour Duncan Hot Rails Bridge Pickup - USA Fender Strat - Demo with Gain

Musiclily Guitar Single Coil Tele Bridge Pickup

In the budget-friendly realm, we were very careful on what to recommend since there’s plenty of cheap pickups to be found that sound so awful it’s better not to get them at all.

As a quite solid mixture of a strong sound and a cheap price, we opted for the single-coil Tele pickup by Musiclily. Crafted for the Telecaster bridge position, this two-conductor piece utilizes a ceramic magnet with a PVC-coated magnet wire and a resistance between 5k and 6k.

When it comes to packaging, design and overall build quality, this thing feels cheap, of course. Seeing that you can get it for such a low price, you should not be surprised by the plastic rubbery feel it brings, but the reason why we opted for this fella is the fact that the sound is actually pretty darn solid.

It captures a strong mid-range driven attack with nice bright trebles and a decent amount of bass to round it all up. Even better, the Musiclily fella here sounds better than the vast majority of stock pickups that come with beginner guitars, making it a great solution for players looking to give their cheap newbie six-strings a nice kick to the next level. For this price, these are easily among the best single-coil pickups for the money.

DiMarzio ISCV2 Evolution Single Coil Pickup

Finally, a mid-range price option with exceptional versatility – the ISCV2 Evolution model from DiMarzio. This pickup has shown the ability to cover just about any genre, as well as adapt to any pedal you might add to your sonic mix.

So if you’re a heavy pedal user and a type of player who likes to cover a lot of styles, this is a pretty valid option.

This pickup was crafted primarily to be used in combination with DiMarzio Evolution Neck and Bridge pickups, a wiring configuration made popular by guitar virtuoso Steve Vai.

But even as a standalone item, this pickup delivers a very strong groove that covers all sonic frequencies and leaves plenty of room for expression and experimentation. It can cut through any mix and adapt to any audio surrounding. What more can ya ask for?

Dimarzio Evolution Pickup, Neck & Bridge

What to Look for When Buying the Best Coil Pickups for Guitar

The main thing to be in pursuit for and the main criteria we had in mind while searching for the best single-coil pickups were clarity and expression. These are two main strong points of any pickup of this type, and you should always seek clarity and brightness first.

If the ability to cover a wider sonic space is added, that’s more than welcome, but clear sound and expressiveness is what stands out as most important in our book. Apart from that, we thoroughly believe that for their respective prices, each of these products is a purchase you cannot regret making. Good stuff!

Written and Reviewed By

  • Micah Johnson started playing music in high school, when he taught himself the bass to join his friend’s band. He added guitar and drums during his twenties playing in local clubs, and along the way, he picked up unique, hands-on experience from hand drums to studio mixers. On Song Simian, he aims to share this knowledge from 20+ years playing and recording music. When not in gearhead mode, he enjoys photography and travel.

  • Marko is the senior editor and writer on Ultimate Guitar, the No. 1 guitar spot on the web, since early 2013. His work was also featured on a variety of other notable gear spots such as Guitar Fella, Consordini, and, of course, Song Simian. His musical journey began at a very young age, and he finally opted to pick up an instrument in his early teenage years. A fan of King Crimson. A travel enthusiast.

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