The 4 Best Strat Pickups for Blues — Reviews 2023

best strat pickups for blues, best blues pickups for strat, fender strat pickups

Photo by Tim Patterson / CC BY

Finding the right Strat pickups for blues makes a lot of sense. The Fender Stratocaster, with its three single-coil pickups, after all works like a charm for so many blues wailers out there. It’s without a doubt one of the best guitars for playing the blues, as such fine icons like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eric Clapton have found out.

One of the essential ingredients to nail that perfect tone comes in the form of pickups that you use. Yes, it’s always three single-coil models, but it greatly depends which ones you use.

The key factor here is to attain pickups that can roar, but also be mellow and expressive at the same time. Needless to say, we also did our best to find products with top value for money. Anyhow, our quest yielded a result . . .

Here are our reviews of the 4 best Strat pickups for blues on the market:

Best Strat Pickups for Blues 1: Fender Pure Vintage ’65

One of the “safest” choices you can make is a set of Vintage ’65 pickups. If you are after that staple, classic, signature, golden-era Fender Strat sound, these bad boys should be among your top picks.

The sound produced by these three hombres (see full specs) is warm, fuzzy, somewhat gain-driven, and very organic. We are looking at a natural sound without even a hint of that modern digital vibe that’s too plastic, too clean, or too “perfect.”

The vintage tone is secured through enamel-coated magnet wires and a set of Alnico 5 magnets that are very dynamic and genuinely express every finesse of your playing style.

These wax potted pickups also feature staggered balance volume of pole-pieces, along with a period-correct cloth wire and fiber bobbin construction. The mix also includes a one-year warranty. The item’s total weight is 5.8 ounces, official product dimensions are 5 x 1 x 2 inches. The best blues pickups for Strat will likely be from the very company that makes the Strat in the first place!

Fender pure vintage 65 pickups

Best Strat Pickups for Blues 2: Seymour Duncan California ’50s

If you want to add a bit of bite and roar to your sound, we recommend giving these Seymour Duncan pickups a spin. Very versatile and well-rounded, these pickups will satisfy any blues player in pursuit of a modern tone rooted in traditional values.

This matched set (see full specs) is bound to fit any Strat like a glove. What we like about these puppies very much is how well they operate with the standard Stratocaster five-way pickup switch selector. They truly give each position character and distinctive color.

This is how we see those positions: The first one locks in a warm rock-driven sound, perfect for blues rock players; the second one is more for traditional blues, but still with that warmth of the first position; the third one is crunch-driven, ideal for rock licks; position number for is just clear-tone blues, while position five is bright and thin, perfect to be combined with distortion.

The California ’50s set is perfect not just for blues, but for a variety of other genres. It’s among the best Strat pickups for blues from Seymour Duncan, as well as single-coil pickups in general.

Seymour Duncan California '50s Set - Full Review

Best Strat Pickups for Blues 3: Fender Tex-Mex

If you want to secure a rich sound and save some money, we recommend checking out Fender’s Tex-Mex series. These fellas can be yours for pretty cheap and they’re worth every penny.

Sonically, the series stands out with increased gain, meaning that these pickups are more geared towards blues rock players than fans of clean sound. The tone is warm and bright, and very well suited for use with a variety of guitar pedals and effects.

The audio output is very strong, resulting in the aforementioned increased gain, but still within the limits of standard blues sound. The pickups come with aged white color finish, but are also available in a variety of other patterns, one of which is bound to fit your guitar to a tee.

Back to the sound department, the bite and roar can be particularly felt in the mid-range department, making this one a perfect fit for a Mexican Fender Strat. It’s interesting how a budget-friendly set of Fender pickups perfectly matches a budget-friendly Fender guitar, but so it is!

Best Strat Pickups for Blues 4: Seymour Duncan SSL4 Quarter Pound

So this list only has two manufacturers on it, but that’s what turned out to fit the blues realm the most. Up next is another representative of Seymour Duncan, the SSL4 Quarter Pound pickup.

The word of the day here is power, raw power that is! With more than two times stronger audio output that a stock pickup, this guy is ideal for players who like to be loud and well heard! The sound is fat, full of punch, yet quite versatile. It can be clean as a whistle at lower volumes, or entirely gain driven at higher volumes. The choice is yours, and utilizing these guys in the realm of blues can produce some killer results.

Thanks to a powerful coil winding, the Quarter Pounders are capable of delivering great sustain, and make your lead playing stand out even above a humbucker. This fella epitomizes the idea of a “hot” single-coil pickup. It’s black and it’s mean, and works both for rhythm and lead playing, while always remaining natural and organic. We recommend highly as one of the best Strat pickups for blues period.

What to Look for in Blues Strat Pickups?

Well, there is a lot of room for subjective opinion here, but there are a few fairly objective factors we should be able to cover. First and foremost – and this kinda applies to every genre out there – you need to see how much the given pickup matches your style, but for blues players we believe that one of the traps you can fall into is taking too much gain-driven pickups.

You need a tone that will be natural and expressive. Blues is about finesse and the ability to transpose your style through those small picks and tweaks during performance. And those greatly get lost when your pickups are too powerful and packed with too much gain.

Apart from that, seek high durability and a good bang for the buck. Today’s market is an exciting place, and the best Strat pickups for blues is out there somewhere. Who knows, it might be one of the four products we just listed. Good luck!

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.

Share the Post and Images

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *