When playing your guitar, sometimes you want to change the tone of your music.
You can do this with a telecaster pickup.
What, exactly, is a telecaster pickup?
This is a device that you attach to your guitar so that it can tweak its sound, like if you want a more classic tone in your music. It basically picks up on your guitar’s vibrations and turns them into electric signals.
It’s a fascinating piece of equipment that should be in every serious musician’s studio. There are limitless options available when it comes to pickups that can make your sound so much more interesting and professional.
So, with that in mind, let’s look at the best telecaster pickups for every guitarist.
Now that we’ve looked at the above specs for the most promising telecaster pickups on the market, let’s take a deeper look into the pros and cons of each of them.
Our Recommendations For The Best Telecaster Pickup For 2020
Overall Winner: Fender Pure Vintage Reissue Telecaster Pickups
If vintage guitar sounds are your thing, you’ll love these pickups! They give you an authentic sound that will provide more warmth to your tone while still being versatile for a range of different music. If that sounds interesting to you, let’s look at their features in more detail.
- This pickup has an enamel-coated magnet. This is the reason why it delivers such pure, warm vintage tones.
- It makes use of an Alnico 5 magnet which improves its dynamics.
- It’s also equipped with a copper shielding plate on its bridge that helps to create a vibrant tone.
- One of the best features about this telecaster is that it’s cloth-wound. This is similar to how it would’ve been made back in the 1960s, and the bonus of this is that it makes it more comfortable to work with simply because you won’t have to worry about the plastic or wiring being damaged when you remove the covers.
- If you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to have to hassle with setup and installation, this Fender pickup is a solid choice for you. It comes with the best telecaster neck pickup and bridge pickup. Basically, once you open the box you can get started right away without having to worry about installation.
- The pickups have pole pieces that have been flush mounted. This allows the strings to react in a balanced way, thus assisting in high-quality sound production.
- The pickups come with a one-year warranty.
- One of the drawbacks of this pickup is that people who’ve purchased it have said it’s a little pricey. That said, you can find pickups that cost much more than this one.
How much do you have to shell out for this pickup, you ask? It costs around $80. While that might be considered to be a little steep, the fact that you get everything you need in the box to make installation a breeze makes up for it. It’s certainly one of the best tele pickups you can find.
Runner-Up: Fender Tex-Mex Telecaster Single-Coil Pickups
Fender makes our list again with its Tex-Mex Telecaster. What sets it apart is that it’s highly versatile.
- With this telecaster pickup you can choose from a variety of tones to enhance your sound – anything from clean to mean, crisp to earthy.
- This telecaster pickup has been overwound to create clear bass, crystal-clear highs, and maximum output. It’s also effective to use when you need a bit of distortion on your sound, as well as when playing blues and rock genres.
- It comes with all installation hardware included in the pack, which is great if you’re a beginner who’s never changed your guitar’s pickup before. This will certainly help you out!
- Some people who have purchased this pickup have reported that the ground wire on the bridge pickup is too short, which has resulted in them having to cut another wire and solder the joint together.
- While great for adding a punch of character to your sound, some people who have purchased this pickup have reported that they don’t get a dramatically different sound from it as compared to other pickups.
This Tex Mex telecaster pickup costs around $60, so it’s quite a bit cheaper than the previous Fender we featured on our list.
Now that we’ve looked at the top two telecaster pickups on the market, let’s move on to three alternative products that could appeal to you if you’re looking for something a little different, such as if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly alternative or want to enhance your music style in a different way.
Alternative 1: Fender Custom Shop Twisted Tele Pickups
Fender is such a renowned brand when it comes to guitar pickups that you can’t go wrong with this one. Let’s look at its features in greater detail.
- This pickup comes with a formvar-coated neck pickup and a bridge that’s coated with enamel. Both assist in enhancing your sound. The enamel, for instance, helps to create warm vintage sounds, while the formvar helps to produce brighter tones.
- It has pole pieces that are flush-mounted to create balanced string responses.
- It’s built with an alnico 5 magnet, which seems to be standard but always desirable in pickups.
- Some people who have purchased this pickup have reported that the wires are covered with plastic instead of cloth, which is what other Fender pickups tend to have.
The Fender Custom Shop Twisted pickup costs around $160. It’s got lots of features that make it one of the best telecaster pickups you can find. Yes, it’s still costly like some others we’ve featured on this list, but it’s worth the money if you’re a guitar enthusiast.
Alternative 2: LEOR Tele Pickups Alnico 5 Black Tele Bridge Pickup Fit Fender Telecaster Bridge Pickup Part
This is a really budget-friendly pickup to consider if you’re keen on saving some money. However, this is just a bridge pickup part. If you want other parts, such as the neck, you’ll have to purchase them separately.
- It comes with an Alnico 5 magnet that’s been wax potted to prevent noise distortions in your sound.
- If you’re looking for exceptional tones, people who have purchased this bridge have reported that it creates a rich tone that’s difficult to find in other telecaster pickups.
- It comes with everything you need in order to install it. In the pack you’ll receive three screws and three springs, therefore taking the hassle out of trying to find those items.
- One of the drawbacks of this product is that it makes use of plastic bobbins instead of fiber ones. Fiber bobbins have been said to be better but this is something only the most experienced guitarists will likely pick up on, so it might not be a big deal for you if you’re not a professional musician.
This Leor pickup costs around $15. For the price, you’ll be amazed at the high-quality you can achieve with it! It’s a good choice if you’re unsure about pickups but it’s also definitely going to make you fall in love with it.
Alternative 3: Fender Generation 4 Noiseless Telecaster Single-Coil Pickups – Set of 2
This is an exciting product because it’s said to be the best out of all Fender pickups. Think of it as the holy grail of the company’s pickups! Let’s look at what it has to offer.
- If you’re looking for tones that are free of sound distortion and can create vintage sounds, then you’ll love this Fender Generation 4 pickup.
- These pickups create clear and crisp tones but also overdriven ones that provide rock power.
- So, what makes it so effective at cutting away noise? It’s got shielded wire that reduces distortion.
- As with all Fender products, this one comes with all the hardware included for easy installation.
- One of the drawbacks about this Fender pickup that people who’ve purchased it have noticed is that it doesn’t fit every tele. If versatility is a big deal for you, then this could be a dealbreaker. It’s also a bit hard to know exactly what teles this will fit so you’ll have to do your homework before purchasing it.
- Fender’s customer service sometimes is difficult to deal with, so if you have problems with this pickup you might encounter problems with the company’s customer support service that has been said to be slow and unresponsive at times.
This Fender Generation 4 pickup costs around $160, so it’s quite expensive but definitely worth splurging on if you’re looking for a professional, high-quality sound.
Best Telecaster System: EMG T SYSTEM Prewired Telecaster Guitar Pickup Set Plus Control Plate System
If you’re looking for convenience, the EMG system is your must-have. Here’s why.
- This system creates a tone that is said to be noise-free, responsive, and brilliant. It’s said to provide an enhancement to your sound by giving you a neck pickup that’s clean and rich, and a bridge pickup that’s twangy.
- The Alnico magnets have coils and windings that have been custom-engineered so you’re guaranteed of getting a quality product.
- It makes use of a solderless installation system, which makes it super-easy and convenient to set up and start using.
- The control plate is mounted with various pots, such as tone, volume, and switch pots. It’s also been pre-wired.
- It comes with everything you need: the system contains the pre-wired control plate, an output cable, three sets of mounting screws and springs, two pickup cables, and one stereo output jack.
- The installation instructions are quite vague. Although this system is easy to install, sometimes instructions are needed, especially if you’ve never installed a pickup before. You might have to try to find information from other people who’ve already installed this on their telecaster or find online resources, such as videos.
This EMG T System costs around $190. If your guitar’s sound needs a makeover, this system is worth investing in to take it to a higher level. It is quite expensive, however, so you might have to see how serious you are about your music before taking the leap.
Telecaster pickups FAQ
Do you have a better idea of the type of telecaster pickup you’d like to purchase?
Now that we’ve featured details about five of the best telecaster pickups for every guitarist, let’s look at some questions you might have about pickups in general and how they work.
What exactly are telecaster pickups?
Before we can define what a telecaster pickup is, we should start by looking at what a telecaster is. A telecaster is a guitar that can produce a wide variety of sounds.
What makes it so fantastic for guitarists is that it can be used for many different music genres, such as country, pop, rock, blues, jazz, metal, indie, R&B, and more!
Now, if you own a telecaster, you’ll probably want to invest in a pickup. This is a guitar part that is responsible for making your guitar produce various sounds.
Many guitars have more than one pickup – a neck and bridge pickup – as where the pickup is placed will influence the type of sound the instrument produces.
A guitar pickup can be defined as a magnet that picks up on the vibrations emitted by the guitar strings and transforms them into electrical signals that can be amplified – that is what enables them to produce sound.
The magnet is often made with alnico (as we’ve seen in the guitar pickups we’ve reviewed) before being covered in copper wire. By changing the materials, you can change the sounds that are created.
What is the history behind telecaster pickups?
It might surprise you to find out that guitar pickups go all the way back in history to the 1920s!
A guitarist in California named George Beauchamp started experimenting with guitar electric amplification.
He tried a bunch of coils and magnets as he attempted to create the first electromagnetic guitar pickup.
Incredibly, he started out by winding coils with the use of a washing machine motor, and later with a sewing machine motor. He finally used single-coiled magnets.
His first effective single-coil pickup had two U-shaped magnets and one coil. It was called a horseshoe pickup, which is probably due to its shape.
Beauchamp lay the foundation for pickups to really bloom a few decades later. In 1951, the telecaster arrived on the market, thanks to Leo Fender.
He was an inventor and businessman located in Southern California. He owned an electronics repair shop and that’s where he designed amplifiers and electromagnetic pickups for musicians to use.
The telecaster was a mass-produced Spanish-style electric guitar and it was inspired by Fender’s Hawaiian steel guitar production, as Fender reports.
It had a bridge pickup in its design. Pickup designs were tweaked and improved throughout history, with an important milestone occurring in 1967.
This was when the guitar’s control now had a three-way switch that could provide neck pickup and bridge pickup.
This was the first time since 1952 that both could be used simultaneously, and it was a game-changer.
How to replace telecaster pickup?
If you’re new to telecasters or you’ve never replaced a pickup before, this guide is sure to help you.
Replacing a pickup on your guitar doesn’t have to be stressful or time-consuming, however, you will need to ensure that you follow the correct steps and get your hands on some essential items to make the task much easier.
So, make sure you’re all set to put in a new telecaster pickup by getting the right tools. For this task, you’ll require the following items:
- Your new pickup set
- Soldering iron tip cleaner
- 40-watt soldering iron
- Safety goggles
- Wire strippers
- Wire cutters
- PH1 and PH2 screwdrivers
- New set of strings
- Remove the old pickup from the pickguard with the use of your PH1 screwdriver. If your pickup is screwed into the telecaster’s body you’ll need to gently remove the pickguard.
- You have to remove the telecaster bridge in order to remove the lead pickout, so use your PH2 screwdriver. Doing this should enable the bridge to pop out.
- With your PH2 screwdriver, you want to loosen the pickup bolts. Be careful with the solder tag as you don’t want it to damage the coil wires.
- Unscrew your control plate and make sure you keep the screws somewhere safe so you don’t lose them.
- Now you’ll need to cut the wires that are connecting your old pickup.
- By gently pulling the wires, you’ll soon spot them. Cut them with your wire cutters.
- A note on single coils: these will usually have two wires – a “hot” and “ground wire. There might also be a third one that’s soldered to a pot. If you find it, remove it.
- Now, if your old pickup had a base plate made out of plastic, it would have needed the solder tag to connect the bridge to the earth wire. So, when putting in a new pickup that’s got a plastic base, you’ll need to replace the tag. If you have a pickup with a metal base, then you’ll see it has a jumper wire that connects the ground wire so you can skip this step.
- Assemble the neck pickup into the tele’s pickguard. Run the wires into the control gap.
- Reinstall the bridge by screwing in all the screws from earlier.
- Now for the really important bit: you need to solder the new pickup’s connections. Place a blob of solder onto the wires one by one and then place them in their terminals.
Pro tip: You can test that you’ve configured it correctly by plugging the telecaster into an amp and tapping a screwdriver on the pole pieces.
Can you put telecaster pickups in a strat?
You might be wondering if you can use telecaster pickups in your strat. The sad answer is no, and there are many good reasons why you should avoid it.
They all link to how the fit won’t be right. A telecaster’s bridge usually has longer and wider pickups than what you would see on a strat.
In addition to the above, you’ll likely see three mounting holes for your pickup on your telecaster whereas on a strat you’ll only see two.
That said, what if you’re a DIY star?
You could go ahead and try to fit a pickup that’s meant for a strat and make it tele-friendly.
However, “star” is the important word here – this isn’t a task meant for DIY beginners because you could wind up making a mess of your pickup and guitar!
Telecaster pickups are a game changer.
Whether you’re a serious musician or just love playing your telecaster in your spare time, these are essential items to own.
In this article, we’ve featured some of the best tele pickups you can find on the market, as well as answered some important questions regarding telecaster pickups and how to install them so that you can purchase the best one for your needs and guitar.
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