If you or someone you know owns a Telecaster, you are probably familiar with how unique that guitar truly is. You probably also know that the particular sound it offers is challenging to reproduce with any other guitar. Even though the Telecaster has its own pickups, you might want to change them to get a more personalized tone.
When you're choosing a new Tele pickup, it's easy to get lost and buy a wrong one. This is because many manufacturers promise that their pickups emulate the iconic “Tele Twang” sound, which is not always true. To help you with choosing the right Tele pickup for you, we've made a list of some of the best Telecaster pickups that can be found on the market. Also, to help you even more, further down in the article, you'll see a short buyer's guide.
Below is our picks when it comes to the best Telecaster pickups.
Our Top Pick
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Fender Pure Vintage Reissue
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DiMarzio Twang King
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Fender Vintage Reissue ‘62
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Top 10 Telecaster pickups in 2021
Fender Vintage Reissue ’62 Telecaster Neck Pickup
Well, it’s only fair to start this list with an official Telecaster pickup made by Fender themselves. This model can replicate the exact vintage sound of the 1962 Telecaster that was loved by all generations since then. When you buy this pickup model, you get two official Tele pickups that you can put into the body and neck of the guitar. Playing around with the setup gives you the ability to find what works best for you, and also to create that terrific jazzy/blues tone.
These tele pickups are specifically designed to reproduce the historic warm sound featuring that raw edge that everyone likes. They are made using the much-desired Alnico III magnets and feature a finish with magnet wires that were enamel-coated. All components of the pickup are the same ones that were used in the making of the original Telecaster pickups form the 1950’s. Other than being an exact copy of the original, this model provides high-quality build and response time, as you should expect from a premium Fender pickup.
If your goal is to reproduce the authentic Telecaster twang, this pickup is the best choice for you, and it's also sure to serve you for a long time.
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DiMarzio Area T Neck Tele Pickup
DiMarzio made the Area ’61 and Area ’58 tele pickups; they believe these to be a significant step forward when it comes to the performance of Strat replacement pickups that feature hum-canceling. The technology they used in the making of these tele pickups gave DiMarzio the ability to do a similar thing with Tele pickups. Thanks to this new technology, DiMarzio can put a vintage Telecaster cover on this pickup with no noticeable loss of power or sound quality.
This model is a humbucker pickup that is recommended for the neck, as its name suggests. It offers a beautiful warm Tele sound without any hum or muddiness. The clarity and richness provided give your guitar a perfect dose of smoothness that goes hand in hand with the bite from the bridge pickup. The chrome cover allows your Telecaster to retain that vintage-style and iconic good looks.
Whether you're looking for smooth jazz, overdriven rock, or twang, guitar pickups made by this manufacturer provide the output and tone you need. The Area T Neck pickup from DiMarzio pushes all boundaries when it comes to the recognizable Tele tone. Many guitar legends such as Joe Satriani, David Gilmour, Jerry Garcia, Steve Vai, and John Petrucci have put their trust into DiMarzio pickups.
Fender Pure Vintage Reissue Telecaster Pickups
Another Fender on this list, but given that they invented the Telecaster, it’s only fair to include the work they keep putting into it. If you want to take your guitar back in time, these reissued vintage pickups will take you as far as the 1950s. Some of the best vintage Telecaster sounds are brought to life with this beautiful set. When it comes to staying true to the '50s legacy, the iconic single-coil hum is still present in this model.
If you buy this pickup, you get two quality-built pickups that are meant for producing that well-known vintage Tele twang. The build materials are pretty much the same as the tele pickups from the 50’s original models. You have Alnico III magnets, magnet wire with enamel-coat for the vintage sound, base plate made of tin-plated copper, fiber bobbins, and period-correct wiring. The pickups also have pole pieces that are flush-mounted to help keep the string response balanced.
These tele models offer a warm and full tone, but they can certainly follow along if you decide to play a little bit more aggressively. Like any other Fender product, quality is paramount, so these little noisemakers should keep you quite happy for a long time.
DiMarzio DP172G Twang King
DiMarzio are well-known producers of replacement pickups, maybe more for their humbuckers, but they do make several models for different sounds. As you could expect from this manufacturer, this product is of high quality and with lots of great features.
The Twang King is a pickup made to be used specifically in the neck position of your Telecaster. It was made with Alnico V magnets and two specially calibrated conductors that offer enhanced responsiveness to match your play style. This model also uses a controlled-tension assembly for the windings and unique wiring, which provides balance and articulation. A gold cover and double-wax potting ensure all the components stay in place and produce a monstrous Tele sound.
This telecaster is built to be responsive to the way you play, and responsive it really is. If you stroke the strings gently, you get a quieter, warm, jazzy tone. But if you start plucking a bit harder over the strings, the pickup will follow you with a clean, aggressive sound. As soon as you start playing, you can notice that this model is more dynamic and quite louder than a typical single-coil.
If the vintage Telecaster sound is what you’re searching for, then this is not for you, but if your goal is something similar but more modern, then you’re in luck.
Seymour Duncan Hot Rails Tele Set
Seymour Duncan is regarded to be one of the pioneering manufacturers of guitar pickups for the last 30 years or so. All the experience they gathered over time can be seen in this model. The humbucker Hot Rails are perfect if you’re searching for something to allow you to create full and fat sounds with an exceptional sustain.
Unlike most other pickups, these models feature a rail system, making them much more sensitive and able to respond to the lightest string movements. Given their price, they are ideal for both beginners who are just starting to learn and for players who are more experienced and have played for a long time.
When it comes to quality, these pickups are made to last. They are crafted from ceramic magnets that are bulletproof, and no matter what your play style is, there is no possible way that you'll break them. The coils inside are wound really tight, giving you the ability to produce mighty tones.
All this power is stuffed into a casing small enough to fit any single-coil slots. So if you're searching for a small humbucker that brings a guitar to life, this is probably perfect for you.
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JBE Joe Barden Modern T-Style Pickup
When you look at a set of these replacement pickups, you can see the amount of time and effort that has gone into it. This is a set of single-coil pickups, but with all the hum and hiss removed.
The Modern T-Style set is recommended for the musicians who play rock and modern country. The tone that this set offers is much fatter than the original tone of the Tele bridge pickups. Even though the sound is different, none of the historic Telecaster vibes or overall feel were sacrificed. Furthermore, while the set looks nothing like the original pickups, it hasn't lost any of the classic Tele twang, crackle, pop or snap.
While this might sound ironic, the best feature of these little tele noisemakers is that they are noiseless. You are free to crank up the volume and still have a hum-free sound. For this, we can thank the JBE's staggered-blade design that is pretty unique. This design helps to keep the balance when it comes to string response and offer more clarity to chords and notes.
Tonerider TRT2 Hot Classic Tele Set
Tonerider is not a name that first comes to mind when it comes to replacement pickups. But, if you take into consideration the performance of their products, they should be higher up on the list. Tonerider’s best-selling pickups are from the Telecaster series, and there is a good reason for that – they sound amazing and can easily parry any top-tier brand.
The TRT2 is a set of single-coil pickups made with Alnico III magnets that are overwound. This gives them more edge, making them a perfect choice if you're looking for blues and rock sounds. These magnets provide exceptional clarity and note separation, so even when the chords are overdriven, they're still defined and precise.
The neck pickup has a nickel-silver cover, and it produces a bright tone that is full of texture and warmth. The sound is quite bluesy with lots of attacks and a very rich sustain. On the other hand, the bridge one features a base-plate made of copper, wrapped with black string. This gives it a real classic appearance and provides it with a more tonal definition. This pickup offers all the crackle and sparkle that define the Tele twang.
Lindy Fralin Blues Special Tele Pickup Set
When it comes to music, the essence is experimentation and mixing of different sounds, and with this tele pickup, you can do that with ease. Sometimes you wish to create a warm yet somewhat sharp sound, and with this blues special, you can do just that. The Lindy Fralin has a very firm but bright tone, making your music soft, but with a lot of sharpness behind it.
This pickup set is exceptionally responsive, and even though it has a warm sound, it packs quite a punch without any muddiness. They are made with high-grade Alnico V magnets that give them an optimal output and tonal balance. Also, they are hand-wound, which provides them with a unique and dynamic tone.
If you wish your Telecaster to sound its best, this set is made for you; it will make your guitar produce a bright and warm, yet very sharp sound to its maximum capability. The Blues Special provides your instrument with boldness and sheer power. The set is pretty inexpensive, and the overall build is of high quality, so that you won't need a new one ever so often. This model will serve you for quite a long time.
Seymour Duncan STR-3 Quarter Pound Telecaster Pickup
Seymour Duncan, the designer, and manufacturer of the STR-3, is one of the most famous producers of guitar accessories in the world. When you're buying products from this company, you can be sure that the quality and longevity are backed up by 35 years worth of experience.
When it comes to features, these tele pickups holds no limits—built with Alnico V 3/16" diameter magnet rods that were specially wound for this pickup. These rods give you the ability to enjoy a vast range of dynamic tones that are vibrant, warm, and as close to the original Tele sound as possible. The fact that this model is chrome-plated and has a brass cover complements the level of quality even further.
However, the fantastic 11.8 resistance of these pickups is probably their leading feature. All the features this model has to offer come together to give you a high-definition tone with a very powerful mid-range and a fantastic treble. The STR-3 is pretty responsive, and it will follow your play style, even if you play some overdriven sounds.
This pickup is perfect if you're looking for a pickup that can create the original genres that define the Telecaster, such as rock, jazz, classic rock, and even heavy metal.
EMG T System Prewired Telecaster Pickup
EMG's T system is an active pickup assembly that provides your Telecaster with improved clarity, plenty of warmth, and a much fatter twang. The single-coil pickups in this set offer noiseless operation. They are made with Alnico magnets and feature custom-engineered windings and coil sizes, which altogether provide your instrument with extra fullness and bandwidth.
The T System comes prewired, which makes it a solderless set that can be installed into your Telecaster pretty quickly and with no hassle. This is an exceptionally responsive pickup that will immediately react to any signal as soon as you touch any chord on the guitar. This model offers a vibrant and pure sound without any noise or hum behind it.
This set also includes the controls for the tone pots, switch, and volume, which are mounted on a single plate. The fact that all the controls are in one place gives you the ability to change the settings with ease.
If you're searching for a very clear sound that is at the same time sharp and full, this set is excellent for you. Also, it's plug-and-play, so there's no need for soldering knowledge or troubles with messy wires.
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A pickup is basically a microphone for your electric guitar. Essentially, it's a magnet that converts the vibrations of the strings into an electrical signal, which is later amplified. The magnet inside a pickup usually has a core made of materials such as ferrite or alnico, which is wrapped with copper wires. But you can achieve different sounds by playing around with the core material and the number of coils around it. Here you will attain some necessary information that you should know before purchasing a pickup.
Single coil vs. humbucker – these are the two main types of guitar pickups. The single-coil has six magnets and an insulated wire that is wrapped around them. When the string is plucked, it disrupts the magnetic field, and the change is then sent into the amplifier. The humbucker has two coils with each of their magnets turned in opposed directions. When these coils are connected, they cancel out the characteristic hum of the single coil.
Active vs. Passive – The main difference between these two types of tele pickups is that the passive ones require no electricity to work, while the active ones are battery-powered. Active pickups are usually weaker than the passive ones, but the built-in pre-amp amplifies their signal. Passive pickups have a smoother guitar tone that is more preferred than the crisp one that the active pickups produce.
Covers – The delicate wire coils inside the pickups are protected from any damage by the pickup covers. Depending on the materials of which it was made, the cover can significantly affect the magnetic field of the pickup and thus change its sound.
Output – Output can have four types – vintage, high, medium, and low. Low output is usually used when practicing or for a small gathering. Medium is used for slightly bigger crowds. High output is more suited for large gatherings and concerts. And the vintage offers that classical guitar tone.
Location – The position of a pickup is as much important as everything else so far, depending on the location they can have a drastic change in tone. The neck pickup sounds full and warm, and has the longest sustain, while the bridge one has bright sounds and the shortest sustain. Some players like to use the same pickup in each position, and then switch from one to the other to get the tone they need.
Due to all the different types available at the time, finding a perfect pickup for the Telecaster can be a little overwhelming sometimes. Whatever reason you have for buying a new set or an individual single-coil pickup, we hope that this article has helped you at least a bit.
Always remember to do your research before buying, watching videos of pickups in action can be very helpful when it comes to the final decision. Also, the perfect sound can't be rushed, so take your time, and eventually, you will find what works for you.