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FDP Forum / The 'Pup' Tent / Strat Pickup Tone Comparisons Ready for You to Download...

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Contributing Member

Atlanta, GA USA

"Life is good when you love your tone."
Jan 19th, 2004 12:51 AM   Edit   Profile  

This started out as a simple favor I was going to do for SlyStrat so that he could have something to compare to his Strat pickups (Tex-Mex) to. But it sort of evolved and has now amounted to 12 recordings I made with the 6 Strat pickup sets that I currently have loaded into my various Strats. While I went out of my way to make as many "things" about these recordings as equal as I could, it isn't a perfectly level playing field. Things that are equal however include the recording process, which was all done at the same time with the same amp and mixer settings and mic placement etc... I did dial each set of pickups in to where I thought they sounded best rather than set each pickup at an equal position from the strings, which didn't make sense to me anyway. What isn't always the same is the actual Strat being used. I used three of my Strats for this, and while each one is certainly different than the other, the two that I used the most both have rosewood fingerboards and ash bodies FWIW. Each set of pickups has it's own particular harness and pickguard assembly which generally followed the recommended set-up for each. If you want to get anal about all this you are welcome to e-mail me and discuss the details further. I realize that all this makes a difference to some, but for the purpose of this particular effort, I think I likely went further into "equal-ness" than what was necessary.

Anyway... Six different pickup sets were recorded and they included:

Fender Tex-Mex Strat set
Fender Custom 54 Strat set
Rio Grande Dual Calibrated Strat set
Lace Holy Grail Strat set
Lace Hot Gold Strat set
Lace AlumiTone Strat set

A few particulars are significant to mention...

The Custom 54 bridge pickup has a Fralin base plate.
The Hot Gold set is the 6k/6k/6k configuration.
The Holy Grail set is the HG- 1500/1000/1500 configuration.

Why do I have the HG-1500 "bridge model" on the neck, you ask? Well... I gave up a bit of sparkle and bell tones to get a bit more drive for soloing. Most of you would likely not do this, but I did. So take that into consideration FWIW. The Holy Grails just do not have a lot of drive as they are more vintage-like than the Hot Golds or AlumiTones. I just wanted to get the neck pickup closer to the level of my other pickups.

I made two recordings with each set. One is a "Clean" tone and was recorded through my 1957 Magnatone model 213 loaded with a Weber P12NB. I also ran it with a 2x10 with it that was loaded with Weber P10Q's. I put a mic on both the P12NB and one of the P10Q's.

The other recording is a "Hi-Gain" tone and was recorded through my modified 1982 Fender Concert loaded with a Weber P12CA California. I also ran it with a 2x12 loaded with Celestion G12-65's and similarly put a mic on both of these as well.

I also attempted to record similar patterns of playing in order to make comparisons easier to make, and I also went out of my way to use all settings on the 5-way switch or all standard pickup combinations. Iím sorry if I went off into never never land a few times. This did get just a bit boring at times.

Ask for more info here if you need to and I will answer it here. A HUGE thanx to FDP'er Farkdog for hosting my files. Both my computer and web page are simply not up to the task at the moment.

And of course, let everyone know what you think...


3/15/2006 - Edit to change the link below to the new correct url.

Download the Recordings Here...

(This message was last edited by SMark at 02:31 PM, Mar 15th, 2006)

Contributing Member


FDP - The best of the net!
Jan 19th, 2004 07:11 AM   Edit   Profile  

SMark and FarkDog,

Thank you for your work on this.

Your work is an example of why the FDP is one fine group.

Robert M.

Tempe, AZ

Jan 19th, 2004 09:18 AM   Edit   Profile  

Wow, those sound great! I was wondering what the output of the Tex-Mex pickups are. I was thinking about getting one for the middle. I have a DiMarzio Virtual Vintage Blues(8.28k) in the bridge and was wondering if they would match up well.
Robert M.

Contributing Member

Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Club jams are my gig...
Jan 19th, 2004 04:36 PM   Edit   Profile  

Thanks SMark and Farkdog. I've been goin' through them, and haven't really developed any opinions, other than the Hot Golds and Holy Grails seem more "percusive" and "crisper". And in Hi Gain, I can hear individual notes better within the chords. Comments, people?


Kiwi in Oz

Jan 19th, 2004 11:37 PM   Edit   Profile  

I've only listened to the clean tracks, but of them all I think I prefer the Custom 54's all-round, with the Hot Golds having (to me) the nicest in-between tones in positions 2 and 4.


Kiwi in Oz

Jan 20th, 2004 05:16 AM   Edit   Profile  

SMark, thanks a bunch for these recordings. It's really educational!



Jan 20th, 2004 06:03 AM   Edit   Profile  

thanks SMark and FarkDog. just what i wanted!



Jan 20th, 2004 07:26 AM   Edit   Profile  

After listening to the samples in a studio environment through Genelec speakers, here is my rating (if anybody cares):

#1 Custom 54's
#2 Rio Grande Dual Calibrated
#3 Lace Hot Gold
#4 Alumi Tone
#5 Tex Mex
#6 Holy Grail

I liked the Alumi Tone, but it is a unique sound that may be specific to certain situations. That's why I placed it at #4. All the pickups sounded great and it's obvious SMark is a great player. Thanks for the samples.


Richmond, Ky

Human Power Resistor
Jan 20th, 2004 02:41 PM   Edit   Profile  

Screw the pickups, I wanna play like SMark!


Kiwi in Oz

Jan 20th, 2004 05:33 PM   Edit   Profile  

plain-boy -- good to know I'm not the only one to rate the Custom 54's as the best. I was very surprised that they sounded as good as they did.

Contributing Member


I just came for the free entertainment.
Jan 21st, 2004 12:41 AM   Edit   Profile  

Thanks SMark. As always, just great playing. I see why there are so many pickups out there, because everyone hears them differently, based on what sound they are looking for to satisfy their own ears. I always loved the '54s, and then there is something about the Holy Grails that I like even more. But now it's the Alumitones that have reached that magic spot in my ears. I'm just waiting for Don to send them.



Jan 21st, 2004 03:55 AM   Edit   Profile  

Thanks for your dedication and effort SMark - it is much appreciated!


The Netherlands

Jan 21st, 2004 04:07 AM   Edit   Profile  

My vote: clean CS'54

Do you also have
CS Fat 50s
Lindy Fralin VH
Van Zandt

Contributing Member

Atlanta, GA USA

"Life is good when you love your tone."
Jan 21st, 2004 12:13 PM   Edit   Profile  

Thanx folks. I'm glad the effort is appreciated, and thanx for the many kind words.

Since I have tried most of the Fender pickups currently offered, I have to say that the Custom 54's are clearly my favorite. I did do many hours of comparison work amongst the other Fender Custom Shop, pickups as well as a set of Fralins, Duncans, and Van Zandts. This particular set of Custom 54's, with the Fralin base plate on the bridge pickup, are clearly the finest sounding vintage single coils I have ever played. And my second place vintage single coil has to go to the Rio Grande Tallboy. And please note that while I am calling these "Vintage Single Coils", I say that because of the way they are made, and not necessarily because that is the way they sound. IOW... I like them because they sound good to my ears, not because they sound "more vintage" if you catch my drift. "Vintage sounding" is rather subjective so I don't claim to be an expert on that in particular. I only know what I like, and the Custom 54's are the best of the bunch IMO.


So it is "yes" on all those you mention except the Voodoo pups, which are on my list. And while I did have all those others, I don't have them anymore. Just like I don't have that set of Tex-Mex pups anymore either. They made their way to eBay a couple weeks ago.

Robert M....

I think the Tex Mex might be a bit louder than the DiMarzio VV Blues. If you can lower the T-M and raise the VV, then it would likely work fine.


I have to say that these AlumiTones are really growing on me. It's hard to really put it into words, but they have this sweet high end that any good single coil would do well to have, plus a very broad but yet focused lower end that is more like a humbucker, although not as big as some buckers for sure. But they almost carry with them the finer attributes of both pickup types. Their clarity likely comes from the fact that they have a DC resistance somewhere between 2k-3k. Which is unlike anything outside of the Lace Transensor line. And they seem to be more quiet than other Lace Sensors too. I am right now in the process of upgrading the axe that I installed the AlumiTones into since I am playing it so much. I just got my new neck for it so I should have it all together yet this week.

Contributing Member


Strats don't lie
Jan 21st, 2004 12:34 PM   Edit   Profile  

I used to think sound bites were as useful as a hemmoroid when it came to comparing pups, but SMark proves with some great playing and consistant recording you can hear the differences.

You realize SMark, you could start your own website and make a nice 'lil biz out of pup comparison.

Add 57/62s to your to do list. Me no can play like you.

Contributing Member


What I want...I want Now...
Jan 21st, 2004 12:54 PM   Edit   Profile  

I have the 54's, and love the way they sound as well. I've compared them to American Series Stock, Duncan SSL-2's and Texas Specials, and the 54's are the sound I want.

I just wish they had a "modern" pole stagger.

Any suggestions for pickups that are basically 54's but with a modern stagger?

Contributing Member

Atlanta, GA USA

"Life is good when you love your tone."
Jan 21st, 2004 01:50 PM   Edit   Profile  

"Add 57/62s to your to do list."

Yeah, I did and already sold them. As well liked as they are, I honestly much preferred the Custom 54's and CS 69's to them. But they also set up differently too. The 57/62's needed to be set closer to the pickguard or they were just too unbalanced. And doing that sort of took away some of the hi-gain texture and bite. The clean tone was fine though, but I still preferred the other two.

"I just wish they had a "modern" pole stagger."

I honestly think that all these pickups would improve with a flatter or at least more balanced stagger. But then they wouldn't be "Vintage" would they?


Contributing Member


What I want...I want Now...
Jan 21st, 2004 02:02 PM   Edit   Profile  

I thought the Rio Grandes had a flat or moderate stagger?

Yeah, I guess they wouldn't be vintage without the stagger.

Contributing Member

Atlanta, GA USA

"Life is good when you love your tone."
Jan 21st, 2004 02:46 PM   Edit   Profile  

Yeah, that is one thing in favor of the Rio Grande pickups IMO.

Contributing Member

Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Club jams are my gig...
Jan 21st, 2004 09:20 PM   Edit   Profile  

I'm goin' against the grain here, and saying I like the TexMex. Why? I don't know. The "natural dirty" sound? Can't explain it.
Otherwise, I'm goin' crazy listening to these samples!

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FDP Forum / The 'Pup' Tent / Strat Pickup Tone Comparisons Ready for You to Download...

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