A lot of players across the world love the bite and sharp attack of the strat single coil that made it one of the most recognizable tones in rock ’n’ roll history.
However, we could argue that many of those players have heard their share of annoying hum coming from their strat pickups that are sensitive to many electric devices including household appliances and neon lights.
But, how do you get rid of this hum without switching to another guitar? Your best bet would be getting a single coil sized humbucker that would eliminate this noise but would also give you a noticeably different sound.
So, if you’re a fan of the single coil sound but have had enough of the 60-cycle hum, you’re probably considering noiseless strat pickups. That’s why I created this list of my favorite noiseless strat pickups to help you make your choice.
5 Best Stratocaster Pickups - Noiseless Picks
Here are my top picks among noiseless strat pickups that you can get right now.
Table of Contents
- 5 Best Stratocaster Pickups - Noiseless Picks
- Understanding Single Coil Pickups
- Why Pick Noiseless Strat Pickups
- Active or Passive Pickups?
You can’t talk about guitar pickups today without mentioning Seymour Duncan. Whether you are looking for a humbucker, P90, single coil sized humbucker, or virtually any other type of pickups, this company seems to make them all. And more than that – they do so with great success.
Unlike all other entries on the list, this is only a neck pickup, rather than a whole set. The reason for this is that the STK-S4 bridge and middle pickups can sound a bit too fatty for a single coil while the neck pickup delivers a classic strat sound.
The special bottom coil that Seymour Duncan patented in the 80’s feeds negative hum into the pickup circuit which gives you great noise cancellation and preserves the traditional strat tone.
If you’re in the market for just one noiseless pickup or you don’t want to invest in a whole set before trying them, the Seymour Duncan STK-S4 neck pickup could be a great choice.
Any list of strat pickups wouldn’t be complete without a set from Fender, and I went for the Fender Hot Noiseless set that sports a beautiful aged white color.
These pickups deliver a true hot vintage strat sound at a great price, especially considering the Fender brand name. They have incredible definition and high output in all three positions without compromising the “noiseless” side of the equation.
If you’re replacing stock pickups on a Squier or a similar mid-level product, you’ll notice a dramatic difference as soon as you pop these in – their hotness and snappy attack rings out on clean as well as on distortion.
But, don’t get me wrong – if you want to keep a low profile, these pickups are more than happy to sit back and let you strum open chords with ease, as the neck position provides some warm and bright sounds only a strat is capable of.
Getting a powerful sound on distortion without tons of hum is nearly impossible on a single coil. But, the Fender Gen 4 Noiseless seems to do just that – it packs a punch similar to that of a humbucker when the gain knob is turned all the way up, but it also delivers on its hum-cancelling promise.
However, don’t let this fool you – these pickups still give you a vintage Fender sound with punchy mids, a clearly defined high end, and a tight low end. If looks are important to you, these pickups will probably be at the very top of your list. Their beautiful creamy white color looks perfect on almost all strats and gives your guitar a vintage Fender look.
If you’re looking to eliminate hum while staying as close to vintage Fender tone as possible, these pickups are a great choice.
They may lack the mainstream appeal of Seymour Duncan or DiMarzio, but EMG pickups are far from a low-end product. This company makes many of the best strat pickups. The SA Active Single Coil is arguably one of their most favorite ones. Give one listen to it, and you’ll instantly see why.
This pickup combines the old Fender tone with a higher output and added midrange response, which results in a better sustain and a smooth midrange overdrive.
It retains the familiar punchy high end of a single coil while providing you more versatility than some of the other entries on this list. This makes it a good choice for a variety of genres – jazz, blues, country, and even some harder styles like hard rock and metal.
If versatility is what you’re going for, this pickup is your best choice.
This pickup is part of DiMarzio’s Area series. An entire series dedicated to replicating the iconic sound of the Stratocasters of the late 60s. With each model in the series, the sound just got better and the noise less noticeable, to the point of disappearing completely.
The Area 67 pickup is a very interesting single-coil pickup. It can be installed on both middle and neck positions if you want your guitar to mimic the iconic 60’s Strat sound, but without the noise or hum.
Tonal clarity is evident in the DiMarzio Area 67 pickup. The pickup cuts almost all the harshness out of the tone but maintains the punch of a classic Strat.
Note sustain is also better when using the Area 67 model. Because this pickup uses Alnico II magnets, there’s less magnet pull which means there’s less strain that could lead to modulation or pitch issues. What I found to be even more impressive was that this doesn’t affect the output power.
Still, the Area 67 is a niche pickup. If you want that Hendrix or SRV tone, then by all means, go for it. However, if you’re looking for more versatility, you should know that the 67 excels at bright clean guitar play. It won’t do much to counteract the noise even if you use something as simple as an overdrive.
Understanding Single Coil Pickups
Here’s what you need to know. Single coil pickups are legendary for their clear and snappy tone. They have a certain twang, if you will. It’s an iconic sound popularized by the 60s Stratocasters. As you might be aware of, numerous manufacturers have since tried to replicate the sound to various degrees of success.
Why Pick Noiseless Strat Pickups
Although the Strat sound doesn’t allow any mistakes on your part, it’s not that which makes it difficult to master. Single-coil pickups are notorious for how clear-sounding they are without amplification and how noisy they can get at the same time.
The buzzing or humming sort of background noise can be a serious problem. It may be real quiet when you’re playing in your room one day and noisy the next.
Noiseless pickups focus on eliminating that lingering hum without altering the output capabilities of your guitar. Still, make no mistake. There are plenty of guitarists that find the hum desirable for a more vintage feel.
Active or Passive Pickups?
You should know by now the characteristics of active pickups: loudness, improved sustain, tonal consistency, and so on. Clearly you will need active pickups if you want to play live. But if you’re looking to save some money, then passive pickups can also accommodate you in various indoor venues or rehearsal studios.
If the noise is all you’re concerned about, then you should know that active pickups are generally the best at eliminating that hum. That’s because active pickups maintain the sound clarity regardless of your connection.
This is unlike passive pickups, which tend to be dependent on cable length increase. It’s not just more sustain you’re getting from active pickups. It’s also extra power, less noise, and a less compressed sound.
Last but not least, while passive pickups offer perhaps the best compromise between clean and distorted sounds, active pickups give you either the best clean or the best distorted sounds.
Replacing your stock single coil pickups with noiseless ones is a great way to get rid of the 60-cycle hum without compromising the unique tone of a strat by switching to a humbucker.
One thing to note, however, is that some of these pickups are taller than stock ones. So, either make sure that the pickup routes on your guitar are deep enough to support them, or get ready to make slight modifications.