Or Can They?
I have a hunch that they can. Of course, considering the subjective nature of sounds and guitar tones, every pickup is potentially somebody’s favourite. For some a Strat pickup that doesn’t sound traditionally like a Strat is a great thing. For others that would be heresy.
My experience of different pickups is mainly regarding Strats, which is why I’m trying an experiemnt to see if my hunch about pickups is right or not. This idea I have is that it’s possible to get a tone that blows people away with a set of so-called “crappy” pickups that come with a Walmart guitar, or in other words it matters not the pickups you have in your guitar because no matter what they are some people will think your tone is great and others will think it sucks!
This is not to criticise expensive pickups. There is something nice about hand-wound, boutique pickups and the big names that have such a variety of consistent pickup models to choose form, but in all honesty, my approach has been born out of necessity. I no longer have the budget to indulge in a set of boutique pickups. Right now, my budget is such that even Toneriders, which I decided not so long ago were as much as I’d ever need to spend to get all the wonderful tone I ever wanted are more expensive than I can bear.
I’ve discovered through scouring Ebay that there are alternatives that make Toneriders look very expensive and on paper sound very promising. Some of them even have rave reviews by satisfied users and some of these pickup offerings are made with ceramic magnets too.
I am seriously considering a set of Strat pickups that cost about £15 GBP! What’s more is that they are (supposedly) made with alnico V pole pieces and are low out put, not too unlike the something like the Fender Custom Shop ’69s. That interests me greatly because it’s such a low investment that I haven’t lost much if I don’t like them (notice I didn’t say “if they are no good” – it’s all subjective remember?)
It’s an easy test really. I’ll probably try those cheap pickups and if I really can’t stand them or make them work for me I can always save up for another set of Tonerider Alnico II Blues (which I know I love).
The attraction of these rather low-output pickups is that I can try cranking my amp more and see how it compares to driving the rig harder from the pickups (although my Alnico II Blues are not very hot pickups).
I’m curious to see if it really is possible to have “serious” tone with “Parts-Bin” pickups. I suspect it is actually. I certainly hope it is.
This attempt to make use of the cheapest stuff possible (within reason) I will elaborate on when I document my up-coming Strat build from parts, which I’m aiming to keep to a budget that totals less than or equal to the price of a Vintage Modifed Strat (locally to me that’s just over £200).