If you are new to building DIY kit guitars than the standard TE model (modeled on the Fender Telecaster) is a great option, thanks to its straightforward assembly. However, from time to time we receive inquiries from TE owners wanting to know what are the best Telecaster pickups to replace the stock pickups the TE model comes with.
Telecaster Pickup Upgrade Guide
In the following post, we’re going to take a look at some of the best telecaster pickups available. However rather than just name the best (typically most expensive) option I’m going to list the highest reviewed telecaster pickups within three distinct price categories as, let’s face it we all have different budgets when it comes to our guitars.
I’ll also list some favorably reviewed Telecaster pickups for different musical genres e.g. country and blues.
But first let’s set some rules.
- If upgrading from stock pickups, customers generally aren’t interested in cheap replacement pickups as the generic stock pickups the TE comes with while not super high quality is equal to what most entry level Telecaster style guitars come assembled with. As a result, we won’t be reviewing Telecaster pickups under $50. As a result, the following price categories will be used to determine the best Telecaster pickups: $50 – $100, $100 – $150, $150+
- The pickups we will be reviewing are for standard TE models only e.g. not the Thinline TE which features humbuckers.
- We will be reviewing complete sets only (bridge and neck pickups).
What makes Telecaster Pickups Different
Before we get started it’s important to point out the differences between Telecaster pickups and other standard single coil pickups as these differences have a major impact on the Telecaster’s tone.
Telecaster pickups are unique when compared to other single coil pickups in that the bridge pickup is designed to fit the standard Telecaster ‘Ashtray’ style bridge. Contrary to what many customers believe, you can’t buy just any stock single coil pickup to fit the bridge. The bridge pickup must be a ‘Telecaster’ pickup and as opposed to a typical single coil pickup has a metal baseplate that is in connection with the ‘ashtray’ bridge.
Secondly, the neck pickup is taller yet smaller in size compared to a standard single coil pickup and in many cases is covered which reduces high-frequency output. The neck pickup also typically uses a thinner gauge wire to standard single coil pickups and features a smaller bobbin.
These key differences contribute a great deal to the ’twang’ fans of the Telecaster are so familiar with.
Telecaster Pickups Review
Best Telecaster Pickup ($50 – $100) – Fender Pure Vintage Reissue Telecaster Pickups – $83.99
Fender Pure Vintage Reissue Telecaster Pickups represent extremely good value at just $83.99 and deliver that classic 50’s Tele twang thanks to the alnico 3 magnets, enamel coated pickup wires and tin plated copper base plate.
Featuring flush mounted pole pieces for an evenly distributed string response Fender Pure Vintage pickups have been very well received by customers with an average star rating of 4/5 with over 70% of customers giving a 5-star rating.
From a pure value perspective, these pickups are extremely hard to beat and sound great compared to much higher priced options. Many reviewers have commented that ‘these pickups have brought my Telecaster to life’.
Best Telecaster Pickup ($100 – $150) – Dimarzio Twang Kings – $126.98
The Dimarzio Twang Kings are known for their note separation and dynamics and are incredibly responsive to your own playing thanks to the controlled tension string winding and hand calibrated magnets. Both pickups are wax potted twice (the component is soaked in wax) which reduces interference and unwanted noise.
Bear in mind, however, the Twang King is not a high output pickup and therefore if you are looking for a high gain pickup for your Tele they may not be your best option. But for those looking for a responsive, authentic sounding Tele style pickup set, you really can’t go wrong with a set of Twang Kings from Dimarzio. Extremely well suited to Jazz and blues playing and extremely good value at just $126.98 with an average customer rating of 5 stars.
Best Telecaster Pickup ($150+ ) Lindy Fralin Tele Blues Special Pickup Set – From $175.00
Another extremely responsive pickup set, the Lindy Fralin Blues Special packs a real punch, yet maintains a clean, warm sound without sounding muddy. Customers who have purchased this pickup set more often than not become Lindy Fralin fans for life.
While a little more expensive than the Fender and DiMarzio options listed above, the cost difference is negligible when considering the overall tonal variety and obvious quality of this pickup.
While some customers will be peeved that the neck pickup isn’t covered as per most Telecaster neck pickups, with an average customer rating of 5 stars many consider this pickup to be the best Telecaster pickup available on the market.
- Tonerider TRT2 Hot Classic Tele pickup set
- Fender Custom Shop ’51 Nocaster Pickup Set
- Van Zandt Telecaster Single Coil Pickup Set
Best Telecaster pickups for blues
Lindy Fralin Tele Blues Special Pickup
Best Telecaster pickups for rock
Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Tele Set Electric Guitar Electronics
Best Telecaster pickups for country
Fender Pure Vintage Reissue Telecaster Pickups
Best Telecaster pickups for jazz
Lindy Fralin Tele Blues Special Pickup
Still unhappy with the sound of your pickups?
Perhaps it’s not the pickups at all? In which case I highly recommend adjusting your pickup height. Here’s an article that will show you how to do that correctly.
Lastly, if nothing seems to be working, be sure to check your intonation and replace your current strings. You might be surprised to know just how much of a difference can be attributed to your strings, so experiment a little with different gauges and brands.