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FDP Forum / The 'Pup' Tent / Does anybody prefer "lower output" single coils in the BRIDGE of a strat?

Next 20 Messages  


Mar 2nd, 2016 02:06 PM   Edit   Profile  

Hi guys,
long time strat player here who just has never been satisfied with a bridge sound. My neck and middle pickups have kept me happy for years - (I use Dimarzio Area 58's). But in the bridge, I've flipped around tons of pickups and keep wanting more. I've tried Area 61's, Fralin's, Mini-Humbuckers, lots of stuff. Only thing I've never tried is a low output one, like say another Area 58.

Does anybody do this? I know conventional wisdom I've always heard is that hotter sounds better in the bridge.

I play so much on the neck and middle that I dial my sounds in for those pickups - then when I switch to the bridge the mids and highs just become too pronounced.

The mini-hums don't quite do it for me either. I hear too much power and sizzle from them. Just wanted to see what other people's journey has been. My guitar is a bright sounding ash/maple combo

Oh, and before you ask - yes I do have a tone control wired to the bridge! It just doesn't seem to cure my issues.

Contributing Member

Santee CA

Poser extraordinaire
Mar 2nd, 2016 02:50 PM   Edit   Profile  

No and yes.

With single coils I prefer a slightly higher output bridge pup relative to the others. To me the best bridge pup for a Strat is a lower output full sized humbucker, like a Fender DH-1. That's assuming the other pups are single coil sized.



Mar 2nd, 2016 03:28 PM   Edit   Profile  

Thanks Viera for the response. I've flip-flopped with full sized humbuckers before and may end up going that route. I'll check out the Fender DH-1

Mick Reid
Contributing Member


American-made in Oz!!
Mar 2nd, 2016 03:55 PM   Edit   Profile  

Ok, there's a couple of things to think about here.

Bridge pickup is a "higher output" than the M & N to compensate for the tighter string vibration pattern that occurs at that last 2" before the saddle(s). It's a matter of physics.

If you're dislike is the *tone* of the bridge pickup, (IMO) putting a lower output pup in there is only give you the same "mids and highs just become too pronounced" but at a lower volume.
So to balance the volume with the N & M, you have to either adjust them lower or the bridge higher and you'll end up chasing your tail going that way.

I suggest, doing a simple wiring mod that allows you to add the bridge to Tone 2 control.

I do this to *all* my strats. Wouldn't have one without it. You can do it so you still have the tone control on the middle or so it's just on the bridge. I also like to add a seperate cap to the bridge tone pot. (.033 for me, ymmv)

This mod allows you to set your amp tone to the sweet spot for your neck, then dial back the tone on the bridge to cut the ice pick but still get twang.

FWIW that is my approach to setting up my amp tone.

Do a interwebs search for "bridge tone mod strat".
There's heaps to choose from.

Contributing Member

Santee CA

Poser extraordinaire
Mar 2nd, 2016 04:05 PM   Edit   Profile  

Absolutely what Mick said regarding tone control for the bridge pup, a must.



Mar 2nd, 2016 04:23 PM   Edit   Profile  

Benyamin5 already stated that he has a tone control wired to the bridge. I'm curious what Strat players will say because I have tone controls wired to the bridge on my guitars, but I'm not satisfied with the bridge tone on one of my guitars.



Mar 2nd, 2016 05:02 PM   Edit   Profile  

Mick Reid, that makes sense - can't argue with physics.

And yes, as achord pointed out, I mentioned that I already have a tone control wired to the bridge. However I don't have a separate cap for it, that's something I could try.

I'm just trying to find a solution - I have definitely heard a few strat bridge tones on some vintage strats that I liked. I just haven't been able to find the magic myself. I've been sticking to the other 4 positions for years.

My experience seems to show that the only way to get the highs bearable is to use a higher output pickup with more windings, but then the mids sound too aggressive when I play on the lower strings.

Mick Reid
Contributing Member


American-made in Oz!!
Mar 2nd, 2016 06:13 PM   Edit   Profile  

"Oh, and before you ask - yes I do have a tone control wired to the bridge!"

D'oh!!!! My bad!!! Don't know how I missed that :^(

"However I don't have a separate cap for it, that's something I could try."

^yes, try it^
I've seen caps as hight as .047 in there, but like I said, my preference is .033

Modal Magic
Contributing Member

MBJ, Highway Hound.

You Can't Bend It Aussie!
Mar 2nd, 2016 06:21 PM   Edit   Profile  

Echos of previous posts; I like low output bridge pups but I find I have way more joy if they are connected to a tone put to cut the shrill. I generally raise them a bit higher than the neck and middle to increase the relative output.

CS '69s and '57/62s are an example; I wasn't a fan of the bridge pup with these sets until I connected them to the lower tone pot. I now find I spend a lot of time using them now compared to previously.


michigan usa

Mar 3rd, 2016 04:39 AM   Edit   Profile  

Do you play with a band, or mainly at home?

The reason I ask is because there was a time when I had no use for bridge pickups of any type. Too trebly, shrill, etc. Then I started playing in a group and found the bridge pup invaluable. You often times need that sharpness if you wanna be heard in the mix and when combined with the drums, bass, etc. it doesn't sound so harsh.

At home alone I generally prefer the warmth of the neck pup or combo position.

Contributing Member

Eat. Sleep. Guitar.

Mar 3rd, 2016 05:32 AM   Edit   Profile  

"You often times need that sharpness if you wanna be heard in the mix."

Great point.

Another consideration is the relationship between a pickup's resistance, power, design, position, and tone.

The fewer windings a pickup has, the more trebly it will sound.

This is especially critical with Fender's narrow single-coil design because they sample a very short section of string and don't sense a broad range of harmonics.

The bridge position on a Strat is known for a bright tone. Stick a lower-powered Fender SC pickup in there and the brightness goes up even more.

L. Nedmundo


Mar 4th, 2016 07:47 AM   Edit   Profile  

I agree with twangdoodles about bridge pickups in a band mix.

I haven't played guitar in a band in a long time, but for a bridge single coil I really like the Lace Hot Gold in my 2004 Strat. I have the overwound version. It's fatter and less shrill than a regular Strat bridge pickup, but still has enough highs that I usually cut the tone control in that position. If you want true vintage tone, however, it's not the best. If you don't want a pickup that hot, another Lace option might work.

Contributing Member

So. Cal. USA

Mar 4th, 2016 09:59 AM   Edit   Profile  

I think a good part of this is just a dislike for the sound of a Strat's bridge pickup. I'm slightly in this camp but....

As mentioned the bridge position is very useful when playing live. Crunchy classic rock rhythms can really cut nice in this position without being too loud where they get lost in the mix using the bridge or middle. Same goes for surf when you want that drippy pop to cut from your reverb. Gotta be a bridge selection.

A Strat is such a versatile guitar I wouldn't want the bridge PU smoothed much at all. It is sometimes a needed tool. The beauty of the thing is that if the bridge position isn't working for you there are 4 other combinations to choose from. Yes, I have seen players who are on the bridge for everything. Some sound good, some not.

I've been playing mostly VanZandt Blues and Fender 57/62 lately and really like the bridge on both sets. Choice of amplifier, speaker and FX play into all of this as well.

And then there is set up. Pickup height is a big factor to a balanced tone from a Strat. I start with the neck PU and set it as low as I can and still get the output I need making sure the PU is not too high causing odd harmonic distortion. I then move to the middle and balance the volume. Finally moving to the bridge I set it up for just a little more punch than the other two.

None of the pickup have to be mounted in the same plane as the pickguard. Raising or lowering the treble or bass side of any of the pickups can cure string balance issues and round out your tone. I typically set the bridge a little lower on the treble side to take out just a bit of the high end.

Just my take YMMV. Tone, set up and pickup choices are very subjective. I do get complement all the time from other players and almost always after someone has played my rig with one of my Strats.

All this being said I would highly recommend the add bridge mod, sometimes called the Gilmour mod, to anyone who wants to tame their bridge PU a bit. With this mod you have the ability to run the neck and bridge PUs together (or not) in position 1 or 5. The sound can be huge, cuts well and the mix of the two is more pleasing, less bright. A great lead tone for melodic pieces. Nice for choppy rhythms.



Mar 4th, 2016 10:16 AM   Edit   Profile  

^^ This is what I'm thinking of doing on one of my strats. Fender CS '69 pups in the N & M spots, Duncan SSL5 in the bridge. Someday.



Measure twice. Cut once
Mar 4th, 2016 10:43 AM   Edit   Profile  

I have two Strats. One with TS Pups and the other with Fat 50s. I only use the bridge pup when playing in a band set up. It cuts through and the spike to "my" ears is less evident in the band situation. Playing on my own I never use it. Although I will say I like the FF bridge pup better than the TS
I like the idea of the tone mod.

Contributing Member

Subtropical Florida

Mar 4th, 2016 10:51 AM   Edit   Profile  

I find a medium to low output Strat bridge pickup wired for tone perfectly serviceable for clean to medium gain settings. It's nothing a little stomp box can't help along.



Mar 4th, 2016 01:55 PM   Edit   Profile  

These are some great posts here! Thanks for sharing all of your collective knowledge.

Hammond101, only wish I could get to hear your setup in person and see/hear your strats!

I find it interesting that Knowledge Seeker likes the Fat 50's bridge more than the TS. I used to have a Dimarzio Area 61 to go with my Area 58's in the neck and mid. Swapped it once for a higher output "Heavy Blues" which I thought would help, but to my surprise, going higher output actually made it worse for my particular tastes. That's why I had the idea of perhaps going down in output to another Area 58, which would give me even output all across. But I don't know now...

For those that asked, I do often play in bands, with bass, drums, keys, organ, sometimes auxiliaries or a second guitar. Most of the situations I play in I don't have any problem cutting through the mix, but that is likely because my guitar is already bright (ash/maple), and I tend to set the amp to match the neck or middle pickups.

If I take the opposite approach and set it to match the bridge pickup, or change my pickup height as Hammond101 mentioned, that might help me get a little more mileage.

I hear a few strat guys who get good usage out of the bridge, although the majority of strat bridge tones I hear don't do it for me. Just trying to learn the secrets of the few who do get those good sounds! =)

Thanks for sharing guys. If anybody else has tips that haven't been mentioned here yet, I'm all ears!



A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever.
Mar 12th, 2016 02:30 PM   Edit   Profile  

All of mine have the bridge wired to the bottom tone pot. I strongly prefer the sets where the bridge PU has the same resistance/output as the other two-- it is just way sweeter (vision of the Dr. Pepper guy just popped into my head...); caveat is that I play mostly unaccompanied and don't need to cut though any mix.

L. Nedmundo


Mar 12th, 2016 02:57 PM   Edit   Profile  

BTW, I should have mentioned that my Strat does have a tone control for the bridge pickup, which I find extremely useful. I normally have it rolled off more than the neck/middle tone. It works extremely well with overdrive.

I recently bought a G&L Comanche, which has three high-output MFD split-coils similar to P-bass pickups, and the contrast with my Strat is interesting -- to me at least! When it arrived, G&L was having a sale on the hot bridge pickup from the Will Ray signature model, which I had read was a must, so I bought it. Well, I'm not so sure, so I haven't bothered to install it. The stock set is pretty well-balanced, and I think anything hotter might venture too far into humbucker territory.

(Actually, the stock bridge pickup sounds pretty close to the Lace Hot Gold in my Strat. The least Strat-like position is the neck pickup, because it doesn't have much glassy twang.)

Also, its two tone controls are treble and bass cuts. The bass cut is helpful because the Z-coils have so much bass response, and cutting a little bass makes it sound slightly more like a traditional Strat. It's especially helpful on the neck pickup. But I do miss a treble cut dedicated to the bridge position.

Contributing Member


The floor is getting farther away...
Mar 16th, 2016 09:25 PM   Edit   Profile  

You could reverse the angle like Mr. Hendrix did.

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FDP Forum / The 'Pup' Tent / Does anybody prefer "lower output" single coils in the BRIDGE of a strat?

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