I built a Strat neck/body. Looking for either single or humbucking pickups. Want decent sustain, maybe little distortion (as volume is increased). I like Billy Gibbons hot sound (He plays SDuncan. I guess high output level PU?). I can go with either pickup combination. Is there single coils worth looking into? What about humbuckers? I know a lot of Strat players like to use Tex Mex single in bridge position. (I know they get real expensive so probably buy used ones. I'll have to listen before I buy.) Don't have an amp as of yet.
Edited by cool9 (12/02/1209:42 PM)
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Not a big fan of Tex Mex. Give the Pro-Series Gilmour EMG-DG20 drop in pickguard with pre-wired active single EMG's with SPC Presence Control & EXG Guitar Expander circut a look. You can build in a battery compartment instead of using the battery under the pick guard. (I have SSS, HSS and HH Pro Series drop-ins on three different Strats and they all sound pretty damn good)
Ps. You can order different colors before buying if you don't like cream pups with white pearl. There are a lot of other Drop-in choices from EMG out there and they run about $300...
Edited by Larryz (12/03/1209:51 AM) Edit Reason: Ps.
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It bears noting that a Strat-style guitar with humbuckers will have some tonal differences from a Les Paul-style guitar with the same humbuckers; the longer scale-length, woods, and construction make for a different overall tone. Eddie Van Halen, among many, many others, got some pretty good results, though, right?
Geoff and Larry have excellent suggestions above. If you go for the EMG's, pick from their active (battery-powered) models that have AlNiCo magnets, and I HIGHLY recommend that you also get their SPC EQ/preamp/mid-boost control (it can also be used with passive pickups from other makers). Their EXG is also excellent, but can only be used with active EMG pickups. (Note that you should use the volume and tone pots that EMG supplies for their pickups, they're a different resistive-value than the norm.) The active EMG's use low-powered magnets, not needing strong magnets due to their active electronics; this translates into exceptional sustain due to less magnetic-pull against the strings as they vibrate, and much less likelihood of the weird problems that can sometimes result from having the pickups adjusted too close to the strings. In fact, EMG's generally work very well when very high and close to the strings, allowing for enough room for the strings to vibrate without touching the pickups and buzzing.
Billy Gibbons' "Pearly Gates" signature-pickups from Seymour Duncan are based on the original "P.A.F." humbucker pickups in his 1959 Gibson Les Paul, which he named "Pearly Gates". They're rather "vintage" in output, medium/medium-hot, not terribly over-powerful but definitely with a little extra sizzle and kick; they're more about tone and letting the amp and pedals do the work for overdrive, distortion and sustain.
If you like that sound, maybe you might just try those same SD "Pearly Gates" models; in general, look for vintage-P.A.F.-style humbuckers for the bridge and neck positions, and get a good, low or medium power tube-amp; and then talk to me and others here for more on the set-up of their height and pole-pieces, and also the "play the amp" approach.
I can highly recommend the Golden Age and Golden Age - Parsons Street humbuckers from Stewart-MacDonald; I've played through some in friends' guitars and they're vinatge-y sweet! AND they're not too expensive, either.
Note that the particularly vintage-style Parsons Street models come with your choice of either AlNiCo II or AlNiCo V magnets, as Neck and Bridge sets or as mixed-sets (one A2, one A5); read their descriptions of the differences, they're both beautiful, just different variations.
Also note that the Parsons Street models are NOT wax-potted; that means, their coils aren't dipped in hot wax (the original/vintage Gibson P.A.F.'s weren't, either), which can be good for vintage-like tone and sensitivity, but also allows for potential trouble with microphonic-feedback from parasitic-oscillation, which yields whistling, ringing, squealing oscillation noises IF you're using high-gain pedals and/or amps and/or have the guitar too close to the amp's electronics, etc. (NOT to be confused with "acoustic/natural/musical feedback", where the guitar sustains and sings with feedback as it picks up vibration from the speakers.) Although, sometimes a sonic shower of sparks from oscillating feedback squalls can be just the thing!
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I like Lace products, they have a smooth dynamic range and with the Dually's, and the Tone Characteristic choices (RED BLUE GOLD), you can really build a 4/5 pickup configuration that has a consistent color across splits, series, parallel combos. The full tap wiring let's you mix easily with a 5 way super switch and push pull tone knobs.
They are super low noise in a classic single coil config and unreal in Dually config.
Also, they are super low magnetic drag with medium output. So the sustain is the best in the business.
However, if you like that Billy tone, buy Billy pickups!