The Best Telecaster Pickups – Find the Right Pickup! [2020 Update]

By Candace Osmond | Guitar Accessories

If you are a guitar player with a little bit of experience, you know that Stratocaster pickups and Tonerider pickups are no the only option on the market. And is probably that you already know that a Telecaster pickup really helps you create that classic vibe of the vintage pickups. Tele pickups have aided some of the world’s greatest musicians in defining their sound, from Jimmy Bryant to Bruce Springsteen. Strat pickups are very famous, but these Tele pickups have inspired us to discover more about the contribution they can make to helping guitar and electric guitar players in discovering their musical identity, so let’s dig deeper into the best telecaster pickups right away!

Our Pick: Tonerider TRT2 Telecaster

The Tonerider TRT2 is one of the best and the most cost-effective option of all of the Telecasters listed above. Even though it may not be ideal for certain situations, it offers great price for value. Moreover, the Tonerider TRT2 is perfect for a rock and blues player which makes this Telecaster overall best if you want that vintage sound.

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We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We only recommend products that we believe in and test.

How to Find the Right Pickup?

Even with a great Telecaster Guitar, a good pickup will do the big difference. But, the answer to this question is a very tricky one. You can even find a custom shop dedicated to the topic. There is no magic formula that an electric guitar player can apply and spontaneously discover which are the best Telecaster pickups for their sound, or it might even be a Strat! There are many electric guitar pickups in the market. However, there are a few things that you can keep in mind the next time you go pickup shopping:

  • A good electric guitar pickup will complement the woods that your guitar or bass is made from. For example, if you own a guitar with woods that contribute to a bright sound (such as maple and ash), you need a pickup that can further enhance the bright quality of the sound. Alternatively, you can choose to counterbalance it, by adding a pickup with a warmer sound. You get the idea.
  • Telecaster Guitar Pickups should be sought out to match the type of music you play. It’s true that, throughout the years, the world’s best musicians created their own styles without using pickups that were designed specifically for their tones. But that doesn’t mean that your music genre can’t guide you towards more suitable pickups.
  • Playing with distortion or playing “clean” is another factor that determines what kind of pickup is best for you. Choosing a high-output pickup translates into distorted tones, which means that they are more suitable for people who play aggressive music. If you have a cleaner sound, you will need pickups with moderate output.
  • Your budget will be a big factor. Interestingly, more expensive doesn’t always mean better quality or better sound.
  • Another thing to think about is that some of the more expensive pickups are easier to install yourself. If you aren’t confident with soldering the wiring, or possibly making some adjustments to your guitar, then it may be worth the investment in something you can do yourself, rather than spending the money getting someone else to install your pickup. Read more about different areas of guitar maintenance.c
  • One of the things that change the sound of a pickup is the composition of the magnets. Most Telecaster pickups use Alnico magnets but there’s a big difference between Alnico II’s, which gives a bit of a muddy sound and less clarity, and Alnico V’s, which are much brighter and more focused. Somewhere in the middle, you have the solid tone of the Alnico IV.
  • Essentially, as well as thinking about your budget and your installation skills, you need to think about the sound you want your guitar to make and select the pickups that will give you that sound.

What are The Main Advantages of Telecaster Pickups?

The key thing is that a Telecaster Pickup has a distinctively classic and vintage sound. Since their introduction by Leo Fender in 1951, Telecaster pickups have been part of the soundtrack of our lives, used by musicians including George Harrison and Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, and Jeff Buckley, as well as many more iconic music heroes. For more on the differences between Stratocaster and Telecaster, click here.

A bright, clear sound

If you’re a songwriter, you’ll find the humbucker sounds a bit muddy – read more here. They are great for power-chords and soloing, but not so much with the songwriting. The telecaster creates that bright, twangy sound that helps you to really hear all the strings that you play. It’s a bit like having an acoustic but in electric form. When it comes to it, it’s the sound that brings people to the Telecaster pickups. That vintage tone that brings back the greats of the past. When you start playing, people will recognize you’ve got a Telecaster pickup and discerning ears will love you for it. There are a few considerations to bear in mind as you are selecting your pickups.

Understanding Telecaster Pickups

 Much like the P90, a Telecaster pickup can be either for the neck or the bridge of your guitar. Naturally, they are different from one another. They look and sound different. The Tele neck pickup is considerably smaller in size compared to its bridge counterpart. The bridge version has deeper and wider bobbins and uses a brass or steel metal plate as support. The Tele neck pickup, on the other hand, features a smaller bobbin and is hidden beneath a nickel-silver or chrome removable metal cover. Like a Telecaster Guitar, the mechanism on a Telecaster pickup is quite easy to familiarize with: it was a three-way selector switch, combined with a two single coil mechanism. A bridge Telecaster pickup is placed really close to the bridge.

The pole-pieces for the bass are further away from the bridge compared to the one for the treble strings. Because of this, a bridge Telecaster pickup adds a lot of treble to the sound. With every pickup, the most important thing is the sound you can get. Telecaster pickups have made quite a reputation for themselves and their custom shop, and every musician with quite a lot of guitar-playing experience knows that a Telecaster will give a bright tone. When using a single-coil bridge pickup, the results are often rich in treble, being very clear and hot. The Pickup Tele neck result is a sound that’s a bit different because it’s lower in volume and smoother in tone. A lot of guitar players consider that the neck Telecaster pickup sound feel a bit lifeless and, for that reason, aren’t big fans of this particular product.

Understanding Alnico Magnets

A very common term associated with guitar pickups is the Alnico magnet. The term “Alnico” is normally followed by a Roman number, ranging between 2 to 5 (that’s II to V). But what does this all mean?

  • Alnico II magnets are the one responsible for reacting soft highs, richer mids, and warm low ends. When placed in the neck position, the resulting sound is a bit darker.
  • Alnico III magnets have the lowest strength but are good for players that want more treble, compared to the one they get from the Alnico II magnets. Alnico III is commonly found in P90 pickups and sounds great when used in the neck position.
  • Alnico IV magnets are characterized by a flat spectrum. This means that they allow your guitar’s natural character to shine.
  • Alnico V magnets are the strongest out of all four types. You will recognize them by their sharp treble, as well as a tighter low end.

If anyone says that one type of Alnico magnet is better than the other, don’t listen to them. Because each has its own characteristics and gives out a different sound result, it’s all comes down to a matter of personal taste, and discovering which magnet allows you to get the sound you want.

Top 5 Telecaster Pickups

As with every other guitar accessory, finding the right Telecaster pickup could be a matter of trial and error. Some of the world’s greatest musicians have experimented with different sounds of first until they were able to find a style that best defines their personality. We’ve tried to include in this here round-up, five different Telecaster pickups, to cover a wider variety of tastes and budgets.

Tonerider TRT2 Hot Classic Tele Pickup Set – Best Telecaster Pickup for Budget Guitarists: Editor’s Choice

Not gonna lie, Tonerider isn’t exactly a brand famous for their Telecaster pickup production. However, the TRT2 does manage to impress, providing a range of pleasant sound results at a very convenient price. If you ask anyone that’s used a TRT2, they will tell you the exact same thing: “It’s better than I imagined”. The Telecaster pickup set includes a bridge and a neck pickup, both of them featuring Alnico III magnets.

Because of their sound, they are favorite amongst blues and rock guitarists. Both the pickups included in the set have a fat mid-range, not to mention that they are well-balanced. As a pair, these pickups are balanced very well, and you don’t get any shrieking treble. You get a warm sound from the neck and that wonderful big sound twang from the bridge. They are fantastic for a rock and blues player looking for something more from their Telecaster. A great buy for a vintage sound. Overall, the Tonerider is a very nice surprise, and it’s always a pleasure to see the underdogs that can go toe-to-toe with some of the most respectable brands on the market. The TRT2 is a set of pickups that clearly separated the tones, giving you and your listeners the opportunity to enjoy some crisp chords.

Who Should Purchase This?

If you want a reasonably priced product that’s good enough to compete with the bigger brand names in the industry, the Tonerider is an excellent product.

Pros

  • Bridge and neck pickup set
  • Wax potted for reduced hum
  • Perfect for heavy music styles. Also, great for rock or blues, or really any type of music.
  • Among the quieter single-coil pickups.
  • Tone separation is nice and crisp even when playing chords.

Cons

  • May want to raise the pickups closer to the strings as the Alnico III magnets have less pull than Alnico V or Alnico II.
  • A bit muddy for jazz or country where you’ll be looking for a cleaner sound
Product Weight7.4 ounces
Product Dimensions4 x 4 x 1 inches
MagnetsAlnico III
Included Piecesneck and bridge pickups

Fender Tele Vintage Noiseless Pickups: Best for Vintage Sound

Fender is, without a doubt, one of the most respectable Telecaster pickup names on the market right now. This set of Fender telecaster pickups is perfect for players who want that vintage telecaster 60s sound, making this a classic set that has to find its way into your home. Because of the single-coil construction, the sound is clear and classic, perfect for people looking for clarity.

The combination between enamel-coated magnet wire and a set of impeccable Alnico V magnets makes these pickups as silent as humbuckers. Hum is one of the greatest issues with pickups, especially amongst Telecaster product. With this Fender set, that won’t be a problem, as the manufacturer din a great job in canceling hum without compromising the quality of the sound.

Who Should Purchase This?

If you’re a fan of the classic 60s sound and want a decent pair of Telecaster pickups that can accompany your sweet tunes, you will really enjoy using this Fender set.

Pros

  • Classic 60s sound
  • Superior hum cancellation
  • Clear sound, even with distortion pumped up

Cons

  • Hard to install
  • Lacks bass
Product Weight10.4 ounces
Product Dimensions11.4 x 7.5 x 3.5 inches
MagnetsAlnico II
Included Piecesneck and bridge pickups

Seymour Duncan APTL-3JD Jerry Donahue: Best Bridge Pickup

Looking to get a sound that’s more consistent in warm lows and crisp highs? The Seymour Duncan APTL-3JD Jerry Donahue is looking to get you there, with a set of Alnico II magnets that are bound to give your sound a more vintage feel. There’s plenty of sustain to your results, with perfect single notes.

This bridge pickup is the ideal choice for players who are often annoyed by squealing, as the wax-potted cover eliminates that effect. Needless to say, this pickup is destined for every fan of Jerry Donahue, looking to recreate the vintage Tele sound that has made him so popular.

Who Should Purchase This?

Whether you’re a Jerry Donahue fan or not, the Seymour Duncan APTL-3JD will help you get the best bridge pickup sound clarity, perfect for notes that are sweet and crisp.

Pros

  • Mimics Jerry Donahue’s ’52 Telecaster
  • Wax-potted for minimal noise
  • Detailed setup instructions
  • Crisp highs
  • Good note sustain

Cons

  • A lot of hum on distortion
Product Weight4.8 ounces
Product Dimensions4.1 x 2.8 x 1.5 inches
MagnetsAlnico II
Included Piecesone bridge pickup

Seymore Duncan Quarter Pound Telecaster Pickup Set: Best Telecaster Pickup for Being Heard

 Specifically designed with a Fender Telecaster in mind, the Seymour Duncan pickups are popular around the globe. This set is just another demonstration that they know what they are doing. The overwound coil on the Quarter Pound pickup gives you a powerful midrange, cutting through the mix without overdoing it. It’s a beast on the rhythm, with fabulous rich chords and a full tone for the sparkly lead.

The upper midrange has a superlative growl like a P90 and drives while also delivering the punch of a humbucker. The lead bridge pickup has been fitted with ¼ inch pole pieces, producing a stronger magnetic field which significantly boosts output. The neck pickup has been designed to match this output and tone but uses 3/16-inch pole pieces and chrome-brass plates. It gives the Tele the teeth it needs when soloing, but the warmth for your rhythm.

Pros

  • Great with a baseplate added
  • Lovely warmth and sustain.
  • Great for rock music
  • Well suited for rhythm or lead.

Cons

  • A bit of unwanted 60 cycle hum
Product Weight 1 ounces
Product Dimensions6.25 x 4.5 x 1.5 inches
MagnetsAlnico V
Included Piecestwo bridge pickup

EMG T System Prewired Telecaster Guitar Pickup Set Plus Control Plate System: Best Telecaster Pickup for Easy Install

 The unique selling point of the EMG-T pickups is that they have the sound and feel of a humbucker, not exactly the way a single-coil would be expected to sound.

The tone is a little suaver and more sophisticated. In addition, this pickup set is great for those who lack the confidence with wiring and soldering as they are completely prewired with switches, pots, and pickups all set to just snap into place and get going, though some have reported that they needed to enlarge the holes in the guitar to make it fit. Each pickup has EMGs own Quik-Connect header and mating cable for quick installation. The volume and tone controls, battery clip, and output jack are prewired, and diagrams are included.

Pros

  • Easy to fit with no wiring or soldering required
  • Super smooth sound
  • quiet

Cons

  • at the pricey end of the market
  • may need a little guitar modification to fit
Product Weight 1.14 pounds
Product Dimensions10 x 3 x 8 inches
MagnetsAlnico I
Included Pieces 1 prewired control plate
1 stereo output jack
3 sets mounting screws and springs
2 pickup cable
1 output cable

Fender Generation 4 Noiseless Telecaster Single Coil Pickup: Best Telecaster Pickup for reduced feedback.

 At the more expensive end of the market, you’ll find the Generation 4 Noiseless Pickup. Fender has created something impressive here. They’ve managed to create that brilliant vintage tone that you’re looking for with a Telecaster Pickup, but they’ve taken out the unwanted noise that you sometimes get with single-coils. The Generation 4 is proof that clever design really can still make improvements to guitar technology.

The low end is tight, the high end is clear, and the middle levels have got all the power you need. The shielded wire on the inside offers even more noise reduction. Of course, it comes with all the installation hardware you need. The fit is standard for any stock Telecaster pickup, though some have said that as they are double stacked, they are a little taller and need a little fiddling to get them in place. The great thing about this pickup is that you get that crisp and bright sound and you still have plenty of space to crank it up and let those single-coils sings without getting that excessive feedback noise. A super buy for those smooth, modern, and noiseless sounds.

Pros

  • Sounds great – that vintage tone!
  • Noiseless – what a dream!
  • Perfect fit and style.

Cons

  • At the pricey end of the market.
  • Can be tricky to install
Product Weight 0.035 ounces
Product Dimensions 1.5 x 5 x 5 inches
Magnets Alnico V
Included Pieces- two single-coil Telecaster pickups.
- Installation hardware included

Fender Tex-Mex Telecaster Single Coil Pickup Set: Best Telecaster Pickup For different styles of music

 Lastly is the Fender Tex-Mex. This really does have a different sound to the other options on the market. The Tex-Mex aren’t like traditional Fender Telecaster pickups. While you still get some of the original Telecaster sounds, you’ll also get more of a humbucker feel. They give much more drive when they are cranked up. It is overwound which means it gives a clear bass and crisp highs.

There’s a good range of dynamics available making them ideal for styles of music such as blues rock where you might want a bit more distortion, but also for the country, jazz, or funk. The Tex-Mex has flush mount pole pieces and uses Alnico V magnets, giving a great hot vintage sound. It’s perfect for those players who go from clean to mean and everything in between. It gives crisp clean tones and earthy gritty sounds. It really will be the vintage-style Fender tone you’ve grown to love. This is great when you want a bit more sound and a clear tone without too much feedback.

Pros

  • Alnico V magnets for great fender tone
  • Suitable for more overdrive
  • Overwound for a clear bass with crisp highs
  • clear and deep tone

Cons

  • not sensationally different sound quality.
Product Weight 8.2 ounces
Product Dimensions 5 x 5 x 1.5 inches
Magnets Alnico V
Included Pieces- two single-coil Telecaster pickups.
- installation hardware included

JBE Joe Barden Modern T-Style Pickup Set: Best High-end Option

This really is one of those products that manage to take the sound to the next level. Getting those crispy notes has never been easier, especially if your own the Joe Barden Modern Telecaster set.

The pickups are perfect for out-of-the-box use since they match all standard Tele routes. At their core, lies a four shielded cable system, for those guitar players that want to fiddle around with several wiring combinations, in order to get the best out of their sweet guitar tunes. Mainly designed for country musicians, the set can also have a rock’n’roll application. The fat bridge tone is combined with a balanced response on the out strings, so you’re bound to have no complaints.

Who Should Purchase This?

The JBE Joe Barden Modern T-Style Pickup Set is for people who aren’t afraid to spend more money to get the best quality product. Its superior noise cancellation and the fact that it has a fatter tone makes it the ideal choice for people that understand that, sometimes, quality is indeed reflected by the price.

Pros

  • Fat tone
  • Perfect for country music
  • Balanced response on outer strings
  • Hum cancellation
  • Match standard Tele routes

Cons

  • Very expensive
Product Weight1 pound
Product Dimensions4 x 7 x 2 inches
MagnetsN/A
Included Piecesneck and bridge pickups

DiMarzio DP172C: Best Neck Pickup

For the best twang to your sound, here is a DiMarzio neck pickup that might just do the trick. For lovers of the true vintage tunes, this product aims to please, with its chrome cover that emits an elegant and classy vibe.

The double wax-potting is here to make sure all performances are free of annoying squeals, but keep in mind that the single-coil mechanism will produce that inevitable hum. You can enjoy great dynamic range and twang with this neck pickup, with a bluesy sound that almost makes you feel you ripped DiMarzio off by paying so little for it. It’s the best choice for people who don’t really want to buy an entire pickup set but would benefit from a good neck pickup, to get the best fat sounds they can hope for.

Who Should Purchase This?

If you don’t want to pay extra for a bridge pickup you don’t need, you can consider purchasing this neck bridge, perfect for players that want a product responsive in a wide variety of dynamic ranges.

Pros

  • Great dynamic range coverage
  • Double wax-potting
  • Easy to install
  • Bluesy sound
  • Alnico V magnets

Cons

  • Lows get muddy on distortion
Product Weight0.32 ounces
Product Dimension3.1 x 1.5 x 1.4 inches
MagnetsAlnico V
Included Piecesone neck pickup

FAQs About Telecaster Pickups

 
What makes a telecaster pickup?

A telecaster pickup comes with two single-coil pickups and a bridge that is wide and long than the counterpart, and it produces a very powerful tone.

Why is the telecaster pickup slanted?

The telecaster pickup is slanted because in this way, you can get a better table response and there is less bass which could ruin the sound.

Are pickups worth changing?

Yes, they are. You can easily change the sound of the guitar with changing your pickups.

How does a telecaster pick up work and why do we need two pickups?

A pickup is like a microphone for an electric guitar. It uses magnets to sense the vibration of your strings and copper coils to convert these into electrical signals that can be amplified. Usually, the core material is alnico or ferrite. However, if you start changing the core material or the number of coils, the sound begins to change. I’m sure you’ve noticed that where on the guitar you pluck the string makes a difference to the sound it makes. By the neck, the sound is softer and warmer, while by the bridge it’s twangy and bright. Because of this, most guitars have two pickups, one by the bridge and one by the neck. You can then select the combination of sounds that you hear from each.

What are the differences between Stratocaster and Telecaster pickups?

There’s actually a huge difference between a Stratocaster and Telecaster pickup. This starts with the shape and the origin of the pickup. The telecaster pickup was adapted from a pickup Fender was already making for a lap-steel guitar. Because of this, the Telecaster bridge pickup is taller and longer than the Stratocaster. This means that there is more area to wind additional wire to a squatter bobbin, leading to higher output. In addition, the Telecaster bridge pickup is mounted on a metal base plate, while the Stratocaster ones are mounted on plastic. A steel plate increases the inductance of the coils, making the pickup more powerful. A steel, copper, or brass plate will boost the bass and low to mid-range of the guitar, giving a much warmer sound. The Stratocaster bridge pickup, mounted on their plastic pickguard and next to a floating bridge, gives a much cleaner sound, like a bell.

How do I install new Telecaster pickups?

For some people, this may be a little daunting. The last thing you want to do is fiddle around with your precious instrument and make a mess of it! On the plus side, installing a new pickup is straightforward. First, carefully remove the strings and pickguard (if you have one) and then unmount and disconnect your current pickups. A little soldering may be required to wire in your new pickup, though some have a no-solder fitting, and then you just replace the pickguard and strings! If you’re still unsure, it’s worth having a look for a video tutorial online or taking it to a professional.

Conclusion: Which Telecaster Pickup is the Best?

Each of the Telecaster Pickups we’ve listed is great, but all for different purposes. If you’re looking for something that really packs a punch on a budget, then the Tonerider TRT2 Hot Classics Telecaster Pickup Set might be the one for you. On the other hand, if budget is not an issue for you and you may want something nice and easy to install, then you’ll love the EMG T System Prewired Telecaster Guitar Pickup Set Plus Control Plate System From a sound point of view, you might want to go for the Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Telecaster Pickup Set with its great growl and punch.

For a distinctive, almost humbucker, hot vintage gritty sound, take a look at the Fender Tex-Mex Telecaster Single-Coil Pickup Set Or for a quieter play without the trademark hum that puts people off the single-coil pickups, you couldn’t do better than the Fender Generation 4 Noiseless Telecaster Single Coil Pickup. Two other types of pickup you might also consider are the P90 – a larger single-coil pickup with a rougher, more treacly sound, or a Humbuckers, which uses two separate pickup coils, each wound in different directions over a central magnet to cancel out the “hum”, or noise, common to single-coil pickups.To find out more about P90 and Humbucker pickups, check out our P90 vs. Humbucker guide or join the debate about Humbuckers and Single-Coil pickups. In the end, what you decide to go for will be a matter of what is important for you in a pickup.

However, our personal pick has to be the Tonerider TRT2 Hot Classics Telecaster Pickup Set for delivering a fantastic sound on a reasonable budget. The vintage sound and the great crisp tone separation make this a good package and well worth the investment. We hope this information was helpful to you. With a new set of pickups, your relationship with your guitar will go to a whole new level. For more information look at our overview of Electric Guitars, parts of guitars, and how to choose between them.

Our Pick: Tonerider TRT2 Telecaster

The Tonerider TRT2 is one of the best and the most cost-effective option of all of the Telecasters listed above. Even though it may not be ideal for certain situations, it offers great price for value. Moreover, the Tonerider TRT2 is perfect for a rock and blues player which makes this Telecaster overall best if you want that vintage sound.

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We may receive compensation from the companies whose products we review. We only recommend products that we believe in and test.

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