Struggling with Strat bridge p/u.

Riverdrifter

Squier-Meister
Nov 5, 2022
117
Illinois, USA
I recently bought a Squire Strat SE. I haven’t owned many strats, well actually only 1, and that was about 15 years ago. It was an MIM Standard with a Duncan hot rails in the bridge and a Lace gold in the neck. It was a pretty nice guitar, and I was pretty happy with it. I was a Tele / Les Paul guy though, and eventually sold it for another Paul.

I enjoy the comfort of the Strat, for just chilling and playing. I love the tones from the neck pickup, but I just hate the bridge. I can’t seem to get anything I’m happy with, clean or dirty, no matter what pickup height. It’s just thin, trebley, and unpleasant to my ears.

Does anyone have any suggestions for a pickup swap? Do I just need to stick a humbucker in there, and realize I’m “that guy”?

Thanks!
 

DougMen

Dr. Squier
Jun 8, 2017
9,741
Honolulu, HI
I recently bought a Squire Strat SE. I haven’t owned many strats, well actually only 1, and that was about 15 years ago. It was an MIM Standard with a Duncan hot rails in the bridge and a Lace gold in the neck. It was a pretty nice guitar, and I was pretty happy with it. I was a Tele / Les Paul guy though, and eventually sold it for another Paul.

I enjoy the comfort of the Strat, for just chilling and playing. I love the tones from the neck pickup, but I just hate the bridge. I can’t seem to get anything I’m happy with, clean or dirty, no matter what pickup height. It’s just thin, trebley, and unpleasant to my ears.

Does anyone have any suggestions for a pickup swap? Do I just need to stick a humbucker in there, and realize I’m “that guy”?

Thanks!
If you want to retain some of the Strat sound, then a HB or Hotrail won't do it. A better option is to just put a hotter Strat SC in there, or use an EQ pedal with the lows and mids boosted and the highs lowered a bit when using the bridge pickup.
 

ghostwolf

Squier-holic
Dec 30, 2009
1,578
texas
Is the bridge pickup jumper-wired to the tone control for the middle pickup?
That will help some, as will setting the bridge PU opposite to a normal strat-
bass side raised higher, treble side lower.
Barring that, try a hotter wound pickup, they thicken the sound but retain more single coil clarity.
 

DougMen

Dr. Squier
Jun 8, 2017
9,741
Honolulu, HI
Here's a diagram of a Strat with a tone control on the bridge, and a diagram of the layout of both types of 5 way Strat switches, so you can wire the tone controls any way you want to
c843457d457e652fa9bd6ba68dd65c90.jpg This shows the 1st tone control for the neck and middle and the second one for the bridge. If you'd rather have the first one for the neck and the second one for the middle and bridge, then just put the jumper on the 2nd and 3rd lugs on the switch bottom, instead of on the 1st and 2nd as shown here
219410-98e53d1f6ff6ae16a029508a1fda44eb.png

On either switch type, the two common lugs need to be jumpered together to connect both sides of the switch together. Otherwise, the tone controls won't work.
 

Hal Nico

Squier-Nut
Dec 21, 2020
995
UK
I use a Master Volume and Tone on all my Stratocasters and then you can use the 2nd Tone control for other mods if you like.



Just adding the Tone circuit to the bridge pickup changes it's sound even when the Tone control is fully open by the nature of the electrical effect of an RC ( Resistor Capacitor) circuit. In the case of Strats it takes the harshness off the bridge pickup.

HTH :)
 

BlueSquirrel

Squier-holic
Gold Supporting Member
Dec 21, 2018
3,187
France
I recently bought a Squire Strat SE. I haven’t owned many strats, well actually only 1, and that was about 15 years ago. It was an MIM Standard with a Duncan hot rails in the bridge and a Lace gold in the neck. It was a pretty nice guitar, and I was pretty happy with it. I was a Tele / Les Paul guy though, and eventually sold it for another Paul.

I enjoy the comfort of the Strat, for just chilling and playing. I love the tones from the neck pickup, but I just hate the bridge. I can’t seem to get anything I’m happy with, clean or dirty, no matter what pickup height. It’s just thin, trebley, and unpleasant to my ears.

Does anyone have any suggestions for a pickup swap? Do I just need to stick a humbucker in there, and realize I’m “that guy”?

Thanks!
I think you may need a hotter bridge pickup with less treble, either in a single coil shape ( hot or rail pickup) or as a humbucker (with a different pickguard) or even a P90 (with a different pickguard you might have yo file yo adjust).
If you go the single coil way, think about a second-hand
Duncan designed sc-101 bridge (about 12 Kohm, it's the least expensive in my list), Seymour Duncan hot pickup or hot rail pickups (about 15 Kohm, can't remember the exact references for now) or Di Marzio DP110 FS-1.

As to humbuckers, make sure the one you choose has the correct string spacing ( aka trembucker). Look for Duncan Dedigned HB-102 bridge (they used to be in Squiers), Squier or Fender humbuckers (forreg. Shawbucker) or moderate output humbuckers such as Epiphone's, Tonerider (not too expensive) or any other brand.

Concerning P90s, if you can find second-hand Epiphone's they are usually lovely.

It might also be possible to fit a jazzmaster bridge pickup to a strat. They are not exactly P90s but they too sound beautiful and in the ballpark.

Have fun modding !
 
Last edited:

dbrian66

Squier-Axpert
Jul 14, 2017
10,409
Maryland, USA
I fully understand your frustration! I am a humbucker guy myself, but felt I needed a traditional sss Strat in my collection. But like you, I just don’t get along well with the bridge pickup. I added a toggle switch to turn on the neck pickup regardless of the five way switch. The neck and bridge together is one of my favorite Strat pickup combos.
 

dbrian66

Squier-Axpert
Jul 14, 2017
10,409
Maryland, USA
Here is another suggestion I just remembered. I put a set of these in a Starcaster and loved them. My nephew “borrowed” the guitar and I haven’t seen it since! (He a much better musician than me so I’m glad the guitar is being used). They are hybrid Alnico pickups. V’s in the bass strings and II’s in the treble strings. The II’s are not near as bright, so they take away a lot of that harsh treble sound. They are pretty affordable, so not much lost if it doesn’t get you where you want to be.

 

DougMen

Dr. Squier
Jun 8, 2017
9,741
Honolulu, HI
Tone controls are there for a reason, and are amazingly effective at tone shaping, They also cost a lot less than a new fancy pickup to get the same desired effect.
This is like audiophiles- "My system doesn't have enough highs. I need new cables or speakers or both", to which I reply "Did you try turning up the treble a bit on your amp?"
 

MichaelD

Squier-Meister
Nov 6, 2022
176
Indianapolis
I recently bought a Squire Strat SE. I haven’t owned many strats, well actually only 1, and that was about 15 years ago. It was an MIM Standard with a Duncan hot rails in the bridge and a Lace gold in the neck. It was a pretty nice guitar, and I was pretty happy with it. I was a Tele / Les Paul guy though, and eventually sold it for another Paul.

I enjoy the comfort of the Strat, for just chilling and playing. I love the tones from the neck pickup, but I just hate the bridge. I can’t seem to get anything I’m happy with, clean or dirty, no matter what pickup height. It’s just thin, trebley, and unpleasant to my ears.

Does anyone have any suggestions for a pickup swap? Do I just need to stick a humbucker in there, and realize I’m “that guy”?

Thanks!
I’m a newb here but I always run the volume on 8 and it really sweetens it up! Rolls off that brittle ice pick.

I have a tone wired also (mine came like this)I roll it back to 7.

I read something about the mod is easy - just soldiering 1 jumper or something . Solder is not my forte you’ll have to research this (i have shakey hands and am clumsy as all hell!)

Your height may be a factor too. Some people like them close but I actually like them farther away.
 

Dinomikesr

Squier-Nut
Nov 25, 2019
761
South-East
Here's a diagram of a Strat with a tone control on the bridge, and a diagram of the layout of both types of 5 way Strat switches, so you can wire the tone controls any way you want to
View attachment 246703 This shows the 1st tone control for the neck and middle and the second one for the bridge. If you'd rather have the first one for the neck and the second one for the middle and bridge, then just put the jumper on the 2nd and 3rd lugs on the switch bottom, instead of on the 1st and 2nd as shown here
View attachment 246704

On either switch type, the two common lugs need to be jumpered together to connect both sides of the switch together. Otherwise, the tone controls won't work.
This. Add the jumper wire for the bridge pickup. You can also add a on/off mini switch for the neck pickup and use that with the bridge.
I use both.
 

kdm1218

Squier-Meister
Jun 18, 2021
446
TX
I use a tone control dedicated to the bridge pup, never turned up past around 7. And a hotter bridge pickup. I found the Oatmeal Stout from Bootstrap Pickups and it is fantastic. Bootstrap will also do custom stuff for you for very reasonable if you know what you want or you can probably contact them and dialogue about what you have and what you’d like different.

One other thing, I only use the bridge pickup alone for leads. And any time that’s the case I’m also adding a drive pedal, generally a tube screamer type. Then it cuts through a mix but also doesn’t sound thin.
 


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