The Fender Telecaster was the first mass-produced, commercially successful, solid bodied electric guitar in the world.
Countless musicians use this classic design, from the Kinks to Bruce Springsteen. Dating as far back as 1949, these iconic guitars continue to be popular thanks to today’s musicians.
One reason for this guitar’s success was its unique sound and versatility. Telecasters used a modular design that was quickly and efficiently mass-produced. Meanwhile, the design made it easier for players to service and repair their guitars.
Fender’s classic model is a signature sound that could go from bright and cutting to warm and bluesy depending on the pickup used.
Pickups are one of the most important components of an electric guitar. They pick up the vibration of a string and convert it into an electrical signal that you can boost through an amplifier.
These days, there are even more telecaster pickups than ever before. These offer great versatility in crafting your own unique sound.
Below, you will see some of the best telecaster pickups you can buy for altering the tone of your instrument.
Best Telecaster Pickups (Quick Summary)
- Powerful Midrange Growl – Experience the upper midrange growl and drive of the Quarter Pound for Tele pickups, perfect for your Telecaster guitar.
- High Output Coil – The Quarter Pound Tele Lead, our highest output Tele single coil, delivers a huge sound with an almost P90-like growl, ideal for both recording and live performances.
- Rich and Huge Leads – Leads will jump out and sound fatter than ever, while chords will be rich with sparkly midrange harmonics. Make your electric guitar a rhythm beast with huge-sounding chords.
- Squeal Free Performance – Enjoy a squeal free performance with these pickups, wax potted and featuring a traditional deep drawn chrome plated Telecaster cover for the neck.
- Made in the USA – These high output Tele pickups are hand built in our Santa Barbara, CA factory, ensuring top-notch quality for your electric guitar.
You might know Seymour Duncan for making a lot of great pickups for guitarists. Specifically, musicians who play heavy metal, or hard rock.
These single-coil telecaster pickups have all the warmth and brightness guitarists expect from a telecaster. However, you also get a punchy edge that makes them great for playing at high gain.
If you are part of a punk band and want a pickup that will still sound great when played through a distortion effect, then this product may be what you are looking for.
When you install these pickups, you can expect the sound from your guitar to beef up. The neck pickup is very warm and bright, preserving the original tone of the Telecaster.
Meanwhile, the bridge pickup is one of the highest output products that Seymour Duncan produces. It uses AlNiCo V magnets to produce a larger sound with plenty of growl.
The combination of the two helps to strike the right balance. This way, you can play single notes or strum chords without either becoming too thin or muddy.
Both pickups match the aesthetic of a telecaster, so they will blend in well with the rest of your instrument.
They are also wax potted to eliminate squeaks. This ensures they will help you rock out for many years to come.
- Offers the saturation and thick sound of a humbucker in a single coil pickup.
- Great for playing with overdrive or distortion effects.
- These pickups work equally well for lead or rhythm guitar.
- Set of two single-coil Telecaster pickups
- Noise-free, vintage-style tone
- Shielded wire for even more noise reduction
- Installation hardware included
- DC Resistance: 10.6k
When you plug in your electric guitar, it is normal to hear a quiet humming coming from your amplifier. This noise comes from pickups as the magnetic coils react to the proximity of the strings.
If you want a spotless signal, then it can help to have a pair of noiseless pickups such as these. These pickups offer that vintage, bright, telecaster sound, with no buzzing when you turn on the guitar.
They are also reasonably high output units, which means they will still work well with distortion and overdrive effects.
All the tools you need to install these pickups in your instrument comes included in the box. This makes them very easy to set up.
Companies will compose many noiseless pickups of two coils stacked on top of each other. The same goes for the Generation 4’s. This tightens the noise and preserves space.
The magnets inside the pickups also have shielding. This helps preserve the warm tone that often disappears with the noise.
These pickups will sound great when played clean. However, the still offer a fair bit of crunch and dirt when you need it.
- Offer a vintage telecaster sound.
- Enough dirt to sound good with mild distortion or overdrive.
- Zero hum or buzzing when you play.
- Can be difficult to install if it is your first time changing the pickups on your instrument.
- Replacement pickup system for your existing Tele style Guitar
- Includes original EMG T Set for a tone that is brilliant, responsive, and whisper quiet
- Alnico magnets with custom engineered coils and windings
- Control plate is prewired and mounted with switch, volume, and tone pots
- Solderless install system
Changing the pickup on your guitar can be daunting if you have never done it before. That’s why this set comes pre wired, to make installation straightforward.
These EMG T System pickups come with a spare control panel. This allows you to switch out your guitar hardware completely should you need to.
In terms of sound, the T-Systems offer a very smooth output that is perfect for jazz or blues. They struggle a bit when put through overdrive or distortion effects. But after a bit of tweaking on your amp, you should be able to get them to sound just fine.
Just like the last set of pickups we looked at, these are relatively noiseless. This means you won’t have to combat an irritating hum or buzz.
The control panel comes with a volume knob, tone pot, and a three-way switch, all of which are pre-wired.
If you want to build your own guitar from scratch, then this won’t require soldering to install. As well as the pickups and controls panel, you also get a jack input port and a cable.
- Smooth sound.
- Relatively noiseless.
- Comes pre-wired and can be installed without soldering.
- The pieces may not fit as well on some telecasters as on others.
- Neck 7.5k / Bridge 9.0k, Alnico 3
- Flat magnet polepieces (no stagger) on the bridge pickup for a early 50s correct look
- Scatterwound for maximum tone!
- “push-back” cloth wire for easy installation
- Wax potted and RWRP to reduce feedback and hum
These pickups offer to bridge the gap between the vintage telecaster sound and a more modern tone.
They are a good choice for players who like to switch between different genres. As some genres requiring overdrive and others a clean signal.
The Amazon page for this product claims the pickups use AlNiCo V magnets. However, this is not the case, and they actually use AlNiCo III. The weaker magnets may cause lowering the action on your guitar to get the sound just right. This may be off-putting for some.
However, the use of AlNiCo III magnets contributes to the brighter tone of these pickups. This is great for country and folk music.
While being a little less edgy than the Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounders, these pickups are still very hot and sound great with a bit of overdrive.
Both of the pickups are on a push-back cloth wire. This makes them very easy to install in your instrument.
If you get into the habit of turning your guitars’ volume knob down when you aren’t playing it, these pickups won’t develop too much hum or buzz.
If you don’t do this, then playing your guitar through a distortion effect may cause the pickups to develop too much noise.
- Outstanding balance between vintage and modern tone.
- Wax potted for greater longevity.
- Bright tone, with plenty of crunch when played with distortion.
- Weaker magnets may require you to lower the action on your guitar.
- Enamel-coated magnet wire for warm vintage tone
- Flush-mount magnets for even string response
- Alnico 3 magnets for more focus and enhanced dynamics
- Tin-plated copper base plate
- Period-correct cloth output wire and fiber bobbin
You can’t beat the classics. That’s why these pickups replicate the sound of the very first Telecaster, the Nocaster.
This was one of the initial prototypes that later developed to become the guitar we all know and love today. These pickups have an incredibly bright sound with all the vibrancy of a vintage telecaster.
They are perfect for blues, country and folk music with AlNiCo III magnets for a focused dynamic that is low on noise. If you are used to playing with AlNiCo V magnets, then you may need to lower the action on your guitar.
However, if you are replacing the pickups on your guitar by yourself, adjusting the action on your instrument should be the least of your problems.
These pickups are enamel coated, which is one reason they have such a warm tone.
The cloth output wire and fiber bobbin are both exactly what they used back in 1951. You shouldn’t have any trouble installing the product on older guitars.
However, you may need to put in a bit more work to fit them to more modern models. The screws may struggle to attach to the pickguard.
- Enamel coated for a warm sound and minimal noise.
- Made to be a replica of the pickups used on one of the first prototype telecasters.
- Flush-mount magnets offer an even string response.
- Screws provided may not be suitable for attaching the pickups to more modern telecasters.
- JBE Pickups (Joe Barden) Modern T Set
- Designed for modern country and rock styles
- Fits standard Tele bridge pickup routes
- Bridge is Modern T / Neck is Gatton T
These pickups look a little different from a lot of the other products we have reviewed on this list. They are very expensive, but given their exceptional quality, you really get what you pay for.
Although they look different, you won’t have any problem with installation. The manufacturer configured both pickups to match the standard wiring found in most telecasters.
The T-style Teles provide a fat sound that is very warm and crisp. You get just the right balance between bass and treble.
They are the perfect choice for country and blues artists. These artists want a pickup that sounds great clean, but are still usable with effects. Even when run through a gain pedal, these pickups are completely noiseless.
With a beefy bridge pickup that is built to boost your signal, you can create a much thicker sound. This is great for playing chunky leads, or driving chords, making this product suitable for all players and styles.
- Relatively easy to install.
- Fat tone that is great for both lead and rhythm guitar.
- Noiseless performance even at high gain.
- Very Expensive
Best Telecaster Pickups – Buyers Guide
Buying new pickups (whether they be the best strat pickups or telecaster pickups) for your guitar is no easy feat. There are a lot of different things you need to consider when choosing the right ones.
You not only need to think about the tone you want to create but also what effects you want to play around with. In this section, we will tell you the most important things to know when shopping for new telecaster pickups.
How do the magnets impact my telecaster pickup?
Pickups use magnets that are wrapped in coils of wire. When the string vibrates in the magnetic field, it creates an electrical signal. This signal transfers through the coil of wire and to the output of the guitar.
In this way, the pickup converts the mechanical energy of the string’s vibration into electrical energy. This signal is converted back into mechanical energy (as sound waves) at your amplifier.
The most common magnet type you will see used in pickups is AlNiCo magnets. Manufacturers named these for the metals used to compose them (Aluminum, Nickel and Cobalt).
Often the type of magnet will come with a number, which denotes how strong the magnet is. The original telecaster relied on AlNiCo III magnets, which contributed to its signature warm and bright sound.
These magnets work great for a clean signal. If they are extra hot, they can also handle a bit of distortion and overdrive without producing too much noise.
However, for some players, the sound produced by pickups with AlNiCo magnets can be a bit too thin.
Therefore, pickups targeted at musicians who play heavy metal or rock use the stronger AlNiCo V magnets instead.
These offer a more edgy sound that works well with distortion and overdrive effects. They can also be a bit too noisy for some players. However, you can avoid this by turning down the volume on your guitar when you aren’t playing it.
What telecaster pickups impact the output and noise?
The strength of the magnets used is not the only factor that will affect the output from your pickups. Another factor to consider is how hot the pickup is. This is often affected by how many coils of wire are around each magnet.
‘Hot’ pickups have more coils of wire around their magnets, which increases their output significantly. This makes them much more aggressive with a better low end. This is just what you want for playing genres that require a lot of overdrive.
However, the hotter the pickup, the greater the noise when you plug your guitar. Noise isn’t always a bad thing. Provided it doesn’t get too loud, it can add a bit more bite to the sound of your guitar.
However, for people who want to play with a clean signal, a constant buzz from your pickups will become more problematic.
So some musicians buy noiseless pickups like Fender’s Generation 4s. These products use shielded magnets and stack two coils on top of each other to help reduce unwanted buzz and hum. They are a splendid choice for those who want to play jazz or the blues.
Ease of installation for telecaster pickups
Changing the pickups on your guitar isn’t always straightforward. Sometimes it can involve you to have a basic knowledge of soldering. This is to link up all the wires so that the pickups connect to the main jack output.
If you aren’t confident with soldering, then there are pickups that make this process a lot easier. EMG, sell pickups that come pre wired, for an easy installation that doesn’t require any soldering at all.
Alternatively, you can buy whatever pickups you want and have them installed by a professional at your local guitar shop.
If you choose to go this route, you will want to consider the price of installation when choosing your pickups.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Active Pickups?
You will see some pickups described as active pickups, meaning a battery powers them. Regular passive pickups will generate an electrical current in the coil from the vibration of the string alone.
With the addition of a battery, active pickups can provide a much higher output that is great for creating a lot of noise with distortion effects.
Active pickups are also sensitive enough to facilitate advanced techniques such as string tapping, double tapping or pinch harmonics.
Why Do Telecasters Have Two Pickups?
Having two pickups, one near the neck and another near the bridge, helps to recreate an acoustic effect on an electric guitar.. We explain below:
If you use an acoustic guitar, you might notice that the string makes distinct noises depending on where you pluck it.
Plucking the string near the neck creates a brighter note. Meanwhile, while doing so near the bridge, creates a note that is thinner and more twangy. Naturally, electric guitars don’t have this, which is why telecasters have two pickups.
This feature allows players to create much more versatile sounds depending on where they hit the string and how they balance the signal from both pickups.
This is what the three-way switch on most telecasters is for. Its purpose is to let you select one pickup, or combine both to create a fuller tone.