Leo Fender introduced the world to a revolutionary new instrument in 1951 – The Telecaster Electric Guitar.
As the first solid-body electric guitar, the Telecaster (or as originally called, the Broadcaster) changed the course of musical history. It was a sound and tone unlike anything ever heard before, possibly even since.
There is no question that Telecasters produce a distinct sound, which is called the “Tele Twang.” Musicians of every kind have sought to add the Telecaster sound to their music. It has become a legend in its own right. However, the recent changes in global economics and manufacturing have resulted in Telecaster stock pickups not comparing well to the older models.
By replacing your stock pickups with higher quality ones, you can reconnect to that first moment when sound and tone broke free and was amplified in the first electric guitar.
The question then is, “Which Telecaster pickups are the right ones for me?”
Get ready to pique your audio appetite as we go over the best Telecaster guitar pickups on the market today…
- Top 7 Best Telecaster Guitar Pickups In 2021 Reviews
- 1 Fender Custom Shop Texas Special Telecaster Pickups
- 2 Fender Vintage Noiseless Tele Pickups
- 3 Tonerider TRT2 Hot Classic Tele Pickup Set
- 4 Seymour Duncan Aptl-3jd Jerry Donahue Model Tele Bridge Pickup
- 5 Dimarzio DP172C Neck Pick-Up
- 6 Dimarzio Vintage Twang King Pre-Wired Pickup Set For Telecaster Guitars
- 7 JBE Joe Barden Modern T-Style Pickup Set For Fender Tele Telecaster – Black
- What Makes A Telecaster Pickup
- Telecaster Setup And Configuration
Top 7 Best Telecaster Guitar Pickups In 2021 Reviews
1 Fender Custom Shop Texas Special Telecaster Pickups
Right out of Fender’s own Custom Shop comes a set of Telecaster pickups with tons of muscle.
The Texas Special Tele Pickups were designed to increase presence, output and midrange tones. These pickups have been overwound which means that there is more conductive wiring that results in greater overall output.
Texas Special Tele pickups feature Alnico V magnets, which are great for pickups that have a need for greater punch and power. With a set of these, you’ll be able to coax every bit of tone and sound out of your Telecaster.
Full of honk and sparkle…
The bridge pickup is full of honk and sparkle, with plenty of fullness and bottom-end. The treble is pure twang without going overboard. The poles are staggered in height, and the bottom plate is copper and coated in steel. It is also a reverse wound pickup, which works to cancel out the hum when playing with both pickups.
The neck pickup comes with a nickel silver cover. This helps to produce a warm tone that accentuates each note. Never muddy, this pickup sounds rich and colorful. The lead riffs are round and punchy. The sound from this pickup is one that could only come from a custom Fender.
When playing with both pickups engaged the sound is excellent for rhythm. The sound is full of excitement and shimmer.
When you kick in any overdrive, the harmonics are clear and pronounced. These pickups have all of that traditional sound and feel of vintage Telecaster pickups, but with more power and more restraint on the high-end.
Texas Special Tele pickups are sold as a set and come with all the mounting hardware required.
2 Fender Vintage Noiseless Tele Pickups
Telecaster twang without the hum.
The Fender Vintage Noiseless Tele pickups provide you with all the brilliance and clarity of single-coil pickup without any hum. Single-coil pickups tend to have a noticeable hum, but the Fender Vintage Noiseless pickups are even quieter than standard humbucker pickups.
These pickups offer you the same twang, snap, crackle, and pop that 1960s Telecasters were known for.
Both pickups feature Alnico V magnets and enamel-coated wiring, which helps to eliminate noise and gives that warm vintage tone. The neck pickup has a nickel silver cover for added clarity and is part of the vintage “look” that Telecasters retain.
The bridge pickup was specially designed to give you more of the unmistakable Tele twang without any of the squeal or extra noise when adding gain.
The overall tone is very articulate and bright when on a clean channel. Distortion and fuzz are crisp and in no way muddy.
Fender’s Vintage Noiseless Tele pickups are quite hot. But, thanks to their noiseless design you can light a fire with your playing that won’t burn down the house.
3 Tonerider TRT2 Hot Classic Tele Pickup Set
Hot Telecaster pickups made for blues and rock guitar players.
The Tonerider TRT2 is a set of Telecaster pickups based on classic Telecaster pickups. Both the bridge and neck pickups are made with Alnico III magnets and feature higher winding. This means that you will get more edge out of your Telecaster. These magnets also offer great note separation and clarity. Even when overdriven the chords are clear and defined.
The neck pickup features a nickel silver covering that produces all kinds of warmth and texture. The sound is a very bluesy one with lots of rich sustain and attack. It is a woody, warm feeling, and sound.
The bridge pickup has a copper base-plate and black string wrap that adds more tonal definition and gives it a real classic appearance. This pickup has all the sparkle and crackle that goes into the Telecaster twang.
The range of sound distinctions and the overall tone is impressive. Adding a set of Tonerider Hot Classic Tele pickups will breathe new life into your guitar.
4 Seymour Duncan Aptl-3jd Jerry Donahue Model Tele Bridge Pickup
A custom Telecaster bridge pickup that shines.
Seymour Duncan specially designed this pickup for the “Bendmaster of the Telecaster” Jerry Donahue. He needed a touring guitar that would sound just like a 1952 Telecaster, and Seymour Duncan delivered. This bridge pickup completely duplicates the warmth and punchiness of a classic Telecaster lead pickup.
Constructed with Alnico II rod magnets and Seymour Duncan’s special winding has meant an increase in the sustain and the output. This means it works best when playing solos or lead guitar riffs.
The poles have been symmetrically staggered to match the fretboard radius of a standard Telecasters.
What does this mean?
Essentially the poles are positioned to mirror the curve of the fretboard. The result is greater balance and more dynamic string response.
The finished product offers you the traditional sweet and balanced tone of vintage Telecasters. The high-end is detailed and sharp. The low-end is fat and punchy, and there is more than enough twang to light up a room.
A great pickup for playing the lead in country and blues music.
5 Dimarzio DP172C Neck Pick-Up
A highly-responsive neck pickup to give some giddy-up to your guitar.
Designed to give you vintage Telecaster tones with all the snap and slap you can handle. This pickup is powerful and extremely responsive. When playing softly, the tones are gentle and smooth. But, as you start hitting the pickup harder, the DP172C responses. It is noticeably louder and more dynamic than a standard single-coil.
The secret is in the construction…
This pickup features Alnico V magnets with two conductors that have been specially calibrated to offer increased responsiveness to your playing style. The windings use controlled-tension construction and DiMarzio’s special wiring that provides articulation and balance.
A double wax potting plus chrome covering puts all the pieces in place and ensures a monstrous Telecaster tone.
There is no shortage of twang in this pickup, even though it is a neck pickup. This means that it is fantastic for playing all kinds of musical styles.
Rest assured, the DiMarzio DP172C has get-up-and-go that will have you galloping along with a true vintage Telecaster tone.
6 Dimarzio Vintage Twang King Pre-Wired Pickup Set For Telecaster Guitars
A complete set of pre-wired Telecaster pickups with a control plate and knobs.
A full setup for your Telecaster. Not only do you get a DiMarzio Twang King Bridge DP173 and Twang King Neck DP172 single-coil pickups, but you also get a control plate, volume and tone knobs, and a blade switch selector. This is a complete package for upgrading your Telecaster.
These pickups capture the authentic tone and sound of vintage Telecaster pickups, but with more responsiveness and power.
Play these pickups lightly, and you will get a smooth and mellow tone that is light and clear. Add so more attack to your picking, and these pickups react instantly to give a louder, harder, punchy tone with excellent dynamics in the tone range.
A combination of care and ingenuity went into crafting this Telecaster pickup set and hardware.
Controlled-tension winding that uses a special wire and hand-calibrated magnets work together to give you a true vintage-sounding Telecaster experience.
Twang King pickups produce bold, clear lows and highs without losing any grit or snap from the mid-range. They can go full-on Tele twang without sounding wimpy or over-powering the high-end. The bridge pickup serves up classic Telecaster twang and snap, while the neck pickup produces more of bluesy and bassy feel that isn’t dark or muddy.
Play with both pickups, and your rhythm licks will grind and groove with shimmers and snaps.
It is not a pure noiseless set, but the double wax potting helps to reduce squealing as you move up and down the strings. And, the solderless assembly means that the installation for this pickup set is relatively easy.
Not too hot nor too cold. The DiMarzio Vintage Twang King Telecaster pickup set is an upgrade on the classic tone and sound of days gone by.
7 JBE Joe Barden Modern T-Style Pickup Set For Fender Tele Telecaster – Black
Noise and hum eliminating Telecaster pickup set.
The Modern T-Style Telecaster pickup set was made for those who play modern country and rock. The overall tone is fatter than vintage bridge Telecaster pickups, but it doesn’t sacrifice any of the classic Tele vibes and feel. These pickups don’t look like the vintage ones, but none of the vintage Tele twang, snap, crackle and pop have been lost.
These pickups can be adjusted to produce an output level not found on any stock pickups.
The best part is that they are completely noiseless. You can crank the output levels, and there won’t be any hum. This is in part due to JBE’s unique “staggered-blade” design. This design is meant to keep the response balanced and provide more definition to notes and chords.
These are not typical single-coil pickups. They are a whole new design that adds fidelity and a modern flavor to the vintage designs.
These pickups can fit any Telecaster model and can be installed without much hassle.
What Makes A Telecaster Pickup
The most distinguishable trait of Telecaster pickups is the twang. The tone is bright, rich and cutting. But, at the same time, it can also be warm, mellow and very bluesy. And of course, Telecaster pickups can produce sounds and tones that are a combination of all of that.
Typically the bridge pickup has more winding than the neck pickup. This translates into a higher output which can make up for the reduction in string vibrations around the bridge. It’s also what gives Telecasters their unique twang.
The bridge pickup is meant to capture the high-end, full of shimmer and shine. While the neck pickup is meant for holding out the low and mid-range tones that are woody and welcoming.
A capacitor between the volume control and the output allows for the high-end to bleed through. While also making the mid and low-ends less prominent. The result is the snappy nature of Telecaster pickups.
In most electric guitars the bridge and neck pickups are the same with only the slightest variation in calibrations. But, Telecaster pickups are basically polar opposites. Because they are designed to isolate certain tones and frequencies – but, when combined the pickups have a sound all their own.
Telecaster Setup And Configuration
The most common setup has been a single-coil bridge and neck pickup. The neck pickup has a nickel silver covering that helps to give a warm and soothing tone, while the bridge pickup is left uncovered. It is also much heavier and geared towards a higher output level.
The neck pickup’s nickel silver cover is a major part of the visual appeal of Telecasters. This particular design is not found on any other electric guitar. The neck pickup is also set at an angle, which further enhances the high-end fidelity and tone.
There have been many variations of the kinds of pickups used in Telecasters over the years. Yet, the design of two single-coil pickups that first appeared in 1952 (they only had a single pickup prior to that), that has become the standard bearer for Telecaster pickups.
Both the neck and the bridge pickup have just one control knob for volume and one for tone. This is another big difference in the Telecaster setup that contributes to its sound. Many electric guitar pickups have individual tone controls and/or volume controls. With Telecasters, the output and the tone are the same for both pickups.
This means that switching from one pickup to the other will have a dramatic change in the overall tone because the pickups are designed that way. Set it to the neck pickup and work the woody, wagon wheel rhythms. Snap it to the bridge pickup and bounce, bark, and bite lead riffs all over the shop.
The Telecaster setup is one of contrasts and combinations. Easily move between tonal extremes and sound variations with a flick of the blade switch.
As the first true commercially available solid-body electric guitar, the Telecaster took a simple approach to maximize the sound potential of amplified instruments.
So, What’s The Best Telecaster Guitar Pickups?
Each of the pickups we reviewed here is an excellent choice for upgrading your Telecaster guitar. It will depend on you if you need a neck, bridge, or set of pickups to really make your Tele sing like never before.
In the end, we had to settle on one. The Best Telecaster pickups, therefore, are the…
The fact that they are custom-made by Fender, and come in a set really helped them stand out. They are great for loud and hard music but don’t come up short when you are going for something a little softer and more relaxed.
The commitment to that vintage Telecaster twang is remarkable. These pickups have so much beauty and brutality packed into them, plus they are quite affordable which makes them even more appealing.
Telecasters are the first electric guitar made by Leo Fender. And today the team at Fender are continuing to further his legacy in the history of music. The Custom Shop Texas Special pickups are another chapter in a long tradition of greatness.
Now that you have found your ideal Telecaster pickup, we’re certain more joy and excitement will accompany you anytime you pick up your guitar and play.
A Telecaster guitar with a new pickup can change your whole musical world. Just like Leo did to the entire world when he first presented us with the Telecaster.