The Fender Telecaster is one of the most widely used and versatile electric guitars any player can own.
It was first released in 1948 under the name, “Broadcaster,” which was later renamed Telecaster in 1950.
It has since made waves in the guitar world as a powerful and formidable tool for all musical styles from country, to rock and roll, to heavy metal.
Aside from its wide range of tonal capabilities, one of the most unique features of the Fender Telecaster is that it’s completely customizable. From head to toe, this guitar can be made your own – and that includes the electronics.
So if you’ve recently bought a Telecaster, or you’ve had one for years and are just interested in amping up your tone, keep reading to find out more about the vast array of the best Telecaster pickups available to suit almost any tonal needs.
13 Best Telecaster Pickups Reviewed
1. Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Telecaster Pickups – Best Overall
The Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Telecaster Pickups combine classic mid-boosted Telecaster rhythm tone with hot pickup output.
These passive pickups are outfitted with high-quality Alnico 5 magnets, and an overwound coil, giving you the boost you need.
The bridge pickup output sits around 16.95K, and the neck pickup is 11.75K giving you all the output you could possibly need from a set of passives – and then some!
This pickup is a rhythm beast with huge sounding chords, and full, fat lead tones, making it our favorite Telecaster pickup.
2. Fender Pure Vintage ’64 Telecaster Pickups – Best For Vintage Sound
The Fender Pure Vintage ‘64 Telecaster Pickups offer classic Fender Tele twang with modern clarity and output.
If you’re looking for that special vintage sound of the ’60s, there’s no need to look any further.
While these are single-coil pickups, they still pump out 6k and 7.4k through the bridge and neck pickups, respectively.
At this output level, you can expect to have a signal hot enough to notice, without having to worry about the extra noise associated with it.
That’s why the Pure Vintage ‘64 Tele pickups are #2 on my list!
3. Tonerider TRT2 Hot Classics Telecaster Pickups – Best on a Budget
If you’re looking for a Telecaster tone with some added edge, you’d be barking up the right tree when considering the Tonerider TRT2 Hot Classics Telecaster Pickups.
This set of pickups comes with Alnico III magnets, extra wound for added output, making these a great option for both rock and blues players alike, wanting to expand their tone into edgy territories.
Both pickups are single coiled and push a signal of 7.1k from the neck, and 9.2k from the bridge pickups, emphasizing the natural brightness of your Telecaster.
The Fender Custom Shop ‘51 “Nocaster” pickups keep true to their heritage as a replica of the original Fender Telecaster pickups.
If you’re looking for classic, vintage, original telecaster tone with tight lows and minds combined with a shimmering twang on the high end, you need to check out these pickups.
The Alnico III magnets give you some extra push, measuring around 7k for each pickup, and leave plenty of room for expressive and dynamic playing. If you plan to install these yourself, they come with installation hardware, but make sure you do some research first!
These pickups are recommended for various musical styles including Blues, Rock, Country, Pop, and Jazz. You can find a set of these versatile pickups on Fender’s website, or on Amazon here.
5. Fender Generation 4 Noiseless
For all of you who are single-coil lovers out there wishing there were a set of noiseless Telecaster pickups, look no further. One of the biggest problems with the single-coil design is its susceptibility to hum and static when the volume gets turned up.
If there’s any truly noiseless set of single-coil pickups out there, it’s these. Typically when you have single-coil pickups measuring around 10.6k ohms each, you can expect a hot and noisy signal, but not with these.
Enjoy a classic, vintage Fender Tele tone without any of the extra baggage, all thanks to Fender’s modern approach to pickup technology.
You can find a set of these directly from Fender, or on Amazon for $159.99.
6. Lindy Fralin Blues Special Telecaster Pickups
Two of the biggest issues many guitarists have with the tone of Fender guitars are the sometimes unnameable highs, combined with the lack of low-end presence. Lindy Fralin aimed to solve this issue, and has done so with success!
If you want the nuance and clarity of Telecaster tone with more bottom-end punch, check out the Lindy Fralin Blues Special Telecaster Pickups.
This set comes equipped with American-made Alnico V magnets and a 5% overwound coil, making them hot and punchy, giving your Tele a warmer tone.
You can find a set of these on Amazon, or directly from Lindy Fralin’s website for right around $220.
7. Fender Tex-Mex Telecaster Pickups
Whether you’re looking for crisp and clean, or bright and punchy, you’d be ready to go with a set of Fender’s TexMex Telecaster Pickups.
These offer the best of both worlds in a way because you can easily push your amp into overdrive, but also enjoy the crisp twangy clean tone Fender Tele’s are known for.
They feature Alnico V magnets, overwound to give you a warmer and punchier bottom end, with a DC resistance of 8k on the bridge pickup to give you all the high-end clarity you could ever want.
You can find a set of these on Amazon, or directly from Fender’s website for right around $80.
8. EMG T System Prewired Telecaster Pickups
You might not be a luthier or even good with a soldering iron, and if that’s you, you might be interested in this completely solderless replacement set for your Fender Telecaster.
Not only is it solderless, but you get all of the benefits of an active pickup too! The EMG T System Prewired Telecaster Pickups are designed to give you a balanced tone and extremely responsive touch, which could take your classic telecaster tone to a whole new sonic level.
Bring the feel and sound of your Fender Tele into the 21st century!
You can find a set of these on EMG’s website, or on Amazon for around $190.
9. Seymour Duncan Hot Rails Telecaster Pickups
Sometimes a set of single-coil pickups just doesn’t provide you with the tone you want from your Tele -understandably so.
The Telecaster’s tone is somewhat limited when compared to the total frequency range of a guitar, so it might leave you wanting more.
Seymour Duncan aimed to give you even more tone from your Telecaster with the Hot Rails Telecaster Pickups. Unlike your standard Tele pickups, these are dual-coil, humbucking beasts – giving you more tone than you’ll likely know what to do with.
You can find a set of these directly from Seymour Duncan’s website, or on Amazon for $170.
10. Wilkinson 60’s WVT Vintage Style Telecaster Pickups
If you’ve played a Squire or Mexican Telecaster for a while and want to take your tone game to the next level, this might be the next move you make.
The Wilkinson 60’s WVT Vintage Style Telecaster Pickups offer a great vintage tone, with a slightly higher output level than your standard Tele pickups.
They feature a single-coil design using high-quality Alnico V magnets, DC resistance of 6.8k on the neck, and 6k on the bridge pickups. You’ll definitely be able to find that vintage 60’s tone with some added punch!
You can find a set of these on Amazon for a highly reasonable price of $65!
11. Seymour Duncan Little ’59 Telecaster Pickup
Not every Telecaster owner wants to replace both pickups, and not every telecaster comes with two single-coil pickups either. In fact, many models, including the Fender Special Edition Custom, and the Squier Classic Vibe Tele come with a humbucker.
But imagine replacing the bridge pickup on your standard Telecaster with a single-coil-sized humbucker.
That’s where the Seymour Duncan Little ‘59 Telecaster Pickup comes into play. Amp up the punch of the bottom end of your Telecaster with this single-coil-sized humbucker from Seymour Duncan.
You can find these directly from Seymour Duncan, or on Amazon for the affordable price of $89.
12. Fender Yosemite Telecaster Pickups
If you’re looking for a rich and articulate tone across the board, you need to take a good look at Fender’s Yosemite Telecaster Pickups.
They’re designed with a mix of Alnico 4 magnets on the bridge, giving you all the bright snarl you’ll need, and Alnico 5 magnets on the neck, adding bass and punch for support.
While they’re hotter than your typical vintage-style pickups, you won’t have much trouble with added noise thanks to the shellac-dipped neck pickup and wax-potted bridge pickup.
You can find a set of these on Amazon, or directly from Fender’s website for right around $100, making them a great and affordable option!
13. Lindy Fralin Stock Telecaster Pickups
While the word “Stock” doesn’t usually inspire expectations of quality and exceptional functionality, the name Lindy Fralin absolutely should.
Not only are these hand-tested and made in the USA, but they’re built with only the highest quality parts and checked at every step throughout the process. The Lindy Fralin Stock Telecaster Pickups are made with Alnico 5 magnets, offering extreme clarity, tonal balance, and output.
You’ll have a hard time finding a better quality set of “stock” pickups than these.
You can find a set for your Telecaster directly from Lindy Fralin, or on Amazon for $220.
Why should you replace the pickups in your Telecaster?
Many people wonder what the big deal is when it comes to replacing electronics in their electric guitars. That’s understandable because it takes a little bit of know-how to find the pickups that’ll suit your needs.
It doesn’t take a trained guitar technician to replace a set of telecaster pickups – not like it did in the 1950s anyway.
So if you own a Telecaster and your pickups are damaged or not functioning properly, you don’t necessarily need to hire a luthier to swap them out. However, if you have no idea what you’re doing, hiring a luthier might just be your best bet!
You don’t have to have broken pickups to replace them though. Maybe you bought a cheaper model Telecaster and want to see how much you can get out of it.
Maybe you just don’t like the sound of the pickups in your American Deluxe Tele (though I don’t know why you wouldn’t!) and want to explore other options.
Whatever the reason, replacing your pickups is easily doable and can pay off tonal dividends throughout the rest of your guitar-playing life.
Telecaster Pickup Guide
If you’ve read my article on the best replacement pickups for a Fender Stratocaster, then you probably already know a little bit about how they work. Let’s just go through the basics because that’s really all you need to know when you’re searching for what you want.
As a guitarist, you should understand the basics of electronics, but more importantly, how the electronics affect the sound of your instrument. That’s what it’s all about anyway, so here we go!
Single-coil pickups were the first type of pickup invented for the electric guitar, and the standard Fender Telecaster still comes equipped with two single-coil pickups.
Guitarists weren’t usually a leading instrument in bands, so they didn’t have to project as loudly. Basically, single-coil pickups were designed to be quieter, and that’s why they’re so noisy when cranked up.
Luckily, technology has come a long way, and single-coil pickups can be just about as loud as you want. A single-coil pickup is made up of magnetic pole pieces connected to a wire tightly wound into a coil.
This creates an electromagnetic field so that when your metal electric guitar strings vibrate, the pole pieces pick up that vibration, sending a signal through the coil, through your guitar cable, into your amp, and out of your amp’s speaker.
It’s an extremely simple design, but because of its openness, the louder you turn up the volume, the more noise you’re going to hear -and that’s one of the main reasons why humbuckers were invented.
Since single-coil pickups were so noisy when turned up loud, Seth Lover, a technician working for Gibson, designed a pickup that used two coils to produce a louder sound, and also to block out noise through phase cancellation.
This made it possible for guitarists to take the spotlight more often when on stage, and gives us Tele lovers the ability to enjoy noise-free playing at higher volumes!
Active vs Passive Pickups
As I mentioned earlier, single-coil and Humbucker pickups generate an electrical signal simply through a coiled wire, magnetic pole pieces, and the vibration of your guitar strings.
These are called passive pickups – because they require no external power source in order to function. While the design is simpler and easy to maintain, there are certain downsides to passive pickups.
Passive pickups will always produce a weaker signal than their active counterparts, and they’re always more prone to invasive and annoying noise.
Active pickups, on the other hand, create an electromagnetic field through the use of an external power source like a battery, allowing them to produce a stronger signal without any of the added noise.
While many of the pickups on this list are advertised as noiseless, the only truly noiseless pickups are active pickups, and that’s just because of science.
Whether you select an active or passive design to replace your existing pickups is completely up to you though. The fact that active pickups are almost always quieter doesn’t mean they’re intrinsically better than passive pickups.
You could have the quietest pickups in the world, but if they don’t produce a quality sound or a sound you like, then they’re practically worthless!
On the other hand, you could have a cheap set of noisy, single-coil pickups that produce the sweetest, dreamiest guitar tone you’ve ever heard. At the end of the day, it comes down to what you like and what works best for you. So don’t set up camp in either active or passive corner until you at least know what you like!
Some Specs to Consider
If you play an electric guitar, you know just how important output is, especially when you’re playing in a large band setting. Just as your guitar amp has an output level, so do your pickups.
If the amount of string vibration were to remain the same on two different guitars, one with a higher output pickup will be louder than one with a lower output pickup. The output of guitar pickups is usually measured in ohms (DC resistance).
You don’t need to know the output reading of your pickups before you decide on a set, but knowing can give you an idea of what it might sound like before you even install them.
Standard Telecaster and Stratocaster pickups are single-coil, and their output is somewhere around the 5-8K ohms range. This is pretty low, considering some active pickups and humbuckers can exceed 20K.
Fender Tele’s and Strat’s owe part of their classic tone to the lower output of the pickups themselves. It hits a sweet spot between being too quiet and muddy, and too hot and harsh.
That doesn’t mean you can’t find hotter pickups with a better tone though. Active pickups are a high-output option that usually don’t sound unnatural. They just might lack the classic Fender tone you know and love.
Aside from output, the way in which a manufacturer EQs the pickup is another good indicator as to how the pickups will sound. Most pickups will come with an EQ graphic that shows you exactly how a pickup will sound when installed. Here’s an example of one from Fender’s ‘64 Telecaster Pickup Set.
The graph shows that the neck and bridge pickups have an equal treble response, while the bridge pickup has a much heavier middle and bass response.
This can be extremely helpful when deciding on a set of pickups. If your guitar doesn’t produce enough of the low end and sounds thin and shrill, you’ll be able to see on the graph whether or not the pickup will enhance your guitar’s low end or not.
Conversely, if you’d like more brightness from your guitar, you can select a pickup that is EQ’ed to boost frequencies on the higher end of the frequency spectrum.
Keep in mind that EQ is only one factor that affects your guitar’s overall tone. Other factors include the output, the wood from which your guitar is made, and all the way down to the tone and EQ settings on your guitar and amp.
Magnets are the most important piece of your pickups. Without them, they simply wouldn’t work. There are various types of magnets used for guitar pickups. Most commonly, you’ll see either ceramic or Alnico (which is an abbreviation for aluminum, nickel, and cobalt).
This isn’t true 100% of the time, but generally speaking, the higher the number associated with the alnico magnet, the stronger it is, and the higher the output level of your guitar pickups.
Pole pieces serve as the magnetic conductor for each string of your guitar. The pole pieces determine how much or how little of your vibrating strings will be detected and amplified. This affects the general tone and frequency response of your guitar’s pickups.
You don’t need to know too much about wiring unless you plan on becoming a luthier.
For the sake of finding a set of pickups for your Telecaster, you should simply know that the way the wiring is coated and protected has a lot to do with the level of unwanted noise (or lack thereof) your pickups will produce.
Best Telecaster pickups – Final Thoughts
Whether you’re simply curious and just taking a look around, or on the hunt for the Telecaster tone of your dreams, you’re on the right track if you’re considering any of the pickups I discussed above!
So keep reading, talk with some experts, play as many different pickups/guitars as you can and you’ll be on your way to tone city in no time at all!