There have been many classic pickup sets throughout the electric guitar’s history: A couple of PAFs, any trio of vintage-voiced Strat pickups, a pair of active humbuckers, even the Nashville Tele setup. But we often overlook the HSS pickup configuration. There are far fewer complete sets of HSS pickups on the market. So we’ve put together three of our favorite HSS Strat combinations to help you find the right one for your guitar.
HSS Strat Pickups
People have used the HSS pickup configuration for decades. Chances are if you do session work, you already own one. By combining a humbucker with two Strat-style single-coils, HSS pickups can offer bell-like single-coil tones, and Dire Straits approved in-between tones. Then you flip to the bridge humbucker for gain-y crunch. And because many modern humbuckers are 4-conductor, you may even have bridge single-coil snap on hand.
Tech Tips: Trembuckers vs. Humbuckers. Many Stratocasters and tremolo-equipped guitars require our Trembucker pickup configuration. They are the same pickups as their standard versions but with slightly larger bobbins and bottom-plate to accommodate wider string spacing. Make sure you measure your guitar to know which you need. Standard humbucker spacing is roughly 50 mm from the low to high E string, while Trembucker spacing is roughly 53 mm.
3 HSS Pickup Configurations
- Vintage / Classic
- High Gain
Vintage / Classic
- Bridge – ’59 Model Trembucker
- Middle – SSL-1 Vintage Staggered Strat RWRP
- Neck – SSL-1 Vintage Staggered Strat
If you prefer your electric guitars with an old-school tone, then these are the HSS pickups for you. Based around our wildly popular ’59 Model Trembucker, this HSS pickup combo always leans vintage. You’ll experience the iconic clarity and warmth of the ’59’s lower output and slightly scooped mids. And, the ’59 Model is also the perfect engine for your favorite effects.
The SSL-1 Vintage Staggered Strat pickups do for your middle and neck positions as the ’59 does for your bridge. Their vintage output levels, bell-like chime, and their addictive lows are what keeps players drooling over ’60s-era Stratocasters. And when paired with the ’59 Trembucker, they deliver an HSS set that’s versatile, time-tested, and gorgeous sounding.
- Bridge – TB-5 Custom Trembucker
- Middle – STK-S4m Classic Stack Plus Middle
- Neck – STK-S7 Vintage Hot Stack Plus
Great tone should always be important for guitarists. But if you’ve ever played an older guitar under neon lights, hum-canceling performance quickly becomes equally important. So here’s a hum-canceling HSS pickup configuration that we know you’ll dig.
In the bridge, you’ll find our Seymour Duncan Custom Trembucker. This pickup offers a similar tone to the ’59, but cranks up the output to push your rig a bit more. This makes it very versatile. And that’s part of why it has become one of our most popular humbuckers.
In the middle, you’ll find our STK-S4m Classic Stack Plus Strat pickup. As its name implies, this pickup offers classic Strat tones. But, by adding a specially-designed coil underneath the pickup, it eliminates that annoying 60-cycle hum. And who doesn’t want classic Strat tone without the buzz?
A Strat’s neck position pickup offers tubular low end and crystal-clear highs that are positively addicting. And the STK-S7 Vintage Hot Stack Plus found in this HSS combo’s neck position offers all of that and more. Slightly hotter than vintage output is a bit warmer, it’s a bit louder, and it has a bit more sustain than other vintage-voiced designs. This makes it the perfect complement to this HSS set’s Duncan Custom in the bridge.
- Bridge – Nazgûl Trembucker
- Middle – SHR-1n Hot Rails Single-Coil Sized Humbucker
- Neck – SHR-1n Hot Rails Single-Coil Sized Humbucker
Not all high-gain guitarists use dual humbucking pickups. There are some brutal tones that also await in a metal-minded set of HSS guitar pickups. Here’s our pick for the best ones.
The Nazgûl Trembucker epitomizes aggressive tone. Though a passive design, this humbucker delivers intense output perfect for driving your amp or favorite dirt pedals. And the Nazgûl is voiced explicitly for the demands of modern metal. We gave it an exceedingly tight low end for extreme clarity and tight punch. And its midrange balances with its high frequencies, ensuring harmonically rich distortion.
If you’re choosing the Nazgûl for your HSS pickups, you need neck and middle pickups that can keep up. And our Seymour Duncan Hot Rails are perfect for the job. They feature a dual-coil rail design, ceramic magnets, and over-wound coils. And they’re our highest-output single-coil-sized humbuckers. So when you switch from your Nazgûl, you’re greeted with an equally full-bodied and ferocious tone.
Let’s talk tone!
If you have any other questions about finding the best HSS pickup configurations, check out our Knowledge Base here. You can also email us here. And don’t forget to dig deeper into the Seymour Duncan blog! There’s a ton of in-depth info, how-tos, tone demonstrations, and a lot more.