Written by Guitar Chalk Editorial
Updated by Bobby
Recently updated on January 6th, 2020
Added new photos and checked product links for accuracy. No pickups were removed or changed.
WHY LISTEN TO US? We make recommendations for pickups and other guitar gear based on real life experience from actual guitar players. We are not marketers and we are not in sales, rather we are real musicians with first-hand experience using the gear we recommend.
Humbuckers Configurations in Telecasters
Humbuckers and Telecasters can take several different configurations when the two get together. The most common is a dual humbucker setup, or what you would call an HH configuration with a humbucker at the bridge and neck position.
However, there are a variety of configurations that can include any of the following:
- HH (two humbuckers)
- SH (single at the bridge, humbucker at the neck)
- HS (humbucker at the bridge, single at the neck)
- HSH (humbuckers at the bridge and neck with a single in the middle)
If you're modding a Telecaster that doesn't need two humbuckers, all of the sets we've mentioned make individual humbuckers available for purchase, either for the bridge or neck positions. We've also made some specific recommendations for bridge-only and neck-only setups lower in the article.
But first, we're recommending humbucker pairs, because it's the simplest way to make sure they'll work for any of the aforementioned configurations.
If you have questions about any of this, feel free to drop them in the comments section below.
Our Three Favorites
We've chosen three humbucker sets to recommend for Telecaster electric guitars. Some might note the Seymour Duncan Rail humbuckers in the above photo, though we haven't listed them in our recommendations because we wanted to focus on humbuckers that have more of a vintage tone.
With that in mind, we've gone with the following three sets:
- Seymour Duncan Antiquity
- EMG Super 77 Retro
- Seymour Duncan Vintage Blues
All three have a more classic and bluesy tone. They'll put more emphasis on your picking dynamics - more snap and "quack" from pick-to-string contact - and will handle better on clean and lower gain settings.
We've done a column for all three with more info in each one.
Seymour Duncan Antiquity Set
Covered Low Output Humbucker Set
The Antiquity series by Seymour Duncan houses some of the most popular, sought-after pickups on the market. Ideal for vintage tone with some added power and modern, low-noise construction, this pair is great for upgrading an HH Telecaster while maintaining a vintage vibe, both aesthetically and audibly.
Pros of the Antiquity Set
Cons of the Antiquity Set
BEST ACTIVE PICKUP OPTION
EMG Super 77 Retro
Uncovered Dual Coil Zebra Humbuckers
EMG's active pickups are really easy to install (with a solderless system). They're also perfect for adding a more modern tone into your Telecaster, capable of handling everything from soft, bluesy leads to high-gain metal riffs. The Super 77 retro can run the gamut of styles and genres while staving off virtually all excess noise and hum.
Pros of the Super 77 Retro
Cons of the Super 77 Retro
BEST PASSIVE PICKUP OPTION
Seymour Duncan Vintage Blues
Moderate Output Dual Coil Humbucker Set
For a Telecaster humbucker you want something that can be soft and smooth but also twangy and defined. The Vintage Blues set by Seymour Duncan does this for a more budget-friendly price tag (they're cheaper than the Antiquity set) and gives you some added output and head room, yet with noise reduction.
Pros of the Vintage Blues Set
Cons of the Vintage Blues Set
Best P90 sized humbucker for Telecaster?
A lot of Telecasters will use a P90 pickup, either at both the bridge and neck or only at the neck position. Here's a picture of a P90 configured at the neck position of a Telecaster:
If that's how your Telecaster is cut, you'll need to target P90-style humbuckers specifically, as the replacement. Here are a few we'd recommend:
Of these three, the Seymour Duncan Soapbar is probably the most conventional choice, especially if you're replacing just the neck.
Best neck humbucker?
What if you only want to buy a single humbucker for your Telecaster at the neck position? We'd recommend the neck version of the Seymour Duncan Antiquity set. The Seymour Duncan SH-2 - which we haven't mentioned yet - would also be a good fit here.
Best bridge humbucker?
How We Chose
Yet, as we mentioned earlier, most Telecasters that are setup with an HH pickup configuration using two humbuckers at the bridge and neck position, like this Fender Player Telecaster:
This means we've targeted humbucker sets that fit the style we're looking for (vintage, rock, classic, jazz etc.) and have some appeal to the traditional vibe of a Telecaster's tone.
These pickups should be voiced with a vintage style or at least have the capability of sounding good through a clean, Fender tube-style tone alongside whatever stylistic responsibilities it might be assigned.
- Versatile tone profile
- Good with rhythm and lead duties
- Vintage voice in addition to other stylistic requirements
- Low noise
We were also looking for humbuckers that are known for being low-noise or noise reducing, since Telecasters are prone to noise and hum issues.
These pickups should capture the thickness of a humbucker's tone with the twang of a single coil Telecaster pickup set.
Telecasters that are cut for dual humbuckers
- Fender American Professional II
- Fender Special Edition Custom
- Fender Parallel Universe II
- Fender Player Telecaster HH
- Fender Jim Root Signature
- Fender Vintera '70s Deluxe
- Squier Classic Vibe '70s Thinline
- Fender American Performer
Is it even possible to put humbuckers in a Telecaster?
Yes. Humbuckers can be wired into a Telecaster if it's one of the aforementioned models that come with humbuckers already installed. Transforming a Telecaster with single coil pickups into one that fits humbuckers is far trickier and requires actual modding of the guitar's body.
In most cases, we don't recommend this.
Instead, this list is for people who own or are looking to buy a Telecaster that already has humbuckers installed.
Other Features to Consider
What else matters when you're picking out humbuckers for a Telecaster? We'd recommend paying attention to the following specs and properties:
- Magnet type: Usually alnico or ceramic
- Coil setup
- Wire wrapping
- Output (high/low/medium)
- Typical style fit (rock, blues, jazz, etc.)
Conclusion and Further Questions
In conclusion, the best humbuckers for Telecaster electrics should have at least a vintage - yet versatile - tone profile and a reputation for noise reduction and hum cancelling.
The humbucker sets listed are the three that we would pick for those tasks, though there are certainly other good options, perhaps that you know of or have tried yourself in an HH Telecaster configuration.
If you know of a set that should be added to our list, let me know about it in the comments section below.
You can also feel free to leave other questions and inquiries there as well.
It's easier for me to answer here then email, so I'll be sure and read them and do my best to help out.