Written by Bobby
Parent article: Best Guitar Pickups
WHY LISTEN TO US? When we make recommendations they're based on gear that we've used and tested ourselves. Playing guitar and working with different gear is something that we do a lot of and we want that to be reflected in our recommendations. If you have questions about the process, feel free to ask in the comments section below.
We're looking specifically at bridge pickups for Telecasters, recommending three that I've used and tested between a couple different guitars. Much of the Telecaster's signature "snap" and "quack" sound comes from the response of the bridge pickup, while the warm balance and rhythm appeal comes from the neck pickup.
This is the smoother, silver-colored pickup, close to the fretboard.
For this page we're focused exclusively on that slanted bridge pickup without the cover, in the bridge position.
Telecaster Bridge Pickups and Configuration Notes
Telecaster bridge pickups are built directly into the bridge hardware of the guitar. Here's a close look at the configuration:
You'll notice that the pickup itself is just a basic single coil, and hard to tell from a Strat pickup, unless it's fitted into the Telecaster hardware. This slanted positioning is part of the Telecaster's iconic design and the reason you have specific pickups that are built just for the Telecaster bridge and nothing else.
Our Three Favorites
We've chosen three pickups from Fender, DiMarzio, and Seymour Duncan. Read on for more specifics about each recommendation.
Fender Ultra Noiseless Set
Noise-cancelling set from Fender (includes neck pickup as well)
Since Telecasters are chronically noisy, the Fender Ultra Noiseless set - whether you need the neck pickup or not - is our top recommendation for the bridge. They've solved noise problems for me in multiple Telecasters, including Squiers and high-end Fenders.
BEST DIMARZIO OPTION
DiMarzio Chopper T-Bridge
Railed Telecaster bridge pickup
The Chopper T is a little dirtier than the Fender Noiseless set, but still sounds fantastic, especially when paired with the DiMarzio Twang King at the neck position.
BEST SEYMOUR DUNCAN OPTION
Seymour Duncan Antiquity '55
Worn design Tele bridge pickup with exposed poles
The Antiquity 55 strikes a nice balance between the aggression of the DiMarzio set and the subtlety of the Fender Noiseless design. It's warm, but still has some bite on the higher notes. We also didn't notice any noise issues, despite the pickup looking like it came straight from a thrift store bargain bin. It's actually quite expensive.
Which is the best bridge telecaster pickup?
Of the three we've focused on, the Fender Ultra Noiseless set is still my favorite Tele bridge pickup. The other two sound great, but I like matching up the brand of the guitar with the pickup, if and when it's possible.
We also like having the "insurance" of the Noiseless set, since we've seen Telecasters develop noise issues over time.
This is not to say the DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan pickups cause noise, but it does mean that it's hard to test a set for how well they will handle potential noise problems, just because such issues can take long periods of time to develop.
The Noiseless set will keep your Tele quiet and it'll sound great in the process.
An easy win-win in my book.
What about the neck?
If you don't need a neck pickup, you can just skip this section.
However, I do have recommendations for each bridge Telecaster pickup I've highlighted here, if you want to pair the neck pickup as well.
- Fender Ultra Noiseless bridge - Fender Ultra Noiseless neck (typically come in a set)
- DiMarzio Chopper T bridge - DiMarzio Tone King neck
- Seymour Duncan Antiquity bridge - Seymour Duncan Antiquity neck (typically come in a set)
Most of these singles also come in a set. The exception I made was for the DiMarzio Twang King, where the two recommendations are usually sold separately.
What about humbuckers on a Telecaster?
I actually have a separate page that deals with humbuckers for Telecasters. I'd recommend checking that out if you want to break ranks with the single coil option and go with a humbucker at either the bridge or neck position of your Tele. Keep in mind, it'll require some modding of the body.
How did we choose?
I talked a little bit about this already, but there are a few simple ways I look for pickups to recommend, assuming a certain context. Clearly we've established that they should be designed specifically for the bridge and to fit a Telecaster.
Otherwise, here are a few quality indicators I use to choose which ones I'll highlight:
- Overall tone quality
- Pricing and value
- Reputation for noise reduction
- Personal experience (including friends and colleagues that play guitar)
It's a simple way of making recommendations, but it's enough to get you pickups that not only fit our context, but are also some of the nicest and most reputable.
What other Telecaster bridge pickups do we like? (honorable mentions)
Here are a few additional pickups I'd recommend for the bridge position of your Telecaster. Notice we've included a few sets here in addition to bridge only.
Which features matter most?
Pickups are hard to peg down by a specific feature. Generally, we go by reputation and sound quality that we've heard ourselves, in demos, or from people that have used the pickups in question.
However, there are a few features that you can look at and research:
- Winding (copper wire around magnetic poles)
- Coil technology
- Magnet type (Alnico is commonly brighter, while ceramic is a bit warmer)
- Pole magnet type (horizontal rails or vertical poles)
- Magnet covering
Conclusion and Questions
Hopefully we've given you some helpful direction. If you want to replace just the bridge pickup on your Telecaster, these are good starting points, even if you end up going with something different.
If you still aren't sure and you have additional questions, drop them in the comments section below and I'll check in.
Or maybe you just want to share a pickup upgrade story?
Those are fine for the comments as well.
We'll see you there.