Tech Tip: How to Get Rid of Single-Coil Hum Without Getting Rid of Single-Coil Tone

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Learn about pickup options that retain classic single-coil sound while eliminating hum.

Fender Vintage Noiseless Strat Pickups
Fender’s Vintage Noiseless Strat Pickup Set retains all the crisp twang revered by Strat fans while greatly reducing the noise of classic single-coils.

Turn up your Strat (or any guitar equipped with standard single-coil pickups) and you get a certain amount of hum and buzz, especially if playing under fluorescent lights or near anything that creates a strong electromagnetic field. If you find this sound irritating, as many do, you might consider a guitar with humbucking pickups. That's the extreme alternative…sort of like throwing the baby out with the bathwater, because you get rid of the hum problem, but you also get rid of that twangy, out-of-phase tone that single-coils get. The classic Fender tone, as it’s often described.

One way to beat the problem (still fairly radical) is to go active. With an active preamp system in your guitar and a set of pickups such as Duncan LiveWires, you cure the problem.

But there is another solution short of trading in your guitar or routing the bodyy out to make room for humbuckers or active electronics. There is a group of pickups designed to be hum-canceling or "bucking," that retain the essential single-coil sound. Seymour Duncan makes several. Duncan’s Classic Stack pickups (neck, middle) have the dual coils of a humbucker, but they are stacked so that the pickup has the dimensions of a single-coil meaning no mods are required to your guitar. They also retain the sound of a single-coil, but without the hum.

The Seymour Duncan Vintage Rail pickup is another that accomplishes the same mission offering single-coil sound without the hum. Yet another pickup that is growing in popularity is the Virtual Vintage from DiMarzio.

Another aftermarket option is the Lace Sensor Gold 3-Pack that puts out vintage tone with a glassy, bell-like sound and crisp highs. Lace also offers their Gold pickups prewired in a Strat pickguard and a 3-pack with a revised version of the Gold pickup with a hotter bridge pup and stronger bottom and singing midrange.

Even closer in tone to your vintage single-coils are Fender's new Vintage Noiseless pickups. Fender's noiseless technology has very successfully minimized the noise while retaining the tone. They’re offered in a 3-pickup set for Strats and in a 2-pickup set for Telecasters.

This isn't an exhaustive list, but long enough to demonstrate there are alternative ways to keep your single-coil-equipped guitar "as is"; producing vintage-like tone, but with sweet silence rather than buzz between the notes.

Tags: Pickups Guitar Accessories & Parts

Comments  

# John 2017-01-04 20:53
I was playing around with a strat during a practice session the other day and was surprised how noisy the single coils were when individually selected. Lots of hum. I tend to play really loud but even at soft volumes it was still annoying. Is this just the way it was back in the day? Did Clapton always have his hand near the volume knob or was he always playing with two single coils selected.

Also if most people suggest replacing them, then is that what pretty much everybody does? Buys a new strat and upgrades it right away? Under what conditions is the humming acceptable?
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# Alx 2017-01-02 16:11
Hi! this is Alx, thank you all so much for your replies. I ended buying the Fender Hot Noiseless Start Pickups and I must say they were (still) perfect!! for my concern, they actually canceled the noise up to a 90% I could say (if not totally), in conclusion, Im very satisfied and happy with them.
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# Billy 2016-10-13 10:28
I have a Fender stratocaster Nitro, I get humming when I use the selector switch in 3 different positions. What can I do to eliminate the hum without replacing the pickups.
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# Tram 6128 2016-05-30 12:14
Supposing changing the pickup is not an option, e.g.: its a vintage pu on an ancient guitar and can't be replaced for a number of good reasons. Any idea of how to deal with that situation ? Would be very grateful for any advice.
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# Alx 2016-02-11 05:32
Hi!, first of all, thanks for the valuable info (single coil noiseless), however; which of the options above you would recommend as #1 and better for a Strat???

Thank you so much ahead.
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# Charlie B. 2016-02-11 17:07
(continued)
The Fenders are a "stacked coil" configuration; whereas, the Seymour Duncan ones are a simply a thin "side-by-side" coil configuration. Any "humbucker" type pick-ups will not have QUITE the treble "bit" that normal Strat pick-ups typically deliver -, but, that "is the price that you pay" for having the considerable advantage of much-reduced "hum". By-the-way, there also is a type that is known as a "Samarium-Cobalt Noiseless pickup" -,but they are apparently no longer available as an "aftermarket upgrade" purchase. Ok, I hope that this info is a help to you.
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# Charlie B. 2016-02-11 09:10
Alx:
~ In reply to your question about "which single-coil noiseless pick-ups would be best for a Stratocaster ?": there are two models that come-to-mind. The first one is the "Fender Accessories N3 Noiseless Pickup". The 2nd is the "Seymour Duncan Hot Rails for Strat Pickup". (I am including "links" to website-postings of both these types of pick-ups, at the end of this note. Actually, both of the postings are to the Sweetwater Sound website -, though both pick-up types can also be found at the websites of various other well-known "on-line musical instrument wholesalers".) Both of these types owe their "noiseless" capability to them ACTUALLY being "humbucker" type pick-ups -, despite that they are in a "Strat pick-up" shape and size.
[Note: I had to "divide" my reply, due to the size limitations" on individual comments at this Site. Please see "part 2" of my reply.]
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# Joseph 2015-09-22 06:01
Hi. Is it possible for you to tell me what make and type and type of pickups are used by no 1 Albert Lee. No 2 Johnny Hyland. Many Thanks
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# Charlie B. 2015-12-02 20:24
Joseph:
~ Albert Lee has for-many-years used some variation of his own "signature" model of a Ernie Ball/Music-Man guitar. The "single-coil" version of his guitar uses " Seymour Duncan Custom Single-coil" pick-ups. The humbucker version uses "DiMarzio custom humbuckers" . I will try to include "links" to postings of both of those instruments.
~ Johnny Hyland has routinely used his own "signature" model of a PRS guitar (which is no longer being manufactured), that uses humbucker pick-ups. I will also try to include a "link" to a posting concerning that model.
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