First Time with Warmoth Tele - Pickup Recommendations?


Junior Member
Hello all,

I'm building my first Warmoth and it shall be a Telecaster, which will be my first as well. I have Strats and Les Pauls, so I'm having a tough time figuring out what pickups to get. I'm not even sure where to start. I know this is a tired topic but I wasn't able to find a lot on Tele pickups actually. The body is on the way and will be ordering neck & pickups here in the next week or two. This is a solid Swamp Ash body, with Maple neck and Rosewood fingerboard.

Now, having tried out several Tele models at GC, my very favorite was the MIM Baja Telecaster. LOVED the pickups--they were the inspiration for this build. Didn't love the quality, which is why I'm happily taking the Warmoth plunge. It played okay but seemed a bit overpriced and not good QC. They describe these pickups as: Custom Shop Broadcaster Bridge and a "Twisted Tele" Neck. I also liked the pickups on the Joe Strummer MIM tele which are described as "vintage". Didn't like the American Standard, Highway One, or even the 52 Reissues as much for some reason. Just didn't have the grunge/chime factor.

My style is best described as Indie Rock or at times Hard Rock--such as Radiohead, White Stripes, Rage Against the Machine (love his Tele neck sound), The Shins, Band of Horses, Kings of Leon, etc. I don't want a really hot pickup, as I do want the chime factor to stay intact. Don't want a humbucker sound--want it to have the character of a Tele. So maybe something vintage but with slightly more push? Something with some grind and chime--yet slightly "out of control", that sounds good clean, overdriven, and distorted. Not a lot to ask, right?  :toothy10:

Here are the ones I have been looking at:

Fender: Nocaster Set, SCN Noiseless Tele, Noiseless Tele (not sure on the two noiseless as many say they are a little weak/thin)

Fralin: Stock or Blues Special Set

Rio Grande: These sound promising but I'm not familiar at all with them. Again, don't want anything too hot and many on this board say they are pretty hot/thick.

Duncan: Maybe Vintage Broadcaster + Vintage Neck -- Antiquity looks nice also

Kinman: Broadcaster Set or 60's Custom. (these are a little pricey for me though)

Any thoughts? At the moment I'm leaning towards the Fender Nocaster or one of the Fralin sets.

Thanks much in advance. I look forward to any comments. I'm attaching a photo of the beauty (if it works). Nice Inca Silver--pseudo '70's style!


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I like the Bare Knuckle Country Boy:
If you want proper traditional tele twang I would just go fender custom shop sets or 52 reissue set. I don't like Seymour Duncan tele pickups, their too high output.

Never tried Rio grandes but many people have weird explosions in their pants just thinking about them.  :icon_biggrin:
If your looking for a "vintage" Tele sound; the Fender NoCasters are a good bet, be sure to pair with a maple neck
I suggest that you check Don Mare’s stuff out first  I put a set of his pickups in my last Tele and they did exactly what he said they would.  You can call Don and he will talk tone with you.   Then check some of the pickup discussions threads at the Telecaster  Discussions Pages.
52ri set.  They've changed the name on the 52reissue set to something else - but its the same "warm" tele, not icepick in yer ear.
Hey guys,

Thanks for the feedback so far. I greatly appreciate it.

After reading that Telecaster board (thanks for the referral), I think I'm leaning towards the Nocaster set from Fender even more. The price is right as well. Sounds like they all had the same kudos for the pickups in the Baja on that board, so I'm not alone!

The Bare Knuckle and Don Mare sets are a bit pricey (especially the former with UK shipping added!). So that might be a big risk for me. I don't see a 52 reissue set from Fender anywhere I'm afraid. They only seem to have Nocaster, Texas Specials, and Noiseless available. I might try out the Don Mare with my 2nd Strat though, since I know more what I'm looking for there. Sounds promising. I have Lace Holy Grails in that and they just keep failing on me, which sound great but they are grounding out or humming internally somewhere, just like my old Lace Sensors did--so never again will I go with Lace!

I think for aesthetic reasons I still want a rosewood board and maple neck, so hopefully it will sound good with that. I love all-maple but don't think it would look right with the silver body/black pickguard, plus both my strats are all-maple, so I need something different. :) There were a few on the board who said they still liked them a lot with a rosewood board, so I'm trusting enough to believe it.
Actually, might do a Pau Ferro board to retain some of that brightness and keep the same look...
I would take a look at Jason Lollar. Don' t have a set of his tele pickups but love his P90s. Really good at building pickups.


myramyd said:
Actually, might do a Pau Ferro board to retain some of that brightness and keep the same look...

The fingerboard choice makes less difference than two different string brands.  Its almost a non issue.
Since normal Tele players have been making normal Tele noises for six decades using normal Tele pickups, I'd say Fender is a pretty good bet.... buying way-high-end boutique-y pickups might be worth it ten Tele years down the road, but does anyone really ever know the difference? If you lined up ten top professional guitarists, handed them ten guitars and asked them to name the brands of pickups in each based on the tone, it'd be a debacle.
I put a Fender Vintage Noiseless set on my last Warmoth tele. The tele is mahogany with maple / pau ferro neck. The pickups are warmer than those on my Fender 52 re-issue but still twang. They are not perfectly noiseless but buzz a lot less than standard single coils if there is an rf source nearby. I am very pleased with the sound the pickups produce.
I'm suggesting the Kinmans, they are my favorite single coils. I have a Lollar Special Tele but it will take three months before I finish my Tele.
Try the Pau Ferro, it's a beautiful wood. Do not be afraid to experiment, it's a custom guitar after all, not a fender...
Thanks guys, I really enjoy researching all your opinions and think it's great that the kind people on this board are willing to help. It's one of the things that has made me want to experiment with a Warmoth this time around. I think this thread will potentially be helpful to future Tele prospects as well. If I don't like what I get I can always whip out the soldering iron and refer back to the suggestions here when I have more cash down the road.

I do really like the thought of the Kinmans in a lot of respects--except for the price, which might be out of my range at the moment after getting the neck and other misc. parts--and have thought seriously about the Fender Noiseless, since I'm primarily home recording at the moment with computers and the like running around me.

I agree about the "normal" Tele noises made by many generations. I am one of the true believers that tone is 90-95% in your fingers. I just want my fingers to sound like they did with the particular Teles I tried out! Hence this search. I have another 1-2 weeks before I decide and place the order (Warmoth body shipped today--yeah!).

Thanks again to all and hope you are having a great holiday season!
As to "twang", keep in mind on the first LZ album, and on some tracks on subsequent albums, and the first couple of tours, Page was playing a '58 Tele with a roseboard on the maple neck; the Fender NoCaster PUs are based on that design....
Hey man, I don't know about the Tele versions, but I took a gamble on the SCN strat pickups, even after having heard many disparaging comments about them.  I am well aware that you can't believe every thing you read, but thankfully these are really easy pickups to test drive being that they are in a good many Fender American Deluxe  models that are readily available at your typical local store.  I tried them out in a swamp ash strat, which is what I was planning to order from the big W, and while the specs of the Fender were not exactly what I would later be getting, it was close enough for me to get an idea, and they sounded good to me!  I am happy to report that my Warmoth strat containing these babies is everything I was looking for, and they are not kidding about the noiseless moniker.  Yeah, they are not the uber-boutique, name of the day pickups, but they do their job fantastically and the price allowed me to splurge elsewhere on my project.

Guitlouie--I actually tried a Strat with SCN and really liked them as well. It was through a Fender amp, so I would be curious how they sound through my Marshall. And it was a Strat, so it was hard to translate that to Tele realm for me.

Also, to Jackthehack, I played for several years in a Zep cover band (I was Page) so, I have wanted a Tele ever since then. This build is partially the realization of that dream from a few years back. Back then I darn near got an unpainted Warmoth at the time and painted a silly dragon on it just to be "accurate" but I ended up using my Les Paul most of the time with a Variax (ouch) for all the alt-tuning stuff, but also used Variax emulations of the Tele for the Stairway solo and a few of the 1st album songs, when I could handle the dead feeling of piezo electronics! So practical though. I badly wanted (and still want) a Danelectro too but ended up using that Variax simulation for Kashmir. But, I digress...and miss that band...

If the Nocasters are in the Zep realm then I will be happy for sure  :icon_biggrin: