Single Coil Sized Humbuckers Vs. Full Sized


New Member
Good Morning All,
The lack of available information on the internet has inspired me to post this topic.

In my last build I decided to change things up a bit. I normally stick with the SSH configuration in my strats. I find this configuration the most versatile for the music I play. However, just to be different, this time I went with the single coil version of the Dimarzio Super Distortion. First off, I ordered the SD by accident. It was one of those 2am orders and I clicked on the SD but meant to click on the Tone Zone S. Ironically, I have a full size SD in one of my other strats. This lends itself to an almost direct comparison. The SD single is pick guard mounted in a black korina body with a black korina neck with a Wilky VS100 trem and a TUSQ XL nut. The full sized SD is also pick guard mounted but in a swamp ash body with a Birdseye maple neck, also with a VS100 and a TUSQ XL nut. Same strings and same tuners.

Now, to the meat and potatoes. Starting with volume; the difference (as expected) is very pronounced. The S sized SD is like an annoying mosquito compared to the full sized and lower volumes. It reminds me of a lot of high gain tube amps I’ve played. They sound sweet cranked up but at bedroom volume they just sound terrible. Once you crank the volume it sounds very close to its full sized brother. Next is tone; when I match the volumes levels, I can attain an almost identical tone. By tone, I mean the character of the pickup (harmonics, bass, treble, mids, and generally how the pickup responds to different pick attack). It is hard to tell the difference except that, for reasons I have not yet figured out, the full sized PU seems to have a more full sound to it. I can adjust my amp all day with the S sized PU and it just doesn’t seem to have the nuts of the other one. One major advantage of the S sized PU is that it picks up much less RFI which allows you to play with your amp gain a bit more. Well this is my two cents. Feel free to weigh in.
I think it's hard to pack as many windings on two coils in the narrow mount. But the main issue is just how wide a section of the string you're sampling, and it's a matter of taste, not of right or wrong. I mean, PRS just came out with their "narrow field" humbuckers mounted on a sort-of Stratty guitar, because they've identified some perceived market. From my point of view, I have to have a big humbucking at the bridge because it's the only way to get the "right" sound for the kind of music I play. But I can certainly appreciate what some people are able to do with the tone of a single coil bridge PU, particularly the Telecasters rather than the Strat PU's. And for one specific reason - the great SRV/Eric Johnson/Hendrix Strat neck pickup tone, call it the "Little Wing" tone, I do like to have a single coil in that location. It's not a dealbreaker, but I've never heard a humbucker do that, tapped or parallel or anything else. And of course with a Strat with the middle pickup "reverse-wound" (as they call it) for hum-canceling, whenever you're in the 2 and 4 positions you're actually just playing a humbucking pickup 2 inches wide.
Agreed Stub. And very good point on the string sampling width. I hadn't consided the simple physical size of the full sized PU could just be picking up a wider range of string vibrations. This guitar as it is built right now definately has a place in my collection. If nothing else simply because it is different from the others. I seem to be able to get some very ZZ Topish sounds out of it.
How wide or narrow the field is that the pickup "picks up" is a major contributor.

Also, the full size SD uses pole pieces, the strat sized uses rails, and you also have to consider the angle  when placing in a traditional strat bridge p/u slot.  You'll likely hear an increase amount of treble overall.

Basically, both coils are now occupying the space of the strat single slot, whereas if you got a full sized humbucker and even angled it ala EVH, the coil nearest the neck would be positioned a whole coil space away from the bridge. 

With the strat SD, you've got the narrow field, the angle, and summed coils in the slot closest to the bridge.

Things to consider.