Pickups to beef up your strat and more.
Jerry Amalfitano is an unassuming guy. As soon as you meet him, he’s telling you, almost apologetically, “I didn’t know anything about making pickups when I started this; I just wanted to make the best pickups I could.” That is both a worthy goal and a tall order, but Jerry seems to have given us full measure with his SP set of Strat pickups.
The SPs, along with the rest of Amalfitano’s pickups, are scatter-wound, which the Amalfitano website describes as a “hand-wound, non-uniform, wire layering technique.” This method more closely replicates the way that vintage pickups were originally manufactured. Leo Fender wasn’t able to purchase winding machines at the local Sears and Roebucks; he had to make them, and they weren’t very precise. Jerry has explored this concept with incredible results.
The pickups are high-output, but manage to sidestep the tendency of overwound single coils to park at a static dynamic level. Indeed, the Amalfitanos are anything but half-hearted, being responsive to volume knob adjustments and picking dynamics. They are almost finicky when it comes to height adjustment. If they initially sound anything less than spectacular, spend a few moments playing with the adjustment screws – you’ll be glad you did.
The middle pickup is reverse-wound/ reverse-polarity, so when you''re forced to stand next to the neon Jagermeister sign at your next gig, positions two and four will be nice and quiet. Jerry has also wound the pickups to different values to create even volume from position to position, winding the bridge pickup to 7K Ω, middle at 6.5K Ω, and 6.2K Ω for the neck.
The rear pickup sounds thick and creamy, veering close to Tele territory without ever giving up its identity as a Strat. Just like finding an overdriven bridge pickup sound that doesn''t sound too bitchy, finding an overdriven bridge-middle position tone that doesn''t sound washed out and thin can be a chore. Almost any Strat can produce good clean sounds in that position, but as the gain goes up, so does the meh factor. The Amalfitanos really shine here, sounding very full and rich, but still very Straty, from crystal clean to hammering the front end of an already too loud amp with a treble booster.
With such high praise for the bridge and bridge/middle positions, it''s no wonder that the neck and middle pickups shine almost effortlessly. The neck keeps the tones fat, yet articulate, and the middle is nice and warm, and very usable – something not often said about middle pickups.
Finding a Strat that allows me to do what seems easy with Teles and LP Jrs – plug into a tweed, blackface or 18-watt circuit, turn up, and go from clean to dirty with the volume knob – has proven elusive. Strats always seemed thin and somewhat fussy. The SPs made my nice, mid-priced Strat into something truly frightening: a Strat that can go straight into an amp, no pedals needed.
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