Carey Nordstrand’s NVT A3 pickup set achieves early Tele tones using alnico 3 magnets and a nickel neck-pickup cover, rather than period-correct alnico 5s and brass. “Correct” vintage tone can be debated endlessly, but to my ears the A3s are special. There’s no shortage of good T-style pickups, but the A3s should be on traditional-Tele junkies’ must-try lists for their lustrous tones and almost palpable textures.
The bridge unit clucks and snaps vividly for compressed chicken-pickin’, purrs with subtle fingerpicked brushstrokes, and fights like a dirty punk when you add grit. It’s bright and articulate, but never harsh. Meanwhile, the neck pickup eschews clichéd “Texas phatness” in favor of gorgeous, bell-like clarity and an almost lipstick-tube-like graininess, a subtle texture that’s enchanting, inspiring—and all too rare.
Test gear: Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster ’50s, Jaguar HC50 and Goodsell Valpreaux 21 amps