Tonerider pickups Vs Squier Classic Vibe Pickups

Advice & Tips, Guitars & Gear

Last year, I was in the process of changing the pickups in my two Stratocasters. One, my blonde Squier Vintage Modified (pictured below), was fitted out with custom pickups handmade for me by Rohdan Pickups in the USA. These were made using Alnico III magnets in the neck and middle pups, the same as the very first run of Fender Strats in 1954. The bridge was a mix of Alnico V & II, for better definition, without the harsh trebley bite.


My three Strats, before I sold the red one (top) or changed the pickups in the other two…

For the other guitar, my trusty Mexican HSS Strat (the blue one, pictured above), I only needed replacement neck and middle pickups. I was playing with different groups with less emphasis on heavy rock, and needed something more versatile. I’m still really happy with the Seymour Duncan ’59 humbucker in the bridge (this is usually a Les Paul replacement/upgrade, and has a great tone for classic rock). Having loved the sound of one of my other Strats, a Squier CV, or ‘Classic Vibe’ (Simon Neil signature model, based on a CV 60’s model), I started researching it’s pickups online. I thought I might get an idea of where to look for similar-sounding pups to install in my Mexican Strat. However, in my search, I happened upon an interesting, and ultimately money-saving, discovery…

Tonerider Pickups

Tonerider make replacement pickup sets for Strats and Teles. They appear to operate out of Squier’s main factory and sound as similar to the pickups used in Squier’s Classic Vibe guitar range as to lead most people to believe they are the stock pups built into the instrument.

An excellent article by Tidy Words seemed to confirm what many Squier player had long suspected, and which Tonerider set was (allegedly!) being used in which guitar:

  • CV 50’s Strat – Tonerider Surfaris
  • CV 60’s Strat – Tonerider Classic Blues
  • CV signature Strat (Simon Neil signature, etc) – Tonerider Vintage Classics

For full details, you can see the full article here.


Picture courtesy of Worth Point.

The takeaway message…

If you have a Squire Classic Vibe guitar, don’t upgrade it with Tonerider pickups, as they are already in there! And frankly, if you’ve bought a CV guitar to get the overall ‘vibe’ of a certain era in Fender’s history, the stock (Tonerider) pickups do a great job, and don’t need replacing in the first place! These guitars are well built and in terms of sound, playability and build quality, give the ‘real’ Fenders a run for their money – at a fraction of the price!

On the other hand, if you like the Strat you have, but want to improve the pickups, you could do a lot worse than the Tonerider range. Check out their full range of Strat pickups here.

How did it work out for me?

I bought a City Limits single coil set from Tonerider. These use Alnico V magnets, and are aiming for the ‘Texas Blues’ sound Fender Strats do so well – think ‘SRV’ and you’ll have a fairly good idea what I mean.


Picture courtesy of

I sold on the bridge pickup and replaced the Vintage Noiseless ‘hot’ pickups I had in the neck & middle positions. I now have a much more Strat-like guitar. It works for blues, rock, funk, jazz and everything else I throw at it. In combination with my blonde Strat, I have a fairly versatile setup, and don’t expect to be changing the pickups in either of them again anytime soon. For those interested, you can hear them on the most recent music releases I worked on, which are currently among the Popular Tracks section of this Spotify page.

Good luck in your buying choices!

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