Fender Deluxe Drive Pickups Review

Who doesn't love a good ole Fender Strat? For the uninitiated, The Fender Stratocaster is a world-famous model of electric guitar that can be heard in countless albums throughout the decades, particularly in the genres of rock, folk, and pop.

But what happens when your Strat stops working? Or worse yet, you grow tired of your current Strat's sound?

Fender Stratocaster, courtesy of Sweetwater

Well, you've come to the right place, because today we're taking a deep dive into what I think are the best replacement Strat pickups.

The Fender Deluxe Drive Pickups are perfect if you want to upgrade a budget guitar, or replace a guitar's old pickups that have stopped working properly.

We'll also look at some considerations to make before buying new pickups like these, and even explore similar options for pickups in this general price range.

Now let's learn why the Fender Deluxe Drives are such awesome pickups!

Product Overview

Fender Deluxe Drive Pickups are ultra-affordable and sound great for a variety of different music styles. They're Fender's "hottest" pickups of this style, which means they have the highest output.

Because they generate a strong electrical signal, they're able to handle a lot of distortion without losing note definition. Simply put, this is one of the main reasons so many people who play rock and punk music love Fender-Style Strats.

Here's an overview of the main pros and cons of the Fender Deluxe Drive Pickups.

Why I like it

  • High output pickups
  • Budget-friendly
  • Great for rock and punk
  • Classic, sleek look
  • Standard casings to fit any Fender Stratocaster guitar
  • Full, well-rounded tone

What I think could be improved

  • Some feedback can occur
  • Some will prefer a sparklier tone with more high-end definition

Features & Benefits

Fender Deluxe Drive pickup

The Fender Deluxe Drive Stratocaster Pickups are extremely versatile and have been loved by countless players over the years. Here's what I like most about these pickups.

High Output 5/5

These pickups feature tightly wound vinyl-coated wires inside plastic bobbins. All this is enclosed inside the plastic casings that are fitted specifically for Fender Stratocaster guitars.

These are Fender's highest-output single-coil pickups, which gives them some distinct tonal characteristics.

For starters, they are louder than other single-coil pickups, and who doesn't love more volume? They also provide a tone with a fat midrange and solid bass presence, as opposed to lower output pickups which provide a thinner tone with more high-end definition.

Thanks to the Fender Deluxe Drives' midrange presence, they can really allow your guitar's tone to wash over the listener.

Most importantly, high-output pickups work better with overdrive and distortion. Your distorted tone will be full and defined, just like you want. You can get some great tones from these pickups, especially if you like high-gain settings.

Alnico-3 Magnets 4/5

Fender Deluxe Drive pickup

Fender Deluxe Drive pickups use Alnico-3 magnets, which are the second strongest magnets commonly used in pickups (second only to Alnico-5).

These magnets are what help convert the vibration from your strings into an electrical signal. With the Deluxe Drives, they're pretty responsive to your playing, so they'll capture most of your articulations and flourishes as you play.

Since these pickups are passive and don't have Alnico-5 magnets, they're not so responsive that they'll capture every single minute detail of your playing. But that's okay; sometimes it's nice to be able to wail on your axe without having to worry too much about sounding jumbled.

Alnico-3 magnets have been used in guitar pickups since the 1950s. They're very reliable, and thousands of guitarists still prefer them over any other type of pickup magnet.

Versatility 4/5

If someone asked me which pickups would get them the most bang for their buck, the Fender Deluxe Drives are probably what I would recommend. They fit any Strat, which is one of the most popular guitars in the world.

As far as their tone, they sound good clean or distorted. At clean settings, they perform just as expected. They maintain the dynamics and expressiveness of your playing, and you can get them to sparkle brilliantly by adding a bit of reverb or modulation.

You can experiment with different positions to find out which combination of the neck pickup, middle pickup, or bridge pickup works best for achieving your desired tone.

In every position, the Deluxe Drives provide a balanced tone, which is part of what makes them so versatile. They'll transparently capture your playing so that your preamp's tone controls can take over and really fine-tune your sound.

On high-gain amp settings, they've got enough bite to make punk rockers and metalheads happy. The overwound design makes for a full, powerful tone where you can really express your aggression or energy if you play distorted.

They're suitable for rock, pop, country, folk, blues, jazz, funk, reggae... the list just goes on and on. These pickups rock!

Things to Consider Before Buying

Fender Deluxe Drive pickup in a box

The Fender Deluxe Drive Stratocaster pickups are affordable and dependable, but there are still some things to consider before buying them.

Do you actually need new pickups?

You might be able to avoid buying new pickups altogether if your current pickups are able to be repaired. You can try taking your guitar into the nearest shop to see if one of the techs is able to repair your pickups.

I will say, however, that the cost of buying new Fender Deluxe Drives and installing them yourself might be cheaper than the cost of having someone fix your current pickups.

So if you do determine that new pickups are the way to go, and you're trying to get ones that won't break the bank, then the Fender Deluxe Drives are a great choice.

Compatibility with gear

The Fender Deluxe Drive Stratocaster pickups aren't for everyone; they're designed specifically for Fender Stratocasters. They are also compatible with other models of guitars that use the same pickup configuration.

If you have a Gibson Les Paul, Schecter Demon 6, or any other guitar that uses humbuckers, then the Fender Deluxe Drives won't be compatible with your guitar. (If this is the case, check out our guide to the best Les Paul pickups.)

It's also important to note that the Fender Deluxe Drives are passive pickups, so they're not readily compatible with guitars that have active pickup circuitry. But that's no problem; passive pickups are simpler to maintain, and you can play just about any style of music with them.

Preferred styles of music

Since your pickups do most of the heavy lifting in determining your guitar's tone, it makes sense to find pickups that are complimentary to your preferred style of music.

I'll be honest, I've always been partial to heavier styles of music like hard rock, punk, and metal. Fortunately, the Fender Deluxe Drives are fantastic for these styles because they sound so good with high-gain amp settings.

So if you aspire to play punk or classic rock styles, then the Fender Deluxe Drive pickups are a good choice. However, for even more aggressive styles like death metal or djent, you may want active pickups with even higher output. EMG makes some great ones around the $200 price point.

So what about softer genres like jazz, funk, or pop? Well, the Fender Deluxe Drives have you covered there as well. I absolutely love the versatility of these pickups. On clean settings, they sound full and balanced, similarly to the Fender '57/'62 Stratocaster Pickup set which I also love.

They're just solid pickups that allow you to dial in the perfect tone settings on your amp or preamp, and they'll most likely deliver the tone you're looking for.


Here are what I believe to be the 4 best alternatives to the Fender Deluxe Drive Stratocaster pickups.

Seymour Duncan SSL 5 Custom

Seymour Duncan SSL-5 Custom Staggered Single-Coil Bridge Pickup White

Seymour Duncan makes some incredible pickups that have some overlapping strengths with the Fender Deluxe Drives.

These are very well made medium-output pickups that deliver fat, full tones to help your Strat cut through the mix better than the stock pickups would.

What's more, they're available individually, not just in sets of 3, which allows you to replace only a single pickup with a Seymour Duncan. This is a bit unorthodox, but it could save the the money and time of having to buy and install 3 new pickups.

Some would even argue that mix and matching your pickups like that will give you access to a wider combination of tones, making your guitar a bit more versatile. This is highly dependent on the specific guitar and pickups though.

Fender Ventera '50s Modified Stratocaster Pickup Set

Fender Vintera '50s Modified Stratocaster Pickup Set

This pickup set retains much of the same circuitry designs that made the authentic vintage pickups from the '50s sound so good. Seymour Duncan has reworked these pickups to have essentially the same tonal characteristics, but a higher output to accommodate more modern sounds.

I love these pickups because they have the bonafide vintage Strat tone that put the instrument on the map, but with a little power and edge.

These are the pickups I would recommend to anyone who specializes in playing classic rock. You'll love the tone and also enjoy the slightly boosted output. It'll put just a bit more power and emphasis behind what you play, with more focus on the high-mids, where a lot fo the note definition is found.

Seymour Duncan Little '59 Humbuckers

Seymour Duncan Little '59 Humbuckers

Here's a pickup set that will completely transform your guitar's performance. The Seymour Duncan Little '59 Humbucker Pickup Set is a unique offering to guitar players. They're humbuckers that are fitted for a Fender Stratocaster.

Humbuckers are pickups that have two coils wound in opposite directions, canceling out the "hum" that is created by single-coil pickups. Basically, humbuckers cancel hum really well, and that's why they're some of the most popular pickups out there.

They also tend to have even higher overall output than single coil pickups, because having two coils means more wire to generate an output signal.

With these awesome pickups, you can get a classic PAF humbucker tone in your Stratocaster, without requiring any adjustments to the guitar itself. A Strat that behaves like a Les Paul? Sign me up! These pickups are great if you have a Strat but would prefer the performance of humbucking pickups.

Fender Vintage Noiseless Stratocaster 3-Piece Pickup Set

Fender Vintage Noiseless Stratocaster 3-Piece Pickup Set

Surprise! Even single coil pickups can be noiseless.

The Fender Vintage Noiseless Stratocaster 3-Piece Pickup Set performs just as advertised. The pickups deliver the iconic vintage Fender sound, but without the hum in the background.

Anyone who's used single coil pickups for a long time knows that they can be prone to unwanted noise, especially at high gain amp settings. While feedback can sometimes sound cool if implemented in a creative way, it's safe to say that overall, it is usually a drawback.

With Fender's vintage noiseless pickups, they've used specially beveled Alnico-2 magnets along with enamel-coated magnet wire to create pickups that capture the iconic Fender tone without the humming.

A way to cancel hum without using humbuckers? What will they think of next?

In Conclusion

Fender Deluxe Drive pickup

The Fender Deluxe Drive Stratocaster pickups are budget-friendly pickups that are supercharged and ready to rock.

After about an hour of work or a trip to your local music store, you can have them installed into your guitar and be jamming by this evening.

The real takeaway here is that the Fender Deluxe Drive Stratocaster pickups are cost-effective and highly versatile.

They sound particularly good with high-gain amp settings and in the neck position (That's just my preference though. Mess around with multiple positions and amp settings to see just how versatile these pickups really are!).

For such a great price and range of sounds they can create, it's hard to find anything to complain about with the Fender Deluxe Drive Stratocaster pickups. Most people who buy them are happy with them, so they are a safe bet for buyers who love a good value.

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