A cult-favorite among Southern California surf rockers and indie instrumentalists, the Fender Jazzmaster may be one of the most unique-sounding hollow-body electric guitars ever made. With that said, you won’t get a taste of the Jazzmaster’s tonal superiority unless it is equipped with a set of equally superb pickups. These simple and often overlooked components are responsible for converting guitar string vibrations into electric signals. Essentially, they kick off an electric guitar’s amplification. Without them, your Jazzmaster never be capable of generating audible sound.
What Jazzmaster pickups do musicians use?
Of course, any gear nut will tell you that vintage guitar pickups are an integral part of an instrument’s signature sound blueprint. Any informed musician will tell you that quality Jazzmaster pickup replacements will make it possible for you to produce the instrument’s coveted signature sound.
We’re excited to share three pickups that are capable of generating those highly sought-after vintage specs. Check them and our buying guide out in the sections below.
1. Fender Pure Vintage ’65 – Best Jazzmaster Pickup set
You get bright highs, well-rounded mids, and booming lows. While we love specs as much as the next gear nut, these pickups speak for themselves.
Fender has clearly done their research when it comes to original Jazzmaster pickups. These promising replacements even boost period-era cloth wire and fiber bobbins. Flush-mount polepieces produce a resounding, expansive string response. The pickups have been subjected to wax potting. This process prevents microphonics or the development of unwanted electric noise. Moreover, the wax helps to protect the pickup’s internal components, making it an item that is guaranteed to last decades. While it is true that many guitar parts are no longer made like they were, this simply isn’t the case when it comes to Fender’s Jazzmaster Pickup Set.
Fender Pure Vintage 65 pickups review
The pickup covers are a color that fender calls “Vintage White.” Indeed, it has a slightly aged appearance that blends right into the backdrop of a well-worn, well-used vintage guitar. This is a good pick for anyone who needs to replace their Jazzmaster’s soapboxes and pickups. Even the packaging boasts throwback elements, including 1950s-esque salmon coloring and old-school typeface.
Trust us when we say that this product isn’t just for show. The pickups are capable of producing the snarly edge and texture of a vintage Fender Jazzmaster. It really comes as no surprise that Fender managed to replicate their original recipe. Their attention to detail is much appreciated.
Installation couldn’t be easier. The bridge pickup features a small red dot. Meanwhile, the neck pickup boasts a blue dot. Each pickup has two color-coded wires. These must be attached to the corresponding connections on your Jazzmaster. The set also comes with the necessary hardware and a printed warranty. You will need a few tools to install these elements correctly. You’re guaranteed a smooth installation so long as you have a soldering iron and a screwdriver. The pickups cannot be installed until the strings, pickguard, and existing pickups have been removed.
- Wax potted for protection and microphonic prevention
- “Vintage White” soapbox covers
- Uniquley wound single-piece copper coils and pole magnets for that vintage Jazzmaster sound
- Flushmoount pole pieces for even string response
- Brighter and more responsive than the Seymour Duncan Antiquities
- Offers the clarity and division that only a vintage single-coil passive pickup can
- May not be ideal for someone looking for mellow, quiet sound
- Some discrepencies between the OG and replacement bridge pickups (though Fender’s new neck pickups are very close to their originals)
2. Seymour Duncan Antiquity II – Best Jazzmaster Single Coil Pickup Set
Seymore Duncan’s single-coil pickup set will give your Jazzmaster that snappy, sweet surf sound that you’re so desperately craving. The Antiquity II Jazzmaster pickups feature hand-ground Alinco 5 rod magnets and period-correct copper coils. Each custom coil is made from formvar mag wire. Both elements feature vintage-inspired gray flatwork and cloth push-back lead wires. Plus, the pickups are lacquered and wax potted just like originals.
It’s not hard to see what makes the Antiquity IIs stand out. They’re some of the only newly produced pickups that are capable of producing authentic 1960s instrumental sound.
Seymour Duncan Antiquity II review
These pickups are designed to look and sound as vintage as possible. Most musicians agree that these elements are perfect for anyone who’s looking to reproduce the bright, punchy sound of 1960s surf rock.
The Antiquity IIs are designed to fit in the neck and bridge cavities of any standard-sized American Fender Jazzmaster. Keep in mind that you will need to slip them into your original soapbox covers or purchase replacements.
According to the Seymour Duncan company, the Antiquity II neck pickup captures moderate bass and mid-range signals and elevated treble signals. The same could be said of their Antiquity II bridge pickup.
Every Seymour Duncan product is handmade by master builders in Santa Barbara, California. The company is 21 years strong. Each product is covered by a 100% guarantee. If you don’t like the sound of your pickups, you have 21 days to exchange them. Keep in mind that this offer only applies to products sold by authorized Seymour Duncan dealers in the United States.
Duncan prides himself on his company’s attention to detail. Check out this video to hear the Fender Thurston Moore Jazzmaster. This impressive ax comes with built-in Antiquity IIs.
Keep in mind that the Antiquity II set is easy to install. Seymour Duncan even has a “Pickup Installation 101” course posted on their website. We found that this video guide makes installation easy and stress-free. Keep in mind that with the ideal tools and resources, you should be able to swap your pickups out in under 3 hours.
- Alinco 5 magnets give these pickups a warm yet powerful tonal response (not as bright as the originals)
- Uniquly wound copper coil for clear, crisp highs, mids, and lows
- Aged (gray covering) for an authentic vintage look that compliments the sound perfectly
- Drop-in replacements for Jazzmaster bridge and neck pickups
- Vintage-looking cloth push-back wiring
- Delivers that 1960s surf-rock tones like no other retrofitted pickup can
- Easy to install
- These come uncovered. (Let’s home your original Jazzmaster soapbox cases are in good condition.)
- The sound is not 100% identical to that of original Jazzmaster pickups.
3. Seymour Duncan Antiquity – Best Jazzmaster Bridge Pickup Replacement
Rounding out our list is Seymour Duncan’s Antiquity Jazzmaster Bridge. This vintage-inspired single-coil pickup features Alinco 2 Magnets and a single enamel-coated copper coil. It provides superior sound quality, especially when you consider the fact that it is a newly manufactured drop-in replacement.
One element that makes the Antiquity so magnificent is its unique coil pattern. You’re sure to warm, mellow sound with plenty of snap. You don’t have to take our word for it. To hear the difference between the Seymour Duncan Antiquity and the Duncan Designed pickups. Both of the featured products are Jazzmaster pickups. However, there’s no denying the fact that Antiquities offer a unique soundstage.
Replacement Jazzmazter pickups
The Antiquity bridge pickup has an output of roughly 11.75 kiloohms. This makes it a bit more powerful than the original.
Keep in mind that the Antiquity is comparable to a 1950s Jazzmaster bridge pickup. If you’re looking for a more 1960s sound, you’re probably better off with the Antiquity II. Here is yet another video that will give you an idea of this pickup’s unique tonal qualities.
This item boasts plenty of vintage-correct details, including heavy-duty formvar mag wire, flush-mount polepieces, and cloth push-back lead wire. The entire piece has been lacquered and wax potted for longevity and durability.
All Seymour Duncan products are backed by a 21-day exchange policy. However, this is only applicable when pickups are purchased from a qualified retailer.
- Easy drop-in replacement for any standard-sized original Jazzmaster bridge pickup
- Authentic 1950s tone and appearance (case not included)
- Equipped with carefully calibrated Alinco 2 magnets
- Unique winding for warm, sweet, snappy tones
- Aged so that it provides users with a uniquely vintage sound and aesthetic
- Features heavy formvar mag wire, vintage-correct flatwork, and cloth push-back lead wires
- Does not come with a cover (However, it will fit nicely into an existing bridge cover.)
- Pricey for a single pickup (neck pickup not included)
How to Choose the Best Jazzmaster Pickups?
For many musicians, the decision to replace vintage pickups isn’t one that’s approached lightly. Even skilled guitarists might find themselves questioning whether the benefits will outweigh the risks. We’ve found that the right pickup replacements improve the quality of a guitar’s sound.
Pickup installation is actually very easy. You’re very unlikely to damage your guitar in the process. Moreover, you can always reverse course in the event that the replacements are not as enjoyable as you anticipated.
In this day and age, it’s easy to find comprehensive installation and demo videos on the internet. These resources enable untrained musicians to modify and repair their instruments with little additional guidance.
There are plenty of things that make the Fender Jazzmaster unique. Replacement pickups can help you revive your legendary guitar. Considering the rarity of vintage models and the diminishing quality of new guitars, most musicians would rather replace their faulty pickups than go through the trouble of finding a replacement instrument. With that said, we don’t recommend that you toss your original pickups right off the bat. After all, there’s always the chance that the audio inconsistencies you’re hearing are coming from some other faulty component.
What is a Guitar Pickup?
Pickups are elements that are built into the neck and bridge of electric guitars. They are small, square-shaped components that are made up of magnets wrapped in copper wire. These elements work together to generate an electric field around a guitar’s strings. Since pickups are usually the first thing to snatch up a sound signal in an audio amplification chain, musicians are careful to choose ones that are capable of creating unique and highly replicable blueprints.
In other words, inferior or poorly matched pickups are likely to have irreparable implications on the tonality of your music.
Bridge Pickup vs. Neck Pickup
Keep in mind that pickups are sold as individual units and sets. The Jazzmaster, like most guitars, is equipped with a bridge pickup as well as a neck pickup. The original pickups were engineered to produce a full range of tones, including sparkly treble, crisp mid-range, and bellowing bass. They’re what industry experts call “soapbox pickups.” This is because of their white, rectangular shape. Each pickup has magnet pole pieces and a single copper coil. The coils, as per Fender’s signature style, are wound backward in a wide, flat pattern. It’s actually the unique pattern of the copper coil that gives the Jazzmaster its signature sound. The sound that comes out of this guitar tends to be mellow, warm, and bright.
Another element that makes the Jazzmaster’s pickups so significant is this guitar’s unique slide-switch circuitry. There’s a slide switch on the face of the guitar that enables users to isolate the sound of a single pickup. The switch has two positions, including “Rhythm” and “Lead.” When the switch is set to the “Rhythm” position, users can only utilize their neck pickup and the relative onboard thumb wheels. On the other hand, the “Lead” position enables users to utilize both pickups and all of the Jazzmaster’s onboard controls.
Jazzmaster guitars have been used by musicians across several different genres. Some of the most notable Jazzmaster players include Elvis Costello, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, Win Butler of Arcade Fire, and J Mascis of Dinosaur Junior. While the Jazzmaster didn’t take off with Fender’s original target audience, it did manage to earn the respect of several well-respected guitarists. Even Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Jimi Hendrix experimented with the Jazzmaster at the peaks of their careers. Shortly thereafter and probably due to this its more famous users, the Jazzmaster’s popularity soared amongst American teens.
Check out this video to hear the tone of this iconic guitar and its original pickups. After that, check out this video to see the difference between an original Jazzmaster and one with Seymour Duncan’s Antiquities.
You can also listen to Wilco’s Nels Cline play his 1960s Fender Jazzmaster before a show at Seattle’s Paramount Theater. Keep in mind that the effect pedals, cables, amplifiers, strings, and even room acoustics have an impact on the tone of his guitar. Still, the glassy, well-rounded, mellow soundstage is undoubtedly a product of his original Jazzmaster pickups.
Coils and Magnets
In order to truly appreciate the magic and uniqueness of original Jazzmaster pickups, you need to look under the cover, or, in this case, the soapbox. Jazzmaster’s must be paired with single-coil pickups. In other words, the pickups consist of six rod magnets inserted into a tightly wound coil bobbin. If you were to compare this bobbin to that of a Fender Stratocaster or another vintage guitar, you’d probably notice that Jazzmaster’s copper wires extend much further past the magnets. Experts agree that it is the distinct layout of the Jazzmaster bobbin that causes the instrument’s incredibly wide frequency range.
Another important detail is the original’s cloth-covered wiring. The cloth coating is intended to serve as insulation. Insulation helps preserve a guitar’s wide tonal potential. On top of this, the copper underneath the cloth is incredibly conductive. Jazzmasters are considered to have very hot pickups. Or, in other words, their pickups produce a lot of resistance.
Pickup Shape/Size and Soapboxes
Standard Jazzmaster soap bars (cases) are 3.629 inches long, 0.567 inches thick, and 1.608 inches wide. Their outermost flush-mount poles are spaced 1.720 inches apart. The actual pickups are slightly smaller, as to fit inside the cases. Keep in mind that the mounting points are built into the pickups rather than the exterior casings. You’ll find that all of our replacement pickup selections are sized to fit standard Fender Jazzmaster guitars.
If you were to break apart a Jazzmaster’s pickups, you’d find a set of magnets and six metal bobbins underneath the tightly wound exterior copper coil. The exterior case should slip right off the main unit.
Some replacements come with soapboxes. Others are designed to be slipped beneath the original cases. Many companies work to give their soapboxes an authentic vintage aesthetic. Meanwhile, others are solid in new condition. You may or may not need replacements depending on the extent of your guitar restoration project. Keep in mind that soapboxes do not have an impact on a pickup’s tonality. However, a stark white replacement case is likely to stand out like a sore thumb on a weathered, worn vintage guitar.
Generally speaking, lower output ranges result in clearer, more dynamic frequencies. Original Fender Jazzmaster pickups have an output range of 8 to 9.3 kilohms. Fender’s Pure Vintage ’65s are listed as having an output range of 6.8 kiloohms. Finally, both Antiquities have an antiquity range that falls around 8.5 kiloohms. While there are several different vintage Jazzmaster pickup models, all kinds fall within a relatively tight output range.
When Should You Replace Your Jazzmaster’s Pickups
Musicians may decide to replace their pickups for a variety of reasons. While pickups are not considered wearable items, that’s not to say that their various components cannot corrode or break over time. Of course, the risk of this happening is only greater when it comes to vintage guitars.
Signs of failing pickups include excess distortion and buzzing. The Jazzmaster’s original pickups were engineered to generate relatively mellow, clean sound. Being that they are passive pickups, they should also be able to produce a wide dynamic range. If you notice that your guitar is not performing as expected or as it once did, now might be a good time to consider replacing your pickups.
Keep in mind that while replacement pickups are relatively inexpensive, they are capable of making a big difference. With that said, you don’t want to settle for just any replacement. Gearheads will tell you that there are only a few modern-day pickups that are capable of replicating the Jazzmaster’s original sound. Naturally, we’ve only recommended the most authentically vintage replicas available.
Keep in mind that multiple things can impact the tonality of a vintage guitar. You may need to do some tinkering or talk with a guitar expert before you can be sure that replacement pickups will resolve your audio woes.
After looking at several different Jazzmaster pickups, we’ve settled on the Fender Pure Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster Pickup Set as our top pick. We love that this set is made by Fender. If there’s any company out there that can appreciate the importance of a Jazzmaster’s pickups, they’re it. They’ve clearly gone above and beyond to create authentically vintage-sounding and -looking hardware. They offer a full range of tonal excellence with hardly any gain or fuzz. Of course, the Seymour Duncan’s Antiquity II Jazzmaster Single Coil Pickup Set is our go-to recommendation for anyone looking to reproduce the tones of some of the nation’s most legendary 1960s surf rockers. Meanwhile, the Seymour Duncan Antiquity Jazzmaster Bridge does a great job of capturing the Jazzmaster’s original 1950s soundstage.
It goes without saying that the Jazzmaster is one of the most iconic guitars ever created. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a vintage model and find yourself in need of replacement pickups, any of our recommendations will do.
As always, we welcome you to drop any of your remaining questions or comments in the section below. Stay tuned for more expert audio equipment recommendations and reviews!