Sure, I know how to solder, and yes, I’ve replaced pickups and pots on many occasions. But, quite honestly, it was only recently that I installed a complete set of Stratocaster electronics entirely myself. And would you believe I did the whole job in under an hour? Pretty quick for a rookie, huh? Truth be told, the task was made a lot easier because it involved a trio of ultra-quiet Kinman AVn Woodstock pickups ($260 direct) as well as the Australian pickup maker’s helpful NoSoldering Harness ($89 direct) upon which all necessary components—pickups, pots, knobs, 5-way selector, output jack, fastening nuts, and lock washers—are pre-wired and configured to mount directly onto a Strat pickguard.
Installation was simple. Grabbing my favorite gigging Strat, I ripped off the strings, unscrewed the pickguard, and removed the original pickups and electronics. (Too ADHD to wait for the soldering iron to heat up, I simply disconnected the ground and output jack wires by wiggling them at their solder points until the connections gave.) Then I removed the Kinman hardware from the Harness and carefully attached it all to the pickguard in the same orientation in which it was shipped. (The ground and output jack wires installed solderlessly and cleverly into a small screw-terminal hub pre-mounted on the Volume pot.) If you’ve got a shred of DIY in your DNA—and a few simple tools, including every guitar tech’s best friend, a w” nut driver—you’ll find installing Kinman pickups a thrillingly smooth operation indeed. Pop a cross-point bit on your power drill and you’ll reach the finish line even faster.
Of course, the real question is why? Why swap out the pickups on your Stratocaster for a new set of Kinmans? Most players do this because they’re seeking new tones, a more balanced sound, and/or less noise than typical single-coils in high-gain or bad-ground scenarios. While Kinman’s custom-alnico-magnet-driven AVn (“Authentic Vintage Noiseless”) pickups will still hum if you hold ’em near a cathode ray tube, for all practical purposes, these patented, Strat-pickup-sized stacked humbuckers are astonishingly quiet while maintaining plenty of clarity and articulation, even when cranked through the Ultra channel of a Marshall JCM2000.
The higher-output Woodstocks are well suited for the Strat player who likes to throttle preamps with extra punch to produce fuller overdrive sounds with less spiky highs. But, though they served me brilliantly on a wide range of gigs, from the moment I popped in a set of Kinman AVn Traditional Mk IIs ($260 direct), my Strat’s sound bloomed in a way I’ve never heard from
single-coil-sized humbuckers—or even conventional single-coils, for that matter. Overlapping tone-wise with the sound of classic Strat pickups (but without the 60Hz hum, of course) the Mk IIs spike the sonic punch with sparkling upper mids that make my amps (Fender, Marshall, Tech 21) come alive. And when you order either trio of pickups pre-wired on the NoSoldering Harness, you’ll find that the lowest knob acts as an independent volume for the neck pickup, allowing for all possible pickup combinations, including the timeless bridge-plus-neck “Tele” sound. For mountains of information on company founder Chris Kinman’s custom pickup designs, as well as his detailed philosophies on everything from guitar setup to string winding, be sure to visit the Kinman website. Kinman scores bonus points in the customer service department for responding via email to the tweaky questions of hundreds of Kinman pickup owners and prospective buyers each week.