Long recognized for his accurate-sounding vintage-style pickups, Lindy Fralin has devoted much of his more original thinking to capturing realistic single-coil tones in new hum-rejecting designs. Fralin has been widely acclaimed for his Gibson Humbucker-, Fender Jazzmaster- and Gibson P-90-sized “Split Singles,” which use two staggered (but individual) coils in a single housing, each wound to opposite polarities to reject hum. But fitting the same principle into a Stratocaster-sized bobbin has eluded him—until now. With the introduction of the Split-Blade Stratocaster pickup ($100 retail), Fralin has finally achieved his goal of building a noiseless Strat replacement with the narrow magnetic window of a genuine single-coil pickup. After experimenting with the format for several years, the result is essentially a “broken” single-blade pickup, with the center ends of each of the two blade halves bent at a slight angle so their paths overlap each other in the center of the pickup, thereby creating a magnetic field with no hole in the middle. While seeking to reproduce a fairly vintage-styled tone, Fralin wasn’t afraid to redraw the blueprint entirely, and in the end he opted to use small ceramic magnets and to wind the coils with relatively few turns of 42-gauge wire. Split-Blades come in three strengths, which have output levels in the region of Fralin’s Vintage, Blues, and High-Output style single-coils, although their DC resistance readings are deceptively low, a byproduct of their design. The pickups are made with two choices of radiused top surface and blade (to suit fretboard radiuses of 7.5" to 10" or more than 10"), come with black or white covers, and can be ordered with cloth leads or two-conductor shielded leads to match with other pickups of unknown polarity.
I tested two sets of three Split- Blades, Vintage and Blues, in a pair of Fender Stratocasters, side by side with the original pickups loaded into a Fender Custom Shop ’60 Relic Stratocaster. The Vintage Split-Blades yielded convincingly old-school Strat tones in all five positions, with some snarly quack toward the bridge and plenty of warm, chewy bite at the neck. Their tone was that of a genuine single-coil, although they lacked any hint of 60-cycle hum. A quick swap to the Relic Stratocaster unveiled perhaps a little more chime and sparkle in the Fender pickups, but this was more a matter of their flavor being slightly different rather than superior, and the hum that came along with it seemed all the more prominent in the wake of the noise-free Fralins. Plugging in the Stratocaster with the Blues Split- Singles brought a little more beef to the stew, which wasn’t noticeable in an increase of output so much as in a thickening of the midrange and a slight smoothing out of the guitar’s overall voice—though without shifting it out of classic-Strat territory by any means. This round and fat-sounding pickup provides a tone that many rock and blues players have chased for decades (with hum-free performance no less), and could also be a cure for an overly bright Strat. Both sets handle mild to heavy overdrive well, whether pedal- or amp-generated, with the Vintage pickups retaining just a touch more clarity amid the grind, and the Blues offering up the dirt a little quicker, with a tad more midrange punch. All in all, both sets achieve Fralin’s goals with flying colors, and should offer an excellent noiseless-single-coil alternative that many players will appreciate.
KUDOS Accurate vintage and thick-Strat tones with good balance and clarity. Zero hum.
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