I’ve had a lot of inquiries into the new Fender Noiseless N3 Pickups here at deluxe guitar. My new 2010 American Deluxe Ash Stratocaster has them installed as standard equipment. I also own a 1996 Strat Plus with Lace Sensor pickups, a 2002 American Deluxe Stratocaster with Vintage Noiseless pickups and a 2004 American Deluxe Ash Strat with Samarium Cobalt noiseless pickups. So I’ll be using those guitars as a basis for comparison to the N3 noiseless pickups on my 2010 American Deluxe Ash Stratocaster.
First of all let me tell you a little about the design of the new N3 Noiseless pickups. According to Fender’s promotional material the N3 Noiseless pickup has an improved stacked-coil design and are specially tailored for each Stratocaster pickup position. It also represents a return to the warmth and clarity of Alnico magnets. Also the type of alnico magnets used is tailored to each specific pickup position. The bridge pickup uses Alnico V for power and warmth as well as the signature snap and spank of the classic Stratocaster bridge pickup. The middle N3 pickup uses Alnico II to give the pickup it’s signature sweetness and sparkle. The neck pickup uses Alnico III to give it it’s fullness without undue magnetic string pull.
The previous paragraph is all taken from Fender’s own promotional material so let me tell you what I hear when I play these pickups. First of all, the bridge pickup which Fender states uses the Alnico V magnet. To me it sounds very much like a classic Fender single coil Stratocaster bridge pickup. It has spank, it has twang and it has absolutely no dreaded 60-cycle hum. It is wired to the no-load tone control so you can cut the tone control out of the signal path and wire the bridge pickup directly to the output jack. Of all my Strats this pickup is the most alive sounding pickup I have. It is much livelier than the Samarium Cobalt noiseless pickups and very much more responsive to my picking attack. It picks up more nuances of my hand and pick sliding on the strings as well. It also seems to have a lot more output power than the Vintage Noiseless pickups. It is also the first noiseless pickup I own that can pick up the 3rd fret harmonic as well as I like and I have a suspicion that Jeff Beck may have been using this pickup for a while before they were placed in the American Deluxe line up. This is a very powerful bridge pickup and perfectly noiseless. It’s very close to an original single coil bridge pickup but it does have more of a growl to it.
The middle pickup definitely has the classic Fender Stratocaster middle pickup chime. I use it more than I have ever used a middle pickup on any of my other guitars. I think the best way to describe it is that the middle pickup is balanced with the neck and bridge pickups. There isn’t a big drop-off in volume and attack when switching from the bridge pickup to the middle pickup and there isn’t a huge loss of warmth when switching from the neck pickup to the middle pickup. The middle pickup is just perfectly balanced tonally between the bridge and the neck pickups.
The neck pickup is close to perfection! It is warm, slightly rubbery sounding with a sweet muted attack. I’m sure a lot of this sound comes from where the pickup is placed under the strings as well as the scale length of the Fender Stratocaster. But the pickup captures that true, classic neck pickup sound of the Fender Stratocaster. Again, like the bridge pickup, there is a slight growl to the sound that isn’t found on a classic single coil pickup. It doesn’t bother me and I prefer the slight extra power that the pickup seems to give me. If you’re looking for the true, classic single-coil neck pickup sound the N3 Noiseless is not an exact replica but it is extremely close to it. Of course, it’s completely hum free which is what I love about these noiseless pickups. Again, it’s perfectly balanced with the middle and bridge pickups and still has it’s own signature sound.
In summary, the new Fender Noiseless N3 Pickups are a wonderful addition to Fender’s pickup offerings. I absolutely love them because they are noise free and very powerful. The sound isn’t as dark as the Samarium Cobalt pickups, they are much more powerful than the Vintage Noiseless pickups and they are much warmer and more true to the classic Fender sound than my Lace Sensor pickups. If you’re looking for a Stratocaster that has an excellent set of factory installed pickups then look no further than the Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster with N3 Noiseless pickups.