Fender Noiseless N3 Pickups Review

Fender Stratocaster N3 Noiseless Pickup
N3 Noiseless Pickup

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.

40 responses to “Fender Noiseless N3 Pickups Review”

  1. Sorry, couldn’t disagree more, they are low output and my prs se eg sounds more stratty than these pickups as does my fret king super 60 (all are also much louder)

    Dull lifeless pickups sounds like a srtat being played in a box.

  2. If you want real Vintage Strat tone/harmonics/timbre,response,compression
    the N3 will not get the job done.
    If you want noiseless you might like the N3;
    and if you like the N3 you might like your Strat better unplugged and in it’s case or hanging on your wall.
    LJ Walton/Cotati CA

  3. I have several strats all with fender custom shop pickups. Since I got the Am Deluxe with N3’s I can hardly stand to play the others. I love everything about them.

  4. I have to agree with the others–I have this guitar in a HSS and while I like the AH-1 humbucker, the N3s are kind of thin-sounding. They are completely silent, and using the S-1 switching system does deliver useable tones, but compared to, say, a set of Fralin Vintage Hots, or any scatter-wound PU, these PUs are very sterile sounding..too balanced, in fact, and not harmonically rich enough, though they do have a nice woody tone to them in some of the S-1 configurations. I’m beginning to wonder if anyone has a single-coil noiseless PU that sounds good. But I can’t stand HBs in a neck position, esp..too dark and no punch or sparkle, too much mid-range for me. Great in the bridge, though.

  5. For anyone who doesn’t like Fender’s N3 Noiseless pickups, I think Kinman makes some awesome-sounding noiseless pickups. Kinman’s Traditional Mk-III set capture the classic Strat sound well. I have them in a couole of my Strats. Their newer Impersonator 54 pickups are supposed to be even closer in sound to a ’54 Strat (but without the hum, of course). I’ve also seen some demo videos of the DiMarzio Area pickups, and those sound pretty good too, for noiseless Strat pickups.

  6. Bleh. Two people hate them, 2 people love them. I have a couple of Strat Plus, which (to me) mechanically blow away most other types of Strats. (And I have bought & sold Strats for over 30 years and have owned well over 100 pre-CBS Strats) Excellent construction/stay in tune/sustain/and the quality I call “give-back”. But the Lace pickups, while quiet, are definitely sub-optimal IMO. As I am a jazz player (yes, with a Strat) I can live with the barely average tone because I typically use only the bass pickup. But the other two pickups are decidedly synthetic and flat sounding.

    Gotta love those YouTube videos where someone demos a set of pickups…through massive fuzz-box and amp distortion. Yeah, that’s what I call useful.

  7. I had the ‘original’ N3’s on a new deluxe but one pole was dead. Fender replaced it but it was different looking. The new N3 text was in a different location. Don’t know if I got the same N3 sound now.
    The new N3’s are really weak compared to my standard USA Strats, & MIM’s. Have to crank the gain way up.
    The guitar sounds very twangy, almost like a Telecaster (hi treble). The tone is in middle to get the classic sound. Could be the guitar. Otherwise they sound OK. Ho hum, but no hum.

  8. Wire these in reverse white to ground and they sound awesome.

  9. The N3s sound better than other Fender noiseless. They are great pickups, but there is a price for stopping the noise. Still, the price is worth it, especially at high volume. Well done, Fender.

  10. I like them a lot. I built my own strat, I built my own tweed deluxe and these just topped off the tones I was going for.
    They, like the amp and guitar, are not strict ‘sounds just like’ pickups, (but as far as I’m concerned these comments about lifeless or synthetic are total BS), which still have tones of the Fender vibe I wanted, and no noise.
    I’m very happy, and will set up my Tele with another set for sure.

  11. These pick-ups are great. You do need technique to obtain a great sound from any guitar. I have two PRS Customs and the N3s in the Stratocaster produce a much better strat tone than the either of the PRS Customs.

  12. Be careful. I own a few fenders. My wife thinks too many. And no they don’t just hang from the wall. What you have to consider is does the person posting even know how to setup their pickups? Pickup sound varies so much just based on setup, distance from the strings, variance from low to high end. To accurately compare pickups across the same guitar is almost impossible. I have NEVER received a new guitar and had the pups in the right place. The guy in the factory doesn’t care as much as you do. Try this as an example, just raise and lower the middle pickup on your strat and see how much spank comes and goes. It is the best example I can think of. What I am saying is that make sure you have given the pups a chance before yanking them out of your axe. A level setup is almost NEVER going to be what is best. To just measure and say do a 8/64 height across all three pups is BLIND. You have to use your ears. Start level and move each pickup towards what sounds better. IMHO the N3’s sound better in a strat than the samariums (if your going noiseless). But the samariums sound better in a tele (once again if your going noiseless). Sure if your not going noiseless there are better tones. I have a 50th anniversary american deluxe with samariums and an american deluxe with N3’s. I like the N3s better. But once again they are both a compromise.

  13. I was feeling a little low that my 2013 American Strat sounded a little thin. I took it into the local music store and played it side-by-side with a deluxe Strat with N3 pick ups. As a result, I traded-away the 2013 on-the-spot. Luv the N3s!

  14. I love every pickup that will reproduce the Music I hear.I will make a toy guitar sing. Ranting about pickups is like a bagpipe player worrying about what kind of bag the air is in. I can play any kind of pickup.

  15. I installed a set of Fender N3 pickups in my MIM Telecaster. The neck pickup sounds very warm with a decent output, but the bridge pickup is terrible. Low gain and very thin sounding. I thought that there was something wrong with the pickup. But after reading this forum and talking to some guitar technicians, the Fender N3 bridge pickup is just known to be thin sounding. I will try reversing the wiring or just replace it with a Seymour Duncun or Dimarzio Tele humbucker.

  16. I have a 2011 American Deluxe Stratocaster with N3 Pickups, at first I was not sure…. but when you try a regular Strat with those noisy Pickups….you begin to love your N3, and yoy discover the S1 Switch, at first not so great, but now I used it all the time.
    I will never on a regular cheap noisy single coil… I Really LOVE my Strat with N3, Clean and powerfull, remember the amp produce the sound you like, use a good amp first.
    Thank you Fender.

  17. I am playing Fender guitars for ~25 years now. N3 pickups are the best I have put my hands on so far.

  18. I have played professionally in bands, and have used Fender guitare in more than 45 years. I just bought an America Strasburg Deluxe with N3 pickups.
    In my ears they sound sharp without body and twang and quite tiring to listen to. There is nothing classic Fender of this sound. It is therefore my intention to return the guitar

  19. Sorry. I dont know why I wrote Strasburg, as Stratocaster is what I my thing. Stratocaster it is 🙂

  20. I am playing professionally for more than 20 yrs. Stop listening to those that could not afford or didn’t want to pay the extra buck for the deluxe series. Look no further than the N3s. The best I have put my hands so far. Sharp, alive and screaming as hell!

  21. all noiselles fender pickups are Sh… ! clapton today tone is a shit , also jecf beck , i have a fender deluxe , and i will sell guitar. lace sensor and emg dont sound the same as regular singles vintage , but they have a hi end sound , but FENDER NOISELESSS , they are a cheap quality humbuckers.

  22. i,ve got a stratocaster my dad bought me for christmas in 1962.Thats all folks!

  23. It’s fine to disagree and give a cogent explanation, but these are all just lame immature comments. smh… I’ve been a working musician a long time and I have two deluxe strats in my arsenal. One has N3s in the SSS config and one has a SD humbucker and N3s in the HSS config, and both are very responsive and deliver better harmonic distortion across the frequency spectrum than all my other strats. The N3s in the modern Deluxe Strat are unquestionably the best sounding to come along in the evolution of the stackbucker design. All of these negative comments are just hacks. There’s no way these people can know what they’re talking about. If they did actually test out a deluxe at all, they probably went into a guitar store with preconceived misconceptions and then played a store whore with dead strings that hundreds of other slob guitar hacks have handled, drooled and spooged over, then they get on line and say I tested a deluxe strat and it sucked. Fender should’ve called them “Texas Scrotum Busters” or some dumb shit to sound all cool. Delinquent guitar hacks love pups with cool names.

  24. I have a few strats, all with the standard pickups they came with. I’m a professional musician playing 70+ gigs a year, I just bought a Deluxe Strat with Shawbucker, S1 etc because it covers a lot of bases in a large and varied set of cover songs. It sounded great in the shop, but when I A/B it against my Am Std ’97, the N3 pickups sound thin, lack punch and in the band setting they sound overly bright and weak in the mids. I don’t know what that has to do with technique or why that makes me a hack – it’s obvious to my ears and even the bass player and drummer have noticed ( ie “I sometimes can’t hear you very well with that new guitar”). They also sound thin in comparison to my ’88 Am Std Deluxe with Gold Lace Sensors. They might well be the most super fantastic noiseless pickups Fender have made thus far, but to try to make out someone is a liar and/or and idiot because they can hear a difference that you can’t, is a bit pathetic TBH. Grow up.

    What’s this about swapping white wire or reversing them? I can’t find any info on what each wire actually does?

  25. Not to get into a seniority contest….but I’ve played for almost 50 years, often semi-pro, and have owned a dozen fender strat models over the years. My current one is a 2014 strat deluxe “v-neck”.

    The N3 pickups, to my ear, are very sweet sounding pickups — easily better than any prior fender noiseless strat pickup. They sound very authentic, quite close to my idea of an ideal strat sound yet without all the hum. It’s also easier to avoid the scratchy / reedy tones that stratocasters too easily can and do produce. To go a step further, the n3 are my favorite stratocaster pickup that I’ve owned so far, including the more traditional historic pickup designs. You won’t have to fuss about much in search of decent tones, and truly stellar tones are easy to dial lin. The only downside I notice is less quack on the 2&4 settings.

    For context, I play rock, blues, pop, and am mainly a fender guy, though more devoted to the the telecaster than the stratocaster. Also, I have not done a lot of aftermarket pickup replacements and some folks claim there are better noiseless offerings from other makers.

  26. By my opinion and experience Kinman pickups are far the best, dead noiseless, authentic sounding, wide assortment, their website is possibly the most informative one about guitars and pickups.
    All other stacker designs are sounding more or less but wrong in comparing with Chris Kinman patented ideas, or original noisy single coil pickups.

    But idea of reversed black and white wires is worth to check, it means reversing phase of pickup.
    If you are reversing all 3 pickups it means reversing in phase all of the guitar.
    Theoretic it provides minimal affect because normal string vibrations are 2 dimensional and polarity works only in case of vertical slapping and only on first attack half-period (more important for bass!).
    But here are two+ other affects – reversing stacked pickup you are changing:
    1) which one coil will be closer to hot output of pickup. It can affect tone, especially if coils are different;
    2) which end of coil windings (inner or outer) will be closer to hot output of pickup. It is affecting:
    a) pickup’s capacitance and respective resonance peak’s frequency – resulting tone character;
    b) it is changing pickup coil’s shielding level. If closer to coil surface windings are “hot” – they are more sensitive to hum and RFI/EMI. If upper windings are more or less but almost grounded – they work as additional shielding, and pickup becomes “cleaner”.

  27. There are many factors to consider when judging the sound you get from pickups. You need to tinker with pickup height, string gauge, amp choice (tube, solid state etc) – and amp settings, string attack etc. The way one person plays the guitar may sound better on a particular set up than another person who plays differently. Are you using a pick more often or your fingers? Do you have a sharp or soft attack? Do you have long nails. Style of music is a big factor also. Remember these things when considering reviews. Some of you already have these pickups and are wanting to see what people think. That is fine but remember to fiddle around with some of these other things so that you don’t become depressed that you have the wrong pickups when you probably have a real treasure there. You can save yourself lots of heartache and money too:)

  28. Some of the information that would be useful when someone gives a review of the N3 pickups would be things such as pick/up and action height, fretboard wood, and type/gauge of strings. You would think that someone who claims 20+ years experience would know how all these parameters interact, but I have often found that is not the case.

  29. I own a 2008 Fender American Deluxe Telecaster Aged Cherry Burst Maple Neck with the Fender N3 Noiseless Pickup’s made with alnico V magnets. I am a Gibson Les Paul player to the bone. Alnico V magnets are my favorite pickup magnets. The N3 pickups took me a while to get used to and fully understand how to use them by experimenting with the volume and tone knobs plus the S-1 switching system. I just want to say that the Fender N3’s are different. Not better or worse just different. My opinion is try to be open minded. Fender has made the finest “traditional” Strat and Tele pickups already. This is their way of continuing to evolve. If you want “traditional” then by all means buy a Fender ’52 Reissue Telecaster or a Fender ’56 Reissue Stratocaster. That’s all. My other point is Fender makes something for everybody. Buy and play the instrument that’s right for you. David P. Makowski – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

  30. Hmmmmmm, seems to be a stand-off. People either love the N-3 or hate them. I guess, I could flip a coin for Heads Great and Tails Bad. But, in my opinion (please do not verbally beat me up over it), all the opinions here (good or bad) are actually great for the N-3. How can that be you ask? Most musicians have been searching their entire life for an “elusive” great sound that they have in their heads, but never seem to find it. Well, this is 100% normal. Music sounds different to everyone’s ears. Some like it and some don’t. Just like a some men think a lady is pretty and another thinks she is ugly. Yup, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Well, this goes for music too. That “elusive” sound is in the ears of the beholder. The bottom line is just go test drive any guitar, and find that “elusive” sound you want. I have 4 guitars, and one has Hot Gold Lace pickups, and another has Fender SCN pickups, and the other two have basic cheap pickups … guess what folks? They all work with no malfunctions, and I like the sounds of all of them. So, will I run out to buy the N-3 pickup? No, because by the time I am seeking a new guitar there will be something else new on the market (Hmmmm, maybe N-4). Yup, people at the Fender factory will always be seeking that “elusive” sound for their customers to enjoy. Have fun with testing new products and enjoy the journey looking for your personal “elusive” sound. PS: I read in a positive thinking book, “It is not the final destination that is most enjoyable – It is the journey going there.”

  31. Hi !

    I’m looking for a Nile Rodgers funk sound on neck pickup
    Wich noiseless set would be the closest to Custom Shop 69s ?


    Montréal, Canada

  32. Hi i am planning to install n3 in my new std strat and i hate the humming, can anybody please tell me the right wiring connection for these n3’s? Its got 3 wires dont know where the black wires must go? ThAnks.

  33. I agree they can be lifeless, the key is to set the higher than you normally would, pure joy when you dial them in, all about setup.

  34. I find all humbuckers missing some high end bite and these stacked pickups are no different.

    Because there are some high frequencies missing, due to two coils, doesn’t automatically make them dull. I still prefer a true single coil.

  35. Very interesting comments, as a player and concert photographer I also have the N3’s among several others. They are all good. Its in the ear. Give them a try, if your a band check my cite.

  36. you should try them you will like them with proper installation and height.

  37. 10 Deluxe Strata from different years, different noiseless pickups. I dig them all.

  38. Experienced with all noiseless models. I’d say the N3’s are great pickups, different than the others but great and a nice movement in the noiseless line. I have to say, that in order to REALLY get the best of them they love a VERY light compressor; it pushes the chunk out of em. I use them a lot. Other caveats is the wires are loosely connect between coils so be VERY careful taking off the cover to examine them!!

  39. I have two deluxes with different sets of noiseless pickups. Both are great. You need to actually know how to play and have good technique. If you think they suck , you suck. simple

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