Though it seems difficult to imagine now, Fender was once a small startup company trying to create a new industry, namely solidbody electric guitars. The first of these instruments, the Broadcaster, later renamed the Telecaster, varied noticeably from one instrument to the next.
All were wound by hand, usually using Plain Enamel wire. There was no uniform grade of Alnico, rather whatever was on hand was used (same goes for Gibson pickups of this era). Despite claims to the contrary, there is no single identifiable standard of this style of pickups, rather all makers try to copy their favorite variation. Heavy formvar wire, for example, is commonly viewed as "vintage correct."
While certainly a handful of Tele pickups were wound with formvar, it was more the exception than the rule, but...the idea is to copy the best sounding pickups of this era rather than the most common ones. It seems to be an industry standard nowadays to claim Alnico 3 polepieces with heavy formvar wire as pure 50s pickups. We've got these on the market too, because, hey, it's a great sound.
But we also offer a few other variations, including the more vintage accurate plain enamel wire, because the ideal Tele sound means entirely different tones to different artists. Whether one's quest is for the perfect country twang or the biting sounds of Jimmy Page on Whole Lotta Love or Stairway to Heaven, we offer a variety of options to satisfy anyone's palette.
I can't help but mention the most crucial and all too often forgotten element of genuine tele tone - the steel bridge. The originals were built with steel bridges, but later models substituted this for brass. The difference is crucial. Personally, I love the tone of T bridges made with the 3 steel saddles that look like sawed-off bolts. Intonation issues made these virtually obsolete after techs tried to "improve" the design, but choking up on the pick just a hair and striking hard could make all kinds of crazy tones come out.
For the T-style neck pickup, I use nickel silver covers (not tone killing brass!) and wind to about 7.4k using 43awg SPN wire. Specs below are for the bridge pickups....since that's the one everybody really uses. Neck T-Style pickups are available in either Alnico 3 or 5. Alnico 5 will be brighter with slightly more output.
T-Style Single Coils
It's a twang thang. Built in the style of a handful of classic tele bridges of yesteryear, the Wayfarer is made with Alnico 3 magnets and scatter-wound 42awg heavy formvar wire. If you've got the itch for a little honky tonk juking or a sudden urge for having a rave up, this is the bridge pickup for you. Granted, the heavy formvar was really the wire used in the pickups made for the other guitars in the factory, but its bright woody tone has always made this combination a popular choice, even if it's not really vintage correct (as if there really were such a thing).
The Rough Houser
Fire up the grill and break out the burgers, cuz this Tele style bridge pickup has got some real hot sauce. Overwound with plain enamel wire and tall Alnico 5 magnets, this delivers more bottom end and a louder voice than the traditional tele bridge, while still retaining that high end bite that made the tele tone shine on early Zep records or later Jeff Beck recordings.
Closest to the most common design elements of the originals, the Ashbury model features Alnico 3 magnets, and is wound to late 50s specs with single coat plain enamel wire. Lots of clear bite. If you really want to get a true Vintage Tele sound, make sure you use this guy with a steel bridge - one of the forgotten but crucial elements of classic Telecaster tone.