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sergen's picture
Dec 2002
3 months ago

I live in the middle of nowhere about 80 miles from the nearest good guitar store so I'm not able to easily try things out

Basically I was thinking about getting a USA standard strat, especially to get a few Edge-like tones for some U2 covers. But it's not a huge amount more money for the hss pickup version with a bridge humbucker all of the different tonal options that brings.

I know the Edge uses the middle and bridge pick up position for a lot of his stuff on his single coils but my question is whether the same position selected on an hss strat would sound different simply because of the humbucker.

To those who have played or owned the hss strat - does it still sound like a stratocaster even with the humbucker? Can it still give me a U2 sound in this position?

90% of the stuff I play is covers and from that perspective it makes sense to go with a standard stratocaster but the tonal possibilities from the hss look cool.


cerebro911's picture
North Carolina
Nov 2009
2 years ago

I have the American Highway One HSS (sadly discontinued, but they're still in stock on guitarcenter.com so if you're buying online, that's a great guitar for less money). The humbucker only effects the tone in the four and five positions, or when it's selected. If all you're going for is the middle and neck single coil sound then you're good to go and have an instrument that is, in my opinion, more capable of leads with the bridge pickup.

Be warned though, that humbucker will be noticably louder than the single coils. And really, just going with a SSS setup doesn't have a whole lot of drawbacks. It just depends on whether you're going to get enough boon from the humbucker.

Originally Posted by mmasonmusic
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I believe it was guitars mixed with a sense of desperation to not be dropped by their label...

Talking about wireless pedals...

Originally Posted by Cham Clowder
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It would be so we could run from one side of the stage to the other, switch from rhythm to lead, run over to the guy on the hammonds to turn on the flanger, and then sneak up behind the drummer and start going nuts on the wah.

Only to realize those pedals were hooked up to the bass!

sloppy_phil's picture
Toronto, Ontario
Aug 2008
3 years ago

my experience with HSS strats on this topic are that the position in question (bridge/middle) sounds more or less exactly like it does on an SSS strat. it may have a tiny bit of a louder, darker edge (as the humbucker will in relation to the single coil), but not enough that it doesn't still sound remarkably like a standard strat

lobsty's picture
between Berlin and Melbourne...
Nov 2003
2 years ago

I agree - and if the bridge/middle mix doesn't quite do it for you, you can always mod it to split the humbucker in that position too.
I probably prefer SSS personally, but n your case it sounds like HSS will suit better and cover a lot more ground than an SSS model would. I doubt you'll be disappointed, and if you are you can always try different pickups later too.

Crustaceo ergo sum

Timbertea's picture
Nov 2010
2 years ago

The humbucker solves a common problem -- the kind of anemic tone, and volume one often gets in the bridge position of a SSS strat. Now you can switch down there for solo work, plus harder pieces, and have some punch with it. Its not the only way to solve the issue, some folks add an expander switch to their SSS strats (which really just enables another pickup along with the bridge pickup), or a "hot knob" which pretty much does the same thing. Others ride their volume knob on SSS strats, and just turn it up a bit for that position. The guys that never touch their tone & volume knobs on the guitar are the ones that have more issues with the volume changes. I consider it a plus that I can get more volume from that position if I need it.

I think you'll be pretty happy with it to be honest. The cost is less quack in the 4 position, but its not a deal breaker for rock, and alternative playing. For a blues or country player, the trade might make one seek out a pickup that can be tapped, but to my ears its the configuration I like the best of the current production strats. The controls on the HSS are also a bit less finicky, and the drop off in volume, and tone is not severe from 10 to 9 like it is on SSS strats (easily fixable with a simple mod, but off the shelf....). It just makes it a better all-around guitar, and I think you'll be happier with that version if you get it. Both configurations are very good though, and if you get a good one they are very nice guitars.

Because you mention the Edge ... I know you are out in the sticks, and these suggestions may stretch budget a bit ... but unless you are dead set on a Fender strat, you owe it to yourself before you plunk money down on a Fender Strat to take a look at what else is out there. The Edge uses a TON of guitars in a night, and there is a lot of range of tones, and effects to try to cover. A lot of the most memorable U2 guitar tones were actually done with a Gibson Explorer. If you do get the HSS, it will help to get closer to those particular tones, but you might end up happier in the long run with something else. He has guitars with everything from P90's, to vintage humbuckers, to inifinity electronics in the cavity, and an effects setup that makes my companies server room look like it lacks for blinky lights. :D

If you can at all swing a trip to the next big town over to try a few things out (lugging your rig with you) make sure a Godin Icon 2 is on the list. The Icon 2 is probably the most versatile production guitar I've ever picked up. No tremolo, and the position 4 SSS quack tone is only half fake-able with some dialing in, but in terms of sheer range, versatility, quality of the tones available, and fit & finish its just amazing. You've got your humbucker, P90, and most of stock strat single coil tone in a single guitar, and they don't sound like compromises as so often happens when you coil tap a humbucker. They did it right in this one. The only drawback to this one is that you do have to mess with the tone & volume controls a bit, but its worth a look to see.

Also make sure to try out a G&L Legacy, and a G&L S-500. For anyone considering a strat, these are always worth trying out. The S-500 is also one that demands you dial in with the tone, and volume pots, but think of it as having more on tap for the times when you want/need it. The Legacy is less fiddly, but I've seen a many a strat owner never go back after playing one, especially the guys that are effects heavy.

As good as the prices from the online stores, and catalogs are on things -- there enough variation in guitars that I still prefer to buy in person, and take 10-20 into a room with me to try until I find the one. Every neck has some form of squirreliness, every neck pocket a varying degree of tightness, every bit of wood different, every nut a little bit different, and many other factors. Its not that many problems can't be solved with a good luthier, its that its risk, and some guitars are just better than others in the same run. If you do order online/catalog, find out exactly what the return policies are before you do, how long you have to evaluate the guitar before you are facing things like restocking fees, who would pay to ship it back, and be very careful not to nick it during that period.

Happy hunting!