Telecasters are some of the most highly sought-after guitars. They are beloved for their playability and their wonderful twangy brightness.
But what if you want to balance out that brightness? Or you love the way a Tele plays, but not quite as fond of its sound?
Well, luckily, there are plenty of Teles that use humbuckers instead of single coils. This gives them a much thicker, more aggressive sound while still keeping it distinctly Tele.
Here are some of the best Telecasters with humbuckers available to guitarists today.
Best Humbucker Telecasters - Hum-Free Teles!
Table of Contents
- Best Humbucker Telecasters - Hum-Free Teles!
- Advantages of Humbuckers
- Other Configurations
- Coil Tap Humbuckers
1. Fender Player Telecaster HH
The Fender Player Telecaster is a fantastic instrument. It is an entry-level Fender, making it much more affordable, but you aren’t losing out on the Fender quality.
This is a very well-made guitar, that is pretty much ready to play right out of the box. Intonation was spot on and the string action was great from the moment I picked the guitar up for the first time.
The playability on this guitar is excellent, but I wouldn’t really expect less from a Fender Tele. The guitar is light enough to remain comfortable over long play sessions.
The Modern C shape neck also makes it an incredibly fast instrument to play. I also didn’t need to press the strings down very hard, which meant that I had a lot of note speed and accuracy as well.
The sound you get from this guitar is also fantastic. The tone is very big and full, with some nice warmth, especially on the neck pickup.
The bridge pickup has a lot of attitude and can growl really loud when the gain is turned up. And blending the two gives a nice presence without the muddiness.
I think the best feature on this guitar is the coil tap. This allows you to split the humbuckers by pulling the tone pot.
This effectively turns the pickups into single coils. So, you aren’t losing out on the classic Tele twang with this guitar.
Having a coil tap makes the Player Tele an incredibly versatile guitar. And I think will make it appealing to more guitarists since you are essentially getting humbuckers and single coils in one instrument.
My only issue with the guitar is that the maple fretboard is only available on one of the color options. The other two come with pau ferro fretboards. Pau ferro isn’t bad by any means, but it is odd that Fender would limit your options like this.
2. Squier Classic Vibe ‘70s Telecaster Deluxe
The Squier Classic Vibe ‘70s Telecaster Deluxe is a part of Squier’s revamped Classic Vibe series of guitars. Designed to bring that ‘70s sound and style into the modern day, at a more affordable price.
You are getting quite a lot of bang for your buck here. This guitar sounds great. The pickups have a very thick, crunchy sound.
The Wide Range pickups in the guitar are also designed to fill the entire frequency range. They are very well-balanced, but it does sound like there is a slight emphasis on the mids and highs, just to give the pickups a bit more punch.
I actually wasn’t expecting the guitar to sounds as great as it does. I was very pleasantly surprised when I first plugged it in.
Even when the gain on your amp isn’t set very high, these pickups still have a lot of bite. They also aren’t saturated, but just have this nice and crisp aggression to them.
Even though it sits on the lower end of the price range, the Classic Vibe ‘70s doesn’t feel cheap. All of the materials and hardware used feels solid and very well put together.
It also plays great almost straight out of the box. I had to do some very minor adjustments to the intonation and action, but it took about five minutes and then it was off to the races.
I was impressed by how well the guitar stays in tune, though. Once I got comfortable with the guitar, I was playing quite hard. Even then the strings pretty much refused to go out of tune.
The color options are quite lacking in my opinion. You only have a choice of black or Olympic white. One or two more exciting colors would have been great, but I am guessing the limited options are to keep costs down.
3. Squier Affinity Series Telecaster
Squier’s Affinity Series of guitars is a great way for guitarists to get their hands on some of the most classic models, without spending thousands of dollars. And the Affinity Telecaster is the latest entry in this fantastic range.
This is a very well-built guitar. While this certainly doesn’t feel as high quality as some of the other guitars on offer by Squier, I wouldn’t call it cheap.
The guitar feels solid and very well put together. I also didn’t come across any issues with how it was set up, and was able to play almost straight away.
Playability is also great. The guitar is light and pretty much feels like a Tele. The C shaped neck is a bit thicker than some other modern Teles I have played, but it was still very comfortable and quite fast.
The pickups on the Affinity Tele are a bit of a mixed bag. While they do sound fairly decent, they are a bit lacking in character.
They are especially plain while playing clean. They don’t excite me as much as other pickups.
They do sound much better with some distortion added. But there are still pickups that are going to sound much better.
What I did find interesting is that they start to sound better the higher end the amp is that you are playing through. This does kind of defeat the purpose of a cheap guitar if you need an expensive amp for it to sound good.
But I can’t deduct too many points just because the pickups aren’t amazing. This guitar is firmly in the budget category, and replacing the pickups is actually quite simple.
Upgrading the pickups is definitely going to improve your experience. And even with the stock pickups, I still think that the Affinity Tele is still a fantastic choice for any beginners.
4. Fender Special Edition Custom
The Fender Special Edition Custom is quite a unique instrument. I would easily call it the least Telecaster-like Tele on this list.
Right off the bat, this guitar looks less like a Fender Tele and more like a Tele shaped guitar made by PRS or Ibanez. It doesn’t come in any of the standard Tele finishes and its control layout is completely different.
If it weren’t for the shape of the body and the Fender logo on the headstock, I wouldn’t even have thought this was a Fender Tele.
The Special Edition also doesn’t feel quite the same as a Tele. The body is slightly curved, more like a PRS. There is also a nice curve at the back of the body so that the guitar can sit nice and firm against your body.
The neck is also quite smooth and fast, and I had a great time playing on it. It is a set neck, however. These are difficult to repair and make swapping the neck out basically impossible.
Some players also don’t like the sound of a set neck. I personally don’t have a preference for one neck over another, but I feel I should mention it.
Look and feel isn’t the only places this guitar differs from your standard Tele. Fender guitars usually come with Fender designed pickups. This guitar, however, comes standard with a pair of Seymour Duncan humbuckers.
This means that the Special Edition also doesn’t really sound anything like a Tele. These pickups are much warmer and fuller than what you would normally find on a Tele. It has more of a rounded, modern sound than the twangy, vintage sound of other Teles.
You also have the coil tap function to split the humbuckers into single coils. This gives the guitar a lot of flexibility as well as the option to have a brighter, twangier sound.
5. Fender American Professional II Telecaster Deluxe
When Fender first introduced the American Professional line of guitars, it quickly became their new flagship line and many players’ favorites. They then refined it with the new American Professional II line.
I am a big fan of all of the guitars in the American Pro II range. But the moment I got my hands on the Telecaster Deluxe, it immediately became my favorite of all the American Pro II guitars.
This is just such an exceptional instrument. This is some of the best work Fender has ever put into a guitar.
Everything about this guitar just feels next level. It is definitely a modern feeling guitar, but still feels like a Tele.
The Deluxe Teles have always been very comfortable to play. They are designed to not get in the way, allowing you to just play. This American Pro II Tele Deluxe does just that.
The neck does feel a bit smoother and faster to me, even more so than the more standard American Pro II Tele. The contour on the heel of the neck and the cutaway are also very comfortable, allowing you to very easily reach the higher notes.
As for sound, this is the best sounding Tele in my opinion. The Fender pickups have a lot of attitude and a very pleasant growl. The coil tap, or double tap as Fender calls it, also give you the option of turning the humbuckers into single coils for added versatility.
Although not as important, I do like the color options available with the Tele Deluxe. You have the classics like sunburst and Olympic white, as well as some more exciting options like a dark blue, and my favorite, a light blue called Miami blue.
My only complaint would probably be the higher price tag. But for what you are getting, I would say it is more than worth it.
Advantages of Humbuckers
The obvious advantage of a Tele with humbuckers is that it is going to have a much more aggressive sound. You also don’t have to deal with noise since humbuckers are designed to eliminate 60-cycle hum.
The noise reduction provided by humbuckers also make them a much better option for anyone playing with a lot of effects. Fuzz, overdrive, distortion, etc. benefit a lot from humbuckers as it helps to keep your tone under control.
This makes a Tele fitted with humbuckers a bit more versatile. Since humbuckers have more sustain and handle distortion very well, you can play a wider range of genres. They can do soft genres like jazz just as well as heavily distorted metal.
Telecasters with humbuckers also have a bit of a crisper, cleaner sound, even with a lot of distortion. They aren’t as saturated and dirty as something like a Gibson Les Paul. I would describe it as a ‘fresh’ tone.
If you are looking for the best of both humbuckers and single coils, there are plenty of Teles that come with a combination of the two. Depending on how you want your tone set up, you can have a humbucker at the bridge and single coil at the neck, or vice versa.
This is great if you like the aggressiveness that a humbucker gives while playing distorted, but don’t want the sound to be as warm and thick when playing clean. Or maybe you want a very bright and twangy gain sound, but prefer a warmer, fuller clean tone.
So, if you want a humbucker at the neck and single coil at the bridge, you can get a Tele like this American Performer. And if you want a humbucker at the bridge and single coil at the neck, this Richie Kotzen Signature would be a great choice.
For way more details about different pickup combinations such as HSS and HSH, you can check out this article of mine.
You can also get Teles with P90s. P90s sit somewhere between humbuckers and single coils. They have the hum canceling of humbuckers, but are a bit brighter. P90s are usually found in Fender’s Thinline range.
Coil Tap Humbuckers
These are perhaps the best option. A Tele that has coil tap humbuckers can give you the best of both humbuckers and single coils. By simply pulling on one of the tone pots, you can switch between the pickup acting like a humbucker to acting like a single coil.
This opens up a lot of versatility in your guitar, letting you switch between thick and aggressive, and brighter and chimey. Just remember that even though they act like single coils, they don’t sound exactly the same.
But I would say that it comes close enough. The widespread availability of guitars with coil taps, especially in more affordable guitars, also makes it a viable option.
The combination of a Fender Telecaster and a humbucker is one of those things that just results in pure magic. The two manage to bring together two almost opposite sounds, creating something truly unique.
Whether you are looking for a pure metal machine, or want something that can do almost anything, a humbucker equipped Tele is a fantastic guitar to have.