SSS vs. HSS: What is best for you?

Guitars come with many different pickup combinations. But knowing what SSS vs. HSS means can be confusing. You have to keep in mind what the letters represent for every pickup configuration, and then what they are nicely fitted for. It’s even more of a puzzle if you’re new or unfamiliar with pickups.

So if you want to know the differences between HSS and SSS, keep reading. We’ll cover what each means, how they compare, and what kind of music they’re best suited for.

sss vs. hss

HSS VS SSS: Which guitar is better?

The three letters describe the type and order of pickups from the bridge to the neck position. Where HSS guitars stand for “humbucker, single, single” and SSS stands for “single, single, single”.

While you can get them in a variety of different power outputs, single coil pickups are generally suitable for players who use less distortion in genres such as classic rock or funk.

Whereas, humbuckers will sound nice and quiet with a lot of distortion, making them ideal for metal or punk guitar players.

Stratocaster SSS

SSS Strat is the original and most common configuration.

Most purists stick with this setup, as it’s the most vintage and proper sound.

In my opinion, the great thing about having 3 single coils on the guitar (and a 5-way pickup configuration) is the access to the 2nd and 4th positions of that switch.

Both of these switch states combine the output of the middle pickup with the bridge and neck pickups, respectively.

By activating 2 pickups, you get rid of the 60-bar hum, so this can be a good “switch” when you’re not playing, instead of just turning down the volume of the instrument.

However, the main thing in these positions is the tone.

In my head, these are the most distinctive, classic Strat sounds.

2nd position sounds sharp but controlled, perfect for funky beats, while 4th position is a brighter yet rounded version of the fretboard tone.

What does an SSS guitar sound like and what is it best used for?

When it comes to the sound of an SSS guitar, we are really just talking about the sound of a single coil pickup. Single coil pickups have an instantly recognizable “vintage” sound. Even today’s single coils remain true to their design heritage and strive to create an authentic, bright, and punchy sound.

Since this article is about comparing SSS and HSS, the focus will be on the bridge pickup, specifically the difference between single coil and humbucking pickups.

As you can hear, single coil pickups have a brightly crisp sound that is clear and crisp with plenty of high-end.

Various blues and jazz guitarists favor the SSS Strat as it provides clarity and brilliance when playing instrumentals or solos where articulation and precision are needed.

But these guitars are no strangers to rock either. Guitar legends such as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Yngwie Malmstim are known for using SSS guitars. Listen to how my Stratocaster sounds with a little distortion.

Guitars HSS

The HSS configuration works great if you want both a heavy sound with a bridge pickup and a softer, clean sound with a neck pickup.

Having a humbucker in the bridge position is great if you use a lot of gain and distortion. Humbuckers can handle high levels of gain much better than single coils because they suppress the 60-bar rumble.

However, humbuckers are warmer than single coils, but being able to combine a humbucker and a single coil is a great way to brighten up the sound a bit.

On the other hand, a single coil in the neck position is great for a rounded, clean tone.

Explaining guitar pickups

Before we start to specialty into the minutiae of HSS vs. SSS, we ought to speak a little about pickups. If you are already acquainted with the basics of guitar pickups, you may miss this section.

So, electric guitars have pickups that catch up oscillation when you play or pluck the strings and make an electrical signal.

This signal is sent through a cable to an enhancer, which strengthens it as a sound swell.

Electric guitars have 2 major styles of pickups: humbuckers and single coils.

There is likewise a 3 style, P90, but when we speak regarding HSS vs. SSS, we don’t require learning about it.

The guitars arrive with a diversity of pickup configurations – 1, 2, and 3 pickups, some with single pickups and some with a combination.

For example, the Gibson Les Paul Junior has only one pickup, the humbucker, located next to the bridge.

The Fender Stratocaster has 3 single coils pickups located in the bridge, in the middle, and near the neck pickup.

1 bridge single coil pickup, 2 humbuckers, and 3 pickups it’s all about the Ibanez RG550. The humbuckers are discovered at the bridge, and the single coil is in the middle and neck positions.

You can tell different pickups apart by their appearance and differences in sound.

Guitars with single and double coils

A bridge single coil pickup has one coil of wire, hence the name, and six small magnetic poles, one for each guitar string.

They tend to have a lower output, which means they will have less self-gain, and they usually sound a bit brighter with higher frequencies.

Sometimes single coil pickups will hum due to electrical noise from nearby devices, which can be annoying, but many guitarists love their sound and they definitely embody the classic Strat sound.

They are generally preferred by hard rock guitarists, as well as jazz, blues, funk, and R&B players.

Dual coil pickups or humbuckers have two coils. One looks like a standard single coil pickup, and the other has inverted magnetic poles that cancel any noise or hum.

Humbucking pickups tend to have higher power output with less background noise, with a fuller, more aggressive tone.

They are typically preferred by guitarists who use more distortion, such as metalheads, as the need for hum reduction becomes much more common the more you use amplification.

What is the difference between HSS and SSS?

The main difference between HSS and SSS is the versatility of the tones and sounds you have. The combination of a humbucker and a single-coil pickup in the different bridge position offer you the ability to switch the tone played by your guitar and create more interesting and varied sounds.

If you just employ 1 humbucker or 1 single coil, you won’t have considerable diversity – all will ring equally.

But with the possibility of 3 pickups in various configurations, you may form and transform your sound.

The capability to change between humbucker and single coil lets you have larger tonal modifications and append larger movement to your playing.

And pickups in the different bridge position has unique sounds. A humbucker located at the neck will sound different from a bridge. The same goes for singles.

So, why multiple humans favor 1 configuration over another is that it fits the type of music they play. But some clarity is optative, which is why single-pickup guitars subsist.

How do guitar pickups work?

It’s helpful to know a little about how guitar pickups are made and how they work.

The main guitar pickup consists of a magnet wrapped in a conductive wire and uses the scientific concept of electromagnetic induction, first discovered by scientist Michael Faraday in 1831.

The magnet is most often made of aluminum or ceramic, although some companies use neodymium. When the guitar strings are struck, the magnet generates energy which is transferred to the wire around the guitar pickup.

The wire then reacts to these vibrations or movements and creates an electric current.

The current carries the energy first to your guitar amp and then back into the air, so you can be heard.

Can you convert HSS guitars to SSS guitars (or vice versa)?

If you’re not happy with your current setup, it’s possible to change your guitar’s pickup configuration, but this can be tricky.

The main issue is space. Most guitars have pickup holes cut into the body. So, if you have an SSS guitar and want to add single coil-sized humbuckers to the bridge and remove the single coil, you may find that there is too little room, and you will have to make some changes first.

But nowadays, you can get single-coil humbuckers. This way you can still get a humbucker sound without slamming the guitar (or paying someone else to do it, which is always safer!)

On the other hand, swapping out a humbucker for a single coil is a lot easier since you have more room. You just need to make sure the pickup is held in place and doesn’t wobble. Again, it’s always best to have a professional take a look.

But just like single coil-sized humbuckers, there are humbucker-sized single coil pickups! So having the extra space gives you more options for single coils, like trying a P-90 style pickup.

Although, this is not the only option. You can also modify your humbucker pickups to become “split coils”, which means they can “split” to one coil and back to the humbucker with the flick of a switch.

Advantages and disadvantages of each pickup configuration

Each set of configurations has its pros and cons. Let’s look at them.

Benefits of HSS guitars

Perhaps the most universal of all pickup configurations, the HSS provides you with the finest of both worlds. The humbucker in the bridge is ideal for weightier music and taller boost use, while the 2 single coils provide you with colorful and loftier frequencies if you desire or require them.

You may likewise incorporate 2 distinct pickup configurations, utilizing a humbucker/coil combination that blends the heat and completeness of a humbucker with the brilliance of a single coil.

Advantages of SSS

The greatest distinction between HSS and SSS is the humbucker on the bridge. Instead, the SSS configuration utilizes a single coil bridge pickup configuration, all rest is similar.

So, it all arrives down to whether you like the sound of a humbucker pickup or a single coil in the bridge. SSS is a classic and traditional Stratocaster installation, so if you desire Stratocaster sounds, then this is what you need.

Disadvantages of HSS Strat

The lack of a single on the bridge can be a problem. This is something like an acquired taste – for some, it is too thin and not enough, but for others – this is exactly the sound that they need.

Furthermore, if you have yet to purchase a classic PRS or Les Paul, then the HSS Fender Stratocaster might evolve as overkill. A Tele or Strat with a humbucker pickup will provide a fine Les Paul effect, but it won’t cause it absolutely ideal.

So if you desire that type of sound, you’re finer off purchasing a Les Paul and a classic SSS Strat or SS Tele with it than attempting to bring all from 1 guitar.

There is a deprivation of the 2nd bridge position too, where the bridge and mid-pickups are involved in the HSS configuration. Those in between positions in the stratum – bridge middle and neck positions – are so unique that they actually have their own name: “Quack”.

Disadvantages of SSS

The major cons of the SSS configuration are that the bridge single-coil may be too slim and frail-sounding. Of approach, you may substitute it with a taller output pickup configuration, but why not simply abide by an HSS or a classic dual humbucking guitar if that concerns you?

On the other hand, you may find that a regular HH guitar with two humbuckers does everything that an HSS guitar does.

In this case, you might be missing the SSS configuration and the classic Strat sound you get from it.


Which is better HSS or SSS?

HSS Stratocasters are more suited to high-gain amps than SSS Stratocasters, making them better for metal and hard rock. SSS Stratocasters produce brighter but more subtle tones.

What does HSS and SSS mean?

HSS stands for “humbucker, single, single” and SSS stands for “single, single, single”. While you can get them in a variety of different power outputs, single-coil pickups are generally suitable for players who use less distortion in genres such as classic rock or funk.

Which is better humbucker or single-coil?

Humbuckers have two coils for a tighter, deeper, and smoother sound, while single coils are brighter and crisper. Humbuckers are preferred by jazz, hard rock, and heavy metal players, while singles are preferred by country and surf guitarists.

Is HSS good for metal?

Yes, the HSS Strat can play metal, but as most people say, the bridge pickup may need to be replaced with a more powerful pickup. This gives higher pup performance than the standard strategy.

Final thoughts

Pickup configuration on a guitar is really absolutely necessary. Along with the amplifier, pickups play the largest part in your sound. Therefore, it is especially crucial to select the correct style of music you desire to play or the sounds you desire to make.

We hope this guide has shed some light on the differences between HSS and SSS, as well as helped you choose which is best for you.

Also Read About The Benefits Of String Locking On A Fender Stratocaster Guitar

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James/ author of the article

If you got to my page, it means that you are fond of music and are trying to record songs on your own. In my blog, you will find out exactly which options for sound equipment will be appropriate, depending on the specific case.

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