The Hot Stack Strat is one that’s been out since the first half of the 1980s After asking around, no one seems to have an exact year. But a little research suggests it’s somewhere between 1981 and 1985, if that helps. It also goes by STK-S2, for the rest of you old timers out there that go by those designations. LOL!
Speaking of the 1980s, the Hot Stack is the long-time neck position choice of Night Ranger’s Brad Gillis. You can see the tell-tale reddish maroon pickup cover in the neck position of his famous 1962 “Bubba” red Fender Stratocaster.
There is a report or two out there that U2’s The Edge is a Hot Stack user. We will look at a few other fans of this pickup later on.
The Hot Stack is, wait for it, a stack. HaHa! Yes, it is literally 2 coils, one stacked on top of another. This is a little different from the “rail” style that has coils next to each other in a more traditional “humbucker” orientation. Having the dual coils, this stack design also cancels the hum. It is driven by a powerful ceramic magnet positioned right down the center. Yes, that is an exposed magnet in the middle, not a rail.
Having a 4-conductor lead wire, you can set up the Hot Stack for a split operation if you prefer. This is a fun opportunity to try the upper or the lower coil to fine tune (ha! a pun!) your specific tonal need. Before you ask, I did not go that route. For this evaluation, I am using a more traditional straight-ahead 5-way Strat style installation with no fancy business. LOL!
For this test run, I put the Hot Stack set in my trusty 1990 Fender American Standard. I’m using the Mojotone Solderless Strat Blender Guitar Wiring Harness, making the install a snap! So we’re talking about CTS pots, a Switchcraft jack, a handmade Vitamin T oil-filled .047uF cap, a treble bleed, and a CRL 5-way switch.
This pickup lives up to the name. It’s a stack. And it is hot. HaHa! The bridge position is so beefy that it could be served up in a bun with your choice of cheddar cheese or horsey sauce. LOL!
For all the heat and the beef, it is more open than some might expect. Sure, there are oodles of compression built in to the voice. But it’s not all that terribly tight and constricted. A good right hand technique can come in to play with that, to be certain. It should be easy work for many players to get a touch of a smooth-sounding jangle quality. Yes, that is a little contradictory, which is the point.
The less-hot variation for the neck and middle is more interesting. First off, consider that the DCR is right there alongside the Quarter Pound and the Hot Strat models. In other words, that’s relatively in the ballpark of other popular hot single space options from the Duncan company. Keep that in mind when I suggest that you can get a little of that sort of strident, stringent single coil character riding along beneath the surface.
For a clean amp voice, remember there is a bit of a take-no-prisoners vibe with the Hot Stack. I am going to suggest either going with a split or parallel wiring approach, or just dial in your amp as needed. Or possibly both. LOL! Yet even with that much power punching the front of the amp, this set is more versatile than you might imagine.
Hot Strat Stack Bridge
Series – 20.001 K
Inductance – 4.906 H
Split – 9.007 K
Split – 9.989 K
Parallel – 5.004 K
Magnet – Ceramic
Hot Strat Stack Neck/Middle
Series – 12.896 K
Inductance – 2.516 H
Split – 6.408 K
Split – 6.504 K
Parallel – 3.226 K
Magnet – Ceramic
Hot Stack Strat users include: Jennifer Batten, Jason Becker, Dickey Betts, Tony Gambale, Dale Oliver (Reba McIntire), Davey Johnson (Elton John), Lou Toomey (Faith Hill, Brooks & Dunn), Paul Pesco (Hall & Oates, Al Green, Michael Bolton, & more), Shawn Pennington (Sara Evans), Johnny Garcia (Trisha Yearwood) , Robben Ford, and more. That covers alternative, classic rock, pop, hard rock, blues, country, and more.
For reference, this Seymour Duncan STK-S2 Hot Stack Strat evaluation was conducted with a Fractal Axe-Fx II XL+ featuring Celestion Impluse Responses and Fractal MFC-101 MIDI Foot Controller. In addition, real cabs in use are Marshall 1960B, Mojotone British, and Peavey 6505 cabs loaded with Celestion Classic Series Vintage 30s and Classic Series G12M Greenbacks.
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