The Fender Wide Range Humbucker is a humbucker guitar pickup, designed by Seth Lover for Fender in the early 1970s. This pickup was intended to break Fender's image as a "single coil guitar company", and to gain a foothold in the humbucker guitar market dominated by Gibson.
The pickups enjoyed some popularity, though they certainly were never as widespread as Fender's single-coil pickups. Original Wide Range pickups were available from 1971 and subsequently installed in the Deluxe, Custom and Thinline Telecasters as well as the Starcaster, ceasing production successively in 1979 when these models were discontinued. Fender Japan were the first to introduce a reissue in 1983, followed by the Made in Mexico version around 1998. The Wide Range Pickup found on American made Fender guitars is actually the Mexican-made model introduced in 1998. All reissues differ from the original Seth Lover design in both construction and sound (see below).
|Fender Wide Range|
1983–present (Japan reissue)
1998–present (Mexican reissue)
|Magnet type||CuNiFe – (original), ceramic – (Japanese RI), AlNiCo – (Mexican RI, Ranaldo model RI)|
|Voltage (RMS), V||211.9 mV at 7.135 kHz resonant frequency|
|Impedance, kΩ||602 kΩ at 7.135 kHz resonant frequency|
The Wide Range pickup was conceived to be sonically closer to Fender's single coil pickups than Gibson humbuckers. Due to the difficulty of machining AlNiCo magnets into screw-type pole pieces, this concept called for the use of the more easily machinable CuNiFe (Copper/Nickel/Iron) rod magnets as pole pieces within the coil structures, to function more like a regular Strat pickup than a Gibson humbucker. Whereas Gibson humbuckers use a single bar magnet under the coils of the pickup, Wide Range pickups have individual CuNiFe magnets that were threaded and slotted to resemble the adjustable screw type poles of a Gibson humbucker. The pickup bobbins were wound with approximately 6200 to 6800 turns of 42 awg poly insulated copper wire around the pole-pieces and the Wide Range pickup has a DC resistance of around 10.6 kΩ.
There have been three reissues of the pickup, one manufactured in Japan using ceramic magnets, one in Mexico using alnico. Despite an almost identical appearance, both are constructed differently from the original 1970s unit. The current Mexican reissues, much like a Gibson humbucker, feature a bar magnet underneath the bobbins that abuts to 6 screw type pole-pieces in each coil; they are simply conventional humbuckers placed in the larger "wide range" humbucker casing, and the gap is filled with wax. Although neither pickup precisely replicates the sound of the original, they are at least tonally similar with the Japanese reissue sounding hotter and the Mexican reissue sounding more like a standard Gibson humbucker. A more recent reissue, currently exclusive to the Lee Ranaldo signature Jazzmaster, has been "re-voiced" to Ranaldo's specifications, but appears to be constructed similarly to the Mexican reissue.
There are several pickup makers producing modern replacements based on the original design; Revel Custom Pickups, Mojotone, Jason Lollar, Curtis Novak, and Seymour Duncan in the United States, and The Creamery and Oil City Pickups in the United Kingdom. Telenator supposedly offered CuNiFe threaded magnets in two versions of their pickups but they closed in December of '17.
In the 1970s, the Fender Wide Range was wired using 1M audio volume and tone pots, which resulted in an open, bright sound. Modern reissues are commonly wired using 250K volume and tone pots, resulting in a more choked and muddy sound.
Original Wide Range pickups are described as sounding "fat" but with improved clarity and detail over Gibson humbuckers. Combined with a bridge single coil pickup on a Telecaster, it produces a smooth and warm yet biting sound. Famous users include Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, Graham Coxon of Blur, Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit/Black Light Burns, Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes, Ryan Adams, Win Butler of Arcade Fire, Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Lúcio Maia of Nação Zumbi, Roy Buchanan, Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, Thom Yorke of Radiohead, singer-songwriter Kim Ralls, Chris Shiflett of Foo Fighters, The Edge of U2, Jonny Buckland of Coldplay, and Tab Benoit as well as Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth's modified "Jazzblasters" which featured Wide Range pickups on modified Fender Jazzmaster guitars.
Due to the use of the Wide Range by both old and modern groups, such as Sonic Youth and Franz Ferdinand respectively, and the fact that reissue FWRH pickups sound different from original vintage pickups, demand has grown for the original pickup, leading to high prices and slim availability. The value has risen from a mere $75 in the late 1990s to an average of $375 in 2016.