Can You Convert an HSS Strat to SSS?

Stratocasters are maybe one of the most popular guitar models of all time, well-known players such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and even David Gilmore have chosen this guitar as their main one. 

That may be due to its wide versatility regarding musical genres, strats really fit almost any style.

Although the standard pickup setup for a Stratocaster is three single coils placed on the bridge, middle, and neck positions, other models come with a different pickup setup. 

A common alternative is an HSS Strat which means a regular Stratocaster but with a little difference, a humbucker pickup in the bridge position.

That setup is great to cancel the hum produced by the pickups in the bridge but, what if I want to go to the purest Stratocaster soul? 

Is it possible to turn it into a three single coils strat? 

Should I modify the whole electronics or the wood? 

An HSS strat could be converted to a SSS strat simply by changing the humbucker pickup and the pickguard. What is even more, you can get a pre-wired pickguard, and would be just a matter of installing some screws.

This may feel overwhelming for some players but don’t worry, we are here to help you. 

Through this article, I will try to explain everything about the conversion from an HSS strat to a SSS strat, in the end, you will be an expert on this confusing but amazing topic.

Are HSS strats routed for SSS configuration?

To answer this question we have to clarify what we mean by HSS and SSS Stratocasters. 

Those initials refer to the kind of pickups a guitar posses, SSS stands for the common Stratocaster setup which is composed of three single coils, one in each position.

In the case of HSS Strats, we will find that there are also single coils in the neck and middle position but we have a humbucker pickup in the bridge position instead. 

This sort of configuration presents a bigger cavity in the mentioned position to fit the humbucker pickup.

Having explained that, as HSS strats have that larger cavity and single coils are smaller in size, they will fit. 

What is more, almost all Fender American and Mexican guitars are already routed for both, what you will need is just a pickguard swap plus the new single-coil pickups.

Another remarkable issue regarding this question is the possibility of getting a loaded SSS pickguard, being a pre-wired pickguard with the pickups and the wiring already attached to it. 

A loaded SSS strat pickguard will fit perfectly in an HSS routed body without the need for any modification.

Can you convert an HSS strat to SSS by just changing its pickguard?

As mentioned above, by getting a pre-wired SSS pickguard you can convert an HSS strat to SSS. 

That is because the space available on HSS is wider due to the humbucker pickup, so the single coil can be easily installed.

In general terms, bodies are routed all the same and pretty standardized but if you want to be completely sure you can check on websites or even on eBay. 

There you have detailed information about how the bodies are routed so you will be aware of every feature.

Will any single coil pickup work for this conversion?

When doing this conversion you may think that a special type of single-coil will be needed but in fact, any of them will be usable. 

As a matter of fact, all passive single-coil pickups will work for standard circuits.

However, if you intend to install an active pickup it won’t be that easy. 

Although it will be for sure possible, active pickups work differently so their installation will require extra work plus new electronics.

Would you be able to use the same electronics from an HSS on a SSS Strat?

As all passive single coils are intended to work in every standardized circuit, you will be able to keep the same electronics. 

Nevertheless, when talking about active single coils the story is quite different.

Active guitar pickups are just like passive single-coil pickups but they have a built-in preamp placed on the base, under the pole pieces. 

This preamp provides a stronger signal because it is boosted and shaped once it leaves the pickups.

The interesting thing about active pickups is that the preamp needs a power source to work which is usually a 9V battery. 

The problem with them is that most guitars are designed to work with passive pickups so they do not have the battery cavity or the required electronics.

Therefore, if you want to add an active single coil, you have to consider doing some modifications to your instrument.

Can anybody do this conversion?

When doing this conversion is important to bear in mind how your guitar is routed, if pickups fit the cavities is just a matter of changing the pickguard. 

Remember that you could get a loaded pickguard and it would be quite easy.

Although pre-wired pickguards can make this task very simple, if there is something else to consider like any routing incompatibilities, it would be better to take it to an expert. 

In that way, you won’t have to struggle with unexpected inconveniences.

Is it better to take your instrument to a guitar tech to do this job?

Many musicians are really fond of not only guitar features but also electronics issues related to the instrument, for that reason they may be aware of how to do specific modifications. 

Contrarily, some others just focus on playing and aspects that have to do with sound and playing style so they might be unable to do this job.

Those who belong to the second group have the opportunity of having their instrument serviced by a technician. 

When making adjustments to the instruments it is always encouraged to let the experts work on them.

This should be considered even by players who know about electronics as well. 

Guitar techs are professional, as they are accustomed to doing these kinds of mods they won’t probably have problems at all plus will do the same work faster and the outcome will be better. 

Is this conversion reversible?

In most cases, this conversion is totally reversible, the most important variation needed is the cavity where the pickup is located. 

As single coils are smaller compared to humbuckers and the extra space will remain in your instrument you won’t have any problem re-wiring your guitar to its previous setup.

Remember that when doing modifications or adjustments to a guitar is always recommended to get a technician. 

It is better to make your instrument serviced by someone who is really aware of the job and has experience doing it as well.