Review: Bare Knuckle Cobra Prewired Guard Pickups — Video


While it isn’t necessarily rocket science, wiring and installing an entire set of three Strat pickups can be a confusing and time-consuming project for guitarists who fire up a soldering iron maybe once a year, at best.

Even worse, if your soldering skills have all the finesse of a 4-year-old drawing Batman, your wiring job can suffer from cold solder joints, intermittent connections, and poor grounding.

Knowing that guitarists would rather spend their time playing than singeing their fingers with a sizzling red hot soldering gun, Bare Knuckle offers pre-wired Strat pickguards loaded with their acclaimed pickups and high-quality electronics. SSS and HSS configurations are available—we took a look at an SSS setup loaded with Bare Knuckle’s Cobra single-coils.


Bare Knuckle prewired Strat pickguards are available in a variety of styles, including standard (black, white, mint green or parchment pickguard and parts), aged (aged pickguard including a tortoiseshell option and aged parts), and deluxe (snakeskin, tortoiseshell, or various pearloid pickguard options and black, white or parchment parts). All available pickguards have 11 holes, with eight-hole guards available on request. Parts include Bare Knuckle Pickups’ own custom audio taper 280k CTS pots (one volume and two tone), Jensen 0.022mfd paper-in-oil capacitor, and aluminum screening plate, plus an Oak Grigsby/CRL five-way pickup selector switch.

The Cobra pickups have two nickel-plated steel blade pole pieces, but they are true single-coils. The high-output design (10.4k ohms middle and neck, 11.5k ohms bridge) incorporates a pair of ceramic magnets for excellent string-to-string balance, definition, and dynamic response.


Removing the old pickguard assembly and installing the new Bare Knuckle prewired guard can easily be performed in about five minutes. All you need to do is remove the strings, unscrew the old pickguard and unsolder or clip the wires, solder the hot and ground wires of the new assembly to the output jack, solder the new assembly’s main ground wire, screw in the assembly, tighten up the strings, and you’re ready to plug in and play.

The Cobra pickups are modern-voiced single-coils that combine the power of humbuckers with the dynamics of single-coils. The bass and treble frequencies are boosted, providing round bass thump and exceptionally crisp and vibrant treble while the mids remain smooth and full. The overall frequency range is much wider than typical vintage-style Strat tones, sounding more like a fat P90 with a modern metal edge.

LIST PRICES $92 (starting price for pre-wired guards); $228 (starting price for Strat single-coil set)
MANUFACTURER Bare Knuckle Pickups,

•All components, including pickups and controls, are pre-wired and ready to be installed with just a minimal amount of soldering for the output jack and main ground.

•The Cobra pickups feature dual nickel-plated steel blades and a pair of ceramic magnets to provide high output with outstanding string-to-string balance and dynamic response.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Bare Knuckle’s prewired guards make it easy for guitarists to quickly and significantly update and upgrade the sound and performance of their Strats, especially with their stellar Cobra pickups in the assembly.

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Chris Gill, Video by Paul Riario

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.