The sound and tone that you are getting out of your guitar or bass depends a lot on which particular pickups you are using. It is quite difficult to bring out the best possible pickups as everything is dependant on the particular genre you are playing or looking to play. Some pickups are better for blues or jazz, while others work for heavier genres like hard rock or any of the various metal subgenres.
Usually guitarists who play the latter genres use humbuckers instead of single-coil pickups, as they make the sound essentially heavier, louder and darker in comparison to the brighter sound of single-coils.
In this article, we will take a closer look at different types of pickups and will also give an insight into which pickups to use under which circumstances, as well as bringing out some of the best models among these different types of pickups.
Best Humbucker Pickups
Humbucker pickups are an ideal and essential choice for any rock or metal subgenres. What they do is minimize the hum and any excess feedback (as you would get from single-coils) while doubling the guitar signal. Thus producing some heavier, thicker, darker, and warmer sound.
EMG Zakk Wylde Humbucking Active Pickup Set
These pickups are possibly one of the best, if not the very best humbuckers out there. This particular model features the EMG-85 and EMG-81 pickups. The EMG-85 is using two Alnico magnet-loaded coils with a wide aperture to maintain a warmer, beefier and heavier low, as well as a great fatter top end.
The EMG-81 meanwhile makes for some nice consistent distortion during lead passages, while the sustain is sufficiently long and the breakup tends to fade smoothly as well. Something that is quite essential for great pickups.
Altogether these pickups make for some really great aggressive tone that fits the needs of many metal and rock genres. The cost of these pickups is not the smallest, but then again the sound and tone you would get out of them is probably worth the cost.
Best Telecaster pickups
The single coil Fender Telecaster pickups employ a dual-pickup configuration, which makes them essentially punchier and rather distinctively shimmering in the high end, while also making for some treble-friendly tone. The low end on the other hand tends to be rather focused and tight.
DiMarzio Vinatage Twang King Pre-Wired Pickup Set for Tele
The pre-wired drop-in pickup assembly comprises of the Twang King Bridge DP173 single-coil pickup and Twang King Neck DP172 single-coil pickup. This also includes a control plate and knobs. As well as a complete wiring harness with solderless installation.
These great pickups produce some nice clean lows and highs, while they are also able to handle a pretty wide dynamic range overall. The sound tends to open up more dynamically with a harder attack, while it cleans up when softer picking is used. This in turn makes for some soft and quiet tone. All in all they are one of the best single-coil Telecaster pickups on the market today.
Best Strat Pickups
Stratocaster pickups are well known for their bright high end and quite pronounced lead parts, while they are perfect in expressing shimmering chords, and are known for great all-round dynamic sound.
Making them a great choice for any rock or blues guitarist. Strat pickups are however suitable for a variety of genres and are obviously the way to go for anyone using a Fender Stratocaster.
Fender Custom Shop Fat ’50s Stratocaster Pickups
This great Fender set features pickups that are constructed with hand-beveled staggered Alnico V magnets and Formvar magnet wire. All for some enhanced dynamic range.
There is also a reverse-wound middle pickup, which essentially means that the middle pickup is reverse wound/reverse polarity for canceling and eliminating hum in positions 2 and 4.
What is great about this particular set, is that it authentically recreates the single coil 1950s sound. This means some bright, clear and almost glassy tone. Additionally the increased winding in the pickups ends up producing some really great tigher bass response and really fine mid-range.
All of this making them one of the best start pickups currently out there. The price of these pickups in not too hefty as well, so they won’t hurt your pockets too much as well.
Best Acoustic Guitar Pickup
The main characteristic to look for in great acoustic guitar pickups is the ability to transmit the clean original tone of your guitar while eliminating any kind of excess feedback.
The other main thing to keep an eye on is the relative ease of installing these pickups into your guitar, as well these pickups offering volume controls for boosting the original signal of the pickup, while also avoiding producing any kind of unwanted feedback.
LR Baggs M1A Active Soundhole Magnetic Pickup
The LR Baggs M1A pickup follows the humbucker design and features built-in all class A electronics. This essentially means that there isn’t any need for external preamps, while this makes the pickup also compatible with any outboard equipment.
The pickup features long battery life, a top-mounted volume control wheel, adjustable pole pieces and a built-in gold plated 1/8″ Jack.
The M1 is a humbucking pickup with a slight twist. In a common stacked humbucker the lower coil is cancelling the hum, while not contributing anything positive to the sound.
In the case of this pickup the lower coil is unlocked with a carefully tuned support that allows it to capture higher frequency resonance. This means that as the pickup is moving with the guitar’s soundboard, a body signal is created in the suspended coil, which adds realism and presence to the amplified sound.
All in all this great acoustic pickup with high feedback resistence pretty much ensures the guitarist a quiet hum-free operation in any possible live setting. This makes them a first choice for any guitarist using an acoustic guitar.