April 30

8 Best Humbucker Pickups in 2024

Humbucker pickups are a game-changer for electric guitars. Designed to cancel out noise and interference, making them different from single-coil pickups. If you’re a guitarist starting out, it’s really important to know your way around these parts. That’s why we’ve put together this article on the best humbucker pickups available today.

Choosing the right humbucker is key if you want great sound, tone, and overall performance from your guitar. The type of pickup you go for really affects how your guitar sounds across different music genres. So whether you’re into rock, blues, jazz, or metal, humbuckers will deeply influence the sound you produce, making this guide perfect for guitar players of all stripes.

In this guide, we’ll look at different humbucker pickups, review the top ones, and give you some tips on how to choose the best one for your setup. Upgrading to the perfect humbucker can really transform your guitar playing. But do you know exactly what you’re missing in your guitar’s tone right now? Let’s explore the world of humbucker pickups together and find out how they can boost your music.

What are Humbucker Pickups?

Humbucker pickups are a different type of guitar pickup, not to be confused with their cousin, the single-coil pickup. They’ve got a unique design and sound that really make them stand out.

Humbuckers have a special construction with dual coils. This helps eliminate noise and interference, which is quite a nifty advantage. The way they’re built is quite interesting!

Our favorite part is the sound. Humbuckers have rich, warm qualities that make them less prone to that unpleasant electrical hum. So it’s no surprise that they’re popular in genres like rock and metal.

What’s the Difference Between Active and Passive Humbuckers?

When people talk about humbuckers, you’ll often hear about “active” and “passive” types. So, what’s the difference between them?

Active Humbuckers

Active humbuckers come with a built-in preamp, powered by a battery. This feature boosts the signal, reduces noise, and often includes EQ controls. We can say that active humbuckers offer a hotter output and a clearer tone. You’ll find them frequently used in genres like heavy metal, where high gain and sustained notes are the norm.

However, they do require a battery to operate, meaning you’ll have to replace it every so often.

Passive Humbuckers

On the other hand, passive humbuckers work without external power. They rely purely on the magnet and coils, offering a more natural and dynamic sound. These pickups capture a greater range of frequencies and respond well to changes in your playing style.

That being said, passive humbuckers may produce more noise compared to their active counterparts.

Comparing the Two

In terms of output, active humbuckers prevail with an amplified signal. But for fidelity, passive humbuckers have the upper hand, capturing the nuances of your playing.

As for what music genres they’re typically used in, active humbuckers excel at providing high gain and sustain, making them ideal for metal. On the other hand, passive humbuckers give you a warmer, more rounded tone, suitable for jazz, blues, and classic rock.

Ultimately, it’s about what suits your needs. If cutting through the mix with a clear tone and high output is your goal, go for active humbuckers. But if you’re after a richer, more organic sound, passive humbuckers might be the better choice.

Covered vs. Uncovered Humbuckers: Which Is Better?

The choice between covered or uncovered humbuckers is not just about function, but also personal preference. Let’s discuss the differences.

First, metal covers provide protection and reduce electromagnetic interference, which can lead to a smoother tone. This sounds appealing, right?

Covered Humbuckers:

  • Protected from dirt and dust
  • Reduced electromagnetic interference
  • Smoother tone

But what if you want more bite and presence? Removing the cover offers increased clarity and higher frequency response. Perfect for cutting through the mix!

Uncovered Humbuckers:

  • Increased clarity
  • Higher frequency response
  • More bite and presence

Lastly, don’t forget about aesthetics. Sometimes, it’s all about the look you’re going for. Also, keep in mind that the cover affects the magnetic field and the resulting sound. Feel free to experiment and find the perfect style and tone for you.

Best Humbucker Pickups

We’ve gathered our top picks for the best humbucker pickups just for you.

Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB Bridge Humbucker

The SH-4 JB Humbucker is a fantastic choice that offers versatile sound and incredible performance.

Pros

  • Powerful and versatile tone
  • Great sustain and harmonics
  • Easy tone customization

Cons

  • Slightly pricey
  • Not a vintage tone
  • May not suit all musical styles

Let’s talk about the Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB Bridge Humbucker. This incredible pickup offers a balanced, powerful sound that you’ll love. From blues to thrash, it’s perfect for any style!

One thing we noticed right away is the dynamic sustain you get with this pickup. It provides a hot output, pushing your amp for added harmonics and sustain, which is excellent for solos and heavy chords.

Another great feature is the easy tone customization options. You can use a 500k volume pot for high-end cut or a 250k pot for softer tones, allowing you to tailor the sound to your preferred style. Plus, the SH-4 JB pairs well with other pickups for even more tonal variety.

However, some users may find the price a bit steep. But considering the quality of this humbucker, we think it’s worth every penny. Also, if you’re looking for a vintage tone, this might not be the best option for you. It leans more towards a modern, powerful sound. Finally, while it’s incredibly versatile, some musical styles may not suit this pickup.

All in all, the Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB Bridge Humbucker offers excellent performance and tone versatility. This pickup will quickly become your go-to choice for a wide range of musical styles.

EMG 81 Active Guitar Humbucker

EMG 81 Active Guitar Humbucker Bridge/Neck Pickup
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A must-have humbucker pickup for powerful and detailed tones in any dense mix situation.

Pros

  • Powerful ceramic magnets and close aperture coils
  • Designed for detailed intensity and high end cut
  • Great for bridge and neck positions

Cons

  • Requires 9V battery
  • Not ideal for all genres
  • May not suit passive pickup fans

We absolutely love the EMG 81 for its intense and powerful sound. Thanks to its ceramic magnets and close aperture coils, you’ll get an incredible amount of high end cut and fluid sustain. Install it in the bridge position, and you’ll notice your leads will slice right through the densest mix.

When it comes to versatility, this pickup doesn’t disappoint. Pop the EMG 81 in both neck and bridge positions for a blisteringly good sound. Pair it with the classic 81/85 setup or go for the 81/60 combo for even more options.

Now, it’s important to note that the EMG 81 is an active pickup, meaning it requires a 9V battery. If you’re a fan of passive pickups, or play genres that may not suit the 81’s aggressive sound, it might not be your go-to choice. However, for those looking to make a statement with their guitar and have it heard loud and clear, the EMG 81 is a game changer.

DiMarzio Super Distortion Humbucker Pickup

DiMarzio Humbucker Pickup for Electric Guitar (DP100BK)
$89.99
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05/16/2024 12:21 am GMT

Choosing this DiMarzio humbucker pickup is a must for those wanting massive and powerful tones.

Pros

  • Ultra-high output
  • Great for solidbody guitars
  • Versatile for bridge or neck position

Cons

  • Might be too powerful for some
  • Not ideal for cleaner tones
  • Ceramic magnets might not suit all preferences

We recently tried DiMarzio Super Distortion and found the high output sends tube amps into a wonderful overdrive, just like it’s designed to do.

But let us not forget the tone. The power in this little beast is unbelievable. Both single notes and chords come out massive, with that humbucker’s classic thick, boosted mids, fat highs, and exceptional lows. Believe us when we say it’s a game-changer for your guitar’s sound.

Although it’s generally a bridge-position pickup, it works wonders in the neck with lower-gain guitar amps. That being said, the power it packs might not suit everyone’s taste, and it may not be ideal for players looking for cleaner tones. Ultimately, if you want huge tone from your solidbody guitar, look no further than the DiMarzio Super Distortion Humbucker Pickup.

Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker Pickup Set

Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker Pickup Set
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Upgrade your guitar’s sound with these versatile, noise-free pickups from Fishman.

Pros

  • Noiseless performance
  • Two distinct voices
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Installation complexity
  • Needs special switch (not included)

We all know the charm of vintage pickups, but the hum and noise can be annoying. Fishman Fluence Modern Alnico pickups solve this dilemma, offering crystal-clear sound with zero compromise. You can stretch your guitar cable for long distances without worrying about quality loss.

One great feature of these pickups is the multi-voice option. Choose between a modern active pickup sound and a unique, clean Fluence tone. Both voices nail the classic humbucker flavor we crave. The switching is easy, with various options to toggle voices.

You’ll love the power supply on these pickups. With more than 200 hours of playtime, a few hours of USB charging will have you set for countless jam sessions. You can use a 9V battery or an optional Fluence battery pack, which fits seamlessly onto your guitar without damage.

In conclusion, the Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker Pickup Set is a fantastic choice for any guitarist looking to enhance their sound. Discover the best of both worlds with noiseless performance and remarkable versatility!

Seymour Duncan SH-55n Seth Lover Pickup

Seymour Duncan SH-55n Seth Lover 1-Conductor Pickup
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Grab this pickup for a true vintage PAF tone with incredible clarity and warmth.

Pros

  • Rich, warm tone
  • Vintage PAF vibes
  • Even output

Cons

  • Unpotted – potentially noisy at high gain
  • Not very versatile
  • Slightly expensive

Let’s talk about the Seymour Duncan SH-55n Seth Lover 1-Conductor Pickup! We recently tried this amazing humbucker and loved its classic vibe. The nickel neck pickup provides a beautiful, warm tone that’s perfect for multiple music genres, especially jazz and blues.

One notable aspect of this pickup is its unpotted construction. Admittedly, this provides an authentic vintage tone but can cause issues with feedback at high gains. So, keep that in mind if you’re a fan of cranking up the distortion.

In conclusion, the Seymour Duncan SH-55n Seth Lover Pickup is an excellent choice for those who appreciate a classic, warm PAF sound. However, if versatile playing styles or noise-free performance are priorities, you may want to explore other options.

Gibson ’57 Classic Plus Humbucker Pickup

Gibson '57 Classic Plus Humbucker Pickup
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You won’t regret upgrading to this high-quality, rich-sounding pickup with a vintage touch.

Pros

Cons

  • Pricey for some budgets
  • Might be too hot for certain styles
  • Not suitable for all guitar types

We recently tried the Gibson ’57 Classic Plus Humbucker Pickup, and we’re blown away by its quality. The late-1950s humbucker design captures that desirable rich, vintage tone, giving your guitar a truly authentic sound.

One thing that really stood out to us is its slightly higher output compared to other pickups. This means you can drive your tube preamp just a bit more without the sound becoming too overpowering. Plus, the pickup’s wax-potting process completely eliminates microphonic feedback, which is essential for smooth playability.

We should note that the ’57 Classic Plus Humbucker Pickup might not be suitable for all guitar types or music styles. If you’re a blues or jazz player looking for warmer tones, this may not be your ideal choice. Additionally, the price tag could be a challenge for some budgets.

However, if you’re after that iconic late-50s tone and you don’t mind investing in higher-quality gear, this Gibson pickup certainly won’t disappoint. Not only does it deliver an extraordinary sound, but it also features beautiful design elements like the original Patent Applied For decal on the baseplate. Give your guitar the upgrade it deserves with the Gibson ’57 Classic Plus Humbucker Pickup!

DiMarzio Super Distortion T

DiMarzio Super Distortion T Humbucker Telecaster Single Coil Pickup
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You’ll love this high-output humbucker with a balanced, fat sound for your Telecaster.

Pros

Cons

  • May produce hum noise if set too high
  • Not for those who prefer lower output pickups
  • Limited to bridge position

DiMarzio’s Super Distortion T adds a powerful punch to your guitar sound. With its high-output design, this pickup is perfect for those looking to drive their tube amp into overdrive. You’ll notice that chords and single-notes both have a satisfying thickness with boosted mids, fat highs, and strong lows.

Using this humbucker on your Telecaster-style guitar adds an extra layer of soul and depth to your sound. The ceramic magnet contributes to its versatile and balanced tonal range, making it perfect for various playing styles. Plus, the four-conductor wiring allows for even more customization options.

While the Super Distortion T is loved by many, some users have reported hum issues when the pickup height is set too high. It’s essential to find the right balance to avoid unwanted noise. And if you’re not a fan of high-output pickups, this may not be the right choice for you. Finally, keep in mind that this pickup is specifically designed for the bridge position on Telecaster-style guitars.

Overall, the DiMarzio Super Distortion T is an excellent choice for those seeking a powerful, balanced sound with a touch of Tele soul. As long as you carefully adjust the pickup height and are a fan of high-output pickups, this humbucker will truly bring your sound to life.

EMG ZW Zakk Wylde Signature Humbucker Set

EMG ZW Zakk Wylde Signature Humbucker Guitar Pickup Set
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For that heavy metal sound you crave, this EMG Zakk Wylde pickup set delivers.

Pros

  • Signature Zakk Wylde tone
  • Easy to install
  • Durable and long-lasting

Cons

  • Long shaft pots may not fit all guitars
  • High gain, not versatile for all styles
  • Pricey compared to other humbuckers

EMG pickups are known for their top-notch quality and reliability. And as expected, the Zakk Wylde Signature Humbucker Set stays true to that reputation. If you’re a fan of heavy metal’s premier lead guitarist, then you’ll love the aggressive tone these pickups produce.

Installation is a breeze with the solderless install system. Plus, the set includes both the EMG-81 and EMG-85 active pickups, so you’ll have everything needed for an upgrade. However, note that the long shaft pots included in the set may not perfectly fit all guitars.

While the EMG ZW pickups are perfect for players seeking a heavy, gritty sound, they may not suit those looking for versatile tones. If metal is your thing, these pickups are fantastic; otherwise, consider other options. Lastly, the price is on the higher side, but for the quality and sound you get, it’s reasonable.

All in all, the EMG ZW Zakk Wylde Signature Humbucker Set is an excellent choice for metal enthusiasts. Its outstanding sound and easy installation make it a worthy investment. Just make sure to check your guitar’s compatibility before diving in.

What to Consider When Choosing Humbucker Pickups

Let’s dive into the main factors when choosing the right humbucker pickups for your guitar.

Music Genre

Picking the right humbucker can greatly impact your playing style. Some pickups excel in jazz, blues, or rock based on their unique tonal qualities. Think about your preferred genre and find humbuckers that enhance your performance in that style.

Guitar Type

The type of guitar you own can influence your humbucker choice. Guitars have different body shapes and constructions, which affect the humbucker’s sound. Take your guitar’s design into consideration to find the best matching pickup.

Pickup Output

Different output levels of humbuckers can alter your guitar’s sound. High-output pickups are ideal for heavy rock or metal, while lower output suits blues or jazz better. Consider your desired sound before choosing the pickup’s output.

Magnet Type

Various magnets in humbuckers, such as Alnico II, Alnico V, and Ceramic, contribute to different tone and sustain characteristics. Research these types and find the magnet that gives you the desired sound.

Final Thoughts

We’ve gone over the basics of choosing the best humbucker pickups with our top recommendations. Remember, your musical style and personal preferences matter most. Different pickups work for different styles, so don’t hesitate to experiment with a few.

It’s all about nailing that perfect sound. So, pick up a couple of humbuckers and start playing around! You might be surprised by the incredible tones you find.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are humbuckers better than single-coils?

Humbuckers and single-coils both have their pros and cons. It depends on the sound you’re looking for. Humbuckers typically produce a warmer, thicker sound, great for genres like rock and metal. On the other hand, single-coils are known for their clarity and bright tones, perfect for blues and country music. So, it’s not about one being better; it’s about finding the right pickup for your style.

What are the differences between Alnico and Ceramic magnets in humbuckers?

Alnico and ceramic magnets offer different tonal qualities. Alnico magnets, made from an alloy of aluminum, nickel, and cobalt, give a smoother and more vintage sound. They’re often found in classic rock and blues guitars. On the flip side, ceramic magnets are much stronger. This makes them ideal for heavier music like metal, as they provide higher output and a more aggressive tone.

What’s the difference between a bridge and neck humbucker?

Positioning plays a significant role in a pickup’s sound. Bridge humbuckers are closer to the bridge, resulting in a more trebly, crisp tone. These pickups cut through a mix and give you a distinct sound, suitable for lead guitar work. Neck humbuckers, which sit near the neck, capture more vibration from the strings. This results in a warmer, fuller tone, creating a well-rounded sound for rhythm guitar parts and smooth solos.

Can I mix humbucker and single-coil pickups in one guitar?

Yes, you can mix humbucker and single-coil pickups in a single guitar. It’s known as HSS (humbucker-single-single) or HSH (humbucker-single-humbucker) configuration. By doing so, you’ll get a wider range of tonal options, combining the characteristics of both pickup types. This versatile setup is popular among guitarists who play various styles and need the flexibility to transition between different tones easily.


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