Best Electric Guitar Pickups
Customizing your electric guitar can be a long process involving tough decisions, and one of the hardest choices to make (and the most crucial for sound and tone quality) is knowing how to choose the best electric guitar pickups. Read on for some helpful tips to guide you.
- Gibson P-90 Soapbar. This classic is one of the best pickups ever created. Dating back to 1954, it is a wide single-coil pickup usually made with an Alnico V magnet. The sound is thicker, more raw and snarling than a Fender type single-coil and nearly as powerful as a humbucker without the problem of muddiness. The rugged midrange punch of this pickup is legendary, and has been used by all kinds of artists including The Who, Canned Heat and Green Day. Unfortunately, the guitar also has to be specially routed for them.
- Fender Custom Shop '69 Strat Pickup Set. This is one of the Custom Shop's best offerings; a reproduction set of 1969 Stratocaster pickups. The sound of these is clear and sparkling, with smooth tone and less hum than the originals. A couple of these could also work well in a Duo-Sonic of other guitars that take Stratocaster-style pickups.
- Gibson 57 Classic Humbucker. This one is a reproduction of the 1957 PAF (Patent Applied For) pickup which was standard in the Les Pauls of the time. This pickup features crisp highs, powerful midrange, full-bottomed lows and growls like a tiger when overdriven. It is capable of incredible distortion while still retaining clarity. One of the best humbuckers available.
- DiMarzio Area 58 Pickup. This is a recreation of the 1958 Fender Stratocaster pickup, known for its warm tone and clear, biting treble. This reproduction from DiMarzio has the advantage of being hum-canceling, which means much less noise than a vintage pickup and much lower cost.
- GFS Mean 90. Though low-priced, this humbucker-sized P-90 is an excellent way to get the snarling, biting P-90 tones for guitars that are routed for humbuckers. Its tone is very close indeed to the bite, high output and midrange punch of a true P-90.
- DeArmond DynaSonic. Not as easy to find as some of the others listed here, the DynaSonic is nonetheless worth seeking out. Made for use on Gretsch guitars until recently, this single-coil pickup sings with a soaring, clear tone and chiming treble. It doesn't fit into standard single-coil or humbucker routings, but will have to be dealt with specially.
- DIMarzio Super Distortion Humbucker. This pickup has remained in production for decades. It powered the guitars of bands such as Kiss, Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper in the 1970s. This dual-coil powerhouse features a thick midrange response and high output, which allow for maximum distortion through a distortion pedal or overdriven amp.
- Seymour Duncan P-Rails. This offering is Duncan's answer to the humbucker-sized P-90 problem. An electric guitar pickup with many applications, It is a humbucker with coil-splitting capabilities. Operating as a single-coil, it is a stubby P-90 with the usual bite and snarl. With the second, slim blade coil, it is a humbucker. Very good choice if you can't make up your mind between the cutting sound of a P-90 and the thunder of a humbucker!
- Fender Custom Shop Texas Special Strat Pickups. This set of 3 Stratocaster pickups has a uniquely gritty, punchy sound, especially for Fender single-coils. Intended for hot blues playing, the tasteful tone and cutting bite of these pickups would be useful in many musical settings.
- Lace Sensor Blue-Silver-Red S-S-S Pickup Set. Intended for Stratocasters, these pickups utilize a range of tones and output levels. The Blue, for neck position, is a warm, thick 1950s tone. The Silver recreated the chunky Strat pickup of the 1970s. The Red is a high-output humbucker, capable of rocking the roof. This pickup set offers as versatile a set of sounds as any Fender player could ask for.
A good tip to remember here is to always get the type of pickup that matches the routing of your guitar. Have fun and happy playing!