The Best Budget Guitar Pickups: Singles < $100, Sets < $150

Electric Guitar Pickups

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Guitar pickups come in a near-limitless amount of tonal palettes and it can be a bit overwhelming to pick out one that's best suited for your playing style. What complicates matters is how subjectively we pick the tones we like. This makes for a difficult time settling for the best pickups for our instruments. Some resort to going into forums. but most of the time they become echo chambers repeating praise over the latest trendy pickup design that may or may not work with your playing style and style of music.

Sometimes it even hinders your tonal journey, forcing you to try to convince yourself that you like the tone while simultaneously feeling uninspired and just playing mindless riffs instead of letting creativity overflow. As a guitar player myself, I understand that struggle all too well.

There are pickups on the market that have been created for very specific types of music and very specific guitarist signature sets. Choosing the right tone for your idiosyncrasies has been made more difficult the more pickups there are on the market.

Because of this, we decided to reformat this guide to feature pickups on the lower to mid-range of the pricing scale that serves as great "starting points" for your tonal journey. Many guitarists have even chosen these pickups as -the- pickup that they stick to. The overwhelming amount of sources we gathered forms a picture of overall user satisfaction with some pickups getting unanimously high ratings.

Each selection below is backed by hundreds, sometimes thousands of satisfied users that deem them great pickups. As starting points, these pickups make great reference points should you require more from them. If you have bought any of these selections but need a bit more or less of a certain attribute, a quick email to a manufacturer or engaging in forum discussions with this experience in mind will lead you closer to the best pickups for YOU. We have limited our price range to under $100 for individual pickups and under $150 for sets for this purpose.

In this 2020 update, we have updated the categorization to reflect Single and Humbucker sized pickups. This is to better categorize them by what guitar they fit into regardless of whether they have hum-canceling features or not. Some Single Coil-sized pickups are actually humbuckers, and there have been a few Humbucker sized pickups that are actually single coils.

Based on the data we gathered, the categories have been narrowed down to two main categories, further divided into individual pickups and sets for easier browsing.

The Best Budget Guitar Pickups - Singles & Sets Under $200

Single Coil Size: Bridge

DiMarzio DP184 The Chopper Single Coil

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$80
DiMarzio DP184 The Chopper Single Coil Electric Guitar Pickup

While it does have a thin single-coil form factor that can fit in Strat-style guitars, this pickup is a humbucker at heart.

The DiMarzio DP184 has dual blade magnets that work much like a conventional humbucker, without the need for a bulky profile.

This means that you can give your standard SSS configuration style guitars a sonic makeover without having to modify the body.

These dual blade magnets also make the pickup viable for any position, since it doesn't have pole magnets that need to be in line with the strings.

Blade magnet pickups are also known for sounding clean and balanced, the downside is the loss of some dynamics especially when compared to a vintage-style pickup.

Specifications:

  • Position: Any
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: Not Applicable
  • Available Colors/Covers: 12 color variations

Pros
Response to the DiMarzio DP184 is very positive, and many rock, metal, and blues players appreciate its extra grit which gives them a fuller tone. It is often also used on the bridge position and is commended for working well with different flavors of overdrive & distortion. But many have had good experiences with the pickup placed in the neck, and even in the middle position.

Cons
There are a few who feel that it's not as humbucker sounding as they would like it to be, ironically there are others who are not happy with its humbucker sounding cleans.

Overall
The DiMarzio DP184 "The Chopper" is ideal for strat style guitar owners who want to add a bit of humbucker flavor into their instrument without doing major modifications on the body.

Seymour Duncan SHR-1b Hot Rails Strat Bridge

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 500+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$89
Seymour Duncan SHR-1b Hot Rails Strat Bridge Electric Guitar Pickup

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Single Coil Size Bridge Pickup Under $100.

While single-coil pickups have a lot of strengths, they generally don’t have the output needed to produce higher levels of gain metal and hard rock musicians look for. This is where pickups like the Seymour Duncan SHR-1b come in, a humbucker that can be a drop-in replacement for standard single-coil pickups.

Something to know about single coil sized humbuckers is that they don’t sound like either a single coil or a humbucker pickup. They’re brighter than a humbucker, but not quite as bright as a standard single-coil pickup.

This works in their favor in some situations, because they can have definition that’s lacking in some humbuckers.

This makes the design a great fit for lead players, as the increased definition can go a long way in helping you cut through a mix.

Specifications:

  • Position: Bridge
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: 3.31" x 0.73" x 0.85"
  • String Spacing: 57.99 mm
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black, Cream, Parchment, White

Pros
After many years on the market, it's still well-received by owners, even those who've had a long time to use the pickup in actual gigs continue to be impressed. And while its hotter output makes it a favorite for blues, rock, and metal players, there are also plenty who appreciate its clean tone.

Cons
As expected, not everyone is satisfied with its output, some want it to be hotter.

Overall
With so many owners swearing by this pickup, it'll be hard to go wrong with the Seymour Duncan SHR-1b.

Single Coil Size: Middle

While not specifically sold as middle single coils, these pickups are praised for their excellent balance with other pickups as a middle position in an SSS or HSH Pickup configuration.

DiMarzio Area 67

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$80

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Single Coil Size Middle Pickup Under $100.

The archetypical mid 60's strat pickup has a big scoop in the mids compared to their early 60's and 50's predecessors.

The scooped EQ of these pickups makes them blend well with overwound bridge pickups and early 60s/50s neck pickups, resulting in a definitive chime and jangle on the 2 and 4 positions.

The DiMarzio Area 67 is a noiseless take on the mid-60s pickup. Like most strat pickups, it's said to be good in all positions.

Artists like Paul Gilbert have used the Area 67 as a middle pickup, specifically in his signature guitar, the Ibanez FRM100 Fireman.

Specifications:

  • Position: Any (best in middle)
  • Magnet Material: Alnico
  • Dimensions: 3.26" x 0.72" x 0.725"
  • String Spacing: Standard Fender
  • Available Colors/Covers: 13 color variations

Pros
Many users love who love the sound of a good mid 60's pickup say that it sounds close, if not the same as many of the 60s examples they've tried; without the hum. Most hum-canceling single coils tend to sound like they get the life removed from them, losing their bell-like tones. The Area 67 was able to impress users by retaining the bell-like tone.

Cons
Others that preferred an even brighter sound weren't too impressed with the pickups. However, this goes down to personal preference and experience since many pickups of the mid to late 60's vary in winding and tone.

Overall
If you're a fan of that mid to late 60's "CBS" tone but dislike the hum, the Dimarzio Area 67's should be high on your list. Pair it with an Area 58 in the neck and Area 61 in the bridge and you'll have a Strat that covers all the bases without the hum.

Seymour Duncan SSL-1

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$59
Seymour Duncan SSL-1 Vintage Staggered Pole Strat Pickup

The SSL-1 is Seymour Duncan's period-correct recreation of a 50's style strat pickup.

It was designed with lots of high string chime and low string bell tones in mind.

It features hand-ground Alnico 5 magnets, period-correct Formvar wire.

The SSL-1 pickups are hand-built in Santa Barbara, California.

While it balances nicely with other SSL-1 pickups in the neck and bridge position, it is versatile enough to fill in a middle position on an HSS or HSH pickup configuration, giving split coil 2 and 4 positions lots of chime and quack that you'd expect.

Specifications:

  • Position: Any
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: Not Applicable
  • Available Colors/Covers: 12 color variations

Pros
The Seymour Duncan SSL-1 is frequently discussed in various forums and reviews by users as their "first true upgrade". Many users purchased the pickup as a means to beef up cheap guitars and project partscasters. As a middle position pickup, users note that it plays nicely with other brands, preserving the much-desired quack and bottle tone on the 2 and 4 positions in the strat. As a middle pickup in a superstrat HSH configuration, the Alnico V magnet gives it enough push to sound balanced with humbucker split coils for a more convincing 2 and 4 position tone on shred guitars.

Cons
Reverse wound versions tend to be custom order only. If you get a standard SSL-1, you won't get the hum-canceling tone in the 2 and 4 positions. So make sure to select your winding preferences before ordering.

Overall
People call the SSL-1 a "vanilla" pickup. It's not because it's dull or bad; quite the opposite. It's a very good pickup for the price and sounds the way you expect a 50s pickup to sound like with nothing more and nothing less. It's the standard for many users and that says a lot about its status as a go-to aftermarket replacement. Like the ice cream flavor, sometimes vanilla is all you need after trying everything.

Single Coil Size: Neck

Seymour Duncan SHR-1n Hot Rails Strat Neck

99
GEARANK

99 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$89
Seymour Duncan SHR-1n Hot Rails Strat Neck Electric Guitar Pickup

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Single Coil Sized Neck Pickup Under $100.

The Seymour Duncan SHR-1n Hot Rails Strat Neck Electric Guitar Pickup is a high-output humbucker in a single-coil sized package, making it a snap for any musicians with a single coil equipped guitar to get access to more full sounding humbucker tones.

This particular model is fine-tuned to work in the neck position, which is known for warm tones that work for a lot of musical styles, from jazz to blues to hard rock.

While it does have a bit more low end, it doesn't sacrifice much of its high and mid frequencies, giving this pickup a distinct voice that sits between that of a humbucker and a single-coil.

Specifications:

  • Position: Neck
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: 3.31" x 0.73" x 0.85"
  • String Spacing: 57.99 mm
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black, Cream, Parchment, White

Pros
Those who switched to the Seymour Duncan SHR-1n are blown away by how good this pickup sounds, so much so that it gets an almost perfect rating. They commend it for improving their overall sound, some even say that it breathes new life to their instrument. While most owners have used the pickup on their Squiers and other Strat-style guitars, some dropped it into their Tele style and superstrat guitars.

Cons
Not many complaints aside from a few who feel that this humbucker is not hot enough for their tastes.

Overall
If you feel like your current neck pickup is too warm and doesn’t have a high enough output, the SHR-1n can remedy both of your problems.

DiMarzio Twang King Neck

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 350+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$70
DiMarzio Twang King Neck Telecaster Pickup

The Twang King Neck pickup isn't a 1:1 recreation of any vintage pickup.

Larry DiMarzio and Steve Blucher (DiMarzio's lead pickup designer) sought to focus more on the tone, rather than the construction of the pickup. They approached the Twang King with this in mind and developed the pickup to capture the best Telecaster and Broadcaster tones in their experience.

This "take the best parts and leave the rest" approach resulted in a dynamic sounding pickup that offers the best of what a Tele neck pickup should sound like.

The Twang King comes stock in Richie Kotzen's signature Fender Telecasters.

Specifications:

  • Position: Neck
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5/li>
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: Not Applicable
  • Available Colors/Covers: Nickel

Pros
The "take from the best examples" approach of DiMarzio has users saying this is the best Telecaster neck pickup they've tried. Many satisfied users noted that it "brought their guitar to life". Whether cheaper Squier guitars or expensive custom shop Fenders, users have found that this Tele neck pickup just felt and sounded better than most.

Cons
We had to dig deep to find negative impressions of the Twang King Neck. The only one we could find was how it "didn't have a personality of its own" in a forum post. This means that the pickup might not be to the taste of people who like very specific quirks that other Tele pickups have.

Overall
If you want to take major strides in upgrading your Tele neck pickup, The Twang King Neck lives up to the title.

Single Coil Set: Stratocaster

Fender Original '57/'62 Strat Pickup Set

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$150
Fender Original '57/'62 Strat Electric Guitar Pickup

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Single Coil Strat-Size Pickup Set Under $150.

Based on an old 1963 Stratocaster, this set is meant to help you get genuine vintage tone by simply swapping out your pickups.

Each pickup is voiced to reproduce the clarity and expressiveness that are expected from a vintage Stratocaster, with Alnico 5 magnets at its core, along with hand-beveled pole pieces.

It also features Formvar-coated magnet wire, which is credited for getting the highs close to that of old Strats.

To better replicate the sound of '60s era Fender Strats, this set also features fiber bobbins and cloth-covered wire.

The pickup covers have an aged white old school finish.

Many higher end fenders, including some custom-shop models, have this set installed.

Specifications:

  • Position: All (Single-Coil Set)
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: Not Stated (Based on '60s era Fender
  • Available Colors/Covers: Aged White

Pros
Owners of the Fender Original '57/'62 set have mostly good things to say, describing the tone as fuller and more detailed. Many of the ones who gave this pickup high ratings simply got what they wanted - a good vintage-sounding pickup set. The 2nd and 4th positions are said to be where the money's at, while others also love how the bridge pickup responds even when overdriven.

Cons
Those who aren't accustomed to single-coil hum may be turned off by this vintage-style pickup. Some caution inexperienced users to install the pickup set with a bit more care and attention.

Overall
This set is a convenient pickup upgrade solution for those who want vintage-style tones. Being the standard pickup set for many high-end Fenders, it is sure to give your guitar a huge upgrade.

Single Coil Set: Telecaster

DiMarzio Twang King Tele Pickup Set

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$140
DiMarzio Twang King Pickup Set for Tele

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Single Coil Tele-Size Pickup Set Under $150.

The DiMarzio Twang King is a true "drop-in" pickup set that includes the neck and bridge pickups, as well as a pre-wired control plate complete with knobs and wiring harness.

It essentially replaces the entire electronics and related hardware of your Tele style guitar, ensuring compatibility between components. It also helps that the wiring harness features easy solder-less installation.

DiMarzio describes the sound as a cross between the Broadcaster and Telecaster sound, with emphasis on good dynamic response.

They utilized controlled-tension coil-winding, hand calibrated magnets, and wax pots to allow each pickup to reproduce a wide range of picking styles, from the lightest nuances to hard picking.

Specifications:

  • Position: Neck and Bridge for Telecaster
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: Not Specified (Telecaster Standard)
  • Available Colors/Covers: Nickel (Neck) and Black (Bridge)

Pros
The Twang King set has a broad range of satisfied users, from owners of affordable Squiers to custom creations made of exotic tonewoods. Most report experiencing tone improvements, and this includes many who affirm the company's claim about dynamics and percussiveness. Ease of installation and build quality also comes up positively in reviews.

Cons
This may not be ideal for those who are looking for high output or modern-sounding pickup replacements.

Overall
The DiMarzio Twang King pickup set is highly recommended for those looking to improve the sound of their Telecaster without straying from classic twang tones. The way the pickups are voiced conjure the best of the 50s into the modern era.

Humbucker Size: Bridge

DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucker F-Spaced

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$80
DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucker F-spaced Electric Guitar Pickup

The DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion was one of the first aftermarket pickups launched, arguably paving the way for all of the pickups that came after.

It was also one of the first aftermarket high-output pickups available, which led to its widespread adoption among rock and metal guitarists.

Even today it still has a relatively high output, so it’s still a great choice if you’re looking for great hard rock and metal tones.

This is for the f-spaced version and is suited for installation in Fender-spaced (hence the name) bridges. This includes Floyd Rose and other floating bridges. The standard spaced DP100 is for the narrower Gibson spacing.

Specifications:

  • Position: Bridge (Recommended)
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: 2.7" x 1.5" x 0.663"
  • String Spacing: 51 mm
  • Available Colors/Covers: 26 Available

Pros
Tone-wise, the DP100 has a thick mid-range response, a huge low-end, and smooth highs. This response helps it to retain a musical tone at high levels of gain, something that a lot of pickups aren’t capable of. And for a long time now, it continues to get very high ratings for the way it handles high gain distortion. The most famous tone featuring the pickup would probably be from the band KISS. Kurt Cobain also adopted the pickup in the later years of Nirvana, installing them in his modified Fender Jaguars. Many users who are fans of the aforementioned bands note that the DP100 is a "must have" to get their tones.

Cons
The pickup was designed to push tube amps. This means that those looking for clean tones should look elsewhere. Lowering the pickup works, but it compromises the raw power inherent in the DP100.

Overall
The Dimarzio DP100 continues to be a mainstay in many guitars today, thanks to its high output, irresistible and satisfying crunch and singing lead tones. Get it if you're after classic rock and grunge tones.

Seymour Duncan SH-8b Invader Bridge Pickup

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 475+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$89
Seymour Duncan SH-8b Invader Bridge Humbucker Electric Guitar Pickup

The Seymour Duncan SH-8b Invader visually stands out with its oversized metal oxide pole pieces. These pole pieces work together with three large ceramic magnets and overwound coils, resulting in expanded frequency handling.

This gives the SH08b a fuller sound that can handle drop tunings with ease.

Notable users of this pickup include Synyster Gates from Avenged Sevenfold and Tom Delonge from Blink 182.

Each pickup is hand built in Seymour Duncan's Santa Barbara, CA facility, and it is tweaked to emphasize the mids more.

Finally, it comes with 4-conductor lead wires for those who want to implement split-coil switching.

Specifications:

  • Position: Bridge
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: Not Stated
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black

Pros
"Savage" and "on fire" isn't normally used to describe pickups, but these two somehow encapsulate how most users feel about this pickup. The SH-8b is well received for its fuller sound, which makes it ideal for musical styles that require low lower than usual tunings. More experienced users also appreciate the flexibility afforded by its 4 conductor design.

Cons
Because of the output, it's not the best for getting sparkly cleans. The coil-split solves this but many users disliked the compromise of needing additional electronics. Some guitars won't fit a push-pull pot without modification.

Overall
For rock, punk, and metal, the Seymour Duncan Invader tops the charts in both output and performance.

Seymour Duncan SH-1b 1959 Bridge Pickup

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
Seymour Duncan SH-1 1959 Model Nickel Bridge Electric Guitar Pickup

The Seymour Duncan SH-1b is a drop-in humbucker designed to reproduce the vibe and tone of classic Seth Lover-designed PAF pickups found on Gibson Les Pauls in the late '50s.

Not to be confused with the Seymour Duncan Seth Lover SH-55, The SH-1b was made to be slightly more modern with a mid scoop and more compression.

It follows after vintage specs, including the single-conductor cable, long-legged bottom plate, and the use of 42AWG plain enamel wire.

Specifications:

  • Position: Bridge
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: Not Stated (Les Paul)
  • Available Colors/Covers: Five Color Combinations, 2 Pickup Cover Colors

Pros
Most satisfied adopters of the Seymour Duncan SH-1b installed it on affordable Epiphone Les Paul style guitars and other similar guitars. Many of them describe it to be a night and day improvement, and they report that it works nicely for a variety of musical styles. Some who own more expensive Gibson Les Paul models who swapped their factory-installed pickups with the SH-1b and find it to be a good replacement pickup.

Cons
If you're looking for a hot, high output humbucker, this is not for you. Since Seymour Duncan tweaked the pickup to be scooped, it may not meet the standards of those who are looking for more vintage-correct tones.

Overall
With its high rating, the Seymour Duncan SH-1b is sure to be a good replacement humbucker for those who are looking to improve the sound of their Les Paul style guitar.

Humbucker Size: Neck

Seymour Duncan SH-8n Invader Neck Pickup

99
GEARANK

99 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$89
Seymour Duncan SH-8n Invader Humbucker Electric Guitar Pickup

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Humbucker Size Neck Pickup Under $100.

The Seymour Duncan SH-8n Invader is the neck counterpart of the SH-8b, and like it's sibling, it's oversized metal oxide pole pieces are hard to miss.

This humbucker features three large ceramic magnets and overwound coils that allow for wider frequency handling and more output, and it is tweaked for the neck position.

The EQ chart for this pickup shows that it emphasizes the mids a bit more than most high output passive humbuckers.

Finally, those who want to add split-coil functionality to their guitar will appreciate the SH-8n's 4-conductor lead wires.

Specifications:

  • Position: Neck
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: Not Stated
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black

Pros
It's already a given that the Seymour Duncan SH-8n is well-received for high gain style playing. Interestingly, it also gets some kudos for its warm tone, which many deem as ideal for a variety of musical styles, not just heavy metal. Even its clean and slightly overdriven tone is well appreciated, making this a viable drop-in pickup for Les Paul style guitars, not just superstrats.

Cons
While loudness is its main strength, it is also one of the few reasons why some give this pickup a lower rating. Some say that SH-8n can a bit too loud and sensitive to pick attack for their tastes.

Overall
If you're looking to beef up your neck position, then this is a great pickup to consider. It surprisingly does a good clean tone which makes it perfect for plucked arpeggios in rock and metal.

Seymour Duncan SH-2N Jazz Neck Model

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$79
Seymour Duncan SH-2N Jazz Neck Model Humbucker Electric Guitar Pickup

The Seymour Duncan Jazz was designed to provide a clearer neck pickup tone by rolling off some low mids of a PAF-style pickup.

While the name implies it's used as a jazz pickup, rock and metal players have found that the fluid nature of the pickup lends itself greatly to high gain solo work. Sweep picking and legato runs sound smooth.

The clarity of the neck also works well with cleanly picked arpeggios and ambient delay and reverb soundscapes.

Specifications:

  • Position: Neck
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: Not Applicable
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black, Zebra, Nickel, Optional custom colors (special order)

Pros
Clear, Rich, and Lush are just some of the adjectives used to describe its sound. But what was most notable was that many users said the pickup had a very distinct feel. Some describe it as slightly compressed and it made some cheaper guitars feel more expensive.

Cons
It can be a bit bright and shrill on bolt-on 25.5" scale guitars.

Overall
If you need to brighten up a dark sounding guitar or want a sweet upper midrange push for clarity, the Seymour Duncan Jazz Neck Model is a great way to lift the blanket off your tone.

Humbucker Size Sets

Seymour Duncan SH-4 & SH-2n Hot Rodded Set

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 1150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$149
Seymour Duncan SH-4 and SH-2n Hot Rodded Humbucker Set

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Humbucker Size Pickup Set Under $150 along with the Seymour Duncan Mayhem Humbuckers.

Seymour came up with the design of this pickup back in 1974, and up to this day, the SH-4 and SH-2n combination is still one of the most sought after.

The SH-4, also called JB Model, has an alnico 5 bar magnet and a coil that's especially tweaked to give the pickup a mid-scooped tone with emphasis on the lows and highs that work well for many musical genres.

Used by the likes of Jeff Beck, Randy Rhoads, and many more, the SH-2n is the company's most versatile bridge humbucker. It has and is still used in different styles of music from country, to blues to modern metal. More importantly, it is designed to complement high output bridge humbuckers, which makes it the best partner for the SH-4.

Specifications:

  • Position: Neck
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: Not Stated (Les Paul)
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black

Pros
This pickup set has been used on many different guitars with great success, from classic Les Pauls to Jazzmasters, to dual humbucker Superstrats and Teles. It is commonly lauded for being a good set of pickups for virtually any type of instrument. Because of its popularity, it's a good starting ground for determining what kind of pickup you might eventually want; that is if you feel the need to upgrade.

Cons
Some don't feel that the SH-4 isn't tight enough for modern metal.

Overall
With its long history and big name backers, the Seymour Duncan SH-4 and SH-2n is quite the tandem. It is versatile enough for almost every musical style.

Seymour Duncan SH-6 Mayhem Humbucker Pickup Set

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$149
Seymour Duncan SH-6 Mayhem Humbucker Pickup Set

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Humbucker Size Pickup Set Under $150 along with the Seymour Duncan SH-4 & SH-2n.

The Seymour Duncan Mayhem Humbucker set consists of matched SH-6 Duncan Distortion pickups.

Meant to kick tube amps into saturation, the Duncan Distortion is a high output wind with a large ceramic magnet.

An accentuated high midrange and treble gives a strong pick attack while a broad but tight lower midrange gives heavy palm mutes, staccato riffing, and fast tremolo picking a bold and assertive sound.

Ola Englund of Feared made his early amp demo videos with Duncan Distortion equipped guitars.

Specifications:

  • Position: Neck and Bridge
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: Not Applicable
  • Available Colors/Covers: 12 color variations

Pros
Users that put them into their guitars experienced a noticeable upgrade. Many guitars come stock with middle-of-the-road pickups, one said. Putting the SH-6 Mayhem set into their guitars, several users noted that they felt the guitar come alive and have the right amount of aggression, clarity, and weight for all kinds of metal tones.

Cons
Some wished that the neck pickup wasn't as aggressive. They couldn't get a clean tone without lowering the pickup.

Overall
The Mayhem set is not for the faint of heart. If all you want is a balls-to-the-wall metal tone, this is the set to go for.

Things to Consider When Buying Electric Guitar Pickups

  • Single Coil vs. Humbucker

    When you’re shopping for guitar pickups, the first thing you need to know is the difference between single-coil and humbucker pickups. Single coil pickups were invented first, with humbuckers being an update to the design that came later.

    Single coil pickups have a brighter tone, meaning that they emphasize treble and mid-range frequencies to a greater degree than humbucking pickups. They also have a lower output, which translates into a lower volume. This means that they don’t distort as easily, making them a great fit for genres that use less distortion and/or benefit from a bright tone. Think of blues, country, and surf.

    Humbucking pickups were designed to eliminate 60-cycle hum, which is the static sound you hear with single-coil pickups. They have a warmer tone, which means that they emphasize bass and low-mid frequencies. They also generally have a higher output than single-coil pickups, so they produce more distortion.

  • Active vs. Passive

    The majority of pickups are passive, which means that they don’t use a power source to boost their signal before it gets to the amp. Passive pickups are the most common type, and also the most versatile. Passive pickups have a rich and musical clean tone, and can also produce great distorted tones.

    Active pickups, which use a battery to boost their signal, used to be considered great for heavy levels of distortion though they don’t perform as well as passive pickups for anything else. The frequency range they produce is smaller to compensate for the extra frequencies that will be added in by distortion. Because of this, their clean tones usually sound sterile. However, their distorted tones are much more focused and dynamic.

    Since the 2010's most metal players have used passive pickups since modellers don't need the output that active pickups put out.

    For the last couple of years, none of the active pickups on the market have either rated highly enough for us to recommend them, or they've been priced above the limit considered for this guide.

    Note that switching from passive to active pickups will require you to modify the body to make room for the extra electronics and a battery.

    Unless you really know what you're doing, we don't recommend going to active pickups.

  • Compatibility – Size and String Spacing

    String spacing refers to the distance between the center of your first pole piece (the little dot on top of your pickup) and your sixth. There are three main string spaces you’re going to run across with six-string guitars, standard (48 mm), f-spaced (51 mm), and Fender/single-coil (52-53 mm). These spacings sometimes go by different names.

    Standard follows the original spacing used by Gibson, and will generally fit humbucker sized guitars without a Floyd Rose in the neck and bridge position (though an f-spaced pickup may be required in the bridge). If you have a Floyd Rose equipped guitar, you’re going to want a pickup with f-spacing in the neck and bridge position.

    Most single-coil equipped guitars should have the same spacing (or be close enough that there won’t be an appreciable difference in tone or response), though some cheap imported single-coil pickups have a slightly smaller string spacing.

    Whenever you’re in doubt be sure to measure before you buy a pickup. Though in most cases so long as you buy a correctly labeled pickup for the position where you’re going to be putting it (buy a bridge pickup for your bridge position) - you should be okay.

  • Buying Pickup Sets vs. Combining Different Pickups

    Something you’re going to notice when you’re shopping around for guitar pickups is that you’ll find a lot of pickups that are sold in sets. The cool thing about a set of pickups is that they’re going to be balanced in volume and tone because they’re the same pickup, so you’re going to get a consistent tone and useable combinations of pickups.

    However, a lot of musicians like buying different pickups and then combining them in a single guitar to get access to a bunch of different tones. Some guitars even come from the factory like this. The most important thing to know about combining different pickups is that they won’t necessarily sound good together. If they don’t have the same level of output you may have to adjust your volume when switching between different pickups.

    While there are drawbacks to combining different pickups, too many, the benefits are worth the hassle. Using different pickups in the same guitar can make your instrument many times more flexible, allowing you to accurately reproduce tones from different genres without having to switch instruments. The combination you get from different pickups based on the position you select (like the middle position on a Les Paul, which combines both pickups) can also give you a unique tone that you won’t have access to if you buy a set of pickups.

Guitar Pickup Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2017 written by Mason Hoberg and the latest edition was published on November 25, 2020 written by Raphael Pulgar with contributions from Alexander Briones and Mason Hoberg.

Initially, we looked at various pickups that are available from major USA based retailers and put the most promising 27 singles and 16 sets on our short-list for closer examination. We then gathered and analyzed relevant reviews, ratings and forum comments about each item, including the most recent sources up to mid November 2020. The data we gathered tallied to more than 10,900 sources, all of which were then fed into the Gearank Algorithm to produce a rating score out of 100 for each one which we used to narrow down the recommended list to just the highest rated. We divided our recommendations into two popular size-based categories - Single Coil and Humbucker. We divided the pickups based on actual pickup size, and not functionality, so you know that all the pickups listed as single-coil can fit the single-coil slot of your guitar, regardless if they are actually single coils or if they are humbuckers in single-coil form factor. We also selected pickup sets accordingly. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

Comments

I have 2 Chinese les paul’s &

I have 2 Chinese les paul’s & one flyingV.
Both les pauls are 3 pickup black beauty's. I need 5 sealed gold hum buckers 3 are for a les paul & 2 are for a flying V - All 5 of these are covered & gold - the 3rd guitar needs sealed hum buckers but without covers all black with gold screws - black & gold not silver.

Hi Jon,

Hi Jon,

Many manufacturers offer custom covers or slug and screw colors so if you don't see a cover option from retailers, it's best to contact the manufacturer directly.

-Raphael

I have a Epiphone Less Paul

I have a Epiphone Less Paul custom with three pickups. Where can I get a set of three and is the middle pick up also a bridge pickup ?

Hello Lloyd,

Hello Lloyd,

First, let me apologize for missing your question, especially since it pertains to an interesting topic - three humbucker pickup guitars.

From what I've gathered, the default configuration for triple humbuckers (as seen in Les Paul Custom models) is to use another neck pickup in the middle position. This means that you may want to get an extra neck humbucker if you want to stick to default setups.

Of course, you can go the opposite route depending on your tone preference. Just note that installing a bridge humbucker in the middle position will most probably result in a slightly hotter output and brighter sound.

I have yet to see a triple humbucker set that's readily available in the market, but there may be some retailers who can bundle a good trio of humbuckers for you. Good luck with your quest for tone.

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