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

Electric Guitar Pickups

Guitar pickups impact your sound in a big way, and this is why many who are looking to improve their tone choose to replace their pickups. Here we present you with the best guitar pickups that you can get for under $200, covering both single coil and humbucker size.

Speaking of size, this list is divided into two of the most popular pickup sizes in accordance with market trends. Case in point is the popularity of single-coil size humbuckers, which give Strat style guitars instant humbucker tones without the need to modify the guitar's body.

Contents

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

Single Coil Sized Pickups

Seymour Duncan SHR-1b Hot Rails Strat Bridge

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 375+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$85
Seymour Duncan SHR-1b Hot Rails Strat Bridge Electric Guitar Pickup

While the Seymour Duncan SHR-1b is a humbucker, it’s a great fit for musicians looking for a drop-in replacement for their standard single coil pickups. While single coil pickups have a lot of strengths, they generally don’t have the output needed to produce the higher levels of gain metal and hard rock musicians look for.

Specifications:

  • Position: Bridge
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: 3.310 in x 0.730 in x 0.850
  • String Spacing: 57.99 mm
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black, Cream, Parchment, White

Something to know about single coil sized humbuckers is that they don’t really 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 actually works in their favor in some situations, because they can actually have a 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.

Seymour Duncan SHR-1n Hot Rails Strat Neck

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$85
Seymour Duncan SHR-1n Hot Rails Strat Neck Electric Guitar Pickup

The Seymour Duncan SHR-1n Hot Rails Strat Neck Electric Guitar Pickup is the neck position version of the pickup covered above, and everything that applied the SHR-1b applies to the SHR-1n. The SHR-1 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 great high-gain hard rock and metal tones.

Specifications:

  • Position: Neck
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: 3.310 in x 0.730 in x 0.850
  • String Spacing: 57.99 mm
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black, Cream, Parchment, White

However, even though the two pickups are similar you’re going to get a different sound between the two because they’re placed in different positions. A pickup in the neck position is always going to sound warmer than a pickup in the bridge position, which is why most rhythm and jazz players use their neck position pickup.

So the cool thing about this pickup is that 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. And because it’s brighter than your run of the mill humbucker, you won’t have to sacrifice high-end and mid-response for output.

Seymour Duncan STHR-1b Tele Hot Rails Bridge

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$89
Seymour Duncan STHR-1b Tele Hot Rails Bridge Electric Guitar Pickup

The Seymour Duncan STHR-1b Tele Hot Rails Bridge Electric Guitar Pickup is a single coil sized humbucker designed to be a drop-in replacement for the bridge pickup of any standard sized Telecaster. The best thing about this pickup is that while it is somewhat of a departure from a standard Telecaster tone it still retains a lot of the frequencies that make a Telecaster sound like a Telecaster.

Specifications:

  • Position: Bridge
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: 2.871 in. x 1.492 in. x 0.999 in.
  • String Spacing: Not Stated
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black

With the STHR-1b you can still get a “chimey” clean country tone, but you can also conjure up great metal and hard rock tones. It’s also a great lead pickup, as the STHR-1b is designed to have a really defined mid-range hump. Because the guitar is a mid-range focused instrument, this tonal profile makes it a snap to cut through a mix.

Fender Tex-Mex Strat Electric Guitar Pickup Set

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100
Fender Tex Mex Strat Electric Guitar Pickup Set

Fender’s Tex-Mex Strat Electric Guitar Pickup set is a three-pickup set of moderate output pickups with a modern voicing. When companies throw around the term “moderate” voicing they’re talking about pickups that straddle the line between great clean tones and medium amounts of grit, so think a solid blues and garage rock tone. They aren’t going to give you the best metal or hard rock tone, but they are still really versatile overall.

Specifications:

  • Position: All
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: 52.451 mm
  • Available Colors/Covers: White

Because this is a full pickup set, you’re also going to get a balanced tone and volume in each position. Though you don’t get as much versatility in tone, you do have the ability to switch positions without having to worry about a severe drop off or gain in volume.

Lastly, it should also be noted that these pickups are also one of the more affordable sets available (under $100 for all three pickups). Tone is subjective, but this set is one of the best options available if you’re looking to hot rod your guitar without having to drop several hundred dollars on pickups.

Fender Custom ’69 Stratocaster Electric Guitar Pickup Set

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$200
Fender Custom '69 Stratocaster Electric Guitar Pickup Set

If you’re on the hunt for a vintage guitar tone, but don’t want to spend vintage guitar money, the Fender Custom ’69 Stratocaster Electric Guitar Pickup Set might be right up your alley. These pickups are designed to accurately reproduce everything that gave vintage pickups their tone.

Specifications:

  • Position: All
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: 52.451 mm
  • Available Colors/Covers: White

With that in mind, the Fender Custom ’69 are a perfect example of vintage voiced pickups. They have the definition and rich clean tone you’d expect from a vintage set of pickups, and they retain their clarity and chimey tone when used with light amounts of gain.

While these pickups do retain the best aspects of their vintage inspiration, they also retain the less desirable characteristics. These pickups don’t take gain as well as modern voiced pickups, and because they don’t have a reverse-wound center pickup they’re more vulnerable to electronic interference. Though this can be compensated for if you use a noise gate.

Humbucker Sized Pickups

Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB Model Humbucker

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 650+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$79
Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB Model Humbucker Electric Guitar Pickup

The SH-4 JB has been one of Seymour Duncan’s most popular pickups for almost four decades, and is a perfect example of the quality that Seymour Duncan is known for. The pickup is what we would call a moderate/high output humbucker, hotter than a standard pickup but not quite into the bone crushing territory you find with true high output pickups.

Specifications:

  • Position: Bridge (Recommended)
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: Not Stated
  • Available Colors/Covers: Gold, Nickel

The cool thing about this pickup is that even though it’s a bit hotter than standard pickups, you can still get really convincing clean and jazz tones (though the if you use this pickup in the bridge position jazz tones may be a bit harder to reach).

Like other Seymour Duncan pickups, the SH-4 JB is wax potted to help reduce microphonic feedback. This well come in handy if you’re going to be using this pickup at high volumes or with large amounts of gain.

DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucker F-Spaced

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ 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 launched, arguably paving the way for all of the aftermarket 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.

Specifications:

  • Position: Bridge (Recommended)
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: 2.7 in. x 1.5 in x .663
  • String Spacing: 51 mm
  • Available Colors/Covers: 26 Available

Even today the pickup 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 version in particular, dubbed the f-spaced, is great if you’re looking to hot rod a Floyd Rose equipped guitar. The standard spaced DP100 below is for hardtail guitars (those without a trem), but beyond that they’re essentially the same.

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.

DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucker

98
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$87
DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucker Electric Guitar Pickup

The DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucker Electric Guitar Pickup is the same in tone and build as the f-spaced DP100 above, with the only difference being the size. This pickup uses the standard Gibson spacing, so it will fit guitars that aren’t equipped with a tremolo system. However, it still may not be a perfect fit in some hard tail guitars in the bridge position (so as always, be sure to measure before you install a pickup to ensure the best fit!).

Specifications:

  • Position: Bridge (Recommended)
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: 2.7 inches x 1.5 in. x 0.631
  • String Spacing: 48.641 mm
  • Available Colors/Covers: 26 Available

Like the DP100 F-spaced above, the DP100 has a powerful mid-range, low-mid, and low response with a smooth high-end. This response is integral to its tone, because it allows you to pump up the gain without getting that tinny “buzz saw” sound you get when you subject pickups with a stronger high-end response to higher levels of gain.

Gibson 57’ Classic Plus Humbucker Nickel Bridge

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 325+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$176
Gibson 57' Classic Plus Humbucker Electric Guitar Pickup

The most famous Gibson pickups are known as PAFs, which stands for patent applied for. Since their introduction, and subsequent discontinuation, Gibson has cycled through tons of different pickups looking to get as close as possible to the famous tone of their initial humbuckers.

Specifications:

  • Position: Bridge
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 2
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: Not Stated (Likely Standard Gibson Spacing)
  • Available Colors/Covers: Nickel, Gold, Double Black, Zebra

The Gibson 57’ Classic Plus is a reproduction of a slightly overwound (more windings equals higher output) PAF pickup, so it has a warm vintage tone and some more modern bite. Think of a Led Zeppelin style Les Paul tone. Unlike original PAFs, the Gibson 57’ Classic Plus is manufactured under stricter levels of quality control. This means that you’re going to get a more consistent performance out of your pickups.

The Gibson 57’ Classic Plus also uses vintage construction, such as enamel coated wire, nickel slugs, maple spacers, and two conductor braided wiring.

Additional Option

Here's one that doesn't quite fit the price range for this guide but it does look like excellent value.

Seymour Duncan Seth Lover Humbucker Nickel

97
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$219
Seymour Duncan Seth Lover Humbucker Nickel Electric Guitar Pickup Set

Like the Gibson 57’ Classic pickup above, the Seymour Duncan Seth Lover Humbucker Nickel Electric Guitar Pickup Set is based off the legendary PAF pickups. However, these pickups are more faithful to the original design, lacking the increase in gain you find with the Gibson 57’ Classic Plus line.

Specifications:

  • Position: Both
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 2
  • Dimensions: Neck (2.745 in x 1.495 in x 1.116 in) Bridge (2.745 in x 1.495 in x 1.116 in)
  • String Spacing: Not Stated
  • Available Colors/Covers: Nickel

The Seymour Duncan Seth Lover gives you a smooth and warm tone, but it’s also a very articulate pickup. This vintage voicing makes it perfect for early genres of rock and blues, and depending on your amp and guitar you can also get great jazzy clean tones. The only thing this pickup really isn’t meant to handle is high levels of gain.

However, something to be aware of is that these pickups are not potted. Most modern pickups are potted, which is a way to isolate pickups from outside vibrations. Potting pickups helps to keep them from producing microphonic feedback, which is a high-pitched feedback. However, this is only a problem as pickups age (or if you’re playing at very loud volumes).

Author's Pick

GFS Gold Foil Single Coil Humbucker Shell Electric Guitar Pick

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 10+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$38

Gold Foil guitar pickups are a unique type of pickup, found on vintage budget brands like Harmony guitars. And while the guitars they came on were definitely beginner’s instruments, gold foil pickups are famous for their chimey and snarling tone. They’re so unlike any other commonly found pickup that it’s hard to even describe the difference.

Specifications:

  • Position: All (Select Position at Checkout)
  • Magnet Material: Alnico
  • Dimensions: 2.73 in x 1.42 in x 0.62 in
  • String Spacing: 50 mm
  • Available Colors/Covers: Nickel, Black

But unfortunately, the pickups have become somewhat of a collector’s item. Original gold foil pickups can cost in excess of $150, and many of them are prone to microphonic feedback. Thankfully, there are a few companies who have launched modern reproductions of these pickups; with GFS producing the most affordable example.

At just $40 a pop, the GFS Gold Foil Single Coil Humbucker Shell Electric Guitar pickup is easily affordable for just about any musician. And unlike their vintage inspiration, these pickups are actually surprisingly feedback resistant. They also have a more modern output, so you get the great chime and snarl found in these pickups without the weak volume. Even better, if you buy a full set of the humbucker sized GFS gold foil pickups they’re actually noise cancelling.

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 some 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, are great for heavy levels of distortion though they don’t really 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.

    So in short, if you’re looking for metal and hard rock tones (think Metallica and Slipknot) you’re going to be happier with active pickups. If you’re looking for a more versatile pickup, or if you’re looking to play genres with less distortion, you’re going to get better results with passive pickups.

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

  • 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.

    Basically, 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 in order to get access to a bunch of different tones. In fact, there are guitars that 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, to 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.

Methodology

Initially, we looked at popular and widely available guitar pickups from Single Coils to P-90s to Filtertrons and everything in between . We then gathered relevant data for each one, which tallied to more than 7,100 reviews and ratings. These data were then fed into the Gearank algorithm to produce a rating out of 100 for each one which we used to narrow down the list to just the highest rated. We divided our recommendations into two popular size-based categories - Single Coil and Humbucker. As mentioned in the introduction, we categorized this list based on actual pickup size, not on functionality. For more information about this process see How Gearank Works.

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