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

The Highest Rated Budget Guitar Pickups

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Your guitar pickups are at the forefront of your signal chain.

Swapping them out is a surefire way to drastically change and improve your guitar's raw tone before amps or effects.

Options are copious when it comes to mixing and matching pickups to find the best sound, look and feel for your tastes. You may also opt for bundled sets to ensure that they blend well together right off the bat without additional concerns such as phase issues.

As with most things in music, preference in pickup sound is highly subjective so we suggest you use your ears to fine tune your selection by using the provided videos in this guide or other sound samples (Seymour Duncan provides sound samples on their website) online to choose what sounds best for you.

Get ready for some soldering and tinkering, or if you prefer not to get your hands dirty, have a trusted guitar tech or luthier to help you out.

Here are some of the best budget (below $100 for singles and $150 for sets) choices according to market sentiment based on user reviews, forum discussions and expert opinions.

The Best Budget Guitar Pickups

Author & Contributors

Alden Acosta Alden Acosta

I'm a drummer and former lead guitarist of the band Callalily, a platinum selling multi-awarded band from the Philippines. When not researching gear I'm learning to play bass.

Single Coil Size: Bridge

In addition to these pickups, the ones listed in the 'Middle' position list below can also be used in the Bridge position.

DiMarzio DP184 The Chopper Single Coil

96
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$90
DiMarzio DP184 The Chopper Single Coil Electric Guitar Pickup

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Single Coil Size Bridge Pickup Under $100 along with the Seymour Duncan SHR-1b.

The Chopper pickup is a loud, punchy single coil sized humbucker from DiMarzio. It emphasizes the mid and low end spectrum while its high output makes it soar.

Its dual blade design ensures it does well in all positions without pole alignment issues or string pull problems.

Although it will work in any position especially when paired with humbuckers, it was originally designed for the bridge position to compliment The Cruiser and Fast Track 1, and other dual blade magnet pickup offerings from DiMarzio.

Many players choose to have it in the bridge position as a their high gain trump card paired with more traditional single coils.

Specifications

  • Position: Any (especially bridge)
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: 3.26" x .72" x .710"
  • String Spacing: Not Applicable
  • Available Colors/Covers: 12 color variations

Pros
The Chopper has received lots of praise for handling overdrive and distortion tastefully and having lots of sustain for lead work. Being a noiseless pickup, many have found it to be a definite upgrade to their old noisier single coil bridge pickups.

Cons
The extra output and gain can be unwieldy for some. Some find that the natural compression these pickups have bring out the sloppiness in their playing, but of course good technique is in the hands of the player.

Overall
This is a great option to try out if you want Incredible humbucker tone in a single coil package. Have a split coil switch installed for even more versatility.

Seymour Duncan SHR-1b Hot Rails Strat Bridge

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
Seymour Duncan SHR-1b Hot Rails Strat Bridge Electric Guitar Pickup

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Single Coil Size Bridge Pickup Under $100 along with the DiMarzio DP184.

The Hot Rails Strat bridge pickup is a single coil sized humbucker with a thick, aggressive hi-gain sound.

Great for soaring guitar hero solos and thrash rhythms, this is Seymour Duncan's highest output passive pickup for Strat.

It uses a strong ceramic magnet and overwound coils to transform your single coil guitar into a completely new instrument.

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.

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
Apart from the usual descriptions of it sounding hot, fat and screaming, users praise the feel of it when playing. By dropping it in the bridge position and retaining single coils in the middle and bridge, users have the versatility to go back and forth between Jimi Hendrix and Rammstein with the flip of a switch.

Cons
Some tone purists find it too much of a deviation from a classic single coil sound while still falling some way short of a full sized humbucker. If you really want a bright and chimey classic Strat tone for your bridge, the Hot Rails would be the wrong choice.

Overall
If you want to give the bridge pickup of your single coil guitar a humbucker feel and sound without having to change your pickguard, do try the SHR-1b Hot Rails from Seymour Duncan.

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.

Seymour Duncan SSL-1

90
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$79
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 to deliver an authentic chime and bell tone fondly associated with 50's era Stratocasters.

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 sought after quack.

Specifications

  • Position: Any
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5
  • Dimensions: 3.300" x .700" x .705"
  • String Spacing: 52mm
  • Available Colors/Covers:White

Pros

Many users of this pickup report great tonal balance and that it has a very vintage glassy Strat sound. As a middle position pickup, users note that it plays nicely with other pickup models, preserving the much-desired quack and bottle tone on the 2 and 4 positions in the Strat. They also commend its build quality, included wires, instructions and packaging.

Cons

Although the general consensus is that the SSL-1 is a great sounding pickup for iconic Strat tones, we did encounter a user who described its sound in the middle position as "bland, without bite or character".

Overall

The SSL-1 is a very good pickup for the price and sounds like a 50s pickup with nothing more and nothing less. It's a benchmark for many users and that says a lot about its status as a go-to aftermarket replacement single coil pickup.

DiMarzio Area 67

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$100
DiMarzio Area 67 DP419 Single Coil Pickup

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

The Area 67 pickup from DiMarzio is based off of the bright and clean single coils of 1967.

It is equipped with patented Area technology to eliminate hum without losing any output or chime.

Also, by using Alnico 2 magnets, there is much less magnet pull which improves string sustain and intonation allowing you to position this pickup closer to your strings without causing issues.

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 and neck)
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 2
  • Dimensions: 3.26" x 0.72" x 0.725"
  • String Spacing: Standard Fender
  • Available Colors/Covers: 12 color variations

Pros
Users report excellent tone with little noise and that it pairs excellently with a mini humbucker in the neck and a humbucker in the bridge. Apart from it's clarity and quack, the Area 67 also has a nice little bite that adds presence but not enough to be piercing.

Cons
Some still prefer the quack of true single coils and that although close, find this pickup to not be as airy or as open as them.

Overall
If you're looking for that clean, classic single coil sound of the 1960's in your middle position but could do without the hum or noise then look no further.

Single Coil Size: Neck

DiMarzio Twang King Neck

95
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$80
DiMarzio Twang King Neck Telecaster Pickup

The Twang King Neck pickup is designed as an idealized version of a vintage telecaster/broadcaster pickup and not based off any actual vintage pickup because according to the designers they never found one they were 100% happy with.

It was designed to handle a very wide dynamic range responding to different levels of pick attack - light playing produces a softer, cleaner sound while hard playing causes the pickup to open up.

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

Specifications

  • Position: Neck
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5
  • Dimensions: 3.13" x 0.57" x 0.685"
  • String Spacing: Not Applicable
  • Available Colors/Covers: Nickel, Black Metal, Gold, Unplated

Pros
There's a reason why this pickup is well-loved by many - it's sensitive, defined and clear. With this being less than $100, many have used this pickup to improve the sound of their lower end instruments when boutique pickups would prove impractical for this purpose.

Cons
Although this neck pickup is almost universally praised, we encountered one user that found it to be brittle and overly mid-scooped. The Twang King is brighter than most tele neck pickups and that might be perceived as a thin sound to some.

Overall
If you're looking for a great classic tele neck pickup tone for a great price, the Twang King neck pickup from DiMarzio is highly recommended.

Seymour Duncan SHR-1n Hot Rails Strat Neck

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 425+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$99
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, giving you access to true humbucker crunch and sustain albeit slightly brighter and more defined than a full-sized humbucker pickup.

It features a dual blade construction that gives you great string coverage for string bends.

This neck pickup is designed for more aggressive types of music such as metal, grunge or hard rock that demand a little more juice than your typical single coil pickup offers.

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
Users laud this pickup as a great way to thicken up their guitar sound and that it pairs well with a humbucker in a combo setup. It's low noise and although markedly warmer than a true single coil, some users have found it to be surprisingly versatile even at cleaner gain levels.

Cons
There were some who didn't appreciate its over-the-top, compressed sound and found that the cleans sounded dull to them. If you're looking to retain any of your classic glassy Strat tone you'll have to look elsewhere.

Overall
If you want a hi-gain, long sustaining pickup in the neck position that's single coil sized, there is no higher rated sub $100 option on the market today.

Single Coil Set: Stratocaster

Fender Original '57/'62 Strat Pickup Set

96
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$170
Fender Original '57/'62 Strat Electric Guitar Pickup

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

Note: This was priced below $150 when this edition was first published but the price has since gone up.

These pickups from Fender are based on ones from a 1963 Stratocaster, giving you genuine vintage tone by replicating period correct specifications from its vintage bobbin construction all the way to genuine original-era cloth wiring.

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.

Many higher end fenders, including some custom-shop models, have this set factory 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
This pickup set is highly regarded by tone chasers and purists as the closest thing to a vintage Strat tone you can get. These pickups possess that clean bright twang and quack fondly associated with Stratocasters of that era.

Cons
True to pickup sets of this era, the middle pickup is not reverse wound so the 2nd and 4th position won't be hum cancelling like in more modern design pickup sets.

Overall
If that classic Fender Strat tone is what you're after and nothing less, this pickup set will get you closer to your tone dreams.

Single Coil Set: Telecaster

Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Tele Set

96
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$178
Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Tele Electric Guitar Pickup Set

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

Note: This was priced at $149 when we first published this edition, but the price has since gone up.

The Quarter Pound Tele Set from Seymour Duncan is described as having an almost P90-like growl to them.

They are the highest output true single coil offering from Seymour Duncan and are a tad bit darker and thicker than your usual single coils but not as much as humbucker pickups.

These overwound pickups possess a pronounced midrange that will help you cut through a mix.

Specifications

  • Position: All (Single-Coil Set)
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5
  • Dimensions: Neck: 3.120" x .580" x .739" Bridge: 2.870" x .768" x .695"
  • String Spacing: Not Stated (Designed for Telecaster style guitars)
  • Available Colors/Covers: Chrome Plated Neck, Black Bridge

Pros
The internet is bursting with people speaking very highly of this Telecaster pickup set. Users describe how these pickups breathed in new life to their old budget guitars turning them into meaty, hi-gain monsters and improving the tone significantly.

Cons
According to some users, the pickups can be too hot and end up becoming muddy sounding in some situations. Also, some guitarists say that they're not the best for sparkling cleans although they were designed more with overdrive and distortion in mind.

Overall
If you want warmer, higher output pickups in your Telecaster without going full humbucker and losing all of that Tele twang character then the Quarter Pound pickup set is a great upgrade to stick into your guitar.

Humbucker Size: Bridge

Seymour Duncan SH-5

98
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$99
Seymour Duncan SH-5 Duncan Custom Humbucker Electric Guitar Pickup

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Humbucker Size Bridge Pickup Under $100 along with the Seymour Duncan SH-8b.

The Seymour Duncan SH-5 or "Duncan Custom" as it's called is a medium-high output overwound humbucker pickup.

It produces a well defined and tight sound, akin to a PAF pickup with a little more beef and aggression.

Its main use-cases are hard rock and metal but is versatile enough to handle other genres.

Specifications

  • Position: Bridge
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions (Uncovered) :2.695" x 1.438" x 0.776"
  • String Spacing:49mm
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black, White, Zebra, Reverse Zebra, Gold Cover, Nickel Cover

Pros
A good humbucker for definition, tight and bright, lots of users praise this pickup's ability to sit well in a mix.

Cons
Some say it lacks in bass and might be a little too bright for some people's tastes.

Overall
If you want a relatively high output PAF style humbucker without losing too much dynamic, the SH-5 is a highly rated and regarded option to try out.

Seymour Duncan SH-8b Invader Bridge Pickup

98
GEARANK

98 out of 100. Incorporating 550+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$109
Seymour Duncan SH-8b Invader Bridge Humbucker Electric Guitar Pickup

At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated Humbucker Size Bridge Pickup Under $100 along with the Seymour Duncan SH-5.

Note: This pickup was $99 when we first published this edition, but the price has since gone up.

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 SH-8b 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 highlighting its strengths in punk, rock and metal.

Specifications

  • Position: Bridge
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: 2.264" x 1.438" x .866"
  • String Spacing: Not Stated
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black, White, Zebra, Reverse Zebra

Pros
The SH-8 Invader is a beast in looks and in sound. And with its wide magnetic field, it works for any 6-string guitar regardless of string spacing. Happy users commend its ability to handle drop tunings without wimping out. Its low-mid emphasis really lends itself to aggressive rhythm playing and its ultra high output makes your lead work as hot as the sun.

Cons
This pickup is loved and hated for the same reason… its ultra high output. People have complained that its hot enough to overdrive your clean channel. There are a lot words to describe this pickup and subtle is not one of them.

Overall
If you're into lower tunings and modern distortion sounds, the SH-8 Invader would be excellent in your bridge position.

Humbucker Size: Neck

Seymour Duncan SH-1n '59

97
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$109
Seymour Duncan SH-1n '59 Model Neck Humbucker Pickup

Note: This was priced at $99 when we first published this edition, but the price has since gone up.

The '59 Model SH-1n is Seymour Duncan's slightly modernized rendition of the vintage PAF (Patent Applied For) pickup found on Gibson Les Pauls of the late 1950's.

It was designed to deliver an open and detailed sound excellent for classic rock and blues.

It's highs are tastefully boosted for pick attack articulation and the mids are scooped for the clarity of individual notes in a chord.

This is one of Seymour Duncan's most popular pickups on offer and its easy to see why.

Specifications

  • Position: Neck
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5
  • Dimensions: 2.695" x 1.438" x 1.076"
  • String Spacing:49mm
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black, White, Zebra, Reverse Zebra, Nickel Cover, Gold Cover

Pros
Happy users found that this neck pickup gave them smooth and silky lead sounds and was a definite upgrade from their stock neck pickups.

Cons
One user found this pickup to lack bite, another found it to be boomy sounding in the neck position. This might not be high output enough for some people's tastes as it is listed as having a vintage level output.

Overall
If you need a flexible humbucker pickup in the neck position with vintage sensibilities yet modern construction, the '59 Model SH-1n is a popular choice.

Seymour Duncan SH-8n Invader Neck Pickup

98
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$109
Seymour Duncan SH-8n Invader Humbucker Electric Guitar Pickup

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

Note: This was priced at $99 when we first published this edition, but the price has since gone up.

With its ultra-high output and huge sound, the SH-8n Invader is the neck version of the SH-8b.

This humbucker features three large ceramic magnets and overwound coils that allow for wider frequency handling and more output designed 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.

Specifications

  • Position: Neck
  • Magnet Material: Ceramic
  • Dimensions: 2.264" x 1.438" x .866"
  • String Spacing: Not Stated
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black, White, Zebra, Reverse Zebra

Pros
Fans of this pickup mention its harmonic richness, ability to handle lower and dropped tunings without being mushy and its satisfying high gain feel. They also say it's great for shredding.

Cons
Some people complained that this pickup was too bassy and unbalanced for their tastes. Others noted that it lacked precision and clarity.

Overall
If you're into metal and other extreme genres, it wouldn't be a bad idea to allow this pickup to invade your neck position.

Humbucker Size Sets

Wilkinson Vintage Tone Alnico 5 Overwound

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 250+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$35
Wilkinson Vintage Tone Alnico 5 Overwound Open Style Humbucker Pickup Set

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Humbucker Size Pickup Set Under $150.

The Wilkinson Vintage Tone Alnico 5 M-Series pickup set is an overwound humbucker set made in China from Wilkinson parts.

Trev Wilkinson is a well respected British guitar designer known for his expertise in hardware, pickups and electronics design, and has collaborated with legends such as Leo Fender, Seth Lover and Wayne Charvel.

These pickups boast a vintage, punchy and bright PAF style tone with a tight low end.

Specifications

  • Position: All (Humbucker Set)
  • Magnet Material: Alnico 5
  • Dimensions: Not Stated
  • String Spacing: 50mm/52mm for neck and bridge
  • Available Colors/Covers: Black, Zebra

Pros
Lots of positive reviews come from happy users that say these possess the sound and quality of big name brands at a fraction of the cost, a pleasant surprise on their end. Another mentioned plus is that that they work great in split coil configurations too, and they come with the necessary wires to do so.

Cons
There were some isolated cases of people who ran into quality control issues such as the neck pickup not working, microphonic pickups and poorly soldered wires.

Overall
If you want a humbucker set that's affordable for your DIY projects then the Wilkinson Vintage Tone Alnico 5 M-Series pickup set is one that definitely punches above its weight.

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.

It is possible and quite common to get humbuckers in a single coil size (like the Seymour Duncan Hot Rails) and single coil pickups in a humbucker size (for example P90 style pickups) depending on what was originally intended to fit your guitar. This is a great way to get one sound or the other without performing major surgery on your guitar's body although due to physics they probably won't sound exactly like their original sized siblings.

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 usable 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.

Coil Tapping & Coil Splitting

These advanced wiring and switching techniques are ways to get additional versatility from your pickups and are often confused with one another and the terms commonly used interchangeably. Although the practical outcome is similar with both, there are some major differences in implementation.

Coil splitting refers to shutting down one of the coils in a humbucker pickup making it function essentially as a single coil (instead of dual-coil which humbuckers are) with brighter tone.

You would need to make sure that the humbucker pickup has 4 wires.

The humbuckers in this guide (including the single coil sized ones) either come with 4 conductor wiring or come in that option.

On the other hand, coil tapping is much more rare and refers to single coil pickups having an extra wire running off the middle of the coil for a lower output, more vintage sounding option. For this version of the guide, the Quarter Pound Tele Set comes in a tapped version but for a higher price.

Guitar Pickup Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2017 and the current edition was published on November 12, 2021.

Initially, we looked at various pickups that are available from major USA based retailers and put the most promising 37 singles and 14 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 November 2021. The data we gathered tallied to more than 16,000 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.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Alden Acosta Alden Acosta

I'm a drummer and former lead guitarist of the band Callalily, a platinum selling multi-awarded band from the Philippines. When not researching gear I'm learning to play bass.

As an experienced producer and musician, Alden loves to help fellow musicians find the right gear for the job. Aside from music, Alden's interests include: CS:GO and MLBB.

Contributors

Raphael Pulgar: Supplemental writing.
Mason Hoberg: Supplemental writing.
Alexander Briones: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Compiled using photographs of the Fender Original '57/'62 Strat Set and Wilkinson Vintage Tone Set.

The videos have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

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.