So I have a couple hundred bucks to spend at the guitar store. Sometimes I've noticed that my setup's tone can be kind of thin (see below for my setup). The guitar I primarily use at band practice/gigging is an Ibanez SZ520 that I bought a few years ago. I've kept the stock pickups in, which are Duncan/Ibanez. I was wondering whether it'd be worth buying new pickups for my guitar. I would really like to get a more full/maybe kinda metal sound (although I don't really play that much metal).

How much of a difference would new pickups make (my impression when I bought the guitar was that the pickups were fairly high quality, but I don't know for sure)? What kind of price range would I have to look in to get pretty good quality ones? I figured $100-200, but I really don't know anything about pickups so I might be way off. Would I be better off getting some sort of pedal in this price range instead of new pickups? If I do get pickups, what can you suggest? The names I often hear are Seymour Duncan and DiMarzio, but again I don't know much about the subject. Lastly, how easy is it to install new pickups, i.e. would it be something I could do myself without worrying about seriously f*ing up my guitar?

I'm also debating about whether I should save up and buy a new amp instead, but it might be a while before I commit to that.

My setup:
Ibanez SZ520 --> Vox Valvetronix AD100VT (maxed out EQ) --(effects loop)--> MXR 10 band (slight "smile" setting with mids at about 0 and bass/treble raised a little bit)--> ears
well firstly I'd add some more mids in on the MXR 10 band, that'll beef up your sound a little.

As for pickups check out "Bareknuckle pickups". They are expensive but I have yet to find better.
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Those pickups are alright, a new amp would make a bigger difference. IF you do want to swap pickups I recommend Seymour Duncan jb/jazz set.

Installing pickups is fairly easy, but there is some soldering required.
WTLTL 2011
i didnt know the Ibanez SZ520 was made by squire (screen name joke) have you tried adjusting the current pups?
or even play with the ADJUSTABLE bobbins/pole pieces. even just a better volume pot will change the sound of your pups (i.e. 250k vs.500k, full size versus micro)
lol @ the screen name joke.. indeed my name is a joke. Although I do own a Squier, I haven't played it for years...

re: amp model. I had been using US Higain (Soldano) for a while, but I recently switched to UK 80s (Marshall, I think? Not sure the exact model on any of them) because I felt like the US Higain was a little bit muddy at higher volumes. I'm still dicking around with it quite a bit, as most of my settings were more bedroom settings, and now that I'm doing full out band practices and shows I have to rethink a little bit (which is when I noticed the thin-ish tone).

(In terms of a new amp, I was actually thinking of looking for a blue Valvetronix, because they're more designed for gigging and that's what I want to do more of.. but I haven't looked into it too much)

I've never touched the pickups on any of my guitars. How do you go about adjusting them? jymellis, you mentioned something about a volume pot... so would that be hardware I have to replace? And if so, how much does such a replacement usually run for? If you could link me to a site explaining these or where I can purchase any equipment... or something like that... it'd be much appreciated.

Thanks for the feedback, btw.