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--The GB&C Pickup Buying Guide--

This thread was a group effort between myself and several other UG members. Its purpose is to provide a basic explanation of what pickups are, different types of pickups, how they work, and what you should consider before purchasing new ones. All individual questions regarding pickups should be posted HERE. For links to many other great threads, check out the GB&C Central Hub.


I. Introduction to Pickups
I.I Useful Terms And Definitions

II. Types of Pickups and Their Uses
II.I Single Coils (passive)
Humbuckers (passive)
II.III Stacked Humbuckers (aka Stacked Single Coils)
II.IV Active Pickups

III: Three General Rules For Passive Pickups
+ Info on Ceramic Vs. Alnico magnets

IV. Active Pickups

V. Choosing a Pickup
V.I Other Factors Affecting Tone
V.II How to choose a new pickup

VI. List of Popular Pickups w/ descriptions
VI. I Seymour Duncan
VI.II DiMarzio
VI.IV Gibson
VI.V Swineshead
VI.VI Bare Knuckle Pickups

VII. Anything we Missed?/How To Post A Question (Read before posting!!)

Other stuff:

This is from Shinozoku:
"I found a wonderful site with information on vintage pickups, including a 70's interview with Seth Lover by Seymour Duncan."
Last edited by Schism1985 at May 18, 2010,
I. Introduction to pickups

Although this thread aims mainly to help you choose the pickup that’s right for you, it’s a good idea to have at least a basic understanding about what they are and how they work before you begin shopping.

Pickups are the core of your guitar’s tone, even more so than the wood. Passive pickups consist of metal poles (magnets) which are wrapped many thousands of times in very thin wire. This creates what is known as an electromagnet, the electronmagnet in turn generates a magnetic field around your guitar’s strings. When a note is played, the magnetic field is disturbed and a signal is sent to your amplifier, allowing the note to be heard.

Last edited by Schism1985 at Mar 21, 2010,
I.I Useful Terms and Definitions

While browsing for new pickups, you’ll probably come across some terms you’re unfamiliar with. Here’s a brief list of defined terms:

*Active Pickup- An active pickup is one which uses an active preamp and requires battery power to operate (such as the EMG-81)

*Coil- When it comes to an electric guitar pickup, “coil” is the term that refers to the thousands of winds around the pickup’s poles collectively. Single coil pickups have one coil whereas humbuckers and stacked humbuckers (also known as stacked single coils) have two sets of coils, one of which is reverse wound in order to cancel hum.

*OD- Simply an abbreviation for “overdrive.”

*Output- The amount and level of sound projected by a pickup, the higher the rating of the pickup, the higher the output will be.

*Over wound- If a pickup is over wound, it simply means that it has been wound extra
times. Extra windings result in a fuller tone, but less treble response.

*Passive Pickup- Pickups which use poles (magnets) that are wrapped with copper wire to create an electromagnetic field which, when disturbed (for instance, when you play a note on your guitar) sends a signal to your amplifier.

*Poles- A pickup’s “poles” are its magnets (usually these magnets are made of ceramic or alnico).

*Reverse Wound, Reverse Polarity (RWRP)- This term applies to single coil pickups and is discussed in section II under the “single coil” sub category.

*Rout- This term refers to the physical cavities carved into a guitar that the pickups sit in. Abbreviations such as S/S/S and H/S/H refer to the type of routing a guitar has. For instance, the abbreviation “H/S/H” (as shown in the image below) indicates that a guitar has a large cavity routed in the neck position to accommodate a humbucking pickup, a smaller cavity routed in the middle position that will only fit a single coil sized pickup and another large cavity routed in the bridge position that will fit yet another humbucking pickup.

*Scatter wound- Scatter wound pickups are those that are wound by hand. As opposed to machine wound pickups that have uniform winds, hand wound pickups have slightly uneven (scattered) winds, hence the name.
Last edited by Schism1985 at Jun 29, 2010,
II. Types of Pickups and Their Uses
Before you begin shopping for pickups, it’s important to know the differences between various kinds of pickups. Although there are countless varieties of electric guitar pickups, there are essentially 4 main categories which they can all be separated into: single coil, humbucking, stacked humbucking and active.

Special thanks to metalwarrior40 for scanning the pickup diagrams for this section

II.I Single Coil Pickups (passive)

Single coil pickups are the most basic type of pickup. They consist of a set of magnetic poles which are then wrapped in wire (as described in the intro).

Reverse wound, reverse polarity (RWRP) single coils are pickups which are wrapped in (you guessed it) reverse and used in the middle position of a guitar with an S/S/S pickup combo. RWRP pickups can be wired so that when used in combination with the neck or bridge pickups, they cancel (buck) hum.

The disadvantage of single coils (particularly cheaply made ones) is that they can be noisy and generate feedback on certain settings. However, single coils are popular with many guitarists for their bright, open tones and as well as those seeking a crisp, “chimey” sound. Plus, as mentioned before, the feedback problems can be remedied by the use of a RWRP pickup in the middle position.

It should be noted that the tonal properties of the neck and bridge pickups ARE changed when used in combination with the RWRP pickup. That is to say if you were to select the setting on your guitar which activates both the middle and neck pickups (positions 2 and 4 for modern stock strats), the sound would be different than if you were to select the setting which actives just the neck pickup. Generally the middle/neck or middle/bridge positions are described as more “quacky” and “full” than the single neck, or the single bridge positions.

Examples of mainstream single coil pickups: Fender Custom Shop ’69 Strat Pickup Set, Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro APS-1, DiMarzio DP175 True Velvet
II.II Humbuckers (Passive)

Humbucking pickups (humbuckers) were first introduced in the 1950s. As the name suggests, humbucking pickups eliminate hum and unwanted noise associated with single coils. The way humbuckers are constructed consists of what is essentially a combination of two single coil pickups, one of which is reverse wound.

The tone of humbucking pickups can generally be characterized as being more “full,” and “warm” sounding than single coils.

Humbuckers can also have much higher output than single coils, and so are popular with guitarists who use heavy distortion and effects. However, many humbuckers are constructed so as to have low to moderate outputs, making them popular with those who are looking for a clean, mellow sound without the unwanted noise brought by single coil pickups.

A good example of the diversity of humbuckers is the contrast between the extremely high output Seymour Duncan SH-8 Invader Pickup and the low-moderate output Seymour Duncan SH-2N Jazz Model.

So why doesn’t everyone choose humbuckers over single coils? Well, although they have warm, full tones, they lack the sharpness and pronounced upper range of single coils as they use more windings.

The lack of sharpness associated with humbuckers can be at least partially overcome by the use of coil splitting. Coil splitting is simply a way of wiring the humbuckers so as to allow the guitarist the option to toggle between a single coil-like tone and the full humbucker tone, this is usually done with a push-pull pot. Detailed diagrams which show a coil split humbucker wiring scheme can be found on the Seymour Duncan website under the “support” tab.

Examples of mainstream humbuckers: Seymour Duncan SH-4, Gibson Burstbucker Pro, DiMarzio Evolution
II.III Stacked Humbuckers

Stacked humbuckers (sometimes referred to as “stacked single coils&rdquo are essentially compact versions of humbuckers. Instead of a full sized humbucker, stacked pickups are no larger than a standard single coil. This allows guitarists with single coil routed bodies to install humbucking pickups without actually having to route larger cavities. Some stacked humbuckers are made to replicate the tone of single coil pickups without the hum (for example, the Fender Vintage Noiseless set).

The following info about stacked pickups was provided by littlephil:

Stacked pickups use one coil below another which both share the same pole pieces, so they look just like single coils, but are actually hum canceling. They can also be like Lace pickups, with 2 coils flipped sideways next to the pole pieces (sidewinding)

There are also rail pickups (see images below), in which the coils are side by side with rails (duh) and are generally just small humbuckers that can produce higher output than true single coils.

Examples of mainstream stacked and rail humbuckers: Seymour Duncan SHR-1 Hot Rail, Fender Noiseless Pickups, Lace Sensor Hot Gold Pickup (technically it’s not a stacked humbucker, but it’s not a true single coil either)
III: Three General Rules for Passive Pickups

The following information has been adapted from a great website I stumbled across, for the full article, check out

There are several general rules which apply to all passive pickups. The following three rules represent the very core of the article in the link above, I highly recommend you read it in its entirety at some point:

a) Tall, thin coils have a brighter tone than short fat ones.
b) More windings around the pickup results in more power, but at the cost of some treble response. This is to say that “overwound” single coils will be fuller sounding (but less sharp) than standard single coils.
c) Alnico magnets provide a smooth, warm tone. Ceramic magnets provide brighter tone and cleaner distortion, but sound less full.
Last edited by Schism1985 at Mar 21, 2010,
IV: Active Pickups

Active pickups provide high output and noiseless operation. The main drawbacks are that they require battery power to operate and, arguably, sap from the guitar’s natural tone. There’s actually a separate thread compiled by zakkwyldefan79 which covers active pickups extensively. If you're considering active pickups, check out this thread.

V.I Other Factors Affecting Tone

A guitar’s tone is most significantly impacted by its pickups, but pickups will only sound as good as the amplifier itself. Furthermore, a guitar’s wood is the second most significant factor impacting its tone.

Before you go out and buy new pickups, keep in mind that a pickup upgrade will not hide the undesirable tones of cheap body and neck woods (plywood, cheap basswood etc.) or have as noticeable an effect on a guitar played through a cheap or highly digitalized amplifier.

Likewise, a guitar constructed of a bright tone wood, such as alder, will not magically sound as if it were constructed of a warm tone wood like mahogany after a simple pickup swap.

It’s also important to know that some pickups are specifically designed for use with certain body woods. For instance the Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro is recommended for use with bright tone woods, whereas the Alnico II Pro Slash model is specifically made for use with warm tone woods.
V.II How to Choose a new Pickup

Although opinions of pickups and their tones are highly subjective, there’s a basic process you should consider when looking for new pickups.

1- Get a general idea of what you’re looking for. What is it specifically that you don’t like about your current pickups? Are they too noisy, too dull? Do they not handle distortion/overdrive very well?

Ex: “My MIM Strat’s pickups are too noisy and dull sounding, so I want something with a higher output and low noise. Preferably, I want some sort of humbucker.”

2- If your guitar has a pickguard, remove it and find out what pickups are compatible with your guitar. Not all guitars are routed the same way, and some may not be able to accommodate full sized humbuckers without additional routing first.

Ex: “I took off the pickguard and it turns out that my guitar is S/S/S routed, I don’t know how to use a router, so I’ll have to look into stacked single coils.”

3- Now that you have some sort of idea what you want, decide what your budget is and begin researching various pickups. Lots of companies have detailed descriptions of their pickups’ various tones on their websites.

Ex: “I have $150 to spend and I need stacked single coils, I’ve heard Seymour Duncan Hot Rails are good, but they’re really expensive so I’ll have to look at something else.”

4- Once you find a potential set of pickups compare them to other pickups in the same price range. Many online retailers such as Musician’s Friend offer audio clips, but you’ll probably want to check out multiple sound samples and reviews before you decide for sure.

Ex: “I think I’m interested in Fender’s Hot Noiseless pickup set, but the SCN set looks really nice as well.”

5- Consider if you’ll be able to install the pickups yourself, or if you’ll need to get a guitar tech to install them for you (which costs extra money and may be outside of your budget) Most times installing pickups only requires basic soldering skills, but it’s still a good idea to check out wiring diagrams online before you decide for sure.

Ex: “I don’t have a lot of soldering experience but I could probably install the Hot Noiseless set myself… what about the SCN—OMG! WTF??”

6- (optional but recommended) If possible, try out a guitar similar to yours that’s equipped with the pickups you’re interested in before you order.

7- Order the pickups and install them. If you have trouble deciphering the wiring instructions that are included with the set, then just go onto the Seymour Duncan website and you’ll find that they have straight forward diagrams for virtually any conventional wiring configuration you can think of.

Ex: “Wtf? Fender didn’t include a wiring diagram with the pickup set I bought! I’ll go to Seymour Duncan’s website then to support, then to wiring diagrams, then to ‘Strat Guitars’ and select 3 single coils, 5-way Switch, 1 Volume, 2 Tones…”
Last edited by Schism1985 at Mar 7, 2010,
VI. List Of Popular Pickups w/ Descriptions

The following list is an edited version of Ibanez20th’s GG&A Pickup Thread with added contributions by littlephil, {Ѵëņŏmőůş}, and others.

To find a specific pickup, hit ctrl+f (command+f on macs) and enter the model name in the text box. For instance, if I want to find the Seymour Duncan SH-6 distortion I click command+F to bring up the text field:

Then enter “Sh-6 Distortion” in the text field

and then click the right-facing arrow icon on the left of the text box to find the pickup description.

Last edited by Schism1985 at Jan 21, 2011,
VI. I Seymour Duncan

SH-1 59: Bit harder sounding than a PAF. Has kind of a vintage sound is good for blues, classic rock, and hard rock. Most common in neck position but is found in the bridge also. Decent cleans.
Pros: Versatile.
Notes: great for neck position use with high output bridge humbucker- has good cleans but takes nicely to overdrive too.

SH-2 Jazz: Low output. Very clean sounding. Mainly used in the neck position. Very commonly paired with SH-4 JBs, SH-6 distortions, and SH-5 Customs.
Pros: good cleans.
Notes: Best in neck position.

SH-4 JB (Jeff Beck Signature): One of the most popular pickups. It has relatively high output. It’s great for heavy blues to grunge to metal. Very trebly. Better cleans than most high out put pickups.
Pros: Good hard rock/thrash tones, good cleans.
Notes: Great choice for a guitar with one humbucker. (fat strats, G&L Rampage, and such) Has decent cleans and good Overdrive.

SH-5 Custom: Sounds like a beefed up PAF. It’s great for hard rock and vintage tones. Commonly paired with a SH-1 in the neck.
Pros: Similar to a Gibson pickup, but with more gain.
Notes: Not very versatile but good for a beefed up classic tone.

SH-6 Distortion: It has high output, Good for metal, punk, and hard rock. Very commonly used with a SH-2 in the neck for versatility. Does not have great cleans. It also can get very muddy.
Pros: gives the amp a good kick for distortion. Works well in darker-voiced woods.
Notes: Avoid in alder guitars (especially with maple necks)- will be extremely bright! However some disagree.

SH-8 Invader: Like a SH-6 on steroids. Made for metal but can be used for Hard Rock, Punk, and other Aggressive styles. Usually only used for the bridge but can be used for neck.
Pros: Lots of gain, and can be used to fatten out a thin or bright-sounding guitar.
Notes: use it to beef up a really thin sounding guitar or amp

SH-10 Full Shred: Good for metal, hard rock, classic rock, and shred. In-between a SH-5 and a SH-6 in the output but has a lot of presence. Great harmonics.
Pros: Great for classic rock, hard rock, or metal. Plays well in both mahogany and alder guitars.
Notes: Really nice in the bridge position. Brings out good playing but devastating to poor playing.

SH-11 Custom Custom: Bright sounding, not as bright as JB though. It’s like a SH-5 except with alnico II magnets. Good for classic rock and blues. Can get a bit muddy with a high gain amp.
Pros: “Nice” bright, rather than piercing. Mature, expressive tone.
Notes: As it’s bright, works well in Mahogany guitars. great solution for more gain in your classic rock voiced guitar

SH-12 Screaming Demon: Moderate output. A lot like a PAF, but more in a rock vein. Good for classic rock and hard rock. Very nice harmonics.
Pros: not super hot, so quite versatile (or at least, more than you’d think).
Notes: great for an old-school superstrat tone.

SH-13 Dimebucker: It has extremely high output. Only recommended for metal.
Pros: High output
Notes: This pickup is can get very muddy, research thoroughly before deciding to purchase one.

SH-14 Custom 5: Like custom custom except with alnico V magnet It’s great for blues, classic rock, and Hard rock.
Has a good deal of bottom end.
Pros: Better tone than the custom and better for high gain than the custom custom.
Notes: Works extremely well with high gain amps.

SH-55 Seth Lover: Basically a modern PAF. It was designed with the humbucker inventor Seth lover. Great for blues, country, and Classic Rock. However with gain it gets very muddy. Unpotted.
Pros: Great classic rock tone.
Notes: Not recommended for use with high gain or volume settings.

SH-PG1 Pearly Gates: Warm slightly hotter than normal vintage humbucker. It’s great for blues, country, classic rock, and hard rock. Recommended for neck position.
Pros: Great for classic rock or a neck pickup paired with something higher gained
Notes: Try using it in the neck position paired with a high gain pickup in the bridge. Or both if you’re going for a classic rock tone. It also has a surprising amount of dynamics for a low gain pickup.

APH-1 Alnico II pro: Warm vintage sounding humbucker. It’s great for jazz, blues, hard rock, and classic rock.
Pros: very warm tone, great for jazz and other such styles.
Notes: Doesn’t work well when paired with bright pickups.
VI.II DiMarzio

Air Classic: Vintage sounding. It’s relatively bassy. It’s great for blues, classic rock, and hard rock.
Pros: nice cleans and nice overdrive. More warm than bright.
Notes: similar to Duncan 59 but warmer as opposed to brighter.

D-Sonic: Fairly high output, but very versatile too. One coil uses a bar rather than polepieces, and where the bar is placed (Towards the bridge or neck) affects the tone.
Pros: Versatile, sounds very good with coil split
Notes: works well for low tunings in the bridge position.

Steves Special: High output, doesn’t overdrive amps as much as other high output pickups.
Pros: Quite versatile, good cleans, good note separation (Clarity at high gain)
Notes: Slightly scooped midrange

Liquifire: Slightly warmer than the Air Norton, tighter bass, more focused mids
Pros: Less muddy than the Air Norton with high gain, very smooth sound
Notes: John Petrucci’s signature neck pickup. Based on a tweaked Air Norton used in Pertrucci’s MusicMan guitars.

Bluesbucker: Higher output vintage pickup. It has more treble than the average vintage pickup. Great “Jimmy Page” tone when coil split. Great for blues, classic rock and hard rock.
Pros: Nice cleans and very nice subtle OD
Notes: Brighter sounding vintage pickup. Good for a mahogany guitar

PAF/PAF Classic: Built to sound like the old PAFs of the 50s but considerably brighter. Great for classic rock, blues, county, and hard rock
Pros: great cleans and good light OD
Notes: Some use it in the neck paired with a PAF pro in bridge. Can get muddy when used with heavy OD.

PAF Pro: Not a lot of gain but still upholds a lot of presence.
Pros: Extremely versatile, great tone, great clarity
Notes: Solid pickup for leads. May not have enough gain for guitarists who play metal. One of DiMarzio’s most popular pickups.

Air Norton: Good vintage sound with a little more kick. Great midrange. Can be used in a wide range of applications.
Pros: versatile.
Notes: Brighter woods suit it better- such as alder. Another one of DiMarzio’s most popular pickups.

PAF Joe: Mix of a PAF and a vintage 50s Gibson humbucker. Very balanced tone. It’s great for classic rock, hard rock, blues, and more.
Pros: warmer than DiMarzio PAFs.
Notes: Originally made for Joe Satriani. Works well with a brighter guitar and lower gained amp. Can get muddy with gain.

Fred: Great harmonics. Very balanced tone. It’s great for shred, metal, hard rock, and even blues.
Pros: vocal tone. Great Satriani tone.
Notes: Also used by Satriani It has very vocal tone. Great for soloing, but not ideal for rhythm.

Mo’ Joe: A hotter, more intense Fred. It’s great for shred, metal, and hard rock.
Pros: More versatile than DiMarzio’s Fred pickup when it comes to hard tones. Less vocal.
Notes: More ideal for rhythm applications than the Fred pickup.

Evolution: Fairly high output and great presence. Great clarity. Slight lack of low end when played on clean settings. Ideal for shred, metal, and hard rock.
Pros: very good for shred. Surprisingly good cleans. Great soloing tone for both bridge and neck pickups.
Notes: Designed for Steve Vai. Ideal for experienced players. Has a significant impact on tone, even more so than other pickups.

Evo 2: Just like the evolution with a little less power.
Pros: Better cleans than evo. More bass.
Notes: Great when used in combination with a bright amplifier.

Breed: Basically a Evo and PAF pro combined. Has great harmonics and output with a more vintage tone.
Pros: Much more versatile than Evos.
Notes: Also designed for Steve Vai. Not ideal for super high gain applications but definitely hot enough for lower-gain metal. Sounds great when used in a guitar with bright tone woods.

X2N: Very High output. Ideal for metal and shred.
Pros: Very high gain
Notes: Same as the Dimebucker, can get muddy sounding and isn’t ideal for use on clean settings.

Super Distortion: Often compared to Seymour Duncan’s Distortion in tone. Great distorted tone but not too great for cleans. Nicer harmonics than the SD distortion. It’s great for Hard Rock and ballsier classic rock.
Pros: Step up from the Duncan Distortion.
Notes: Brings out thin sounding guitars nicely. Not ideal for clean settings.

Tone Zone: Very versatile. It’s often compared to Seymour Duncan’s Jb. Good from harder blues to Metal. Much deeper tone than JB.
Pros: Good solo tone, reasonably versatile..
Notes: Avoid in darker sounding woods, like mahogany.

Dactivator: It was meant to be an emg with passive perks. It turned out to be a metal machine. Very high gain passive.
Pros: A great pickup for rhythm playing. Tight low end.
Notes: It's great if you just want something for great rhythm tones and decent lead tones. Great for lower tunings.

Megadrive: A discontinued pickup, cosmetically similar to the D-Sonic but tonally is very similar to the Steves Special
Pros: Versatile, good clarity, lacks the midrange scoop of the Steves Special
Notes: discontinued

81: Great for Metal. Pushes a tube amp way more than your average pickup.
Pros: Extreme amount of output. Good harmonics.
Notes: Sounds great with mahogany.

85: Has more output than the 81 but is a bit more versatile. Has a very “chunky” sound. It’s great for metal/hard rock.
Pros: more versatile than 81, thicker sound
Notes: works well with alder

89: Has coil-splitting possibilities. Therefore is one of the most versatile pickups EMG makes. It’s more similar to the 85 than the 81.
Pros: Want to coil split here's your answer
Notes: Good answer for someone who likes the sound of emgs but plays a lot of styles.

60: Cleanest sounding of active EMGS. Brightest sounding also. Mainly used in the neck paired with either an 85 or 81 in the bridge. Good for metal and hard rock. Still far from great cleans.
Pros: better cleans than most active pickups far more versatile
Notes: If you need super high gain but want to have a chance at decent cleans here is your answer.

SA series:
pro: much better clean tone than EMG humbuckers
Notes: Sound great when used along with an EMG 89
VI.IV Gibson

57 Classics: Nice Blend of mids, highs, and lows. It’s great for classic rock, blues, hard rock, and more.
Pros: Well balanced
Notes: Expensive

Angus Young Signature Humbucker: Much like a 57 classic but hotter.
Pros: Higher output than the 57 classic.

Burstbucker: Used in mainly les Pauls. Classic sound. Relatively high mids and bass. It’s great for classic rock, hard rock, blues, and more.
Pros: Sound good clean and distorted.
Notes: Expensive but if you want a Gibson tone then it may be worth it.

Tony Iommi: High output. It’s great for metal and hard rock. Not the greatest of cleans however. Mainly used in the bridge with a 57 classic or 490r in neck. A little trebly.
Pros: comes in epi Iommi sig. Best pickups available in a epiphone solid body guitar
Notes: High treble response not ideal for clean settings.

496R Hot Ceramic/500T Super Ceramic: Used mainly in explorers and Vs.
Pros: very hot.
Notes: Sounds good when distorted.

490R/490T: Standard in many Gibson guitars. It has decent cleans and good distortion. It’s good for blues, hard rock, soft rock, metal, and more..
Pros: Step up from the 496R
Notes: versatile

498T Hot alnico: Like the 490R/490T but a little hotter.
Pros: All around decent pickup.
Notes: Do your research before purchasing.
Last edited by Schism1985 at Feb 28, 2010,
VI.V Swineshead

EDIT (June 12th, 2010): Apparently Swineshead pickups are no longer available directly from the manufacturer (at least for the time being) due to complications related to a massive influx of orders that the small company is having trouble handling efficiently. Currently, Swineshead pups can only be purchased second hand or on sites like eBay.

Venom: Very high out put pickup but has great tone. It even manages pretty good cleans. Similar to an evolution but a little more rounded out. Neck pickups sings and bridge brings good amount of gain.
pros: Versatile for high gain. Really good tone..
Notes: Very good pickups, Especially if you do a lot of lead parts

Warthog: Similar to venom but with less gain and alnico V magnets compared to ceramic.
Pros: More versatile than venom. Good cleans.
Notes: Can be used for anything with the right amp.
Last edited by Schism1985 at Jun 12, 2010,
VI.VI Bare Knuckle Pickups

Miracle man: Really good gain for a passive. However has a lot more clarity than an emg would have. Also has good cleans.
pros: Great for achieving a fairly high level of clarity with lots of overdrive. With the right amp it is rather versatile.
Notes: Overall, a very nice pickup.

Mule: Unique sounding PAF-ish pickup.
Pros: Very versatile, especailly with a good tone control. Nice and fat sound while not being super high output, with plenty of clarity.
Notes: The bridge model works great as a neck pickup for higher output bridge pickups like the Nailbomb.

Nailbomb: Extremely versatile. The only thing it doesn't do extremely well is jazz.
pros: Great clarity, extremely versatile, great soloing tone
Notes: If you spend more time with high gain I'd suggest this

Coldsweat: Extremely versatile. Less gain than the nailbomb. Retains great clarity
Pros: great clarity extremely versatile
Notes: Due to Ceramic magnet opposed to Alnico V (bridge pickup only) it's a little better suited for a very dense piece of mahogany.

Stormy Mondays: This pickup is far more geared towards low gain use. Great jazz tone. Does blues and classic rock tones quite amazing as well.
Pros: Amazing cleans, great for jazz and blues.
Notes: Ideal for low gain applications.

Ceramic Warpig (C-Pig): Massive sound; tons of bass. Higher output than EMG's.
Pros: Creates a rich,full, and tight overdrive very easily. Will do metal without question, great for modern and classic rock. Surprisingly crisp cleans for such high output. Great complement to alder bodies.
Notes: Since it has so much output it tends to be hard to control the gain on your OD, this can lead to very compressed tones with the wrong EQ settings. It's possible to do lower gain, but it will sound pretty thick. Doesn't play well with bassier woods like Mahogany; it will sound way too fat.
Last edited by Schism1985 at Jun 12, 2010,
VII. Anything we missed?/"How To Post A Question"

If after reading this you still have questions, go ahead and post your inquiry in this thread. If you start a separate thread that regards buying pickups, it will be closed. If you have a question pertaining specifically to wiring, go ahead and post it in the Ultimate Guitar Wiring Thread ( ).

If you feel like you have a worthy contribution to the thread, you can post it on the main page of this group for review:

Or send it in a PM to one of GB&C’s mods (whose approval is needed for pretty much everything we post in the OPs of Ultimate threads). You can PM your contribution directly to me if you want, but I’ll still have to run it by the other contributors and one of the mods before adding it.

A reminder:

As with any other section of this forum, flaming and spam of any kind is strictly forbidden. If you post something in here that’s overly rude, biased or simply doesn’t belong in this thread, you will be reported and possibly banned.

So instead of saying: “Don’t get pickup A!!!11 Pickup A sucks, I hate it!! anyone who buys one is a ****ing IDIOT!!!111oneone”

Say something like: “Pickup A has bad cleans and gets muddy on high gain settings. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it.”

If you want to debate with someone about different pickups, do it through PMs, not in here.

Important: Spreading false or inaccurate information not only makes you look like a tool, but also can get you put on GB&C’s blacklist and possibly result in a warning or even a ban for continued offenses.

How to post a question

There are no real "rules" for posting a question in this thread, but if you want a quick and accurate response, you should always include the following information:

1-Type (brand and model) of guitar you're upgrading
2-Current pickups the guitar has
3- Current amplifier
4-Desired tone (be specific)
Last edited by Schism1985 at Mar 14, 2010,
Nicely done!

Let me be the first to say something:
The D-Sonic works VERY well in a les paul in E standard with the rail facing the neck. Ballsy as hell, and very clear to boot.
The Duncan Distortion does work pretty well in Alder, provided you don't have your treble cranked. Very "sizzly" sounding.
Current Gear:
LTD MH-400 with Gotoh GE1996T (EMG 85/60)
PRS SE Custom 24 (Suhr SSH+/SSV)
Ibanez RG3120 Prestige (Dimarzio Titans)
Squier Vintage Modified 70s Jazz V
Audient iD22 interface
Peavey Revalver 4, UAD Friedman BE100/DS40
Adam S3A monitors
Quote by Anonden
You CAN play anything with anything....but some guitars sound right for some things, and not for others. Single coils sound retarded for metal, though those who are apeshit about harpsichord probably beg to differ.
We are long overdue for a thread of this sort. The descriptions of individual pickup models is very interesting and very helpful since it's virtually impossible to try them all out yourself. Thanks a bunch!

I Japanese Fenders
MIJ '86 Strat, MIJ '95 Foto Flame Tele, Jackson JSX-94
Schecter C-1 Classic 3TSB, Takamine EG544SC-4C
Warwick Corvette Fretless MIJ '89 P-Bass Lyte
Fender Geddy Lee Sig Bass, Ibanez DTT700 Destroyer
Stuck. What about Rockfield?

Also, I have an Evoloution and it has plenty of low end. i'm using it in a guitar that is either basswood or (probably) poplar. idk how old the pup is though. looks like an old one but i've never seen the bottom of a new one. just throwing that in there.
So is here the right place to ask about pickups then? I'm looking for a stacked pickup for my strat's bridge slot. It'll be mostly distorted. I've got the neck pickup for cleans. Any suggestions?
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hey hey we gotta include our UG's one and only Rock Monkey Guitars pickups handwound in the UK by our fellow user CorduroyEW!!!

this is an awesome thread tho. it's hard to post reviews on every pickup out there though.
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I'm looking for a Bridge Humbucker to put In a Jackson D2KL. I need something versatile, but I mainly play funk. As an example I regularly play RHCP's Freaky Styley Album through as part of my practice, So I need something brighter or slightly thinner sounding.The only one that really caught my attention is the bluesbucker, when split especially. Is there something else that you could possibly reccommend?


I really play all over the board however, and if I can better achieve this brighter tone with a versatile humbucker and a certain amp I will take that route instead, I just have no complaints with my amp.
The Dimarzio Humbucker From Hell is really low output (for a humbucker) and sounds pretty thin. Maybe try that? I've heard it sounds almost like a single coil.
Cool i'll look it up right now.

I had another quick question.
What makes a humbucker able to split? Would I be able to do it with any Humbucker?
It has to be 4 conductor. Some are 3 conductor (so you cant change the wiring to switch which coil stays on) but they are pretty uncommon.
Another thing you may want to look into Funk Monk, is getting a decently high output humbucker (I'm thinking something middle of the pack like a Gibson 490T) and putting the coils in parallel. As you may or may not know, the two coils of a humbucker are wired in series, and putting them in parallel will give you a sound that's a little weaker but not really all that thinner. For a really thin sound, you can put the two coils out of phase. Probably the only thing you can play with an out of phase setup is funk. And of course, you can use a switch to activate these just like you would with a coil split.
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wiliscool is just plain dumb
Quote by wiliscool
Another thing you may want to look into Funk Monk, is getting a decently high output humbucker (I'm thinking something middle of the pack like a Gibson 490T) and putting the coils in parallel. As you may or may not know, the two coils of a humbucker are wired in series, and putting them in parallel will give you a sound that's a little weaker but not really all that thinner. For a really thin sound, you can put the two coils out of phase. Probably the only thing you can play with an out of phase setup is funk. And of course, you can use a switch to activate these just like you would with a coil split.

how would I go about putting a humbucker "out of phase"? Are there any guitarist how have used this so I could give it a listen? thanks.
im thinking about buying a squier strat that i found the other day to mod a lil bit. im wanting to know of some good distorted/grungey type of pickups i can put into it. ive done a little looking and have found that a dimarzio super distortion or a seymour duncan jb might work. i would appreciate any help thanx
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Quote by Funk Monk
how would I go about putting a humbucker "out of phase"? Are there any guitarist how have used this so I could give it a listen? thanks.

check the wiring thread, all you need to know is there in the first couple post, including the diagram you need.
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