If you want a richer, fuller sound on your electric guitar you might want to bypass single-coil pickups and shoot straight for the humbucker pickup.
This has many benefits that will enhance your music.
How do humbucker pickups actually work?
They don’t need power input and they don’t have a preamp in their circuit. Instead, they have a dual-coil setup: when one coil picks up an electrical interference it will be cancelled by the second coil’s electromagnetic field.
The result is that you get a full-bodied, deep sound without any interference. Sounds good?
If that’s what you’ve been looking for, then you need to check out the best humbucker pickups for 2021, from Seymore and EMG to Kmise and more, in our tell-all guide.
See a humbucker pickup that you like or one that interests you?
Great! Let’s check out the specs of each of the above in greater detail. We’ll start with the best one on our list, followed by its runner-up.
Our Recommendations For The Best Humbucker Pickups For 2021
Best Overall: Kmise Zebra Faced Humbucker Double Coil Pickups For Electric Guitar Pickup (Black & Cream)
If you’ve heard about these Kmise pickups, you’ve probably heard that they’ve been said to be for Les Paul guitars. While that’s true, they are versatile to fit many other guitar types.
- The pickups have been wax-potted as well as sealed well, while boasting a strong DC resistance.
- People have reported that these pickups, when installed correctly, offer them a balanced tone that is free from most unwanted noise.
- They have pole placements between 50mm and 52mm, which means that they’re a great fit for a variety of guitars.
- These pickups are fitted with solid nickel magnets. These are said to work like alnico magnets so you’re sure to achieve a vintage tone with them.
- This pickup set comes with all the hardware you need, namely the screws you’ll need to install it, which is a nice touch.
- Some people have complained that the assembly isn’t top-notch, such as one user who reported that the humbucker baseplate isn’t straight, which proves problematic with the screws. This points to a few issues with the company’s manufacturing process.
- While you get great sound with these pickups, they have been said to be a little flat when compared with higher-end varieties.
This is the best humbucker for Les Paul guitars, and it only costs around $15 so you can probably turn a blind eye to its drawbacks in favor of its good features and excellent price.
Runner-Up: FLEOR Alnico 5 Electric Guitar Neck & Bridge Pickup Set Double Coil Humbucker Pickups-Black
If versatility when it comes to your pickup is what you’re after, along with a solid sound, then this is one of the best strat humbucker pickups! Here’s what it has to offer.
- This humbucker pickup makes use of an alnico 5 magnet. Many people prefer alnico to ceramic when it comes to pickups because of how they tend to create a warmer sound.
- This pickup set has 12 adjustable screw pole pieces. You can therefore fit this pickup on many different electric guitars, so versatility is the name of the game.
- In the pack you get two pickups – a neck and bridge pickup – as well as all the hardware you need to set them up. This includes four screws and four springs.
- Just like with the previous humbucker pickup we featured in our guide, these pickups are wax potted and sealed to prevent noise interferences.
- Some people who’ve purchased these pickups have reported that their leads are a little too short, which makes them a bit difficult when you have to solder them onto your guitar.
These Fleor humbucker pickups cost around $30. They look durable and strong, while being really budget friendly if you want to upgrade your guitar.
Alternative 1: Seymour Duncan APH-2s Alnico II Pro Slash Set Humbucker Pickups – Zebra/Reverse Zebra
Now it’s time for some alternative products. Enter the celebrity-endorsed pickup! If you want to sound like Slash, these are the guitar pickups for you. They’ve been created to mimic the original sounds that were found in Slash’s iconic guitar from the ‘80s.
- Both the neck and bridge pickup create a warm output that’s versatile enough for classic, blues, jazz, rock, and more styles.
- Just like what was found in Slash’s guitar, these pickups have a wooden spacer, long-legged bottom plate, and a single-conductor cable.
- The company has really gone the extra mile with trying to emulate Slash’s guitar. Even the way these humbucker pickups look – with their zebra/reverse zebra colors – is the same as what Slash had! It’s that attention to detail that really makes these pickups one in a million.
- If you want to own a special, unique guitar pickup, and you’re a huge Slash fan, you’ll love that this pickup is signed by the famous musician. You can see the images on the Amazon product page.
- Some people who’ve purchased these pickups have reported that they hear a subtle hum when using them, but this isn’t something very noticeable so it shouldn’t be a problem for you.
- Others have reported discrepancies with the product they received and the installation instructions.
These Seymour Duncan pickups are on the more expensive side of the pickup spectrum, coming in at around $200. However, they’ve got loads of positive reviews and are definitely setting the standard when it comes to the best strat humbucker pickup for a professional sound.
Alternative 2: EMG JH James Hetfield Signature Guitar Pickup Set, Black Chrome
These black chrome pickups look sophisticated and glamorous. They’re inspired by Metallica’s James Hetfield, so they’re another set of pickups on our list that’s inspired by a famous musician. Let’s take a look at their pros and cons!
- One of the biggest benefits of this set is that it’s solderless, thus making installing it on your guitar a total breeze.
- These pickups provide the big sound and clarity that is similar to what you’d find in a passive guitar pickup, but they have an active tone.
- The neck pickup provides clean and mellow tones, while the bridge pickup has a steel pole piece to create those solid bass sounds.
- Whether or not you’re a Metallica fan, you’ll appreciate the grinding sounds that you can create with these pickups.
- You’ll receive all the hardware you need in the box, making installation even more convenient.
- One of the drawbacks identified by users is that the sleek chrome appearance of these pickups make it easy for you to see all your fingerprints and smudges on them.
- Another drawback pertains to coil tapping this set. EMG states that you can’t coil tap it because you can only do so with their active pickups that are dual-mode ones, as these come with push-pull pots so you can move from humbucking to single-coil mode.
These EMG JH James Hetfield pickups cost around $250. Although quite pricey, they’re tricked out with lots of cool features while being a collector’s item. With their easy installation and powerful sounds, it’s no wonder they’ve been such a hit with EMG customers.
Alternative 3: EMG H4 Passive Electric Guitar Humbucker Pickup
This is a bestelling pickup from EMG, who’s clearly one of the biggest names when it comes to pickups. Let’s check out its features!
- This pickup is the best of both worlds: you get power from its active tones and soulfulness from its passive tones.
- Best of all, the tones are created in a balanced way so that your mids are bright and sparkly and your highs add some grit and crunch.
- How these sounds are enabled is thanks to the overwound coils that have ceramic bar magnets.
- It’s really easy to install this pickup as it comes with everything you need in the box, including two connect cables, a ground cable, and an output cable. This makes it user-friendly for beginners and advanced users alike.
- EMG is the trusted name when it comes to easy pickup installation, and this is thanks to their pre-wired volume and tone controls. They also include other items, such as diagrams, to help you out.
- This pickup might not be suitable for you if you’re looking to create metal tones as it does become a bit muddy with strong distortion sounds. That said, if you’re keen to use it for other genres you won’t be disappointed.
This EMG humbucker pickup costs around $100, so it’s a bit more budget-friendly than the previous EMG pickup we featured. However, it’s loaded with great features. If you’re looking for a way to make your sound heavier and more rockish, then this is the best pickup for you.
Humbucker Pickups FAQ
Now that we’ve looked at the best humbucker pickups for 2021 that are worth your time and money, let’s answer some common questions about these pickups.
What does a humbucker pickup do?
You might not be that familiar with humbucker pickups, or maybe you’ve used them but you don’t know exactly how they work. Here’s a crash course in humbucker pickups.
A humbucker pickup is a pickup that’s used on an electric guitar. It makes use of a double coil system to cancel noise interference.
These coils basically work together to “buck” the hum – that explains why these pickups are called “humbucker!”
When you use two coils instead of one in a pickup and they are out of phase with each other, this can reduce or eliminate the hum that you’re likely to find in single-coil pickups.
What is the difference between single coil and humbucker pickups?
There are some important differences between single-coil and humbucker pickups that you should know about, especially if you’re unsure which one you should buy. Let’s take a look at them.
- Single-coil and humbucker pickups create different tones. Earlier, we mentioned that humbuckers will provide warm tones in your guitar sound. By comparison, single-coil pickups tend to produce snappier, brighter sounds. They have also been known to be capable of creating gritty sounds when they’re overdriving small-tube amps. Tone is the biggest feature to look for when considering single-coil versus humbucker pickups because it’s all about the sound you’ll be able to achieve!
- Single-coil pickups have a magnet that has been wound with a coil, or wire. The guitar string creates a current inside that coil, which then produces a signal that will go to the guitar’s amp. That’s where it will become sound! Magnetic coils are super-sensitive to electromagnetic interference. Single-coil pickups will also pick up on it, and that’s why you’ll sometimes hear a buzz or hum when using them.
How do humbucking pickups differ?
They prevent the above problem from happening because of how they’re fitted with two coils that produce signals.
These coils work in opposite ways – they have opposing polarities as well as windings. This setup eliminates external noise and interference.
Are humbucker pickups active or passive?
Before we look at whether humbucker pickups are active or passive, we first need to define these two pickup terms.
- Active pickups are pickups that need to have an external sound source in order to work. They earn top marks when it comes to delivering tone consistencies. Since single-coil pickups make use of a power source, active pickups have higher outputs when compared to passive pickups. This is what’s said to make them produce more powerful sounds on your guitar.
- Passive pickups don’t need to have an external power source in order to work. This is what makes them quite easy and convenient to use. That said, passive pickups produce a weaker signal when compared to active pickups. This is why your amplifier is so crucial! That said, passive pickups do have some perks. A big one is that they will give you a wide and dynamic range.
Now, when it comes to a humbucker pickup, it can be either active or passive. So, you’ll have to choose a humbucker pickup that works the best for you.
What type of music is best for humbucker pickups?
A humbucker pickup will produce a warm tone in your sound, so this is why these devices are so popular with people who want to play jazzy music on their guitars.
They’re also a solid choice for musicians who like to play metal and modern rock music.
They offer musicians better distortion clarity as well as focus on the mids, and this is what, finally, also makes them a good choice for blues guitarists.
In addition to their warmth, humbucker pickups create richer and rounder sounds. This, added to how they eliminate hum, is what makes them very appealing to all types of guitarists.
Despite the above, it’s good to bear in mind that it’s not always easy to make general statements about all single-coil or all humbucker pickups.
The latest single-coils can often match humbucker pickups when it comes to their output, so it’s really about choosing the pickup that suits your needs.
As we’ve seen in our review of humbuckers, there are many different types of humbucker pickups that will have different pros and cons, such as when it comes to the pickup’s cost, installation ease, and manufacturing.
You want a fuller, rounder sound when you play your guitar and you want to get rid of that external interference that creates a less-than-professional result.
If that’s something that appeals to you, you should purchase a humbucker pickup for yourself.
Luckily, you don’t have to worry about which one to buy because we’ve rounded up the best humbucker pickups for 2021 in this guide, listing their benefits, features, drawbacks, and price.
In addition, we’ve also featured some important information under the FAQ section so that you know more about humbuckers and why they’re a valuable asset for every guitarist to own.