Best Guitar Pickups

The Top Ten
1 Seymour Duncan

They look swish and have a great sound, producing a good clean tone and harmonic. They produce a range of styles from the vintage fifties gig to a thrashing metal sound. This pickup is great for all styles. I definitely wouldn't trade this for anything else. It works well with all guitar types. It may be fairly expensive, but it is worth every penny. Great, great, great pickup!

I have fitted Seymour Duncan pickups to hundreds of my customers' guitars and several of my own. From Telecasters to Les Pauls, they are without question the very pinnacle of pickup design and manufacturing quality. Whatever classic sound you're looking for, Seymour Duncan either made the original or accurately replicated an earlier sound.

2 Bareknuckle

There's a reason they're hard to find. They don't release them until they're perfect. Great pickup company, never heard a poor one.

Also, another reason they don't come stock in many guitars. You gotta pay for the top boutique quality, but that's what you get out of Bareknuckles.

Best pickup ever - a bit pricey, but worth every penny. Puts every other previously named brand to shame aside from EMG, who, as everybody knows, is mostly an active-pickup maker.

My Les Pauls and my '73 SG sound as they should with these, with unrivaled note definition and harmonics.

3 Lindy Fralin

I just discovered these pickups when another guy was playing his Strat through my old Fender amp. He has the 43 Steel Pole pickups, which are really hot. We ended up switching my Strat and his. Mine has DiMarzio 409/404/403 single coil humbuckers.

I ordered a set of the Fralin pickups the next day. This guy also says the capacitor on the tone circuit of the guitar can be switched to an old-style rolled copper one, which makes a significant difference and takes out harshness. FYI.

Lindy Fralin has the best sounding boutique pickups I've heard, from humbuckers to single coils. Very high-quality stuff.

4 EMG

Customer service is a big deal to me. When all I wanted was gold pole pieces for a Crunch Lab and Liquifire set, DiMarzio said it would take 8 to 10 weeks! I canceled that order.

I called up EMG and told them I wanted a custom color, and it was here in a week! Built them right then and there.

Not only that, but EMGs came stock on a lot of my guitars, and they just have this "roar." They sound great live and on recordings. I also have love for Seymour Duncan!

I'm really torn between EMG and SD, but EMG has a clarity to them because they are active, and SD active pickups just aren't as good. As a whole, I think SD is better, but I'm a metal guy, and these pickups give fantastic sound even through tons of distortion and effects.

They sound really nice clean as well as with crazy gain. Overall, my favorite pickup combos are the EMG 85/81 and the SD 59/JB.

5 Lollar

Lollar's CC pickup is the exact replica of the pickup that guitar legend Charlie Christian used in his Gibson ES-150 in 1936. It is the best neck pickup for Telecaster-type guitars, in my humble opinion. I highly recommend them.

The Charlie Christian pickup is highly warm and dynamic. It's not too high or too low in frequency, and it gives off a horn-like resonance. These are the pickups of the future.

The Firebird pickup is the best I've ever heard. It sings in the neck position, and every touch you make will change your tone, but don't think it can't scream in the bridge.

6 DiMarzio

I have a pair of D-Activators in my SG Mahogany neck-through, and they are amazing. Max the volume and tone on the bridge, and you'll cut through any mix. Roll the tone back, and you get a dark sound that is still defined.

Go to the neck, and if you keep the tone down, you can get a wicked overdriven sound or a subtle clean. Roll the neck's tone up, and you get a defined cutting lead tone and a glassy clean. Rolling the volume back cleans up even on high gain, and with the volume off, you can achieve the twang bang even!

On a 2 Volume 2 Tone setup, there aren't many sounds I can't achieve. Very versatile. The best thing I ever did to a guitar was add these pickups.

7 Harmonic Design

These pickups are made by guys from Bakersfield, CA, so naturally, they are going to be better than everything else out there. There needs to be just two spots on this list: the best (Harmonic Design) and the rest (SD, DiMarzio, EMG, etc.).

You think you know, but you have no idea!

8 Bill Lawrence

I was always iffy about Teles. The neck pickups always seemed a little muddy. The bridge was so bright it hurt my head. Then I got a set of Keystones, and now I love my Tele. Even a friend who is strictly a humbucker fan was surprised by how much he liked both pickups.

Bill Lawrence, not even in the top ten? Are you kidding me? They give the best tight and compressed tones ever and are the most versatile, from cleans to high gains. They are not as well known as Seymour Duncans, but they definitely deserve to be way higher than this.

Vote for them!

9 Fender

Fender has that special clean sound typified by Hank Marvin. Excellent tone and twang for a clean sound. Any pickup can be used when playing distortion, but it needs something better for a clean sound.

Fender makes those pickups.

Fender Custom Shop guitars remain the most authentic-sounding reissues you can find. If you want real Fender tones, they still do it as well or better than anyone.

All my Fenders have the factory pickups. My '88 Tele '52 R.I. sounds killer. My '79 Strat with my old Super and a Tube Screamer is God's Land.

10 Q-tuner

They don't add or subtract anything from what your guitar normally sounds like. Best example: put your ear up to the body of your guitar and play, that's what they're gonna sound like. Personally, I think they're a brilliant product!

The neck Q-tuner is incredible. So bright, percussive, and clear. The amount of articulation is absolutely unreal. It's like a parody of the best bits of various neck humbuckers and single coils all at once.

Q-tuners are the world's first guitar and bass pickups powered by neodymium magnets. The ultimate Hi-Fi sound.

The Contenders
11 Ibanez

A very good sound. I have an RX350 with AH1-AS1-AH2 pups, and it sounds great. A little noisy, but nobody is perfect. Good ones!

12 Gibson P90

P90s are my favorite pickups. There are some better P90s than Gibson makes out there, but not many and not significant improvements. Gibson does pickups well, especially at their price point compared to other brands.

I always find it funny when someone posts a guitar for sale with "upgraded" pickups that are Duncans. At best, they're a sideways move from Gibson to give different tones. Definitely not a better pickup.

The perfect balance between the fat humbucker and the skinny-sounding average single-coil. Enough warmth to soothe listeners' ears and crispness to get that chill that creeps your forearm hair, whether in clean or overdriven levels of sound.

It was love at first listening.

13 Gibson T500

Fantastic in my Les Paul Junior and Melody Maker. Kicks butt. I have a vintage DiMarzio Super Distortion from 1978, and the 500T smokes it. Great for melodic metal and classic rock. Great overtones. Ceramic are legends.

14 Golden Age

The most underrated Strat pickup on the net. I've played Fenders, Duncans, and DiMarzios, and now I love playing the overwound Golden Age single coils at half the price. I bought them from Stewart-McDonald.

15 Ron Ellis

I put a set in my Franken-Strat. Unlike any Strat I've ever heard. Very tight bass, smooth mids, and highs. Cello-like sound. Lots of air around the notes. Pricey but worth it to me.

16 Kinman

Kinman's products, attention to detail, and customer service are awesome. The net effect is you get great, authentic tone with no noise. I have several sets in different Stratocasters: the "Scoop," Impersonator 56's, and Impersonator 54's.

The tone is awesome and there is no noise even at concert volumes. These are the only pickups I would ever use at this point. Also, I think the K9 harness they make for the Strat is underappreciated. It provides a unique setup of pickup combinations and tones. You can dispense with soldering and assemble it in about 10 minutes onto a Strat pickguard.

The pots are smooth and the switch is silent between settings with no pop. I have a fairly large Strat collection, and I am working my way through outfitting all of them with Kinman setups. To Kinman: Keep up the great work, craftsmanship, and dedication to your art. Much appreciated!

17 Häussel
18 Kent Armstrong

Great pickups for jazz! The adjustable pole PAF0 is amazing. You have the custom option as well! Just contact Kent. He is a very nice person. Mine is a custom-built PAF0 floater in a Heritage Golden Eagle hollowbody with the stock cover.

19 Wolftone Pickups

Had a couple of sets, and for vintage PAF tones, they're a solid choice. Definitely recommend.

These blow my Seymour Duncan JBs away, and those are really good pickups as well.

How these are at 27 is beyond me. Listen for yourself!

20 Rockfield

I had a set of Rockfield Fat Ass in a Dean V. The quality of the tones was pretty close to what was coming out of a 1988 Gibson SG with an EMG 81/85 active set. They are all I use now.

These get a very meaty sound and seem to be well-constructed, with even a bit of felt dampening on the rear of them.

21 Tesla

The best ever, I know, for the powerful combination between dynamic actions.

Excellent pickups, good value too!

Best balance. Very well-priced!

22 Fishman

25?! What?! Fishman sounds way better than most of the other names here, especially their Fluence Classic set. Unlike other brands, you never have to sacrifice distortion for tone and color, and vice versa. The Fluence Classic by Fishman are the only pickups I've heard that truly have and give anything.

Mark my words, we will see them start to climb on lists like this, as they are becoming more and more popular. Vote up, people!

Their Fluence set for Telecasters is awesome. Greg Koch can't be wrong.

23 Darkmoon Pickups

Great custom pickup company based in New York. They will make you virtually anything that has to do with pickups and wiring. I've ordered a second HSH pickguard with a crazy super switch and three push-pull pots configuration, and it was EXACTLY what I described to the tech.

Another cool thing about them is that they make real mother-of-pearl inlays that are absolutely gorgeous. I bought the abalone ones after seeing them in a Darrell Braun video on YouTube. Considering the handcrafted quality, they keep their prices pretty low and always have some promotional discount program happening.

These guys definitely deserve a mention and credit.

24 Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson all the way. I have them in my Strat, and they sound the best out of the 10 or so electrics I own.

I have two T.A. split coils in a 9.8 lbs Mexican Tele, and they are stellar! I get a wide variation in tones using the pickup switch and split coil switches. It's allowed me to carry only the Tele as my electric on gigs.

25 Burstbucker

Great crisp-to-high gain crunch. Love these pickups. One of the best choices I've ever made, and a steal for the price I got them for.

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