Best Guitar Pickups

The Top Ten
1 Seymour Duncan

For me, anyone putting SD at the top of the list haven't tried many different pickups. They do a good job for modern sounding pickups, but their off the shelf vintage re-issue stuff is sub-par. Fender CS pickups are significantly clearer and more authentic than antiquities, and if you're looking for a PAF style, there are so many better options. The Bonamasa sets are nice, but spendy, Seth Lovers OK, and Antiquities meh at best. Wolftone, Sheptone, Lollar, and a huge variety of other boutique make great options, and if you've bought a Gibson, you're better off keeping the Burstbucker Pros, or Classic 57's if you want vintage tones.

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. 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 brands 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 in as another guy was playing his strat thru my old Fender amp. He has the 43 steele pole pickups that are really hot. We ended up doing switches of 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 I think-but that it makes 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.


Customer service is a big deal to me. So when all I wanted was gold pole pieces for a Crunch Lab and Liquifire set Dimarzio said it would take 8 to 10 weeks! Cancelled that order.
Called up EMG and told them I want a custom color and it is here in a week! Built them right then and there.
Not only that, but EMG's came stock on a lot of my guitars and they just have this "roar." Sounds great live and on recordings.
I also have love for Seymour Duncan!

I'm really torn between EMG and SD but EMG have 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 fantasic sound even through tons of distortion and effects. They sound really nice clean as well as with crazy gain but over all 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 can highly recommend them.

The Charlie Christian pickup is highly warm and dynamic. It's not too high or too low in frequency, and 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 keep the tone down you can get a wicked overdriven sound or a subtle clean, roll the necks tone up and get a defined cutting lead tone and glassy clean. Rolling the volume back clean 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 really isn't many sounds I can't achieve. Very versatile. Best thing I ever did to a guitar was add these pickups.

7 Harmonic Design

Neil Peart uses these. They give great hpu output on low end slams and you can really snazz your tone with the scrommy rib adjustment system.

These pickups are made by dudes from Bakersfield, CA so naturally they are going to be better than everything else out there. There needs to be just 2 spots on this list...
The best(harmonic design) and The rest (SD, DiMar, Emg etc...). You think you know... but you got no idea!

8 Bill Lawrence

I was always iffy about Teles. The neck pickups always seemed a little muddy. The bridge so bright they 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 th best tight and compressed tones ever, and 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 have that special clean sound typified by Hank Marvin. Excellent tone and twant for a clean sound. Any pickup can be used when playing distortion but it needs something better for a clean sound. Fender make 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 good or better than anyone.

All my fenders have the factory pick 88 tele 52 R.I. sounds 79 strat with my old super and a tube screamer is Gods 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 though, 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 being 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 an sounds great, little noisy but nobody is perfect, good ones!

12 Gibson P90

P90's are my favorite pickup. 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 compare to other brands. I always find it funny when some 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 souding of the average single-coil. Enough of warmth to sooth listeners ears and crisp to get that chill that creeps your forearms hair, whether in clear or overdriven levels of sound.
Was love at first, uh, listening.

13 Gibson T500

Fantastic in my Les Paul junior and melody maker. Kicks butt. Have vintage Dimarzio suoer distortion from 1978 and the 500T smokes it. Great for melodic metal and classic rock. Great over tones. Ceramic are legends.

14 Golden Age

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

15 Ron Ellis

I put a set in my frankin Strat. Unlike any Strat l've ever heard. Very tight base smooth mids and highs. Cello like sound. Lots of air around the notes. Pricy 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. Awesome tone and no noise even at concert volumes. These are the only pickups I would ever use at this point. Also, I think underappreciated is the K9 harness they make for the strat. It provides a unique set up of pickup combinations and tones. Also you can dispense with the soldering and can assemble it in about 10 minutes on to a strat pickguard. The pots are smooth and the switch is silent between settings, no pop. I have a fairly large strat collection and I am working my way thru 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 it' s a custom build paf0 floater in a Heritage Golden Eagle hollowbody in the stock cover

19 Wolftone Pickups

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

These blow my Seymour Duncan JB's 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 were pretty close to what was coming out of a 1988 Gibson SG with 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 combinaion between dynamic actions.

Excellent pickups, good value too!

Best balance. Very we'll priced!

22 Fishman

25?! what?! Fishman sound 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 I can honestly say are the only pups I've heard that truly have and give anything and 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 crazy super switch and three push-pull pots configuration and it was EXACTLY what I've 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 seing them in a Darrell Braun video on Youtube. Considering handcrafted quality, they keep their prices pretty low and always have some promotional discount program happening. These guys definitely worth a mention and deserved credit.

24 Tom Anderson

Tom Anderson all the way. 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.:-o 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 my best choices ever made and a steal for the price I got them for.

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