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The Best Guitar Pickups for Electric and Acoustic Instruments [Reviews & Buying Guide 2020]

Looking for the best guitar pickups to upgrade or personalize your sound? Find out which product is the best fit for your acoustic or electric guitar with our expert buying guide.

Top Electric Guitar Pickups Comparison Chart:

Electric Pickup

Best Feature

Rating

Relative Price

#1

Seymour Duncan SH4 JB Model Humbucker Pickup - (Zebra)

Seymour Duncan SH4 JB Model Humbucker

The perfect balance of refined high output, consistent quality, and price point 4.7 out of 5 stars

4.7 / 5

$$$

 

#2

DiMarzio {FEEDTITLE} Electric Guitar Gig Bag (DP100FBK)

DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucker

When you want full mid range punch at high levels, this is the one. 4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 / 5

$$$

 

#3

Fender Original '57/'62 Strat Pickups

Fender Original ’57/’62 Strat Pickups

Retains pure vintage twang even with higher levels of gain 4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 / 5

$$

 

#4

Gibson '57 Classic Humbucker Pickup, Nickel

Gibson 57 Classic Humbucker

Balanced and refined PAF tones for modern players 4.8 out of 5 stars

4.8 / 5

$$$$

 

#5

EMG ZW Zakk Wylde Signature Humbucker Guitar Pickup Set, Black

EMG ZW-SET Zakk Wylde Humbucker Pickup Set

Extremely well articulated notes on both clean and heavily distorted amp settings 4.5 out of 5 stars

4.5 / 5

$$$

 


Read the Electric Guitar Pickups Reviews Here

Top Acoustic Guitar Pickups Comparison Chart:

Acoustic Pickup

Best Feature

Rating

Relative Price

#1

Fishman Rare Earth Humbucker Magnetic Soundhole Acoustic Pickup

Fishman Rare Earth Humbucking Magnetic Soundhole Pickup

Great natural reproduction for a soundhole pickup 4 out of 5 stars

4.0 / 5

$$$

 

#2

L.R. Baggs Anthem Acoustic Guitar Pickup and Microphone

L.R. Baggs ANTHEM Acoustic Guitar Pickup

Very few feedback issues for a mic system 4.2 out of 5 stars

4.2 / 5

$$$$

 

#3

K&K Pure Mini Acoustic Guitar Pickup

K&K Pure Mini Acoustic Guitar Pickup

No batteries required 4.8 out of 5 stars

4.8 / 5

$$

 


Read the Acoustic Guitar Pickups Reviews Here

Guitar Niche -bar stars

The Best Electric Guitar Pickups Reviewed

1. Seymour Duncan SH4 JB Model Humbucker Pickup

Seymour Duncan SH4 JB Model Humbucker Pickup - (Zebra)

Seymour Duncan SH4 JB Pickup

This Seymour pickup is one of the most popular pickups in the industry. It first entered the US music market over 30 years ago and has proven extremely popular ever since.

Like most humbuckers, this pickup uses a two-coil system to attain the audio emitted from your electric guitar.

Seymour Duncan created a ‘balanced’ coil configuration that doesn’t put too much emphasis on a particular type of sound. Unlike some humbuckers, which only prioritize distortion, this product gives you the best of both worlds.

It can provide you with light, brighter notes, and still handle heavy rock and roll.

More specifically, the Seymour Duncan SH4 JB Model Humbucker Pickup is popular with jazz and blues musicians looking for a bit of both features. Best of all, it comes at a low price.

Pros and Cons

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Seymour Duncan SH4 JB Review

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What We Like

      • Affordable price point
      • Balanced audio that gives users the power to alternate between sounds
      • Longstanding track record of success
      • High customer satisfaction rating
      • Manufactured by a reliable company
      • Different colors available

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What We Don’t Like

      • Not as heavily distortion focused as some other humbuckers

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Seymour Duncan SH4 JB Model Humbucker Pickup - (Zebra)

What Do Duncan SH4 JB Owners Think?

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2. DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucker Pickup

DiMarzio {FEEDTITLE} Electric Guitar Gig Bag (DP100FBK)

DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Pickup

If you’re looking for a pickup that can take your heavy rock and roll to the next level, this pickup is one of your best options. It’s named ‘Super Distortion’ for a reason – it provides considerable distortion transmission capabilities.

This guitar pickup is best suited for solid body guitars – hollow guitars shouldn’t use this form of pickup.

The DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucker Pickup is extremely popular in many artist circles. Paul Gilbert is known to use this pickup.

Don’t waste your time with a pickup that can’t provide the full volume your band needs. The DiMarzio Super Distortion is one of our favorite products for those wanting powerful, distorted sound driving their amplifiers.

Pros and Cons

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DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucker Review

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What We Like

      • Comes with four-conductor wire
      • Very cheap considering the quality of the product
      • Less than 7 ounces
      • Great at handling distortion and powerful audio
      • Solid customer feedback

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What We Don’t Like

      • Only made for solid body guitars
      • Not versatile towards lighter sounds

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DiMarzio {FEEDTITLE} Electric Guitar Gig Bag (DP100FBK)

DiMarzio {FEEDTITLE} Electric Guitar Gig Bag (DP100FBK)

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Read What DiMarzio DP100 Customers Have Said >>

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3. Fender Original ’57/’62 Strat Pickups

Fender Original '57/'62 Strat Pickups

Fender Original ’57/’62 Strat Pickup

It’s hard to ignore a product made by Fender – one of the world’s most famous guitar companies. This package of original ‘Strat’ pickups gives users the authentic audio of an original 1963 Strat.

The current Fender product was reversed engineered to provide the original audio quality that so many musicians crave. These particular pickups use five different magnets to ensure there is a balanced tone to your guitar audio.

If you’re worried about wasting your money, you won’t have to with this product. Not only is the Fender Original ’57/’62 Strat Pickups package loaded with three different high-end pickups, but it also comes with a one-year warranty.

Despite including multiple pickups, the Fender Original ’57/’62 Strat Pickup package is extremely affordable – you can currently purchase it for less than $110.

Pros and Cons

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Fender Original ’57/’62 Strat Pickups Review

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What We Like

      • Original 1963 audio features
      • Alnico 5 magnets, balanced design that provides clear audio no matter what you’re playing
      • Three pickups included
      • One-year warranty included
      • Manufactured by Fender – an expert in electric guitar equipment

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What We Don’t Like

      • Doesn’t include some of the modern enhancements you find in new pickups

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Fender Original '57/'62 Strat Pickups

What Do Original ’57/’62 Strat Pickup Users Think?

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4. Gibson ’57 Classic Humbucker

Gibson '57 Classic Humbucker Pickup, Nickel

Gibson ’57 Classic Pickup

The Gibson 57 Classic Humbucker is very similar to the previous Fender product. It is also a reverse engineered version of an earlier pickup. Gibson, another famous guitar manufacturer, brought back the Gibson 57 Classic Humbucker to satisfy guitar enthusiasts that enjoy the original sound of one of Gibson’s most famous guitars.

People use the Gibson 57 to improve the clearness and fullness of the sound of their guitar. The Gibson 57 Classic Humbucker is very popular with modern consumers – feedback since its re-release has been exceptional.

The Gibson 57’s outer appearance seems very rudimentary, but it is designed almost exactly as its original predecessor. The current model is comprised of nickel.

Pros and Cons

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Gibson ’57 Classic Humbucker Review

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What We Like

      • Original sound and quality – a vintage remastering
      • Full, clear audio quality
      • Great customer feedback
      • Designed almost precisely as the original 57′ model

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What We Don’t Like

      • Less audio range than many modern competitors
      • Quite expensive when compared to some current competitors

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Gibson '57 Classic Humbucker Pickup, Nickel

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Check Gibson ’57 Classic Humbucker Availability! >>

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5. EMG ZW-SET Zakk Wylde Signature Humbucker Pickup Set

EMG ZW Zakk Wylde Signature Humbucker Guitar Pickup Set, Black

EMG Zakk Wylde ZW-SET Pickup Set

Moving on to the EMG Zack Wylde Pickup Set, we step up a bit in the market. This product is more than twice as expensive as the two previously reviewed pickups, but is the price warranted?

In many ways, yes. The EMG ZW-Set provides more than just a standard pickup – it comes with a range of different pieces of hardware. This includes both EMG 81 and EMG 85 active pickups for electric guitars.

It also includes tone controls and long shaft volume controls, and you get the benefit of a solderless install system. This is known as one of the best metal guitar pickup packages available. In fact, the package is named after Zakk Wylde – a famous metal musician.

The only downside to the EMG Electric Guitar Hardware (ZW-Set) is the price of the package. At around $200, this might be out of range for some guitar players. Regardless, if you’re into metal or heavy distortion, this is one of the best pickup deals available.

Pros and Cons

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EMG ZW-SET Zakk Wylde Pickup Set Review

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What We Like

      • Great for heavy metal and heavy distortion music
      • Multiple pickups included
      • Easy installation process
      • Easy-to-use volume controls and features
      • Endorsed by one of heavy metal’s most famous names

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What We Don’t Like

      • Price is considerably high
      • Not a premium product if you’re looking to play lighter, crisper music

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EMG ZW Zakk Wylde Signature Humbucker Guitar Pickup Set, Black

What Do EMG Zakk Wylde Pickup Customers Think? >>

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Guitar Niche -bar acoustic

Great Acoustic Guitar Pickups Reviewed

1. Fishman Rare Earth Humbucking Magnetic Soundhole Pickup

Fishman Rare Earth Humbucker Magnetic Soundhole Acoustic Pickup

Fishman Rare Earth Soundhole Pickup

This Fishman Rare Earth Humbucking Magnetic Soundhole Pickup fits comfortably in the sound hole of your acoustic guitar. Using a unique design with individual neodymium magnets, the purpose of this pickup is to provide a full and accurate sound from your acoustic guitar.

Fishman’s unique pickup provides smooth, full audio that is great for a variety of different genres. It’s the perfect sound output for an acoustic guitar.

To run this pickup, you’ll need two 1.5-volt silver oxide batteries or a 3-volt lithium battery. You can expect the pickup to operate for 240 hours on fresh batteries – plenty of time to play a few gigs before you need to replace the power source.

There’s no doubt this is one of the best acoustic pickups on the market, but it certainly comes at a price. To get your hands on the Fishman Rare Earth Humbucking Magnetic Soundhole Pickup, you’ll pay just under $170.

Pros and Cons

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Fishman Rare Earth Humbucking Soundhole Pickup Review

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What We Like

      • Great, clear audio that provides authentic acoustic sounds
      • Easy installation
      • Mobile battery power that lasts 240 hours
      • Popular with customers

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What We Don’t Like

      • High price point, especially if you’re on a budget
      • While mobile battery power is useful, it can also be a pain to replace

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Fishman Rare Earth Humbucker Magnetic Soundhole Acoustic Pickup

What Do Customers Think of the Fishman Rare Earth Pickup? >>

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Guitar Niche -bar acoustic

2. L.R. Baggs ANTHEM Acoustic Guitar Pickup

L.R. Baggs Anthem Acoustic Guitar Pickup and Microphone

L.R. Baggs Anthem Acoustic Pickup

The L.R. Baggs ANTHEM Acoustic Guitar Pickup is one of the most popular mic-based guitar pickups on the market. This pickup can create studio quality output no matter where you’re playing. It’s a great accessory if you plan on engaging in large concerts or public events.

The ANTHEM from L.R. Baggs also comes with a range of additional features and benefits. You can alter pickup settings and employ mix controls while you’re playing. It’s a great product if you’re constantly changing what you expect from your guitar pickup.

The only downside to this product is that it’s one of the most expensive pickups on the market. If you can get over the price tag, it’s certainly worth the investment.

Pros and Cons

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L.R. Baggs ANTHEM Acoustic Guitar Pickup Review

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What We Like

      • Great audio quality
      • Fits easily inside guitar near the soundhole
      • Plenty of internal controls that give you power over your audio
      • Great customer feedback

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What We Don’t Like

      • Extremely expensive when compared to other pickups

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L.R. Baggs Anthem Acoustic Guitar Pickup and Microphone

Check Latest L.R. Baggs Anthem Customer Availability! >>

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Guitar Niche -bar acoustic

3. K&K Pure Mini Acoustic Guitar Pickup

K&K Pure Mini Acoustic Guitar Pickup

K&K Pure Mini Pickup

If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper, the K&K Pure Mini Acoustic Guitar Pickup is a good option. This pickup is a transducer-based system that receives most of its pickup from the soundboard of the guitar.

Three different transducers link into an audio output cable. Each of these transducers is used at the same time – they pick up specific sounds and string pairings. The product looks extremely basic, but it provides some impressive capabilities.

The Pure Mini Acoustic Guitar Pickup from K&K provides full and powerful acoustic audio capabilities. It’s suitable for practice and public gigs.

You won’t need any batteries, and you won’t need to make any alterations to the pickup. Also, you can purchase this excellent piece of musical technology for less than $100.

If you’re looking for your first acoustic audio pickup, make sure to consider the K&K Pure Mini Acoustic Guitar Pickup.

Pros and Cons

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K&K Pure Mini Acoustic Pickup Review

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What We Like

      • A high standard of audio quality
      • A solid price point – especially for the quality of the item
      • Three different transducers in one product
      • Solid customer satisfaction ratings
      • Audio power for public performances
      • No batteries needed

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What We Don’t Like

      • Doesn’t necessarily detect sound as well as some of the more expensive products
      • Can be hard to install in exactly the right spot

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K&K Pure Mini Acoustic Guitar Pickup

What Do K&K Pure Mini Pickup Users Think?

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Tips on Choosing the Right Pickup

Acoustic or electric aside, if you really want to get the best performance out of any guitar, it’s essential that you understand guitar pickups and their role in the audio quality of your music.

Our aim is to help you do just that by taking an in-depth look at guitar pickups in general as well as the best guitar pickups on the market today.

Other than the use of great raw materials, what makes aa amplified guitar sound good is its pickups – the engine driving the electronic output.

In the case of solid body guitars, well-refined electric guitar pickups are the essential powerhouse to providing great tone.

With acoustic guitars, a pickup may not be entirely necessary to be heard, but if you intend to perform in front of a large crowd, you’ll probably want the best acoustic guitar pickup to amplify your instrument’s natural voice as faithfully as possible.

What Exactly is a Guitar Pickup?

A guitar pickup helps capture and emit the audio provided by electric or acoustic guitars. More specifically, it is a transducer that can amplify sounds by transferring them to an amplifier or another form of audio equipment.

If you’ve ever played the guitar without a pickup, you know how quiet the sound can be. In fact, with electric guitars, you may not be able to distinguish any sound at all.

Electric guitarists of all skill levels rely on pickups to ensure their audio is transmitted effectively. You can have an expensive amplifier and guitar, but if your pickup is horrible, you won’t be able to transmit good sounds.

For this reason, researching guitar pickups is just as essential as researching guitars. You need to be confident that you know what type of pickups can deliver the sound you’re looking for. This is especially true if you’re someone who is planning on performing in public settings or with a band.

What is the Difference Between Guitar Pickups?

Electric Pickup Differences

For electric guitars, the primary forms of pickups are single-coil, humbuckers, and P90s. Single coil and humbuckers are typically the most popular form of pickup.

Single coil pickups are for people looking for a lighter or brighter sound, though they can work with any form of electric guitar sound. They use a single magnet to detect and capture the sound within a guitar.

Humbuckers, on the other hand, tend to use a two-coil system to detect and transmit noise. This coil system makes the design a bit more suited towards sound distortion for genres such as classic rock.

P90s find themselves located in the middle of the two different coil systems, though the P90 is not as popular as a form of pickup.

Acoustic Pickup Differences

While acoustic pickups are not often talked about, there are a few different acoustic pickup options on the market. Popular options for acoustic guitarists include transducer pickups, piezo pickups, soundhole pickups, and in-body microphones.

Transducer pickups attach to your acoustic guitar’s soundboard – here they pick up the sound needed to transfer to the amplifier or audio output. Piezo pickups are instead placed under the strings of your guitar – making them acutely sensitive to sound.

Despite this, they tend to provide fewer feedback problems than transducer pickups.

Soundhole pickups are typically used by guitarists that want an electric feel to their music. This form of a pickup can help transform your traditional acoustic guitar audio to something a bit more synthetic.

Last, in-body (guitar) microphones are often used by a variety of different musicians. Many people use this option because it is relatively basic. The downside is that the sound quality isn’t as good, and you may receive a lot of feedback.

We suggest that you use a different form of pickup if you’re looking for high-quality audio!

Are Humbuckers Better Than Single Coil?

The answer to this is entirely subjective – it depends on your preferences. There are plenty of people that like both forms of pickups, so you shouldn’t make a judgment call until you hear sound from both types.

As a rule of thumb, if you’re playing distorted music, you may want to use a humbucker as it can pick up distorted sounds much easier. The single coil design is much better at picking up brighter sounds.

Another common distinction is that single coil pickups tend to have a crisper sound – though this is also lighter. Humbuckers can typically produce a much fuller sound, and therefore handle distortion much better than single coil pickups.

Do All Pickups Fit All Guitars?

No. Typically a guitar manufacturer will determine specifications for humbuckers or single coil pickups. This is because these two forms of pickups have traditionally been different sizes.

In the past, this created several problems and ensured you needed to choose the right form of guitar and weren’t able to switch types. Fortunately, many manufacturers now make pickups that fit both types of electric guitars.

For example, some pickup manufacturers now make single coil pickups that are the size of humbuckers – and vice versa. You’re no longer confined to the design of your guitar.

What Are the Best Pickups for Metal?

The answer to this question may seem obvious given some of the previously discussed material. If you’re looking to play metal or heavy metal music, you should typically aim to work with a humbucker pickup.

As previously mentioned, single coil pickups can’t typically handle large amounts of distortion. The noise that single coil pickups create is much lighter. If you want a full, heavy sound for your metal band, your best option is to purchase a humbucker pick up.

Top 3 Best Pickup Choices Compared:

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Best Single Coil Pickup Set

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Summary: Which Pickup is Right for You?

As you can see, there are plenty of great electric and acoustic guitar pickups available – you just need to choose the one that’s right for you.

Setting a budget and determining what type of sound output you’re looking for are great first steps—in addition to understanding the basics of guitar pickups we provided here. We hope this guide and review of the best guitar pickups has helped you find the perfect pickup for you!

  • Overall Average Build Quality
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4.6

Summary

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