Dr. Frankenstein, I think I Need a Hand: The 5 Best Guitar Pickups Money Can Buy

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Having previously explored guitars, amps, pedals, and strings, it’s time we delve into some of the magical wonder that is electromagnetism. There’s no way around it, if you’re going to play electric, you’re going to want to have some understanding of the inner workings of your equipment and an idea of the options available to you. It’s just good practice to familiarize yourself with which pieces of equipment will make what sound, especially while searching for your own unique style. So, I present to you some of the most widely used pickups, with the best sounds and most bang for the buck. Unfortunately, comparing a single coil to a humbucker, or a rock tone to a jazz tone, or what pickups work well in a Tele as opposed to which ones work well for a Les Paul is pretty futile, and you’ll find it all comes down to preference. I’m simply showcasing top quality pickups; some of the best in the world.

5 Fender Texas Special Strat Pickups

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Whether or not I’m personally a fan of playing Fenders doesn’t affect the fact that I appreciate, and even love, much of the music made on them. So, this pickup was designed for Stevie Ray Vaughn over twenty years ago, and has certainly solidified itself as one of the most reliable, trustworthy, and powerful pickups to use on your Fender. Obviously they’re great for rock, blues, punk, power-ballads; needless to say this thing is extremely multifaceted. If you’re looking for that proto-typical Fender sound, there’s no way you can go wrong with the Texas Special.

4 Gibson ’57 Classic Humbucker

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This one works best set in the neck position and accompanied by the ’57 Plus in the bridge position. It’s a faithful replica of the original humbuckers from that era, and the sound is as true to form as anyone could hope for. With a warm, delicate tone, there is a very romantic feel to the vibrations put forth through this thing. Yet there should be no problem cranking it up and going full-fledged rocker with it. Of course, you should have no issues with a blues sound, but this pickup will work well for swing, jazz, rockabilly; really, it’s actually a very versatile piece of equipment.

3 EMG ZW Set

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No need to name drop on this one, the name is on the product: Zakk Wylde, guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne and Black Label Society, needed something for his aggressive attack, his masterful finger work, and the intensity provided by the combination. Here’s a sound I’m sure you’re familiar with; heavy, distorted, and yet somehow clear and vibrant with a powerful kick. That’s because all the distortion happens post-output. This pickup is commanding and potent; a great mixture for the thrasher as well as the shredder, but just as useful for blues rock.

2 DiMarzio Evolution Bridge

Image Credit: Dimarzio.com

Well, Steve Vai put some demand on DiMarzio to provide him with the specs he needed for his very distinguishable sound. With a ton of punch on the high end, and a tightness on the low end, this pickup provides a clean, powerful channel for notes to soar through. Swelling and vaguely percussive, the Evolution Bridge is perfect for soloing, allowing the notes to pierce even the most intense accompaniments. Feel free to use this humbucker on just about any guitar you’d like, especially a nice Les Paul.

1 Seymour Duncan APH-1 Alnico II

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Well, I’m going to do it, it’s inevitable on this one; I’m going to name drop. Fortunately, it’s not for my reputation, I’m just emphasizing the quality of the product. Besides, what better way to discuss music equipment than by the stars that choose them? Like this, you get an idea of what styles they work well for; a familiar starting point to work from. So, this pickup is used by the likes of Slash (Guns and Roses and Velvet Revolver), Michael Wilton (Queensryche), Tim Mahoney (311), and many more. The APH-1 Alnico II provides a warm tone, a hum cancelling moderate-output, and a powerful bottom end; wonderful for blues, classic rock, and slide guitar. This thing works well in solid and hollow body guitars, and certainly provides a ton of presence to even the most rudimentary riffs.

Now keep in mind, it all comes down to personal choice, and when one begins to consider all the possible combinations of guitar, pickup, strings, pedal, amp, etc… one begins to realize the potential is truly unfathomable. So let me know what you think, maybe you would’ve chosen the Eddie Van Halen humbucker to the ZW set, or prefer a different single coil for your Strat or Tele, whatever it is, we’d love to hear what you think.

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