Best Bass Guitar Pickups of 2019 – Ultimate Buyer’s Guide

Whether you just started out or consider yourself a pro, you must have heard about bass guitar pickups.

They are usually brought out in discussions about sound – a guitar pickup is one of the most critical components of your instrument, and it has a significant impact on the tone.

A guitar pickup is a significant contributor to the sound coming out of your bass guitar, so here’s a comprehensive guide focusing on the best bass guitar pickups available on the market today. 

Comparison Chart of the Best Bass Guitar Pickups

Product

Rating

Price

Fender Custom Shop '62 P Bass Pickups

Fender Custom Shop '62 P Bass Pickups

Best Overall

EMG Geezer Butler Signature PJ Bass Guitar Pickup Set

EMG Geezer Butler Signature PJ Bass Guitar Pickup Set

Runner-up

Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound P-Bass Pickup

Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound P-Bass Pickup - (New)

Best for the Money

Nordstrand Big Split 5 String Bass Pickup Set

Nordstrand Big Split 5 String Bass Pickup Set

Fender Custom Shop '60s Jazz Bass Pickups

Fender Custom Shop '60s Jazz Bass Pickups

What is a Pickup on Bass Guitar?

As we established, a pickup is one of the main determinants of the sounds your bass makes, so if you are still searching for that perfect tone, here is what you need to know. A guitar pickup is a device that picks up (hence the name) the vibrations produced by your guitar and transforms them into electrical signals.

These electrical signals are then amplified to produce the sounds you can hear when playing your bass guitar. There are different types of pickups, which are explored below. 

How Does a Guitar Pickup Work?

A magnetic pickup uses magnets to pick up those vibrations mentioned earlier and transmits them as electric signals from your bass guitar to your amp. Magnetic pickups are placed right under your instrument’s strings, and they capture the vibrations from the air. When they are set up, the magnetic pickups should not touch the strings.

There are also piezoelectric pickups that use crystals instead of magnets, and they pick up the vibration from where strings touch the saddle or bridge. Piezo pickups are mostly found on acoustic guitars and high-end basses. 

What is the Difference Between Active and Passive Bass Pickups?

The main difference between the two is that active pickups use a battery for power, while passive ones do not. Passive pickups are often used in vintage old-school guitars, and they have warm, dynamic, round tones, yet big and punchy.

Active pickups, on the other hand, need a pre-amp and allow you better control of your bass, such as bass and treble and (sometimes) even mid-range controls, depending on your pre-amp. Active pickups are significantly louder than passive pickups, and they are characterized by brightness and clarity. 

How to Choose a Bass Guitar Pickup

Here are three main characteristics you need to keep in mind when you are choosing your bass guitar pickup:

Quality

The quality of a guitar pickup is the most essential feature you need to focus on. Optimal features include hum cancellation and a high clarity of tone. Depending on your needs, some have higher frequencies and higher output. Nonetheless, hum cancellation properties and clarity of the tones are crucial to a high-quality pickup. 

Budget

Consider your budget carefully. That said, bear in mind that most of our top choices are quite pocket-friendly. If you can afford a higher-end pickup and you are a professional, it might be wise to go for that option. Otherwise, you can go for a low-budget alternative. Our options have high-end features at affordable price ranges

Preference

Lastly, keep in mind that pickups define the sound coming out of your guitar. What are your preferred music genres and playing styles? If you are not sure, you can ask other people playing the same music as you do and find out some of their recommendations. As a guide, a short description of how each pickup sounds is also included in the reviews below. 

Review of the Best Bass Guitar Pickups

Let’s take a look at this year’s best bass guitar pickups and the qualities they have to offer:

Fender Custom Shop '62 P Bass Pickups

PROS

  • Easy to install
  • Strong, clear notes
  • Truly brings the strings to life
  • Warm, vintage tones with no humming
  • Improved performance due to larger, flush-mount alnico magnets

CONS

  • Requires attentive setup
  • Might seem too bright with bright strings

What Recent Buyers Report

This product far exceeds reasonable expectations for such a competitive price. Easy to install, these bass guitar pickups deliver warm, vintage tones with high clarity. They will purely transform your bass into a high-quality instrument, and the output is powerful and without any noise or distortion.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This guitar pickup stands out from the crowd due to its artful reproduction of the 1960s original split-coil variant. It has flush-mount alnico five magnets, and the enamel-coated magnet wire combines perfectly with the cloth-covered wires to give you the fullest lows, punchy mids, and high clarity of the high ends.

Who Will Use This Most

For either a professional or a beginner or someone just playing as a hobby, a great pickup is a must. They are incredibly user-friendly and easy to install (keep reading for a step-by-step guide on how to install them). Usually, stock pickups hum and make undesired noises: for a quick radical change, go for these humbucking pickups, which deliver the best crisp sounds.

Bottom Line

Overall, the Fender Custom Shop '63 is our top choice in this category. Whether you are looking to upgrade your instrument or you are looking for higher precision and clarity while chasing those bass-like vintage sounds, this is simply the best choice you can find on the market.

EMG Geezer Butler Signature PJ Bass Guitar Pickup Set

PROS

  • Deep and tight lows
  • High output passive pickups
  • Easy to install and solderless
  • Alnico V pole and custom wound coils
  • More power and volume than single coil

CONS

  • Volume knob could be improved
  • Might not fit squire vintage custom
  • Faulty instructions (replace the black wire with white one)

What Recent Buyers Report

This set of passive pickups are extremely easy to install in only 5 minutes. They have an excellent frequency response, especially when plucking hard or slapping, and deliver high quality at an affordable price. This product is genuinely a Geezer Butler classic from the 1970s.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Our runner-up is this outstanding EMG Geezer Butler Signature set that enhances the quality and the clarity of bass-line vintage tones. It has a solderless install system, making it easy to use and install in no time. This excellent pickup set delivers on quality and eliminates the hum often associated with poor-quality stock options.

Who Will Use This Most

If you are looking for a quick and easy to install pickup set, this is the one for you. It delivers on quality and expectations, all the components are well crafted, and the sounds are purely majestic, loyally replicating traditional 1970s basses. The solderless system is one of the best assets of this product.

Bottom Line

This pickup is on our list due to the high quality of its sounds, replicating the ‘70s bass sounds. Easy to install, it is an excellent alternative for anyone looking to update the quality of their performance. They are strong enough to bring some grind into your bass tones, perfect for heavy metal basses and other music genres.

Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound P-Bass Pickup - (New)

PROS

  • Affordable price range
  • Clear and powerful tones
  • Great quality passive P pickups
  • User-friendly and easy to install
  • Fat and full sounds with present mids

CONS

  • Quality control

What Recent Buyers Report

What makes this product truly stand out is the fantastic ratio between quality and price. Despite its lower price range, these are great for many music genres and play styles, including blues and funk. They are harmonious and have high precision, with impressive engineering and a well-crafted design.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This is our best for the money choice in terms of bass pickups. With increased affordability, these pickups are great for musicians who are looking for the maximum output and a more comprehensive frequency range. They come with more low ends, and there is a defined punch, coming with a more modern sound. They are great for funk, blues, and jazz music.

Who Will Use This Most

If you are looking for an extended frequency range and maximum output, this the choice for you. They have pole pieces that increase the size of the magnetic field, resulting in a wider frequency from low to high. There is also a high-end punch, and all the tones and sounds are extremely clear and have a high output.

Bottom Line

Overall, this product is excellent for lower budgets. It is harmonious, delivers on those punchy ends, is easy to install, and includes all the features you might want in a high-quality pickup set. It does not compromise on quality!

Nordstrand Big Split 5 String Bass Pickup Set

PROS

  • Bright highs
  • Assertive lows
  • Crystal clear articulation
  • Amazing design and craftmanship
  • Includes neck and bridge pickup, black covers

CONS

  • More expensive than other options

What Recent Buyers Report

Apart from the above-average price tag, there is no drawback to be highlighted with this product – the sound quality is purely impressive, with crystal clear tones and extremely assertive lows. These pickups bring the brightness in the highs, making this pickup worth every cent. This product can enhance the quality of your instrument with double the effectiveness of other options in its price range.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The Nordstrand Big Split gives you fuller, bigger tones, reducing the hum to zero. While it can improve your bass dramatically, it does require a more hefty investment than other alternatives on this list. It is worth it though, particularly if you are a professional looking for that perfect touch. With crystal clear articulation, it is one of the best choices on the market.

Who Will Use This Most

If you want to step up your game, look no further. These pickups work great for any bass out there – all you need to do is install this pickup to get one of the highest quality sounds in the world. The only musician who might not benefit from this option would be one constrained by a tight budget.

Bottom Line

Overall, this pickup is at a higher price range, but if your budget allows you, you will notice the crystal clear articulation. They are recommended for professional musicians looking to improve their performance and stand out from the crowd.

Fender Custom Shop '60s Jazz Bass Pickups

PROS

  • Hum-canceling properties
  • Vintage tones typical of the ‘60s
  • Brings heaps of variation in your tones
  • Package includes foam mounting pads
  • Great for different play styles, including slapping and fingering

CONS

  • Needs soldering
  • Soldering joints could be improved
  • Quality control issues, but excellent customer service

What Recent Buyers Report

These pickups are perfect if you are chasing those coveted ‘60s bass sounds. They are quieter, more full-range than modern variants and manage to attain the vintage tones due to the classic wound used six decades ago. They are noiseless, and the tones are well-balanced.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Fender pickups are a reiteration of the vintage ‘60s typical bass sounds. However, they now combine modern technology to offer you an improved functionality. These are overwound and come with more output and bass for the best experience. They are sold in pairs and easy to install.

Who Will Use This Most

Whether you are a beginner or a pro, you will have heard of Fender's reputation and quality. If your stock pickups are humming or merely adequate, installing these will certainly improve your experience. They have hum-canceling properties and combine high-tech to deliver you an improved version of the classic single coils used in the ‘60s.

Bottom Line

Overall, the typical Fender quality never ceases to impress its buyers. If you want to update your instrument, this is definitely worth the price. There is no hum, sounds are balanced, and they are created in the typical vintage fashion. Give it a try – you will be blown away by that first note.

Types of Bass Guitar Pickups

Here is a short introduction to product variations and some considerations for each type:

Single-Coil Pickups

The single-coil variant means that there is one coil around the magnetic side of the pickup. They are clear, bright, and typical to ‘60s. They have quite some hum, so many manufacturers have developed improved versions that have noise cancellation properties. J Pickups is the most popular variation of the single-coil option – often used in jazz.

Split-Coil Pickups

The name is quite suggestive – a coil is split, and each side is put under two bass strings. It is common to the ‘50s and usually used by rock players due to the clear fat sounds they create. 

Dual Coil Pickups

Also known as humbuckers, they are used by those who do not enjoy the humming noise specific to single-coil pickups. They produce fat, rich sounds and are a must-have if you enjoy vintage, old-school sounds. 

Soap Bar Pickups

They are often installed on basses with a minimum of 5 strings. Players often choose them because they are long-lasting: they are sealed, so they do not get in contact with sweat, dust, or debris, meaning that they do not degrade quickly. 

How to Install a Bass Guitar Pickup

It is not quite as easy as one might think, but installing guitar pickups can be still achieved by anyone. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it. 

Make sure you have access to Phillips head screwdrivers and a soldering gun. 

If this is your first time, you can take notes and a photo of the current pickups – changing the height has a huge impact on tones. 

  1. Remove the back cover of your guitar
  2. Remove the strings – you can either keep the same ones or take advantage of this opportunity to place new strings as well. 
  3. De-solder the current pickups’ wiring and remove the pickups
  4. Install the new pickups
  5. Figure out the wiring – check out the pickups’ instruction manual
  6. Test your new guitar pickups

Make sure your guitar is always safe – for instance, that your soldering gun does not slip and leave a mark on your instrument. Also, stay away from the fumes of the soldering iron; it is not recommended to breathe them in. This might be easier if you have a ventilated working area. 

Conclusion

It is obvious that pickups are incredibly varied, and they largely depend on your taste as well. This can be a significant decision for you, considering that the major contributor to your sound is the pickup itself, and then the strings, and then the rest of the guitar components. If possible, make sure that you try out a few of our recommendations, as they make for great pickups and you might not know which option is right for you until you try it out.