Best Electric Guitar Pickups – 2020 Complete Buyer’s Guide

This article will offer an in-depth look at the best guitar pickup offerings the market has to offer.

We aim to inform and offer insight that can be invaluable when making a high-price purchase like a guitar pickup.

In this review, we will also provide an in-depth review of the electric guitar pickups we have chosen. 

Comparison Chart of the Best Electric Guitar Pickups

PRODUCT
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Seymour Duncan SHPG1B Pearly Gates Bridge

  • Has a PAF design to it
  • Best electric guitar pickups overall
  • Has a moderate-output, bridge-position humbucker
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EMG JH James Hetfield Signature Guitar Pickup Set

  • Comes with a solderless install system
  • Familiar tight attack with less inductance for a cleaner low end
  • Has an active tone and clarity that is reminiscent of a passive pickup
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EMG H4 Passive Electric Guitar Humbucker Pickup

  • Best for the money
  • Creates very well-balanced tones with tight bass and crunch highs
  • Uses over-wound coils loaded with ceramic bar magnets that help reduce noise
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Fender Vintage Noiseless Tele Pickups

  • Magnet has an enamel coating that delivers a vintage tone
  • Provides a midrange that is less aggressive and also good for warmer attacks
  • Has the classic vintage Tele sound without the hum that comes from a traditional single-coil
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Gibson '57 Classic Plus Humbucker Pickup

  • Comes with nickel slugs
  • Has nickel-plated pole pieces
  • Has a special Alnico II magnet
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How Does an Electric Guitar Pickup Work? 

A pickup is a mechanical tool used by musicians, especially musicians that use stringed instruments. It can be used for different stringed instruments, but we will discuss pickups used particularly for the electric guitar. It is a transducer that senses and captures vibration produced by musical instruments and proceeds to convert them to electrical signals. 

These signals can then be fed to amplifiers, which will produce enough sound to fill a room that is filled with a large group of people.

What Should I Look for When Buying an Electric Guitar Pickup? 

Musical instruments produce sounds when they are used in a way to create vibrations. Depending on the instrument itself, this could be through a strike, a pluck, or a tap of the instrument. 

In the case of an electric guitar, the vibrations are produced when the strings are plucked or the guitar frame is tapped. This vibration can be isolated and "picked up" by the machine. At this point, the vibrations are converted to electrical signals that can be amplified to create loud sounds and can even be distorted to create the desired effect. This will often lend itself to create a more varied and deeper soundscape to choose from.

Electric guitar pickups are often expensive purchases. Therefore, it is important to know what to look for when deciding to get one. This is especially the case for young learners and amateurs who are looking to get into the world of electric guitar music. 

Some of the factors to consider are:

Pricing

This largely depends on the buyer's budget. Electric guitar pickups, like most other products on the market, have a relationship that binds quality with pricing. The assumption for most is that the more you spend, the better the product. As true as this can be, you need to ensure that you do not pay for features you will never need.

Brand

​Electric guitar pickup manufacturers have been in the business for a long time. In that time, some of them have created a relationship with their consumers based on dependability. As such, it is worth looking into the manufacturer before committing to a purchase.

Ergonomics 

Depending on the user, one might be using a piece of equipment for a very long time. Therefore, it is important they choose something that will be comfortable for them. 

Review of the Best Electric Guitar Pickups

Now that you know what to consider when choosing electric guitar pickups, let’s look at which are the best available options for you.

Seymour Duncan SHPG1B Pearly Gates Bridge

PROS

  • Very easy to wire
  • Has a stylistic, black design
  • Gives great value for the money
  • Can be paired with any humbucker
  • Produces clear, high-quality sound
  • Durable and can be used for over 20 years

CONS

  • Has been delivered with faulty wiring in place on a few occasions
  • Is relatively expensive when compared to other options in the market

What Recent Buyers Report

Buyers are generally happy with this purchase, with some of them praising it as the best pickup they have ever used. Some praise it for its deep growl and its applications in the world of metal rock. However, some have criticized the PAF for taking away from the overall quality of the pickup.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pickup offers some of the best value for your money as compared to other alternatives on the market. It leads the way in almost every aspect as a pickup. It has great quality sound, while also offering great versatility to its users. The deep growl makes this pickup a standout, particularly among metal fans.

Who Will Use This Most

The deep growl would be particularly useful with metal fans, as they would get the most use out of it. The overall advantage offered by the pickup would be great for training, as it will be suitable for most students' style of playing. Its versatility would also be of great use to professionals looking to personalize their music.

Bottom Line  

The sheer adaptability of this pickup makes it an easy recommendation for anyone in the market for a pickup. It is worth mentioning that some people find the PAF disturbing, claiming it takes away from the overall experience. The artist who engages in various genres will appreciate the versatility offered by this pickup.

EMG JH James Hetfield Signature Guitar Pickup Set, Black Chrome

PROS

  • Offers great sound quality
  • The timber is something everyone will enjoy
  • Is versatile, as it can be used within a large range of sounds
  • Has a stealthy look with its very stylistic design that is attractive
  • Has the added convenience of not having to get soldered on install

CONS

  • Low build quality that is subject to damage
  • Occasional buzz in sound quality that can be distracting

What Recent Buyers Report

The general consensus on this electric guitar pickup is overly positive. Many are praising the pickup for its high-quality sound, with many claiming it's the best they have ever used. The install, which, in many cases can be quite frustrating, is praised for its simplicity, as it takes no longer than 15 minutes to install.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Unlike many offerings on the market, this guitar pickup offers more combos than just the conventional 81/60. The 81/60 is the most popular combo and, as such, most companies design their products to capture the highest number of customers. The combo offered here is great for heavy metal songs by bands such as Metallica.

Who Will Use This Most

The versatility of this guitar pickup makes it a great pick for professional musicians who would appreciate a bit of range in their sound. The ease of install would make this guitar pickup great for beginners or amateurs. The alternative combos make this pickup great for people with a specific sound to their music.

Bottom Line  

This great guitar pickup beats the market equivalents in quality and versatility. This makes the product easy to recommend to anyone in the market for a guitar pickup. Professionals and amateurs alike will equally appreciate what this pickup has to offer. The cons of this product are greatly outweighed by the benefits.

EMG H4 Passive Electric Guitar Humbucker Pickup, Black

PROS

  • Well-balanced tones
  • Offers a great musical range
  • Is great for heavy rock from modern guitars
  • Has very little noise, due to its effective shielding
  • Uses bridge position, which gives it excellent range
  • Has the soul of a passive PAF due to the combined power of active 81

CONS

  • Solderless connection can be complicated to some
  • Occasional instances of being shipped with the wrong wiring

What Recent Buyers Report

This pickup is praised for its versatility, especially in the range of sound it offers, it can be used for blues and rock. For many rock musicians, they appreciate the rock sound offered by the pickup. For just about any music with an inclination of Hi-gain, this guitar pickup is lauded as the best pick.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pickup stands out from the crowded market for its sound quality. Specifically, the Hi-gain from this guitar pickup is nothing short of a phenomenon. It delivers deep, throaty sounds that evoke that classic heavy metal sound. Competitors that offer the same or close to the same sound quality will often have a steeper price tag.

Who Will Use This Most

Mostly rock and alternative music musicians will find the most value from this guitar pickup. This is due to the deep and throaty sound quality often associated with those genres. Professional performers will find great value from this pickup due to the great range offered by the pickup.

Bottom Line    

This pickup offers great value for the money when you consider the great functionality it offers. The sound quality will be particularly attractive to rock musicians. Alternative rock musicians will be particularly impressed by the range this pickup can offer. This pickup is an easy recommendation for anyone looking to get the best bang for their buck.

Fender Vintage Noiseless Tele Pickups

PROS

  • Excellent value for the money
  • Great range and depth of tone
  • Has a flush-mounted pole for even string response
  • Has great string response, which adds to its convenience
  • Great, quality sound, which evokes the classic feel of the music

CONS

  • Can have a very loud hum when in use
  • Has a high defect rate due to inferior construction

What Recent Buyers Report

This seems like an easy recommendation for most people. Most buyers report about how they are amazed by the high-quality sound produced by this guitar pickup. The range offered is also praised as being second to none. The engineering that has gone into this piece of equipment to enable it to produce this kind of sound is incredible.

Why it Stands Out to Us

For many fans of the classic sound of electric guitars, this pickup will immediately become recognizable for its sound. It has undergone extensive engineering to produce the best kind of reflection of that classic vintage sound, which will remind everyone why they fell in love with electric guitars in the first place.

Who Will Use This Most

Fans of the classic vintage sound will greatly value this guitar pickup. Musicians doing covers of classic songs will find this guitar pickup particularly useful, as it will give that rich sound they aim to attain. Musicians looking to pay homage to the past through their music will also find the pickup particularly useful.

Bottom Line    

I find that this pickup has a niche market for it. People who lie within that niche will find great value in this pickup. I would not recommend this pickup to just anyone. I would first have to do an assessment on their need for one. It is worth mentioning that there have been instances where this pickup was faulty when delivered.

Gibson '57 Classic Plus Humbucker Pickup, Nickel

PROS

  • Has a wide musical range
  • Has a classic yet sensitive tone
  • Offers great value for the money
  • Warm tone that is easy to listen to
  • Is durable due to its enamel-coated wires

CONS

  • Can get hot after some usage
  • Is inconvenient, as it has to be soldered on

What Recent Buyers Report

Most buyers report high levels of satisfaction with this purchase, citing the clean and natural tones as the reason for their pleasure. The only regret most people have is not making the purchase sooner. A lot of buyers claim that this pickup is the best they have ever used. There are others that claim that the music produced is overall richer than its market counterparts.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This pickup does not offer anything quite unique, however, it is great in what it offers. It offers a great range in tone to the music it offers. It has sounds that are more natural sounding as compared to modern guitar pickups. The classic sounds are warmer and more sensitive than what the competition offers.

Who Will Use This Most

This pickup is great for professionals and amateurs alike. Professionals would extract great benefits from the range the pickup offers. This will help in the expression of their music, giving it more depth. Beginners and amateurs will find the natural tones better to learn from than the alternative.

Bottom Line

This pickup is excellent when it comes to value for money - it provides a warm and enveloping timbre that is easy to listen to, and the durable enamel-coated wires will give you many years of play. This is the pickup for you if you want no muss or fuss - just simplicity.

What Do I Need to Know Before Buying?

Pickups can be quite pricey, so one should do research on the pickup they are going to buy before they actually buy it. These are some factors to consider:

The Amp 

A good pickup will only be as good as the amplifier it is coupled with. A good amplifier does not have to be extremely expensive. One can always find a good amplifier that meets your needs at whatever budget range you are in.

Active vs. Passive

Active pickups are designed in a way that they experience reduced noise, have greater control when turning down the volume, and have less frequency loss when using long cables. Passive pickup is susceptible to external noise and trembles, both responses that can be shrill. 

Output

There are four types of output - low, medium, high, and vintage. Low output is meant for a small gathering, usually for someone's own personal practice. Medium is meant for intermediate crowds. High output is meant for concerts and large gatherings. The vintage output has a classic sound that aims to sound like classical guitar music.

Conclusion

An electric guitar pickup is an essential tool for any musician or sound technician using an electric guitar. It is, therefore, important to ensure you choose the appropriate tool, as it will be directly reflected in the outcome of your craft. This article will be essential in helping anyone in their creative journey.