Best Guitar Pickups of 2020 – Complete Review

Whether you are an experienced guitarist or a beginner, you must have heard about guitar pickups. They will help you diversify your skills and your music. If you cannot tell your single-coils from humbuckers, we are here to guide you through the best guitar pickups of this year and provide you all the info you need. 

Comparison Chart of the Best Guitar Pickups

PRODUCTDETAILS
gm2-table__image

Seymour Duncan Hot Rodded Humbucker Set

  • High level of versatility
  • Best guitar pickups overall
  • Alnico V Bar magnet for both pickups
View Latest Price
gm2-table__image

Lace Sensor Gold Guitar Pickups 3-Pack S-S-S Set

  • Crisp top end and bell-line sounds
  • Increased tonal range and improved string balance
  • 3-pack of single-coil pickups, duplicates of an early Fender single-coil pickup
View Latest Price
gm2-table__image

Seymour Duncan JB Jr Pickup

  • Best for the money
  • Twin-coil design combines the best of both worlds
  • High mids with a thick crunch on open power chords
View Latest Price
gm2-table__image

EMG ACS Acoustic Guitar Pickup

  • Best Acoustic Guitar Pickup
  • Brilliant top-ends, noise-free and easy installation
  • Unique internal preamp, tailored for frequency response and the phase of an acoustic guitar
View Latest Price
gm2-table__image

Fender Hot Noiseless 3 Pickup Set

  • Best response time
  • Best Electric Guitar Pickup
  • Bridge pickup screams with high gain
View Latest Price
gm2-table__image

KNA NG-1 Passive Piezo Pickup for Nylon String Guitar

  • Best Classical Guitar Pickup
  • Detachable, lightweight and unobtrusive
  • Does not require modification of the instrument
View Latest Price
gm2-table__image

EMG 57/66 Set Brushed Chrome

  • Best Guitar Pickup For Metal
  • Unmistakable PAF-like quality in tone
  • A modern look that compliments the design of any instrument
View Latest Price
gm2-table__image

Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Humbucker Pickup

  • Best Guitar Pickup For Rock
  • Raw edges and great sustain
  • Sweet, with bright top ends that emphasize the harmonics
View Latest Price
gm2-table__image

Fender Custom Shop Texas Special Strat Pickups

  • Eliminates hum
  • Balanced output and enhanced dynamics
  • Best Guitar Pickup For Blues with a warm, vintage tone
View Latest Price
gm2-table__image

EMG H4 Passive Electric Guitar Humbucker Pickup

  • Low bass sounds, glassy mids, and soaring highs
  • Best Passive Guitar Pickup with well-balanced tones
  • An affordable set of pickups with solderless and effortless installation
View Latest Price

What Are The Benefits of a Guitar Pickup?

It is clear that a pickup has many advantages, hence many guitarists experience some of them. Here are the main benefits of a guitar pickup:

More Expressivity

First of all, a pick up is more responsive to the string vibration, which enhances the expressivity of your tones. By being able to pick up more subtle tones, your guitar will now provide you with a greater tonal range than you can exploit in your tunes. 

Improve the Guitar

Guitarists that have an affordable model of their instrument, which is still playable, but not really up to the quality of a guitar to take on stage, will undoubtedly resort to investing in a pickup. 

Adding Some Heat and Aggression

If you are a metalhead or a heavy rocker, you must be in search of something to add a lot of aggression and heat. Getting an active humbucker with high output is exactly what you need. 

In Search of Long-Lost Days

What if you are a blues or country player, dreaming about the 1950s vintage sounds? Players who want true vintage sounds will turn to vintage-inspired humbuckers that will help them achieve their dreams.  

Characteristics of Our Favorite Guitar Pickup

We have prepared for you a shortlist of the best guitar pickups of this year, keeping in mind all kinds of needs and preferences. Here are some common characteristics of our favorite guitar pickups:

Quality and Performance

First of all, the quality of your new pickup is the core of our research. The best features regarding this sphere focus on clarity of tones, hum cancellation, but also ease of installation, among others. Some products have higher outputs, other lower output but richer tones. Regardless of your preferences, all of our pickups have noise cancelation properties and stay true to the guitar’s tones. 

Budget

Our products are for different budgets, but overall, none of them break the bank. Whether you want a passive or active pickup, great for nylon-stringed guitar, or maybe metal, our models are affordable and, most importantly, they offer value for your money. 

Preferences

There are quite some differences between music styles, play styles, and instruments. That being said, it is normal that there is a proportional variation between pickups, too. We have got you covered, and we classified each pickup, bearing in mind different uses and needs. 

Have a look at the reviews below for a short description of each pickup, how it performs best, and what it can do.

Review of the Best Guitar Pickups

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best models available on the market to help you find the best pickups for your needs.

PROS

  • Strong definition
  • Bold and dense tones
  • Add impressive fatness and warmth
  • Includes pickup set, three sets of strings and cable
  • Bundle value with three sets of strings and cable included
  • Extremely versatile, ideal for any music genre from blues to metal and rock

CONS

  • Quite difficult to use
  • Strings quality is not so great

What Recent Buyers Report

You shall not allow the low price to fool you; this set of humbuckers is impressive! Once you put them on, you will notice straight away that the chords are cleaner, even when distorted, and the solos are absolutely remarkable. Tones are fat, and they add warmth. This product is extremely versatile, a great asset for any guitarist!

Why it Stands Out to Us

Seymour Duncan Hot Rodded Humbucker Set is an affordable bundle. It comes with two humbuckers, one for guitar’s neck and one for the bridge, three sets of strings, and cable. They are highly recommended for their versatility and impressive performance. Both pickups have Alnico V Bar magnets.

Who Will Use This Most

The best feature of this set of humbuckers is their versatility. They are suitable for any music genre, whether it is country, blues, rock, or metal. They clean the chords, add warmth, and fatness to the bold tones. Beginners reported that they are quite difficult to install, but the instructions should help a great deal.

Bottom Line

All in all, Seymour Duncan Hot Rodded Humbucker Set is the top recommendation in this category for this year. They are affordable, offer great value for money, and they are suitable for any guitarists of any skill level. If you want versatility and quality, this product should be on the top of your list.

PROS

  • Phenomenal signal-to-noise ratio
  • Easy to install with clear instructions
  • Maintains the true pitch of the strings
  • Virtually nonexistent string dampening, increasing sustain
  • A wider range of harmonics with a complex tonal response

CONS

  • Might sound too vintage, so not so versatile

What Recent Buyers Report

If you are looking for a vintage sound, classic Strat from the 1950s to the 1970s, this is the set of pickups for you. They produce virtually no noise, with crisp, clear, and bell-like sounds. The high distortion tone is amazing, with excellent high treble sounds, and they do not sound too middy.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Lace Sensor Gold Guitar Pickups 3-Pack is a reiteration of Fender’s early single-coil pickups. However, what is different is the embodiment of the latest technologies, so guitarists benefit from vintage sounds, without the hassle of noise. They increase sustain significantly and maintain the true pitch of the string.

Who Will Use This Most

This set of pickups is great, but they are not for everyone. Given their vintage tonal palette, it is best recommended to use with older classical genres, especially rock and blues. They provide considerably low output, like any other single-coils, and the signal is even and pure.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, Lace Sensor Gold Guitar Pickups 3-Pack is a great set of pickups if you are looking for a vintage sound, ideal for blues and rock. They can bring your guitar to life with crisp, clear, and bell-like sounds in no time. They are the right strength for a classic Strat sound.

Best for the Money:
Seymour Duncan JB Jr Pickup

PROS

  • Eases guitar fine-tuning
  • Ideal for leads and rock riffs
  • Great to cut through the mix
  • Comes with adjustable pole pieces
  • Heavy and rich tones with beautiful fullness
  • Twin-coil humbucker with the sound abilities of a leading single-coil pickup

CONS

  • Cleans are not too great
  • Can be too bright in alder or ash guitars
  • Can get muddy at hard rock and metal levels of distortion in the neck (meant to be placed at the bridge)

What Recent Buyers Report

Despite its medium price range, this set of pickups come with premium features and qualities. They have a twin-coil design, but you can still enjoy the personality of single-coil pickup, without all the hum associated with it. You should expect a sweet high-end and great harmonics.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Seymour Duncan JB Jr Pickup is a twin coil design pickup that comes with adjustable pole pieces. This closely emulates the magnetic field of a full-size humbucker, which allows you to fine-tune the strings’ balance. They have a more treble response, with the fatness of a humbucker and single-coil sound.

Who Will Use This Most

If you’re tired of twangy single coils, this might be the product for you. You get great distortion and harmonics, and you can adjust the pole pieces until you reach the crunchiness you want. This set will offer you versatility, and they are great for sharp solos and solid riffs.

Bottom Line

Overall, Seymour Duncan JB Jr Pickup offers the perfect combination of bassy cleans, maintaining a crisp sound at the same time. They are easy to install, with simple instructions, and they combine the best of single-coils and humbuckers. Responsive and loud, you should definitely shortlist Seymour Duncan JB.

Best Acoustic Guitar Pickup:
EMG ACS Acoustic Guitar Pickup

PROS

  • Brilliant top-ends
  • Great for band play
  • Easy to install and versatile
  • Authentic acoustic tones with higher volume
  • Unique internal preamp tailored for acoustic guitars

CONS

  • Requires minor cutting

What Recent Buyers Report

This product is easy to install (with proper tools) and use. There is no hum, but the sounds are loud, rich, and warm. The top three strings are louder than the bottom three, but you can easily get a balanced sound if you raise the bottom three pickup poles. The volume knob is easy to access.

Why it Stands Out to Us

EMG Pickups ACS offer a broader frequency range than a piezo pickup, and they are great for acoustic guitars. They offer enough volume to play with a large band, due to the unique internal preamp. They retain the brilliant top-end of the acoustic tones and provide overall great performance.

Who Will Use This Most

This pickup set is ideal for acoustic guitarists, from fingerstyle players to rockers. It is easy to install, although it might require minor cutting. The design is user-friendly, with an accessible volume knob. Whether you play solo or in a large band, this set of pickups will boost your acoustic guitar tones, without any noise or hum.

Bottom Line

EMG ACS Acoustic Guitar Pickup is a great set of pickups, ideal for recording or live performances. They boost the acoustic tones without providing any noise and maintaining the tonal qualities. Fingerstyle players and rockers, with anything in between, will find this product a great asset.

Best Electric Guitar Pickup:
Fender Hot Noiseless 3 Pickup Set

PROS

  • Impressive output
  • Enhanced tonal dynamics
  • Tones are clean, clear and full
  • Bridge pickup screams at high gain
  • Warm and punchy with a bluesy feel for the neck pickup

CONS

  • Tone controls might need some tweaking
  • Pickup ribbon wires are incredibly delicate, handle with extra care

What Recent Buyers Report

This set of pickups offer the hot and edgy sounds of a single-coil, without noise or humming. They add a little kick and boost without compromising on tone or clarity. The noiseless feature is always a plus when it comes to pickups – you need to give it a try!

Why it Stands Out to Us

Fender Hot Noiseless 3 Pickup Set provides authentic, vintage tones with no noise. The bridge pickup gets heavy and tight, and you can use them with any amount of gain. The neck pickup delivers beautiful bluesy tones, which makes them very versatile. They are very delicate, so make sure you handle them with care.

Who Will Use This Most

This set of pickups is hot and noiseless, offering great versatility. They are ideal for hard rock, blues, or anything in between. They are not suitable for metal, but they were not designed for it. If you want the traditional, authentic Strat sounds, this is how you can achieve it.

Bottom Line

Overall, the Fender Hot Noiseless 3 Pickup Set is a great product, highly recommended for its authenticity. The bridge is noticeably hotter than the other two; you might need to tweak the tone control in the beginning, but they offer great sound at an affordable price.

PROS

  • Great sounds with good volume
  • Easy to install, can be removed when not in use
  • Ideal for amplifying a classical guitar (nylon-stringed)
  • Enhances the natural sound of the nylon-stringed guitar
  • Can be used for recording or amplifying a classical guitar
  • Not obtrusive, the installation does not require any instrument modification

CONS

  • Very fragile, handle with great care

What Recent Buyers Report

This pickup works seamlessly with classical guitars that have nylon strings. It goes on the tie block behind the saddle, which means that this piezo pickup is detachable, and it does not interfere with the guitar’s sound. It is easily the best external pickup solution for nylon-stringed guitar.

Why it Stands Out to Us

Kremona passive piezo pickup for nylon-stringed guitars is a must-have solution for any classical guitar enthusiast. It is encased in lightweight tonewood, ensuring that the natural sounds of your instrument are preserved without modification. It is easy to install and can be detached when not needed.

Who Will Use This Most

NG-1 is the best choice for nylon-stringed enthusiasts who want to amplify their classical guitar, whether it is for recording or live performances. It is a passive solution designed to work seamlessly with your instrument. It is great for beginners, too, as it does not require any modification and can be installed quickly and easily.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, the Kremona passive pickup offers great performance and comes with a friendly price tag. It is an ingenious system that will make your classical guitar louder, preserving all of its sound qualities without interferences. It is easy to use and can be detached when it is not needed.

Best Guitar Pickup For Metal:
EMG 57/66 Set Brushed Chrome

PROS

  • Endless headroom and punch
  • Extreme definition and presence
  • Easy to use, close to passive tones
  • Enhanced clarity in the upper range
  • Extremely versatile, ideal for metal guitarists
  • Warm, smooth mid-range with expansive lows

CONS

  • Quite pricey

What Recent Buyers Report

These pickups are impressively organic; they are very close to passive tones, but with added presence. They work great with pedals, but you might have to back off the volume with some of them or simply use a compressor. They have high output, with high gain crunch and versatility.

Why it Stands Out to Us

This set of pickups features a 57 and a 66 in a brushed steel cap. They have a sleek, modern look that emulates the needs of modern guitarists. It is a combination of Alnico V magnets and steel pole pieces, which offer a metal chugging rhythm tone, with great performance regarding the cleanliness of tones.

Who Will Use This Most

This set of pickups is best for metal, but their versatility is outstanding. They have high output, with beautifully clean and crisp tones. They have high gain crunch, with considerable versatility. They have PAF-like quality to them, with deep fat bass and a sparkly top end, without sounding strident.

Bottom Line

In the end, it is safe to say that EMG 57/66 Set Brushed Chrome is the best combination of a vintage sound with most modern technology. They are a unique set of humbuckers, and the users will love the clarity and the detail of the sounds.

PROS

  • Deep and dirty distortion
  • Warm, fat and clean tones
  • Easy, intuitive installation process
  • Great versatility and flexibility
  • Vintage design with super-hot output, ideal for rock
  • They clean nicely with adjustments to tone and volume without muddying

CONS

  • None

What Recent Buyers Report

This set of pickups offer the classic vintage vibe, only with a tad more sizzle. They come with the classic PAF eq that makes the mids scoop out just a bit. The low output allows the tones of the guitar to remain true. If you want a set of pickups to enhance the sound of your guitar, this is what you need!

Why it Stands Out to Us

This set of pickups is great for achieving the raw, rebellious tones of Texas blues-rock. They are sweet, with great sustain and a bright top-end. They deliver the much-needed midrange growl, and they retain tonal cleanliness. The notes become more defined, with very cool overtones.

Who Will Use This Most

The Pearly Gates are great for anyone who strives to achieve the Texas tone. They come with a vintage PAF, adding a little bump in the output and the high-ends, which makes them ideal for classic rock styles and harder blues. They work exceptionally well with ebony and maple fingerboards.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, if you want a classic vintage vibe with a bit more sizzle, this is the set of pickups for you. The top-end sizzles – imagine throwing a raw steak on a hot grill! If you enjoy this raw, aggressive, yet controllable top-end, this the product you’ve been looking for!

PROS

  • Alnico 5 magnets
  • Best for blues, vintage tones
  • More focus and enhanced dynamics
  • Crystal-clear highs with mids chirp and tight bass
  • Enamel-coated magnet wire enhances the warmth of tonality

CONS

  • The hardware supplied (especially the screws) does not fit

What Recent Buyers Report

The price is higher than other products’, but it certainly matches the quality and performance of these pickups. They are durable and maintain strong song qualities. They are great for their vintage tones, although you might have a rough time installing them as the screws supplied do not fit.

Why it Stands Out to Us

These pickups have some real attitude. They offer abundant mids bark, with a crisp high-end bite, and they are calibrated for each position with a reserve-wound, reserve coil pickup that cancels the noise. Unique, beautiful tones come to life when you plug these in!

Who Will Use This Most

They are best for blues players, but multi-style guitarists love them, too, including rock, indie, and country. They have rich, buttery smooth tones, and they are perfect for waking up your instrument. They will come alive, especially if you crank up the overdrive a bit!

Bottom Line

Clear as a bell; the Fender Custom Shop Texas Special Strat Pickups are what you need if you are a blues player. They might not be the cheapest set of pickups, but, in the end, nothing good in life is for free. Check out this set of pickups and make sure you give them a chance!

PROS

  • Rock or heavy modern guitar sounds
  • Well-balanced tones, warmth, and clarity
  • Tight bass response with crunchy highs and glassy mids
  • In the bridge position, they shine with range, responsiveness, and harmonics
  • Reduced noise due to the over-wound coils loaded with ceramic bar magnets

CONS

  • Only one pickup per package
  • Optimized only for the neck position

What Recent Buyers Report

EMG H4 offers the ‘active’ tone without the ‘active’ part, the battery. The crunch is strong, without the muddiness of many other alternatives. There are no residual noises, and the sustain is particularly sweet. If you want to get rid of battery hassle, this pickup is the best passive one that replicates an active pickup faithfully.

Why it Stands Out to Us

The H4 combines the power of the active EMG 81 with the design of a traditional PAF passive pickup, resulting in a unique, high-quality passive pickup. It has a tight bass response, with roading and crystal-clear mids and an extra crunch on the highs. It is fully shielded, which eliminates unwanted noise.

Who Will Use This Most

If you are not a fan of having to keep a battery in your instrument, this passive pickup is all you need. It is a metalhead’s dream, with clean, crisp sounds and right bass response. The broad frequency response recommends it for metal, especially due to the fatter and warmer high-ends, instead of the screechy squeal of other passive pickups.

Bottom Line

If you are looking for an affordable passive pickup for your guitar, we wholeheartedly recommend the EMG H4. It is well-received by the musicians’ community and has an outstanding performance. Whether you prefer the crystal clarity of the clean channel or the overdrive and distortion of the dirty channel, this is the product for you!

Types of Guitar Pickups

All of the pickups we introduced you to are either active, most of them, or passive. They function differently, considering that an active pickup requires a battery, unlike a passive one, and they deliver different tones. 

Electric Guitar Pickups – Single Coil

Single coils use a single magnet, and they are usually the brightest of all-electric guitar pickups. They are used in country and surf music, but they sound great with other genres, too, but not so much with hard rock or metal. 

Electric Guitar Pickups – Humbuckers

A humbucker is a combo of two single-coil pickups. Single coil pickups deliver background electrical noise to the amp – while humbuckers were made to cancel this hum. They have warm tones, ideal for jazz. Their higher output recommends them for metal or heavy rock, but not so much for surf and country. 

Electric Guitar Pickups –P90

P90 is the combo of both worlds – ideal for blues, classic rock, and generally very versatile. 

Acoustic Pickups

The most common acoustic pickup is the piezo pickup, which is a type of transducer pickup located under the saddle, where the strings pass over. They are resistant to feedback, and they are great for playing in larger venues. 

How to Install a Guitar Pickup

Here is a short guideline on how to install a new guitar pickup:

  1. Look at the back of the guitar and remove the electrical covers (the pickguard assembly on a Strat). Detach any wires that go from the pickguard assembly so you can replace the pickups with ease.  

  2. Remove the solder from the hot and ground wires from the pickup that will be replaced. Touch the solder with the soldering gun and pull the wires apart. Ideally, you should take photos of where they initially are, as you need to know where you place them in the replacement pickup. 

  3. Remove the stock pickups by taking out the two screws on them. Gently remove the old pickups, leaving enough lead wire for positive and ground. Keep all the screws, springs, and pickup covers.

  4. Use the shortcuts so that you do not have to chase the wires through precisely drilled holes by taping a guide string or small gauge wire to the ends of the ground and hot. 

  5. Use the diagram that comes with the new pickups to see which color is for hot and which is for ground. Tape the two wires to the guide string if needed; pull them easily, so you do not rip the wires out of the guitar. 

  6. Solder in the pickups.

  7. Put all the hardware back, ensuring there is no room for sound distortion. 

  8. Check out your work – if you can hear the signal, you’ve done it! If not, go back to the diagram. 

Conclusion

Overall, it is now clear how varied pickups are. And there is a variation for taste and preference, too. Make sure you examine your choices carefully before you purchase. A new pickup can help bring some life into your guitar if it is a good-quality one. 

Make sure you consider our models above; they are ideal in terms of sound quality, performance, durability, and they are also pocket-friendly!

People Also Ask

If you have reached this point and still have a couple of questions in your mind, keep reading to find out more!

How Long Do Guitar Pickups Last?

Guitar pickups usually last for 1-2 years, but it depends on how often you play your guitar and the style, too. For instance, a high-output humbucker is the least durable one, able to break after less than six months if played on a metal guitar. 

Do All Pickups Fit All Guitars?

Most modern guitars are now made to fit both single coils and humbuckers. If not, you can always choose the humbucker-sized single-coil or a single coil-sized humbucker. There’s plenty of choices and options!

Does Pickup Height Affect Tone?

Yes. Adjusting the pickup height will affect the instrument’s output, but this adjustment can also affect the tone. For instance, if you adjust it too high, the strings will touch the pickup covers or the pole pieces. 

How Do You Check Guitar Pickups?

You can test a pickup by setting a multimeter to the ohm setting. Touch the red test lead to the pickup’s lead (hot) and place the black test lead to the ground wire. If you have a humbucker with four wires, make sure they are all properly connected. 

How Do You Know if a Guitar Pickup is Bad?

Once you test it and you have no reading, the pickups are most likely bad. Single-coil pickups should read about 10 ohms, while humbuckers should be closer to 20 ohms.