21 Best Humbucker Pickups in 2021 (All Styles and Price Ranges)

Swapping out pickups is one of the most popular modifications players will make to their electric guitar. It’s relatively simple and upgrading the stock pickups that come in a more affordable model electric guitar with something higher quality can really do wonders for your tone. In this article, we’ll be looking specifically at humbucker pickups.

Best Humbucker Pickups (Featured Image)

Whether you are looking for a classic blues vibe, a heavy metal thrash, something more modern oriented, or a tasteful clean tone, there are some incredible humbuckers available for you. I’ll start this article by reviewing the best humbucker pickups at each price point and for each style of guitar, but if you want to learn more about them before reading reviews, you can start with our humbucker pickup buying guide at the bottom of the page.

Name of ProductImage of ProductDescriptionPrice RangeFull Review
1. Gibson Burstbucker Type 2Gibson Burstbucker Type 2Active or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: No
$150Read Full Review Below
2. Seymour Duncan 11205-02 SHR-1b Hot Rails (Best Humbucker Pickup for Strat)Seymour Duncan 11205 02 SHR 1b Hot RailsActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: No
$85Read Full Review Below
3. Seymour Duncan 1110213-B SH-4 JB Model (Best for Telecaster Neck)Seymour Duncan 1110213 B SH 4 JB ModelActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: Yes
$80Read Full Review Below
4. Seymour Duncan ST59-1 Little 59 Lead (Best for Telecaster Bridge Position)Seymour Duncan ST59 1 Little 59 LeadActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: Yes
$90Read Full Review Below
5. Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates set (SH-PG1N and 1B (Best for Blues)Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates setActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: Yes
$250Read Full Review Below
6. Seymour Duncan SH2N (Best For Jazz)Seymour Duncan SH2NActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: No
$80Read Full Review Below
7. Seymour Duncan SJBJ-1b JB JuniorSeymour Duncan SJBJ 1b JB JuniorActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: Yes
$90Read Full Review Below
8. Tom Anderson Humbucker Set (H1 and H2)Tom Anderson Humbucker SetActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: Yes
$230Read Full Review Below
9. Seymour Duncan SH-18 Whole Lotta Bucker Set (Jimmy Page Signature)Seymour Duncan SH-18 Whole Lotta Bucker SetActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: Yes
$230Read Full Review Below
10. EMG ZW Zakk Wylde Signature Humbucker Guitar Pickup SetEMG ZW Zakk Wylde Signature Humbucker Guitar Pickup SetActive or Passive: Active
Coil Tap: No
$200Read Full Review Below
11. Suhr Doug Aldrich Humbucker Pickup Set (DA-B and DA-N)Suhr Doug Aldrich Humbucker Pickup Set (DA-B and DA-N)Active or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: Yes
$250Read Full Review Below
12. Seymour Duncan SH8 InvaderSeymour Duncan SH8 InvaderActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: Yes
$100Read Full Review Below
13. Lace Led Sensor Double Gold DuallyLace Led Sensor Double Gold DuallyActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: Yes
$100Read Full Review Below
14. EMG JH James Hetfield Signature Humbucker SetEMG JH James Hetfield Signature Humbucker SetActive or Passive: Active
Coil Tap: No
$250Read Full Review Below
15. Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Joe Bonamassa Amos Humbucker SetSeymour Duncan Custom Shop Joe Bonamassa Amos Humbucker SetActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: No
$350Read Full Review Below
16. EMG Dual Mode 57/66 Humbucker SetEMG Dual Mode 57/66 Humbucker SetActive or Passive: Active
Coil Tap: Yes
$310Read Full Review Below
17. Bare Knuckle Pickups The Juggernaut Humbucker SetBare Knuckle Pickups The Juggernaut Humbucker SetActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: Yes
$300Read Full Review Below
18. Seymour Duncan APH-2S Slash Signature Humbucker SetSeymour Duncan APH-2S Slash Signature Humbucker SetActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: No
$250Read Full Review Below
19. Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker SetFishman Fluence Modern Humbucker SetActive or Passive: Active
Coil Tap: Yes
$240Read Full Review Below
20. EMG LF-DMF Lars Frederiksen Signature Humbucker SetEMG LF-DMF Lars Frederiksen Signature Humbucker SetActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: No
$250Read Full Review Below
21. Seymour Duncan Wes Hauch Jupiter Rails Humbucker SetSeymour Duncan Wes Hauch Jupiter Rails Humbucker SetActive or Passive: Passive
Coil Tap: Yes
$250Read Full Review Below

Here Are the Best Humbucker Pickups (All Styles)

1. Gibson Burstbucker Type 2 (Best for Classic Gibson Tone)

Gibson Burstbucker Type 2

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Estimated Price $225
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap No
Coil Split No
Phase Reversal No

My Review: Gibson’s years of innovation and improvements of humbucker pickups can be seen in their line of Burstbuckers. The first one that we’ll be discussing here is the Burstbucker Type 2. These pickups are made after the good old PAF pickups from the 1950s, especially the kind that was found on the ’57 Les Paul pickups. The only major difference is that the output is slightly “hotter” than those vintage examples from back in the day. You can find both covered and uncovered versions of this pickup, giving guitarists even more options.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: If we were to listen closely to these pickups, we’d notice a lot of crunch and crispiness. What’s very exciting is that, with the right setting, you might even get tricked that there’s a single-coil pickup involved in recorded guitar tracks due to a very specific harmonic content. But at the same time, they retain a very tight tone. Due to a “hotter” output signal, these pickups are also great for some hard rock, classic metal, and even modern metal music. On the other hand, you can also use them for blues and jazz music, especially if you roll off volume and tone controls.

Bottom Line: The best thing about these pickups is their versatility. Covered versions, as we’ve presented here, are a bit more reliable as they’ll have more shielding to keep things quieter. Whatever is the genre, or group of genres, that you prefer, these pickups will do the trick.

2. Seymour Duncan 11205-02 SHR-1b Hot Rails (Best for Strats)

Seymour Duncan 11205 02 SHR 1b Hot Rails

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Estimated Price $85
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap No
Coil Split No
Phase Reversal No

Overall Design and Features: Seymour Duncan never ceases to impress us with their incredible pickups, be it single-coils or humbuckers. But in case you’re a fan of traditionally single-coil guitar but don’t feel like cutting the electronics cover or, even worse, expanding the body cavities by ruining your instrument’s wooden body construction, then you can always go with classic Hot Rails pickups. These are essentially humbuckers made in a smaller single-coil size, bringing that thick middle-heavy tone in a more practical form. Seymour Duncan, of course, has a lot to offer here, like their 11205-02 SHR-1b pickup. This particular model is especially popular among Stratocaster lovers due to its special design.

These are the classic Hot Rails, meaning that they don’t come with the regular magnet poles. Instead, it features two individual “rails” that cover the tone a bit differently. While you can’t adjust it according to individual string height levels, they are pretty good with their full continuous magnetic field due to the rail design. These are ceramic magnets, which impact the tone in their own ways. It’s important to note that Seymour Duncan’s SHR-1b is intended strictly for the bridge position where it gives the best results. And although it’s intended mainly for Strats (especially Super-Strat kind of guitars), you can use it on any guitar that’s traditionally associated with single-coil pickups.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: One of the main traits of the SHR-1b model is its high output. In fact, this pickup is pretty hot, allowing you to play some pretty heavy tones. However, it’s more than just a loud pickup since it also brings a lot of “fat” in the mix, resulting in a tone with very tight bottom-ends.

Bottom Line: Hot Rails do bring a slightly different tone compared to regular humbuckers, mostly due to two coils being closer together. Nonetheless, you’ll still notice a lot of sustain and mid-heavy tones with it. In case you’re a Strat lover and want some heavier tones, without having to do any unwanted adjustments to your instrument, this is the perfect perfect bridge humbucker pickup for your needs. For the money, I would say this best humbucker pickup for Strat guitars.

3. Seymour Duncan 1110213-B SH-4 JB Model (Best for Telecaster Neck)

Seymour Duncan 1110213 B SH 4 JB Model

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Estimated Price $80
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap Yes
Coil Split Yes
Phase Reversal No

Overall Design and Features: With Seymour Duncan’s powerful arsenal, things can get pretty wild. It packs a great clean tone but is very versatile as well for heavier tones. I particularly like the SH-4 JB as a humbucker pickup for telecaster neck if you happen to have a full-size humbucker in the neck pickup slot on your Tele. This powerful pickup comes in both 7-string and 6-string forms, as well as an additional “Nighthawk” mode for those guitars that have angled humbuckers (like Gibson’s rare Nighthawk model, after which it got this nickname).

This one brings a classic bridge pickup design. It’s completely uncovered and has adjustable polepieces closer to the bridge. This also makes it suitable for those who have old-school-oriented guitars or just strings adjusted at different height levels. Its main components are standard Alnico 5 magnets, featuring standard spacing. We also have a few different color variants, although black is the most common one.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: The main thing to note here is that the pickup features some pretty high output levels. And we’re talking some pretty “hot” territories here. However, this “hot-rodded” humbucker is not all about metal music. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see it on jazz guitars due to the unique way how it processes the mids. So it can also come in handy even for blues music. The SH-4 JB Model humbucker is quite often paired with Seymour Duncan’s SH-2n model in the neck position. This combo is pretty versatile and brings some amazing options, especially if you do some coil-splitting or coil-tapping variants. Just bear in mind that it’s a really hot one, especially if you’re pairing it with a single-coil, a P90 pickup, or just a cool, mellow humbucker in the neck position.

Bottom Line: With this said, the SH-4 JB Model by Seymour Duncan is one of the best options for those versatile players who dabble in more than one genre. But even if you’re strictly into blues, rock, hard rock, metal, or jazz player, you won’t go wrong with it. This is especially the case if you’re using a dynamically responsive tube amp and can easily control things with a volume potentiometer on your guitar to create different tones. In my opinion, this is the best humbucker pickup for Telecaster necks.

4. Seymour Duncan ST59-1 Little 59 Lead (Best for Telecaster Bridge Position)

Seymour Duncan ST59 1 Little 59 Lead

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Estimated Price $90
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap Yes
Coil Split Yes
Phase Reversal No

Overall Design and Features: Not being able to resist their wonderful collection, we have yet another SD humbucker on this list. We mentioned one great example that comes as a solution for Strat lovers who don’t want to do any significant adjustments to their guitars. However, what shall we do about those who love their Telecasters and yet want a nice beefy humbucker? A great solution for those guitarists comes in form of Seymour Duncan’s ST59-1 Little ’59 Lead pickup. This is yet another humbucker packed in a single-coil sized design. However, this time around we have the regular formation with two coils featuring regular magnetic poles. But what’s quite interesting that all of the 12 poles on it are completely adjustable, making it a great choice for those who want to tweak everything to the tiniest detail. This one comes with ceramic magnets and even has a 4-conductor cable for more wiring options.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: Now, when it comes to the sonic output, this is a fairly interesting pickup. Although it’s a classic humbucker with the regular mid-heavy tone, there’s a slight influx of those “twangy” tones, specially molded for those who love the classic Telecaster sound. Designed for the bridge position and coming with a medium output, you’ll find it useful for blues, hard rock, as well as old school classic heavy metal music. It’s usually paired with the Hot Rhythm in the neck position, although you’ll find it useful even if you’re using regular stock single-coil pickups. And using the 4-conductor cable design, you’ll manage to bring a fully single-coil tone to the equation as well.

Bottom Line: A lot of humbucker pickups try to blend those PAF characteristics with some “twangy” tones of single-coils. However, rarely any of them comes close to what this one is capable of. It’s a great investment, especially considering the fact that it outperforms its price level.

5. Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Set SH-PG1N and 1B (Best for Blues)

Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates set

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Estimated Price $240
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap Yes
Coil Split Yes
Phase Reversal Yes

My Review: Another great example by Seymour Duncan, here we have a meticulously made humbucker set that replicates yet another of those old Gibson pickup variations. This time around, the company was inspired by Billy Gibbons and his legendary Les Paul from ’59, nicknamed “Pearly Gates.” Aside from the use of Alnico 2 magnets, these pickups also come in a few variations. You can either get your hands on an uncovered version or a few other covered variations.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: But all of these special designs and build traits are done to bring an awesome-sounding guitar tone. What’s quite interesting is that these humbuckers bring higher ends into the sonic equation. But while mid and bass parts of the spectrum are noticeably less pronounced compared to the crisp higher end, the bottom-end is slightly more pronounced than the mids. And this makes the tone pretty interesting, bringing that strong harmonic content that’s somewhat close to the tone of single-coils.

Sure, you won’t have that same attack and the pickups will still be more controlled compared to single-coils, but it’s still a pretty great twist to the classic humbucker design.
With all this said, Seymour Duncan’s Pearly Gates set is great for those overdriven or slightly “fuzzy” tones. They show their best potential with some vintage-oriented tube amps paired with overdrive pedals. Therefore, we’d mostly recommend them for blues, blues rock, and hard rock music.

Bottom Line: Although a bit more expensive, these pickups are definitely worth it. The SD Pearly Gates set is one of the best guitar components that will help you sound like ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons. In my opinion, these are easily some of the best humbucker pickups for blues.

Popular Related Article: 17 Must Have Guitar Pedals Every Guitarist Should Own

6. Seymour Duncan SH2N (Best For Jazz)

Seymour Duncan SH2N

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Estimated Price $80
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap No
Coil Split No
Phase Reversal No

My Review: Seymour Duncan is one of the biggest players in the guitar pickup game. Their pickups are known for being high quality and a lot of big brands, including Fender and Epiphone, are putting Seymour Duncan pickups in their electric guitars. Bringing those classic Gibson PAF pickups into new territories, there are plenty of great SD humbuckers worth mentioning here. The one that we found to be quite interesting is the SH2N model.

Now, this is a primarily jazz-oriented humbucker pickup but is an awesome choice for any 6-string guitar’s neck position. They’re usually paired with Seymour Duncan’s SH-4 or SH-5 pickup models in the bridge position, but they also work with pretty much any standard bridge humbucker. This pickup comes with standard Alnico 5 magnets and can be covered or uncovered. It’s also equipped with a 4-conductor lead wire and is designed in such a way to keep a pretty clean and controlled performance.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: With all these things said above, this neck pickup is designed for those smooth jazzy tones while keeping some trebles in the mix as well. But what’s very interesting is that Seymour Duncan SH2N also comes in handy for plenty of different settings, especially if you’re a lead player who prefers to solo using a neck humbucker. It’s pretty great for modern prog rock and prog metal players who love those smooth neck position humbucker tones with some bright overtones mixed in there as well.

Bottom Line: Considering its price, this pickup is more than worth it. We’d recommend it to any lead player, no matter the genre, although we thought it works the best in prog rock and prog metal settings.

7. Seymour Duncan SJBJ-1b JB Junior

Seymour Duncan SJBJ 1b JB Junior

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Estimated Price $90
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap Yes
Coil Split Yes
Phase Reversal No

Overall Design and Features: Another one for Stratocaster lovers, or anyone who prefers the single-coil size, we have Seymour Duncan’s SJBJ-1b JB Junior humbucker pickup to recommend. This one is intended for the bridge position, mostly for those who prefer Stratocasters, although it’s also useful for regular Telecaster-styled instruments. It comes with two individual coils and regular magnetic poles on both of them. Once again, we have 12 completely adjustable poles for more tone-tweaking versatility. Coming with ceramic magnets, it’s a fairly basic design in most of its features, although the 4-conductor wire brings additional versatility in wiring options.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: But the sonic output is where things stand out with Seymour Duncan SJBJ-1b JB Junior humbucking pickup. The pickup might not be as hot as those regular Hot Rails models. However, the output is still pretty high and somewhat “balanced.” This brings way more options for its implementation in practice. And pair it up with the fact that you can do more wiring options with ease, you can bring genuine single-coil tones. What’s also great about it is that you won’t need to worry much about pairing it with single-coil pickups, or any lower- to mid-output pickups in the middle or bridge positions. It’s useful for pretty much any genre that comes to mind and works well with any kind of pedals or amps.

Bottom Line: Overall, Seymour Duncan’s SJBJ-1b JB Junior is an all-around awesome pickup. There’s simply no way that you can go wrong with it if you need a single-coil-sized pickup with a great humbucker tone. Good stuff!

Popular Related Article: The Best Strat Pickups on the Market Right Now

8. Tom Anderson Humbucker Set H1 and H2 (Best for Prog Rock)

Tom Anderson Humbucker Set

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Estimated Price $230
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap Yes
Coil Split Yes
Phase Reversal Yes

My Review: With all the different guitar brands and manufacturers on the market, we often tend to overlook the greatness of some relatively smaller guitar makers out there. One of the most underrated examples is Tom Anderson Guitarworks. But aside from awesome guitars, they’re also making and selling individual pickups and pickup sets. So here, we’re bringing the H1 and H2 models in a well-conceived pair. One of the most notable traits here is that all of these come with completely flat pole pieces. This particular feature makes these humbuckers a great option for guitars with flatter neck radiuses. Overall, they’re more modern-oriented, but they still bring a lot of versatility to the equation.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: When it comes to the tone, the H1 model, which is intended for the neck position, has a somewhat of a vintage twist to an otherwise modern tone. Although with a very well-conceived distribution of frequencies over the audible spectrum, this particular humbucker model has a lower output. But, interestingly enough, it’s designed in such a way to balance things out with those “hotter” bridge humbuckers.

And, while we’re at it, the H2 is not super “hot” but rather somewhere in between. It’s a very well-balanced humbucker pickup when it comes to the overall output. Its mildly “hot” nature makes it easy to control and fairly versatile, especially when paired with a slightly softer-sounding neck pickup like the H1 model.

Both pickups come in uncovered versions, but still manage to keep things as quiet as possible due to their special design features. Their biggest strength shows in the versatility, although you’d probably don’t want to use them for some of those super heavy genres. They’re a great choice for lead guitar players and those who play in bigger bands where things need to be balanced out between rhythm and lead sections.

Bottom Line: Another example of professional-level pickups, Tom Anderson H1 and H2 models are a bit more specific compared to some other humbuckers that we’ve mentioned on this list. The overall balance between power and smoothness is what makes them so great.

9. Seymour Duncan SH-18 Whole Lotta Bucker Set (Best for Hard Rock)

Seymour Duncan SH-18 Whole Lotta Bucker Set

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Estimated Price $230
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap Yes
Coil Split Yes
Phase Reversal Yes

My Review: What Gibson developed back in the day, Seymour Duncan managed to explore further and bring into some new territories, all while keeping true to some of the basic sonic qualities of the pickups that we all love and adore. While we’re at it, Seymour Duncan also paid tribute to Gibson and one of the most famous humbucker lovers of all time, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page.

To fill out these sonic properties that he’s well-known for, the SH-18 humbucker pickups have their Alnico 5 magnets sand-casted. What’s more, they’re wrapped with a special 42-gauge plain-enamel wire, as well as a nickel silver bottom plate. They’re also accompanied by a quality 4-conductor wire, which makes it easy to set up coil split or coil tap options. It’s all accompanied by a nicely done cover which keeps things quiet and smooth.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: The whole idea behind Seymour Duncan’s SH-18, also known as Whole Lotta Humbucker, was to replicate the tone of those 1950s guitars with humbuckers. While there are some of those chiming high-ends and higher mids in there, the pickups are pretty mid-heavy. This is often characterized as the traditional “British” tone. While giving a slightly higher output, things are still pretty controlled and balanced out all over the audible spectrum. They’re extremely useful if you feel like driving your tube amp over the limits without having to use too much gain on any of your distortion pedals, or your amp’s distortion channel. While it’s mostly in the vein of the old school stuff, it gives some pretty interesting results for more contemporary rock and metal music as well.

Bottom Line: There’s not much to think about with Seymour Duncan’s SH-18 Whole Lotta Bucker set. Driving mostly within the boundaries of vintage-oriented tones, these humbucker pickups will help you get those much-appreciated old school tones for hard rock and early metal music, as well as heavier blues-rock.

10. EMG ZW Zakk Wylde Signature Humbucker Guitar Pickup Set (Best for Metal)

EMG ZW Zakk Wylde Signature Humbucker Guitar Pickup Set

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Estimated Price $200
Active or Passive Active
Coil Tap No
Coil Split No
Phase Reversal No

My Review: Looking at the whole world of guitar, there’s hardly any player as brutal and raw as the almighty Zakk Wylde. However, although one might think that his tone is obtained just by blasting the volume and gain controls way up high, there’s more to this delicate equation. It all starts with his special choice of humbuckers. Zakk opted for EMG pickups and has a special signature set with them, called the EMG ZW. First and foremost, these are specially designed and modified EMG’s active pickups, 81 and 85 models. This is a pretty famous combo, delivering great results with special features. It might take some time to set them up, but they’re worth it for some specific settings.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: And while we’re at it, these active EMG humbuckers are specially designed to bring some of the heaviest tones possible in the whole guitar world. As we already mentioned, these are active pickups, meaning that they have a significantly stronger output. However, this is pretty pronounced, to the point that you’ll often want to use the volume knob to keep things under control in some settings. Interestingly enough, both clean and distorted tones are “in your face” and manage to bring really strong mids, both lower and higher mids. But such a configuration is mostly useful for really heavy and high-gain settings. Plenty of metalcore, deathcore, and death metal guitarists could also use this set for their needs. On the other hand, you can still make some mellower tones by rolling off the volume, but that’s not what EMG 81 and 85 pickups are really about.

Bottom Line: With such a strong output and harsh tone, these are very popular among many different metal musicians. EMG 81 and EMG 85 humbuckers are the ultimate metal weapon for all the lovers of high-gain yet controlled heavy tones.

11. Suhr Doug Aldrich Humbucker Pickup Set DA-B and DA-N (Best for Lead Playing)

Suhr Doug Aldrich Humbucker Pickup Set (DA-B and DA-N)

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Estimated Price $240
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap Yes
Coil Split Yes
Phase Reversal Yes

My Review: Looking through all the brands available on the market, Suhr is easily one of the best manufacturers of custom-made electric guitars, as well as “boutique” amps and pedals. Of course, they also make their own pickups, which we could describe as very expressive and versatile, making them useful for an abundance of genres, just like their guitars.

When it comes to humbucker pickups, we’re rather pleased with how Suhr’s Doug Aldrich signature set of humbuckers sounds. Labeled as DA-B for the bridge and DA-N for the neck, these come with a 4-conductor wire and Alnico 5 magnets. They can either be uncovered or covered, with nickel chrome, raw nickel, and gold as the cover material options. Sure, these might be a bit more expensive compared to some other options that we mentioned here, but they sure are worth every single penny.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: Doug Aldrich is best known for his work with Whitesnake and Ronnie James Dio. His impeccable guitar skills were heard through a heavy yet very controlled tone. And that’s exactly what you get with these Suhr pickups. They come with a higher output, helping your instrument get the best out of every individual string. Both the bridge and the neck position pickups have a very balanced dynamic distribution over all of the strings. However, the neck pickup is designed to keep that smoothness and warmth which is especially useful for those high-gain lead tones. Meanwhile, the bridge pickup is a mean riffing machine, great for any hard rock or metal setting that you need.

Bottom Line: Looking at their features, tone, and price, these pickups are specially designed for professional-level lead players in rock music and generally heavier genres. We also need to point out their amazing dynamic qualities and an abundance of tone-shaping options that are possible with the use of volume and tone controls.

Popular Related Article: Our Favorite Acoustic Guitar Pickups

12. Seymour Duncan SH8 Invader (Best Bridge Humbucker for Metal)

Seymour Duncan SH8 Invader

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Estimated Price $90
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap Yes
Coil Split Yes
Phase Reversal Yes

My Review: Of course, it’s really hard to avoid mentioning even more of Seymour Duncan’s pickups here on this list. After all, their entire arsenal, both with single-coils and humbuckers, is pure greatness within all the price categories. The next SD humbucker that we’d want to mention is the company’s SH8. It comes both as a bridge and a neck version, specially voiced to fit these positions.

The pickup comes with 12 adjustable hex screw polepieces, allowing you to balance things out and accommodate it to your guitar. Going further into its construction and design, the SD SH8 pickup features a combination of three different types of ceramic magnets, as well as over-wound coils. What’s more, the cap screws add to the tonal equation, helping it serve a purpose of a really heavy high-output humbucking pickup. Aside from these features, which help it create strong and wide magnetic fields, the pickup also comes with a 4-conductor wire, which makes it easier to create different coil-splitting or coil tap combinations.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: Although a passive pickup, Seymour Duncan’s SH8 Invader humbucker can deliver quite a strong punch. With a high accent on the mids, as well as those razor-sharp high-ends, these will be a perfect addition to your guitar if you feel like you need more power with your instrument. With its very hot output, you’ll be able to cover pretty much any subgenre of metal music. With this said, it also works great for punk, hardcore punk, and metalcore. On the other hand, you should be careful when pairing it up with pickups that have lower output as its tone may completely overshadow other pickups when switching between different combinations on your guitars.

Bottom Line: Considering its price, this comes as one of the best deals for the price. The SH8 Invader model is a metal-oriented pickup and this is the main setting for it. Other than that, you’ll have quite a difficult time setting up the tone for other musical styles.

13. Lace Led Sensor Double Gold Dually (Most Unique Humbucker)

Lace Led Sensor Double Gold Dually

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Estimated Price $120
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap Yes
Coil Split Yes
Phase Reversal Yes

My Review: While Lace might not be the most famous brand around, they’re still up there among the best manufacturers of electric guitar pickups. In fact, we’d argue that they’re pretty underrated, especially when we take a closer look at Lace Led Sensor Double Gold Dually. This is basically the humbucker principle taken to a whole new level. Coming in a few different color variants, their design clearly shows that these are different from what we’re used to when it comes to conventional pickups. They’re also designed in such a way that it’s really easy to set them up for the coil-splitting feature.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: The whole special build of these humbuckers works in favor of creating a strong output, all while managing to keep the sonic structure and dynamics under full control. The main focus here is on having very audible mids in the mix, making them a great choice for any rock, hard rock, or metal guitar player. Of course, despite higher output levels and pronounced mids, these pickups won’t make your guitar “burst out” and clip through an amp. Adding in the coil-split feature, you’ll also be able to pull off some of those crunchy and jangly tones as well.

Bottom Line: While it’s not as big of a brand compared to Seymour Duncan, Fender, Gibson, or EMG, Lace pickups are some of the best ones on the market. If you’re a rock or metal guitar player who’s also looking for some versatility in there, you can’t ever go wrong with this particular humbucker model.

14. EMG JH James Hetfield Signature Humbucker Set (Best for Thrash Metal)

EMG JH James Hetfield Signature Humbucker Set

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Estimated Price $250
Active or Passive Active
Coil Tap No
Coil Split No
Phase Reversal No

My Review: While we’ve already covered some EMG pickups on this list, we couldn’t help but also include the signature humbucker set of Metallica’s James Hetfield. And it’s not a surprise at all, since Hetfield has pretty much become synonymous with rhythm playing in metal music. However, he’s proficient as a lead player as well, so it was only a matter of time until someone would make his signature set. EMG’s JH humbuckers provide you with all the sonic qualities that you know Hetfield has. These are active pickups, although they have a few design traits that let them cover different sonic territories.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: And while we’re at it, this set of active humbuckers also brings some of the qualities that passive pickups are known for. Aside from the strong and “in your face” output that you get with sets like EMG’s 81 and 85, the JH humbuckers also add some clarity and those sizzling higher mids into the equation.

Although clearly featuring a hot output and oriented towards metal music and all of its subgenres, these EMG pickups bring a lot of interesting qualities to your guitar’s tone, helping you add some versatility in there. You’ll be able to cover even some bluesy territories with the neck pickup, while the bridge position provides you with a pretty sharp attack.

Bottom Line: A set like this one comes as a perfect choice for metal musicians who also want to have some other qualities in their sonic output. They’re in some way similar to the classic EMG 81 and 85 humbuckers, although it also has a similar tone to some high-output passive pickups. It all allows for some versatile tone-shaping options.

15. Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Joe Bonamassa Amos (Best Vintage Humbucker Set)

Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Joe Bonamassa Amos Humbucker Set

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Estimated Price $375
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap No
Coil Split No
Phase Reversal No

My Review: While we discussed Seymour Duncan and their awesome pickups already, the company also has its Custom Shop which makes the top-end pickups. Among these, we’d like to take a closer look at their Joe Bonamassa signature set of humbuckers. The idea here was to replicate the pickups of a particular Gibson Flying V, made back in 1958. The instrument is one of only 98 examples ever made, which makes it unique. This very rare guitar has pickups with a really strong magnetic field, which the engineers from Seymour Duncan Custom Shop replicated by using special Alnico 6 magnets. Additionally, the pickups come with hand-crafted replicas of the original metal covers. Aside from sonic properties, it gives these pickups a pretty vintage visual aspect.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: To put it simply, these pickups are for blues and blues-rock music. The tone is full, fat, and warm, while also retaining some of the higher mids and high-ends in there. Aside from fatter bottom-ends, these pickups can do some jangling as well, especially in the middle position.

Bottom Line: These aren’t exactly cheap and they’re specifically designed for blues music. They are also intended to be paired with high-end instruments, as well as vintage-oriented tube-driven guitar amps.

16. EMG Dual Mode 57/66 Humbucker Set (Most Versatile Humbuckers for Metal)

EMG Dual Mode 57/66 Humbucker Set

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Estimated Price $310
Active or Passive Active
Coil Tap Yes
Coil Split Yes
Phase Reversal No

My Review: Well, it seems as if we’re overcrowding this list with EMG humbucker pickups. But it gets hard not to include them since the company has a lot of great examples in their arsenal. Up next, we’re looking at their 57/66 set that combines some very interesting traits in a fairly simple package. And here we have a somewhat unusual combination of Alnico, steel, and ceramic magnets, all packed into a three-coil design in order to bring both the single-coil and dual-coil tones. The 57 humbucker is intended for the bridge position and comes with Alnico and steel magnets. The 66, on the other hand, has a combo featuring alnico and ceramic magnets. These are, of course, active pickups, and they come with individual push and pull pots as well. This is all accompanied by a 3-wire solderless configuration, which makes them super-easy to swap on your instrument.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: Of course, these traits come with a special kind of tone as well. Firstly, the bridge pickup has that rock-solid tone that’s pretty tight and makes it perfect for heavy riffing. The neck pickup, the 66 model, has a very smooth and “fluid” tone, that still manages to keep some power in there as well.

By also implementing the coil-splitting feature, you’ll also be able to have a very versatile palette of tone, making these pickups useful for an abundance of different genres. Yeah, they’re mostly hard rock and metal-oriented, but they find great use in pretty much any stuff.

Bottom Line: EMG has a lot of stuff to offer, but the 57 and 66 humbucker combo set seems like one of the most versatile options on the market. It’s a great choice for metal players who also want to have more options at their disposal.

17. Bare Knuckle Pickups The Juggernaut Humbucker Set (Best for Modern Prog Metal and Djent)

Bare Knuckle Pickups The Juggernaut Humbucker Set

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Estimated Price $300
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap Yes
Coil Split Yes
Phase Reversal Yes

My Review: It’s hard to find pickups as good as those made by Bare Knuckle. And when it comes to humbuckers, we can’t help but express our admiration of their Juggernaut set. This particular pickup model was done in collaboration with Misha Mansoor, a modern prog metal genius responsible not only for pushing the boundaries in songwriting practices but also for exploring new sonic territories. These come with a somewhat unique design and are equipped with a combination of Alnico 5 and ceramic magnets for the bridge pickup, as well as Alnico 5 magnets in the neck pickup. This is all followed by screw pole pieces on both of its coils. You also get a 4-conductor wire that will help you create different splitting options.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: The Juggernaut humbucker set by Bare Knuckle brings a very versatile choice for your tone shaping. And it’s not just that you’ll have those controlled and yet very pronounced mids, but the pickup truly works with you and responds to the dynamics of your playing. They manage to retain a lot of tightness in high-gain settings, while you can still notice a lot of brightness and bottom-end punch as well.

With its unique yet diverse palette of tones, these pickups are quite popular among progressive rock and progressive metal guitar players. But no matter the genre, if you prefer tight tones with some crunchy high-end harmonic content in there, then these pickups are the right choice for you.

Bottom Line: Sure, they’re not exactly the cheapest set for your guitar. However, Bare Knuckle Juggernaut pickups will completely reinvent your instrument and take it to a whole new level. It’s really hard to resist the qualities that come with them, making them worth every single penny.

18. Seymour Duncan APH-2S Slash Signature Humbucker Set (Best for Classic Metal)

Seymour Duncan APH-2S Slash Signature Humbucker Set

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Estimated Price $260
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap No
Coil Split No
Phase Reversal No

My Review: With Seymour Duncan’s vast collection of quality products, there’s an abundance of signature pickups worth mentioning. Another one that we’d like to point out here is the Slash signature set of humbuckers. Bearing a designated name of APH-2S, they come with Alnico 2 magnets that help them bring tonal qualities that Guns N’ Roses guitar legend is known for. This particular humbucker set was designed to help guitar players replicate Slash’s tone from Guns N’ Roses’ iconic debut album “Appetite for Destruction.” This is achieved using the Alnico 2 magnets as well as special winding and wiring. They also come in a few different variants, including a few great covering options.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: We all know that Slash is a rather unique guitar player who manages to create a “universal” kind of tone that somehow fits blues, rock, punk rock, and metal music. Along with his catchy music, this is one of the main reasons why he’s so popular and respected. And this is exactly what these pickups will help you get – crunchy mids and high-ends that are voiced in such a way to help you pronounce the best tonal and dynamic qualities as both the lead and rhythm player in these genres. And since these are made with great care and according to the same exact specs given by Slash’s own guitar tech, it’s really easy to make the same kind of tones that he’s known for.

Bottom Line: You can’t go wrong with this set, especially if you prefer to have something for an abundance of different genres. Paired with a nice mahogany body instrument and plugged into a tube-driven amp, you’ll be set to rule the world with this set.

19. Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker Set (Most Versatile Humbucker Pickups Overall)

Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker Set

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Estimated Price $250
Active or Passive Active
Coil Tap Yes
Coil Split Yes
Phase Reversal Yes

My Review: Just when everyone thought that the guitar pickup building just cannot be taken to a whole new level, out came Fishman with their impeccable products. These aren’t like your regular humbuckers, which we can clearly see with the company’s now well-respected Modern humbucker set. Bearing a design that you don’t see with any other brands, these pickups have some top-end features and build qualities in there. Of course, they are active pickups, but they also come with the dual voicing feature for each of the pickups in the set. They’re equipped with Alnico 5 magnets and are accompanied by the company’s specially designed covers.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: It’s really hard to explain in which exact direction these pickups are heading. Although usually bearing a lot of higher mids and high-ends in the mixture, which is somewhat unexpected for humbucker pickups, they are capable of diving into any sonic territories that you’d want them to. This is made easier using the voicing control that changes their sonic structure and lets you get into any genre that you prefer. While they’re popular among modern progressive metal players, the Fishman Modern humbucker set comes as a great choice no matter the genre. There’s a slightly modern twist to it, especially since the tone can get sparkingly clean. But on the other hand, you can do a lot of stuff with them using the basic controls on your instrument.

Bottom Line: Fishman Fluence Modern set of humbuckers is arguably one of the most versatile ones that you can get your hands on. While it’s mostly recommended for progressive metal players, these are very useful no matter the preferred musical style.

20. EMG LF-DMF Lars Frederiksen Signature Humbucker Set (Best for Punk Rock)

EMG LF-DMF Lars Frederiksen Signature Humbucker Set

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Estimated Price $250
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap No
Coil Split No
Phase Reversal No

My Review: Another great set manufactured by EMG, here we have the LF-DMF set. These are signature humbuckers made in collaboration with punk legend Lars Frederiksen. Best-known for his work with Rancid, Frederiksen is one of the genre-defining musicians and has brought his own unique twist to punk-rock music, both in terms of technique and tone. There are two main things that make these pickups so interesting. First off, both the bridge and the neck pickup feature two rows of adjustable pole pieces, allowing you to balance things out on your guitar. The second interesting thing about this set comes down to its construction. The bridge pickup features ceramic magnets, while the one for the neck position comes with Alnico 5 magnets. What’s also great is that these pickups come with EMG’s simple yet very useful feature for solderless installation.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: These are passive pickups that are slightly hotter than average. One of the main traits is that they have a pretty quiet operation, although the tonal characteristics are more than perfect for punk, hard rock, and metal music. Alnico 5 magnets in the bridge humbucker help add a lot of punchy mids to an otherwise smoother and mellower tone. And with the bridge pickup, featuring ceramic magnets, we get a tone that’s full of higher mids and high-end frequencies, providing you with a very crisp and controlled tone. Their construction also keeps things safe from any potential feedback, making them perfect for louder and high-gain settings.

Bottom Line: The “DMF” in this humbucker set’s designated name stands for “dirty middle finger.” There’s no better way to describe the tone of these pickups, making them perfect for great punk-rock tones.

21. Seymour Duncan Wes Hauch Jupiter Rails Humbucker Set (Best Rail Humbuckers)

Seymour Duncan Wes Hauch Jupiter Rails Humbucker Set

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Estimated Price Over $250
Active or Passive Passive
Coil Tap Yes
Coil Split Yes
Phase Reversal Yes

My Review: Within Seymour Duncan’s vast array of pickups, we would also like to look into the company’s so-called Jupiter Rails, or the Wes Hauch signature set of humbuckers. Taking his experience in the modern metal scene, Wes teamed up with Seymour Duncan for these pickups to bring the best possible features within just one pair of pickups. Of course, these are the “rails” kind of pickups, bearing stainless-steel rail poles that cover all six strings, instead of regular individual pole pieces. While there’s somewhat of a drawback as you won’t be able to adjust each individual sting here, rails have a fuller and more even magnetic field, which some guitar players favor over regular pickups. These passive pickups also feature ceramic magnets and come with a 4-conductor wire that allows for some versatile combinations.

Tone and Preferred Musical Styles: This kind of a “rail” setup with ceramic magnets results in a tone that’s rather mids-oriented. Additionally, we also have higher mids and high-ends in the whole sonic equation, providing players with a strong attack, which is a great addition to an otherwise darker tone of humbucker pickups. Wes is a very experienced lead player and these pickups allow for a lot of expressiveness and a pronounced dynamic response. They’re great for both lead and rhythm sections in modern metal music.

Bottom Line: You don’t often find pickups that manage to cover so many different sonic territories. They’re fairly versatile and expressive, making them very popular among modern progressive metal musicians.

Choosing the Right Humbucker Pickups (Buying Guide)

This section is for those of you who want to learn more about humbucker pickups before reading reviews.

Different Humbucker Pickup Variants

But, of course, things are not that simple. We all know how picky guitar players are and how picky they always have been. Funnily enough, this is one of the main driving forces of innovation in the world of guitar. Guitarists just want to have more options with even those seemingly simple concepts and guitar components. So it’s only obvious that we have a few variations when it comes to the overall humbucking pickup design. Here’s what we thought was worth noting.

Regular Uncovered Humbuckers

The basic humbuckers, just like the ones that we could see in the older days, are not covered and have “open” coils. In most cases, we can see one side with completely flat poles, while the other has screw poles with adjustable height. In some cases, these adjustable poles can have hex pole pieces, even on both coils. These adjustable screws allow guitar players to adjust the balance over all of the strings.

Either way, uncovered humbucker pickups come with one advantage and one potential disadvantage. The advantage is that the tone is a bit brighter and more “open.” In case you need to smoothen it out a little, you can always roll off its designated tone knob. The downside, however, is that you have less shielding involved and thus a somewhat increased risk of electromagnetic interference. It’s not as nearly as bad compared to single-coils, but there’s still a chance you’ll pick up unwanted noise in there.

Covered Humbuckers

Covered humbuckers, on the other hand, come with quite the opposite issues. On one hand, they lack some of the “crispiness” and “openness” that comes with uncovered humbuckers. This is especially the case with nickel or chrome covers. On the other hand, their metal covers help significantly reduce any potential unwanted noises in your guitar tone. Covered humbuckers usually come with open holes for pole pieces on one side. For the neck position, these holes are facing the headstock while the bridge position has holes facing the bridge and the tailpiece. In some cases, we also have holes for both sides or a completely covered variation.
But, at the end of the day, all this comes down to personal choices. You can’t go “wrong” with either covered or uncovered pickups. Find out what works best for your needs and go with it.

Rails and Variations

But there are some other examples of humbucker pickups. Surprisingly enough, you can have an alternative to the standard magnetic pickup with magnetic poles. Some humbuckers come with the “rail” design. Of course, you can also have single-coils in form of a single rail instead of a collection of 6 (or more, if we’re talking about extended range guitars) pole pieces.

But when it comes to humbuckers, there are a few variations with this “rail” design. You can have the standard-sized humbucker with two rails, or a more compact one made to fit the single-coil slot, as is the case with “Hot Rails” pickups. Another example includes a combination of one “rail” coil and a standard one with pole pieces. One of the most interesting combinations comes with so-called “P-Rails” pickups, made by Seymour Duncan. This includes a standard P90 type of pickup with an additional rail coil.

There are advantages and disadvantages to these “rail” types of pickups. The main advantage is that you have a fully covered magnetic field. So even when you bend the string and move it out of its place, the magnetic field picks it up better than pickups with individual pole pieces. On the other hand, you can’t adjust the rails the way you would adjust individual pole pieces. With them, it gets harder to make a fully balanced output with all the nuances covered.

More Information about Humbucker Pickups

Even after all these decades of development in music, the electric guitar still remains one of the most popular instruments on the planet. And what’s pretty interesting is the fact that the instrument’s basic design hasn’t exactly changed much since the 1950s. Sure, we have seen some improvements and modernization. But nonetheless, electric guitars are still made out of wood, have the same construction, have the same components, and – most importantly – have magnetic pickups.

In fact, the pickups are the essential component, as they create the magnetic field which pick up (thus the name) the frequencies that vibrating steel strings produce and “translate” it to an electrical signal. This signal then goes through other components, like pots and capacitors of the guitars Tone and Volume circuit, and then out of the instrument and straight into amps, pedals, rack-mounted units, or anything else that will further process it. While all these components are important in delivering amazing guitar tones that we all love and adore, it’s the strings and the pickups where it all begins. Therefore, it’s only obvious that plenty of musicians and techs are especially focused on pickups, how they’re made, and what they sound like. Of course, one of the biggest divisions in the world of guitar pickups, and arguably the most important one, comes down to the use of single-coils and humbuckers. While you can argue both have their strengths and weaknesses, for me there’s just something about humbuckers that makes them pretty special.

While there are some sonic qualities that you lose with such a combo, there’s a lot that you gain with them. The first, and the most obvious one, comes down to the removal of that annoying hum in the sound. Even the more expensive and advanced single-coil pickups these days cannot completely remove this noise. Additionally, humbuckers are more focused on the mids, they don’t have such a sharp attack, and are slightly less dynamically responsive. However, this makes them easier to control in some settings, especially if we’re talking about very distorted tones. Additionally, they sound quite “tight” compared to single-coils, which makes them perfect for those heavy riffing sections.

With all this said, we’ve decided to look more into the matter of humbucker pickups and bring you a full definite list of the best ones that you can find on the market these days. Of course, the choice wasn’t that easy as it’s really hard to choose with so many great options out there. But nonetheless, we’ve looked into the various options, explored some of the different features, and managed to bring a detailed lengthy list. While humbuckers are often associated with heavy riffing, there’s something for everyone’s needs and musical tastes to find below.

But before we get into the list and bring you the best humbuckers that we could dig up, let’s first see what humbuckers are and how they came to be. Of course, just like with anything related to electric guitars, we would have to go way back to the first half of the 20th century and see what were some of the biggest issues for guitar players and guitar manufacturers back then.

As you may already know, one of the biggest revolutions in this world came with the invention and development of solid-body electric guitars. The invention of humbuckers is often associated with Gibson. And that’s not a surprise as they’re the company’s engineer Seth Lover was one of the first to implement this patent with electric guitars, although Ray Butts of Gretsch also developed a very similar principle around the same time back in the 1950s. What’s more, Rickenbacker was yet another company that experimented with this. However, when it comes to the world of guitar, Gibson was the first one to file for this particular patent, leading to the very well-known name “PAF” which stands for “Patent Applied For,” and it’s used even to this day.

However, the actual invention of these principles takes us back to the 1930s. These were the times of great innovation and the inventors and engineers at the time were looking for new ways not only to improve the tone and performance qualities of instruments but to also get rid of the hum that was present with some electric instruments and PA systems.

Electro-Voice was the first company that implemented the principle of a “humbucking coil” for different portable PA systems. The principle was then implemented for electric guitars by a guy named Arnold Lesti in 1935. The Lesti’s design brings two coils that were arranged in such a way to “cancel out” the noise caused by electrical interference and which were present with single-coil magnetic pickups for guitars. These same principles were also used for other instruments to help amplify the signal through PA systems, including concert pianos.

Fast-forward to the 1950s, Gibson, Rickenbacker, and Gretsch all developed their versions of improved hum-canceling pickups by relying on new principles. Of course, Gibson was the first company to apply for the patent and take all the fame for it. This particular type of humbucking pickup served as a blueprint for all the new coming generations of guitars.

Back in the 1950s, Gibson used their classic P90 pickups on Les Paul guitars and then switched over to PAFs later during the decade. Interestingly enough, Rickenbacker began implementing them earlier in the decade but dropped them since they thought they produced too many mids in the overall output. Funnily enough, this exactly what everyone likes about humbucker pickups.

While we’re at it, humbucker pickups have remained popular for two main reasons. The first one is rather simple and comes down to the complete removal of that annoying hum noise that single-coils have. What’s more, this noise is even more present in the modern age since single-coils work as one-directional antennas and easily pick up any kind of electromagnetic interference. By using reverse-wound and reverse-polarity principles, the hum is “canceled out” and you can have a completely clean sound. The second important thing is the tone. Although there’s a significant drop in brightness and attack, as well as less dynamic response compared to single-coils, humbucker pickups still have a strong following and their use in modern music. Their tone is especially useful for hard rock and all the different subgenres of metal music. However, they’re also very popular among blues and jazz players who prefer to have a smoother and “darker” tone, as well as pronounced mids. The slight lack of the dynamic response is also useful in some way, as you’re able to achieve some compression and overall control over your sonic output.

For many years now, plenty of guitar players have preferred humbuckers over single-coils, especially if we’re talking about heavier music. Additionally, many guitars also feature coil-split or coil-tap controls which allow them to add single-coil tones to the equation. And this is yet another advantage of having a guitar with humbuckers – with some simple adjustments, you’ll be able to have a fully functioning package with only two humbuckers in there.

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