The perfect pickup can go a long way in creating awesome tone which is why we like to give our readers a bit of insight from time to time into some of our personal favorites just in case they need a solid recommendation. In previous articles, we listed what we feel are worthy replacements for both Telecaster and Stratocaster electrics and so today we're giving similar treatment to the humbucking pickup. Known for its signature hum cancelling ability, thicker tone and larger size compared to a single coil, the humbucker has been a staple of guitarists for decades. While there are numerous top quality pickups out there, here are a few of our favorites.
Note: these humbuckers will work with both Fender (53mm) and Gibson (50mm) style pole spacing unless otherwise noted.
The DSH+ is a warmer version of Suhr's popular high-output SSH+ humbucker. Equipped with a double row of screws, the DSH+ produces a smoother top-end with excellent harmonic and a tight low end. Although this pickup is recommended for classic rock and vintage metal/thrash, the DSH+ works well with a variety of genres including modern rock, punk and even high energy jazz fusion, delivering a warm, clear tone with an added punch for good measure!
And better still, Suhr is known for using the highest grade Alnico magnets and premium components in their products to ensure their pickups compliment the natural tone and characteristics of your guitar and not work against them. This bridge pickup is available in Black, White and Zebra as well as both Fender and Gibson style spacing.
One of the most popular pickups in hard rock, the EMG 81 is an obvious choice for any guitarist looking for a tried and true top-notch humbucker. While this pickup was originally designed to work with lead guitarists in mind, the 81 works amazingly well for bands with just one guitar player as it packs plenty of punch, has great sustain during overdrive and features a distinctive fat chunky tone that works perfect for hard rock rhythms.
Although the 81 was traditionally used a bridge/rhythm pickup, guitarists such as Zakk Wylde popularized the famous EMG 81 lead - EMG 85 rhythm configuration used by several players today while other notable guitarists such as Kirk Hammett use 81s as both neck and bridge pickups.
Being an active pickup, the 81 works best with an amp that can convey the high output of the signal, although you won’t have to worry about latent noise as it is pretty much as noiseless as it gets – no buzz, no humming – just pure fat rhythms and amazingly sustained leads, all with a smooth fade while switching pickups selectors. Those looking for a bit more power and gravitate more towards active pickups should definitely give the EMG 81 a try. Works with all pole spacing styles.
Those looking for something definitely out of the ordinary will love what the SHPR-1s can bring to the table. These hybrid pickups will ensure that your humbucker slot-style guitar is uniquely its own, taking several popular features of different pickups and putting them into a great, solid package.
Yes, these are humbuckers, so expect no noise for all of your controlled situations, but more importantly than that, these pickups give you the vintage feel of the P-90s as well as the tone balance and flavor of a bluesy Stratocaster, something that up until now would require three separate guitars to attain (as the P-90s and Strat pickups will not fit humbucker slots). Besides the blend of sought after specs, the entire product gives you a very sparkling and sustained sound when played clean and a nice fat tone when a bit of bass and gain is applied.
For those of you a bit bored of your standard humbucker sound without wanting to get rid of its best features, Seymour Duncan’s SHPR-1 Hot Rails are just what you are looking for. Available in black, white or cream as a set. Works with all pole spacing styles.
The H3+ continues Tom Anderson’s legacy of humbuckers with exceptionally smooth overdrive and upper-end clarity that’s as good as it gets – all without any of the harsh fuzz quality that can plague other pickups. The H3+ builds on the success of its predecessor, the original H3, by retaining its superb clarity while adding an increased bottom end response and even more output for a full and open tone with plenty of bite.
The H3+ is part of Tom Anderson's H Series of humbuckers which employ larger pole pieces and redesigned spacing for a uniform magnetic field that ensures high and low string dropouts are a thing of the past. A superb humbucker that can truly sing.
These are only a few of our favorite humbuckers but there are plenty more where that came from! Browse our entire selection of humbucking pickups - guaranteed at the best prices around. Have any questions on a certain pickup? Not sure if it will fit your guitar? Need some more suggestions? You can chat directly with one of our pros by using the Contact Us box below!