12 Best Pickups for Metal in 2018
There is little that influences your tone more than your guitar pickup; this is one of the most important components of your overall sound and therefore needs to be given serious consideration before you make a purchase.
Our experts are here to make your search for the best pickups for metal easier. We have done the research and tested the products so that you don’t have to waste your time or your money.
We included the top pickups, highlighted the things you should be looking for and provided first-hand reviews so you can feel comfortable when you choose the right pickup for you.
Top 12 Pickups for Metal Comparison Chart
Pick up the Right Pickup for You
While the type of pickup you choose will have the largest effect on the tone that you get, some of the finer details will affect how comfortable the pickup is to use.
- Weight – Of course you do not want to add too much weight to your guitar. If you are switching out another pickup, then you should choose one of similar weight to ensure your playing experience stays the same.
- Passive and Active – Passive pickups are more common as they work on their own, without additional electricity. Active pickups contain a battery-powered pre-amp to boost the sound. Active pickups are the best pickups for metal as you want a louder and more intense sound.
- High Output – You should consider higher output pickups for metal as these send a stronger signal to the amp and therefore carry a better sound straight from the guitar to the amp.
- Coil Winding – The number of times that a coil is wrapped around the bobbin is very important. The more it is wrapped, the higher the output. This is a precise art and is often something that is not a big issue if you buy a good quality pickup.
Humbucker vs. Single Coil
- Humbucker – Physically, this pickup has two wound coils next to each other. These are wired in reverse polarity to eliminate the hum that you might get with a single coil pickup.
These pickups produce a round, warm sound.; this is traditionally the option better suited for metal, but with advancements in the technology and playing techniques the choice comes down to player preference.
- Single Coil – The single coil obviously only has one coil.; this electromagnetically converts the vibrations of the strings while you play into the necessary electric signal.
Using a single coil pickup gives you a brighter sound that could be described as having more bite to it. It is a good option if you want a grittier sound and could deal with a possible humming sound to the pickup as the volume gets turned up.
The Effect of Magnets
When you dig a bit deeper into the world of pickups, you will quickly understand that the magnets within the device also affect the sound. The type you prefer depends on the tone you are looking to achieve and the dynamics.
- Alnico – This is the most common type of magnet with subsets of magnets within this kind. The most popular are the Alnico 2 for a sweet, vintage sound and the Alnico 5 for more punch. There is also the Alnico 8 which helps to create an even more aggressive sound.
If you plan to play in multiple styles, then you should choose the Alnico 5 as this is the most balanced option. For a rougher and more vintage sound, the Alnico 2 is best.
- Ceramic – These are pickups made from different materials that help to push a louder and more forceful sound that is best suited for metal and rock.
- Size and Shape – These two factors also play a role in how the pickup will sound. Larger magnets produce louder and punchier sounds. The size will affect the weight, so if you want a louder sound and opt for a bigger pickup, then you will have to deal with a heavier device.
Top 5 Best Pickups for Metal Reviews
With the Seymour Duncan Blackouts humbuckers, you can transform the sound that your guitar produces. Not only do these pickups change the output but it never sounds sterile or over produced. It is more natural and organic while still achieving the metal sound.
Obviously, tone is more about personal preference, but with this pickup, the tone could be described as a tight, heavy metal sound. You avoid any fuzziness to the sound and instead get more clarity without having to make too many adjustments to the amps or by adding effects.
The best piece of advice to use with this set is to watch tutorials and follow the installation instructions carefully. Soldering incorrectly or without following the proper step by step procedures could lead to nothing but wasted time and money.
The set, however, does come with nearly everything you need to complete the installation right away.
The Seymour Duncan JB and Jazz set might not seem like the ideal choice for metal music, but it will surprise you. This is a more versatile pickup that allows for well-rounded sounds as well as complete versatility. It will give you the added something that your sound and your tone need.
It is easy to see, after playing with this pickup, why it is one of the most popular models in the world.
The pickup combines clarity with power and a more aggressive sound. Consider this along with the midrange focus to allow for a perfect metal sound. You will find that the lower end of your guitar’s range is rich while the higher notes are completely clear.
The different sounds and the quality mean that you should probably also invest in a higher quality amp too; this will ensure every aspect of the tone can be heard and then better adjusted.
The Fender Custom Shop pickups make it easy to balance output and control your dynamics as that’s what they were made for. Every material and aspect of this set has been specifically picked. For example, the Formvar magnet wire makes for a brighter tone.
The first thing to note about these pickups is that they come with all of the hardware you need to install them right away. If you want a more powerful and broader sound then this is an ideal pickup.
This is not the cheapest pickup option out there, but it is one that gives you such a high-quality metal tone that it makes the cost more than worth it. Because of this, the sound is also more versatile. You can adjust your playing style to suit Blues and jazz or play for a more rock and metal sound. In either case, the clarity and balance are remarkable.
The DiMarzio X2N Humbucker is one of the most intense sounding pickups that the company has ever produced. Due to the way it is built with the dual-blade and magnet-powered design, you get a tighter response to your tone; this essentially means you get more of a raw tone.
If you are serious about having an organic quality to your tone, then this is certainly the best option on the market. You can find that the true tone cuts through any of the added sound. This kind of balance is helped by the fact that the midrange and the treble are also enhanced.
This is one of the best pickups for metal because it offers a sharp sound that is also balanced. Consider the sound to be wide-bodied without being messy or unclear. If you play metal, then this is exactly the sound you need to push your tone to the next level.
The Seymour Duncan Hot Rails Pickup is a high output pickup that gives you the fullness you need in your tone to play heavy metal or even softer musical genres like classic metal, garage, punk, heavy rock, thrash, and nu-metal. This pickup is versatile as the result of its high output and its high level of responsiveness.
The pickup can respond to even a slight finger movement so you can play around with your sound and playing a bit more than usual. This humbucker fits into a normal single coil slot, and it is incredibly easy to install. This is the perfect combo for experienced players and newbies alike.
Regarding tone, you get a fuller sound with aggressive output, so it is best suited for someone that wants a clear but intense sound and is not suited for those that seek only a traditional kind of tone.
Before you consider anything else about the pickup like the magnet or the style, you should think about the fit. Without considering the fit, you could end up with a pickup that doesn’t work with your guitar. You should consider this first. with the type of pickup being second and the details third.