Metal is one of the most popular genres to play for guitarists, and let’s admit it we all have passed through the metal phase, where we all roam around in band tees, keychains and leather jackets, good old days. However, for serious guitarists who want to improve their tones for metal music things are pretty interesting since there is a wide variety of pickups to choose from.
Then again thanks to the wide variety of selection you get to choose from, it is really hard to choose the perfect one, and making a choice for a pickup for your guitar will largely depend on a large number of factors, such as your guitar, the sound wood, tones you want to achieve, and the genre you are playing. Today I am going to try to explain what makes a great metal guitar pickup, how to choose the best guitar pickups for metal, and some solid options that are fail-safe.
Coming to the main event I have handpicked some excellent pickup models that deliver perfect metal sounds and are the tool for the task. There are various models, from different manufacturers all over the price range, but all of them have one thing in common, they will deliver perfect metal tones that will satisfy your soul let’s take a look.
WHAT MAKES A GUITAR PICKUP “METAL”?
Compared to other pickups, ones that are designed for metal guitarists typically have a much higher output. In order for one to be “hotter,” it must have more coil windings.
Additionally, the top-rated metal pickups tend to be produced as humbuckers rather than single-coils. You can still get a good metal tone with single-coil ones, but humbuckers are probably the more optimal choice, and that’s what I’ll mainly be covering in this guide.
Regarding magnets, some swear that ceramic ones are more powerful than alnico ones. On the flip side, alnico magnets have great dynamics. This is one area where it comes down to personal preference, but you’ll find amazing designs that use either of them.
Another thing that you’ll come across when trying to find the perfect guitar pickup for heavy metal is deciding between active and passive ones. While there is a variation in tone, both are great options, and the main distinction between them is that an active pickup requires a 9V battery to power up a preamp.
If you have no prior knowledge of guitar pickups and you want to learn more about the basics of them, I recommend reading my guide that will give you a more generalized explanation about how to choose pickups and the differences between them. It might make this article easier to follow along with.
Nonetheless, this one is dedicated to metal pickups specifically, and it will compare the best ones in this particular category. Lastly, this guide will suggest best guitar pickups for metal primarily because, for many of you, this will be one of your first guitar upgrades. However, within each bridge model, I will select a neck one that complements it well, in case you’re interested in changing both of them.
our Top 5 best guitar pickups for metal picks
Fender Custom Shop Pickups Strat Texas Specials (Set Of 3)
The Custom Shop Texas Specials might just be the best pickups you could stick in your Strat. Installing a set of these in a more affordable Fender or Squier will take it to the next level in tone.
And what tone these have. Each pickup is voiced vintage-hot, with enamel-coated magnet wire for that old-school heat and extra windings for higher output. These could knock many a humbucker on its backside.
The staggered pole pieces keep the output consistent across all six strings while the reverse-wound middle pickup helps kill the hum in the second and fourth positions when you invariably crank it up for that juicy Texas blues mojo.
EMG EM943260 JH Set James Hetfield Signature Pickup Set, Black Chrome
The Metallica riff-in-chief’s signature humbucker set is based on the EMG-81 in the bridge, EMG-61 in the neck configuration that he has used since the late ‘80s. But there are a few key differences.
The JH-N neck humbucker has individual ceramic pole pieces and a larger ceramic magnet core for a fatter low-end and higher-output and sharper attack. The JH-B in the bridge shares the core design as the EMG-81 but has steel pole pieces for a cleaner low-end response.
The set comes in a variety of finishes including Gold, Brushed Chrome, Brushed Gold and Brushed Black Chrome.
EMG H4 Passive Electric Guitar Humbucker Pickup, Black
The H4 Is an impressive pickup an incredible attempt at a passive version of their famous 81 active design it is easy to see why it is their best seller. A lot of guitar and bass manufacturers feature Hz pickups as their stock pickups.
This Humbucking bad boy has dual bar-loaded coils, ceramic bar magnets and is fully shielded. It comes with everything you need for their proprietary solder-free installation. The pre-wired volume and tone controls allow you to shape your sound. It gives a deep throaty grain and is ideal for hard rock genres. It is strong but not overpowering. It responds well to bass frequencies and has a great cross board tone.
EMG is at the forefront of pickups for hard rock and metal with a long list of legends using their products as well as designing and endorsing them.
Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker
Favoured by the likes of Deftones’ Stephen Carpenter, the Fluence Modern humbuckers are ideal for delivering heaps of gain, piano-clear cleans and a whole wealth of tones in between.
There are two voices per pickup, both complementing their counterparts. The Alnico neck humbucker has the Modern Active High Output voice for “full, round and boosted” tone and a “crisp clean” voice that will give you glassy brightness but with a little low-end power to give it weight. The ceramic neck humbucker has a super-aggressive and tight Modern Active High Output voice and a Modern Passive Attack voice with a little more dynamics.
EMG SA set of single coils
We all love single coils for their snappy, spanking tones. All that brightness, they’re pretty great, really cutting through – but when there’s a lot of volume and gain they tend to hiss and hum. If that really grinds you gears you could go for Fender’s Noiseless collection or take the nuclear option with the EMG-SA.
These active single coils have an 9V onboard preamp that gets rid of that unwanted noise and delivers pristine tones with a good balance between a well-defined bass, pronounced midrange and sharp treble.
If you’ve got a Strat and want a noiseless performance, these are the pickups for you.
Conclusion-choose your best guitar pickups for metal
Hopefully, you haven’t been too bombarded with information pickups is a very complex subject and we really have only scratched the surface in terms of how they work. Ii can be especially tough to settle on a set of pickups for your electric guitar when there is a tonne of factors to keep in mind. Even the wood of your guitar and its body weight and size can affect which pickup is ideal for you in relation to your intended playing style and desired overall guitar sound.