The Very Best Single Coil Pickups For All Your Guitar Needs

This is our review of the very Best Single Coil Pickups for all your guitar requirements.

It’s essential to fit the correct pickup into your guitar, depending on your musical taste. Pickup brands these days can cater for nearly all genres of music. 

Whether you’re a Gibson, Epiphone, Telecaster, Strat, ES 335 playing… Metal, Rock, Punk, Jazz or Country picker. I’ve compiled 5 sets of pickups that are versatile enough to cover those musical genres. 

Why have a beautiful guitar and amplifier then ruin it with poor sounding pickups? I’ve managed to whittle all guitar genres into 5 pickup sets.

As per usual, I don’t add any products that I wouldn’t use myself. There are cheaper options to consider, but in my opinion, they sound dreadful resulting in you paying a second time for a decent set. 

Let’s see what’s going on….

Quick View: 5 Pickups We Love

*Full Reviews Below this section

Buyers Guide

What’s the perfect pickup tone? It’s a tough question to answer, but there are some factors you should take into consideration. 

What Kind Of Sound Do I Want For My Electric Guitar?

There are three most common types: 
  1. Vintage (1950s or 1960s), 
  2. Modern (designed with cleaner overtones) 
  3. Aggressive Tone which tends towards having less distortion and more bass response than mids/highs; this type works well with aggressive rhythm playing in genres like Metal Music!

One of the most important decisions that you will make as a guitarist is which pickup to install in your electric guitar 

This decision has a significant impact on tone and sustain, so it’s worth taking some time out before making any purchases for an informed choice based around what kind of sound you are looking for? That’s why you’re reading this right?

Telecaster with dimarzio dp419 area 67 pickups

What Output Power Do I Need?

If all your instrument needs are rhythm parts with occasional lead lines then lower powered pickups should suit you just fine; 

but if distortion or heavy overdrive into thinning our piccolos then higher output levels might be better suited towards fulfilling those requirements.

Have a read through the following 5 options I’ve suggested and you should have a much clearer idea of what suits you:

Best Single Coil Pickups On The Market: Full Review

1- Seymour Duncan 11205-082 SHR-1b Hot Rails Guitar Pickup

Best Single Coil Pickup For Heavy Rock/Metal

SD Hot Rails best single coil pickups for rock and metal

Seymour Duncan’s Hot Rails pickup is a humbucker that fits into a normal single coil slot. Which means you get the power of a humbucker in a much smaller package. 

The two thin blades with powerful coil windings give you incredible sustain and a fat sound for playing heavier rock music. 

This pickup responds to the subtlest finger movements and is available in black or white, with four conductor cables. Seymour Duncan’s Hot Rail pickups comes ready to install and produces the tone of your dreams!

Seymour Duncan is one of the most reputable makers in quality guitar accessories. As a result, they’ve made it their mission to create pickups that are unique but also give off top-quality sounds. While still letting you rock out on your Stratocaster, even while playing heavier tunes.

With SHR-1 Hot Rails, not only do you get the noise canceling benefits of traditional humbuckers without having to resort to cutting huge holes in your instrument…yes, folks, this pickup fits right into where a normal single coil would go! 

You’ll be getting incredible sustain and an incredibly fat sound that will suit all your needs with its versatility. 

Whether it’s fingerpicking some nice country ballads or plucking some hot rock riffs on the stage for hours

With Seymour Duncan Hot Rails pickups, you’ll notice how it never gets brassy or strident like some other pickups do. The reason for this is the use of Alnico 5 magnets which yield a natural warmth without any drawbacks. 

Plus, the new copper alloy formula with advanced magnets gives off excellent tone definition, clarity and articulation that will bring out your best guitar performance!

Bring out those classic rock ‘n roll sounds with Seymour Duncan Hot Rails pickups where they nail every detail so well that it’s jaw-dropping!

So if you’re looking to end your dirty distorted tone from your Stratocaster or you’re looking for all out guitar obliteration, then these are just what you need. 

2- Fender Tex-Mex Strat Pickups

Best Single Coil Pickups For Strat Guitar Players

Tex mex single coils high output

The Fender Tex-Mex Pickups are the perfect match for versatile players looking for a pickup with increased output, sparkling highs and attention-grabbing warm tone. 

If you love your vintage-style Stratocaster but want to go for an even bigger sound without sacrificing its traditional characteristics, these pickups are just what you should be looking at. 

The Fender Tex-Mex Strat Pickups provide a well-balanced range of tone from Texas grit to soaring clean tone, thanks to Polysol-coated magnet wire. 

Reverse-wound/reverse polarity middle pickup means there’s no hum and alnico 5 magnets imbue a rounder, more nuanced quality that brings out the nuances in your playing style. 

The overwound bridge pickup will deliver maximum output for all styles of music. And installing them is a breeze with included installation hardware.

If you’ve been looking for pickups that’ll help express the full potential of your Stratocaster or Telecaster, look no further than these great sounding pickups from Fender!

Fender’s Tex-Mex Strat Pickup duo are custom designed with the perfect blend of modern electronics and distinctive tone. These pickups offer a range of tones, from humming spank to snarling growl with most positions simply roll off the volume knob. 

But at full burst, these babies sound fantastic!

These pups bring unique secret sauce made up of sharp lines and irresistibly rich tones. They’re wound extra tight for ultimate dramatic tension, but don’t worry, these cowboys from Texas still play nice with the other kids in the band. Just look at Stevie Ray Vaughan!!!

In my opinion Fender makes some of the most exciting sounding strat single coil pickups on the market. The Tex Mex set will cost less than the Texas Hot but you get much more bang for buck with the Tex Mex.

A very popular and affordable option for the Strat/Tele player who likes a bit of grit. A perfect place to begin.

3- Seymour Duncan STK-S10 YJM Fury Stack Bridge Pickup

Best Single Coil Pickups For Punch/Power and Versatility

JYM higher output single coil pickup

Seymour Duncan is a company that’s been in the business for more than 40 years and they’ve never let us down. 

That’s why we’re stoked to say that Seymour Duncan now has their own YJM Fury Stack hum-cancelling single-coil pickup

The STK-S10 is a Seymour Duncan original. It’s based on an iconic pickup design that works great in any iteration or mix of guitars, amps and effects you can throw at it. 

The mids are right where they should be for clear articulation high up the neck; with generous bass along with sparkling highs giving this versatile bridge pickup the sonic dimensionality to cut through any ensemble. 

NOTE: This item requires some assembly: You simply need to thread the lead wire through its pre-soldered eyelet and place it under shielding tape (supplied).  With no soldering required, we trust you’ll find installation is easily within your level of expertise!

YJM Fury Stack Yields the iconic, high-output punch for which Seymour Duncan pickups are known. Perfect for high gain type guitar tones. 

A precision-ground steel baseplate and hot ferrites combine with staggered magnet pole pieces to create a powerful humbucking pickup that can be used as either a neck or bridge model. 

Great for players who want heavy rock tones of beasty blues rock without sacrificing Strat-like dynamics and playability.

Designed for players who want a hot pickup with an abundance of mid-range weight.

If you want to utilize a single guitar that has excellent noise resistance while covering most of the tonal ranges, this setup has much to offer.

A great option if you’re looking for superb mids and exceptional versatility. 

4- Seymour Duncan Antiquity P-90 Dog Ear Pickup – Bridge

Best Single Coil Pickups For Outstanding Vintage Tones

P-90 single coils vintage tone

Seymour Duncan’s Antiquity P-90 Single Coil Pickup is your gateway to the vintage sound of an original 1959 Gibson pickup in all its glory.

All of the component parts have been aged in every detail for that smooth, distortion-free tone. 

Seymour Duncan’s Antiquity Pickup is a faithful reproduction of the original 1959 Gibson P90 Dog Ear for a true vintage vibe. 

They designed this pickup to not only sound like it, but look old too! 

The Seymour Duncan Antiquity Pickups are handmade on antique machines from 1955-65 honoring design history- and that’s what makes them so cool.

The Antiquity P-90 was made to recreate that mature golden sound of the past. Equipped with a pickup that has been calibrated for the best mid-range clarity and grit, you’ll be delighted by the quality of this pickup for your guitar. 

Equipped with two high grade magnets and extra meaty saddle, you won’t have any problems getting those long sustains without sounding muddy or scratchy. 

So, you got this great guitar, but the pickup doesn’t cut through. Does Seymour Duncan have a solution? Hell yeah! Cutting-edge engineering techniques combined with old school design make our Antiquity P90 Dog Ear Pickup perfect for your new Gibson tone or Fender relic builds.

The Antiquity’s alnico 2 bar magnets are calibrated to give you all the pops and growls of a late 50s ES-330 bridge pickup without sacrificing any articulation in single notes. 

5-Fender Custom Shop ’51 Nocaster Pickup Set

Best Single Coils Pickups For Telecaster 

Neck and middle single coils from fender

The Fender Custom Shop ’51 Nocaster Pickup Set is a fresh take on a classic design that first appeared in 1951 – only now it’s been improved with new wiring possibilities and hand-matched by skilled craftsmen from the team at Fender Custom Shop. 

These American-made pickups are true to their heritage; created with the original design in mind to accurately mimic the twang and shimmer of the original Nocaster guitar. 

And as for those vintage sounds? Quieter than ever before thanks to pure Alnico V magnets positioned closer together, these period-correct single-coil pickups impart tight low end and clear, balanced midrange tones.

If you’re looking to take your guitar tones back to its roots, then look no further than the Telecaster/Nocaster pickups. 

The Custom Shop produces some of the most sought after guitars and accessories on the planet. Produced by the most skilled technicians in the game. If you’re searching for the best quality pickups for your tele, then here is your next purchase. 

This Custom Shop pair are excellent upgrades that offer a wide range of sounds and will allow you to create a variety of different tones depending on what amp and guitar combo you play through.

The bridge pickup position is not harsh at all, but it will twang out at high volume, making them ideal for virtually any genre of music.

Even when you play softly, the pickups produce a lot of warm bass resonance, giving your tone a huge presence without being too bassy.

They have a natural sound and they’re well-balanced, so they reproduce many of the guitar’s acoustic characteristics. This means more clarity in solos rather than pickup buzz or muddled tones.

It has a full, round twang with body and clarity. I had to raise the treble from 3 to approximately 6 in order to get the same treble response as the ’62 set.

The neck pickup is a throwback to the 1950s in a good way. It’s warm yet distinguished, with a nice snap when needed. Extremely airy and lush overall.

If the original fender tones and music from the 50s is your thing, or you’re a Telecaster purist. This set is a must for you. There really is nothing else that comes close to the Custom Shop ‘51 Nocaster set. 

Popular Pickup Questions Answered

So, you wanna sound like Jimi Hendrix?…. Don’t we all?

Here’s some pickup history from a couple of the greatest players ever. 

What Pickups Did Jimi Hendrix Use?

Jimi Hendrix used a variety of pickups in his guitars, but it’s mostly considered that he had two main guitars with which he achieved all his tones. 

One is the Fender Stratocaster and the other one is a Gibson Flying V. 

For both of these guitar types Jimi mainly stuck to using standard single-coil pickups in the neck and a humbucker pickup in the bridge. Even though those are considered to be his main guitars, he did use several others as well throughout his career.

  • 1965 Jimi got his very first electric guitar, a Futurama/Vox, which had two a active single coil pickups
  • Between 1966-1968 Jimi used a Gibson ES-335, which he often equipped with the “Dallas-Arbiter” Fuzz Face distortion pedal. For that guitar Jimi mostly used a Gibson PAF humbucker in the neck and a single coil pickup in the bridge.
  • Around 1968/1969 Hendrix played his first Les Pauls, famously known as his “Sunburst” Les Pauls. It’s been said that he used single coil pickup in the neck and humbuckers in the bridge at this time. 
Hendrix Guitar Pickup details
  • Jimi also got another green 335 (with P-90 pickups) around 1969/1970 which became his main recording guitar for “Band of Gypsies”.
  • All the guitars that Jimi used in his later years (both live and studio) had humbuckers with most of them having a thumb rest with an unscrewable metal cap on the back. This was to provide an easier access to the high notes on Fender Stratocasters, which he played for songs like “Little Wing”.

What Pickups Does Eric Clapton Use?

Eric Clapton has been using various Gibson SG guitars throughout his career, fitted with different pickups. 

  • Among the most famous are ‘Blackie’ and ‘Lilly’. Blackie had humbucker pickups in both positions, while Lilly had a 490R in the neck position and an uncovered 498T at bridge.

Nowadays Eric is using Fender Stratocaster pickups ‘Lace Sensor’, specially designed for him. As he put it: “to bring me back to the music I played when I was young.”

  • Clapton’s earlier SG guitars were fitted with P90 pickups in both positions. 
  • 1969 Clapton ordered a custom-made instrument from Gibson, the SG Les Paul. He used it for most of his work with Cream and in the studio, but eventually returned to using a ’59 Les Paul Standard that he had heavily modified. 
  • 2004 Gibson produced a limited run of 250 Eric Clapton signature edition SGs designed especially for him, featuring Gibson’s latest technical advances such as pickup coil splitting and controls for switching individual pickups, which allows Clapton to create his famous “woman tone”.

About Lee

Lee has been playing guitar for over 25 years. In the 1990's he made a few TV appearances in London and supported a few big bands at festivals. He's recently sung on radio and worked as a full-time guitarist/singer. Lee is the founder of Authority Guitar, a site where he wants readers to enjoy every aspect of learning the guitar.