Gibson Pickups: The Top 8 Best Choices in The Market 

 June 30, 2022

By  Cynthia Swearingen

Gibson is one of the most famous names in music - and it's well-deserved. Many of the most iconic sounds in music originate from Gibson guitars and ultimately Gibson pickups. If you're thinking about buying a new pickup to improve an existing guitar (it's not necessary on high-end models), here are our choices for the best pickups currently available.

How We Selected These Pickups

Honesty is an essential part of every review we do - after all, if you just think we're trying to sell someone else's products to you, you'd be rightfully suspicious of everything we have to say. As part of earning your trust, we'd like to take a moment and describe how we chose the pickups that made it onto our final list.

We started our process by looking for pickups with a high number of positive reviews. A lot of people will take the time to talk about the shapes and materials and history of a pickup when they're reviewing it, but we don't think that information matters very much. In the end, the only thing that truly matters is how good it sounds, and the best way to determine that is by looking at reviews from real users.

Once we'd made an extensive list of options, we began to narrow it down. One thing we never want to do is create a list composed entirely of functionally-identical products. That's not useful. Instead, we prefer to find one or two generic choices suitable for most buyers, then several additional products that are suitable for specialized needs.

Pickups aren't all created equally - even those from the same manufacturer. While the differences may seem subtle to an outsider, experienced musicians know that subtle changes in equipment can produce incredibly diverse sounds. Pickups with notable features aside from their basic functions received priority over basic models, regardless of popularity.

Finally, we reviewed our list to ensure there was a good spread between single coil and humbuckers. Remember that it's best to stick with similar pickups whenever you can - having different types of pickups on your guitar can produce interesting effects, but that's best left to the most experienced musicians.

We did not consider price when deciding which pickups to include on this list. Our focus is on the best pickups, not the most affordable, so you can expect the products featured here to trend towards the higher end of Gibson's lineup.

Top 8 Gibson Pickups

Here are the Gibson pickups that made our final list.

[amazon link=”B0037AZA5A” title=”#1: P-94R Neck Pickup” /]

[amazon box=”B0037AZA5A”]

At first glance, this pickup is an oddity - it's a Humbucker-sized single coil meant to replace a larger unit on the neck of a guitar. This results in an immediately different sound - one that many buyers consider better than the original.

This particular unit functions best when used with the P-94T, which is meant to be installed on the bridge of a guitar. The neck pickup has reverse polarity compared to the bridge model, so there's essentially no interference between them.

The reason this pickup stands apart from the crowd is its ability to produce more sustain and output than a traditional single coil neck pickup. The added power also helps overdrive amplifiers when rocking out - and for a cleaner sound, all you have to do is turn the volume down. It's especially popular when playing riffs with Jazz, but this pickup is suitable for many different sounds.

Expect a historic tone reminiscent of the 1950's, with plenty of warmth and soul in the melodies.

[amazon link=”B0002D0LD6″ title=”#2: 500T (Super Ceramic) Humbucker” /]

[amazon box=”B0002D0LD6″]

This bridge pickup is all about rocking hard - it's not meant for cleaner tunes or calmer songs. In many ways, it's one of the most powerful pickups currently on the market, and its nickname comes from the multi-ceramic magnet construction. This unusual construction choice allows it to support enhanced low sounds and clear highs, but it does take a lot of time to truly master.

Despite the quality, this is one of the harder pickups to apply to a guitar, and here's why: it sounds different on each instrument. Details like the wood used in its construction, the type of finish it has, and the neck scale will all contribute to a different sound.

Accordingly, we do not recommend going out and buying this product - even though it's the #2 option on our list. Instead, we suggest you find a way to try it out on the instrument you want to play. You should be able to do this at any good retailer. If you think it's right for you, go ahead and get it. Otherwise, move on and don't worry. This isn't a pickup for everyone.

Similarly, we don't think this is a pickup for beginners. If you haven't been using an electric guitar for very long, avoid this and look for something a little less extreme.

[amazon link=”B0002D0LC2″ title=”#3: ’57 Classic” /]

[amazon box=”B0002D0LC2″]

Some people on our team felt this pickup deserved the #1 spot - and most of us felt they made a strong case. The only reason it lost out is that most people who change pickups want a different sound, and the P-94R is outstanding for that purpose.

That said, this may be the single best pickup Gibson has ever produced - so if you're trying to improve the quality of your sound rather than aiming for a specific change, it's likely the best choice. As the name suggests, this is a faithful reproduction of Gibson's 1957 humbucker - complete with the old "Patent Applied For" name stamped on the bass plate.

The '57 Classic produces a warm, even tone with an excellent overall response. They work well in any position that humbuckers are normally placed, but they're sometimes paired with the '57 Classic Plus (on the bridge) for an even better sound.

Unlike the 500T, this pickup is suitable for players of all skill levels. If you want to improve the sound of your guitar, this is the best choice for that. Many people consider this pickup to be part of the truest Gibson sounds, so the only real way for this pickup to go wrong is if you're trying to create a different tone in your music.

[amazon link=”B0002H013W” title=”#4: Dirty Fingers Humbucker” /]

[amazon box=”B0002H013W”]

Now here's a product with a memorable name - but it's true that the Dirty Fingers humbucker is an excellent choice among Gibson pickups when you're looking for a high-output option. They detect and amplify "nastiness," which works particularly well with various distortion effects in bold, energetic music.

On most guitars, the difference is immediately noticeable, and you can put this pickup in both neck and bridge positions. Expect to hear far more power and sustain than before, with a surprising amount of clarity on single notes.

Like our #2 choice, this pickup is better if you know what you're doing. We do not recommend it to anyone still learning how to play the guitar - or even people who have put on a few shows. It's better to start with the basics and only switch to a pickup like this when you understand the differences and how it should impact the way you play.

[amazon link=”B0018SXO2E” title=”#5: Bursbuckers” /]

[amazon box=”B0018SXO2E”]

This entertainingly-named pickup comes in three versions - each noticeably distinct and intended for different styles.

The root of this difference lies in the way that windings were originally made. In the 1950s, the winding machines didn't have a way to shut themselves off automatically. The result was that each coil made with that machine had a somewhat different sound to it. This is a distinct difference from today's '57 Classic, which all have the same number of windings.

The three Burstbuckers have different windings to produce different sounds. The Burstbucker 1 is a little underwound, with most users agreeing that it produces a medium vintage sound. If you're not sure what else to get, this is the best choice.

The Burstbucker 2 is wound much closer to the '57 Classic, which produces a warmer and more noticeable sound in either position. This is the best choice for trying to replicate some of the songs of old.

The Burstbucker 3 is overwound, producing a hotter sound than either of its siblings. It acts as something of a midpoint between the rich vintage tones and the sizzle of more modern sounds.

[amazon link=”B0002D0LFY” title=”#6: MHS” /]

[amazon box=”B0002D0LFY”]

The MHS, or Memphis Historic Spec, is one of the most recent pickups created by Gibson. Despite the young age, it's become an increasingly popular choice for hollow body guitars. Unlike the powerful choices on this list, the MHS is designed to provide a mellow, warm tone when playing. They work best when paired with a lower overall output.

Overall, these pickups work well with songs in the styles of the 50's and 60's, rather than today's rapid-fire songs. You can certainly rock out, but try to play classic rock if you want to hear the full richness of its tones.

[amazon link=”B0002GNZF4″ title=”#7: P-90 Super Vintage” /]

[amazon box=”B0002GNZF4″]

How can a pickup be super vintage? Well, for one thing, it's a single-coil instead of the humbuckers that are otherwise common on this list. However, what sets it apart is the way it uses an alnico bar magnet instead of the standard magnetic pole pieces. When that's mixed with its flat, wide coils, the result is a nostalgic sound that can't quite be matched by humbuckers.

Remember, despite the quality and popularity of humbuckers, they're newer than some of the other technology on guitars. You can't reproduce all the sounds of the classics if you're using a humbucker.

As a result, the P-90 is widely considered to be one of the best single-coil options available. However, it doesn't quite have the bright and crisp tones common to so many other single-coil pickups. Instead, its noise is somewhat fat. It's a distinct choice, but also one well worth considering if you'd rather have a single-coil.

[amazon link=”B001TWQ1CO” title=”#8: Mini Humbucker” /]

[amazon box=”B001TWQ1CO”]

This is one of Gibson's most beloved pickups - and with good reason. In the early days, there was one major problem with humbuckers: many guitars weren't built to hold them. They didn't have space for a proper installation (unlike most of the units produced today).

The solution was the creation of the Mini Humbucker by Epiphone, a child company owned by Gibson. This small device fits in spaces initially intended for the P-90 without sacrificing quality, and it offers a bright, clear range of sound.

It's not limited to being in the middle by size, though - even the sound range of this pickup is firmly between single-coil and humbuckers. The result is a musician-friendly choice that has plenty of space for innovation with your songs.

The Mini Humbucker is another good choice for new musicians because it can cover such a wide range of sounds. While we don't recommend it for intense rock, it's a solid (if not quite amazing) choice for most genres and melodies. It's especially useful for experimenting with different styles. If you decide you need a different pickup, you can always pick up another one later on.

Buyer's Guide

All of the Gibson pickups on the list above are high-quality products - but that doesn't mean they're the right choice for everyone. If you're trying to improve your overall sound, the '57 Classic is easily the best choice. If you're looking for an immediate change in your sound, the P-94R Neck and the Dirty Fingers are the top choices.

The Mini Humbucker is great for newcomers and people who want to experiment with different styles and sounds, while the MHS is a great option for warmer, mellower, and friendlier sounds.

Ultimately, only you know what kind of sound you're trying to create. As always, don't hesitate to experiment with different products until you find one that works for your needs.

The Mini Humbucker is great for newcomers and people who want to experiment with different styles and sounds, while the MHS is a great option for warmer, mellower, and friendlier sounds.

Ultimately, only you know what kind of sound you're trying to create. As always, don't hesitate to experiment with different products until you find one that works for your needs.

Cynthia Swearingen

Your Signature

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