One of the best parts about single-coil pickups is that if you’re looking to get a new sound from your guitar, you don’t have to go out and purchase a brand-new instrument.
If you’re looking to upgrade or change up the sound your instrument is producing, all you’ve got to do is update your pickups. Single coil pickups are a common use for electric guitar and electric bass guitar.
All guitars that have an amplified system fall into two separate groups: humbuckers and single coils. The big difference between these two systems is that single-coil models produce crisp, bright, expressive sounds, while humbuckers produce full, thick, less articulate sounds. Single coil pickups are most often associated with the Fender Stratocaster guitars but have also served as a versatile pickup for countless other guitars and music genres.
Today, we’re going to talk about the best single-coil pickups that are available on the market today. While there are thousands of different models that are on the market, we created this list to include some of the best-performing single coils concerning their price tag.
How to appropriately choose the best single-coil pickup for your guitar
When looking for a single-coil pickup to purchase, understand that there is no right or wrong choice to make. Choosing the type of single-coil pickup, you want is all based on what kind of sound you’re looking to achieve from your guitar. However, there are two things that you should consider before finalizing your purchase for a single-coil pickup.
- The type of music you play (or want to play)
- The size of your pickup
More importantly, you should think about what type of music you’re looking to play on your guitar. If you’re a musician who is looking to play with distortion, you’re going to want to look into using a different single-coil pickup than a musician who wants to play clean would.
High output single-coil pickups produce distorted tones with less effort, so if you’re looking to play loud and aggressive music, you should look into getting your hand on a high output pickup. Moderate output single coils are great to use if you’re looking to produce clean sounds, while you can use distortion pedals or amp to dirty up your sound.
Musiclily Guitar Single-Coil Tele Bridge Pickup
The incredibly affordable price tag on the Musiclily Tele Bridge pickup may make you question the quality of this single-coil pickup. This since there are thousands of single-coil pickups on the market that hit the $10 or less and end up being an absolute waste of money. However, the Musiclily Tele Bridge Pickup features a strong sound that produces a lot better of a sound than a good portion of stock pickups.
However, it should be made known that the physical feel of this pickup is where you can feel the ‘cheapness’ of the pickup. The overall design overall builds quality and the packaging area where you can feel the price tag on the pickup; don’t be too surprised that when you pick up the Tele Bridge pickup that it feels rubbery.
Don’t let the physical feel of this pickup scare you off, though. As we mentioned earlier, the sound that the Tele Bridge produces is much better than the sound that the majority of stock pickups on beginner level guitars produce; the Musiclily Tele Bridge pickup supplies musicians with a mid-range attach, with bridge trebles, and a solid bass sound. This is a great solution to use if you’re looking to upgrade your entry-level six-string!
DiMarzio ISCV2 Evolution
The DiMarzio ISCV2 Evolution pickup provides musicians with exceptional versatility. Also, it has proven itself to be a pickup that can adapt to any musical genre, as well as the ability to adapt to any pedal that you’re looking to add to your mix. If you happen to be a musician who enjoys using pedals, this is one of the best pickup options for you.
This pickup does an exceptional job of covering all sonic frequencies, leaving enough room for musicians to experiment with their sound, and enough sensitivity to leave room for personalized expressions.
DiMarzio ISCV2 features:
- Functions as a 5-way switch
- When the switch is in line 1 or line 5, you will be able to hear the neck or the bridge pickup
- When the switch is in line 2 or line 4, the single middle coil combines with one coil from both the bridge and the neck pickup
- When in line 3, you’ll receive a pure coil sound
DiMarzio ISCV2 pros:
- Reasonably affordable for musicians that are on beginner to intermediate level guitars
- Adapts well to all music genres
DiMarzio ISCV2 cons:
- Doesn’t cancel out humming noise when playing on the middle range
- Needs to be paired with an evolution neck and bridge pickups to work effectively
Fender Tex-Mex Strat Pickups
The Fender Tex-Mex Strat pickup is a single-coil pickup with a low gain. This single-coil pickup provides musicians with a bluesy sound with a bit of overdrive, making it perfect for rock, blues rock, classic rock, and classic heavy metal. As for the overall sound production of the Fender Tex-Mex, you’re going to be getting your hands on a strong output with striking middles and trebles rounded together, with warm bass. This combination allows your guitar’s sound to cut through nicely, without being too saturated in the middle or without sounding too dry.
Since Fender manufactured this pickup, the Tex-Mex Strat pairs perfectly with the Fender Stratocaster guitars, by delivering an affordable Strat with a well-rounded punch and a strong sonic attack. However, that doesn’t mean that this pickup won’t serve you well, even if you don’t have a guitar from Fender. If you’re looking to copy a similar sound from a classic vintage Strat without physically having to purchase a new guitar, the Tex-Mex is a great option to consider.
Read our full guide on how to find the best Strat pickups.
Fender Tex-Mex features:
- Cloth wiring
- Fiber bobbin
- Alnico 5 magnets to provide the pickups with more dynamics and focus
- Staggered hand-beveled polepieces to balance the output
- Formvar magnet wire to provide users with a glassy, bright tone
Fender Tex-Mex pros:
- Has a more balanced and powerful output than your typical single-coil pickup
- Has 5 Alnico magnets to increase focus, which allows musicians to play rock, blues, metal, and heavy metal with ease
Fender Tex-Mex cons:
- Not very affordable if you’re only looking to upgrade your budget guitar
Seymour Duncan 11205-02 SHR
If you’re a musician that’s looking to get your hands on advanced pickups, the Seymour Duncan 11205 single-coil pickups are an incredibly versatile pickup that you can use to operate a single-coil and/or a humbucker device. Seymour Duncan used a unique wiring combo that allows a musician to utilize the brightness, expressiveness, and accuracy of a single-coil on one side while combining it with the fullness and richness of a humbucker pickup on the other side.
In other words, Seymour Duncan used two thin blades and unique coil windings to provide users with high-quality sustain and a juicy tone that’s perfect for both rock and metal musicians. While the price tag on this pickup maybe a little more than budget musicians care to pay, many users talk about how using this pickup is like getting the ‘best of both worlds, as well as excellent responsiveness.
The Seymour Duncan 11205 reacts to even the smallest changes that you make in your playing your fretting style, and your strumming, which provides you with the opportunity to express your unique playing style during your performance.
Seymour Duncan features:
- Two thin blades with coil windings to provide the pickup with improved sustain
- Produces a full, large sound that fits perfectly into heavy rock music
- Incredibly sensitive pickup, responding to even the subtlest finger movements
Seymour Duncan pros:
- Very sensitive volume and tone controls
- Very responsive
- No ‘humming’ noise produced
Seymour Duncan cons:
- Doesn’t pair too well with bass guitars
- The corners of the pickup are slightly larger than a Strat single-coil
Lace Alumitone Deathbar
This is a high-definition pickup that’s perfect for extended guitars. I would highly recommend the Lace Alumitone Deathbar if you’re someone who is looking for outstanding sound quality for metal, jazz, and rock music for live stage performances. The voice of this pickup produces an aggressive mid-range with high output and can be paired with a large range of guitars.
Features of the Lace Alumitone Deathbar:
- Is Chrome Plated
- Can be extended all the way to 4.5 inches for 9 to 10 string guitars
- Has a passive High Definition of pickup
- Has a low, tight end, which ensures that your sound isn’t too muddy
Lace Alumitone Deathbar pros:
- No volume drop when in split mode
- When playing in lead and rhythm, you’ll receive a smooth sound
- Can play heavier music genre with ease
- Provides users with a high-gain, palm-muted, distorted, low-pitch sound
Lace Alumitone Deathbar cons:
- Very expensive
- Mainly intended for high output guitar playing, which means that this pickup will not pair well with blues
Single coil pickups are very simple to build, which means that it doesn’t take a whole lot to create your single coil pickup- just a couple of magnets and a little bit of wire. The simplicity behind their build opens up the door to endless possibilities to experiment with.
From all of the experimenting that musicians have completed over the years with single-coil pickups, there are now endless single-coil pickup options available on the market today that vary in sound production, quality, and affordability.
Make sure to take the time to think about what type of genres you’re looking to play your guitar in before you make any final decisions about what kind of single-coil pickup you’re looking to purchase.