While steel is a large term spanning so many type of individual styles, the genre is characterized by one thing – energetic, aggressive, and colossal guitar sounds. It doesn’t issue whether it’s nu metal or Djent, retro or modern-day, Slipknot or Metallica, all steel bands share an tremendous guitar tone you can’t aid but thrash alengthy to.

You watching: Metal guitar pickups

Another thing they all tend to have in prevalent (aside from the talent to create and also play such epic music) is an excellent guitar pickup.

You have the right to forgain single-coil pickups – even though some artists have made excellent use of single-coils in metal, this genre is best recognized for its hefty usage of durable humbuckers to produce the powerful sound compelled.

So, to aid metal players make an increated decision, we’ve selected 6 of the best pickups for metal, representing some of the most renowned selections among guitarists in this genre. Some are active, some are passive, some are modern classics, some are more recent signature models, but all will provide an awesome metal tone.

Then stick around for our short guide on what provides a good metal pickup!

The Top 6 Metal Pickups:

ImagePickups / RatingSummaryCheck Price
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EMG JH James Hetarea Signature Humbucker Set

Total of 4.84/5

A seriously tight, edgy and aggressive energetic signature set.

Amazon
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Seymour Duncan AHB-3 Mick Thomboy Blackout Signature Set

Total of 4.80/5

A seriously tight, edgy and aggressive energetic signature collection.

Amazon
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EMG 85 Active Neck Humbucker

Total of 4.78/5

Massive metal output from this active neck humbucker.

Amazon
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Seymour Dundeserve to SH-13 Dimebucker

Total of 4.72/5

A humbucker that captures the essence of Dimebag.

Amazon
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DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion

Total of 4.72/5

A thick helping of steel distortion!

Amazon
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Seymour Duncan SH-8 Invader

Total of 4.72/5

The Invader’s popularity speaks for itself.

Amazon

EMG JH James Hetfield Signature Humbucker Set

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This epic humbucker set is the outcome of a conversation in between EMG and Metallica legfinish James Hetarea, that asked the brand also to create a signature collection of pickups that unified the warmth and clarity of a passive humbucker through the punch and output of active electronic devices.

And they delivered! This collection receives full marks for style, as the brumelted chrome looks awesome. They were designed with stealth in mind, although tbelow is nopoint stealthy about the sound – they’re super-hot! Under the cool chrome covers sits individual ceramic pole-pieces and bobbins in the neck humbucker for huge attack, while steel pole-pieces function in the bridge, offering a cleaner bass sound.

At some point these pickups really sing – punchy, heat, expensive sustain, well-balanced and also versatile, via the capability to reduced through the densest mixes.


Seymour Dunhave the right to AHB-3 Mick Thomboy Blackout Signature Set

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You don’t have to be a diedifficult Slipknot fan to appreciate the crushing tone on sell from this collection of active Seymour Dundeserve to humbuckers – it’s insane. Slipknot guitarist Mick Thomson functioned via the Californian brand to develop these awesome signature humbuckers that retain the power of the original Blackouts, but via Mick’s unique tone in mind.

They attribute ceramic magnets and also active electronics for huge power and decreased excess noise. This collection is awesome for all hard rock and also modern hefty metal, although percreate much better for low tunings – the bridge sounds ominous via heavy palm muting as the low-finish is so tight and also clean.

At the same time the treble is bappropriate without being abrasive, so melodic lead and high-paced solos are well catered for.


EMG 85 Active Neck Humbucker

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EMG are undoubtedly leaders in the field of active humbuckers, and also their EMG 85 is a modern timeless – no wonder it’s so famous with steel players. Made with an effective Alnico V magnet, this pickup offers a vast output that retains a natural tone.

Unlike some other energetic humbuckers, the EMG 85 doesn’t endure from any type of sterility, instead supplying rather a heat tone, with hefty low-finish, articulate mid-variety, and a rounded treble. It keeps clear and focused as the volume rises, while it’s incredibly well-behaved as soon as it comes to excess noise.

The EMG 85 is wonderful for both the bridge and the neck, although is truly at residence in the neck while its brother – the EMG 81 – sits in the bridge.


Seymour Dunhave the right to SH-13 Dimebucker

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There’s no means we can create a chart of the best metal pickups without consisting of the signature humbuckers of the late Dimebag Darrell – one of the best metal guitarists of all time.

The Seymour Duncan SH-13 Dimebucker naturally proves well-known with rock and also steel players, as well as any type of guitarist after a searing-hot tone. Handmade in California, the humbucker attributes a powerful ceramic bar magnet through 2 stainless-steel knives, covered through babsence vinyl that features Dimebag’s signature.

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The meaty low-finish is perfect for chugging steel rhythm, although it’s inherently bbest and also cuts through any kind of mix – perfect for energetic shredding. The harmonics you deserve to achieve are awesome also (think of Cemetery Gates and also you won’t be also surprised!). An essential purchase for Dimebag fans.


DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion

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On the confront of it, the DP100 Super Distortion looks choose a regular humbucker, but it performs favor anything yet. In reality, as DiMarzio rightly insurance claim, this pickup began ‘a sound revolution’, with its capability to sfinish a tube amp into complete overdrive.

Available in a broad array of cool colors (including babsence, white, purple, blue, cream, and also camouflage), the Super Distortion attributes a powerful ceramic magnet to deliver a very high output through excellent balance and also excellent warmth.

There’s a thick bass sound, raised mids and bbest trebles, which make it fantastic in the bridge for steel lead playing – just ask Paul Gilbert who offered these humbuckers during his Racer X years. Overall, an awesome pickup from DiMarzio.


Seymour Dunhave the right to SH-8 Invader

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When you hear the sheer steel power on market from this contemporary humbucker you deserve to tell why it’s so well-known. Handmade in California, this unique humbucker features 3 huge ceramic magnets via overwound coils, while twelve oversized metal oxide pole pieces are provided to provide the pickup its distinctive chunky look.

It has actually a vast output and also excels at volume, with zero hum or feedago experienced, while both notes and chords kept their clarity. The SH-8’s clean tones aren’t negative, although can come across as a small shrill.

Still, it even more than makes up for it once distorted. It uses a thick, fat sound with huge low-end and also bideal treble – perfect for the heaviest steel rhythm and also lead.


What Makes a Good Metal Pickup

As we mentioned previously, 99 percent of artists in modern-day steel usage humbuckers – which is why our chart over represents only humbuckers. The power on offer from humbuckers is what metal guitarists crave, while their noise-cancelling abilities are perfect for as soon as the volume and also acquire boost. For gigging metal guitarists, humbuckers are pretty a lot essential.

It’s likewise important that the sound doesn’t gain as well muddy, specifically once tunings obtain low and also distortion is piled on. It’s straightforward for deep steel rhythm playing to end up being lost in a sea of noise, so a pickup that ensures a characterized low-end is an additional must-have in this genre.

It’s worth remembering that steel can be incredibly melodic, so raw power should additionally make some room for tonal high quality and also warmth, through a mix-cutting treble sound that’s not as well shrill. We’re not asking for also a lot, are we?

Do I Need Active or Passive Humbuckers?

It’s a question that’s very pertinent in steel, although which style you go for will depend on what you want from your pickup. Let’s have a quick look at the pros and cons of both energetic and passive electronic devices to aid make your decision simpler.

Starting with the benefits, energetic pickups – prior to the preamp is engaged – have actually a lower natural output, so they are less at risk to hum and also background noise. When the pre-amp is on, active pickups have actually an unrivalled output – they deserve to be unbelievably hot, while continuing to be incredibly clear and in-depth. This is one reason why steel players favor energetic electronic devices.

Passive pickups, on the various other hand, might have slightly lower output (although don’t be fooled – some can be hotter than you’d ever before need), however they have actually a bigger dynamic range, suiting artistic lead players. Passive pickups also tend to have actually a slightly warmer and more herbal tone when compared to their active countercomponents.

The disbenefits of the 2 should now be pretty evident. Active pickups tend to have a lower dynamic variety, and have a slightly chillier tone. Passive pickups, meanwhile, are even more impacted by background noise, and also can be even more vulnerable to feedback when the volume really rises.

However before, we’re being pretty general in our descriptions bereason ultimately tbelow are so many type of models in so many type of price varieties, all of which have their own tonal characteristics. The best way to truly understand also the distinction is to play approximately with both layouts or, at the exceptionally leastern, listen to others play them.

See more: Best Acoustic Guitars Under 300 In 2020, The Best Acoustic Electric Guitars

The Final Word

After analysis our chart and also guide, you must have a better concept of what renders a great pickup for metal and which brands provide the finest models.

If you are planning to replace your pickups – whether upgrading from stock humbuckers or simply intricate a adjust – make certain you review reviews and watch videos of the models you’re interested in, to obtain a real feel for exactly how they sound, and whether they’re suitable for the style of steel you play. Good luck via your hunt!


Pleeease! How close minded isn’t this list? “Best steel pickups”, and also all you have the right to come up through is brands choose EMG, Seymour Dunhave the right to, DiMarzio? The list have to be called “Most well-known pickups”.

How about nice hand wound pickups? Crushing tone and also dynamics, such as pickups from Bare Knuckle, Oil City, Motor City, JWP, Bulldog, Alchemy, Lundgren?


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