Best Guitar Pickups for Metal

Electric guitar body closeup, neck blurred

Before you go all wild and heavy on your favorite riffs, remember that it’s important to get the right set of pickups for your music. Tone, price, and type are things you should consider. Continue reading to know what fits your style!

Overview (Best Pickups For Metal)

Of course.

Chances are, you’ve grown up listening to a lot of heavy sounds from your dad’s records. Or your older brother’s room. Or even your sister’s stash of high-gain album collections.

But there is simply something about the metal genre that simply gets your head bobbing the minute you hear the heavy riffs and propulsive drum beats.

Of course, metal has never been really the oh-so-easy-to-understand type of genre. compared to common genres like rock, pop, and even blues, metal can be a bit of an acquired taste for some of us. We are of course having all of these perceptions without really knowing what makes metal a genre that musicians love and appreciate.

For the average listener who has been introduced to the aforementioned genres, metal can be labeled as something as simple as “noise”. It’s just plain screaming and growling and banging the drums hard and heavy guitar riffs. And yes. Who would forget angry faces and tongues sticking out, right? Heck, you’re playing metal, might as well look and sound the part!

When looking for new pickups, I personally look for something that balances price and quality. I am also looking for something that blends well with my choice of pedals and my existing amplifier.

Though metal can oftentimes be misunderstood by a majority of the population, it still didn’t stop some of the greats from imposing their will and making their mark on the music scene. 

Some of them have been touring the world, making metal a piece of music accepted and appreciated all around the world.

Think of names like Iron Maiden. Black Sabbath. Judas Priest. Slayer. Pantera. Slipknot. And of course – the band incorporating the genre into their band name – Metallica. These are just some of the bands that proved that metal has its rightful place in the music spectrum.

One of the main things that make the metal sound stand out is the guitar sound.

I mean, you simply have to admit it, right? When you hear intros from classics like “Enter Sandman” and “War Pigs”, you immediately notice the guitars. But have you ever wondered how these songs sounded as such?

Of course, you can always factor in the pedals and the amplifiers that these musicians have.  But one of the major contributors to producing these signature sounds are their guitars – most specifically, their guitar pickups.

Now, if you’re interested at all in trying to sound like your metal guitar heroes, then it’s important to understand that it’s not entirely recommended to have a general understanding that you don’t have to spend all those millions of dollars on getting each piece of gear that they have.

Yep. You read that right. There’s a cheaper option to getting close to having the metal tone you always wanted. The secret? Getting guitar pickups designed specifically for metal.

In this feature, we will be talking about some of the best available guitar pickups for metal available on the market today, and how they can work and suit your playing style.

Let’s get right into the riff of things!

Buying Guide

Right off the ripper, you get to choose between active and passive pickups (which we will get into a much detailed discussion in about a few). 

Next up is your budget. There are cheaper options for pickups for metal that can produce similar sounds to the much more expensive ones.

You can also consider the pickup configuration – whether or not you will opt for humbuckers or single coils. (Yep, there are single coils designed for metal!). After considering all of this, we can head on deeper into the difference between active and passive pickups.

Active VS Passive

Simply put, passive pickups are your usual pickup configurations that are soldered to your electric guitar and don’t require their own power source. Active pickups, on the other hand, are known for their versatile tone options, and do rely on an external power source.

Now, let’s get into our roundup!

Fishman Fluence Modern Set

Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker Alnico & Ceramic Guitar Pickup Set

Right off the bat, we get arguably the most popular offering in the metal pickup category, and it’s from Fishman!

The Fishman Fluence Modern Set is an active multi-voice humbucker set that sports an Alnico V (Neck) and Ceramic (Bridge) magnet.

It has garnered a reputation of being one of the most reliable tones in the metal community. It’s also a popular option for players who want to incorporate all the benefits of active and passive pickups all in one set.

Topping it all off is the option to power the said pickups via USB, through the optional power pack.

EMG JH James Hetfield Signature Humbucker Set

EMG JH James Hetfield Signature Guitar Pickup Set

Yep. What better way to involve metal than with the man himself, James Hetfield?

The EMG JH Signature Humbucker Set is renowned for incorporating the best of both worlds between active and passive pickups, with James Hetfield having specific preferences with his signature set.

Clarity, sustain, and versatility are what make the set stand out. Don’t immediately expect to sound like Metallica though. But of course, with these bad boys, you’re nearly there!

Seymour Duncan JB

Seymour Duncan SH-4 JB Modelo Humbucker Guitar Pickup

Of course, we have one of the most popular pickup manufacturers in the guitar industry.

The JB is a tried and tested offering from Seymour Duncan, and they have no intention of stopping. It offers the option to split between coils and is versatile enough for clean and distorted signals. It can improve a bit on the low-end though, but it is enough for some who want to explore their tonal options.

DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion

DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Guitar Pickup Negro Regular

A pickup as heavy as it sounds, DiMarzio offers something for the extreme metalheads.

A classic pickup that takes pride in balancing out all the frequencies, DiMarzio attempts to incorporate the sound of an overdriven tube amp into the DP100 Super Distortion.

It is also renowned for delivering a high output signal while still managing to balance warmth and clarity.

Seymour Duncan SH-13 Dimebucker

Seymour Duncan SH13 Dimebag Darrell Guitar Pickup

Of course. No metal list would be complete without hearing the Dime. And yes. It’s another offering from Seymour Duncan.

The SH-13 Dimebucker is perfect for the metalhead who plays guitars wanting that tight and chugging sound of the low-end strings.

If you want to go all out Pantera and you want to rely on superb pinch harmonics, then this pickup is the one for you.


And there we have it!

While each of these pickups offer different strengths and tonal characteristics, all of these are definitely worth checking out. This is even more true if you’re really into that unique and distinctive metal tone.

Just remember to do a fair amount of research and seek help whenever you’re on the lookout for replacing your existing guitar pickups.

Have fun exploring!