What’s better on a guitar? Single coil or humbucker pickups?

Depends. I think the main difference between single coil and humbuckers (besides the fact that humbuckers are hum cancelling) is output. How much output you want your pickups to have – the more you have the easier it is to drive your amp but be careful because as you increase the midrange/output of a pickup, you will also lose the highs/lows so you have to find a good middle ground.

In general here are the outputs of different pickups from lowest to highest:

—single coils—

Charlie Christian pickup (lowest) – only used as a custom order these days for some pickups companies like Seymour Duncan

Rickenbacker “toaster” pickups – only used on Rickenbacker guitars

HiLoTron – only used on some Gretsch models

Fender single coil – used on Telecasters and Stratocasters and their copies

“Lipstick” pickups – used mostly on Danelectros

Tri-sonic pickups – a unique design only used by Burns and famously by Brian May of Queen

Vistatone – only used by Supro guitars

Gold Foil pickups – used by mostly Supro/Teisco

Dynasonic/DeArmond – used mostly by Gretsch

P90 (staple) – used by early Gibson models

Jazzmaster – only used by Fender Jazzmasters

Magnetic Field Design – used only by G&L

P90 (dogear/soapbar) – used by Gibson


mini humbucker – used mostly by Guild/Gibson

Filtertron – used by Gretsch

Stacked “noiseless” single coil – some pickup makers like Joe Barden, Lace Sensor, Fender and Kinman make these pickups to create a single coil sized pickup with hum cancelling

Wide Range Humbucker – used by ’72 Telecaster Deluxes and 70s Fender guitars

PAF – most Gibson models and Les Paul/SG type guitars use these

Active humbuckers (highest output) – ESP and some other brands like Charvel/Jackson may use these humbuckers and they are usually incredibly high output.

General Music

Guitar pickup makers / manufacturers

I’m a huge guitar geek, since I first started playing guitar at 15 so.. its natural for me to care about “guitar tone”, or the sound that the guitar makes. Most guitarists are very picky about their tone, and what kind of sound they can get out of their guitar. For me, I like very beautiful, smooth sounds, so I’ve always searched for the best tone. Of course the thing that affects tone the most is the amplifier. A tube amplifier especially makes a huge difference. Followed by guitar pedals, then the type of guitar itself, then guitar pickups.

Of course, for guitar pickups, a lot of people believe that handwound guitar pickups, just like hand-wired guitar amps/pedals, produce better sound. And I’ve done a lot of research in my 10 years of guitar playing so I’ve gathered the guitar pickup makers in one place here so that its easy to find :). I personally use a set of Rumpelstiltskin pickups in my Fender Stratocaster:


Big / medium sized pickup makers
Seymour Duncan
EMG Pickups
Lace Music
Fralin Pickups
Bare Knuckle Pickups
TV Jones pickups
Harmonic Design pickups
Gemini pickups
Tonerider pickups

Small or independent pickup winders
Smits Pickups
SD Pickups
Lollar pickups
Joe Barden pickups
OC Duff pickups
Kinman pickups
Amalfitano Pickups
Skatterbrane Pickups
Klein Pickups
Porter Pickups
Harrison pickups
BG Pups
Bill Lawrence pickups
Throbak pickups
High order pickups
JWP Pickups
Voodoo Pickups
Bullock Guitar Pickups
Reilander pickups
Arnsparger Pickups
Curtis Novak pickups
SK guitar pickups
J S Moore guitar pickups
Rumpelstiltskin pickups
Rock monkey pickups
Cats whisker pickups
Wolfetone pickups
Shed pickups
Don Mare pickups
JC Vintage pickups
Electric City Pickups