What is a humbucker pickup


What is a humbucker?

A humbucking pickup is a two-coil or multi-coil pickup which, due to its special construction, is insensitive to hum interference.

It is built into both guitars and basses and delivers a full sound with a high output, which makes it very popular on the bridge.

The humbucker differs from a single coil pickup in tone and the number of coils installed.

If you want to learn more about the different types of pickups, we recommend our Guitars ABC in the shop!

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How does a humbucker work?

A humbucking pickup works like any electromagnetic pickup. The two coils built into it generate a magnetic field that is changed by the vibrations of the strings. The signal thus picked up finds its way to our hearing via the potentiometer of the electric guitar, the amplifier and its loudspeaker.

Which humbuckers are there?

A paradigmatic representative of the humbucking pickups is the Gibson humbucker. Gibson manufactured this under the name PAF humbucker since 1957 and installed it in the bridge and neck position of the Les Paul. Gibson revolutionized the pickup scene. Maybe that's why the Gibson custom pickups are so popular today.

Gibson humbuckers are available in different versions for different guitars such as the ES-335, the SG models and of course the Les Paul. Gibson also equipped archtop guitars such as the L-5 with humbuckers.

You can find out more about the Gibson humbucker pickups in our G&B Basic!

The two-coil pickups are not only used in Gibson Les Pauls. The most popular manufacturer of replacement pickups is certainly Seymour Duncan.

The Seymour Duncan humbuckers are characterized by a construction that does not encase the coils of the pickup with their ceramic magnets, so that the mostly black coils of the pickups are visible in the pickguard.

Here you can see a comparison of popular humbucker variants:

Another popular manufacturer for electric guitar humbuckers is EMG. The brand is known for its fully jacketed, black-capped active pickups and also carries active variants.

In this context, active means that the picked up signal is already amplified by the pickup itself. This gives the guitar more attack and a higher output. In the bridge position of a guitar, the EMG pickups create real sound miracles and an audible difference to passive humbucker pickups.

In addition to the humbucker pickups in the usual design (two coils next to each other, each the size of a single coil), humbuckers are also produced that can be inserted into the single-coil recesses of a Telecaster or Stratocaster. An example of this is the Seymour Duncan JB Jr.

If you want to get a comprehensive picture, we recommend our PAF pickup comparison test!

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Which humbuckers for metal?

Humbuckers are particularly popular when it comes to heavier music. Active pickups from EMG or Seymour Duncan are often used here to support the bridge sound of guitars, which is popular in metal.

The humbucker pickups allow a lot of output and thus provide more possibilities to drive a harder gain sound without increased susceptibility to interference. Active humbucking pickups increase this effect through their internal pre-amplification.

Do you want to change your pickups? Take a look at our workshop on the topic of cartridge replacement!