Pickups? What are the best?

Jeremy D.

Hey guys I want to swap out the pickups in my Gibson SG Standard and I cant make a decision.  I'm debating whether to get an Emg 81 for the bridge with a EMG66 in the neck, the JH Emg set or go passive and get a dimarzio Evolution in the bridge.  What is best? I want something with lots of definition and clarity.

Jeremy D.

Or if you have any suggestions let me know. I just want to be able to get a pickup with nickel or chrome covers like the Gibson pickups it came with because I like that look on this guitar. thanks



Well the Seymour 59 and JB are also an option

There in lots of ESP models and not just for something


In general for a tune o matic bridge my opinio is

probably would say no to the evolution,  lots of definition, but not a lot of clarity, it is very agressive and sounds great for distortion,  probably one of my favorites, but it is not versitile, its not good for cleans at all.  


for emg I like and emg 85 neck 81 bridge,  they are both agressive but sound good for clean and warm up nicely with proper use of your volume and tone knobs,  the 60 in the neck is nice also but its much warmer and vintage sounding in my opinion.  nice if you want a jazz or blues tone out of the neck, for heavier stuff I like the 85 in the neck, I have not tried a 66


59 / jb set - good but I always found the 59 a slight bit muddy, and the jb a slight bit harsh. For bridge I prefer a pearly gates, or a duncan sh5 to the jb,  they clean up nicely and have really good definition distorted.  I tend to like dimarzio for neck position,  an air norton is very versitile,  The air zone will kill a 59 for both clarity and definition and it retains the warmth of a 59,  and it you want something agressive in the neck a jb sound really good in the neck position ( this needs a fairly agressive high output pickup to balance it in the bridge) it still cleans up nicely but it is not warm.    One of my favorite sets is jb neck and sh5 bridge.   thats a bit on the agressive side but it sounds great clean. 


the bill lawrence l500 is also a really nice pickup,  if you get the real one,  These were made, by The actuall bill Lawrence in california, not the bill lawrence brand,  They are sold under the brand Wilde PIckups,  He passed away a couple of years ago, however his wife Becky still operates the company.  They are extremely good and they are cheap.  You can order the l500 in XL,L,R,C - I think this stands for xtra loud, loud, regular and clean,  I have and l500xl bridge and and l500r set in one of my guitars and it probably the most veristile pickup set I own,  metal, blues, jazz - they do it all well.  These are the real Dimebag pickups,  not the ones that Seymour duncan made copys of.


These are just a few suggestions off the top of my head,

I Have tried a lot of different pickups,  If you can be specific to the exact sounds you are trying to achieve,  I could probably be more helpful


also your equipment makes a huge difference, certain pickups work better in soild state amps and some better in tube amps, and certain pickups work better with 

basic pedals and some better with heavy digital processing.   Any addition iformation would be helpful.  


What do you not like about the gibson pickups?






Jeremy D.

Thanks for responding and your posts have been very helpful.  I'm glad you mentioned the sh5 because that was a pickup I was considering for the bridge but forgot to mention. I even had the idea of moving the Gibson 498T to the neck position with an sh5 in the bridge because its kinda like the jb being a hot wound alnico 5 pickup. What do you think?   I have nothing against the Gibson pickups they really are great but they have a more classic rock sound and the 498 gets a little muddy with heavy distortion and fast riffing but sounds great soloing. Really think the sh5 is the one.                                                                                                                         

Jeremy D.

Would the 498T brighten up my tone in the neck you think? The neck pickup is good but I would like something just a bit brighter and hotter.



I really like the sh5 it's has a fuller and smoother sound than the Jb,  no lack of clarity or definition,  sounds outstanding with distorion and fairly good clean as well.  

I actually like bridge pickups used in the neck postion, however they need an agressive pickup in the bridge for balance.  An Sh5 or a Jb would be sufficient.

For neck position - my favorites are the air norton - well blanced, with lots of clariy and does not get muddy,  air zone - sounds like a duncan 59 but without the muddiness,

and JB in the neck position is great if you don't really like what most neck pickups sound like, it's clear, defined and agressive.  It sounds beautiful clean but does not have nearly as much warmth as a typical neck pickup.  

Might as well try moving your bridge pickup to the neck position to see what it sounds like before buying a neck pickup. 


  When I install a pickup, I connect it to the controls using alligator clip test leads. They usually hold good enough to plug in and do a quick sound check.

 If I like the pickup then I solder it in.   




I had another thought, the duncan distortions are some of the best passives I have tried if you do not play anything that sounds classic or bluesy.  Great cleans, Great distortion, extremely well balanced.   They have a very modern progressive sound.


a lot of people don't enjoy EMGs, but I have EMG 81/60 combo in all of my guitars and i love em!


EMGs all the way. 81/85 or 81/60. If you want to go passive, check out the DiMarzio D-Activators.

Michael S.

What genre/style are you looking to play? Any bands that have guitar tones you really like? 


You should try and get an imperssion of what they sound like. I'd also like the sound of EMGs and swear on the 81's in the bridge but there are a lot of people who d't like the sound. I also recommend to check the following site http://www.uberproaudio.com/who-plays-what

As some of the other posters before me mentioned: check what you wanna play or which style you want to adopt and check what they use. I like that page to check some pro's gear :-)

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