Roundup of Cheap Electric Guitar Pickups
There's no denying that pickups play a major role when it comes to electric guitar tone. By simply replacing your pickups, you can substantially change your guitar tone for the better.
Thankfully, there are some quality yet affordable options available so you won't have to spend too much to upgrade your pickups. These pickups are great for entry-level electric guitars, immensely improving the sound when compared to stock pickups. Experienced players can also benefit from these cheap pickups for use with their project guitars, or to experiment with various pickup combinations without having to burn a hole through their pockets. Whatever your case maybe, these quality and budget friendly pickups will help you in sounding better.
Note that below we show the cheapest price you can get if you shop around - these are usually less than the MSRP listed by the manufacturer.
Skip ahead to the type of pickups you're interested in:
Single Coil Pickups:
GFS True Coil Noise Canceling Pickups
Thanks to the impressive quality and affordable price tag of their pickups, GFS is gaining more and more fans. And in line with this, their GFS True Coil Noise Canceling Pickup gets our top recommendation - it's vintage tone and quiet operation simply gives you much more than what you pay for.
The company successfully combined traditional building techniques with modern noise canceling technology, resulting in a classic sounding pickup that reduces almost all of the 60 cycle hum. They used old school fiber bobbins, Formvar wire, sand-cast Alnico V magnets and applied copper shielding with wax potting on the assembly. True Coil Noise Canceling Pickups come in various models, covering everything from warm vintage '50s sound to hot over-wounded sounds. Check this pickup out if you have are looking for single-coil replacements. Retail Price: $31.95. Manufacturer Info.
Lace Tres Hombres Pickup
Lace pickups is a manufacturer that is steadily building their reputation in this price range, the Tres Hombres Single Coil is a great example of how they are able to provide great sounding pickups at lower price points.
This unique looking pickup features 3 poles that utilizes different metal materials tweaked to match the strings that they are assigned on. This design results in improved harmonics, stronger string vibrations and enhanced note separation. Users have commented on its great string balance, fat tone and quiet operation, but its most appealing feature is its ability to play supporting role when combined with more premium pickups. Retail Price: $34.99. Manufacturer Info.
Fender Tex-Mex Strat Pickup
Popularized by Jimmie Vaughan's signature Tex-Mex Strat, the Tex-Mex pickup's angry and bluesy flavor has made it the favorite of many Stratocaster and Telecaster players. Some even found themselves removing their more expensive pickups just to give room for the affordable Tex-Mex.
Thankfully, Fender has made the Tex-Mex Strat pickups available individually or as a set. The most popular of the three pickups is the Bridge model, which is over-wound for increased output, resulting in a hotter yet still responsive and controllable single-coil sound. We agree with many that applaud the pickup's warm vintage tone that emphasizes the higher frequencies. If you have a Squier Strat or other Stratocaster style guitar and you play blues and rock, the Tex-MEx will improve your sound immensely. Retail Price: $30. Manufacturer Info.
DragonFire Strat Pure Vintage Set
The label "vintage" automatically comes with the impression of being expensive, however this does not apply to the DragonFire Strat Pure Vintage Set. For just under 50 dollars, you get not one, but THREE single coil pickups tuned to mimic the sound of '50s era Stratocasters.
This is a bold claim for something so cheap, but reviews have been remarkably and consistently favorable. Many were surprised at how convincing the "vintage" voice of the pickups were, especially at its crazy cheap price point! The set features staggered alnico magnet slugs, enamel coated wire, fiber bobbins and wax potted enclosures. The middle pickup is also reverse wound for hum cancelling tones in positions 2 and 4. With this set, you can get better tone for all three of your pickups in one go - without breaking a sweat! Retail Price: $49.95. Manufacturer Info.
Kent Armstrong Rebel Tele Hot Front
The Kent Armstrong brand may not be as popular as other big names, but they have been getting increasing word of mouth recommendations. A good example of the quality of their products is the Rebel Tele Hot Front, with its smooth, full and slightly brighter tone, designed specifically for the Telecaster's neck pickup position.
To get the sound right, the company utilized 2 core lead wire, and designed built the pickup using 7.5K Alnico V magnet. The pickup is then wound hotter than the typical Tele neck pickup, which will certainly add some edge to the sound of your neck position should you choose to upgrade to this pickup. Finally, this pickup is reverse wound to compliment the Tele Hot Front bridge pickup. Reviews are consistent in saying that this pickup features improved clarity when compared to other pickups. Retail Price: $40. Manufacturer website.
GFS Retrotron Humbucker
GFS set out to recreate the vintage sound of Filtertron pickups, as heard on vintage Gretsch guitars. After a year of research, they came up with the Retrotron series, which provides a close approximation of the sound while retaining an affordable prize, and a standard humbucker size.
While other Filtertron-style pickups require some modification, you can easily get this vintage sounding pickup, and install it into any guitar with a standard humbucker slot - and it only costs a fraction of what you will pay for if you will get one from boutique manufacturers. The Retrotron utilizes ceramic magnets for a fat and clear sound that is a bit on the soft side. High output varieties of the pickup is also available for those that want more juice. Retail Price: $37.95. Manufacturer Info.
With their long roster of big name artists that include Robben Ford, Dave Mustaine, David Gilmour, Nuno Bettencourt and many more, Seymour Duncan is definitely one of the biggest players in pickup manufacturing. But this did not stop them from entering the cheap guitar pickups race with the Duncan Performer line of pickups.
The most popular from this line is the Duncan Performer Humbucker, providing players that are looking for a heavier sound with a worthy and affordable alternative. Having an open coil design, this humbucker does not have the flare and visuals of its more expensive cousins. However it does have the same "heart", providing impressive tone that has satisfied quite a number of guitar players world over. Many even compare it to the popular high-output pickup Duncan Distortion that costs more than three times more. Thanks to its ceramic magnet with over-wound coils, this passive pickup gives out a very hot output. Ideal for all types of rock, and can be a budget pickup for metal players. Retail Price: $29.99. Manufacturer Info.
EMG SRO OC1 Open-Coil Humbucker
There's no denying that EMG is an established pickup brand, so finding one of their products in this low price range is quite a surprise. The SRO OC1 is a traditional open-coil design humbucker, featuring Alnico V Bar Magnets that are tweaked for clarity and versatility.
Although this is a passive pickup, it still follows the typical EMG inclination towards high gain use. This humbucker is a natural born rocker, providing increased sustain when you hit your dirt pedal, and it does so without making a hole in your pocket. HSS configuration Super Strats and Les Paul style guitars would benefit from this pickup. This pickup is highly recommended if you are looking for a juicier bridge position humbucker. Retail Price: $40. Manufacturer Info.
DragonFire H90s Hum-sized P90 Set
Dragon Fire is another pickup maker that is well known to guitarists that modify their instruments. They offer a long list of pickups that sound surprisingly good for their cheap price. One that caught our attention is the great looking H90s with white pearl top cover.
This pickup set (yes you get a pair of pickups for under 35 bucks!) feature P90 style design, built to fit humbucker slots. Since P90 pickups are essentially single-coil pickups that have more midrange, this would make a great replacement pickup for players that want to get more single coil like sounds from their humbucker equipped guitars. This is simply a very tempting value-packed pickup set that is hard to skip on. Retail Price: $34.95. Manufacturer Info.
Powered By Lace Humbucker
Lace Music is a small picckup company that created an impressive pickup that caught the attention of Fender. They pioneered the Lace Sensor type pickup, which continues to be popular especially in the high-end market. Interestingly, the company is also well represented in the entry level market, thanks to their high-output "Powered by Lace" Humbucker.
This ceramic based pickup is designed to provide high output tone and enhanced high-frequencies, qualities that are usually wanted by guitarists who are looking to upgrade their stuck humbuckers. Users describe it as clean with a slight overdrive when pushed and played hard, and we concur with many satisfied guitarists that say this humble pickup made a very big difference to their sound. If you are looking to improve the sound of an affordable HH configuration guitar, this is a great pickup to work with. Retail Price: $22.06. Manufacturer Info.
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