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Electrical guitar pickups have two major classes: humbucker and single-coil. Though all magnetic guitar pickups work generally the same way, their tonal output is best suited to different genres.
The basic function of a pickup is to capture the vibrations of the guitar strings and convert them to electrical signals to be amplified through speakers.
Coming to prominence in the 1930s, single-coil pickups were used to add volume to guitars. As a basic design, a single-coil pickup works as an antenna. This design is ultimately flawed, however, due to the fact that a single-coil pickup picks up ambient electrical interference, creating a hum, especially as the volume of the speakers gets louder.
In order to combat the humming picked up by the single-coil system, Seth Lover, who was working at famed guitar manufacturer, Gibson, at the time, developed a pickup that cancelled the hum (or “bucked” the hum), in 1955. The Gibson Les Paul was the first guitar to implement the aptly-named “humbucker” pickup for mass distribution.
While single-coil pickups are synonymous with bright, vibrant, more linear sound, humbuckers offer warmer, fatter, bigger, richer tones. Single-coil pickups are great for country guitar or 60s style pop rock. Conversely, the best humbucker pickups are better-suited for heavy rock, jazz, and blues.
Pickups work best with a pickup cover. The best pickup covers help to protect your coils from damage, while also helping to control feedback, reduce distortion and filter sound to be warmer and more subtle. Of course, many musicians like the cosmetic boost that pickup covers provide as well, with the metal or nickel plates adding a slick, more polished look to a musician’s gear and overall setup.
We’ve rounded up some of the best pickup covers to get for your guitar. Here’s what to get.
1. Seymour Duncan Classic Pickup Cover
Seymour Duncan has been making guitar pickups and pedals since 1976 and these nickel-silver “Classic Covers” feature durable construction and long-lasting performance.
They’re designed to fit most U.S.-made, regular-spaced humbuckers, with string spacing of 1.95 inches (measured from the center of the high string to the center of the low string over the pickups).
PROS: Simple, classic silver pickup covers. Won’t affect sound quality when playing.
CONS: Will not fit Trembuckers or F-spaced humbuckers.
2. Musiclily 50mm Pickup Cover
We like the shiny and reflective look of these humbucking pickup covers, which fit most standard electric guitars. Made from a metal material with chrome plating, the pickup covers humbuckers with a string spacing of 1.97 inches.
Eight different colors available, from gold to matte black, letting you customize the look of your gear for your next performance. This set comes with two pickup covers.
PROS: Slick, chrome finish gives off a more professional look and feel.
CONS: It takes a bit of fidgeting to get these pickup covers to fit; you may want to consider bringing them into a shop to get them professionally fitted.
3. KAISH Humbucker Pickup Cover
These brass pickup covers are especially great for jazz musicians, who want brighter, fatter sound without the hum.
Using pole spacing as a measurement, these covers will fit pole spacing pickups with a 50 mm neck and 52 mm bridge (measured center to center).
This set includes two humbucker pickup covers with two different pole spacings. For those who prefer a more traditional look, KAISH makes chrome and black nickel-plated pickup covers as well.
PROS: The brass material gives off a polished, retro-inspired look.
CONS: Musicians who want warmer, more subtle sound should consider nickel pickup covers instead.