The Best Passive Pickups for Metal Guitar 2020
Top 3 Picks
If you are a fan of Hard rock and Metal music, you would be familiar with the importance of a good pickup that can produce that grainy and loud sound. No matter how expensive the guitar is, or how technically sounding the Amp and Pedals are, the pickups have to be on point. The pickup is like the guitar’s microphone, and if it does not capture the strings’ sound correctly, maximum metal sounds won't be achieved.
All Metal and Hard rock guitarists swear by the Humbucker Pickups as they give a deep and warm tone making it sound just great when combined with grainy metal tones. The Single-Coil pickups, which give out a nice and clean tone, do not have many takers in the Metal music genre. So, if you are planning to buy a pickup for your guitar, which suits Metal and Rock music, look no further as we bring to you some of the best Passive Pickups for Metal guitar available on the market.
Best Passive Pickups for Metal Guitars
The EMG H4 Passive Pickup is one of the most affordable and quality pickups currently available. This pickup delivers a powerful and clean sound similar to its predecessor, an active pickup, the EMG 81. The best part of the pickup is it’s built as it has dual over-wound coils along with some large ceramic bar magnets that deliver a powerful sound and screaming tones, which are an essential part of Hard Metal Music. The EMG H4 Passive pickup’s wiring is fully shielded, which results in less distortion and feedback, giving you a nice tone. The EMG H4 pickup comes with solderless installation technology, making it easier to install the pickup in your guitar and play instantly.
If you are a die-hard Metal fan, you would be familiar with the Dimebag Darell sound. Dimebag Darell was the lead guitarist in the popular Metal band Pantera and is single-handedly responsible for making generations of people fall in love with hard metal. The Seymour Duncan SH13 Pickup is a humbucker that brings to you the famous Dimebag Darell sound. The favorite Dimebag Darell sound is associated with high pitched upper midranges and a deep bass sound on the lower notes. One of the standout features of this Dimebucker Dimebag Darell pickup is that along with ceramic bar magnets; it also has stainless steel blades that help achieve higher power and greater distortion. This little addition to the pickup makes it one of the most preferred passive pickups for metal fans.
This Bill Lawrence L-500XLB passive pickup is quite similar to the Seymour Dimebag Darell pickups as they both have steel blades and strong ceramic magnets, enhancing the metal sound. This humbucker pickup’s dual wound coils deliver deep bass and clean midrange notes and help you focus on the vocals. This Bill Lawrence Passive Pickup is one of the cleanest sounding pickups currently and is ideal for rock and classical metal playing. The only disadvantage that we can think of is the complicated tuning process that distorts the bass if not done correctly. If you are really into metal and enjoy high-pitched sounds, then the Bill Lawrence L-500XLB pickup could be a good choice.
The DiMarzio DP222 Passive Pickup comes from the famous DiMarzio brand and delivers beautifully on the midranges. The pickup features large Ceramic bar magnets and specially designed tune coils that enhance the upper midrange frequencies and a balanced treble. This DiMarzio Pickup is ideal for bridge mounting and has a higher voltage output than its famous predecessor, the X2N humbucker pickup. The high voltage output translates into a more powerful sound, which is what metal playing is all about. One of the weaknesses of this Dimarzio DP222 D pickup is that the bass sounds tend to get less powerful on the lower range of notes, but this is apparent only when playing certain metal music types only and can be easily ignored in comparison to the other great features on offer. This pickup is best suited for heavy thrash metal and provides great sound in this gain-packed music genre.
This Bare Knuckle Nailbomb passive pickup is ideal for low-high midrange and bass, delivering strong and powerful sound. The pickup has the option of Alnico V magnets or ceramic magnets. It comes by default with the Alnico V magnets, which are known for their deep and warm sounds. The pickup enhances the lower end bass tones and chunky mid-range highs. The Bare Knuckle Nailbomb works great when used as it is. However, if played with a bit of overdrive, it transforms into a pickup that delivers a tight tone that is responsive and explosive. This not-so-famous pickup can easily be rated among the best passive pickups for metal. The only disadvantage with this pickup is that it might not fit some older guitar models. If you own a newer guitar, go ahead and get this Bare Knuckle Nailbomb Passive pickup and hear the glass shattering powerful metal sound.
So, here is our pick of the best passive pickups for metal and rock music genres. If you are new to metal playing and are confused about which pickup to buy, the above list and reviews can help you make an informed decision based on your requirements and budget.
Another dilemma that faces the guitarists is the choice between Active Pickups and Passive Pickups. How do you decide which one is right for you? If you are someone who has gone through this question multiple times in your head, then we can tell you about the difference between the two and help you understand which one is more suitable for your playing style.
Active vs Passive Pickups- Which One is for you?
Before we go to the much-debated topic of Active Vs Passive Pickups, lets us quickly recap on what a pickup is and what it does. A pickup is a transducer that captures the strings’ vibrations and transforms them into electrical signals that are then amplified. A pickup can be seen as the microphone attached to the guitar, which helps the string vibrations travel from the guitar to the amplifier. The two main styles of pickups are Single Coil pickups and the Dual Coil pickup, also called humbuckers. The Metal music genre uses the Humbucker pickups more than Single Coil Pickups as they provide a more powerful sound.
The Humbucker pickups are available in Active and Passive form. The Active pickups are more recent than the Passive Pickups and come with an in-built preamp that is fitted into the instrument. They normally require a power source or batteries to keep them running. On the other hand, Passive Pickups do not require any power source and have a large amount of coil wound around them.
Another difference between Active and Passive pickups is that an active pickup tends to have low natural output without the preamp and is less affected by feedback and background noise. When the preamp is engaged, the Active pickups deliver an unmatched powerful sound. On the other hand, passive Pickups have a wide dynamic range even though they might have lower output. They can also be susceptible to background noises and other disruptions but still deliver a much warmer and natural tone compared to the active pickups. So basically, it boils down to the fact that while Active pickups have a greater output and less interference from background noises, the Passive pickups have a greater dynamic range and can sometimes include humming and interference.
Most of the old school metal players prefer passive pickups over Active pickups mainly because of two reasons. One being that Active pickups are relatively new, and many guitarists have not gotten accustomed to it. Secondly, the grainy, warm, and loud-throated voice, which is the signature of metal music, can be achieved only through passive pickups. While having greater output, the Active Pickups still sound too thin and sharp, which does not generally suit the metal genre. That said, many Metal guitarists are now opening up to the idea of active pickups. Some of the most famous active pickups available on the market are EMG 85 active Neck Humbucker and Seymour Duncan AHB-1. The pickup choice depends on the guitarist and what kind of sound they are looking for. Both active and passive pickups do their jobs well, and if you are ok with a tradeoff between louder output and dynamic range, then the decision would be a lot easier.
No matter which pickup you choose, active or passive, the main idea is to be true to the spirit behind hard rock metal music, a very famous music genre with millions of fans worldwide. Bands like Metallica, Pantera, Deep Purple, and Linkin Park ushered fans and musicians alike still revere the era of Rock and Heavy Metal in the world music scene. So, if you are someone who enjoys playing the high-pitched screeching sounds or the grainy bass tones, then it’s time to get a guitar suited for metal and install one of the reviewed pickups to deliver a true metal tone!