Humbuckers vs Single Coils

One of the first things you need to decide when you get your first electric guitar is whether you want to use humbucker or single coil pickups. Pickups are magnets placed under the string, and transmits your sound to your amps. Single coil pickups use, well, a single coil, and humbuckers use two coils.

Before I briefly describe the difference, have a listen (humbuckers go first, then single coils):

I use a pair of Seymour Duncan humbuckers. I installed a push-pull pot, which is a really useful and cheap (about US$8) device to switch between having two coils or one coil. But the single coils probably don't sound as 'authentic' as dedicated single coils, but the video should be enough to give you a broad idea.

Humbuckers have a much thicker and distorted sound ('higher gain') than single coils. Single coils have a kind of twang which is quite suitable for blues and country music, but not for heavier rock.

But it isn't a hard and fast rule, because many rock players use single coils, and some blues players use humbuckers. It really boils down to your personal preference.


Anonymous said...

im about to buy mines, thanks for the info, Jesus rocks, good thing you rock for Him ! God Bless

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

uhmm... i have a strato caster... and it has a single coil pickup.. is there any way to change to humbuckers and if it's possible do you have any idea about how much it would cost?.. thx

Anonymous said...

Ya look at the Seymour Duncan website i was looking to replace my pickups on telecaster. You can get humbuckers to fit in a strat without making bigger slots for the pickups

Alberto72 said...

I know this is old, and it has probably been cleared already. But I'll say it anyway. ALL pickups generate a clean signal. As such, they do not have gain. Gain is defined as distortion and is never obtained at the guitar. The difference is the strength of the signal. Humbuckers have two coils and the strenght of the signal is the sum of the two coils. Single coils, obviously, are half the size. A humbucker will help your amp distort sooner, hence the perception of more gain.

The dEvolutionist said...


Gain is not distortion, but amplification. An amp or preamp may provide a lot of gain with very little distortion. It would be closer (but still not totally accurate) to say that overdrive is distortion. Though as a signal source, it might not be semantically correct to say a multi-coil pickup has more "gain," the OP's point that more or tighter coils produce a stronger signal can be appropriately understood as "gain."