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Single Coils vs. Humbuckers


Different guitars can sound dramatically different through the same electric guitar amplifier. Most of the differences can be attributed to the type of pickups that your guitar has. There are three main types of pickups: single coils, humbuckers, and P90s. Today, we’ll look at the basic characteristics of the two most common types: single coils and humbuckers.

Single Coils

Single coil pickups were the first type of pickup designed for the electric guitar. Speaking generally, single coils are brighter than other styles of pickups. They are especially great for sparkly clean tones. Due to their design, they are somewhat noisy, and they produce a distinctive humming noise. For the most part, most big fans of single coil pickups favor them because of their ability to produce a crisp, twangy tone. Today, there are a wide variety of single coil pickups that can cop a ton of different tones. Certain boutique pickup winders have even put out single coil sets geared towards hard rock and metal players, genres that traditionally have favored humbuckers.


As their name implies, humbuckers are designed to eliminate the humming noise that single coils emit. This is achieved by wiring two single coil pickups out of phase with one another. Humbuckers, for the most part, have a higher output and produce a thicker, warmer tone than single coils. They have been heavily favored by jazz, rock, and metal players. Again, as time has gone on, the old distinctions have fallen away. Today, nearly every type of player has used both single coils and humbuckers at some point.

When you are searching for your personal tone, try out as many different combinations as possible. Every component of your signal path matters, so the options are nearly limitless. Happy tone hunting!