5 Best Passive Guitar Pickups for Acing the Metal Genre

One of the most common questions of its nature online is whether or not you can use a passive pickup to play, and succeed in playing, the metal genre. In short, the answer is yes, you can. However, this does mean that you’ll need to find the right pickup for the job.
Passive pickups are the name given to the original electric guitar pickups, which were and still are designed to be far simpler than their active counterparts. However, the same principles apply for using magnets wrapped in wire.

These pickups have been used for decades in leading guitars, such as SGs, Les Paul’s, Telecasters and Stratocasters, and are still hugely popular to this day.

As you can imagine, these are the guitars that were used for metal music during what some might call the peak of the era, including all the bands that formed the metal community’s roots. Fast forward to the present day, passive pickups are still commonly available and still ideal for creating the sounds of this iconic genre.

Nevertheless, as we mentioned above, the important thing to remember is that you’re going to need to choose the right pickup for the job. Otherwise, you simply won’t be able to enjoy the sound you’re looking to create.

Today, we’re sharing our results from our search to find the best. Out of all the pickups available, we’ve managed to narrow them down to just five of the best, making it easy to find the right one for you.

Bartolini DL5CBC Bass Guitar Pickup Stingray Style

Bartolini DL5CBC Bass Guitar Pickup Stingray Style

Starting off our list, we’ve opted for the Bartolini DL5CBC guitar pickup that’s been designed for your bass guitar. Your bass guitar is such an important part of a metal performance, so it wouldn’t be right not to give it a mention.

This 5-string dual-coil bass pickup can be used as an upgrade or a replacement and is designed to using the MusicMan Stingray style, meaning it looks amazing. Fortunately, it also sounds amazing as well.

This particular pickup puts emphasis on both the low and mid ranges of your guitar’s sound, delivering deep and rich bass notes, and amplifying your low-mids with a bright, crisp, and beautiful tone.

In fact, it doesn’t really matter if you’ve invested in a low-quality guitar model, these pickups will help you to bring your sound to life, making the ideal choice for metal musicians, especially those that like to smash their guitars on stage.

Although this is a mid-range priced pickup and only comes with one piece per set, this is an awesome sounding device that will give you everything you need to fulfill your metal-genre requirements.

PROS
  • Perfect choice for bass guitars
  • Designed on the MusicMan Stingray Style
  • Ideal for bringing a metal tone to your low and low-mid sounds
  • Easy to install and highly durable build quality
CONS
  • Can only be used on bass guitars
  • Mid-range/premium price tag

Seymour Duncan Black Winter Set 7-String Electric Guitar

Seymour Duncan Black Winter Set 7-String Electric Guitar

Okay, now that we’ve mentioned the bass guitar, we’ll head back over to the electric pickups to help you create and replicate your metal genre sounds. While this two-piece set does come at a premium price tag, all the features that it has included makes it all worthwhile.

Marketed as being as ‘extreme as the Scandinavian Winter’, who doesn’t want their metal sounds to emulate this cold, dark and baron mental imagery? These particular underground pickups were specifically designed for all kinds of Black and Death metal, or any other underground style you care to name.

The sound you’ll receive from these pickups is simply brutal. The attack response is simply out of this world, and there’s a defined ‘crunch’ that you’ll experience every time you play that you can’t find with other pickups in the same class.

In terms of spec, these pickups are designed for 7-string guitars, although you can use them for whatever you want. They are also loaded with ceramic magnets which also have a metal-styled aesthetic, providing you with a full-metal experience.

Included with your purchase, you’ll find a 4 conductor leads which gives you the ability to enjoy multiple wiring options, as well as the entire device being wax-potted to ensure the minimal amount of squeal while you’re playing. This guarantees a crisp and raw sound that will blow your audience away.

PROS
  • Wax-potted design with awesome metal aesthetics
  • Designed for 7-string guitar or below
  • Includes four conductor wires for multiple wiring options
  • Specifically designed by Seymour experts for metal and underground genres
CONS
  • The premium price tag
  • Installation diagrams may be confusing (simply search for instructions online)

EMG H4 Passive Electric Guitar Humbucker Pickup

EMG H4 Passive Electric Guitar Humbucker Pickup

If you’re on the hunt for an affordable passive humbucker pickup that can help you achieve the metal sounds you’ve been looking for without breaking the bank, the EMG H4 might be the ideal pickup for your electric guitar.

This particular model combines the power of the original EMG 81 and mixes it with the technology of a traditional PAF-styled passive pickup, and the result is simply outstanding. With an incredibly tight and rapid bass response, crystal-clear and roaring mids, all with an added crunch on the high notes, this is a metalhead’s dream pickup.

The pickup has been developed with a ceramic bar magnet, all of which comes fully shielded to reduce the risk of unwanted noise and irritating feedback. The result is a clean and crisp sound that maintains absolute clarity during every performance.

However, what we really love about this pickup is the fact that it comes with a solderless installation system. This means you’ll be able to drop these pickups into your guitar and wire them up without any hassle or stress whatsoever, giving you even more time to focus on actually playing.

For those musicians out there who are looking for a heavy guitar sound to produce some truly superior metal performances, these pickups are definitely worth your attention.

PROS
  • Incredibly affordable heavy-metal styled pickups
  • Solderless and effortless installation
  • Rapid response times over all frequency ranges
  • Rumbling low bass sounds with glassy mids and roaring highs
CONS
  • Only one pickup per purchase
  • May require some modifications with the wiring setup

EMG OC1 SRO Open-Coil Passive Humbucker Pickup

EMG OC1 SRO Open-Coil Passive Humbucker Pickup

Sticking to the lines of the professional quality and outstanding design that EMG offers, the OC1 SRO is another great choice for guitarists who are trying to recreate that iconic metal sound in their own performances.

This passive humbucker pickup prides itself on its open-coil design and a red-hot output thanks to the built-in Alnico V bar magnet. This means rapid and tight response time with an inductance of 7.42K.

These particular pickups even supply you with 4.4K of internal gain. But this is only in the neck of your guitar. Install the pickup into your bridge, and you’ll receive 16.44K inductance with 3.05K of gain; perfect for those metal riffs that you’ve grown to love over the years.

There’s plenty of power to be enjoyed here, and thanks to EMG’s effortless Quik-Connect installation system, you can simply drop and wire up these pickups in no time at all, meaning you’ll have even more time to focus on making the music you love.

PROS
  • Built with an industry-leading Alnico V magnet bar
  • Suitable for bridge and/or neck installation
  • Incredibly affordable with EMG’s leading Quik-Connect installation system
  • Superior response times for all your rocking needs
CONS
  • Only one pickup per purchase
  • The quik-connect system may require a professional touch on certain guitar models

EMG JH Set James Hetfield Electric Guitar Pickup Set

EMG JH Set James Hetfield Electric Guitar Pickup Set

To finish off this list on a high, we’re sticking with EMG’s leading line of heavy metal pickup sets with this absolute winner. While this is the most expensive pickup set on our list, it does come with two pickups and is sure to give you the best sound experience that you’ve been looking for.

In fact, this is James Hetfield signature set, and for those who don’t know, he’s the main songwriter, co-founder and rhythm guitarist for the iconic Metallica rock band. This stealth-designed set comes with a beautiful golden-brushed aesthetic that will make your guitar look and feel amazing.

Easily the leading feature of these pickups is the fact that provides you with the legendary clarity of an active pickup while maintaining the punch and raw sound of a passive pickup. Combined technology such as this means you’ll enjoy the best of both worlds.

With a super low inductance and an industry-leading response range, you’ll be able to enjoy a clean yet heavy and deep sound, especially around your lower ends. This set comes with EMG’s leading Quik-Connect solderless installation, which means you’ll be ready to rock out in no time at all.

PROS
  • Comes with EMG’s leading solderless installation
  • James Hetfield’s signature pickup set
  • Comes with two pickups for a complete guitar upgrade
  • Professionally blended active and passive technology for the best sound and response range
CONS
  • The high-end price tag
  • Solderless installation may require some modifications for certain guitar models

Summary

And that about wraps this up. When it comes to finding the best passive electric pickup sets for your guitar, there’s no doubt about it that there’s a lot of choices out there.

However, any of the five pickups we’ve listed above are ideal and will have you performing metal music to the best of your ability in no time at all.

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