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Whether you’re looking to replace old, worn-out pickups on a vintage instrument or hoping to tweak your overall sound, one of the four pickups on this list will give you exactly what you’re looking for. They’re the best jazz bass pickups on the market.
Fender Custom Shop ‘60s
The original J-pickups were integral to the iconic jazz bass sound, and this list would be incomplete if Fender weren’t represented somewhere. With the Custom Shop ’60 model, Fender takes the original design and overwinds the coils, giving you more power and punch in the bass and mid-range. It uses a powerful Alnico 5 magnet and Formvar wire, the combination of which gives your tone an impressive and rich low-end depth.
These pickups retain enough of their original styling that they can give your modern instrument a vintage sparkle without losing either your output power or the clarity of your tone. There’s a reason this model is one of the most popular jazz bass pickups in the world. It brings out what most consider to be the best parts of the bass sound, making it an excellent choice for players of all levels and styles.
This DiMarzio design gives you the noise cancelling benefits of a double-coil humbucking pickup in the slim profile of a standard single-coil jazz pickup. They use a unique design that is self-humbucking—whereas most humbuckers use stacked coils, each coil within the DP123 picks up one pair of strings. This lowers the resistance and clarifies the tone while still eliminating extra noise from your sound.
In terms of tone, it’s warmer and more sensitive than traditional j-pickups, giving you a smoother sound on effects like vibrato and glissandi that makes it the perfect companion to a fretless bass. The ceramic magnet used inside gives your tone some extra bite and power, for an overall tone that’s expressive without getting lost in the mix. These are among the best noiseless jazz bass pickups.
Lindy Fralin 4 String Jazz Bass Pickup Set
Lindy Fralin is a name synonymous with quality in both the guitar and bass communities. Their precision winding and considered use of materials puts Lindy Fralin pickups in a category all their own to the company’s many adherents. It uses an Alnico 4 magnet that gives you clear, full lows and a lot of punch in both the lows and mids.
Where this pickup (see full specs) really differentiates itself from other jazz pickups is in the way it treats the higher frequencies. The treble has more presence than in some pickups—not enough to detract from the low end but it can definitely help to add some clarity to your tone if you feel like your current setup sounds muddy or flabby. If you’re looking for a consistent and expressive tone across your instrument’s entire range, you should give these pups a try. These are among the best jazz bass pickups for the money.
Seymour Duncan SJB3
One of the advantages of switching out pickups is that you can get a new sound without investing in a new instrument. If value is one of your primary considerations, the SJB3 Quarter Pound pickups from Seymour Duncan can give your sound an impressive boost for just over fifty bucks a pickup.
Output and attack are the primary focus of these pickups. The Alnico 5 magnets are paired with hot coil windings to give you a strong attack and full sustain. They’re a simple drop-in installation for the standard jazz bass pickup configuration, and they give your tone the same boost of output and presence no matter what kind of bass you install them into. The tone’s equally versatile when it comes to genre; these pups sound just as at home backing a jazz trio as they do on the rock stage—a strong contender for the best jazz bass pickups for the money.
Single-Coil vs. Humbucker
While there are a plethora of pickup options on the market, not all of them are well-suited to every model of bass. The first and most important consideration is whether the pickup will fit on your instrument. In the case of a jazz bass, this almost always means you’ll be looking for a single-coil pickup.
As the name would suggest, these models use a single coil, or wire, wrapped around the pickups magnet. Adherents of single-coil pickups describe their sound as crisp and bright, which can be especially helpful for a bassist, making sure your tone doesn’t go muddy in the low end.
The single-coil pickup does have one inherent flaw that the design’s detractors are quick to point out. They are much more likely to produce extraneous noise from other electrical signals that are traveling around your instrument. This can be caused by your other gear, by the microphones and speakers used by your band-mates, or by unrelated items that happen to be in the room, like computers and even the lights. This noise is referred to in the guitar community as the 60-cycle hum, and eliminating this hum was the main goal behind the creation of the humbucker, but the design of the humbucker also tends to make your sound darker—not necessarily desirable for a bassist.
Most players will find a single-coil pickup suits their needs just fine, but if you’re hoping to eliminate the 60-cycle hum without modifying your instrument, there is a third option. Split-coil pickups, like the DiMarzio (see full specs) above, give you humbucking abilities in a casing that will still fit on your jazz bass without modifications.
These split-coil models also tend to have a tone more similar to a single-coil design, ultimately giving you the best of both worlds. They’re particular popular among rock and punk bassists, who appreciate the mix of warmth and clarity they give to your tone, but as with all aspects of your gear and set-up, the best jazz bass pickups for you is ultimately a matter of personal preference. You can’t go wrong with any of the four pickups on the list above, but the best way to know which one is the perfect option for you is to hear them in action.