The 4 Best Bass Pickups for Metal – Reviews 2023

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Photo by Corrie Barklimore / CC BY

Finding the right bass pickups for metal is majorly important. See, playing bass in a metal band is already pretty daunting. Being overshadowed by the guitars or even the kick drum is a common issue metal bass players have to deal with. That’s exactly why you should consider investing in good pickups.

As you turn the volume up, your bass obviously will get louder; however, stock pickups tend to muddy up the sound at higher volumes. The right bass pickups for metal offer balanced and clean sound, capable of cutting through those growls, low tuned guitars, and blasting drums with no problem. Don’t be that guy that just stands on the stage and plucks those strings. As there are a lot of different pickups to choose from, we’ve made a list of the right bass pickups as well as a couple of key features to look for.

Here are our reviews of the 4 best bass pickups for metal on the market:

Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound P-Bass Pickup

Perfect for bass players on a tight budget, the Quarter Pound P-Bass pickups by Seymour Duncan do the job surprisingly well. Although being on the less expensive side of their product line, they offer maximum output as well as a greatly extended frequency range.

Featuring the well-known Seymourized design, this model provides both amazing sustain and harmonics, just what you need when playing those galloping bass lines. When played with fingers these provide a smooth yet present sound. As the sound can be described as fat and punchy, you most definitely won’t be overshadowed by the sound of the kick drum.

As they won’t bust your bank, choosing the Quarter Pound P-Bass pickups is a great start for any bass player wanting to swap those stock ones, and improve their game.

Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Fender P Bass 5 String

EMG Geezer Butler Signature P Bass Pickup

The signature pickups of none other than Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath himself, these are without a doubt among the best bass pickups for metal period. If you’re searching for a classic, yet powerful sound, look no further. While the treble is tight, they don’t sound too clean, making them perfect for metal bassists. This model accommodates the needs of bass players who prefer the unmodified passive sound over the active pickup combinations.

A wide palette of both classic and more modern bass sounds is easily achieved by the Alnico 5 magnets without the hum and noise that most single-coil pickups tend to produce.

Installing these puppies is very simple, as they feature a handy plug-in system, eliminating the need for soldering. Remarkable presence, heavy lows, and sharp highs are what these are all about. If doom metal is what you’re into, you most definitely won’t be making a mistake with the EMG Geezer Butler Signature P Bass Pickup.

EMG GZR P-Bass pickup review

Fender Custom Shop ’62 P Bass Pickups

Fender has made its name by making some of the best high- quality instruments and pieces of equipment out there, and this model from the Custom Shop Series is no exception.

This model is great for anyone looking for more bass, as it packs a good punch when it comes to booming lows and bright highs (see full specs). As these are passive as well, they provide that unique old school sound perfect for heavy or thrash metal. Featuring an extended frequency range, there are no doubts that your sound is going to plow through the rest of the mix.

With far more definition than most other pickups, the Fender Custom Shop ’62 bass pickups excel when it comes to clarity, without having the need to sacrifice power or presence. Great for fast- paced shredding, as each and every note will be heard clearly.

Custom Shop ’62 Precision Bass Pickup | Fender

EMG J5 Active Bass Pickup Set

Not including at least one active pickup solution for great tone when it comes to heavier bass sound wouldn’t be fair. A great value, as well as a very high-quality solution, is what EMG had in mind when they made this model.

As it’s made for 5 string bass guitars, it’s more than ready to shine when it comes to those growling lows. Featuring a radiused ceramic bar magnet, the punch is coupled with clarity to provide plenty of output (see full specs). As it’s an amazingly versatile pickup, it’s perfect for both clean highs as well as those rumbling and dirty lows.

Additionally, EMG tries to make installing their pickups as easy as possible, amd these come with solderless wiring connectors. Active operation is made easy with the included pots, so tuning in the perfect sound is done in no time. An obvious choice for bass players who seek a more modern, crisp sound.

Conclusion – What Makes the Best Bass Pickups for Metal?

As with any piece of musical equipment, it’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for.

First, you should definitely check if any pickup you find matches the cutout in your bass guitar. As you’ve seen by our choice, the difference between active and passive pickups is rather clear.

If you plan on playing something more modern, like metalcore, or something a bit more technical, active should be your choice. Passive pickups tend to sound a bit flatter, but they’re still a good choice for heavy or speed metal, anything more old school really.

The biggest problem most bass players encounter when playing metal is definitely the lack of presence in the overall mix. Getting through the kick drum and the guitars can be a challenge, especially when playing in lower tuning than standard.

As important as a good bass guitar is, the pickups you choose determine a lot when it comes to sound. Whether your personal preference is a heavier-sounding tone, or a more “metallic,” sharper one, always keep in mind that a good bass sound is a one that manages to stand out at all times. Choosing any of the mentioned ones is a good option, depending on your style and preferences.

In order to get as good of a sound possible, experiment with different EQ settings on both your amp and your guitar, especially if you decide to get active pickups, as different models tend to sound differently at the same EQ combinations.

As there is no such thing as the best bass pickups for metal, it all comes down to personal preference and style. Explore what kind of equipment your favorite bass players use, and build your knowledge accordingly. Good luck!

Written and Reviewed By

  • Micah Johnson started playing music in high school, when he taught himself the bass to join his friend’s band. He added guitar and drums during his twenties playing in local clubs, and along the way, he picked up unique, hands-on experience from hand drums to studio mixers. On Song Simian, he aims to share this knowledge from 20+ years playing and recording music. When not in gearhead mode, he enjoys photography and travel.

  • Marko is the senior editor and writer on Ultimate Guitar, the No. 1 guitar spot on the web, since early 2013. His work was also featured on a variety of other notable gear spots such as Guitar Fella, Consordini, and, of course, Song Simian. His musical journey began at a very young age, and he finally opted to pick up an instrument in his early teenage years. A fan of King Crimson. A travel enthusiast.

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