The 4 Best HSS Pickup Sets – Guitar Pickup Reviews 2023

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Alright, let’s talk HSS pickups! What makes electric guitars so interesting is the flexibility that comes with them. You can shape your tone in almost any way imaginable, all while using different guitar amps, pedals, and other effects units. However, all of these devices actually work with the signal that comes from your pickups. And they’re exactly one of the defining components of your tone. The way they pick up the signal of vibrating strings will make a huge impact on how the tone will be processed.

The pickups, in general, have been a matter of discussion among many guitar players of all the different genres. One of the most diverse combos is the one involving a humbucker in the bridge position and two single-coils in the middle and in the neck position. With this kind of a setup, you get both of those “rough” mid-end-heavy humbucker tones, as well as sparkling bright single-coil sounds.

And this is exactly why those virtuoso players often opt for this formation since it gives them options to do anything from heavy downtuned riffing. Therefore, a good example of an HSS pickup set manages to cover all these areas and adds more options to your guitar’s tone. With this in mind, we’ll be looking into the best examples of HSS pickup sets that you can find.

Here are our recommendations for the best HSS pickup sets on the market:

EMG SA/SA/81 Active Strat Guitar Pickup Set

Of course, EMG is one of the most respected companies when it comes to guitar pickups. And they’re especially known for their wide choice of active pickups that find their way into many different musical styles. The set that we’re looking into here involves their now legendary 81 humbuckers, along with two of their lesser-known but still amazing SA single-coils. And these single-coil pickups are pretty interesting here, mostly because they’re loaded with Alnico V magnets.

And the 81 needs no further introduction. It provides you with some of the roughest and meanest heavy tones. However, it can be controlled using volume and tone knobs in order to bring things into more subtle yet bright territories. The SA single-coils do a really great job in this particular combo and manage to keep things very balanced. Although mostly oriented towards heavier music, these pickups can do a really good job with other kinds of tone as well. They are also quite durable and can last a lifetime.

EMG 81/SA/SA Complete Review

EMG SA/SA/85 HSS Strat Pickup Set

While we’re at it, we just can’t help but mention another one of EMG’s amazing combos. This time around, we have a fairly similar setup, only with an 85 pickup instead of the 81. Of course, the 85 is well-known for coming as a combo with the 81 on metal-oriented guitars.

What’s kind of unusual here is that the 85 is usually in the neck position on these guitars. Nonetheless, when placed in the bridge position, it gives an amazing tone with a slightly “smoother” approach compared to the 81. In many ways, it’s similar to the combo that we described above.

However, you’ll get a somewhat different tone, something that works better for the lovers of softer tones instead of heavier ones. You can’t go wrong with either of these two combos if you’re a fan of EMG pickups, but you’ll need to know some of the subtle differences. Overall, these are among the best HSS pickup sets for the money.

TEST EMG 81 / 85 / 89

Musiclily Strat Pickguard HSS with Noiseless Alnico 5 Pickup Humbucker

Of course, if you’re looking to equip your guitar with new pickups, it might not always be the cheapest task. In case you’re looking for more affordable solutions, you can look into the Musiclily Pro 11 set.

This one is made especially for Stratocasters and it comes with a full pickguard and all the prewired electronics. The best part about it is that you have a minimal amount of welding, after which you just screw it all into your Fender or Squier Stratocaster.

Of course, these are budget pickups and you cannot really expect a professional level tone from them. But for their price, it’s pretty much a steal. We would recommend it for beginner, as well as intermediate guitar players, but who knows – maybe they can make some magic for you even at pro level.

Musiclily Pro Series Humbuckers

Seismic Audio SAGA53 Loaded Pickguard Fat-Strat Style Pickup Set

Lastly, we would like to mention another budget solution that’s made especially for Fender or Squier Stratocasters. This time around, we have Seismic Audio and their SAGA53 HSS pickup set. And this one is really cheap. And, of course, we also get all the pre-made wiring with it and there’s only essential soldering to be done if you want to put it into your guitar.

When it comes to the tone, these pickups actually do more than just a decent job. And that’s really a surprise for a set that’s this cheap. You may not be able to get a very defined tone for that heavy riffing, but you’ll be able to pull off some surprisingly great stuff with it. For a budget option, it’s a dream come true. If you are looking for the best HSS pickup set on a mega budget, this product just might be your ideal option.


The HSS pickup set combination is a fairly popular one, especially for the players of Strats and those “Super-Strat” modern guitars. As already explained, it brings us an option to have both heavier and conventional “twangy” Stratocaster tones in one instrument.

At the same time, you can also do some mods by yourself and even do some coil-splitting options on the bridge humbucker and have it all working like regular Stratocasters with three single-coil pickups. Overall, this is a very popular and versatile option that many Stratocaster players prefer. We hope you learned something useful today regarding best HSS pickup and that you feel confident about pulling the trigger. 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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