The 4 Best Humbuckers for Coil Splitting – Reviews 2023

best humbuckers for coil splitting

Photo by dan kinzie / CC BY

Humbuckers for coil-splitting lets you have the best of both worlds—a humbucker that can also bring the bright power of a single-coil. While you can technically split any humbuckers coils, some of them pull it off better than others. You’ll also find humbuckers designed for easy splitting, with top switches and other features that make it easier to change on the fly.

We’ve scoured the web for the best coil-splitting humbuckers. All of the brands are old favorites, known for top performance as humbuckers as well as their coil-splitting ability. Read on to see the full reviews and find the right humbucker for your guitar..

These are our recommendations for the 4 best humbuckers for coil-splitting on the market:

Humbucker for Coil-Splitting 1: Seymour Duncan APH-2s Alnico II Pro Slash Set

Slash has used Alnico II Pro humbuckers on his guitar for years. When he teamed up with Gibson to design his Les Paul Signature, these humbuckers were the ones he wanted on his axe. It uses a different wire and winding style than the typical Les Paul humbucker. These changes give the pickup more sustain and mid-range, and also make it a great option for coil splitting.

The Alnico Pro II (see full specs) gives you close to the sound of a single-coil pickup whenever you split it. It’s not quite as hot as most single-coils, but has a nice chiming high end and a full, balanced mid- and low-range. Be aware that the wiring on this humbucker will need to be adjusted if your guitar is set up for 4-wire conductors, since it uses a single conductor set-up.

Seymour Duncan Alnico II Pro Slash APH-2 Pickups

Humbucker for Coil-Splitting 2: EMG 89 Dual Mode Guitar

Here’s a pickup that’s actually built to exist in two worlds. The 89 Dual Mode Humbucker from EMG contains two pre-amps, giving you a true single-coil sound along with the great humbucker tone. It uses Alnico V magnets for a lot of output with a big presence. It sounds equally good in the neck and bridge positions, too, making one of the most all-around versatile pickups you’ll find.

The humbucker tone has the warmth and richness you’d expect from a double-coil pickup. It’s the single-coil sound that’s really surprising. It’s as close to a traditional Strat tone as we’ve heard from a split coil, with just the right level of chime on the treble. With the EMG 89 on your guitar, you can switch seamlessly from one genre to the next, whether you play metal, jazz, or anything in between, making this one of the best humbuckers for coil-splitting around.

89 Single Coil Neck Clean

Humbucker for Coil-Splitting 3: DiMarzio PAF 36th Anniversary

The 36th Anniversary PAF from DiMarzio is an excellent all-around pickup at a great value. It’s especially great in the bridge position, where it will give your tone a bit of extra punch along with the depth you want from a PAF. Even in the neck, though, you’ll get a smooth tone with a firm low-end.

The DiMarzio 36th Anniversary uses an Alnico V magnet. That gives it a massive output, making this pickup especially great for players in the rock and metal genres. It also uses 4-conductor wiring, so it makes an easy drop-in replacement for most Les Pauls and similar guitar designs. As a single-coil, it’s a bit brighter and hotter than it is as a humbucker. It’s a reliable, well-built pickup in both forms, with a noiseless operation that lets your natural guitar tone shine.

DiMarzio 36th Anniv PAF Pickups

Humbucker for Coil-Splitting 4: Seymour Duncan SH14 Custom 5 Alnico

The Seymour Duncan SH14 was designed to be a kind of hybrid between two of their most popular pickup models: the Custom 5 and the SH ’59. It strikes a tonal balance between these two models, with the rich warmth of the Custom 5 and the crisp articulation of the SH ’59. We especially love the low end on this pickup, which gives the tone an impressive depth, especially considering this is the most affordable pickup on the list.

Seymour Duncan built this pickup to split well. It doesn’t sound quite like a Strat but it will blend in nicely with single-coils if you use them in other positions on your guitar, especially used at the bridge with a single-coil at the neck. As a humbucker, it meshes well with other PAF-style humbuckers. If you want a bit of a beefier tone from your bridge, the Seymour Duncan SH14 fits the bill nicely, and at a great value to boot. For the money, this could easily qualify as the best humbucker for coil-splitting.

Seymour Duncan SH14 Custom5 + SH2n JAZZ ( Clean and RAT Distortion)

Humbuckers: Difference Between Coil Tapping and Coil Splitting

These two terms are often used side-by-side and this can be confusing for newcomers to the pickup world. While they’re similar concepts—and are sometimes used inter-changeably by ill-informed guitarists—they are actually not the same thing.

Coil-splitting is a term specific to humbuckers. It involves severing the connection between the two coils inside the humbucker. This disables one and lets the other keep working, in essence turning your humbucker into a single-coil pickup. While some humbuckers are designed for easy coil-splitting, you can re-wire any humbucker to accomplish this same thing.

Coil tapping, on the other hand, is a term that refers specifically to single-coil pickups. It means using the signal from earlier in the coil, not the very end, reducing the overall output. You theoretically could coil tap a humbucker after coil-splitting, but most times that you see this term in reference to a humbucker they actually mean “coil splitting.”

Humbuckers for Coil-Splitting: Which Pickup Should I Buy?

As with so many things related to your guitar’s equipment, it all comes down to a matter of taste. Think about why you want to split the coils on your humbucker. If you’re looking to get a true single-coil sound, something like the EMG 89 (see full specs) will be most likely to give you the sound you’re looking for. When you split it, it really sounds like a Strat-style single-coil.

Where you plan to use the pickup should have a role in your decision. Some of these models sound better in the bridge position than the neck, and vice versa. Don’t forget you’ll probably want to use the pickup in its humbucker form, too. Make sure you like the sound of the pickup in both forms before you make your decision. Hopefully the reviews here have helped you find the best humbucker for coil-splitting for your needs! Good luck!

  • 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.

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