The 4 Best Single Coil Sized Humbuckers – Reviews 2023

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Photo by anders pearson / CC BY

When you’re buying an electric guitar, one of the first things you need to figure out is whether you want to get one with single coil pickups or humbuckers. Depending on your decision, you will have a guitar that works for certain genres of music better than for other. What happens when you decide you want to go from single coils to humbuckers but all you have is a single coil guitar? If this is the case, you have a couple of choices. You can either buy a new guitar, modify the guitar to accept humbuckers, or the best solution for them all: get single coil sized humbuckers.

These are pickups which will fit in single coil slots but feature a humbucker build. This way you can have humbuckers on your guitar with little or no adjustments made to the guitar itself.

Today, we want to show you several great humbuckers which fit this description. Each one these was chosen based on how they affect the tone, their coil buzz reduction ability, and whether or not they improve your guitar’s overall range. They’re the 4 best single coil sized humbuckers on the market.

Seymour Duncan Little ’59 Tele Set

As you’re about to find out, Seymour Duncan is a name which will appear a lot in this guide. As a matter of fact, all of the pickups we’re going to talk about are made by Seymour Duncan. The set we’re looking at here is made for Telecaster series specifically. These two pups are part of their vintage series, and have that type of tone color. Overall the tone you get when you install this set fits perfectly with what Telecasters are all about.

In a way, Seymour Duncan Little ’59 Tele Set (see full specs) is meant to spice up the range a bit, give you that humbucker growl, and completely eliminate the coil buzz which plagues just about every single coil pickup out there. Two humbuckers in the set are tuned differently, thus bringing a lot of variety to the table. If you want to infuse your Fender Telecaster or any of the numerous Telecaster-inspired guitars out there, this set from Seymour Duncan is one of the easiest ways to do so.

Pickup demo: Seymour Duncan Vintage Stack and Little '59 for Telecaster

Seymour Duncan PA-STK1n Parallel Axis Stacked Humbucker

Next pickup from Seymour Duncan comes in form of the innovative PA-STK1n. This is a stacked humbucker design, which is something Seymour Duncan has patented. In combination with Parallel Axis technology, PA-STK1n is capable of delivering a real punch. SD designed this thing as a replacement for the middle or neck pickup on any Stratocaster or Strat copy which is built following standardized dimensions. Even so, they recommend it for just about any vibrato-equipped guitar.

In terms of performance, Seymour Duncan PA-STK1n (see full specs) fills out the mids and lows, all while preserving the crispiness of the trebles. Just having this one pickup in your standard Stratocaster will expand your spectrum of tone colors immensely. This pup is actually designed to act as a single coil, so if you’re looking for something that will kill off the coil buzz but preserve the nature of your tone, Seymour Duncan has you covered. This is hands down one of the best single coil sized humbuckers period.

Seymour Duncan Parallel Axis pickups TB3 and STK1

Seymour Duncan SL591

Ever since solid body guitars became a thing, two models were going at it for the title of the best guitar in the world. In one corner you had Fender’s Stratocaster while the opposition came in form of the legendary Gibson Les Paul. In reality, both of these iconic models have a great tone, but each one designed with a different application in mind. Seymour Duncan SL591 bridges this gap and allows you to turn your Stratocaster into a hybrid of these two guitars.

This humbucker gets you the tone of the legendary PAF in a much more compact package. If you want to extend the range of your Stratocaster, Seymour Duncan SL591 is probably the least intrusive way to do so. On top of that, this pickup comes with parallel and split coil wiring, which allows you to split the humbucker if your circuitry allows for that. When put into action, Seymour Duncan SL591 will show a slightly reduced output but an increased dynamic range. This is a strong contender for the best single coil sized humbuckers around.

Seymour Duncan Little '59 for Strat Test

Seymour Duncan 11205-02 SHR-1b

One of the things that most people will criticize single coil designs for is the lack of girth. While this type of pickup is great for more subtle genres of music, once it’s time to infuse the signal chain with some high gain distortion, single coils simply can’t keep up. The last single coil sized humbucker we want to show you is the Seymour Duncan 11205-02 SHR-1b. While it features a pretty obscure name, this is one of the hottest pickups of this type on the market. It utilizes hot rails technology, which results in it having a massive tone that is easily compared to even the most insane standard humbuckers out there.

SHR-1b handles distortion like it’s nothing, and chances are you will be hooked to it as soon as you crank the volume for the first time. If you lacked sustain before, this pickup will give you all the sustain you could ever need. Upon installation, you will notice just how sensitive the pup is, and how easy it is to hit those harmonics. One of these will boost your output immensely, but if you install two, you’re in for a real ride.

Seymour Duncan - Hot Rails™ for Strat SHR-1

Conclusion – What Makes the Top Single Coil Sized Humbucker?

We’ve shown you some of the best single coil sized humbuckers on the market. It just so happens that all of them are made by Seymour Duncan. There are other great designs out there, but pound for pound, these four will eat any competition alive.

Not a lot of people knob about a humbucker of this type, even though they are a real game changer. Those who have a very specific type of tone they’re after can really benefit from having one of these bad boys at their disposal.

Overall, the criteria here is pretty straightforward – you wanted the best pickup that delivers humbucker power in a single-coil package, you’ve got it! 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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One response

  1. Great article! I really enjoyed your picks for tele sized Humbuckers. I especially liked the Seymour Duncan PA-STK1n Parallel Axis Stacked Humbucker. Until now I hadn’t seen that pickup in terms of mounting it in a tele. But it makes sense if you have a single-coil neck position pickup. I’m definitely considering now because of the unique technology.
    Last year I installed a Dimarzio Tone Zone T pickup in my tele’s bridge position. It was a definite upgrade from the single coil in my opinion. I’m still looking for something with a bit more low end punch. Check out the full review at my site for more details.
    Thanks for freely giving your expertise. It’s already helped me narrow down the choices. Keep up the good work!

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