best cheap guitar pickups for metal


Hey there, metalheads! Looking to upgrade your guitar pickups on a budget? We’ve got you covered with the 7 best cheap guitar pickups for metal. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned player, finding the right pickups is crucial to achieving that heavy, aggressive tone that defines the genre. In this article, we’ll walk you through the top picks, their advantages, disadvantages, and help you make an informed decision. So without further ado, let’s dive in!

The EMG 81 Active Humbucker Pickup is a staple in the metal world. Known for its high output and razor-sharp attack, this pickup delivers crushing rhythm and searing leads. Its active design provides exceptional clarity and eliminates unwanted noise, making it perfect for heavy distortion. However, keep in mind that it requires a 9-volt battery for operation and may not suit those seeking a more vintage tone.

The Seymour Duncan Black Winter Humbucker Pickup is designed specifically for extreme metal genres. With its aggressive midrange, articulate high-end, and tight low-end response, it cuts through any mix like a hot knife through butter. This pickup delivers unparalleled clarity even in drop-tuned settings, making it a go-to choice for heavy riffing. However, its ceramic magnet can be a bit overpowering, so it’s not recommended if you’re looking for a more versatile sound.

The DiMarzio Super Distortion Pickup is a classic choice for metal players. Used by legendary guitarists like Ace Frehley and Randy Rhoads, this pickup offers a balanced blend of power and warmth. It delivers thick, punchy tones with excellent sustain and harmonics. The Super Distortion can handle high-gain settings with ease, making it a top contender for metal enthusiasts. On the downside, it may not be the best choice for players who desire clarity in cleaner tones.

For those seeking an aggressive and crushing tone, the Seymour Duncan Invader Humbucker Pickup fits the bill. With its overwound coils and powerful ceramic magnets, it produces a massive sound with a tight low-end response. This pickup excels in high-gain settings, delivering a roaring sound that’s perfect for heavy metal and hard rock. However, it can be a bit overwhelming in lower gain scenarios, and the high output may require adjustments to your amp settings.

Another gem from EMG, the 85 Active Humbucker Pickup offers a slightly different flavor compared to its sibling, the 81. It provides a rich, full-bodied tonal character, making it ideal for thick rhythm playing and soaring leads. This pickup also features active electronics, ensuring low noise and high output. However, like the EMG 81, it requires a 9-volt battery for operation and may not suit players looking for vintage tones.

Named after a character from “The Lord of the Rings,” the Seymour Duncan Nazgul Humbucker Pickup is designed for one thing: crushing metal tones. Its large ceramic magnet and custom-wound coils deliver a focused and aggressive sound that’s perfect for heavy riffing and searing solos. The Nazgul offers exceptional clarity even in the lowest tunings, making it a reliable companion for drop-tuned metal enthusiasts. However, it might not provide the versatility needed for players who explore various genres.

The DiMarzio D Activator Humbucker Pickup is specifically designed to handle the extreme demands of modern metal. It offers a high output with a tight low-end response, ensuring every note stands out with clarity and definition. This pickup excels in both rhythm and lead playing, delivering a balanced tone with great sustain. However, its aggressive nature might not be suitable for those seeking a more vintage or bluesy sound.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Best Cheap Guitar Pickups for Metal


1. Enhanced output and clarity for heavy, aggressive tones 🤘

2. Affordable options for players on a budget 💸

3. Improved sustain and harmonics for intense solos 🔥

4. Noise reduction technology for a cleaner sound 🎵

5. Designed specifically for metal genres, ensuring a perfect fit 🎸

6. Suitable for various playing styles, from rhythm to lead 🎶

7. Deliver exceptional performance even in low-tuned scenarios 🌑


1. May not provide a vintage or bluesy tone 🎵

2. Some pickups require a 9-volt battery for operation 🔋

3. Certain pickups may not be versatile enough for other genres 🎶

4. Overpowering sound can be overwhelming in lower gain settings 🎛️

5. Ceramic magnets may not suit players seeking a more balanced sound 🎛️

6. Potential need for adjustments to accommodate high output 🎛️

7. Limited options for players seeking specific tonal characteristics 🎵

Pickup Brand Price
EMG 81 Active Humbucker EMG $99
Seymour Duncan Black Winter Humbucker Seymour Duncan $119
DiMarzio Super Distortion DiMarzio $79
Seymour Duncan Invader Humbucker Seymour Duncan $89
EMG 85 Active Humbucker EMG $99
Seymour Duncan Nazgul Humbucker Seymour Duncan $109
DiMarzio D Activator Humbucker DiMarzio $89


1. Can these pickups be installed on any guitar?

Yes, these pickups can be installed on most electric guitars with passive pickup configurations.

2. Are cheap guitar pickups good enough for professional use?

While they may not be on par with higher-end pickups, many professionals find cheap guitar pickups to be more than sufficient for their needs.

3. Do all these pickups require soldering for installation?

It depends on the specific pickup and your guitar’s setup. Some may require soldering, while others offer solderless installation options.

4. Can these pickups handle drop tunings?

Yes, these pickups are designed to handle low tunings and provide optimal performance even in extreme settings.

5. Will these pickups fit in a Stratocaster-style guitar?

Most of these pickups are available in common configurations, including Stratocaster-style single-coil-sized versions.

6. Are active pickups better for metal?

Active pickups offer higher output levels and reduced noise, making them popular choices among metal players seeking a heavy tone.

7. Can I use these pickups for genres other than metal?

While these pickups are designed with metal in mind, they can be used for various other genres depending on your preference and playing style.

8. Are ceramic magnets better than alnico magnets for metal?

Ceramic magnets are often preferred in metal due to their strong output and tight low-end response.

9. Do these pickups come with installation instructions?

Yes, most manufacturers provide detailed installation instructions or videos to guide you through the process.

10. Do I need to replace both pickups in my guitar?

Not necessarily. Depending on your desired sound, you can replace one or both pickups to achieve the tone you’re after.

11. Can I use these pickups in a semi-hollow or hollow body guitar?

Some of the pickups listed here may not be suitable for semi-hollow or hollow body guitars due to their mounting requirements.

12. Are these pickups suitable for 7 or 8-string guitars?

Yes, most manufacturers offer options specifically designed for extended-range guitars.

13. Do these pickups come with a warranty?

It varies depending on the manufacturer and retailer. However, many pickups come with warranty coverage for defects and malfunctions.


In conclusion, the 7 best cheap guitar pickups for metal provide excellent options for players seeking that crushing, aggressive tone without breaking the bank. Whether you prefer the high output of active pickups or the balanced power of passive options, there’s something for everyone on this list. Consider your playing style, desired sound, and guitar setup when making your choice. Don’t forget to check out the table above for a quick overview of the top picks. Upgrade your guitar’s pickups and unleash your inner metal god!

Remember, the sound is in your hands, but the right pickups can take your metal playing to the next level. So, grab your axe, crank up the gain, and let the riffs rip!

Closing Statement

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only. The author and publisher do not assume any responsibility for any potential risks involved in the installation or use of the mentioned guitar pickups. Always consult with a professional if you are unsure about modifying your guitar or its components.

We hope this article has helped you in your quest for the best cheap guitar pickups for metal. Remember, the most important factor in choosing pickups is finding ones that match your personal preferences and playing style. Now go forth and unleash your metal fury!

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