Single coils vs humbuckers: Which pickup type is right for you?

Electric guitar with a HSS pickup configuration
(Image credit: Future)

Many guitarists have debated the pros and cons of single coils vs humbuckers. Traditional Strat players will rhapsodize about their single coil clarity and bite, whilst the LP lovers wax lyrical over their humbucker's pure power and sustain. Somewhere in the middle, HSS owners are probably shrugging their shoulders. So does the type of pickup you use define you as a player? And is one really better than the other?

Arguably the most crucial element of your instrument, there's no doubt that your pickup choice defines the sound of your guitar – more so than body wood, hardware, neck profile, or any other specification. Pickups are the funnel through which your playing technique is translated to your amplifier and no other part of your guitar - other than yourself - has such a large impact on the way your playing actually sounds.

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Matt McCracken
Junior Deals Writer

Matt is a Junior Deals Writer here at Guitar World. He regularly tests and reviews music gear with a focus on guitars, amps, pedals, modelers, and pretty much anything else guitar-related. Responsible for over 60 buying guides, a large part of his role is helping guitarists find the best deals on gear. Matt worked in music retail for 5 years at Dawsons Music and Northwest Guitars and has written for various music sites including MusicRadar, Guitar Player, Guitar.com, Ultimate Guitar, and Thomann’s t.blog. A regularly gigging guitarist with over 20 years of experience playing live and writing and recording in bands, he's performed everything from jazz to djent, gigging all over the country in more dingy venues than you can shake a drop-tuned guitar at. When he's not holed up in his home studio recording new songs or tweaking pedal settings, you’ll find him making a racket with Northern noise hounds JACKALS