Review: Bare Knuckle Pickups Impulse Humbuckers

(Image credit: Bare Knuckle Pickups)

In addition to offering many traditional vintage-style and high-output pickups, Bare Knuckle specializes in handcrafting some of the most innovative high-gain humbuckers with apocalyptic pickup-cover designs for metal and djent players.

With names like Warpig, Painkiller, Juggernaut and Aftermath, these powerful pickups look and sound as deadly as their monikers imply.

Bare Knuckle’s brand-new Impulse is a signature humbucker for Josh Smith, guitarist for Australian metalcore band Northlane. While Impulse is a less threatening name for a high-gain pickup, its forceful complexity of depth and detail make it ideal for drop-tuned guitars and progressive-metal styles.


Impulse pickups come in individual bridge, neck or calibrated bridge and neck sets, the latter which is what I installed into an Epiphone Les Paul. The Impulse is completely hand wound and utilizes Alnico V magnets for both its bridge and neck pickups. The pickup is offered only as a short-leg option and its blade design eliminates the need for different spacing.

Impulse is available in two-conductor wiring, or four-conductor wiring schemes for series humbucking, parallel humbucking or coil splitting. The humbucker comes in radiator-style covers in brushed nickel, chrome, gold, black, brushed nickel, raw nickel, camo, black battle worn, burnt chrome, aged finishes, and even custom colors including the new Bare Knuckle “pickup tattoo” custom etches.


Tuned down a whole step and using an EVH 5150 III amplifier, the Impulse humbuckers reveal a potent midrange and a brassy high end that slices through when chugging or palm-muting low notes. The bridge and neck are optimally balanced in volume and complement each other with wide-open tones, making them extremely versatile. The pickups have incredible detail and a hint of warmth that’s mostly due to the pickup’s Alnico magnets, which soften the hard edges but stay incredibly focused and thick whether on a clean setting or blazing with full-on high-gain distortion. I also had the guitar wired for coil splitting and was able to get firm single-coil quack rather than the common output drop that coil-splitting guitars suffer from.

STREET PRICE $270.92 (as shown, six-string calibrated cover set)
MANUFACTURER Bare Knuckle Pickups,


The Bare Knuckle Pickups Impulse humbuckers are muscular-sounding pickups with plenty of low-end brawn and tightly wound highs that offer brilliance and clarity to drop-tuned guitars or baritones.

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Paul Riario

Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.