Basses find their place in genres across the musical spectrum. Holding down the low end and contributing significantly to harmony and rhythm, the bass guitar has become a staple in a lot of the music we listen to and cherish.
When it comes to electric and acoustic bass guitars, pickups are often essential for amplification and recording.
Though there are plenty of factors more important than the brand name, knowing the top bass pickup brands to look out for can be useful in finding your bass (and, at the very least, for a conversation with other bassists and guitarists).
In this article, we’ll look at what I believe to be the best electric bass pickup brands on the market.
The Top 8 Best Bass Guitar Pickup Brands Are:
Let’s get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 8 best bass guitar pickup brands. I’ll share their country of origin, a bit of history, an example of a notable pickup, and a link to their official website.
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Some of the best, most expensive, and sought-after bass brands in the world (such as Pedulla and Tobias) install Bartolini pickups on their models to achieve the best sound possible.
Also, brands like Ibanez add Bartolinis to their basses when you go up the price line in their catalogue. This is no coincidence; after many decades of delivering the best low-end to the world of rock and roll, there are no doubts a set of these pickups can enhance your bass guitar’s tone; give them a try before buying anything else.
Notable pickup: Bartolini 6RC Rickenbacker
Rickenbacker bass guitars have a very distinct tone and shape that makes them a classic among bass players in the world. That being said, most bass players complain about the sharp high-end they can produce as well as the clank and, above all, the noise.
With this unit, Bartolini fixes all those problems while providing a rounder, fuller, noise-free pickup that sounds like the original… but improved. If you love your 4001 and want to take it to the next level, trying this pickup is necessary.
Since it launched in 1995, this brand set out to break all the standards and redefine what a great bass sound is all about.
For starters, they made some of the lightest, most portable, and great sounding amps in the industry. Such was the revolution they caused that every major bass brand followed with their own version of the same concept.
The voicing of that preamp and the years of hard work cascaded to accessories as well, so when talking about bass pickups, we can’t overlook Aguilar.
The same pursuit of excellence and killer tone took them to design and build some of the best pickups and preamps in the industry, and it is high time you give them a try.
Notable pickup: Aguilar AG 4P/J-HC Set
The combination of Precision and Jazz single-coil pickups is widely used in the world, especially by pro musicians looking for the best of both worlds.
Installing this set, you get the thunderous, roaring lows from that P-Bass neck pickup along with the scooped, edgier tones from the bridge J-Bass pickup, and absolutely no noise since these are noise-free, hum-cancelling pickups.
If you are ready for the bigger stages, you have to face the challenge with a set of dead-silent Aguilar pickups in your axe.
Carey Nordstrand’s brand is relatively young. However, his resume as a notable bass player, tone guru, and mad scientist preceded the brand to help solidify its place on the market.
What sets Nordstrand apart from the competition is the reworking of common materials and ideas to turn them into a completely new concept and satisfy the demands of the highest discerning bass players in the world.
With that motto as the North in their compass, this company can provide you with the tools to navigate your way through music in the lower frequencies, needing nothing else.
Notable pickup: Nordstrand Jazz Bass NJ5S Split
These Nordstrand pickups are ready to make Jazz Bass history as a drop-in replacement that needs nothing but a little soldering to take the tone of your instrument to the next level.
To begin with, they are Alnico V magnets that offer a full and rich tone, and, thanks to the split-coil technology, they are hum-cancelling, noise-free pickups. Also, the company does wax potting on them to make sure no unruly frequencies get in the middle of your fingers and great tone.
Mr. Seymour W Duncan is one of the main people to attribute the category of “replacement pickups” even existing. Besides causing a revolution among 6-stringers, Seymour Duncan’s bass pickups became the rumbly, forgotten heroes of generations of rocking bass players who wanted a little more out of their vintage gear.
Styles such as punk rock, grunge, and rock and roll owe much of that P-bass growl to these pickups. If you want more tone out of your instrument, you should install a pickup by this dependable, great-sounding company.
Notable pickup: Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound P-J Bass Set
This pickup set is a great example of how you can overhaul the sound of a vintage instrument by simply changing the pickups in it.
The P-Bass side offers a punchy sound with a strong bass inclination, ready to make the world rumble with a single-string stroke. Plus, the low-end bite also bears much sustain, making notes round, powerful, and articulate.
On the J-Bass side, the same sustain and sonic richness are coupled with an extended frequency range, thanks to the expanded magnetic field coming out of the extra-winded coils.
Overall, this is a punchy, high-gain set that can cut through the densest mix.
EMG is a company well-known among musicians for pushing the boundaries of sound as far off as humanly possible. They are the masterminds behind the active pickup revolution that solved a big problem in the music industry: getting rid of 60-cycle hum.
Since day one, bands and artists who wanted outstanding pickups turned to EMG for a response. Through that path, and with names such as Metallica as faithful customers, EMG earned a reputation for being fearless innovators, building reliable products for discerning musicians.
Notable pickup: EMG Pachyderm Gold Les Claypool Signature Set
On the one hand, EMG is a cutting-edge company ready to move the frontiers of what we think we know further every day. On the other hand, Les Claypool, Primus’ mastermind, is a bass virtuoso who dedicated his life to pushing the sonic boundaries of every genre imaginable.
What could come out of this clash of titans? A golden brushed aluminum noiseless active P-Bass pickup with Alnico V magnets and zero noise is ready to take the world. With the solderless kit, you can even install it yourself.
What we know today as a bass guitar is largely due to one of Leo’s inventions. He wanted to create a bass that could be as precise as a guitar for players to nail notes without using their ears.
Thus, he named it “precision bass” and added frets to the design. A decade later, along came the jazz bass with a revolutionary dual-pickup configuration.
In short, Leo and his company defined much of what we know today as “good bass sounds”. With those decades of leverage creating the benchmark for the industry, they own the machinery and know-how to make some of the best pickups in the market.
Notable pickup: Fender Ultra Noiseless Jazz Bass 5 String Pickup Set
Fender’s professional line had many names over the years. Still, it was always characterized as a modern, road-ready version of the quintessential Fender tone we all know and love. This incarnation is the newest version of Fender’s “stacked coil” design that cancels hum and provides a wider tonal range than any of its predecessors.
Also, the Alnico V and polyol wire ensure you’ll always get that vintage tone, guttural growl, and singing highs you’d expect from a Fender five-string Jazz Bass.
When Larry Fishman founded his company back in 1981, he set out on a mission to disrupt the market with revolutionary products that could solve real-world problems for professional musicians. With his passion and drive, his company became the number-one choice for acoustic pickups in the world.
Later on, when he branched out toward electric pickups, he did it with the same passion and the idea of solving real-world problems. As a result, the multi-voice pickups caused a worldwide revolution; you no longer need to take several instruments to the same gig.
Notable pickup: Fishman Fluence Bass 4-String Set
This is a great example of the market-disrupting ideas Fishman is capable of. With their Fluence Core technology, each of these soapbar bass pickups can transform into an assortment of different pickups giving a tonal palette that was unheard of until now.
With the flick of a switch, you can seamlessly go from one sound to another, changing your instrument’s attack and sound instantly. Furthermore, they are hum-free to play them loud and proud.
Together with Seymour Duncan, Larry DiMarzio created the concept of replacement pickups.
Opposite to what Seymour did, Larry didn’t set out to perfect the classic sounds of vintage instruments but instead tried to make room for experimentation, creating a new sound palette that could inspire a generation. Such was the case decade after decade.
Today, with a larger-than-life catalogue and endorsers in every genre, DiMarzio pickups are synonymous with excellence, reliability, and fearless sonic adventures.
Notable pickup: DiMarzio Model J Bass Set
Several features set this pickup apart from the competition when it comes to Jazz Bass replacements. To begin with, the noiseless design retains that violin-like sustain, making it a great pickup for both fretted and fretless instruments.
Also, it is voiced to take subtle tone changes with the tone knob, enlarging the tonal palette you can get out of your favourite instrument.
Finally, the slightly boosted bass frequency adds roar and rumble to an edgy pickup, making those double-stop glissandos even more joyful.