The Best Guitar Neck Pickups (Humbucker Edition)

Seymour Duncan has a wide variety of neck pickups to help you find that perfect match. There are many things to consider when you’re looking for a neck pickup. First up is the wood of the guitar – do you have a bright guitar like alder and want to warm and fatten it up, or do you have a warmer guitar and want to make take it out of the darkness and give it some crunch and bite? [Read more about tone woods here]. Another consideration is how well it balances with your bridge pickup; do you want a neck that is different than your bridge for versatility or do you want more of a balanced compliment to what you already love in the bridge?


One of the most sought after pickups, the ’59 neck is just like its name implies, a vintage tone that is smooth, round and warm and can do hard distortion just as well as clean with plenty of harmonics and sustain. Works well with most pickups and also comes in a set with a ’59 bridge.


Like the ’59 the Jazz also uses an Alnico V magnet [more info on pickup magnet types here] and is still a pretty smooth and warm pickup, but it’s brighter than the ’59. It’s known for its articulation and crisp clean tones. Don’t let the name fool you though, this is a very articulate and well balanced pickup that is a great match for many styles – from blues to metal. Much like the ’59 and perhaps even more so, the Jazz can be paired with almost any bridge pickup.

Pearly Gates

Capable of being both rude and sweet, the Pearly Gates neck is a favorite on the Seymour Duncan Forum. The Pearly Gates matches well with many pickups, but particularly with the Custom series, JB (great split too) and of course the Pearly Gates bridge for that great Texas Blues/Rock tone with beautiful cleans and a dirty tone with plenty of sizzle.

Alnico II Pro

This pickup – which as the name suggests uses an Alnico II magnet – produces a warm, smooth sweet tone and is particularly well suited for bright guitars. On a clean setting you get a very sweet tone with some higher end sparkle, and with distortion it can really shine. The Alnico II Pro neck is fatter and warmer in tone than the Pearly Gates, and goes quite well with a Pearly Gates bridge, Alnico II Pro bridge or Custom Custom.

Full Shred

The neck pickup is incredibly articulate under high-gain and very tight. You can read a full review of this pickup here.

Duncan Distortion

The Distortion neck is one of the more popular choices for metal players, with a chunky but articulate tone that is quite responsive. It’s commonly used for those who want a higher-output, more aggressive neck pickup (though some prefer the lower output pickups like the Jazz for versatility).

Seth Lover

A vintage voiced, clear and sweetly articulate tone that pairs quite well with the hotter than vintage Custom Custom.


Designed for 7/8 string players originally, it combines the best qualities of the ’59 Model and the Jazz: clarity, detail, depth, attack and expression. Commonly paired with the Nazgul, Pegasus or Duncan Distortion. Like the Jazz and ’59 it can match well with many bridge pickups. You can hear how versatile it is in this metal context or this progressive rock clip.

Black Winter

A relative newcomer, the Black Winter neck pickup has become pretty sought after and admired by those who have it. It’s a very clear tone with great cleans. Here’s a couple reviews:

Gone_Shootin: “The BW neck compared to the Pearly Gates has more on top, the mids seem to hit at a higher frequency, and the low end is a lot tighter than the PG. The BW neck is excellent for pristine clean stuff. It’s got a beautiful chime to it, but it doesn’t do bluesy or funky stuff as well as the PG. “

Anonymous “Metal” Guitar Company: It sounds so good it could be used for rhythm and lead. When clean the Neck really shines and chimes with low end as well. When dirty it blasts away with authority. It puts the ’59 and Jazz in its place for sure. We liked the clarity of the pickup no matter if the amp was cranked with distortion or nice and clean.

While bridge models are designed and wound specifically to be hotter since there is less room for the strings to vibrate, there is no rule that says you can’t put a bridge model in the neck. Sometimes you just want that extra output in the neck and it works especially well if you’re pairing it with an already hot bridge pickup. The JB and Jazz bridge models in the neck are particularly popular on the Seymour Duncan Forum. Dimebag Darrell preferred the ’59 bridge in the neck, which balanced more with the high-output Dimebucker.

What are your favorite neck pickups?

Join the Conversation


  1. If I’m looking for a neck pickup that sounds like the old Fender Wide Range pickup, where can I turn to? The new ones sound nothing like the old ones. I’d love to build a new version of my old Tele Deluxe, but I’d really like to have that sound.

      1. Wow I had no idea. Never really looked at the custom shop page. Guess I need to do more looking from now on. Thanks!

  2. I use a Duncan Distortion in the bridge of a les paul, with the 57′ gibson ‘bucker in the neck. And I just had the JB-22 SH-4 model installed in my PRS mccarty. Love both of them. Would it be a good idea to install the blackout modular preamp on the Duncan Distortion in the LP? Thanks.

    1. Sure Cody, you can do that and it will give you a significant boost across the board: more output, more highs, more lows, more mids.

  3. I have the Seth Lover set in my Dot Custom, and it’s the sweetest neck humbucker I’ve ever used, bar none. Gorgeous, warm, smooth sound …. think Larry Carlton and you’ve pretty much got it.

  4. I’ve tried several neck humbuckers for my Les Paul Standard… But now I have a Phat Cat installed there 🙂 Perfect match for my Black Arts Revelation fuzz and amazingly good for clean stuff!

  5. I’m about to put a pair of Seth Lover pickups in my Les Paul, im generally a Tele player which tends to be a bright guitar. I’m looking forward to hearing the Seth Lovers in the LP.

  6. im looking for a pickup sweet as aph-1 but have no problem doing metal. which pickup should i get :/

  7. Hi, I have a 73 les paul deluxe gold top (mini humbuckers), came as a shell with a repaired neck, no hardware at all, I still want to keep it original looking (albeit with completely black hardware :o)….. ) so planning to use single coil sized pickups inside mini humbucker covers. Vintage jag in the front (personal fave), but the bridge needs to keep up with my other guitar though which has an 18v live wire heavy metal humbucker in the bridge and kills for lead tone. I don’t want to router out the bridge pickup cavity at this stage to install a metal livewire hb as well, so am thinking about a hot rails for the bridge with maybe a blackout modular preamp to give it the kick .. reckon this would do the trick? or can you recommend another potential single coil or mini hb system? e.g active blackout single in bridge or another single coil or mini humbucker with the preamp system installed? Thanks

  8. I have SH10 full shred from my old washburn nx3…and now i want to put it in to my epiphone les paul. I used to play metal, but now i play hardrock, classicrock, blues. What do you think ? Need your advice…sorry for my english…

  9. I have the Black Winter pair in my ESP Horizon Standard. I think the black winter pickups are very good all around pickups because the eq is pretty flat (6-6-6) so they don’t actually color the guitars natural tone that much (even though the name could imply something extreme). So if the guitar sounds great acoustically, the sound will also translate well all the way to your amp. Great pickups for any all-around high output needs! 🙂

  10. STK-S2N Strat Stack. It`s vintage Seymour Duncan I think. Had it in the neck for at least 25 years and if it were a woman I`d marry it. Probably not for metal, dunno? but for everything else it is sensational. Deep, sweet, bell like bright and tight all at the same time. Play it clean with just a little gain through a valve amp ( mine is Marshall) and it responds to the slightest variations in attack and when you start cranking it up it starts to bite, scream, howl and sing. If you like a Strat with attitude and a slightly disturbed disposition try one of these!!

    1. Absolutely! I have one in a Strat too and I love it. Have to say though that the STK S2 has something more…same sweet tones but darker darks and brighter highs. It just seems more responsive and wider open. Not many demo`s on youtube but this one gives a quick idea.

  11. I have an alder body strat with maple neck. I have the JB at the bridge, an SSL-5 middle and a Jazz at the neck… I had a pair of Seth Lovers on a semi-hollow and I can’t help but wonder it one would sound better at the neck in this build. Any comments would be appreciated. Not that the Jazz sounds bad… it just is not “perfect”

    1. You might find the Seth Neck output a little unbalanced compared to the JB and SSL-5 in your Strat – which would compound further if you’re running any kind of coil-splitting setup. That being said, there is no right or wrong when it comes to choosing pickups, and if you’re looking for a much cleaner sound when switching to the neck pickup, the Seth could be the ticket.

      1. The solution to my question was right under my nose. I have never been one for putting pups too close to the strings. But, I wound up lowering the Jazz Neck and the SSL-5 in the middle. I also lowered the pole-pieces 1/4 turn on the Jazz. Much to my delight, it thinned out the sound much to my delight. Here I’m looking at swapping pups, and all I needed was a screwdriver…..

  12. hay guys.. tell me what is the best pickup (brand & model) for all types of music to set up my guitar with pickups for the bridge & neck ??

  13. Why do Americans always play with distortion? It completely screws up any evaluation of the pickups’ tone here. So dumb.

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