The Best Guitar Pickups for Metal: Classic Metal

We know that picking the best guitar pickups for metal is impossible. It’s even hard to narrow them down for classic metal. Every player has different preferences, everyone is after a different tone, and there are just too many options available. Not to mention, classic metal means something different to everyone.

Here’s how we define it:

Modern players such as Periphery’s Mark Holcomb are redefining today’s concept of “metal tone.” Things have become tighter-sounding and more precise than ever before. So we’re defining “classic metal” as all-metal pre-2010. This includes ’90s death, ’00s nu-metal, ’80s thrash, and the list goes on.

Even within those parameters, selecting the best guitar pickups for classic metal leaves a ton of options. But we think Seymour Duncan offers some of the best in the business. So in this first installment of Best Pickups for Metal, we’re going to highlight our three classic metal favorites.


The 3 Best Pickups for Classic Metal


Seymour Duncan SH-8 Invader

DCR: Neck 7.5k // Bridge 16.6k
Magnet: Ceramic
Cable: 4c Shielded
Type: Passive

Seymour Duncan Invader passive humbucker

The Seymour Duncan Invader is one of the most unmistakable humbucking pickups in history. Its over-sized pole pieces give your guitar an-all business look. But it’s the Invader’s massive output and low-end punch that puts it on our list of best pickups for metal.

Invader humbuckers get their sonic force by combining custom overwound coils, three large ceramic magnets, and oversized metal oxide pole pieces. Their low-end warmth is ideal for maintaining the body in your guitar’s upper register. And it’s devastating for down-tuned riffs.

Thanks to this sonic signature, the Seymour Duncan Invader has been a go-to classic metal pickup for years. And with players like the Misfits’ own Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein swearing by them, they’ll remain on this list for a long time.


Seymour Duncan SH-6 Duncan Distortion

DCR: Neck 13.0k //Bridge 16.60k
Cable: 4c Shielded
Type: Passive

Seymour Duncan duncan distortion passive humbucker

Seymour Duncan has created a lot of popular pickups for heavy metal over the years. Some, like the Invader and the JB model, have a lasting legacy. Others, such as the Omega, Pegasus, and Blackouts, are on the cutting edge, aimed at the future of metal. But the Seymour Duncan SH-6 Duncan Distortion still reigns as the supreme pickup for classic metal.

We specifically craft the Duncan Distortion humbucking pickups to wring as much gain from your amp as possible. And we voice them for big lows and the defined top-end that classic metal demands.

There was finally a pickup created just for metal players! They quickly embraced the Duncan Distortion from day one, and, as evidenced by the demand for our 7- and 8-string Duncan Distortion models, players still love them to this day.

Through the decades, a slew of competitors has come and gone. But the Duncan Distortion SH-6 will always remain one of the best pickups for metal.


Seymour Duncan Black Winter

DCR: Neck 13.0k // Bridge 16.6k
Magnet: Ceramic
Cable: 4c Shielded
Type: Passive

Seymour Duncan Black winter passive humbucker

If the Duncan Invaders are all about low-end power, the Black Winter humbuckers are all about ferocious articulation.

Black Winter humbucking pickups arm your guitar with buzzsaw cut for savage black metal and death metal tones. And thanks to their full low-end and detailed treble, they’re also an excellent pickup for precise, Dream Theater-style prog and grinding groove-metal.

Black Winters utilize a custom overwound coil and three large ceramic magnets to create a high output humbucker that can compete with any hot active pickup. But, the Black Winters still maintain the dynamic response of their passive design. And because they’re available in 6-, 7-, and 8-string models and 4-conductor wiring, they’re the most versatile classic metal pickup on the list.


Let’s talk tone!

If you have any other questions about finding the best pickups for metal, check out our Knowledge Base here. You can also email us here. And don’t forget to dig deeper into the Seymour Duncan blog! There’s a ton of in-depth information on all of our different designs, how-tos, tone demonstrations, and a lot more.

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