The Three Best Classic Rock Pickups

Seymour Duncan’s three best passive pickups for classic rock tone.

Choosing the best classic rock pickups can be a bit daunting. Some people say Hendrix is classic rock, while others say, Journey. And some people even claim Nirvana has crossed into classic territory. We say classic rock is defined by the iconic ‘passive humbucker into a cranked tube amp’ sound that powered the late ‘60s through the 1970s. Want to know how to get that tone? Read on and discover what we think are the…


3 Best Guitar Pickups for Classic Rock.




classic output humbucker pickups

When we guitarists think about the Pearly Gates, we’re thinking about ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and his legendary ’59 Les Paul. And the LP’s special set of pickups is a critical part of what gave the Billy-Pearly pair their genre-defining tone.

The Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Set are replicas of the original PAFs found in Pearly Gates, Gibbons’s ’59 Gibson Burst Les Paul. Like the original humbuckers, they sing with a unique mid-range and feature a slightly hotter output than other PAFs of the ’59 era. And Gibbons swears by them for the unique way they cut through the band while retaining the response and clarity of classic vintage humbuckers.

We designed the Pearly Gates humbucking pickups with Alnico 2 magnets, which retain the airy top end that make PAFs famous. And they’re even wound on Seymour’s original Leesona winding machine from the early Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It’s the winding machine that made the original ’59 PAFs, history’s best passive pickups for rock.

Combine the voice of those PAF humbuckers with the undeniable ZZ Top tone, and you can see why the Pearly Gates Set made this list of the best classic rock pickups.



gold classic output humbucker pickups

The Saturday Night Special Set is all about nailing that late ’70s arena rock tone. It was a time when guitarists wanted more gain from their amplifiers. But high-output humbucking pickups, as we know them today, didn’t exist yet. What did exist we’re passive humbuckers that were slightly hotter than PAFs that sang with a fatter tone. This continues to make those ’70s humbuckers among the best passive pickups for rock, ever.

With the Saturday Night Special Set, we took these punchy classic rock pickups a step further. By removing some of the neck’s wooly low-end, we keep the pickup’s fat, classic sound without it getting muddy. This also balances the neck and bridge pickups to perfection.

These pickups bridge the gap between vintage humbuckers and modern power. So if you like classic rock pickups with plenty of punch, put a set of the Saturday Night Specials in your guitar today.



classic output humbucker pickups

We’re guessing you already figured out the artist that inspired the Seymour Duncan Whole Lotta Humbucker Set. And while we know that these pickups capture this player’s classic rock tone (Seymour wound the originals), it’s the story behind them that’s the most fascinating.

During Seymour Duncan’s time working at Fender Sound House in London, he befriended some of the most legendary electric guitarists in history. One of these icons was the lead guitarist for The Yardbirds. Through that friendship, Seymour rewound one of his faulty pickups. That pickup remains in the guitarist’s most recognizable guitar to this day.

Thanks to Seymour’s meticulous note-taking on the pickup’s construction, that same pickup can now be yours!

The soul of the Whole Lotta Humbucker Set is a vintage-style humbucker. But it boasts a hotter output than most pickups from that era. Players love them for the slight compression and sustain they add to your tone. So, if you love the sound that powered the “Hammer of the Gods,” you can thank these classic rock pickups.


Let’s talk tone!

If you have any other questions about finding the best pickups for classic rock, 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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