What Is A Mini-Humbucker?

The tone of a Mini-Humbucker has been described as somewhere between a full sized humbucker and a single coil. Originally developed by the Epiphone company in the ’50s, they were brought over into Gibson models with the purchase of Epiphone in 1957. They are lower output but tend to be brighter, with more chime and less openness and rudeness than P-90s (which have a little more “spank” to them). Even so, there are multiple variations on on the Mini-Humbucker that were developed throughout the years.

The most popular of those variations involved a coil wrapped around a bar magnet, as used in the Gibson Firebird. This tone should be familiar if you’ve ever listened to Johnny Winter. Pete Townshend also used Mini-Humbuckers in his Les Paul Deluxe through most of the ’70s, and you can hear plenty of Firebird mini humbucker tones in Govt Mule’s music.

The Epiphone Sheraton was one of the first guitars to utilize the Mini-Humbucker.
The thick tones and infinitely cool look of the Firebird help popularize the Mini-Humbucker.

Options for those wanting to upgrade or retrofit their existing guitar:
Over the years Seymour Duncan has created a number of vintage replica and modern takes on the mini-humbucker. First up was the classic replica Vintage Mini-Humbucker (SM-1) which was designed to sound just like the original Firebird mini-humbuckers.

These are the same pickups that Johnny Winter uses in his Firebird. For a mini-humbucker that can do everything from classic rock to metal, the Custom (SM-2) is well suited, with a ceramic bar magnet to produce great upper mid detail. For those looking for something with a little more growl there is the Seymourized (SM-3) Mini-Humbucker, which is hotter than traditional mini-humbuckers.

Mini Humbucker
The Antiquity II Mini-Humbucker comes in a P-90 Soapbar so you can easily replace your soapbar pickups with it. While it’s possible to get a special mounting ring for a Mini-Humbucker to fit into a humbucker cavity, this is the easiest choice for those who already own a Firebird, a guitar with P-90s or one that comes with a mini-humbucker stock like the Fender Vintage Hot Rod ’52 Telecaster.
Mini Humbucker

For those that have tried a Mini-Humbucker, what did you think of the tone?

Join the Conversation


  1. awesome. i got pretty much all of these mentioned, the aniquity is amazing. i want more but cant afford e’m! in les paul, tele, and strat. wicked.

  2. I used a Les Paul Deluxe with Minis exclusively during my short incendiery rock bar band career (80’s). Mini’s truly offers the best of both humbucking and single coil in my opinion, all pluses, no minuses. Both Les Paul and EVH expressed their liking them, or at least the Les Paul Deluxe too. I’m building a V, pretty sure I’m going to use a Seymourized or Vintage Mini for the neck, maybe with a gibson 500T for the neck.

  3. I will take minis over full sized every time, unless it’s a real ’59 bucker, but how often do you get to play one of those. I have minis in my Epiphone Riviera and love them to death. I love the in between sound that it gives, and in a semi hollow body you get plenty of tonal range.

  4. First off, I love old stock Tekes, however Mini humbucker in the neck is my personal choice for the best modern sounding Tele. It can rock Blues, Classic rock, and even get in the mix with Modern Metal. My first choice would be for an overwound Tele Humbucking bridge pickup to get the best of both worlds- classic and modern.

  5. Is this the pickup that Paul Gilbert and Bruce Bouillet used to use in the Racer X days ?

  6. I have a 1976 Les Paul Deluxe with SM-3 pickups and I can’t find the right tone. I either get muddy or bright and plucky. I am currently using a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe and can’t seem to get that dialed in either. IT has been pointed out that Fender amps are biased toward single coil pickups.

  7. Were the mini-humbuckers that came from Epiphone designed by DeArmond? I think I read that somewhere but not sure. When I bought my Les Paul Deluxe forty years ago I didn’t even know they were different than the full sized ones, lol. But I got used to that sound and to this day I prefer the mini.

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