There are plenty of factors to consider when choosing the best guitar pickups for jazz. Jazz is a genre that relies heavily on tone and nuance, so you’ll want to select pickups that can capture those subtleties. You’ll also want to consider the overall sound you’re going for – whether you want a warm, mellow tone or a brighter, more cutting sound. Here, you’ll find some of the best pickups you can find for jazz music so you can make your guitar truly sing.
In this article, you will learn about fantastic jazz guitar pickups such as the:
- Fender Custom Shop Fat 50s
- Gibson P90
- Seymour Duncan Phat Cat
- DiMarzio Vintage P90
- Benedetto A-6
- Lollar Low-Wind Imperial
- Kent Armstrong Stealth 90
- Fralin Steel Pole 42
With this small preview out of the way, let’s dive into some of the best jazz guitar pickups you can add to your instrument.
Table of Contents
1. Fender Custom Shop Fat 50s
Usually, when people think of jazz music, people frequently think of semi-hollow body guitars; however, many famous Jazz guitarists have used solid-body guitars like the Fender Stratocaster. Honestly, you can’t go wrong with a Strat because it can do just about anything, especially if you have the pickups you want.
With that said, for jazz, if you have a Stratocaster that uses all single-coil pickups, I highly recommend the fat ’50s if you’re looking for a brighter, more cutting jazz sound while offering a full bottom end.
These pickups are modeled after the classic 1950s Stratocaster pickups and offer plenty of bite and articulation, but with your tone knob and amp settings, you can mellow it out.
One thing to be aware of, though, is that the Fender fat 50s are not noiseless pickups, just like your typical Strat pickups out there. This is just one factor that people should consider, because the guitar pickup you choose matters and can make a difference in this regard and several others.
So, if you want something quieter, you can find some single-coil pickups for jazz that serve to reduce the excess noise, like the Fender Vintage Noiseless pickups or the Lace Sensor Golds.
2. Gibson P90
The Gibson P90 is the quintessential jazz guitar pickup that offers a warm, smooth tone. It’s perfect for jazz players who want to add a bit of vintage flair to their sound.
Like most Strat pickups, the Gibson-style P90 pickups are single-coil pickups, but they’re a bit larger and have a bit more output than your standard Stratocaster pickups. In addition, they’re usually encased in what’s called a soapbar cover.
However, one thing to consider is that guitars that use an actual P90 usually have the wood routed to accommodate the unique shape of the P90 pickup.
Luckily, though, Gibson makes the P-94, which is a humbucker-sized P90 pickup, so you can get that sound in guitars that are routed for humbuckers. There are also many pickups by other well-known brands that are inspired by the P90 and work in the humbucker spots, which I will cover in this article.
Overall, the classic Gibson P90 pickups are great for jazz because they have a pleasant, round, full sound that’s perfect for chord work and single-note lines. They can also do well with other genres like blues and rockabilly. It’s also worth noting that because P90s are single coils, they can be noisy like Strat pickups, so bear that in mind.
3. Seymour Duncan Phat Cat
The first of the P90-inspired guitar pickups I’d like to talk about is the Phat Cat set by Seymour Duncan, who makes some of the best pickups of all time, in my opinion.
The Phat Cat is a P90 pickup that’s humbucker-sized, and even though it’s single-coil, I think that Phat Cat is considerably quieter than your standard P90s without technically being noiseless. So it’s perfect for players who want to get that vintage P90 vibe without that excess noise.
The Phat Cat is a great jazz guitar pickup because of its warm, round sound in the neck while providing that bite in the bridge. It doesn’t sound identical to an original P90, but that’s to be expected since it’s an aftermarket brand, but it almost hits the nail on the head.
Who knows, maybe you’ll want something that sounds slightly different than the usual P90 sound anyway!
Also, if you happen to have a guitar that’s routed for true P90 pickups and you’re looking to do a pickup swap. Seymour Duncan offers the Antiquity P90 set in that soapbar and dogear design which can be a fantastic substitute if you have a vintage Jazz-style guitar that can benefit from some upgrading.
4. DiMarzio Vintage P90
I have to say, I’m a massive fan of DiMarzio pickups in general, and their Vintage P90 is no exception.
The DiMarzio Vintage P90 has that classic jazz guitar sound you’d expect from a P90-type pickup with a little more output that’s not too “hot.” As a result, it’s perfect for players who want to add a little bit of girth to their sound without sacrificing that vintage vibe.
While the Vintage P90 frequently comes as a humbucker-sized single-coil pickup, you can also easily find this popular pickup in soap bar and dogear form, so you can find the same great sound from a pickup that’s manufactured to accommodate different guitars.
However, unlike the Seymour Duncan Phat Cat and Antiquity P90s, which have a sound that has more of a balanced EQ but a bit more emphasis on the treble, the Vintage P90 is much more midrange-focused and isn’t as bright-sounding.
Still, DiMarzio’s Vintage P90s offer a lot of smoothness and clarity, which is exactly what you want out of a good jazz guitar tone.
5. Benedetto A6
We’ve gone over a couple of humbucker-sized pickups so far in this guide, but what about real humbuckers? Fear not, I haven’t forgotten about these, and one of the best humbuckers for jazz I’d like to talk about first is the Benedetto A6.
Benedetto pickups were once part of their parent brand Benedetto, which makes boutique archtop guitars for jazz, but nowadays, the Benedetto A-6 pickup that was originally seen in these guitars is part of the Seymour Duncan family, who, as mentioned before, makes some of the best pickups for just about anything.
The Seymour Duncan Benedetto A-6 has a similar EQ profile as the Phat Cat – it’s pretty balanced, with just a bit more added bass and treble, and so it’s a very smooth and warm pickup which is understandable since the Benedetto pickups were designed for jazz guitarists in mind.
You should definitely check out the Benedetto A6 if you’re interested in a real humbucker for jazz and want something that’s different from the P90-based pickups that have been talked about so far.
Additionally, suppose you have a jazz guitar that doesn’t have routing for guitar pickups, such as an acoustic archtop. In that case, you can also get a Benedetto S6 which can be installed on the top of the body and help bring out the rich acoustic tones from these kinds of jazz guitars.
6. Lollar Low Wind Imperial
The Lollar Low Wind Imperial pickups are another type of humbucker for jazz that I really like.
Lollar pickups are known for their ability to recreate vintage tones, and the Low Wind Imperial is no different. It’s made to sound like an old PAF-style humbucker from the 1950s, which is perfect for jazz guitarists who want that classic jazz sound without having to worry about noise issues.
While P90s are extremely popular, the PAF-style pickups are a fine choice too, and they’re pretty versatile. They were initially popularized by Gibson in the 1950s and have been used in many genres.
Nonetheless, the Lollar Low Winds have been designed for players who like to play hollow body or semi-hollow body guitars.
Combined with these instruments, these pickups produce a darker sound without sacrificing crystal-clear clarity. They’re pretty bassy but also have enough treble to make sure you don’t sound muddy; these are excellent pickups for jazz guitarists, but the only drawback is that they’re considerably more expensive than other options. However, if you can afford them, you won’t be disappointed.
7. Kent Armstrong Custom Series Stealth 90
Among all of the different guitar pickup brands out there, it’s possible you’ve never heard of Kent Armstrong pickups. In that case, I think they’re doing extraordinary things in regards to innovating on classic designs.
The Stealth 90s are actual hum-canceling P90 soapbar pickups, so you can get that excellent jazz guitar sound no matter what type of guitar you have. Also, unlike the other pickups that use some variant of Alnico magnets, these ones use a ceramic one which generally contributes to higher output. This isn’t traditional by any means, but it does lend to a smoother sound with tighter and improved bass response.
The Kent Armstrong Stealth 90s are some of the best-sounding P90 pickups I’ve ever had the pleasure of checking out, and I think it’s cool they do things a little differently, and you’ll probably appreciate that too.
Alternatively, if you want something that’s more old-school, you can always consider the Kent Armstrong Vintage P90s, too.
They’re not noise-canceling, but their Vintage P90s are also a good choice if you have difficulty getting your hands on the Stealth 90s. For jazz, you can’t go wrong with either guitar pickup.
8. Fralin Steel Pole 43
I feel like it’s been a hot minute since I’ve talked about Strat pickups, but since we’re on the topic of innovative guitar pickup companies, I wanted to bring up Fralin pickups, which is a boutique brand that’s truly impressed me.
Lindy Fralin pickups managed to blend that P90 tone with a Strat-sized single-coil pickup! Like the Kent Armstrong Stealth 90s, these too use a ceramic magnetic to give a modern output emphasizing the midrange. The results sound amazing, in my opinion.
However, the Fralin Steel Pole 43s have a lot of bite and snap to them, and some people might find them a little aggressive for their tastes, which is understandable since they’re mostly for Blues, but if you have a good Jazz amp, you can tame it.
I know some people like to have these qualities in their tones, though, and will enjoy the personality this guitar pickup can offer.
Jazz guitarists have a wide range of different sounds they might be going for, but if you have a Stratocaster and you admire the P90s, the Fralin Steel Pole 42 is a superb pickup to look into especially if you’re looking for single-coil pickups for jazz.
Jazz guitarists have a lot of different options when it comes to choosing the best pickups for their needs, and there are many great pickups out there that can help you get the sound you’re looking for alongside having the right amp settings, and of course, an instrument that’s suited for jazz, like a Strat, a semi-hollow body, or a full hollow body guitar.
Whether you need something that’s more old-school with a tried-and-true sound or something that’s more modern and innovative, there’s definitely a pickup on this list that can give you the jazz guitar tone of your dreams.