As a musician, you probably already know how important it is to have the right tools to create the sound you want, and for bass, your pickups are no exception and can play a significant role in this.
In this article, I will introduce you to some of the best jazz bass pickups available on the market today and help you find the perfect tone for the music you enjoy playing.
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An Introduction to Jazz Bass Pickups
Before diving into the best jazz bass pickups, let’s take a moment to understand what makes them unique.
Jazz bass pickups, or just J-bass for short, are known to provide more bite and are described as having a signature “growl” to them due to them having an emphasis on the higher and mid frequencies, whereas P-bass ones have more low-end that gives it more rumble and thump.
The qualities of J-basses make them particularly popular among jazz, funk, and R&B musicians, but they are also incredibly versatile and have been used in every genre, and the pickups play a big role in that.
Most J-bass pickups will be single-coil, but you can find some humbucking J-bass pickups, too, that are designed to reduce some of the extra noise that’s characteristic of earlier single-coil pickups. However, at the same time, there are a ton of single-coil J-bass pickups these days that can achieve this through various coil techniques, many of which you’ll find here.
Therefore, not all pickups will be the same, and when choosing the best jazz bass pickups for your instrument, consider the sound you want to achieve, as well as your playing style and the genre of music you play.
Be sure to also check the dimensions of your current pickups in your J-bass before making any purchase, as not all Jazz bass pickups have the same spacing. While there are common sizes, such as 70mm and 74mm, it’s best to take this precaution beforehand to get the correct fit and best sound.
With that said, let’s go over some of the best J-bass pickups around – you’re bound to find a set that suits you!
Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Jazz
Seymour Duncan is a well-known name in the world of guitar pickups, and their Quarter Pound Jazz Bass Pickups are no exception. These single-coil passive pickups are designed to deliver a full, rich tone with plenty of punch.
The Quarter Pound Jazz Bass Pickups feature quarter-inch diameter Alnico 5 rod magnets that have a strong magnetic field and excellent sustain. They also have a high-output design, which makes them a great upgrade to many stock jazz bass pickups and perfect for rock, metal, blues, and funk styles.
One of the standout features of these Seymour Duncan J-bass pickups is their hum-canceling design. This means that they are able to reduce unwanted noise and interference, making them excellent for recording and live performances.
When it comes to pickups of any kind, it’s hard to go wrong with Seymour Duncans! Their most popular passive pickups, regardless of whether it’s for guitar or bass, tend to be the most versatile, and that’s certainly the case with the Quarter Pounds, which can be found for P-basses as well.
Fender Pure Vintage ’74
If you’re looking for a vintage-inspired tone that doesn’t require high output, the passive Fender Pure Vintage ’74 Jazz Bass Pickups might be the perfect choice. These single-coil pickups are designed to replicate the sound of the original ones that are highly sought-after by musicians and collectors alike.
The Pure Vintage ’74 J-bass pickups feature Alnico 5 magnets and enamel-coated magnet wire, which provides a warm and full-bodied sound. They also have a period-correct cloth wire and fiber bobbin construction, which adds to their authentic vintage tone.
One of the unique features of these pickups is their Flush-mount pole pieces that contribute to a balanced output across all strings. This helps to ensure that each note is clear, defined, and responsive and retains its dynamic range.
While these aren’t identical replicas of the J-bass pickups found in the original basses, the improvements still allow these jazz bass pickups to stay true to the Fender sound that’s been heard on so many records.
Aguilar is a very modern brand that was founded in 2010 that has been making great strides in the world of amps, pedals, and pickups and has been producing some of the best quality products around.
One example of this is the Aguilar DCB-J, a passive pickup designed to provide a clear and articulate sound with a strong low-end response. I’ve actually recommended the P-bass version as well in my guide to the best precision bass pickups.
Just like the Seymour Duncans mentioned before, they are also hum-canceling, making them ideal for recording and live performances by reducing unwanted noise and interference. However, unlike the Alnico 5 magnets found in the Duncans, these pickups feature dual ceramic bar magnets and a custom-wound coil, which provides a balanced and even output across all strings, in addition to providing even higher output akin to an active pickup.
Overall, I love the Aguilar DCB-Js because they are able to reproduce both the high and low frequencies of your bass guitar with exceptional clarity and definition, making them perfect for a wide range of musical genres.
DiMarzio DP123 Model J
The DiMarzio Model J is a high-quality and versatile option for jazz bass players who want a pickup that’s great for all types of styles. These are passive pickups that try to retain the warmness of vintage pickups like the Fender ones while also having the modern features that people love.
What makes these pickups a bit different is that they are humbuckers, allowing them to provide a noise-free and balanced sound with plenty of power and detail, while the ceramic magnets help provide great output.
Another one of the unique features of the DiMarzio Model J pickups is their EQ curve. The pickups have pronounced low mids and treble, giving them a more aggressive and punchy sound. This makes them ideal for slap and pop techniques, as well as rock and funk music.
However, as mentioned before, the pickups still have a smooth and warm low end that suits them for jazz and blues. The Model J pickups are also very responsive to your playing dynamics and can produce a wide range of tones depending on your attack and techniques, which is exactly what you want in a passive pickup.
The EMG J jazz bass pickups are noise-canceling single-coil bass pickups designed to deliver a warm tone with a strong midrange presence. These active pickups feature ceramic magnets and steel poles, providing a powerful and punchy sound, and are a popular choice for rock and metal bassists but are awesome for other genres too.
It’s important to point out that since these are active bass pickups, they require a battery to operate and power up the internal preamp to provide a higher output and a more consistent tone across all frequencies.
However, despite having ceramic pickups, these aren’t as high-output as you’d think, and instead, these are described as having more of a medium output. Nonetheless, they get the job done and can be a fantastic upgrade to your stock pickups, and they’re easy to install with their solderless system.
Also, unlike their guitar pickup counterparts, these EMG active bass pickups don’t sound overly compressed, which sometimes comes to mind when people think of the brand. These will maintain the integrity of your jazz bass and the dynamics of your playing while offering an extended frequency range and accentuating the harmonic overtones.
Investing in high-quality jazz bass pickups is a worthwhile investment that can help you discover your ideal sound and take your music to the next level.
Choosing the best jazz bass pickups for your instrument is an important decision that can greatly impact your sound, but knowing which one to pick can be a bit tricky if you’re unsure of what’s good.
For a quick rundown, the best J-bass pickups I talked about here were the following:
While most of these top-rated J-bass pickups are geared towards 4-string basses, some have 5-string bass versions too. However, if you own a 5-stringer and there isn’t an exact version made for your bass, still take a look at these brands, as they will have similar jazz bass pickups that will suit your instrument.
Nonetheless, whether you’re looking for a vintage-inspired tone or a modern high-output design, there are plenty of options available to suit your needs, and hopefully, this guide has narrowed things down for you and will lead you to finding the best pickups for your jazz bass.