Along with the Jazz bass, the Precision basses have set the standard in electric bass design and have been used in countless genres, Their powerful sound has made it a popular choice for rock, punk, and metal, but their distinctive thump has also led to being widely used in pop, funk, R&B, and related styles too.
If you are currently a proud owner of a precision-style bass or even a PJ bass, this guide will share with you some of the best precision bass pickups you can find that can make excellent upgrades for your current instrument that can make your sound even more prominent.
Table of Contents
As a life-long Iron Maiden fan, Steve Harris, to me, has been the most iconic metal bassist who happens to have used a Fender Precision Bass throughout his entire career.
Interestingly enough, this is a medium output split-coil pickup, as opposed to a high-output one, which you’d see in a lot of pickups for metal, but due to the nature of the P-bass and the pickup itself, you won’t have any issue cutting through the mix. Steve Harris never did!
Overall, this P-bass pickup is an alnico-V one that’s pretty balanced on the EQ curve, but there is an emphasis on the bass frequency rather than the mids and treble. Therefore, you get a great low end out of it, but it’s also bright and punchy, which is what you’d expect from a P-bass pickup.
However, if you’re specifically looking for a P-bass pickup for metal with even higher output, the Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound (SPB-3) P-bass pickups might be ideal.
Not everyone is necessarily looking for a hotter pickup; instead, they are just looking for something that’s just an all-around solid upgrade to their precision bass. That’s where the Seymour Duncan Vintage P-Bass pickup comes in, which is intended to be their take on Fender’s pickups seen in the 1950s P-basses.
Coincidentally, Steve Harris used to use these for a long time in his basses, but so did a lot of other prolific bass players across many genres. This is one of the best P-bass pickups for funk, Motown, blues, classic rock, surf, country; you name it!
Compared to the previous pickup, the SPB-1 is an alnico V split-coil pickup that focuses more on the bass and treble while pulling back on the mids. The result is a pickup that’s smooth and warm but with enough kick to help you stand out.
There’s a very good reason why this pickup is so popular, but if you happen to be on the fence between this one at the SPB-4, check out this video from Oliver Tobyn, who I actually will be referencing a few times throughout this article. I highly recommend you check out his channel because he puts together awesome comparisons to help you make the best choice for you. In the meantime, give this one a quick watch:
While the majority of pickup upgrades will be from aftermarket companies, that’s not always the case, and this also applies to P-bass pickups.
If you’re looking for the most authentic precision bass sound, you can always go for the real deal and get Fender’s Original Precision Bass pickup which is based on the ones found in their 1962 basses.
Like the previous choice, this is a vintage-output P-bass pickup that’s super versatile and fantastic for a variety of old-school and contemporary styles of music. However, unlike the Seymour Duncan SPB-1, this particular pickup has more emphasis on the mids, especially the upper-mids. In my opinion, they sound round yet articulate.
I highly recommend this pickup for people who have real Fender Precision basses but aren’t necessarily happy with their stock pickups; they’ll definitely be a noticeable upgrade in Mexican-made Fender P-basses or budget P-style ones from other brands!
The DiMarzio Split-P is a humbucker pickup that’s louder and fatter than a lot of its counterparts in this list, and depending on your preferences, it could be something that’s right up your alley.
This is a ceramic pickup with a higher output than the vintage-style alnico P-bass pickups I’ve covered thus far. The EQ of the Split-P definitely favors the bass and low-mids, but having decent high-mids and good treble helps ensure that it isn’t too muddy sounding.
However, suppose you’re looking for something that’s clankier sounding. In that case, the DiMarzio Model-P (DP122) is more of a vintage-style pickup akin to the Precision bass replica pickups like the Seymour Duncan SPB-1 and even the Fender Original 62 ones.
Being a hotter and bass-ier pickup, I like the Split-P a lot because it brings something a bit different to the table, but if you like tradition and you happen to be a DiMarzio fan already, the Model-P might be your thing instead. Here’s another video from Oliver Tobyn comparing the Model P vs. the Split-P for your reference:
Another high-output P-bass pickup that I highly recommend is Aguilar’s DCB-P, which stands for Dual Ceramic Bar. While ceramic pickups are often associated with active electronics, this pickup, as well as the DiMarzios, show that they are excellent for passive pickups too.
This allows you to have the warmth and dynamic response that passives are known for while still getting the clarity and output that active pickups have a reputation for. In fact, I think these pickups truly excel in P-basses or PJ basses that have active onboard preamps.
However, even if you don’t have an active bass, the DCB-P still has a lot to offer for those who own a passive instrument!
These modern pickups provide a full, even, and rich tone with lots of sustain that all P-bass lovers can enjoy, even those who like vintage pickups. Plus, I think they look pretty sweet, too; in my opinion, not only will you give your instrument an upgrade sonically but aesthetically as well.
Those who are already familiar with Geezer Butler will probably already have an idea of who this pickup is for, but for those who aren’t, Geezer Butler is the bassist for Black Sabbath and, therefore, alongside Steve Harris, is one of the most famous metal bassists of all time.
As you could probably assume, the EMG GZR-P pickup is designed for people who are looking for a powerful low-end with plenty of grit. However, although these are EMG pickups, a brand that is primarily known for active electronics, these are actually passive pickups using alnico-5 magnets.
If you’re looking specifically for an active EMG P-bass pickup with ceramic magnets, you might want to check out the EMG P instead.
That being said, the EMG Geezer Butler P-bass pickup is most often compared to the Seymour Duncan Steve Harris one, and understandably so – they are easily some of the best P-bass pickups for metal, but if you want a more detailed comparison between the EMG GZR vs. Seymour Duncan SPB-4, this video will discuss both them side-by-side.
Being a popular choice for bassists for over 70 years now, the P-basses have been used in virtually every genre that uses an electric bass and has made its name known, and their pickups play a large role in its overall identity.
From vintage to modern, some of the best P-bass pickups you can upgrade your bass with include:
- Seymour Duncan SPB-4 Steve Harris Signature Pickup
- Seymour Duncan SPB-1 Vintage P-Bass Pickup
- Fender Original Precision Bass Pickup
- DiMarzio Split-P Pickup
- Aguilar DCB-4P Pickup
- EMG GZR-P Geezer Butler Signature Pickup
In addition to these, I did also provide some alternatives, especially to those who want an active P-bass pickup. However, these are all passive P-bass pickups because the majority of precision basses are passive, and traditionally, the sound that P-basses are revered for is based around them.
With that in mind, I hope that one of these pickups gives your P-bass the exact sound that you’re going for. Any of these can make a fantastic upgrade for any owner of a precision bass, but take a look at the ones that suit your styles the most – there’s something for everyone!
Don’t forget to look into bass EQs as well, as these can help you dial in the perfect tone for your P-bass. With a great pickup and a flexible and durable bass EQ pedal, there’s no telling what you can achieve!