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The 6 Best Passive Pickups for Metal Reviews

Best Passive Pickups for Metal
Photo by Johnathan Ciarrocca

When you want the best out of your heavy metal to give powerful gains and complex distortions, you have to research for the best passive pickups for metal today. The last thing you want from your metal guitar is weak and just plain noisy.

There are numerous factors to consider when you want to analyze the top Passive Pickups for Metal guitars today. From thickness, chunkiness of sound, level of sonic output to a pick-up’s well-defined range of sound complexity, you have to check.

Assessing these factors can be hard. You’d be investing a lot of time.

This is the reason we have compiled here for you a solid, elaborate but precise analysis. Enjoy!


Top 6 Passive Pickups for Metal: Comparison Chart

ImageNameWeightColor NameDimensionsView on Amazon
EMG JH James Hetfield Electric Guitar Pickup SetEMG JH James Hetfield Electric Guitar Pickup Set1.15 poundsBrushed Black Chrome7 x 3 x 5 inchesCheck Price
Seymour Duncan BlackSeymour Duncan Black12.8 ouncesBlack6.25 x 4.5 x 1.5 inchesCheck Price
NUX B-5RC Wireless Guitar SystemNUX B-5RC Wireless Guitar System11.2 ouncesBlack5.5 x 3.9 x 2.1 inchesCheck Price
Metallor Humbucker Pickups BridgeMetallor Humbucker Pickups Bridge8 ouncesCR3.3 x 1.5 x 0.7 inchesCheck Price
Seymour Duncan Mick ThomsonSeymour Duncan Mick Thomson12.8 ouncesBlack6.25 x 4.5 x 1.5 inchesCheck Price
EMG H4 Passive Electric Guitar Humbucker PickupEMG H4 Passive Electric Guitar Humbucker Pickup8 ouncesBlack2.63 x 2.38 x 6 inchesCheck Price

Best Picks of Passive Pickups for Metal

#1: EMG JH James Hetfield Electric Guitar Pickup Set

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It’s easy to see this EMG pickup set as a star in many passive pickups for metal Reviews. What may have contributed to its popularity are its James Hetfield trademark design and a really cool-looking “stealth” look.

You could find this pickup also valuable if you want active tones and punch in your passive pickup. This one is made with that in mind, and made sure that it can deliver that in a range that’s as wide as you expect it.

Another noteworthy feature here is its tight attack  in its sound, giving you a clear, punchy passive pickup sound mix that has defined rock music today.

The stealth look design of this unit is complemented with ceramic poles designed individually, giving your output a higher release, as well making your core larger.

If James Hetfield of Metallica sees something great about this model, then that’s a good sign that this is the first passive pickup you might want to check out. EMG also made sure to add a series of cap options in its design to give you more audio power.

If you’re all about maximizing features, then you should love the fact that this comes with the trademarked finishes of EMG Metal Services. It also comes with the solderless installation components that have made EMG a leading brand today.

What I Like
  • It has a cool, modern classic “stealth” look for aesthetics.
  • It comes with features to maximize active tones and punch in your output.
  • It has a tight-attach sound quality for distinct rock music.
  • James Hetfield, a prominent band member of Metallica, gives this model a thumbs-up.
What I Didn’t Like
  • You may experience issues with how clean its sound is.
  • This is not ideal for sounds beyond classic rock themes.

#2: Seymour Duncan Black

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Another product that may appear in lists of best humbuckers for metal right now would be the Seymour Duncan Black. Yes, it has a 13K kBridge DC resistance, like most pickups you can get, but its stand-out status comes mainly from its bold black body color.

If what you want is a product that’s just beyond decorative purposes, the Duncan Black also doesn’t disappoint in how it gives the perfect treble, bass and midst to your riffs.

Are you in for some spectacular solos? Are you much more interested in nuances in your riffs? Duncan Black was made to have those in mind.

An added focus of the Duncan is in its level of distortions. The value this product gives you could satisfy your demand for aggressive levels of saturation and high-sensitivity to your strings.

The good thing, too, about this model is that it has given high priority to balanced assaults. You don’t get more than what is needed in your distortion, or less treble than you want your riff to have.

Plus, because this is hand-built, it has a level of precision in its naked coils that others are hard to surpass. You can pair this with a standard 6-string, 7 or 8 string, depending on your aim.

What I Like
  • This is designed with precise, bold classic “dark” look in its style.
  • The packed accessories will include a lead wire made of 4-conductor style.
  • You get this already vacuum-wax sealed so you operate it without any squealing issues.
What I Didn’t Like
  • You may need an additional active pickup if this doesn’t do the trick.

#3: NUX B-5RC Wireless Guitar System

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Many people may consider this NUX guitar system as one of the best active vs passive pickups for metal guitars today. From its no-buzz or no-hum sound quality, its auto-match system to its ability to always be charged, it’s not hard to understand why.

If you want some pickup that won’t die on you in a gig, this may provide the greatest value for you. Staying charged is important, and so this kit comes with its own charging system pack.

Back-to-back gigs need to always save time, and so the auto-match system built in this product answers your need to fix channel-matching issues quickly. Just turn on the transmitter, receiver and guitar, and you’re all set.

If compatibiltiy is high priority, then you’d also appreciate this product’s compact size. You can fit this basically with all the major brand types and models of ukulele and guitars.

Special merit also goes to this for its mute or auto-shutoff function. You’re not wasting any battery with this, which is so important when you want to save every tiny bit of power when gig-hopping.

An added compatibility feature built in this one is its compact wireless system. You are guaranteed to experience no buzz, no hum and unpleasant high-pitch noise in this pickup.

What I Like
  • You get an impressive compact wireless system that renders no buzz or hum.
  • No time-consuming channel-matching issue with this one.
  • You’re always on fully-charged mode.
  • There’s an auto-off function for maximum battery-saving mode.
What I Didn’t Like
  • You may experience negatives issues with active pickups in extreme volume modes.
  • You may find incompatibility issues if paired with a mandolin.

#4: Metallor Humbucker Pickups Bridge

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If you want a comprehensive analysis of the best electric guitar pickups today, you may need to consider the features of the Metallor Pickup Bridge. For starters, it’s a popular pickup choice for its great sound and bridge resistance.

The specific range you get for its bridge would be about 8.0K and an inductance of about 4.5H. This is almost the same as others, but add that to this product’s pole spacing, then what you have is a deal.

This pickup’s ability to let you see the response graph of the pickup’s frequency is a great added value. This graph feature clearly gives its loyal fans the reason to love it even more.

Another great value you can get in this version is its opposed wound design. What this means is that you’re using this, you can go for either a humbucking or hum-canceling mode.

The ceramic magnets used here will make these Metallor pickups a perfect element of a stylish ensemble. Apart from the aesthetics the ceramic results into better output and a balanced treble and resistance.

If you’re worried whether this is compatible with a stratocaster, then you don’t have to. This is made with a single coil that’s large enough to dismiss such issues.

What I Like
  • Ceramic magnets will give you a balanced and more precise sound quality.
  • The response graph you get for the frequency adds complexity to your sound.
  • This is made up of opposed wound, so you can both use this for hum-canceling and humbucking profile.
What I Didn’t Like
  • You may find unpleasant issues in balancing the treble and resistance with this one.
  • You could experience compatibility problems pairing this with an Epiphone Les Paul.

This is made of large single coil, which will hinder you to pair with the ones that don’t work with such setting.

#5: Seymour Duncan Mick Thomson

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You would not be making a comprehensive analysis of the best passive pickups for metalcore today if you didn’t consider the Seymour Mick Thomson. It’s unknown why this model is popular per se, but some of the reasons are below.

One big contributor to its reputation is the fact that Slipknot’s Mick Thomson is its promoter. In fact, this pickup was created from his request for a set of blackouts that can do high-ends and tight low-ends.

You can love this, too, if you’re up for some complex riffs with crushing impact even when they’re set at dropped tunings. Its patented EMTY technology also allows for custom-voicing to get you that crystal clear tones you want.

Like the previous Blackouts, you can expect this to still have the smoothest sustains imaginable. Its midrange is just as, if not more, aggressive, with each note individually well-defined.

You may also notice a tightehr low-end in this release compared to the previous Blackouts. Whether you’re doing standard tuning or earth-crushing extremes, you still get the percussive effects may artists seem to dig.

I also recommend this if you want more bang for the buck, since this comes with an assortment of add-ons. From hardware, pots, capacitors to cables that otherwise you’d pay for, this is packed with accessories that can save you money.

What I Like
  • This is an improved version of the previous Blackout, with better custom preamp settings.
  • You get an edgier, more rock-and-roll vibe in this one.
  • Heavy-chugs on your riffs or clean effects are also possible with this.
  • You get an output jack, a set of cables and a capacitor for maximum value.
What I Didn’t Like
  • The output jack gets loose after a considerable time.
  • You may not be able to pair this easily if your guitar has no active pickup.

#6: EMG H4 Passive Electric Guitar Humbucker Pickup

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It makes sense why many reviews online may include the EMG H4 pickup set as one of the best guitar pickups for metal in the market. Its strength comes with how it has combined the power of the patented Active 81 with the strength of a passive PAF.

It’s a must that a pickup has a tone so well-balanced that you can play even the most difficult John Mayer riffs. You’d be happy to know that the H4 is built with that in mind.

This version makes use of efficient, over-wound coils that are created with the use of ceramic bar magnets. This means that what you get are sounds so clean, that no noise is released without your approval.

If what you’re looking for is a a big, gargantuan rock star sound or a heavy-metal theme modern guitar riff, then this is the one to get. Stick to this one, too, if what you want are crunchy highs.

This version must also be a bestseller because it delivers a guitarist’s need for sweet harmony, sensitive finger response and an excellent, varied range for various genres. This may be the pick-up to get, too, if you want the pick-up to be easy to install.

What I Like
  • EMGs are known for consistent quality in sound, high output and an excellent range.
  • This is ideal for a heavy modern guitar sound.
  • You get the tight bass response usually hard to achieve in other brands
  • You get a chockful of add-ons in your package, such as output jack, tone controls and even battery clip.
What I Didn’t Like
  • You may find compatibility issue when pairing this with an Epiphone SG.
  • You will require special connectors for its wires.

Difference Between Active and Passive Pickups?

The best Seymour Duncan pickups for heavy metal music will depend on whether one is using an active or a passive pickup. The difference between the two is that a pickup creates weaker electric signals compared to the active.

You also would need an added amplifier if you’re using a passive pickup for a bolder sound. Active pickups also generally have a higher output than its counterpart.

A rule of thumb to remember is that if you want more power in a louder scale, then active pickup is the one to get. If your goal is to get a consistent, clean tone, then it’s a passive type that you need.

The disadvantage of a passive pickup, though, is that they can have a fairly limited output, but an active pickup also has its own downside. One of them is that it can be more expensive than the passive type.

Things to Consider Before Buying the Best Passive Pickups for Metal

The last thing you want to experience is that your passive pickup for your metal guitar riffs is not what you expected. That’s why you have to consider these factors below before purchasing the best passive pickup you have scoured online:

Active vs Passive – always learn first what distinguishes an active pickup from a passive one. Apart from the description we stated above, you should know that active pickups can eliminate hum and background noise way better than a passive one.

You can already set the noise-cancelling feature of an active pickup even before you have activated the preamp. The good thing about a passive pickup is you can adjust the volumes to as high as you want and you still get a clear, pleasant sound.

You get a lower output in a passive one, and you get more affected by noise, but maybe noise is what you want. If that’s the case, there’s a lot to like in a passive pickup.

Upgrade vs Buying – you should also know that maybe your current set-up is already good enough for you. Instead of buying a new passive pickup, maybe what you want are just accessories and supplements to make your sound go even more complex.

Go For Newer Humbucker – when you’re flooded with so much information, it helps to simplify by just going for newer models of humbuckers. The newer models released today are more effective in delivering high-energy, intense metal and thrash sound effects.

Check for Muddy Distortions – there’s a thin line between noise and just cool, heavy metal grunge. What you want are distortions that are still crunchy and pleasant, you know what I mean?

So before buying your passive pickup, go bring your guitar first, try it out with that passive pickup you chose and feel if it’s the right one.


What are the popular passive pickups today?

Some of the most popular are the Seymour Trembucker and the EMG H4

Is a humbucker necessary for metal?

Yes! A humbucker gives the complex metal sound you need.

Are Strats ideal for metal?

Yes, especially if you want classic metal or hard-rock that reminds you of the golden age of rock and roll.

Final Verdicts

After a thorough comparison and analysis of the specs and features, I can claim here that the EMG JH James Hetfield pickup set as my clear winner.

I like it because unlike others, it has achieved a unique balance of aesthetics and function that goes beyond my expectations. You get both a cool, “stealthy” design that kicks ass, but at the same time you get the expected active tones and punch in the output that others can rarely emulate.

Truly, if you settle its pros and cons, you’d really see that the pros still overlap the downside, making it a worthy winner among the best passive pickups for metal we have listed above.

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