- Looking for the best bass pickups for metal genres?
- Check out our top seven pickups and sets for metal
- From “passive” aggressive to over-the-top actives
- Also, consider checking out our separate post on the best active guitar pickups for metal
Metal bassists want the best bass pickups to achieve those punchy lows, strong mids, and pristine clarity.
Hard attack and mid-range bumps are a start, but anything that cuts the wall of distorted guitars is a blessing.
But what if you don’t own a versatile bass guitar or top-notch preamp that can help you get there?
Well, whatever you do, don’t bother asking the guitarists to turn down a smidge. Instead, buy the best bass pickup with a mid-range growl you can afford.
Alternatively, a P/J set is another credible idea for heavy metal bass, especially if you like a side of meat with your growl.
Either way, the situation calls for a smart purchase to mod your instrument. Metal bass players are all too familiar with the upgrade-to-EMGs advice. Co-sign.
Avoiding EMG pickups in a metal concert is as implausible as not running into someone wearing a black t-shirt.
Luckily, there is no dearth of metal-worthy bass pickups in the current market. We rounded up five of our high-output favorites – singles and sets.
You can also invest in bright strings (DR Hi-Beams or Rotosounds) and a bass pre to sculpt your tone. But let’s leave that out for another day.
Ever wondered if you can use bass pickups on guitar? We have the answer!
What are the Best Bass Pickups for Metal?
The EMG SPB-3 Quarter Pound sounds nothing like stock pickups in a Fender P-bass. It’s muscular, beefy, and costs under $100. If that’s not enough, it’s one of EMG’s bestselling bass p’ups and one of the bestselling aftermarket P-style pickups to date.
Love that old-school dirty metal sound? EMG nails it with the GZR P single and GZR P/J bass pickup set. It’s meaty, powerful, scooped, and has Butler’s stamp of approval to boot. They’ve got the grit for metal but can ease up equally well for a variety of other genres.
Our premium pick is Fishman Fluence Soapbar Bass Pickups. These convention-disrupting soapbars feature bar magnets and multi-voice performance.
They are dynamic, articulate, powerful, and a shoo-in for the most versatile pickups, sound-wise.
Besides those options, here are our picks for the 5 best bass pickups for metal:
- Seymour Duncan SPB-3 Quarter Pounder Bass Pickups (Our Pick)
- EMG- GZR P-Style Bass Pickups (Best Value)
- Fishman Fluence Soapbar Bass Pickups (Premium Option)
- EMG DE Set David Ellefson Bass Pickup Set
- Seymour Duncan Blackouts Bass Pickups
1. Seymour Duncan SPB-3 Quarter Pound P-Bass Pickup
For bassists, the Quarter Pound for P-Bass SPB-3 is a high-output true single-coil pickup.
- A cult favorite among metal bass players
- Great for aggressive genres
- Delivers a downright beefy sound
The Seymour Duncan SPB-3, fondly called the Quarter Pound, is a cult favorite among metal bass players.
It is, in my humble opinion, one of the best bass pickups for metal if you own a P-style bass. Upgrade to a badass bridge, slap on some DR Hi-Beams, and melt faces for days!
- Passive P-style bass pickup
- Alnico magnets
- ¼” diameter pole pieces
- For 4-string bass guitars
- Solderless installation
Designed to punch through any mix, the Quarter Pound SPB-3 is an easy fit for metal and aggressive genres.
The fat-sounding pickup is famed for copious highs and lows with a scooped mid-range. The tone is appropriate for punk, metal, rock ‘n roll, and classic rock.
The SPB-3’s meaty tone is due to the larger-than-usual, quarter-inch pole pieces. The sounds it delivers are downright beefy with lots of growl when you crank the tone.
Expect punchy lows, reasonable mid-range presence, and a muscular sound that won’t drown out in the mix.
Seymour Duncan recommends these pickups for ask, basswood, and alder instruments with rosewood fingerboards.
As for the installation, swapping p’ups is convenient because the SPB-3 is a straight drop-in for most Fender and non-Fender P-bass models. All is good there.
The SPB-3 is undoubtedly more refined than the stock pickups in most non-USA-made P-style bass guitars – that includes MIM Fenders.
However, some bass players dislike the scooped sound or find it a tad boomy. Watch a demo or two to ensure the sound matches your expectations.
The Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound is a great way to mod a P-Bass if you want more output and an extended frequency range.
If it helps make your decision easier, the SPB-3 is one of the bestselling aftermarket pickups. Grab one if you want to level up your punch for under $100.
2. EMG Geezer Butler P-style Bass Pickup or PJ Set
The EMG Geezer Butler Signature GZR-P passive bass guitar pickup gives you the original Black Sabbath bass tones.
- Ultra-tight lows
- Wide-ranging, full-sound
- Value for money
Looking to dip into those gnarly Black Sabbath bass sounds? This passive bass pickup has the deep ‘70s kick with ultra-tight lows.
It’s a ticket to go passive with a vintage-style P pickup (or PJ set) designed by EMG in collaboration with the British heavy metal icon, Geezer Butler.
- P-style passive pickups or PJ set
- Alnico 5 pickup
- 4-string version
- Solderless installation
- Wiring kit included
The EMG GZR-P derives its character from the Alnico 5 magnets and custom wound coils.
But EMG has whetted Butler’s old-school Black Sabbath tones with modern touches for current-day heavy metal bass players. You can also opt for the P-J set if that suits the needs of your rig.
This P-style pickup is famed for its wide range, full sound, and upper-mid presence. I’ve always called the GZR-P a love child of a Fender Original and an EMG active.
The pickup loves to growl but the sounds remain clear and defined, with decent lows.
The pickup responds well to overdrive. The controls are effective and you can really hear the strings hitting the frets when you crank the tone.
The full shielding ensures that you enjoy all that without noise or hum. Despite the passive operation, there is no dearth of output and power.
Being a signature set, there is a slight uptick in price. However, both versions deliver great sounds and excellent value.
The pickup installation is all solderless and easy-peasy, nothing you can’t manage by yourself. Plus, the GZR-P has a quik-connect output and several wiring schemes.
The EMG Geezer Butler GZR-P pickup is capable of deep, punchy, and rich bass tones. It’s moderately priced and fairly versatile.
It works well for blues, classic rock, punk, and most metal genres. However, there are better options for more aggressive modern metal enthusiasts.
3. Fishman Fluence Soapbar Bass Pickups
The Fluence Bass Soapbar pickup brings revolutionary Fluence Multi-Voice performance, dynamic range, and articulation to 4 and 5-string bassists.
- Delivers power tones
- Fully-active EQ and a voicing switch
- Perfect for metal
The Fluence Soapbar bass pickups deliver a wider palette of tones in a sleek package.
Fishman has reimagined the pickup with original technology to eliminate noise and deliver power tones with the flick of a switch. They are currently available for 4 and 5-string basses.
- Soapbar bass pickups
- Dual bar magnets
- Voice switching: Classic, Funk, Metal
- Powered by a 9-18 V battery
- For 4 and 5-string bass guitars
The Fluence Bass Soapbar pickups are available as a set or singles in black and white color options. Have a J-bass? They can be split for single-coil operation.
Love the Mike Inez bass sounds? Opt for the Fluence Legacy Mike Inez Signature bass pickups.
As opposed to the conventional wire-wound bass pickups, the Fluence bass pickups feature a solid core with dual bar magnets (Ceramic VII).
The pickup delivers dynamic range and articulation free from hum, noise, and other frustrating inductance issues.
These bass pickups also boast fully-active EQ and a voicing switch, features you won’t find in any of the competitors.
The 2-band EQ has Treble and Bass controls to shape the tone further. The voicing switch has three modes for voice selection: Classic, Funk, and Modern.
The ‘Classic’ position recreates the classic rock sounds and old-school punch of passive pickups from the ‘70s. You will notice a dimming of the treble with added depth in the mid-range.
The ‘Funk or middle position results in a scooped quality that works well for slap enthusiasts.
In the modern position, the tone explodes with the active setup and extended treble and bass.
Expect hi-fi resonance with power and clarity that will be a treat for bass players in metal genres. Overall, the sounds are pristine, allowing the bass to cut across the mix when needed.
The Fishman Fluence active pickup is a field day for metal thanks to a meaty buffet of attack and aggressive tones.
The voice mode makes it a versatile choice for stage and studio use. As a single or set, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something more versatile in this price range.
4. EMG DE David Ellefson Active Bass Pickup Set
With the EMG DE Signature Set, experience hammering mids and thunderous lows, along with the crisp attack Megadeth’s David Ellefson is famous for.
- Cuts through any mix grit
- Bright and beefy tones
- Clarity throughout the lows, mids, and highs
EMG teamed up with David Ellefson (Megadeth) to recreate the tone of his EMG p’ups for 4 and 5-string bass guitars.
The DE Set is an active bass pickup for metal players who want to stick a knife into the mix unapologetically, regardless of how loud the drums and guitar get. Word!
- Active soapbar bass pickups
- Ceramic and steel neck pickup
- Dual-coil bridge pickup
- For 4 and 5-string bass guitars
- Solderless installation
The DE Signature bass pickup set combines a ceramic and steel pickup (CS) in the neck position with a dual-coil (DC) pickup in the bridge.
You don’t need to be a Megadeth fan to appreciate the deep, rich EMG tones packaged with cut-through-any-mix grit.
Let’s run through the sonic possibilities briefly. In the neck position, the CS p’up lines up obediently to warm tones with more low end.
Boost the highs, switch to the bridge position, and you are privy to some bright and beefy tones. A good mix for metal bass players to exploit.
Two CS pickups, I reckon, would sound too warm and repetitive. The dual-coil in the bridge is what allows the bass to cut through the thickest of mixes.
Either way, it’s a menacing combination that yields a great tone with enough versatility for stage and studio use.
Expect crisp treble, powerful mids, and thunderous lowers. With loads of clarity, of course.
The solderless installation for these active EMG pickups makes it rather easy to make the swap without assistance.
The 4 and 5-string versions need a 3.5 and 4-inch housing cavity respectively. However, it’s recommended to double-check the measurements before ordering a set.
The EMG DE set is an excellent active set that can go from warm to snappy with the flick of a switch. It’s slightly pricey but fully capable of navigating various subgenres of metal.
Plus, with a high-quality preamp, these metal bass pickups can cater to other genres like rock, punk, or blues.
5. Seymour Duncan Bass Blackouts
These high-output active 4- and 5-string soapbar bass pickups bring more tone, more power, and more impact, with high headroom and quiet operation.
- Easy installation
- Dual-blade design
- Crisp highs and thunderous lows
Looking for a wider dynamic range than what passive metal bass pickups can offer?
The Seymour Duncan Blackout Soapbar bass pickups offer raw energy with clear highs and thunderous lows.
They are a great-sounding option for aggressive styles of playing and metal/rock genres.
- Active Soapbar Bass Pickups
- Bar Magnets (blade)
- Black epoxy casing
- 4 and 5-string versions
- Easy installation
The Duncan Bass Blackouts are active bass pickups with bar-style magnets instead of pole pieces, all cleverly concealed by the black soapbar casing.
The dual-blade design of the pickups results in precision and excellent string-to-string balance.
They are responsive to fingerstyle, slap, and plectrum-based playing. Whether you dial in classic or modern metal tones, the Blackouts have enough power to propel your bass in the mix.
Heck, you may even need to roll off the volume to avoid saturation if you dig into the strings hard.
The Bass Blackouts are hot – an understatement to say the least. Tone-wise, the highs are crisp and the lows are deep and thunderous, as one would desire in modern metal.
They may not be as mid-rich as some of the competition in this category but they are unrivaled in punch.
The 4-string version is the same size as an EMG 35, and the 5-string version is the equivalent of the EMG 40.
Pair these Soapbars with a Blackouts 2-band circuit for more bass tone sculpting possibilities. However, I recommend a 3-band preamp if you want more control over the mids.
If you are looking for soapbars for metal, swap the old p’ups on your bass guitar with the high-output SD Bass Blackouts in the neck position or as a set.
The pickups deliver clarity and a wide tonal range while keeping noise at an arm’s length.
Are EMG pickups good for metal?
EMG bass pickups – both active and passive – are a fantastic choice for rock, metal, and heavy or aggressive genres.
EMG active pickups sound well-defined and have great string-to-string clarity. They sound thick and powerful, making them a popular choice for 4 and 5-string bass guitars.
Do you need 5 string bass for metal?
4-string bass guitars are sufficient for most genres of metal music. However, some metal sub-genres demand the extended low end of a 5-string bass and drop tunings.
A 5-ver makes it possible to play arpeggios, chords, and scales that may not be possible on a 4-string bass.
Don’t forget to check out our guide to the 5 Best 12 String Bass Guitars (For All Budgets).
Are humbuckers good for metal?
Soapbars and bass humbucker pickups are not mandatory for metal. A bass humbucker can be a good choice if you prefer the extra crunch of active electronics.
Most metal bass players prefer high-output, noiseless single-coils (high-gain, growl) or passive P-style pickups (thick lows).
That said, there are a variety of metal genres; bass sounds can range from dirty/muddy to insanely glassy/bright.
Wondering the difference between series and parallel pickups? Check out our guide here!