Legends like AC/DC’s Angus Young and Frank Zappa are some of the best-known users of the SG. It’s been around for 60 years, with uninterrupted production.
While the pickups that come with the SG are great, you may be after a change in tone but don’t want to switch guitars. The Gibson SG is one of the most popular guitars of all time, but with a set of aftermarket pickups installed, you can really stand out from the pack.
What Are The Best Pickups For Gibson SGs?
In this article, we’ll go over the best choices for replacement pickups for your Gibson SG. Our top pick is the Gibson ‘57 Classic Plus. It is a modern version of one of the most beloved humbuckers in history, offering fantastic tone and feel. For those on a budget, the Dimarzio DP100 Super Distortion is a fantastic choice that won’t let you down. If you want the best there is, then the Lindy Fralin Pure PAF is our premium pick for you.
So, overall, our candidates for the 7 best pickups for the Gibson SG are:
The Gibson 57′ Classic has been the ultimate humbucker PAF since its introduction in the 1950s. It is known for being smooth and providing a velvety tone. The 57′ Classic Plus is a slightly overwound version of the ’57 Classic. This increases the output and makes a great choice for the bridge position.
A slightly overwound 57′ Classic
Alnico II magnet
Rich and full sound
Perfect for the bridge position
Great clean and overdriven tone
Few humbucker pickups are as beloved as the Gibson ’57 Classic. It has a history that is still being written. This is the original pickup found in many of the best-known jazz and blues guitars, and also a great choice for your Gibson SG. The ‘57 Classic Plus provides a bit more bite for the bridge position while keeping the smoothness that made the original so popular.
This pickup is the perfect match for the ’57 Classic on the neck position and provides a beautiful PAF fat tone with a vintage flavor. It is a strong choice for blues, fusion, and rock.
Larry DiMarzio created one of the best known and used pickups ever: the DP 100 Super Distortion. It became the leading choice for metal as well as one of the first replacement pickups in history. The original version hit the market in the early seventies and featured three conductors. It still is a strong choice as a humbucker pickup for your Gibson SG, especially for those on a budget.
The original high output pickup
Thick bass, boosted mids
Variety of color options
The DiMarzio DP100 has been used by guitar heroes such as Paul Gilbert, Ace Frehley, and Al Di Meola. It was the first pickup designed specifically to drive a tube amp into total overdrive. The DP100 became the ultimate high-output pickup at the time.
It features a blend of power and tone with balance. The mid-range is thick and boosted, the lows are big and the highs feel fat. The DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion delivers great results, both in the neck and bridge position.
It comes with a 4 conductor wiring that allows access to strat-like split and series-parallel modes. This set is one of the best available for guitarists that want that classic heavy sound. It comes in a variety of colors: blue, black, purple, white, cream, and camouflage.
Lindy Fralin has been one of the most respected pickup makers for 30 years. Fralin’s pickups are chosen by guitarists like David Gilmour, Jeff Beck, Neil Young, Bill Frisell, and Carlos Santana. The Pure PAF set is a premium choice for guitarists looking for that extra special quality.
Smooth grind and sharp attack
Clean and clear
Hand-built for superior quality control
Compensated overwound bridge
Fralin’s sectioning technique for dynamic tone
This set is a 50’s PAF clone as well as Lindy Fralin’s favorite humbucker pickup. It features a beautiful clean tone with great versatility. This set of pickups comes with low output for a vintage tone for a clean and clear sound, and a smooth grind, and a sharp attack.
It features USA-made Alnico 2 magnets for that vintage tonal balance and Lindy Fralin’s “Sectioning” technique for dynamic playing and sound. This set of pickups was built with the original Gibson PAF specifications, providing low volume but with modern clarity.
The Pure PAF can deliver amazing results for blues and jazz guitarists, even the ones that also play rock. It comes with a 10-year warranty on manufacturing defects. The Pure PAF is a premium choice set that is also quite versatile – this is for true SG connoisseurs!
Just like the original 1955 P.A.F.s, the SH-55 utilizes a nickel-silver cover and long-legged nickel-silver bottom plate, butyrate plastic bobbins, plain enamel wire, Alnico 2 bar, wooden spacer, and black paper tape.
The SD Seth Lover pickups offer fantastic build quality in a calibrated set of very faithful PAF, built exactly the way that legendary humbucker developer Seth Lover intended. This pickup set delivers a smooth and sweet tone but can also do wonders with heavy distortion.
Alnico 2 bar magnet
Hand-built in California
Seth Lover’s original specs
Butyrate bobbin molds
Transform your Gibson SG into a downright dangerous classic rock machine with the Seth Lover vintage output humbucker pickups. These pickups feature a strong but articulate tone by striking the ideal balance of warmth, full low end, and a nice sweet treble. These humbuckers come with Alnico 2 bar magnets to help smooth the high-end response. In addition, the vintage output coils bring out the rich harmonic content that these pickups provide.
These pickups feature butyrate bobbin molds created in the same factory that built the original PAF mold for Gibson. They also come with 42AWG plain enamel mag wire, nickel silver cover, 2.5-inch alnico 2 bar magnets, custom machined metal and maple spacer, and a nickel silver bottom plate.
These high-quality pickups are available in vintage-correct single conductor push-back braided lead wires, or in modern 4-conductor lead wires for increased splitting and wiring capabilities. Seymour Duncan wires these humbuckers on the original Leesona winding machine, from the early Gibson factory in Kalamazoo. This helps attain that unmistakable vintage tone and feel.
5. EMG James Hetfield
Metallica’s legendary singer and guitarist James Hetfield asked EMG to create a stealthy-looking pickup set in 2009. He wanted it to capture the clarity and punch of a modern passive pickup but with a classic tone. EMG delivered with the JH HET set. This is a fantastic pickup set and will make your SG wail like a shred machine.
Big attack, sustain, and tone
James Hetfield signature pickups
Cleaner bass sound
Several steel cap options
Enhanced classic guitar tone
The James Hetfield signature set features the JH-N for the neck position and the JH-B for the bridge position. The JH-N has individual ceramic poles and bobbins that offer a larger core. This achieves more attack, higher output, and a fuller low end for the neck position, ideal for that chunky and powerful palm-muted chords associated with metal.
On the other hand, the JH-B uses the same type of core but with steel pole pieces. This results in a familiar tight attack but with less inductance for a clear low end. This humbucker set is one of the best metal pickups on the market. It offers punch and clarity, providing you with legendary guitar sounds.
It was hand-built in California and is available in a standard humbucker and trembucker spacing. The Pearly Gates has a long history and is favored by many players today. It works great for blues, traditional rock, and even some lightly overdriven jazz.
The Saturday Night Special humbucker set offers a 70s arena rock tone quality. If full-bodied cleans and bold, vocal-like overdriven leads is your thing, then this set of humbuckers is a great choice for your Gibson SG.
The cleans are warm and musical and the overdriven sound cuts through but without being harsh, especially in the highs. It also cuts through a mix in the low range but without being cloudy or wooly.
This set of humbuckers were designed to bridge the output level gap between vintage 50s pickups and modern humbuckers. This makes them great to replicate the legendary late 70’s arena rock tones, in the vein of Peter Frampton. These pickups come with four-conductor wiring, a maple spacer, and short mounting legs. They’re available with nickel covers, gold covers, black uncovered bobbins, and zebra uncovered bobbins.
A Short History of Gibson SG Pickups
The Gibson SG was originally released in 1961 as the Gibson Les Paul SG. The “Les Paul” was dropped from the name later to avoid confusion. This turned out to be a great marketing strategy as the SG has become Gibson’s best-selling model of all time.
In any case, the SG is a shred machine that has been used in many styles. Perhaps the best-known ambassador of the SG is Angus Young of AC/DC. It is also used by blues master Derek Trucks and metal guitar hero Tony Iommi.
The Gibson SG is widely recognized for its dual humbucker design. This provides a higher output with less noise, which makes it ideal for heavier styles of music. Obviously, there are some Gibson SGs fitted with single-coil pickups and even three pickup configurations. However, these are the exception. Single coil pickups offer a very specific tone that can be brighter but more prone to hum, noise, and interference than humbuckers.
We’re confident that all the pickups listed above will sound great with your Gibson SG as they provide all the power, tone, and character that made this guitar one of the most desirable of all time. Whether it be classic rock, heavy metal, or blues, the SG can deliver an instantly recognizable tone that has defined generations.