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Is it time to take your bass playing to new heights?
There are many ways to give your axe an overhaul, but one of the best and easiest ways to spice up your tone is with new aftermarket pickups. Besides, this is a relatively affordable way to upgrade.
You might be surprised how much better your jazz bass can sound with the right set of pickups, and in this guide, we’ll be looking at the best jazz bass pickups on the market.
These babies are worth a look!
EMG EM940020 Bass JV-X Set
The EMG JV-X bass set sound positively gnarly. They give you that funky, raunchy, punchy tone that works so well for jazz, blues, R&B, funk, and other related genres. If you’re looking for a pronounced, memorable, retro sound with minimal noise, you’ll love these noise makers. They’re great for slapping and popping too.
As EMG has been known to do, they’ve combined the best aspects of passive and active tone feel by utilizing traditional exposed pole pieces and their proprietary X series preamp for this set.
Aftermarket buyers will also be glad to know these pickups are easy to install with a Quik-Connect header and mating cable. Pre-wired volume and tone controls, battery clip, output jack, and diagrams are included for each pickup. The JV-X set should work with most standard basses.
The best part about the JV-X set is that they simply sound great.
Item weight: 13.7 ounces
Package dimensions: 4.8 x 2.24 x 6.77 inches
Fender Custom Shop ‘60s Jazz Bass Pickups
The Fender Custom Shop ‘60s Jazz Bass pickups utilizes alnico 5 magnets and formvar magnet wire for that perfect vintage sound. The pickups are overwound to give more punch, midrange, bass, and output.
That said, I don’t hear much of a difference between these and gen four pickups. They sound just a tad warmer, and less twangy, but aside from that, they’re almost identical to my ears.
This pickup kit comes with mounting hardware.
Overall, these pickups should serve as a solid upgrade or replacement to standard pickups.
Item weight: 9.6 ounces
Package dimensions: 11.42 x 7.48 x 3.54 inches
EMG J Active Bass Guitar Pickup Set
The EMG J Active pickups are bold, full, and rich sounding. They offer insane punch and maximum growl while delivering an even, consistent sound across the tonal spectrum.
These quiet (hum free) pickups have classic jazz bass characteristics with a broader tonal frequency range for added fullness and clarity. Plus, they are easy to install.
Bottom line – the EMG J set sound amazing and are great quality to boot.
Item weight: 10.6 ounces
Package dimensions: 2.63 x 2.38 x 6 inches
EMG JV52 Vintage Passive Bass Guitar Pickup Set
Active pickups aren’t for everyone. They have their pros, but some bassists prefer the mellower sound of passives.
And here we have some high-quality vintage passive pickups via EMG – the EMG JV52 pickup set. These noise makers utilize alnico 5 and alnico 2 magnets, which provide a broad EQ range. Their hum-cancelling structure gives you easy access to late 70s tones, and you can install them on your bass without solder.
And what you get is a punchy, raunchy tone ideally suited to the dankest, funkiest bass lines. About the only concession you’d be making to active pickups is a little bit of bass and evenness – at least to my ears. Other than that, these pups are quite capable.
Apparently, the solderless install didn’t work perfectly for every buyer, so that might be one thing to look out for with this set.
Item weight: 8 ounces
Package dimensions: 7 x 3 x 5 inches
Fender Ultra Noiseless Vintage Jazz Bass IV Pickups
Amp hum can be a real drag. And it can get worse depending on the venue and environment you’re playing in.
For those who can’t stand all that extra noise, we have the Fender Ultra Noiseless vintage jazz bass pickups.
Of course, noiseless designs usually consist of humbuckers, and that holds true here. The Ultra Noiseless pickups feature a stacked single coil structure.
Overall, these pickups are quite mellow and focused so far as jazz bass pickups are concerned. They still have that trademark jazz tone, but they can go a little warmer than you might be used to. That could be good or bad depending on the sounds you’re going for.
These babies were constructed with Polysol coated magnet wire, non-beveled polepieces, and alnico 5 magnets. Installation hardware is included.
Item weight: 9.6 ounces
Package dimensions: 5 x 4.75 x 1.5 inches
DiMarzio DP123 Model J Bass Pickup Set
The DiMarzio DP123 Model J set has been designed to sound like traditional Fender jazz bass pickups except with more power and hum cancellation.
The deeper tone and sensitivity make these great pickups for fretless basses as well.
To my ears, the DiMarzios offer raunch, growl, and punch and respond quite well to percussive bass lines.
Users reported fat and punchy tones with these growlers but noted that rumors of hum cancellation may have been slightly exaggerated.
Item weight: 10.9 ounces
Package dimensions: 2.3 x 4.2 x 2.3 inches
Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound Jazz Bass Pickup Set
Another jazz bass go-to is the Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound jazz pickup set, with alnico 5 rod magnets, forbon flatwork. They’re also wax potted. This gives them some serious attitude.
This is one of Seymour Duncan’s most popular bass pickups, and they pack some serious punch and attack. If you’re looking for warm and mellow, look elsewhere. These pickups have been designed to make your bass cut through a mix. Don’t use these if you don’t want to be heard (insert some joke about how bass is better felt than heard here).
If you’re trying to achieve a modern jazz bass tone, look no further. If you’re going for a metal thump, look elsewhere.
Item weight: 10.2 ounces
Package dimensions: 6.25 x 4.5 x 1.5 inches
Fender Pure Vintage ’74 Jazz Bass Pickup Set
If you’re looking for warm, vintage style tones, then the Fender Pure Vintage ’74 pickup set could be right down your alley.
All this is achieved with enamel-coated magnet wire, alnico 5 magnets, and flush-mount polepieces. These babies are also Shellac-potted.
These pickups are nicely balanced, and despite being warm, they can still give you some serious attitude with punch and clarity. They’re great for a variety of playing styles and respond well to slapping and popping too.
All in all, these are incredible sounding pups.
Item weight: 5.8 ounces
Package dimensions: 11.42 x 7.48 x 3.54 inches
Fender Original Jazz Bass Pickups
Maybe your axe comes with lower quality pickups. Or maybe you want to go back to a more traditional tone. If so, the Fender Original jazz bass pickups are a solid choice (otherwise, they might not prove much of an upgrade).
These pups were made using formvar magnet wire, flush-mount pole pieces, alnico 2 magnets as well as period-correct cloth output wire and fiber bobbin.
These dynamic noisemakers offer fat, lower end growl and rounded highs.
If you’re trying to get that original jazz bass tone, this is the best place to look.
Item weight: 8 ounces
Package dimensions: 4 x 4 x 1 inches
Fender Yosemite Jazz Bass Electric Bass Guitar Pickup Set
Fender’s Yosemite jazz pickup set might well be the most affordable on this list. That said, they may also be the most surprising, as they give you a smooth, warm, percussive tone that you might not get with any other pickup set on this list.
If you’re looking for a more aggressive growl, you’ll want to take your search elsewhere. But the Yosemite pickups are quite true to vintage tones without excessive high-end twang. Plus, these pups are quite versatile.
For something a little different, the Yosemite pickup set is worth a look.
Item weight: 0.009 ounces
Package dimensions: 5 x 4.75 x 1.5 inches
What Should I Look For In Jazz Bass Pickups?
So, you’re looking to upgrade your pickups. You’ve looked at the above selection, and maybe you’ve even taken your search elsewhere.
How do you decide on a pickup set that’s right for you? How can you narrow down your options?
In this section, we’ll be looking at the key factors that matter most when it comes to hunting down your ideal pickup set.
We’ll be looking at:
Here’s what you need to know.
I can’t think of a criterion more significant than tone in choosing the right pickups. What’s the point in upgrading or swapping out your pickups if it doesn’t enhance your tone in some way, shape or form?
The biggest difference pickups are going to make for you is in the tone department, so it would only make sense to make your selection knowing this little factoid.
Tone, of course, is in the ear of the listener. Meaning, I know what I like, but I’m not here to steer you one way or another. You’ve got to determine for yourself what works for you.
There are many ways to accomplish this.
One, you can go to the local guitar store and try out a few basses with different pickups (it would be a good idea to do a bit of research in advance, so you know which axe comes with which pickups).
Two, you can ask your friends, maybe even jam with them. See what you think of their bass and pickups.
Three, you can watch demos and tutorials on YouTube. The main thing to keep in mind here, though, is that tone is not determined entirely by the pickups. The instrument, the amp, the effects chain, and of course, the player makes a big difference.
Naturally, you can also check reviews to see what others have had to say about specific pickups.
But those are the main ways you can figure out for yourself what you like, with the best way being trying out different pickups for yourself.
There are other factors like passive/active and vintage/modern, which we will be looking at a little later. We gave them their own sections below.
Ease of Installation
If you’re thinking about installing the pickups yourself, then obviously ease of installation is going to count for something.
If you’re already versed in swapping out components, wiring, electronics, and so forth, then this might not be a challenge for you.
Meanwhile, if this is going to be your first time swapping out pickups, you’ll probably need to refer to tutorials for additional help.
No matter which side you land on, you can still call up a qualified guitar tech to install your pickups for you. Personally, I don’t like to deal with the technical side of things too much, so even though I know it’s going to cost me a bit of money, I often will opt to hire a tech I trust.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you. But you will probably have a better experience with pickups that are easier to install.
This would fall under the category of “less important.” Let’s face it – most bass pickups are black! There isn’t a lot of variation in design and color, besides maybe the logos.
But there is always the odd bassist that wants to find unique looking pickups or pickups matched to their bass, and in that case, this is a factor that might be of greater importance to you.
So, can you find colorful bass pickup designs out there if you go looking for them? Yes. But you might need to check out some of the other pickup brands mentioned below.
Pickup sets start at about $100 and go up to about $200. Fortunately, that’s not a huge price range.
Does this mean there’s a huge difference between the $100 set and the $200 set? Not necessarily. So, in a lot of ways, it comes down to personal preference. Which pickup set appeals to you most? Which one do you want?
Either way, as always, we caution you against overspending. Use your budget to determine best fit.
Should I Get Passive Or Active Pickups?
For the most part, it’s a pros and cons situation – meaning – there are pros and cons on both sides. I’ll offer a bit of a breakdown here.
Passive pickups tend to be simpler, with uncomplicated tone and volume controls, as well as a raw, pure, natural, uncompressed sound. Another advantage of passive pickups is that you never need to worry about things going wrong with the active electronics, because they don’t come with them.
That said, passive pickups have a weaker signal than active pickups. This generally isn’t a problem with shorter cables, but with more cabling, the situation can worsen. In live performance, this would certainly be an important factor.
Active pickups offer a higher output signal that does not degrade with cabling. The tone-shaping controls let you boost frequencies for more tonal flexibility. So, you can do more with your sound.
Active pickups, however, can sound kind of compressed and less dynamic. Plus, boosting certain frequencies can result in unwanted hiss and hum. Of course, active pickups also require battery power, and as the battery begins to die, it sucks the tone right out of the instrument too (not a big deal if you have extra batteries on hand – but this will prove essential).
Overall, there isn’t a right or wrong. Some bass players prefer passive. Others prefer active. Some bassists have both. It depends a lot on how many styles you play, as well as what session or performance situations you find yourself in.
For extra flexibility, go with active pickups. But for a simple, uncomplicated setup that “just works” in most situations, go with passive pickups.
Should I Get Vintage Or Modern Pickups?
Terms like “vintage” and “modern” tend to get thrown around a lot when it comes to jazz bass pickups. So, is one better than the other? Is vintage what everyone goes for? Which are right for you?
Well, there certainly isn’t a catch-all answer here. It depends a lot on your preferences.
That said, vintage pickups tend to have less output overall, with less bass but more punch and attitude.
Modern pickups tend to offer an extended frequency range but don’t have the personality and character of vintage pickups. Basically, they are “generic” sounding.
That is a matter of opinion, though, because some bassists feel the “modern” Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounders don’t have much character, while others do. So, it’s hard to make generalized, sweeping statements about one pickup design over the other.
My suggestion would be to listen to a variety of music. Listen to players who use jazz basses. Tune into their catalogs, old and new. Maybe watch some YouTube demos and reviews as well. You’ll start to get a better sense of what works for you.
What Are The Best Jazz Bass Pickup Brands?
There are many quality jazz bass pickup brands and manufacturers out there.
The following are among the best:
Fender set the benchmark when it comes to jazz bass pickups and let’s be honest – jazz bass in general.
They have a long history of serving guitarists and bassists alike and know what it means to create quality gear – something they have excelled at through the decades.
If you’re looking for cutting-edge, innovative pickup designs, you may want to look elsewhere. For proven, classic components, Fender is always a solid bet.
Count on EMG to come up with new pickup designs that break tradition and set new benchmarks.
Although they’ve solidified their image as a “metal” brand, the truth is they have products in every category, often versatile and high performance.
If they aren’t your go-to brand now, keep a close eye on them. You might just be amazed by what comes out of them.
The mere mention of the word “pickup” tends to bring this famous brand immediately to mind.
Seymour Duncan has long specialized in aftermarket pickups for all types of basses and guitars, though they have branched out into effects pedals and pedal amps as well.
Their pickups are favored by artists like Fidel Arreygue, Steve Bailey, Robert Deleo, and others.
DiMarzio is perhaps best known for furnishing Ernie Ball Music Man guitars with high output, shredder approved, lead guitar-oriented pickups (thus the association with Eddie Van Halen).
But their product selection is nevertheless quite extensive, with humbuckers, Strat and Tele pickups, mini, soap bar, acoustic, seven-string, eight-string, pre-wired, and of course, bass pickups.
DiMarzios might not be for everyone. But for some, no substitute will do.
What is Lace Music Products known for if not for their “Sensor” Strat replacement pickups?
Well, as it turns out, they’ve also created some powerhouse bass pickups as well. As a jazz bass player, you might be inclined to check out the Aluma J Bass pickups.
Aguilar Amplification is probably best known for their bass amps. That said, they also make preamps, pedals, and of course, pickups.
Which of course makes them the perfect company to developing quality pickups, because it means they understand sound. Plus, they’re another great alternative to turn to on your hunt for the perfect sound.
Nordstrand Audio specializes in guitar and bass pickups, as well as bass preamps, pedals, and most recently, a short scale bass.
Bassists everywhere should love the sheer number of pickups they have available for four-, five-, and six-string basses, whether it’s jazz, precision, soapbar, Mustang, Music Man style pickups, and others.
If you love custom gear and modifications, you should give Nordstrand a look.
Top Jazz Bass Pickups, Final Thoughts
The perfect jazz pickup set is out there waiting for you. But just know that the journey to the perfect tone can be a long one. It’s not just about the right gear, but also about playing style and attack. As you continue to develop as a bass player, you’ll find yourself better able to achieve your perfect sound.
If you can get the right pickups, though, you’ll be miles ahead of most.
So, use the above guide to find your ideal jazz set. Happy shopping!
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