The Fender Jazzmaster is a legendary guitar that sits alongside its Stratocaster and Telecaster cousins. Popularized and beloved by surf rock legends like Dick Dale, the Jazzmaster is a truly unique instrument.
But the Jazzmaster wouldn’t be the guitar it is without its equally legendary pickups. But pickups don’t last forever, or you might just be looking for a bit of change.
Top 3 - Jazzmaster Pickups
Not any pickup will do, however. A guitar like the Jazzmaster needs an equally amazing pickup.
Here are a few of the top Jazzmaster pickups to go with your Jazzmaster guitar.
Top 4 Jazzmaster Pickups
1. Fender Pure Vintage ‘65
If you are looking for Jazzmaster pickups to put in your Fender or Squier, who better to go with then Fender themselves. Enter the Fender Pure Vintage ‘65’s.
Fender has done a fantastic job recreating their original Jazzmaster pickups. From the look and sound of the pickups themselves, down to the old-school packaging that they come in.
I really appreciate that Fender has made the pickups look old and worn with what they call “Vintage White”. These pickups will look right at home in an older Jazzmaster guitar. I do worry that they might look a little out of place in a brand-new guitar, though.
In terms of sound, these pickups are a near perfect recreation of the old Jazzmasters. If you have ever heard the originals, you might not even be able to tell the difference with these new ones.
If you have never heard original Jazzmasters, which I suspect many haven’t, then you can expect some fantastic sounding pickups. The sound is very well-rounded. They are nice and bright, with booming low, and mids that cut really well.
The neck pickup is especially beefy sounding. I had a ton of fun playing some Dick Dale on the neck pickup. The bridge pickup is a bit thin clean, but sounds fantastic once some overdrive and reverb is added, perfect for indie and alt rock.
Both pickups active is my favorite, however. This is the perfect blend of both tones.
Fender has also made installation super easy with these pickups. The pickups are indicated with small colored dots, red for the bridge and blue for the neck.
I really like this small detail as it takes out the guess work that is sometimes involved with these pickup sets. Other than that, all you need is a screwdriver and some soldering skills.
2. Seymour Duncan Antiquity II
Seymour Duncan are one of the best makers of pickups around today. Every pickup they make is just fantastic. Their Antiquity II Jazzmaster pickups are no different.
These pickups are very ‘60’s sounding. They are another set of pickups that inspire my inner surf rocker.
The Antiquity II’s are very well-balanced. They aren’t as heavy on the low end as some other Jazzmaster pickups and the mids have also been dialed back a bit.
The highs are the standout with these pickups. They are nice and bright, but they don’t go into chimey territory.
These pickups sound great clean, they have a nice openness to them. Every string and note rings out nicely and are very audible. Both the neck and bridge pickup also have enough weight to their sound and neither sounds thinner than the other.
But where I think that really shine is when they are overdriven. On low amounts of gain, the Antiquity II’s have a nice bit of crunchiness. Turning up the gain, these pickups start to growl.
I wouldn’t call them aggressive. They just have this nice and chunky attitude.
As a small detail, Seymour Duncan also provides two little carrying bags for the pickups. So, if they aren’t in your guitar, you have a pleasant looking way to store them. This isn’t such a big thing, but small touches like these show me that a company cares about their products.
The Antiquity II’s are super simple to install. Although, I should point out that you will need to put them into your original soapbox covers or buy replacements. Other than that, they are basically a simple drop-in and solder install.
But even if you are struggling, Seymour Duncan has a handy Pickup Installation 101 to help you along the way.
3. Seymour Duncan Vintage
Another set of Jazzmaster pickups by Seymour Duncan. The Vintage pickups shouldn’t be confused with their Antiquity II pickups.
They have their own unique sound. Where the Antiquity II’s have a ‘60’s sound, the Vintage’s sound is firmly rooted in the ‘50’s.
Their tone is a bit more evenly spread across the lows, mids, and highs. They aren’t quite as bright as the Antiquity II’s and they have a bit more warmth on lower notes.
They also sound a bit tighter to me. The sound isn’t as open and feels quite controlled overall. This actually makes the bridge pickup quite nice for jazz as well.
Surprisingly, chords sound much brighter than single notes. They sound much brighter to me than with the Antiquity II’s. Chords are actually a bit piercing for my liking, but they are still very controlled and every note is clearly audible.
Moving over to distortion, these pickups are also much more aggressive than the Antiquity II’s. Where those pickups growl, these ones bite.
While surf rock sounds just as great with these pickups, they sound just as great when playing more hard rock styles. I even managed to do some light to moderate shredding without feeling like I was losing out on tone.
I also feel like the neck and bridge pickups are a bit better balanced. They sound equally great on their own as they do when played together.
If you don’t want such an aggressive sound, these pickups do tone down nicely when you dial back the gain. You then get a nice vintage sounding distortion that works quite well for softer genres like indie rock.
Just like the Antiquity II’s, the Vintage Jazzmaster pickups are a simple drop-in and solder installation. You will also need to either use your original soapbox covers or buy replacements.
4. Lollar Jazzmaster
Lollar pickups aren’t as well-known or popular as Fender or Seymour Duncan. I am not too familiar with them myself.
So, testing out their Jazzmaster pickups, I wasn’t too sure what to expect. What I got when I put them in my Jazzmaster was quite the surprise.
The first thing I noticed when I started playing was that they aren’t as bright as other Jazzmaster pickups. Their tone leans much more to the low end of the frequency range.
Their midrange is especially prominent. These pickups are really going to help your guitar cut through the mix.
Lollar does claim that these pickups have slightly above average attack. I didn’t notice much of a difference compared to other Jazzmaster pickups.
Overall, these are some great sounding pickups. Their slightly lower price relative to other pickups make them an enticing option, especially if you are looking for Jazzmasters that aren’t quite as bright.
Their volume output is a bit low, however. I had my guitar’s volume at max and had to push my amp volume a bit more than with other Jazzmaster pickups.
This isn’t a big problem if you have a powerful amp, but might be an issue on anything under 15 watts. In that case I would recommend maybe using a boost pedal to get some more volume.
One thing that I really like about Lollar is that that offer a variety of covers for their Jazzmaster pickups. Not only does this ensure that you will have a perfect fit for your pickups, but you also get to choose the look.
If you want a vintage look, you can go for a cream or parchment cover. If you prefer something more modern, like I do, you can go with a clean white or black.
What Type of Pickups Can I Put in a Jazzmaster?
You might be thinking “It’s a Jazzmaster, it uses single coils,” and you are certainly right. Jazzmaster guitars generally uses single coil pickups. That doesn’t mean that they are limited to only using single coils.
But the fact is that Jazzmasters can use practically any type of pickup. Many modern Jazzmasters even come stock with modern pickups like humbuckers.
From the more traditional humbuckers found on guitars like the Fender Player Jazzmaster, to Jim Root of Slipknot’s signature Jazzmaster that uses EMG humbuckers. You can even put P90’s in a Jazzmaster.
As long as the pickup fits in the cavity, any type of pickup can be used with a Jazzmaster.
How Are Jazzmaster Pickups Different?
Ask the average guitarist what a Jazzmaster pickup is and they will probably tell you that it is like a single coil, but sounds a bit different. Ask that same guitarist what a P90 is and they will likely give you a similar answer.
The fact is that they are correct in both regards, but ask them what the difference is, and they probably won’t be able to give you an answer. The truth is that both pickups are similar to single coils, but they sit at opposite ends of the spectrum.
The easiest way to explain it is that Jazzmasters are bright and twangy, while P90’s are warm and beefy. Or you could say that Jazzmasters are your more rocky, upbeat pickups, while P90’s are your sadder, bluesy pickups.
Jazzmaster pickups also run hotter than P90’s. This gives them much more attack, sustain, and a higher output.
Then there are the physical differences. Jazzmasters are wider and longer than P90’s, but P90’s are taller.
What Are Jazzmaster Pickups Good for?
The term “Jazzmaster” might make you think that these pickups are only good for playing jazz. The reality is that Jazzmaster pickups are actually quite versatile.
They can easily cover a wide range of genres from jazz all the way to rock and even metal. That doesn’t mean that every Jazzmaster pickup is this versatile.
The Fender Pure Vintage ‘65’s, for example, have a much narrower range than the Seymour Duncan Antiquity II’s. The Fender Jazzmasters are much better suited to playing softer genres of music, while the Antiquity II’s will have a much easier time transitioning between genres.
On the other hand, the Jazzmasters in Jim Root’s signature guitar are much more specialized to a heavier sound. These pickups can do a clean sound really well, but won’t sound as good as Fender Jazzmasters.
What About Boutique Pickups Like Lindy Fralin & Curtis Novak?
Boutique pickups are a great alternative to big name brands. You can look at them as the mom-and-pop shop variety to the chain store versions of big-name brands.
There are pros and cons to both types. Big brands are mass produced, making them affordable and readily available, but that can lack in tone due to being made with lower quality parts.
Boutique brands are made with much higher quality parts, giving them a much higher quality tone. But that does come at an increased price and often a long wait time since every pickup is hand-made.
But it ultimately comes down to what you are looking for. Some boutique brands try to recreate the sounds of old pickups that are no longer in production. And other boutique brands want to set themselves apart with their own unique sound.
Lindy Fralin and Curtis Novak pickups are two examples of boutique brands that have gone their own way in terms of tone. Fralin pickups have a more modern sound that leans to the indie and alt rock side.
Novak pickups, on the other hand, have a much warmer and thicker sound, reminiscent of grunge.
If you are looking for the true Jazzmaster sound, Fender has got you covered with their Pure Vintage ‘65’s. For a more modern or aggressive sound, Seymour Duncan makes some of the best sounding Jazzmaster pickups.
Or you want something a bit more unique, then look no further than smaller brands like Lollar, Fralin, or Novak pickups. Regardless of your tastes, there is a Jazzmaster pickup out there for you.