Best Pickups for SG (Gibson & Epiphone) Guitars

Author: Ross McLeod | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Few guitars have enjoyed the popularity and longevity that the Gibson SG has. To get the maximum quality out of this classic axe, it’s important that you choose the best pickups for your SG.

Pickups have a significant impact on the overall tone of a guitar. The SG is renowned for being a fast-playing instrument that is a favorite amongst technical players. In this guide, you’ll find the very best pickups to install on your Gibson or Epiphone SG.

4 Best SG Pickups

When it comes to pickups, Seymour Duncan has led the way for the best part of half a century. Their extensive range includes pickups that suit all styles, guitars, and tonal preferences.

The SH-4 JB is one of the best-suited pickups for SG guitars. A highly popular offering, it produces the classic warm tone of a hot-rodded humbucker that has been used to create iconic rock tones for three decades.

Whether you own a Gibson SG or an Epiphone model, these Seymour Duncan pickups will enhance the fast-attack and aggressive tone of the guitar. They increase the output without diminishing the quality of your tone.

In addition to the extra heaviness that the SH-4 JB pickups inject into your SG’s output, they also improve the sustain of the instrument. This is ideal for guitarists who play melodies and solos frequently.

They also improve the harmonics of an SG, highlighting the sweet mid-tones and adding an extra layer of warmth. Combined with a distortion pedal, these pickups will make your SG sound huge!

PROS

  • High-volume, low-noise humbuckers
  • Increased sustain
  • Great for heavier styles of playing
  • Easy to install on an SG

CONS

  • None

In typical Seymour Duncan fashion, the SH-1n pickups are designed meticulously to produce the best quality of tone possible. In terms of their design, the pickups are understated and therefore won’t detract attention from your beloved SG.

The SH-1n ’59 pickups are a tribute by Seymour Duncan to the classic Seth Lover humbucker. This pickup was originally installed on the 1950s Les Paul and produced a tone that has been highly sought after ever since.

Sonically, these pickups work with the strengths of a Gibson or Epiphone SG. They provide a warm, thick-sounding mid-range, whilst tightening the bass frequencies and leaving plenty of room for the highs to be expressed.

The SH-1n doesn’t feature the usual Seymour Duncan logo. This gesture is an attempt to make them as closely resembling the Seth Lover pickups as possible. They provide you with a flexible tone to suit all genres of rock.

Composed with a 4-conductor cable, a long-legged bottom plate, and naturally-colored enamel wire, these pickups are built to last. They also use vacuum-potting to ensure the cleanest tone that is free from blemishes or noise issues.

PROS

  • Vintage-style humbucker
  • Noise-reducing
  • Thick, warm mid-range

CONS

  • Works best with SG guitars that have mahogany bodies and rosewood fingerboards

EVH’s Frankenstein pickups are designed to reproduce the classic tone of guitar icon, Eddie Van Halen. Renowned for his tendency to modify his guitars, Van Halen crafter a powerful tone by tweaking his pickups.

This experimentation eventually birthed “Frankenstein”, the name given to his main guitar. EVH has analyzed the methods he used to get his tone and created these pickups to bring them to your SG.

These pickups are classic humbuckers – thick, dense, full of character, and with plenty of power. They enhance the natural qualities of a Gibson SG, adding substance to the full frequency range.

One of the trademarks of Van Halen’s tone was his singing highs that pierced through the mix when he played a solo. The Frankenstein pickups have nailed this aspect of his tone.

Another great thing about the EVH Frankenstein pickups is how easy they are to install on an SG. They are robustly designed, and once attached to the guitar, there’s no danger of them becoming loose or moving.

PROS

  • Embodies the classic tone of Eddie Van Halen
  • Thick humbucking sound
  • Easy to install
  • Robust design

CONS

  • It may be deemed too “heavy” for lighter styles of guitar

When Seymour Duncan designs their pickups, they leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of the perfect tone. The Pearly Gates TBPG-1 pickup set delivers a high-quality tone with an abundance of attitude.

The great thing about the SG is that it is equally adept at playing smooth, full-sounding chords as it is at cranking up the heat and shredding out a lead line. To maximize the potential of the guitar, you need pickups that facilitate both of these qualities.

The TBPG-1 pickups certainly do. Delivering great sustain, chimey, clear highs, and sweet harmonics, these pickups are the perfect companion for a Gibson or Epiphone SG.

Whether you predominantly play rhythm or lead on your SG, you’ll love the tone that is created when it is combined with the Pearly Gates humbuckers. They sound great for blues, classic rock, and hard rock.

The pickups also come with a four-conductor hookup cable to simplify the installation process. Hooking them up to your SG is a quick and easy undertaking, so you can start playing right away.

PROS

  • Vintage-style, warm-sounding humbuckers
  • Easy to install on an SG
  • Clear highs and sweet harmonics
  • Well suited to rhythm and lead guitar

CONS

  • None

Desirable SG Pickup Qualities

Choosing the best pickups for your SG shouldn’t be too difficult. Due to the unique tone and design of the guitar, there are some standout qualities that you should look for to get the best out of the instrument.

The first thing that you need to consider when looking for pickups, is whether to go for single-coil or humbuckers. The Gibson SG historically has utilized humbucker pickups, so I’d recommend sticking with this to create the classic sound.

Then, the next quality to look out for is how compatible they are with the SG design. Some pickups are easier to install than others. Four-conductor hookup cables are a great tool for simplifying the installation process.

The style of guitar that you play will also be a factor in your search for SG pickups. Due to the versatile nature of this guitar, you could opt for high-output pickups to add more bite to your tone, or more subtle and subdued pickups for lighter styles of playing.

The type of magnet that is used for the pickups will also impact the results it produces. Two of the most popular magnet types are the Alnico 2 and Alnico 5 varieties. These are the most commonly used with an SG.

Alnico 2 magnets produce a warm tone, with full-sounding mid-tones and a slightly reduced output. Alnico 5 magnets, on the other hand, produce a higher output, with more bass and clear-sounding treble.

Conclusion

No matter how good a guitar is, without the best pickups for that particular model, it won’t play to its maximum potential. That’s why it’s so important to consider the tone you’re aiming for before you decide on the right pickups for your guitar.

Thankfully, the SG, whether it be a Gibson or Epiphone model, is blessed with a beautiful natural tone. Installing the best pickups for the SG will simply enhance it and allow you to enjoy the full scope of its capabilities.

About Ross McLeod

Ross is a music producer, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. He is the frontman of The Blue Dawns, where he handles vocal and bass duties. He has extensive experience with bass, drums and guitar. His most recent project is named Gold Jacket.

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