Designed by Leo Fender in 1950, the P-Bass continues to be one of the most popular bass guitars in the world. This is due to a combination of its playability, legendary design, and unique tone.
In order to get the best out of a Precision bass, the most important component is without a doubt the pickup. The pickup you choose will impact the overall sound of your bass more than anything else. Let’s jump into some of the best P bass pickups.
5 Best P (Precision) Bass Pickups - Top Picks
Table of Contents
The SPB-3 has been specifically made by Seymour Duncan to bring the best out of a P-bass. It achieves this by producing a well-rounded, crisp tone.
The extended frequency range highlights the richness of a precision bass, especially in the low mid-range of 200Hz – 400Hz.
The high-output single-coil pickup produces a versatile sound which is well suited to melodic playing, but also has some punch when played more heavily. If you want your bass to be prominent and stand out in the mix, the SPB-3 is a great option.
Additionally, this pickup has a fast attack and a long sustain which improves the sound of rung-out notes or bass chords. The use of two single-coil pickups eliminates hum and unwanted muddy sounds.
Perhaps the greatest quality of P-Basses is the wide tonal range that they produce, which makes them compatible with many musical styles. The EMG Geezer Butler Signature pickup produces the tight, precise low-end which is synonymous with 70’s bass.
When a pickup enhances the low-end on a bass, it can sometimes cause unwanted muddiness. EMG has managed to remove the hum without losing any of the articulation in the lower frequencies – an impressive feat!
Installation of this pickup is straight forward thanks to EMG’s 5-wire quick-connect output, and the pickup includes a volume and tone pot.
This pickup is passive and therefore doesn’t require a battery. If you like to play heavy rock riffs on your P-Bass, this pickup provides the power, clarity and attention to detail that you need.
When it comes to the precision bass, who could possibly know it better than the original manufacturers? The influence of the P-bass has inspired many similar styled bass guitars, but if you’re looking for the classic 60’s sound, this pickup is the closest you will get.
The warm tone is created by an even response across all the strings, so none of the power dies off in the low or higher frets. This is a result of the flush-mount pole pieces which raise the action of the neck slightly.
Fender’s attempt to reproduce the pickup of the 1962 Precision bass gets very close in terms of sound and aesthetics, making this split-single coil magnetic pickup a great option.
The Aguilar AG 4P-51 pickup goes even further back in time and reproduces the classic tone of the original early 50’s P-bass.
This vintage quality is combined with improved frequency response and gives you great clarity all across the fretboard. The result is a natural blend of punch and warmth.
This pickup lends itself extremely well to jazz, soul or blues bass. It’s the perfect option for intimate, melodic styles of playing due to the understated, well rounded tone it produces.
This pickup is primarily designed for installation at the bridge of your bass guitar. In terms of appearance, Aguilar has done a great job of recreating the simplistic look of early Precision bass pickups.
The Antiquity II brings out the aggressive side of a P-Bass. The vintage 1960’s rumble is recreated very convincingly and the sharp attack makes for powerful sounding riffs. Combined with a bass distortion pedal, this pickup will sound huge.
Seymour Duncan has utilized Alnico 5 magnets in order to get the thumping, clear tone in the low-end. You will have no problems cutting through the mix with this vintage styled pickup.
The appearance of the Antiquity II is impressively authentic due to the weathering process which stays true to the original look.
If you are looking for a rumbling, clear low end from your P-bass, this split-coil pickup is more than capable of delivering that.
Single Coil or Humbucker – The Differences
Single coil and humbucker (double coil) are two variations of magnetic pickups which are used on guitars and basses. The pickups of a bass have the largest impact on its overall sound, so it’s important to know what you are looking for, and what the different options provide.
There are other variations of pickups such as piezoelectric or optical pickups, but these are less common than magnetic pickups, especially on a P-bass.
Single coil and humbucker are by far the most popular options. Below you can find a breakdown of the different attributes of these two magnetic pickups, and the reasons why they are so heavily used on electric guitars and basses.
Single coil pickups were the first to be created, and for a while were the only option on the market. As you can guess from the name, they utilize a single coil which produces a thin, trebly sound, along with a hum.
Many modern single-coil pickups are now used in a pair which is referred to as split coils. The split coils are slightly smaller than standard single coils, and are wound more times, which creates a tighter sound and minimizes the hum.
This option has become very popular amongst musicians who want the single-coil sound without the unwanted noise which the original incarnation was marred with.
Due to the hum which single coil pickups produced, humbucker pickups were created to combat that issue. Underneath each string, two coils are placed, allowing the humbucker to pick up a wider range of sounds and in turn creating phase cancellation. This results in a thicker and fuller overall sound, with especially strong lows and mids.
When it comes to a P-Bass, the most commonly used pickup type is two single coil pickups. With one single coil, the unwanted noise would be a problem but this is eradicated by using two pickups to produce the original sound that has been at the forefront of bass guitars for decades.
Active vs Passive Bass Guitars
Whether your bass is active or passive will also have a big impact on its sound and functionality. Here is a breakdown of the differences between these two inherent settings.
Active bass guitars require a battery in order to work. This is usually a 9-volt battery which powers the built-in pre-amp circuits inside the bass. This results in you having more control over adjusting the tonal output of the bass.
Active basses generally pick up less noise and interference and create a stronger overall signal.
Passive bass guitars do not require a battery to operate. They also don’t allow for tonal adjustment like active ones do. The advantage to this is that they are simpler to use and you don’t need to have batteries nearby all the time.
The sound produced by passive basses is actually much fuller than active, and there is a more dynamic quality to the tones.
Some guitars and basses, like the P-Bass for example, use a combination of active and passive which automatically switch over to passive-mode when the batteries run out. This is an ideal option as it combines the qualities of both types while getting rid of the paranoia of your batteries dying mid performance!
Identify the Sound, then the Pickups
Ultimately, you could have the nicest bass guitar, amp, pedal board and complete rig, but it is the pickups which will play the biggest part in sculpting your sound as they are the first point of sonic contact to the strings. So be sure to take your time and choose wisely.