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Guitars with active pickups are becoming more popular with each new decade. As the technology around active pickups gets better, so do the tones! But how many brands make guitars with active pickups? And do they cover many genres of music, or are they more specific?
In this article, I’m going to lay out for you the vast array of guitars with active pickups! And we are going to categorize them by brand. You will find a few 7 and 8-string guitars in there as well. Let’s go!
Features of Active Pickups
The most important feature of an active pickup is the presence of an onboard preamp. It gives the signal a boost before heading out to the amplifier. This helps to overcome the inherent noise issue that all single-coil pickups suffer from.
But it also drives humbuckers to be that much hotter! It’s also great for long cables and creates lower impedance for signal transfer. Additionally, this means the way they respond using the controls on the instrument is also different.
It’s important to also be aware of the fact that active pickups require a power source. This usually means the presence of a battery or rechargeable pack. This is normally mounted to the guitar. Either inside the body cavity or stuck to the back.
You will also find that they have covers that contain the circuit. You won’t see the pole pieces like you might with a passive pickup. But this is strictly cosmetic and does add a nice look to a guitar.
Further reading: active vs passive pickups.
Guitars With Active Pickups
There are a number of great brands that make guitars with active pickups. Most are humbucker pickup guitars, but there are a few with single-coils. Here are a few of the more popular ones and the models they offer. Plus an estimation on the price. Use this key to get an idea of the cost:
- $ = $1000 and under.
- $$ = 1000 to $1800.
- $$$ = 1900 to $2900.
- $$$$ = Well over $3000.
These price estimates were accurate at the time of this writing.
|Satchel Signature Pro-Mod DK22||Fishman Fluence Classic PRF-CHB Humbucker||$$|
|Jim Root Signature Pro-Mod San Dimas Style 1||EMG Jim Root Signature Daemonum Open-Coil Humbucker||$$|
|Phil Sgrosso Signature Pro-Mod So-Cal Style||Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker||$$|
|CR300||EMG Retro Active Fat 55 dual humbuckers||$|
|KX 300 Etched||EMG Retroactive Super77 humbuckers||$|
|X700 Duality II||Fishman Fluence Open Core Classic Humbuckers||$|
|Dellinger-JSM Joel Stroetzel Signature||Fishman Fluence Ceramic/Alnico Killswitch Engage Humbucker||$$$$|
|Exile Select F||EMG 57/67tw Humbuckers||$$|
|Kerry King V||EMG 81/85 Humbuckers 1600||$$|
|SG Prophecy||Fishman Fluence Humbucker||$|
|Flying V Prophecy||Fishman Fluence Proprietary Humbuckers||$|
|Les Paul Prophecy||Fishman Fluence Epiphone Prophecy Humbuckers||$|
|Extura Prophecy||Fishman Fluence Proprietary Humbuckers||$|
|Matt Heafy Les Paul Custom||Fishman Fluence MKH Ceramic and Alnico Humbuckers||$$|
|LTD Phoenix Black Metal||Fishman Fluence Modern Ceramic Humbucker||$|
|LTD F Black Metal||EMG 81 Humbucker||$$|
|LTD EC-1000 Baritone||Fishman Fluence Modern Ceramic Humbucker||$$|
|LTD Eclipse EC-1007 EverTune||EMG 60/8 -7H Humbuckers||$$|
|LTD Deluxe MH-1007 EverTune||Fishman Fluence Modern Ceramic Humbucker||$$|
|LTD TE-1000 EverTune||EMG 81/60 Brushed Black Chrom Humbucker||$$|
|LTD MH-1000FM EverTune||EMG 81/85 Humbuckers||$$|
|LTD EC-1000T CTM EverTune||Fishman Fluence Classic Humbucker||$$|
|LTD Deluxe H-1008 Baritone EverTune||EMG 81/85 -8H Humbuckers||$$|
|LTD Buz McGrath Signature Buz-7||Fishman Fluence SRC Humbucker||$$|
|LTD James Hetfield Signature Snakebyte||EMG JH HET Humbucker||$$$|
|E-II EX NT||EMG 60/81 Humbuckers||$$$|
|E-II FRX||EMG 60TW-R/ 81 Humbucker||$$$|
|Original Eclipse Custom Andromeda II||EMG HET Humbucker||$$$$|
|ESP James Hetfield Signature Snakebyte||EMG JH HET Humbucker||$$$$+|
|Jim Root Jazzmaster||EMG Jim Root Signature Daemonum Open-coil Active Humbucker||$$|
|Iron Label RGIB21||EMG 60/81 Humbuckers||$|
|RGIB21||EMG 60 and 81 Humbucker||$|
|JB Brubaker Signature JBBM30||EMG 81/85 Humbucker||$|
|Axion Label RG631ALF||Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker||$|
|Axion Label RGD61ALET||Fishman Fluence Modern Ceramic Humbucker||$$|
|Prestige RG5120M||Fishman Fluence Modern Humbuckers||$$$|
|Prestige RGD3121||Fishman Fluence Modern Ceramic Humbucker||$$$|
|X Series Soloist Arch Top SLAT7 Multi-Scale||EMG 808 Treble/Bass Humbuckers||$|
|X Series Rhoads RRX24-MG7||EMG 81/85-7H Humbucker||$$|
|Pro Series King V KVTMG||EMG 81/85 Humbuckers||$$|
|Pro Series Signature Rob Cavestany||EMG 81 and HA Humbuckers||$$|
|USA Select Dinky DK1||EMG 81/85 Humbuckers||$$$$|
|USA Signature Gus G. Star||Gus G. Proteus Humbucker||$$$$+|
|Charlie Parra Vanguard Outfit||EMG 57/66 Humbucker||$|
|Sterling – Steve Lukather LK100||Sterling by Music Man Humbucker||$|
|Sterling – Jason Richardson Signature||Sterling by Music Man Designed Humbucker||$|
|Sterling – John Petrucci Dimarzio JP157DQM (7-STRING)||DiMarzio LiquiFire Humbucker||$$|
|Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass HT||Music Man HT Single-coils||$$$|
|Damien Platinum 8. (8-String)||EMG 808 active Humbucker||$|
|Hellraiser C-1||EMG 81/89 Humbuckers||$|
|Hellraiser C-7 (7-String)||EMG Active 707tw Humbuckers||$$|
|Cesar Soto E-1 Signature||EMG 85 Humbucker||$$|
|Hellraiser Hybrid C-7 (7-String)||EMG 57/66 -7 Active Humbuckers||$$|
|Hellraiser Hybrid C-1 FR-S||EMG 57 brushed black chrome Humbucker||$$|
|Hellraiser C-7 FR-S (7-String)||EMG 81 Active Humbucker||$$|
|E-1 SLS Evil Twin||Fishman Fluence Modern Ceramic/Alnico Humbuckers||$$|
|C-1 HT S SLS Evil Twin||Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker||$$|
|Keith Merrow KM-6 MK-III||Fishman Fluence KM Custom Humbucker||$$|
|Squier Contemporary Active Jazzmaster||Squier SQR Active Ceramic Humbucker||$|
|Squier Contemporary Active Starcaster Semi-hollowbody||Squer SQR Active Ceramic Humbuckers||$|
Popular Active Pickup Manufacturers
You will see from the list of guitars above that there are two main manufacturers. They are Fishman and EMG. Any of the others are custom-made for the guitar brands and are also very good. But Fishman and EMG specialize in high-quality active pickups. As a result, they are recognized on the world stage in guitars.
Fishman is a brand that makes pickups designed for use with guitars and basses. They are known for their high-quality sound and reliability. Their pickups are made with a variety of different materials and technologies.
They have pickups for acoustic guitars as well and made a big splash in this market. Additionally, they come in a variety of forms, including single coil and humbucker pickups. This allows a lot of players to use their stuff!
EMG pickups are another brand that are popular among musicians. Like Fishman, they are known for their high-quality sound and reliability. EMG pickups use active circuitry to obtain the signal from the strings.
It results in a louder, more powerful sound. It has caught the attention of many guitarists, particularly in the metal genres. They are the first company to introduce active pickups to the world of guitars and basses.
Which Guitars are the Best?
These guitars are all very good for what they have been designed for. But they all fit into different price points. Plus, some can accomplish different sounds. This makes a few of them better for some genres of music. Here are my thoughts on these guitars.
Best For Single Coil Sounds
The guitar I feel is best for single coil tones with active pickups is the Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass HT. It’s an expensive guitar, but is well-made and very comfortable. It’s also got an amazing sound! The playability is probably one of the best in a guitar like this. The roasted maple neck feels incredible to play on. Plus, it’s loaded with high-quality parts.
There is also a boost function, but it’s not easy to access, which is one of the cons I have found. But it’s not a dealbreaker, as the guitar has much more to love about it!
Best Affordable Guitar For Metal
This is a very tough choice as there are a few great guitars that are affordable. But because I can only choose one. I went with the ESP LTD EC-1000. For metal, I found the tones to be very good. It’s a tight sound that is aggressive enough to drive an amplifier pretty hard. And it’s a great price!
The guitar is also very easy to play and is quite comfortable. The cutaway in the body makes accessing the upper frets pretty easy. There are a couple of cheap parts on it, like the plastic nut. But this can easily be upgraded and was expected at this price.