Humbuckers are one of the most desirable types of pickup for a guitarist who wants to use a pickup that will deliver a rich tone without a lot of background noise. A humbucker is a style of single-coil guitar pickup which utilizes two copper wires, instead of one, to negate the noisy feedback picked up by single-coil pickups. Some humbucker pickups use their own plate-and-ring construction, while others are constructed with just a single coil placed in a housing. Both styles produce a rich tone and are great for experimenting with different sounds. On the other hand, single-coil humbucker pickups are preferred for their simpler wiring scheme.
Many guitar players use humbucker pickups for their distortion effects. The distortion that they produce has a similar tonal characteristics to that produced by low-frequency response units, but with a much richer sound. While low-frequency response units can be more susceptible to hum and feedback, they also allow for a greater amount of experimentation with the tonal qualities of the sound. A humbucker can be very useful for recording when you want a specifically warm and dark tone. Some common humbucker pickups for recording purposes are the Blackbird and Blackwing.
Blackbird humbucker pickups are made by the humbucker manufacturer Blackbird. There are a few versions of the Blackbird signature set. The most commonly offered version uses a ceramic push coil as opposed to a metal magnet. A metal plate is also used on the pickup's terminals to further increase its durability and extend its life span.
Another popular model is the Blackwing humbucker pickups which are designed to create that famous scooped sound from a single-coil pickup. As its name implies, these single-coil pickups have only one coil wound in a magnetic field. Because of its unusual appearance, the Blackwing humbucker is often mistaken for an acoustic or electric guitar. It is this distinctive appearance that has helped to make the Blackwing humbucker one of the most sought after models.
The Blackwing humbucker pickups were designed for their superior tonal characteristics over the single-coil pickups. Unlike the single-coil, a humbucker utilizes two coils in order to create a full range of tones. The added harmonic capability is brought about by the coils being magnetized with opposite polarity. The magnetic field then produces what is known as a piezoelectric effect. This produces an extremely delicate tonal production, which is why many guitarists that prefer to use single coil pickups compliment the tone of the Blackwing humbucker by using humbucker single-coil pickups.
The best humbucker pickups should be clean, balanced, and yet possess the following tonal characteristics. When looking at the tonal qualities of a pickup, it is important to remember that the tonal characteristics are dependent upon the tonal qualities of the amplifier. In other words, the humbucker pickups will produce the cleanest sounds if they are fed electric guitar preamp and electric bass guitar preamp directly. If they are fed into a phase-shifter or equalizer then the resulting mix will create a less than perfect tone. The humbucker pickups will also sound best when they are processed via a clean amp like a Mesa/Boogie amp. By using a clean amp like this, the humbucker pickups can achieve what is known as "rotary distortion," which occurs when the low frequencies are mixed with the high frequencies of the guitar.
In addition to being a versatile pickup style, single-coil humbucker pickups have also become very popular for two reasons. First, single-coil pickups tend to produce a very clean sound, often free of muddy or distorted sounds, and most guitar players prefer clean sound over nasty. Second, single-coil pickups are less expensive than humbucker pickups which makes them much more affordable for many guitar players.
If you are not familiar with single-coil pickups, allow me to explain them. Basically, single-coil pickups consist of one coil wound in each of the four acoustic notes (up/down/middle) and one magnetized wire. Since there are only two coils in single-coil pickups, each note will sound different. For instance, if a guitar player were to play a C chord, the magnetized wire would be in the middle position, producing a horizontal signal. If the player then played a G chord, the magnetized wire would now be in the down position, creating a vertical sweep.