When guitar players see the word “pickups” the first that comes to their minds is (depending on the type of player) single-coils or humbuckers.
That’s because those two are the most famous pickups and they are more similar than you may think.
However, although both are single coils (humbuckers are wound with two single coils in series) they not only differ in tone but also in size.
That might be a problem when seeking an upgrade or pickup swap.
Single-coils can fit in a humbucker slot without problem, but due to the humbuckers’ dimensions, there will be some space left. On the other side, humbuckers will require extra routing to match a single-coil cavity.
If you want to change your single-coils by some buckers this article is perfect for you.
We will be breaking up the various hassles that could appear, how to solve them, and more useful information concerning this fascinating issue.
Are single coils and humbuckers the same size?
Single-coils and humbuckers look very distinct but, contrary to what you might think, they are in a way pretty similar.
At first sight, the size difference between single coils and humbuckers is quite noticeable, if you pay attention, you will see the latter double single coils dimensions.
That is because humbuckers are simply a combination of a pair of single coils put together in series wiring, this provides a distinctive characteristic known as hum-canceling.
As buckers are two single coils, they are wider but the length is the same.
Would a humbucker routing work for single coils?
Regarding wire routings, in the two pickups is similar, as mentioned before the standard humbuckers wiring is in series while in the case of single coils (commonly three-single-coil-config) is equal but instead of having two stacked pickups, the wiring is made with a pickup in a different position.
Therefore, a bucker wiring could work for single-coil pickups.
Nevertheless, you already know that humbuckers are larger pickups so they won’t fit in a single-coil slot.
Fortunately, the inverted process could be easily done, single-coils match well to a humbucker cavity, you may struggle because there will be some space left but they will fit.
Are there some alternatives to this?
It could happen that installing a humbucker where you used to have a single-coil might be a headache due to the extra routing needed to make the pickup match the slot.
For some players, it would be blasphemy to re-route their instruments just to modify them.
For those who think that way, there is a solution, in the same way, you can find humbucker-shaped P90s that would work on buckers slots, you can also get a particular pickup called single-coil-sized humbucker or stacked humbucker.
Although these pickups, also known as “noiseless single coils”, do not have the same tone as humbuckers, their sound is comparable plus they provide the hum-canceling feature as well.
Is the wiring required for single coils and humbuckers the same?
Humbuckers and single-coils have an unalike tone but despite producing different sounds, they share some characteristics.
As you already know, buckers are made of two single coils, therefore, the wiring required is pretty alike.
Two humbuckers standard config consists of two volume pots and two tone pots, one for each pickup plus a three-position pickup selector, there are a lot of modifications that you can do but this is the standard one.
When talking about single-coil standard config we refer to a set of three pickups, a master volume, two tone pots, and a five-position pickup selector.
As you may notice, the main differences rely on the number of pickups; single coils are usually three while humbuckers are two.
Due to that, we can find variations in both tone and volume pots.
Would single-coils sound good alongside humbuckers?
Although humbuckers come in different forms, the two pickups, buckers, and single-coils are mid-output types, which makes them work well together.
The interesting thing about this combination is that their tone profile is rather dissimilar, whereas buckers provide a warm tone plus an out-of-hum distorted sound, single-coils have a brighter tone.
What is great about this wonderful mixture of pickups is the number of tonal options you can explore, which might give you a nice contrast to your style.
Can you do this pickup swap on your own?
Many players are prone to dodge the bullet when getting into the electronic section of the guitar, in most cases they believe that is a hard task to perform but if you know how to follow a diagram is not difficult at all.
Is just a matter of soldering some wires in the right place and then testing if the wiring works so you could probably do this pickup swap if you are comfortable working on your instrument.
On the flip side, if you lack experience or don’t feel capable of working on your guitar I recommend you take your instrument to a tech.
As they are professionals, they are truly accustomed to dealing with this type of task, they can have the job done in a shorter term and the result will be way better.
Another aspect to bear in mind is the woodwork, we explained that single coils and humbuckers differ in size so, to do the swap you will need to re-route your guitar body to make the buckers fit into the cavities.
If you get through this circumstance, you may do it on your own as long as you feel comfortable working on it, if not, send your guitar to a technician.
Is this mod reversible?
In this text, we have previously pointed out that a combination between single coils and humbuckers could bring wider sound possibilities, but what happens if you want to get back to your old setup?
Well, in this particular situation would be a bit difficult to revert the mod.
When talking about electronics, they are not way different, as the wiring is similar you could come back to the previous config without any problem.
Nevertheless, if we focus on the extra routing required to match the humbuckers to the cavities, is quite obvious that it won’t be reversible.
As you need to modify the pickup slots, it will be impossible to return to the previous config because the holes in your guitar body will be the size of the humbuckers.
The only way to do it is if you own a Stratocaster, if that’s the case, you could get a loaded pickguard but you will have to make sure that the pickups match the cavities.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.