The 5 Best Jazz Bass Pickups – Finding a Great Pair of Versatile J Bass Pickups
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Introduced to the world by Leo Fender in 1960, the Jazz Bass has gone on to become one of the most popular bass guitar models ever – and for good reason.
It’s perhaps the most versatile of the two core Fender electric bass models (the other being the Precision Bass). While the J Bass was originally marketed towards jazz bassists, it has been used by all styles of bassist in most genres of music over the past six decades – including Jaco Pastorius, John Paul Jones, Geddy Lee, Larry Graham, Aston Barrett, Marcus Miller, and Flea.
The pickups on Jazz Basses differ from Precision Bass pickups mainly in the way they are setup. On a Jazz Bass, there are two single-coils located at the bridge and neck, both of which can produce a versatile range of tones, for everything from heavy rock to blues, funk, reggae, and jazz (of course).
If you’re looking to upgrade the stock single-coils on your Jazz Bass, or if you just fancy a bit of a tonal change, you’ve come to the right page as we’re about to take a look at five excellent J Bass pickups in our chart below. Then stick around after the chart for a short guide on these pickups.
Note that, while five-string basses are incredibly popular these days, the pickups we feature in our chart are solely intended for the more commonly found four-string basses.
The Top 5 Jazz Bass Pickups:
|Pickups / Rating
| Fender Custom Shop ’60s Jazz Bass Pickup Set
Total of 4.82/5
One of the most popular Jazz Bass pickups of all time!
| EMG JVX Bass Pickup Set
Total of 4.82/5
A powerful active set that offers classic J Bass tone.
| Lindy Fralin 4 String Jazz Bass Pickup Set
Total of 4.76/5
Clean, precise and consistent vintage Jazz Bass tones.
| DiMarzio DP123 Model J Bass Pickup Set
Total of 4.76/5
A solid DiMarzio set offering impressive value.
| Seymour Duncan SJB3 Quarter Pound Jazz Bass Bridge Pickup
Total of 4.72/5
A versatile and affordable bridge pickup – an instant upgrade!
It’s no surprise to see a set of Fender pickups in this chart – they are, after all, the creators of the Jazz Bass. And this Custom Shop ‘60s set offers a sweet vintage sound with a couple of modern improvements.
In fact, the tone is uncannily similar to that of vintage Fender Jazzes – albeit with a bigger output and more punch, coming from the use of Alnico 5 magnets and overwound coils. You’ll also experience a cleaner low-end, and highs with a bit more bite when compared to stock pickups.
In fact, with such an articulate and hot tone, it’s no wonder these pickups are found as standard in the majority of Fender Custom Shop basses. Highly recommended.
EMG are renowned for their active pickups, so one of their sets was bound to make it onto our chart. Their JVX set is very interesting, and offers the best of both active and passive worlds in one pickup, with the power and silence of active pickups, and the natural tone of passive.
Overall, the sound is outstanding, and cleans are some of the crisp and purest we’ve heard, while remaining organic and true to the tone of original Jazz Bass pickups.
Installation is also surprisingly simple, although they can be a tight squeeze. This pair of JVXs is not the cheapest set, but certainly adds a high-end sound to any Jazz Bass – for that, they are worth every penny.
Unlike a Fender or Seymour Duncan, Lindy Fralin aren’t as well-known in the mainstream, but they have built a loyal following thanks to the sound and quality of their pickups, which are so very vintage Fender in tone.
With their Jazz Bass set, you will indeed find that classic vintage Jazz Bass sound with a bit more meat and output, thanks to the Alnico 4 magnet. Handmade in Virginia, this set is very versatile, with a fat mid-range and round bass tone that works well in everything from blues to hard rock.
Although they come with a higher-end price tag, it’s one that’s justified thanks to the premium sound they can offer any bassists – powerful, clear and consistent. Who could say no to that?
DiMarzio’s DP123s are another set that replicate traditional vintage Jazz Bass tones with a few modern tweaks to increase output. While not true humbuckers, these pickups are made with a ceramic magnet, and feature a powerful tone that remains crystal clear as the volume is increased.
They’re also one of the best performers on this list when it comes to adding gain to the mix. While they could do with a bit more punch in the low-end, the tone is overall excellent – best described as warm, woody and natural, with the bridge pickup in particular offering good thump.
Awesome for punk and hard rock, as well as fretless basses. We’re also impressed with the sub-$100 price tag, which makes these some of the best value pickups on this list.
Unlike the others on this chart, this entry is an individual bridge pickup instead of a set, and – for the tone on offer – proves a great way to upgrade any Jazz Bass without spending a fortune.
The SJB3 Quarter Pound is fundamentally a very versatile pickup, capable of producing excellent tones for all styles. Built in California, Seymour Duncan uses quarter-inch diameter Alnico 5 rod magnets with hot coil windings to deliver a punchy sound with a moderate output.
Not the hottest we’ve reviewed, but volume is certainly no issue, and replacing a stock bridge pickup with this Quarter Pound will have a noticeable effect on your sound. Perhaps not as traditional in tone as you may want, but for the price it’s hard to go wrong.
What Makes a Good Jazz Bass Pickup
More often than not, a J Bass pickup will be a single-coil design instead of a humbucker. Naturally, there are exceptions, but in the world of the Jazz Bass, single-coil pickups rule.
As you’d find with standard guitar pickups, the J Bass single-coil will primarily feature a bright and defined tone, which is ideal for keeping your low-end sound from drifting into mud. It’s worth noting that these single-coils feature two pole-pieces per string, which helps deliver that tighter bass sound with stronger trebles.
Meanwhile, like their guitar counterparts, Jazz Bass single-coils are susceptible to background interference in the form of hum, and can be an inconvenience as the volume and gain increase.
So, a good J Bass pickup will retain a defined low-end with ample brightness, while keeping noise to a minimum. The five on our list certainly do this with varying degrees of success, while some – such as DiMarzio’s DP123 in particular – offer the best of both worlds, by staggering two halves of a single-coil for a humbucking experience that retains the bright snap of the single-coil.
How Do They Sound Compared to P Bass Pickups?
As we’ve established, generally, when compared to the tone of a Precision Bass, a Jazz Bass pickup traditionally offers a brighter and cleaner sound, although you’ll tend to find a little more background noise and hum. P Bass pickups are a bit fatter in tone. It’s all very subjective, but this is the general agreement.
For an audio example, it’s worth checking out the following video, which looks at the subtle tonal differences between Jazz and Precision Basses:
Why Change Your Pickups?
Whether your bass cost $150 or $500, chances are the stock pickups are fine and do an adequate job. However, if you’re with a band in a gigging or recording environment, or looking for a new sound for your solo work, changing the pickups can bring any bass guitar to life.
Some brands offer single pickups individually, instead of sets, which can be great if you’re on a budget and prefer to change just one pickup at a time, such as the neck or bridge.
Remember that pickups are sometimes complicated to install – especially J Bass single-coils – so if you aren’t sure what you’re doing, ask your local guitar professional to install them for you. Saving a few extra dollars is not worth ruining your bass over!
The Final Word
Don’t believe everything you read! It may sound odd coming from us, but all reviews are subjective.
While our reviews can certainly help highlight the best models, if possible go and test the pickups that appeal to you. Or – at the very least – listen to them in action, whether live or via videos. This way you’ll get a true feel of what the pickup sounds like, and whether they will work for your style of playing.
Good luck in your hunt for your perfect Jazz Bass pickup!