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Crunchy Pickups

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Joined: 53 years ago
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I have just read through the Humbuckers Interchangable thread, and I was wondering what sort of pickups I could buy that would give my sound more of a crunch. I'm a student therefore I have little money. This is what I currently have gear-wise:

MXR Wylde Overdrive Pedal (which I CANNOT get to sound good whatsoever)
Behringer Ultra Metal Pedal (I love this pedal...)
Dunlop Original CryBaby
Marshall MG15FX
Im not too sure about the current pickups as it is only a cheap guitar...

Im interested in playing rock/metal and i'd love to have a nice crunchy sound. Ive heard the EMG 81/60 are a good set for crunch and clean but I just cannot afford this. Does anybody know of a cheaper alternative for a nice crunch and a nice clean sound?

Or is it that my problem lies with my amp?

I asked in my local music shop and they suggested the MXR O-D pedal ( i think)

So what do you guys think?

Thanks in advance :D

Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5480

Well, you got a couple different directions you can go. So many variables, as I think you're discovering. I'm not sure how much crunch an 8-inch speaker can far as window shaking thud crunch type of thing. I assume I interpretted your term of "crunch" properly. I'm not trying to be wise or dis your gear or anything, I just don't know.

So, as far as the pick-ups alone, guitar fetish sells GFS pick ups which sound pretty good. Normally $30-$35 per I think. I used a set that was advertised as being really crunchy on my Ibanez GAX 70. Due to an ear issue, I can't open them up, but they do add some zest to clean settings when I hop on them, and they have a really decent clean tone too. Duncan Designed are a bit more expensive, but I do know from experience that if you drop the tuning a bit, use a big time modern metal setting and semi-palm mute a few power-chords that it'll make everything in the house shake, light up the eyes of your 15 year old son and cause your heart to skip a beat. (I've got an older used to be mid-range, but got cheap ESP LTD with them in it. Wow!)

btw, what kind of guitar do you have?

As far as pedals go, I'd bring your guitar to the store. It's a common amp, so they should have one. Take you guitar, the amp that you own and try the pedal out. If the pedal does the trick, you win. If it doesn't, maybe the (hopefully) unbiased salesman will see and hear your set up and suggest an alternative avenue. You've already gotten one pedal from that manufacture that you didn't like.

I hope any of this helps. Good luck and keep us posted.

"I wonder if a composer ever intentionally composed a piece that was physically impossible to play and stuck it away to be found years later after his death, knowing it would forever drive perfectionist musicians crazy." - George Carlin

Reputable Member
Joined: 16 years ago
Posts: 231

For crunch it's really tough to beat EMG active pickups (EMG-81/EMG-85), although they're towards the more expensive side of the pickup price range.

Really though, pickups aren't always the place to start when you're looking for a significant tone change. The amp is usually a much more effective way to spend dollars.

I've never really liked the marshall MG series tone, but have you tried the built in distortion modelers instead of a pedal? I find pedal distortion lacking.

Illustrious Member
Joined: 19 years ago
Posts: 5038

at its most basic, crunch is created by overdriving the input to the amplifier. that means creating high output from your guitar either from the pups directly or pups + OD pedal or both. you seem to understand this. however, what you may not realize is that the pups don't need to be high output humbuckers if you are going to use an OD pedal. although the tone will be somewhat different, both single coils and humbuckers can be made to crunch -- regardless of output -- with the right level of gain in an OD pedal. single coils will tend to have more bite and sparkle than humbuckers.

another way to get crunch is to emulate it in an EFX pedal (jeffster's suggestion). done in that fashion, the amp can be clean (not overdriven) as the crunch is ready-made out of the pedal and merely needs amplification. however, the guitar pups will affect the tone as noted above.

I agree with the suggestion to try different amps first. take your guitar and OD pedal to a store and try 'em out. get some help with settings of the guitar and OD pedal. if you cannot get the crunch/tone you want, start changing things (guitar, OD pedal) one at a time. have fun!

-=tension & release=-