Leo Fender’s first electric bass design, the Precision Bass (also known as the P Bass), was debuted in 1951. Although it wasn’t the first electric bass, the P Bass influenced artists’ perceptions of the instrument and has since become one of the most popular bass models of all time (together with Fender’s subsequent Jazz Bass). Sting, Roger Waters, James Jamerson, and Tony Franklin are all famous P Bass players, and the instrument is also popular in modern rock – Robert Trujillo, Matt Freeman (Rancid), Mike Dirnt (Green Day), Nate Mendel (Foo Fighters), and Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris are all P Bass fans.
P Basses have only one split single-coil pickup, unlike Jazz Basses, which have two. However, despite its simple appearance, the P Bass is one of the most versatile instruments ever produced! In our guide below, we go through the pickup arrangement in in detail. Whatever your reason for purchasing a new Precision Bass pickup, our chart displaying some of the greatest P Bass pickups on the market today will provide some inspiration, followed by our guide below that will explain what constitutes a great P Bass pickup.
Table of Contents
Fender Custom Shop ’62 P Bass Pickups
- Flush-mount alnico 5 magnets
- Enamel-coated magnet wire and cloth-covered output wires
- Deliver the full, booming lows, punchy midrange and clear high end of the bass that started it all
Look no further than the Custom Shop ’62 Precision Bass Pickups if you want the most accurate vintage Fender Precision Bass sound possible without stock pickups. It’s a split-coil humbucking pickup with a vintage flavor, as is typical of P-bass pickups. This is a more expensive pickup with flush-mounted Alnico 5 magnets and enamel-coated wire coils. When you turn up the volume knob and really press into the strings, this coated bobbin wire weakens the electrical signal to simulate the sound of a vintage pickup, resulting in a natural grit to the tone that almost sounds overdriven.
With fat and tight low-end, strongly accentuated, punchy mids, and clear, brilliant highs, the pickups provide a balanced tone. The frequencies are well matched, allowing you to blend in with any style of music while cutting right through the mix. Its dynamic range and responsiveness are two of its strongest characteristics, capable producing silky Motown-style thumping sounds as well as harsh rock or metal-driven bass lines without ever losing its footing.
Fender’s Custom Shop ’62 Precision Bass pickup uses current technology to recreate the sound of a vintage pickup. The Alnico 5 magnets with flush-mounted, exposed pole pieces, the enamel-coated wire, and the cloth sleeved conductors all add to a tone that faithfully mimics a vintage pickup. One of the best P-bass pickups on the market is the Custom Shop ’62. The bass guitars are not cheap by any means, but it is well worth the money. This is the Best Precision Bass Pickup in 2023.
Aguilar AG 4P-60 Bass Guitar Pickup
- Heavy formvar, 42 gauge wire
- Alnico V magnets
- Single conductor, cloth-covered cable
The 4P-60 Precision-style bass pickups are the product of an attempt to replicate the pickups found on Aguilar president Dave Boonshoft’s 1960s Precision basses. And they were successful in their mission. These pickups feature period-correct materials and wiring (or as close to it as is possible today), such as Alnico 5 magnets with exposed pole-pieces and Heavy Formvar wire, to give you that classic 60s Precision Bass wallop, no matter what amp you plug them into. The 4P-60 pickups are wound specifically to provide a warm, full-range tone with a fat and full bass end, punchy mid-range, and harmonically rich high end. Nothing compares to a pair of Aguilar’s 4P-60s when it comes to sound from this quality pickup.
The Alnico 5 magnets utilized in their core, as well as the type of wire used for the bobbin and cloth-sleeved conductors, are all 60s era specs on the 4p-60 Precision-style pickups. Only black pickup covers are available. The 4P-60 is also available in a “hot” variant with larger magnets and overwound coils for a more aggressive tone without sacrificing dynamic range.
The 4P-60 P-style pickup is designed for players that appreciate the old Precision Bass atmosphere and feel. These pickups will turn your bass into a funk-machine from the 1960s. This is the Best Precision Bass Pickups in 2023.
EMG Geezer Butler Signature PJ Bass Pickup Set
- Geezer Butler signature bass pickup set
- Passive pickup with a vintage tone
- Features Alnico 5 poles and features two custom wound split-coils
The EMG Geezer Butler Signature PJ Bass Guitar Pickup Set is a vintage-sounding passive pickup. If you wish to get rid of noise, this pickup eliminates the hum and noise that are frequently associated with early 1970s bass pickups. It also includes a solderless installation technique.
EMG built the GZR-P p-bass pickup in collaboration with famed Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler. They’re attempting to recreate his bass tone from his early days in the band. The pickups have a vintage look to them, but they also have some modern features including an all-solderless construction. For a forceful overwound tone, they use Alnico 5 magnets with exposed pole pieces and custom wound coils. By adding GZR-P to your trusted bass, you may transform it into a classic hard-rock machine. This split coil design produces deep, round lows, a slightly scooped midrange, and dazzling highs, resulting in a very appealing growl.
The Geezer Butler Signature P is a high-output P-bass pickup that may be used as a drop-in replacement. It has Alnico 5 rod magnets with exposed pole pieces and a hand-wound coil. The pickup features a superb all-solderless construction that includes tone and volume controls, making installation a joy.
DiMarzio Model P DP122 Replacement Pickup for Fender P Bass Black
Since 1977, the DiMarzio DP122 Model P has been a standard replacement pickup for Precision-style basses, and it’s not going away anytime soon, thanks to its massive tone and attitude at a low price. The powerful ceramic magnet at the heart of this high output pickup is at home in any style of music, but will lean towards the heavier end, particularly rock metal or punk.
The Model P’s hum-canceling design strives to make your tone clean and powerful without sacrificing any of your valuable low-end, while also giving ample mid-range growl to cut through any mix. This pickup produces a high-gain bass sound with a focus on the low-end and midrange rather than the treble, and it retains its clarity even when you’re pressing into your strings hard.
The strong ceramic magnets in the DiMarzio Model P produce a high-gain tone with plenty of low-end detail and mid-range growl. You can choose between black or cream-colored pickup covers, as well as black, gold, or nickel pole-pieces. The Model P does not have a 5-string option.
Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound P-Bass Pickup
- Massive Tone Upgrade - Seymour Duncan SPB-3 Quarter Pound P-Bass Pickup delivers a fat, punchy sound with an extended frequency range for endless rock...
- Versatile Performance - Perfect for heavy rock, classic rock, punk, metal, or any style. Install this drop-in replacement to expand your bass' tone...
- High Output Power - Alnico 5 magnets and high-output coil wind ensure maximum tone, attitude, and presence in every note. Offers tremendous mid-range...
The SPB-3 Quarter Pound is a high-quality modern drop-in replacement for the Fender Precision Bass guitar. It offers a big, punchy tone with a lot of low-end, a well-defined mid-range, and a far better treble response than original Fender P-style pickups. Cutting through the mix will be a piece of cake with this pickup, whether on stage or in the studio. It has a more modern take on the classic Precision bass sound and, thanks to its wide frequency range, will fit perfectly with any kind of music.
The enormous quarter-inch Alnico 5 magnets responsible for the SPB-3’s strong output and wide frequency range are one of the first things you’ll notice when looking at it. Only black pickup covers are included. There are no pickup height foam inlays in the box, so you’ll have to use the ones from the old pickups or remember to get some new ones. In Santa Barbara, California, the SPB-3 Quarter Pound pickups are handcrafted.
This pickup is designed for the current Precision Bassist looking for a fresh spin on the classic precision sound. Vintage precision fans will find this pickup to be too “full range” sounding, and will prefer a more “traditional,” lower output pickup. This is a pickup for people looking for a high-quality, high-output pickup that won’t break the bank for a current Precision Bass tone. Overall, they are the best P bass pickups for the money.
Bartolini 8S Precision P-Bass 4-String Replacement Pickup
- Replacement for Fender Precision Bass
- Fits most 4 String P Basses
- Single Coil 4-String P-Bass Pickup Set
Bartolini is recognized for producing high-quality pickups, and their P Bass pickup – the 8S – is deserving of a spot on our list. For a powerful output, this sleek passive single-coil is constructed with a ceramic bar magnet – very hot with a huge growl.
There’s a strong emphasis on the low-end and mid-range frequencies, with less emphasis on the higher registers, resulting in a less harsh trebly sound as the volume rises. With a warm organic sound, the tone is very smooth and balanced.
Thankfully, it’s potted in epoxy to decrease feedback, so it’s ready to use right away on stage. It’s a touch more expensive than we thought, but for the tone on offer, it’s well worth the money. Overall, the S8 can bring any P Bass to life.
Seymour Duncan SPB-1 Vintage Precision Bass Pickup Set
- Vintage P-Bass Pickup - Get just the right balance of authoritative thump and clear articulation for an authentic P-Bass feel.
- Distinctive Tone - The P-Bass has defined recorded and live music since its inception, and the Vintage P-Bass pickup nails all the things we love...
- Hand-Built Quality - Since 1978, we've been hand-building all of our vintage Fender style pickups with the right color and thickness of Forbon...
The SPB-1 is a drop-in replacement for any American Standard Precision Bass, and it’s designed to sound like P-basses from the late 1950s. It has hand-ground Alnico 5 rod magnets, a vintage coil-wind for a smooth vintage sound, and cloth-covered output wires that are time correct. With a slightly scooped midrange, the SPB-1 sounds restrained and perfectly balanced. The low end is tight and precise, while the upper end is smooth and not overpowering.
The SPB-1 is a reimagining of late-’50s Precision Bass pickups that rely on period-correct specs and parts to work their magic: hand-ground Alnico 5 rod magnets with exposed pole pieces, a vintage coil wind, and cloth-covered output wires, all housed in a black pickup enclosure that fits any American Standard Precision Bass without modification.
Take a look at the SPB-1 if you’re looking for that vintage tone but are on a budget. They’re articulate and have a well-balanced tone that would work in any mix. These are without a doubt the best precision bass pickups available. If you want to dive into classic bass tones, the SPB-1 P-bass combo is an excellent deal. The build quality is superb, the sound is fantastic, and the pricing is ideal.
Choosing the Right P Bass Pickups (Buying Guide)
The pickup is the heart and soul of your bass, and for a P-style bass, it’s even more true. Here are a few things you should know about the P-style magnetic pickup.
How Magnetic Pickups Work
The majority of electric basses and other electric instruments use magnetic pickups, which make up the majority of the pickup market.
Just very modest changes to the original idea have been made since they were first introduced in the middle of the 1920s.
Magnetic pickups must be placed just beneath the strings of the instrument due to their construction.
In a magnetic pickup, copper wire is wound around a magnet (this is referred to as a coil); when the iron- or nickel-containing string vibrates above the magnet, the magnetic field of the magnets is disturbed, which causes an electric current to flow through the copper wire.
This electric current is then directed to your instrument’s output jack, where it travels through the cable to the amplifier, where it is amplified, allowing you to hear your bass sing.
The output voltage of some magnetic pickups is “hotter” than that of others, which causes them to have a higher gain and volume.
In general, a higher output pickup will sound richer and warmer than a lower output one.
Less high-end clarity is a “hot” pickup’s drawback.
A few factors affect the millivolt output of the pickup, which is measured:
Magnet strength: A stronger magnet will produce a higher output voltage due to its larger magnetic field.
The output voltage increases with the thickness of the copper wire wound around the magnet, but because the volume of the pickup enclosure is constrained, thicker wire produces fewer windings than thinner wire.
The output voltage of the pickup can be raised by wrapping the coil with extra wire.
Because of this, several manufacturers include “overwound” pickups in their lineup.
The thickness of the copper wire and the quantity of coil windings must be balanced for the best pickup output and performance.
String gauge and material: Iron and nickel are the two most frequently used ferromagnetic metals (metals attracted to magnets) for bass strings, with iron being by far the more common.
Nickel strings produce a “mellower” tone because to their slightly lesser interaction with the pickup’s magnetic field.
In order to interact with the magnetic field of the pickups more strongly and produce a larger output voltage, heavier gauge strings contain more bulk (more iron or nickel in their makeup). The output voltage also depends on how hard you pluck the string, in addition to the pickup’s design and the type of strings you use, which is something else to keep in mind.
A harsher pluck causes the bass string to vibrate more intensely and disturbs the magnetic field more than a softer one would, which causes the output voltage to rise.
After hearing so much about output voltage, you might believe it to be the deciding factor when selecting a pickup, but there is a catch, as I previously said.
You gain volume and gain as you increase the output voltage, driving your amp harder and enhancing the bass and midrange, but you will also gradually lose top-end until a certain point.
Hence, if you prefer hi-fi or “piano-string-like” bass sounds, choosing the hottest pickup might not be the best choice for you.
P-style Magnetic Bass Pickups
The 1951 Fender Precision Bass had a single-coil pickup that was the first magnetic pickup ever created for a production model bass.
It featured the same standard single-coil construction that is still used today: four magnets (one for each string), each with exposed pole components, encased in a coil of copper wire.
Later, Fender replaced the single-coil P-bass pickup with the now-famous “split-coil” pickup.
The P-style pickup has a few upgrades over the first one.
As the name implies, they divided an ordinary single-coil pickup in half, thereby producing two pickups that they wired together to function as a single instrument.
During this process, the pickup was additionally strengthened by being bigger and adding more coil wraps.
Single-coils were quite prone to take up noise from electromagnetic sources such as amps, radios, stage lights, and so on; as a result of this modification, the pickup had a pickup with a substantially higher output and less noise.
Despite having two single-coil portions that were offset, the P-style pickup was the first humbucking pickup. Half of the pickup was used for the E and A strings, while the other half was utilized for the D and G strings. As a result, the early rock ‘n roll bass sound was characterised by a bass guitar with a buttery smooth low-end and a lot of midrange growl.
The Jazz Bass and its traditional two single-coil layout by Fender remedied the P-style pickup’s lone flaw—a lack of high-end sparkle—later.
There are a few changes to the tried-and-true design, but the P-style form-factor largely stays the same.
In addition to the common split-coil with exposed pole components, fully enclosed P-style pickups are also available.
Because the coils are coated in resin, this design is less likely to deteriorate over time.
There are also “real” humbuckers in the P-style arrangement, similar to the Dimarzio DP127, with two distinct coils in each half of the pickup.
Another factor to take into account is the fact that different pickup manufacturers use pickups with different physical dimensions. For example, the replacement pickup will not fit inside the pickup cutout of your bass because the P-style pickup in an Ibanez bass is narrower than the standard Precision pickup.
The cost of the pickup switch will likely increase because a luthier would likely need to fix this problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are Precision Bass pickups?
Precision Bass pickups, often referred to as P-Bass pickups, are a type of magnetic pickup used in bass guitars, specifically in Fender Precision Bass models. These pickups play a crucial role in capturing the sound of the bass guitar and converting it into an electrical signal that can be amplified.
How do Precision Bass pickups work?
Precision Bass pickups work on the principle of electromagnetic induction. They consist of magnets and wire coils. When the bass strings vibrate over the pickups, they disturb the magnetic field around the pickups, inducing an electrical current in the coils. This current is then sent to the amplifier, producing the sound of the bass.
What is the difference between Precision Bass pickups and Jazz Bass pickups?
The main difference lies in the design and the resulting sound. Precision Bass pickups are a single-coil design, providing a classic, deep, and punchy tone. Jazz Bass pickups, on the other hand, are usually dual-coil (humbucking), offering a brighter and more versatile sound with less noise.
Are P basses harder to play?
P basses are not more difficult to play than any other bass guitar for a player of average size. True, a Fender Precision bass guitar is quite hefty, has a thick/chunky neck, and has wide string spacing, giving the impression that it is more difficult to play. If you have small hands or are short in stature, you may need to modify your playing approach, but once you get used to them, they are just as simple to play as any other bass guitar.
Is P-Bass good for slap?
Ibanez, EBMM, or Fender J-basses are better for slap bass playing than P-basses. Bassists who play in the slap manner favor the bright, glassy tones produced by active or passive single-coil pickups. It doesn’t mean you can’t just slap on a P-bass; it just won’t sound the same.
Are P Bass pickups noisy?
If the bass is protected and the pole parts are grounded, the split-coil pickup on the P bass is not noisy. Noise cancellation comes naturally to split-coil pickups. The 60-cycle hum may, however, be present in vintage or era-authentic P bass pickups, although that is intentional.