In addition to being a private violin teacher, Alecia started writing music-related articles 3 years ago and has been enjoying this experience greatly. Loves quilting and scrapbooking in her free time.
Marcus has a vast experience in digital audio and sound design. Thanks to his knowledge, he actively helps musicians with technical problems, improving their audio quality and even promoting their tracks so that thousands of listeners could enjoy some really good music.
Last updated: April 28, 2021
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Humbuckers are designed to improve the sounds of an electric guitar. They ward off external noise and produce loud, warm sounds instead of the snappier tones that many single-coil pickups have, bucking the hum as it were. But why a mini? These smaller units are made to eliminate the buzz while keeping the snappier tone of a single-coil. If you’re looking for the best mini humbucker, you’re in the right place.
To put together this review, we considered a few important factors. Dimensions are important. These products vary slightly in size so you need to know what you’re looking for as far as mounting goes. Every mini humbucker has a magnet that induces an alternating voltage across the coils of the strings. These magnets come in a few different materials, each affecting the sound in a different way. Resistance is important, too. Basically, the higher the resistance, the louder the sound (but you do lose a bit of brightness). And, of course, we looked at warranty information, too.
We spend hours researching expert opinions, manufacturers’ specs, and customer opinions to put together this review. First, you’ll find a table where you can compare all our picks side by side. Keep reading for in-depth reviews of each product followed by a detailed buying guide to help you find the best mini humbucker for your sound.
Our Editor’s Pick is the Seymour Duncan Antiquity II Mini Humbucker Pickup Set. We really love the unique look of this set. Each is hand built just like the originals and then aged for a cool vintage look. They actually mount to your guitar just like the original Les Paul Deluxe. And, as a bonus, you get three sets of guitar strings, too.
In addition to looking cool, the sound quality is great. You get a nice mix of grit and growl, ideal for any genre of music. This set includes two humbuckers, one for the next and one for the bridge. When placed in the neck position, it gives a warm, full sound while bridge position brings focus to the low tones and grit to the highs. This set articulates clean tones and adds character and growl to dirty ones. Single notes stand out and chords are warm and inviting.
These can be used with any guitar with a Les Paul Deluxe or P90 soapbar. While there are few complaints about the sound, some users did mention that the cover needed tightening or completely reset. You may also need additional hardware to mount them. They are covered by a one-year warranty so if there are any problems, the should be covered.
The Lace Mini Nitro Hemi Humbucker Set is the best choice for metal because it provides such clarity and articulation without muddying notes or chords together. They use vintage gauge coil wire and a barium ferrite “HOT” magnet to deliver high-gain metal tones. The pair can be split for single-coil operation if need be.
They feature aggressive mid-ranges and are responsive to picking, delivering a punch of sound that’s great for heavy metal but works with other genres, too. In the neck, lows are deep in character and tone and the highs scream and shred. The bridge version delivers high output with deep detail and depth. Every note has great harmonics and presents boldly, articulating and adding clarity.
There wasn’t a lot of complaints about this set. Something we should mention is that some users felt the neck and bridge didn’t produce the same quality sound. The neck edges out the bridge just a bit and they might not deliver when used together because the bridge can be a little too muddy. That said, there were also users that had no complaints so this is definitely about personal preference and what you like your sound to be.
If you’re looking for a great mini-humbucker for jazz music, take a look at the DiMarzio DP241 Vintage Minibucker. It’s available in neck and bridge versions, though the bridge model can be used to add warm, jazzy tones when used at the neck. Plus, four-conductor wiring is included for more sound options.
This mini-humbucker adds clarity and gives heavy levels of amp gain for a truly dynamic sound. Notes don’t get muddy with amp distortion and it has a bright pick-up that really sparkles and isn’t harsh sounding. That’s not all, to eliminate microphonic squeaking, they pot the Vintage Minibucker in wax after the cover has been installed.
The nickel cover is sleek and shiny and looks really cool, too. One thing to note is that it’s slightly larger than some other brands so you might have to make some adjustments to install. Some users also mentioned that they may squeal a little on really high gains but this isn’t something that should affect most guitarists. Plus, it has a five-year limited warranty, the best of all the products we reviewed.
What are our favorite features?
Available in neck and bridge versions
Bridge model can be used at this neck for jazzy sounds
The TOM ANDERSON M-1 Mini Humbucker is made by Anderson Guitarworks. They started making guitars in Tom’s Anderson’s garage in the mid-1980s and have grown to a state of the art facility making some of the best guitars in the world. So, it’s no surprise that this mini-humbucker delivers.
The M-1 delivers unequaled sound. If you’re in the market for a fatter single coil tone, this is a great choice. You don’t even have to switch to bigger strings or tune down. This mini-humbucker is designed for neck and middle positions. For a balanced sound and to get the most out of the M-1, it should be paired with the M-2 on the bridge. The downside is that they’re sold separately. Don’t worry, you’ll still get a great sound with just the M-1 but it’s important to know the M-2 is also out there.
This one comes with a decent warranty, too. Most of the mini-humbuckers we reviewed are only covered for a year but the M-1 is covered for three. Hopefully, you won’t need it but the longer the warranty, the more you know the manufacturer stands behind their product.
Why did it make our list?
Made by Anderson Guitarworks
Designed for neck and middle positions
Provides a fatter single coil tone
What is not ideal about it?
Works best when paired with the M-2 on the bridge, which is sold separately
For beginners, the Seymour Duncan SM1-N is a great choice. It works really well with soft-wood bodies and rosewood fingerboards. This design is a perfect replica of the original mini humbucker pickups on Gibson Firebird and Les Paul guitars and gives a balanced, warm sound even at high volumes.
The neck pickup brings a blend of bright highs and focused lows while the bridge version gives a noticeable improvement in an overall tone similar to a full-sized humbucker though it isn’t quite as thick. That said, you can pair the neck with other bridge mini humbuckers, too, for a more versatile sound. It has enough drive to cut through and adds a gritty, tonal sound that’s great for any music genre.
These mini humbuckers are hand made in Santa Barbara, California and designed to be a simple drop-in replacement. It uses Firebird style mounting and comes with a braided single conductor lead wire. Screws and spacers for mounting are included. That said, some users felt that installing it was a little tricky, particularly because the single wire isn’t as easy to solder as a double. The negative and positive wires must still be separated which can be a little difficult. Nonetheless, after installation, users were generally satisfied with the end result.
What makes it special?
Great for beginners
Replica of original Led Paul and Gibson Firebird mini humbucker pickups
Effective even at high volumes
Neck and bridge versions available
Hand made in California
Mounting hardware and spacers included
What cons did we find?
Installation can be difficult
Things to Consider
To find the best mini humbucker for your sound, it’s important to know what to look for. Here are some of the main things to keep in mind while you shop.
Mini humbucker vs the rest – know the difference
Mini humbuckers are designed to eliminate external noise, just like a regular humbucker. The difference is that mini humbuckers keep the bright snappy sounds that regular humbuckers eliminate. Overall, they’re pretty similar but there are some notable differences.
Obviously, a mini humbucker is smaller in size to the original. They’re so small, they fit in the palm of your hand. Their size is actually instrumental to the sound they produce. If you will compare them to, for example, P90 pickups, you’ll hear P90 guitar sounding brighter and clearer.
As for sound, a full-sized humbucker produces deep, rich sounds while a mini is somewhere between a single coil and a full-sized humbucker. Because minis are narrower, they sense less string vibration which keeps the sound more focused and bright. On the other hand, standard humbuckers tend to have less noise, more sustain, and stronger output. Which is better really depends on what sound you want to create.
Here’s a great video that demonstrates the difference in sound from a mini humbucker versus a regular one:
High-quality mini humbuckers are a little less expensive than their full-sized counterparts. A top-of-the-line standard humbucker can run upwards of $250 while a mini is around $150.
Features to consider while buying the best mini humbucker
So, what specific things should you be looking for? Let’s break it down one feature at a time.
Size, of course
Size is obviously one of the major reasons to choose a mini humbucker. The smaller size picks up shorter wavelengths from the strings than a standard humbucker. This directly results in less low-end enhancement and a lower output with a clearer, brighter high-end sound.
Mini humbuckers have lower iron content than their full-sized alternatives. This also heavily contributes to their sound characteristics. This difference largely contributes to the mini’s clarity and its ability to retain definition throughout heavy distortion. When pushed hard, though, a good mini also grinds and sings.
Minis are constructed in the same way as regular humbuckers, only on a smaller scale. There’s a bar magnet located under each coil with adjustable pole pieces. Each is made of a magnetic, ferrous alloy.
Magnets directly affect the output and tone. The material is important and so is the magnet layout.
Minis have three general layouts:
Individual magnetic poles which produce brighter, thinner sounds. Fender guitars and other single coils commonly use this layout.
Steel poles extending from a magnetic bar and typically used on Gibson guitars and have a fatter, darker sound.
Blade style layouts use a single metal bar instead of individual pole pieces and provide more consistency when bending strings.
Magnet material is really important, too. The most common is Alnico, which is a clever name for an alloy of aluminum, nickel, and cobalt. This is a popular material because it lasts a long time and is able to maintain its magnetic properties.
There are actually a few different types of Alnico. Alnico 3 has the weakest magnetic pull and provides a soft, gentle tone common to vintage Stratocasters. Alnico 2 is similar but has a stronger output. Alnico 5 is bolder and has an even higher output which makes it a great choice for musicians who play more than one genre of music. And Alnico 8 has the strongest magnetic pull which gives it a heavy, aggressive sound.
Another material that’s often used is ceramic which is the hottest of all. It’s used mostly for hard rock and heavy metal in part because of its clear, trebly sound.
Active or passive
Active or passive relates to the magnets as well. Passive humbuckers use magnets only while active humbuckers use magnets boosted by a preamp. In the beginning, all humbuckers were passive but active pickups came into the picture in the 1970s. The two have always been in a bit of a competition with one another and each has its advantages.
Active pickups generally provide greater clarity and consistency when it comes to tone. They provide stronger amp overdrive and a wider frequency range for a sharper sound. Plus, they have some extra headroom and more sustain.
Because passive pickups use only magnets, their pull is stronger which can actually have a negative effect on sustain and tone. Active pickups use weaker magnets and use the preamp to make up the difference.
It might seem like active pickups have a lot of advantages over passive and, on paper, they do. But the truth is a lot of musicians just prefer the sound of passive pickups and, in the end, that’s all that matters.
Passive pickups have one more advantage. By winding more copper wire, you can actually increase the output to an extent. Be careful here, though. Add too much and you can ruin the sound, making it flat and dull.
Generally, higher outputs allow for less range but make it easier to drive the amp while lower outputs have a cleaner sound but make it difficult to achieve an overdriven amp sound.
There are two wiring techniques for mini humbuckers. Parallel wiring is the standard method. The signal is initially split into two that come back together at the end. This results in lower output and a bright sound.
Series wiring lets the signal travel along one path through both coils, delivering a warmer sound with higher output.
The humbucker nearest the neck has a longer sustain and a warmer, fuller sound while the one at the bridge has a shorter sustain and a brighter sound. Some guitarists also place one in the middle which bridges the gap between the two to even things out a bit.
Warranties always matter and, thankfully, all of the products in our review are covered. A few are only covered for a year but others come with three or five-year warranties so you can get pretty decent coverage if you look for it.
Honestly, it depends on the sound you’re looking for. That’s the main reason for using a humbucker in the first place and it doesn’t hurt to learn how to use one while you’re learning how to play. That said, there’s nothing wrong with learning the guitar and adding a humbucker later to hone your sound. In either case, if you’re a beginner, it’s best to get help when installing your humbucker. Some can be quite tricky and placement is very important.
No, a mini won’t fit in a regular slot. The width is similar but minis are a little shorter. Some of the products we chose, like the Seymour Duncan SM1-N, come with everything you need for proper mounting.
Our Editor’s Pick is the Seymour Duncan Antiquity II Mini Humbucker Pickup Set. It includes a mini humbucker for both the neck and bridge, both with a cool vintage design that also adds some style. This set is a great fit for any musical genre and three sets of guitar strings are also included.
Another great choice is the Lace Mini Nitro Hemi Humbucker Set, particularly if metal is your thing. This set brings clarity and articulation without muddying and can be split for single-coil operation if needed. Plus, it comes with an impressive five-year warranty.
Finally, another best mini humbucker we recommend is the DiMarzio DP241 Vintage Minibucker. It comes in both neck and bridge versions but the bridge model can also be used at the neck for a warm, jazzy sound. Each is potted in wax to eliminate squeaking. It, too, has a five-year warranty.