The P Bass has been the weapon of choice for bass players for over 70 years and has been used in every imaginable musical context.
But not all P Basses are the same, and as a platform, this 70-year-old bass can cover a lot of tonal territory, that is, with the right pickups.
In this article, we’ll give you an overview of some of the best Precision Bass pickups that are available in 2024.
The ‘51 Precision Bass Pickup
The ‘51 P Bass pickup is the OG of all bass pickups. This was the pickup that made the electric bass a household name in studios and stages across the world.
Traditionally ‘51 has a woody thump that helps it fit just right in any mix. Just ask Sting, who has been rocking one of these in his P Bass for decades.
Kloppmann Pickups runs out of a small shop in Germany where its founder, Andreas Kloppmann, has been meticulously collecting the best-sounding guitars and basses from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
The PB 55 is his accurate reproduction of a particularly good-sounding P Bass pickup from 1955. This is, without a doubt, one of the best-sounding and likely one of the most accurate replicas of the early P bass.
Fralin 51 P Bass Single Coil
Fralin has his own take on the ‘51 P Bass pickup, it has all the vintage mojo you’d expect from the classic pickup but it adds a touch of clarity, as is the calling card of their pickups.
If you’re looking for a ‘51 that’s more balanced and doesn’t get muddy, then the Fralin 51 P Bass Single Coil should be on your shortlist.
Nordstrand 51P4S Hum-Cancelling Pickup
Nordstrand has found a way to make hum-cancelling pickups that retain the dynamics and character of their single-coil counterparts.
Just as they do with their J Bass line, the Nordstrand 51P4S sounds nearly indistinguishable from a traditional single coil, just without the noise.
So if you love the vintage ‘51 P Bass vibe, but don’t want to deal with all the hum, then the 51P4S is the way to go.
Vintage era correct P Bass pickups
Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a late 50s or early 60s P Bass?
However, we have to deal with the reality that these 60+ year-old instruments are becoming very difficult to find in playable condition and they command steep prices.
Thankfully several bass guitar pickup builders have taken it upon themselves to help bass players looking for accurate vintage P Bass tone to get incredibly accurate reproductions of these holy-grail pickups.
The NP4 was one of Nordstrand’s first designs and it’s a really interesting take on what a vintage pickup sounds like. Our take is that it sounds like a combination of late 50s and early 60s P Bass Designs. It’s very dynamic and has a subtle high mid presence that makes it sound great in a mix.
By the time the 60s came along, the Precision Bass had established itself as the professional’s bass of choice. The instrument had become increasingly popular and Fender had started to make slight changes to the original split coil pickup that had come out 5 years earlier.
The PB63 is Andreas Kloppmann’s take on a particularly awesome-sounding 1963 P Bass pickup. Compared to other vintage voiced pickups, the PB63 is more even sounding in the mid-range and has a bit of an extended high-end that gives it great balance and clarity.
Seymour Duncan SPB-1
Seymour Duncan has been winding pickups since the 70s and has grown into a household name when it comes to pickups. As such, they have a line that covers everything from vintage to modern in just about every bass pickup shape and form.
The SPB-1 is their take on the vintage P Bass pickup. The Duncans have a slightly warmer voice that would make it a perfect match for a bright-sounding bass.
New Vintage P Bass Pickups
Vintage P Bass tones are amazing, but what happens if you want more? Like more output, extended lows, or crisper highs out of your P Bass.
This is where the "New Vintage" category of pickups comes in. These pickups were designed to give you a tone that still sounds like a P Bass but with a little something extra added to the mix.
Bartolini is one of the OGs in the aftermarket bass pickup scene. These folks were pretty much the creators of the “New Vintage" category.
The 8CBP is what we would describe as a bigger and growlier-sounding P Bass pickup. It has a unique low-mid character that makes it sound big, but not muddy and the right amount of top end to balance out the tone. The intro track to our pickup demo videos uses the Bartolini 8CBP.
Nordstrand The Power Blade
If looks were the only factor when you considered pickups, then the Power Blade would be the one you’d get. The good news is that the Power Blade doesn’t only have good looks, but also some really cool tones to match.
At first glance, you might think that the Power Blade is some high-powered over-the-top monster pickup. But in reality, it’s very well balanced and still has defined P Bass DNA. Compared to a vintage-voiced pickup, the Power Blade has bigger low mids, less honky mid-range, and added punch.
Nordstrand has another entry in the new vintage category. While the Power Blade leans more to the “New” end of the spectrum, the NP4a leans to the vintage side.
Compared to a vintage voiced P Bass pickup, the NP4a has added presence in the high end which ends up giving the tone a more balanced feel. If you’re inclined to slap or do any percussive techniques, or if you’d want a clearer-sounding P Bass, the NP4a is one to consider.
Modern Voiced P Bass Pickups
Sometimes pickup designers don’t feel like basing their designs on something that already exists, or they simply want to see what’s possible with the platform. This creativity and sense of exploration is what gives life to the Modern category.
You’ll find that in this category, there is the biggest variation between models. So if you love your P bass, but want to explore new tonal ground, these pickup builders have got you covered.
Delano PMVC4 FE/M2 & PC 4 HE/M2
Delano is a small shop from Germany that has a unique way of approaching pickup design. If we were to describe them, it seems like they approach their designs within the context of a full band mix.
As such, the PMVC4 FE/M2 is punchy, articulate, and dynamic. It still remind you of a P Bass, but it has a way of jumping out in the mix without losing the low end. This is truly a very unique design that a lot of bass players are falling in love with.
Delano’s PC4 HE/M2 is clean and clear. A direct sounding pickup, similar to the Nordstrand Power Blade with the slightest touch of compression. Our audio/video demo talent (Andrew Dow) described this pickup as somewhere in between the Bartolini and EMG tone.
These pickups are Aguilar’s take on a modern P Bass pickup. These pickups have the aim of sounding full and big. This means that they have extended low and high end with an entirely different mid character than a traditional P Bass pickup.
What you’ll find with the DCB-4P is that it sounds louder and fuller with a bit of high-end sparkle. This could be a great match if you were to pair it with an active preamp to give you some additional tone-shaping ability.
EMGs are the original modern pickup. Ever since they came out in the late 70s, their designs have been characterized as being a truly active pickup, since they have a premplifier built into each pickup.
The PX is the latest iteration of their active pickups for P Bass. It’s designed to give you additional dynamic and frequency range. In practice, these pickups have a slight mid scoop that gives them a clarity and sparkle that is hard to find in any other P Bass design.
Artist Signature P Bass pickups
There have been countless bass legends who have chosen the P Bass as their main groove tool. However, some of them have tried to push their tone into areas that weren’t possible with the original electronics.
So they teamed up with manufacturers to create pickups that would give them their unique tones and make them available to every bass player.
Seymour Duncan SPB-4 Steve Harris
The Steve Harris signature P Bass pickup was designed to give the Iron Maiden bass player some additional heft and output to complement his percussive playing technique.
Interestingly, it is very well-balanced and doesn’t go overboard in terms of output. A good way to think of it is as a slightly hotter vintage-voiced bass pickup. This is a great-sounding pickup that can do a lot more than just old-school heavy metal.
EMG LC4 Les Claypool
These pickups are gold! Golden actually, but they have served one of the most groundbreaking bass players as the foundation of his tone for decades.
The LC4s are based on the original EMG P active pickup design, but use an alnico magnet instead of the classic ceramic. This gives them additional mids that will help you cut through the mix, without sacrificing clarity.
We’re living in the golden era of bass gear. Today you’ll be able to find just about any precision bass pickup you need to chase down the tone inside your head and bring it to reality.
If you’re looking to take your P Bass’s tone to the next level, but aren’t sure how to get there, give us a call or shoot us an email. We’ve helped thousands of bass players find the right P Bass pickup for their musical goals. Check out all of our bass guitar pickups.