New humbucker pickups are one of the best upgrades you can make to customize your guitar, and depending on what you're building, they're an essential component for piecing an axe together from scratch. This style of pickup was invented by Seth Lover in 1955 and went on to be used on the wildly popular Les Paul, so it's closely linked to Gibson lineage, although today it's found on guitars from every maker.
It's easy enough to explain what sets dual-coil and single-coil pickups apart: the humbucker has a second row of coils, with a polarity opposite the first set. This has two important effects on the pickup. First, they cancel out background interference or 'hum.' Secondly, they cover a wider portion of the string, which gives them a heavier, stronger tone. The result is a guitar with better power and volume, which is why humbuckers are so popular in metal and hard rock, since they can push amps harder to create more distortion.
Some guitars use humbucker pickups exclusively, while others have one fitted alongside a single-coil pickup which allows you to choose between the two, or combine them for a well-rounded sound. Every pickup has its own character, and when all is said and done, only your ear can tell you which one works best for you. The job of any guitar pickup is the same, though—to turn the vibration of the strings into an electrical signal that your amp can interpret.
Like other pickups, humbuckers come in a range of output levels as well as active and passive designs. The more distortion you want, the higher the output level you should use. Or, if you want off-the-charts distortion levels while maintaining a tight, controlled tone, consider active pickups. These come with a built-in preamp to give you the benefits of a humbucker while also helping to shape your tone.
No matter where your preference falls, from moderate to high output, active or passive, boutique or off-the-shelf—as long as you enjoy the sound a pickup puts out, you can call it the right one for you. There are dozens of humbucker pickups to choose from, so don't be afraid to experiment and try out different ones until you find the sweet spot that fits you perfectly.