Best Bare Knuckle Guitar Pickups: A Buyer’s Guide


Bare Knuckle are well known for making top quality electric and bass guitar pickups. Their range is pretty large, so it can be hard to choose the right ones for your guitar. In this article, I’ll take you through the full range of humbuckers, single coils, P90s and bass guitar pickups available, so by the end of the article, you’ll have a much better idea of which ones are most suitable for you.

At a Glance

Bare Knuckle make passive humbucker, single coil and P90 pickups for electric guitar. They also have a bass guitar pickup range. They have a diverse selection of output levels and voicings to suit every music style from country to thrash metal, and use alnico and ceramic magnets.

Deciding on the Type

Before we talk about specific models in the range, I think it’s good to have an idea about whether you’re looking for single coil, P90 or humbucker pickups. Bare Knuckle made a pretty large range, and the easiest way to split it down is to categorise them into the main pickup types.

You may already be clear on what you want, but if you want some help choosing between the different pickup types, then check out my ultimate guide to pickups to take you through the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Also if you have a defined style of music and want to achieve a specific tone, then it’s easier to narrow down the options within the Bare Knuckle range. If you’re looking for something more versatile, then a couple of things to consider, are the magnet type and output.

The output refers to the power of the pickup, and high-output pickups are best suited to heavy styles of music such as metal. Lower output pickups are often referred to as “vintage”.

There are two main types of magnets used in Bare Knuckle pickups: alnico and ceramic. Here’s the difference:

  • Alnico: these have a large dynamic range and sound a bit fuller and warmer. They are considered very versatile and suit a wide range of music styles.
  • Ceramic: these have the highest output and more treble to give them a crisp tone. Ceramic pickups are often associated with modern metal, as they are able to produce a powerful sound whilst maintaining excellent clarity when using distortion.

To further complicate things, there are multiple types of alnico:

  • Alnico II: these are fairly weak and produce a “vintage” tone with more mid-range. The lows are quite loose, instead of being tight, causing it to sound smooth.
  • Alnico III: this is the weakest type of alnico and has very loose bass frequencies, a full mid-range and glassy highs. The effect is a vintage, smooth tone.
  • Alnico IV: this is stronger than alnico II and III, but weaker than alnico IV. It has a very balanced EQ and tighter bass and treble than alnico II.
  • Alnico V: this is the strongest type of alnico and produces the brightest tone.

As well as the output, pay attention to the EQ balance. This means the balance of the bass, mids and treble frequencies. Here are some examples of common EQ compositions:

  • Scooped mids: low mid-range in comparison to the bass and treble. This produces a thinner sound however is popular when palm muting and was used frequently in the ’80s and ’90s metal scene.
  • Boosted mids: this helps the sound of the guitar to cut through the mix and is popular amongst lead guitarists.
  • Boosted treble: this will provide more brightness and clarity and is popular amongst lead guitarists. The opposite, produces a more mellow tone which is common for rhythm playing.
  • Boosted bass: this produces a “boomy”, heavy and dark tone. On the other hand “tight bass” produces a more focused tone, which is popular in modern metal and helpful for detuned guitars.

What does all this mean then? Well, a lot of it is personal preference, but some guitars benefit from different EQ balances as well. Here are some main points to consider:

  • Bolt-on neck and double cutaway guitars usually benefit from more mid-range focused pickups
  • Drop-tuned guitars usually benefit from a tighter bass
  • Heavy and single cutaway guitars may benefit from slightly scooped mids and boosted treble to brighten the tone

Now we’ve been through some basics, let’s have a look at the Bare Knuckle range. I’ve split this article into the following sections from here, so you can get to grips with the pickup type you’re most interested in, or have a browse of them all.

  • Humbuckers
  • P90s
  • HSP90s
  • Stratocaster Single Coils
  • Telecaster Single Coils
  • Bass Guitar Pickups

Humbuckers

Bare Knuckle primarily specialise in passive humbucker pickups and make an extensive range to suit different music styles. Pretty much every model is available in 6, 7 and 8 string versions, and they have a version for the neck pickup and a version for the bridge pickup, so you can buy them individually or as a set.

There are multiple designs and colours available for each pickup type, and some have their own exclusive finish, which can be found in addition to the basic options. Here are some examples of the different designs. Remember that each pickup is available with multiple designs, these images are just to show some options. All the images link to the product on Amazon.

The Mule

Ragnarok

Nailbomb

Rebel Yell

At the time of writing this article, there are 25 models of humbucker pickups in the Bare Knuckle line-up. The range can be split into two divisions: the standard range, and the Boot Camp range. The standard range is the most premium, whilst the Boot Camp pickups offer a stripped-back and more affordable alternative.

Before we talk about the styles of music and tones they produce, here is a table to summarise them all.

PickupsBridge MagnetNeck MagnetStrings
Boot Camp Old GuardAlnico IIAlnico II6, 7
Boot Camp True GritAlnico VAlnico V6, 7
Boot Camp Brute ForceCeramicCeramic6, 7
Stormy MondayAlnico IIAlnico II6, 7, 8
PG BluesAlnico IIAlnico II6, 7, 8
The MuleAlnico IVAlnico IV6, 7, 8
Riff RaffAlnico VAlnico V6, 7, 8
VHIIAlnico VAlnico V6, 7, 8
Black DogAlnico VAlnico V6, 7, 8
EmeraldAlnico VAlnico V6, 7, 8
AbraxasAlnico IVAlnico IV6, 7, 8
Black HawkCeramic or Alnico VAlnico V6, 7
ImpulseAlnico VAlnico V6, 7
Rebel YellAlnico VAlnico V6, 7, 8
Cold SweatCeramicAlnico V6, 7, 8
AftermathCeramicAlnico V6, 7, 8
CrawlerAlnico VAlnico IV6, 7, 8
NailbombCeramic or Alnico IVAlnico IV6, 7, 8
JuggernautCeramic Alnico MixAlnico V6, 7, 8
SiloAlnico VAlnico V6, 7, 8
HolydiverAlnico VAlnico V6, 7, 8
PainkillerCeramicCeramic6, 7, 8
RagnarokCeramicCeramic6, 7, 8
Miracle ManCeramicAlnico V6, 7, 8
WarpigCeramic or Alnico VAlnico V6, 7, 8
Bare Knuckle Humbucker Range

Instead of going through each pickup individually, I’ve grouped them into the type of tone they produce, and made some key points to distinguish between the pickups in each group.

The groups are:

  • Vintage: these have a lower output and suit lighter styles of music such as country, blues and rock. They work well in solid, semi-hollow and hollow body guitars.
  • Vintage Hot: these have a medium-level output and work well for a wide variety of music styles, offering the most versatile tone. They work best in solid body guitars.
  • Contemporary: these have the highest output and are most suited to metal and heavy rock. They are designed for solid body guitars.

Vintage

There are five pickups which have a lower output vintage tone: Boot Camp Old Guard, Stormy Monday, PG Blues, The Mule and Riff Raff. They suit solid body, semi-hollow and hollow body electric guitars.

Here’s a description of the EQ of each pickup:

  • Boot Camp Old Guard: boosted treble to give it a bright tone suited to country, blues and rock.
  • Stormy Monday: scooped mid-range, loose low end and smooth upper end. Suited to blues, country, jazz, funk and classic rock.
  • PG Blues: very scooped mid-range, smooth bass and treble. Suited to blues, country, jazz, funk and classic rock.
  • The Mule: higher output than Stormy Monday and PG Blues. Balanced EQ with slight treble emphasis for a crisper tone. Very versatile and suits anything from blues and country to metal, but sits most comfortably in the classic rock genre.
  • Riff Raff: tight bass frequencies and boosted treble and mids to give it a punchy tone. Suits blues, rock, punk and metal, but is less suited to country than the other pickups in the vintage category.
Bareknuckle.co.uk data from product descriptions was used help to create this table

Vintage Hot

There are five pickups with medium output in the Vintage Hot category: Boot Camp True Grit, VHII, Black Dog, Emerald, and Abraxas. These pickups are well suited to all types of rock, blues and even some types of metal, and they work best on solid body guitars.

Here’s a brief description of the tone of each model:

  • Boot Camp True Grit: very balanced EQ producing a neutral tone.
  • VHII: balanced EQ with emphasis on the treble and mids slightly to add clarity.
  • Black Dog: boosted mid-range and fairly even bass and treble for cutting leads.
  • Emerald: balanced EQ with emphasis on the treble and mids slightly to add clarity.
  • Abraxas: fairly flat EQ for a neutral tone.
Bareknuckle.co.uk data from product descriptions was used help to create this table

Contemporary

This range is made up of the higher output and more aggressive pickups which are most suited to punk heavy rock and metal, and are made for solid body electric guitars.

Here’s a brief description of each model:

  • Boot Camp Brute Force: balanced EQ with slightly boosted mids.
  • Black Hawk: balanced EQ with slightly boosted mids and treble.
  • Impulse: slightly scooped mids with even bass and treble.
  • Rebel Yell: tight bass and balanced mids and treble.
  • Cold Sweat: scooped mids and boosted treble.
  • Aftermath: balanced EQ with slightly tightened bass.
  • Crawler: focus on the mid range.
  • Nailbomb: scooped mids and boosted treble.
  • Juggernaut: boosted mids and slightly boosted bass.
  • Silo: balanced EQ with slightly reduced treble.
  • Holydiver: fairly balanced EQ with slightly boosted mids and tight bass.
  • Painkiller: balanced EQ with slightly boosted mids and treble.
  • Ragnarok: boosted mids and bass, reduced treble.
  • Miracle Man: scooped mid-range and boosted treble.
  • Warpig: balanced EQ with slightly boosted mids and bass.
Bareknuckle.co.uk data from product descriptions was used help to create this table

Tone Examples

Here is a video demonstrating the tone of 4 different Bare Knuckle humbuckers in the bridge position.

Which Humbuckers are the Best?

So now we’ve taken a look at the passive humbucker range in some detail, you hopefully will have a bit more of an idea of which pickups are more suited to your style of music. Here are my top recommendations.

  • Best for Country: Stormy Monday
  • Best for Blues and Classic Rock: Riff Raff
  • Most Versatile: The Mule
  • Great for Lead: Rebel Yell
  • Perfect for Metal: Warpig

These are just my opinions though, have a think about the kind of EQ balance and output you’re looking for to help you make your decision. Here is a table to summarise what guitars and music styles these pickups are best suited to, and the output rating.

Keep in mind that just because a pickup is listed as best suited for metal in the table, doesn’t mean you have to use it for metal. Also, you can put some pickups which are designed for a solid body guitar in a semi-hollow for example, or vice-versa. These are all just guidelines.

PickupsMusic StylesGuitar SuitabilityOutput
Boot Camp Old GuardCountry, bluesSolid/ Semi-Hollow/ HollowVintage
Boot Camp True GritBlues, rock, grungeSolid/ Semi-Hollow/ HollowMedium
Boot Camp Brute ForceRock, metalSolid/ Semi-HollowHigh
Stormy MondayBlues, country, rockSolid/ Semi-Hollow/ HollowVintage
PG BluesBlues, country, jazz, rockSolid/ Semi-Hollow/ HollowVintage
The MuleJazz, blues, rock, metalSolid/ Semi-Hollow/ HollowVintage
Riff RaffBlues, rock, punk, alternativeSolid/ Semi-HollowVintage
VHIIFunk, garage, rockSolidMedium
Black DogPunk, grunge, rock, metalSolidMedium
EmeraldPunk, grunge, rock, metalSolidSolid
AbraxasGrunge and rockSolidMedium
Black HawkRock and metalSolidHigh
ImpulseRock, punk, metalSolidHigh
Rebel YellRock, punk, shred, ‘80s metalSolidHigh
Cold SweatPunk, grunge, metalSolidHigh
AftermathPunk, rock, metalSolidHigh
CrawlerRock and metalSolidHigh
NailbombPunk, grunge, metalSolidHigh
JuggernautMetal, shred, extremeSolidHigh
SiloRock and metalSolidHigh
HolydiverGarage, hard rock, metalSolidHigh
PainkillerPunk, rock, Djent MetalSolidHigh
RagnarokHard rock, metalSolidHigh
Miracle ManHard rock, metalSolidHigh
WarpigHard rock, metal, extremeSolidVery High
Bare Knuckle Humbucker Pickup Music Style Suitability, Guitar Suitability and Output

P90 Pickups

Now let’s take a look at the Bar Knuckle P90 range. P90 pickup offer solid outputs, but tend to be less warm than humbuckers, yet a bit fuller than single coils, offering the player a balanced and versatile tone.

There are 9 main pickups in the P90 range, 6 in the premium line-up and 3 in the more affordable, stripped-back Boot Camp range. Here is a quick table to summarise the magnets used. All pickups are currently only available in 6-string versions. You can purchase either the neck version or bridge version individually, or as a set.

PickupsBridge MagnetNeck MagnetStrings
Boot Camp Old GuardAlnico IIAlnico II6
Boot Camp True GritAlnico VAlnico V6
Boot Camp Brute ForceCeramicCeramic6
Half Note 90Alnico IIIAlnico III6
Blue Note 90Alnico IIAlnico II6
Mississippi Queen 90Alnico VAlnico IV6
Nantucket 90Alnico VAlnico V6
Supermassive 90Alnico VAlnico V6
Stockholm 90Alnico VAlnico V6
‘Pig 90Alnico VAlnico V6
Bare Knuckle P90 Range

Now let’s take a look at the EQ balance for each pickup.

Bareknuckle.co.uk data from product descriptions was used help to create this table

To make things easier to compare each pickup, I’ve created another table to summarise the output, the styles of music each P90 pickup is suitable for and what type of guitar it works best in.

PickupsMusic StylesGuitar SuitabilityOutput
Boot Camp Old GuardCountry, blues, alternativeSolid/ semi-hollow/ hollowVintage
Half Note 90Jazz, blues, funkSemi-hollow, hollowVintage
Blue Note 90Country, blues, alternativeSolid/ semi-hollow/ hollowVintage
Boot Camp True GritBlues, rock, grunge, punkSolid/ semi-hollow/ hollowMedium
Mississippi Queen 90Blues, alternative, rockSolid/ semi-hollowMedium
Nantucket 90Blues, alternative, rockSolid/ semi-hollowMedium
Supermassive 90Blues, rock, grungeSolid/ semi-hollowMid-High
Boot Camp Brute ForceRock, metalSolid/ semi-hollowHigh
Stockholm 90Rock, grunge, metalSolid/ semi-hollowHigh
‘Pig 90Rock, metal, doom, shredSolid bodyHigh
Bare Knuckle P90 Pickup Music Style Suitability, Guitar Suitability and Output

HSP90 Pickups

Bare Knuckle make a range of P90 pickups which are shaped like humbuckers.

This allows you to get those vintage P90 tones, but on a guitar which is designed to take humbucker pickups instead. There are 7 pickups in the range which all come in 6 and 7 string options. Here’s a table to summarise them.

PickupBridge MagnetsNeck MagnetsStrings
ManhattanAlnico IIIAlnico III6, 7
Blue NoteAlnico IIAlnico II6, 7
Mississippi QueenAlnico VAlnico IV6, 7
NantucketAlnico VAlnico V6, 7
SupermassiveAlnico VAlnico V6, 7
StockholmAlnico VAlnico V6, 7
‘PigAlnico VAlnico V6, 7
Bare Knuckle HSP90 Range

They are voiced to sound like the P90 pickups we discussed in the previous section, so I won’t repeat myself here by going over their suitability for different music styles and the EQ balance again. The only new one is the Manhattan, which is the most “vintage” sounding, which uses alnico III magnets and is designed for jazz players primarily.

Stratocaster Pickups

Now onto the single coils. Bare Knuckle make single coils specifically voiced for Stratocasters and Telecasters, so let’s start with the Strat models.

There are 14 pickups designed for single coil Stratocasters, 11 of which are the premium models, and 3 of which are the Boot Camp models, offering stripped-back and more affordable options. Here is a quick table to summarise the magnets used in each model.

PickupMagnetsStrings
Bootcamp Old GuardAlnico II6
Boot Camp True GritAlnico V6
Boot Camp Brute ForceCeramic6
ApacheAlnico III6, 7
The SultansAlnico II6, 7
Pat Pend ’59 Slab BoardAlnico V6, 7
Pat Pend ’63 Veneer BoardAlnico V6, 7
Mother’s MilkAlnico V6, 7
Irish TourAlnico V6, 7
Slow HandAlnico V6, 7
ImpulseCeramic6, 7
CobraCeramic6, 7
Trilogy SuiteAlnico V6, 7
The SinnerAlnico V6, 7
Bare Knuckle Stratocaster Single Coil Range

Now let’s take a look at the EQ balance of each pickup.

Bareknuckle.co.uk data from product descriptions was used help to create this table

Here is a summary table to show the music style suitability, and output level of each pickup. Keep in mind that these are just guidelines and you can use any of the pickups for whatever music style you like, tone is just personal preference.

PickupMusic StylesOutput
Bootcamp Old GuardCountry, blues, rockLow
ApacheCountry, jazz, pop, surf, blues, funkLow
The SultansCountry, jazz, pop, surf, blues, funkLow
Pat Pend ’59 Slab BoardCountry, blues, jazz, pop, rockLow
Pat Pend ’63 Veneer BoardCountry, blues, jazz, pop, rockLow
Mother’s MilkCountry, blues, funk, pop, rockLow
Boot Camp True GritBlues, rock, grungeMedium
Irish TourBlues, funk, pop, punk, rockMedium
Slow HandBlues, funk, pop, punk, rockMedium
Boot Camp Brute ForceRock, metalHigh
ImpulseRock, metalHigh
CobraFusion, rock, metalHigh
Trilogy SuiteFusion, rock, metalHigh
The SinnerHard rock, metalHigh
Bare Knuckle Stratocaster Pickup Music Style Suitability, Guitar Suitability and Output

Telecaster Pickups

There are 13 single coil pickups in this range. The “Boot Camp” range offers stripped-back and more affordable options and consists of three models: Old Guard, True Grit and Brute Force.

Here is a table to show you the magnets used in each model. All models in the table below are available only in 6-string versions. You can purchase individually voiced neck and bridge pickups separately, or as a pair for all models except for the Cobra T which is a bridge-only pickup.

PickupMagnets
Boot Camp Old GuardAlnico II
Boot Camp True GritAlnico IV
Boot Camp Brute ForceAlnico V
Blackguard Flat ‘50Alnico V
Blackguard Flat ‘52Alnico V
Blackguard 55 StaggerAlnico V
Blackguard 68 StaggerAlnico V
Country BoyAlnico III
YardbirdAlnico IV
Brown SugarAlnico V
The BossAlnico V
PiledriverAlnico V
Cobra TCeramic
Bare Knuckle Single Coil Telecaster Pickups

Now let’s take a look at the EQ balance of each pickup.

Bareknuckle.co.uk data from product descriptions was used help to create this table

Here is a summary table to show the music style suitability, and output level of each pickup. Keep in mind that these are just guidelines and you can use any of the pickups for whatever music style you like, tone is just personal preference.

PickupMusic StylesOutput
Boot Camp Old GuardBlues, country, popLow
Boot Camp True GritBlues, rockMedium
Boot Camp Brute ForceRock, metalHigh
Blackguard Flat ‘50Blues, country, pop, classic rockLow
Blackguard Flat ‘52Blues, country, pop, classic rockLow
Blackguard 55 StaggerBlues, country, pop, classic rockLow
Blackguard 68 StaggerBlues, country, pop, classic rockLow
Country BoyBlues, country, pop, classic rockLow
YardbirdBlues, rockMedium
Brown SugarBlues, rockMedium
The BossBlues, rockMedium
PiledriverBlues, rock, metalHigh
Cobra TBlues, rock, metalHigh
Bare Knuckle Telecaster Pickup Music Style Suitability, Guitar Suitability and Output

Bass Guitar Pickups

Bare Knuckle make two types of bass guitar pickups: the J Bass range (designed for the Jazz bass) and the P Bass range (designed for the Precision Bass). All the pickups are passive and use Alnico V magnets. The J Bass range has two models, and the P Bass range includes 4 models.

Here is a table to summarise the range.

PickupsMagnetStrings
J Bass – ‘60 HFAlnico V4, 5
J Bass – ’60 PEAlnico V4, 5
P Bass – ’51 Flat Pole PAlnico V4
P Bass – ’52 Stagger PAlnico V4
P Bass – ’58 Split Coil PAlnico V4
P Bass – ’65 Split Coil PAlnico V4
Bare Knuckle Telecaster Bass Pickup Range

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the answers to some questions you might still have about Bare Knuckle pickups.

Are Bare Knuckle pickups active or passive?

All Bare Knuckle pickups current available are passive pickups. They do have some pickups with a high output designed to produce the high power and crisp tones of active pickups such as the Black Hawk, Aftermath, Ragnarok, Warpig and Painkiller humbuckers.

Where are Bare Knuckle pickups made?

Bare Knuckle guitar pickups are all made in the South West of England. All the pickups are made in-house and are hand-wound by a small team led by the founder, MD Tim Mills.

Which players use Bare Knuckle pickups?

Many famous guitarists have used or currently use Bare Knuckle pickups including Matt Bellamy, Steve Stevens, Johnny Marr, Mike Shinoda and Andy Sneap.

Which guitar brands use Bare Knuckle pickups?

Several electric guitar brands use Bare Knuckle pickups on their high end guitars including ESP, Ibanez and Manson.

Here are some more articles you might find helpful:

Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

Recent Posts