Gibson 490R/T vs 498T Pickups: What are the Differences?


If you’re looking to buy a Gibson electric guitar, or you want to upgrade your guitar with aftermarket pickups from Gibson, then you the 490 and 498 pickups are great options to look at. But what is the difference between the two types?

In this article I’ll compare these two Gibson pickups with particular emphasis on the bridge pickup variants, the 498T and 490T, to help you figure out which is the best option for you.

The Quick Answer

The 498T pickup has a higher output compared to the 490T. The 498T has more upper-mids which gives it a punchier tone compared to the 490T which sounds cleaner. The 498T uses alnico V pickups whereas the 490T uses alnico II pickups. Both pickups use 4-conductor wiring allowing you to coil tap them.

Here are links to the pickups available on Guitar Center so you can check current the prices:

490R/T Pickups

There are two versions of the 490 pickup, the 490R and the 490T.

The 490R pickup is designed for the neck position and the 490T is designed for the bridge position. The 490T has a higher output and the pole pieces are spaced further apart to match the string spacing at the bridge position compared to the 490R where the pole pieces are spaced closer together to suit the neck position.

Both pickups use alnico II magnets to get that vintage PAF tone. Alnico II is stronger than alnico III, but weaker than alnico IV and V. These pickups have less emphasis on the upper-mids and a lower output compared to alnico V pickups for example, but maintain better clarity.

Designs Available:

  • Nickel
  • Chrome
  • Gold
  • Double Black
  • Zebra

Average Price USA: $135

Average Price UK: £80

Check out the 490R Pickup on Guitar Center.

498T Pickup

Unlike the 490 pickups which come in two versions (R and T) for the neck and bridge positions, the 498 pickup is only available for the bridge position, hence the “498R” doesn’t exist so instead you’ll only find a “498T”. The 498T is often paired with the 490R.

This pickup is described as a “hot” pickup since it has more windings and an alnico V magnet. Alnico V is the strongest type of alnico and produces the brightest tone with the highest output compared to the other versions of alnico, II, III, and IV.

The 498T is a powerful pickup has more emphasis on the upper-mid range frequencies, the benefits of this being increased sustain and crunch. This also means it’s not as “clean” sounding so the amp doesn’t need to be cranked as much to get some overdrive.

Designs available:

  • Nickel
  • Chrome
  • Gold
  • Double Black
  • Zebra

Average Price USA: $135

Average Price UK: £100

Check out the 498T Pickup on Guitar Center.

Tone Comparison

In this section we’ll just be comparing the bridge pickups since there isn’t a 498R pickup available for the neck position. So, we’ll just be discussing the 490T and 498T.

The 490T sounds crisper and clearer compared to the 498T which sounds fuller and crunchier. Although both pickups are good for rhythm and lead, the 498T has more upper-mids allowing it to cut through the mix more compared to the 490T.

For metal and hard rock, the 498T is often selected due to its punchier and more aggressive tone, whilst the 490T is often considered more versatile due to its lower output vintage tone.

Check out this YouTube video to hear a tone comparison between the 498T and 490T pickups. The first guitar is a Gibson Les Paul Studio with 490R/498T pickups (gloss finish Vintage sunburst color) and the second guitar is a Gibson Les Paul Tribute with 490R/490T pickups (satin finished Iced Tea color).

Output Comparison

As we’ve already discussed, the 490R pickup designed for the neck position has the lowest output compared to the 490T designed for the bridge position.

The 498T is a hotter version of the 490T which means it has a higher output. The extra windings and use of alnico V magnets instead of alnico II magnets in the 498T help to increase the output. Here is a list of Gibson’s output ratings for each pickup.

  • 490R: 7.4 output rating
  • 490T: 8.1 output rating
  • 498T: 9.0 output rating

Higher output pickups send a stronger signal to the amplifier causing it to distort more easier. Hence, the 498T sounds a bit crunchier when using the same amplifier settings compared to the 490T which sounds cleaner.

In terms of the effect of pickup output on overall volume, it depends on the headroom of the amp. If the amp has a lot of headroom, which means the volume can be increased considerably before it starts to clip (become distorted), then the higher output pickups will sound louder.

However, if the amp is at the top of the “headroom” and is starting to distort, the higher output pickup will not sound louder at this point, but instead will sound more distorted.

Which Guitars Use 490 and 498 Pickups?

Here is a list of currently available Gibson guitars which use either 490 or 498 pickups as stock.

Guitars with a 490T Bridge Pickup

Gibson GuitarBridge PickupNeck Pickup
Les Paul Tribute490T490R
Les Paul Special Tribute490T490R
SG Standard490T490R
SG Tribute490T490R
Gibson guitars with 490T/ 490R pickups

Guitars with a 498T Bridge Pickup

GuitarBridge PickupNeck Pickup
Les Paul Studio498T490R
Les Paul Custom498T490R
Les Paul Axcess Standard498T490R
Les Paul Axcess Custom498T490R
Jerry Cantrell Les Paul Custom498T490R
Joe Perry Les Paul Axcess498TNone
SG Custom2-Pickup498T490R
Flying V Custom498T490R
Explorer Custom498T490R
Firebird Custom498T490R
Gibson guitars with 498T/ 490R pickups

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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.

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