Gibson Custombucker vs Burstbucker Pickups Compared

If you’re looking for a vintage PAF humbucker tone then the Gibson Custombucker and Burstbucker are excellent options to consider, but which pickups are the best? In this article I’ll compare the tone, output, price and more so you can figure out which pickup is best for your electric guitar.

Custombucker vs Burstbucker Overview

PickupPositionMagnetOutput
Burstbucker Type 1NeckAlnico II6.5
Burstbucker Type 2AnyAlnico II7.4
Burstbucker Type 3BridgeAlnico II8.4
Burstbucker Pro (Neck)NeckAlnico V7.4
Burstbucker Pro (Bridge)BridgeAlnico V8.3
CustombuckerAnyAlnico III8.0

There are several different types of Burstbucker pickups. In the neck position the most popular choices are the Burstbucker Type 1, Burstbucker Type 2 and Burstbucker Pro (neck version). In the bridge position the most popular choices are the Burstbucker Type 2, Burstbucker Type 3 and Burstbucker Pro (bridge version).

The most popular combinations are:

  • Burstbucker Type 1 in the neck and Burstbucker Type 2 in the bridge
  • Burstbucker Type 1 in the neck and Burstbucker Type 2 in the bridge
  • Burstbucker Pros in the neck and bridge

Check out my comparison of the Burstbucker pickup range to learn more.

There’s just one type of Custombucker available and it can be used in any position (neck or bridge).

Tone and Output Comparison

All the Burstbucker and Custombucker pickups have unbalanced coils and are unpotted.

Unbalanced coils sound less compressed and have a more open top-end compared to balanced coils, however the hum-cancelling effect is not as great. Unpotted pickups tend to suffer more from feedback when using high gain however they sound more lively and dynamic as wax potting the pickups reduces the harmonics.

Now onto the differences…

  • Burstbucker Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3 use alnico 2 magnets
  • Burstbucker Pros use alnico 5 magnets
  • Custombuckers use alnico 3 magnets

Alnico 2 sounds warmer and looser in comparison to alnico 5 which sounds tighter and brighter. Alnico 5 has a higher output meaning it sounds louder and more gritty in comparison to alnico 2 which sounds quieter and cleaner.

Alnico 3 magnets sound warmer and less gritty compared to alnico V magnets. Compared to alnico 2 magnets, alnico 3 sounds darker and glassier with a tighter low-end.

The alnico III magnets in the Custombuckers are the weakest, however they are wound to increase the output.

Check out my article comparing the different types of alnico magnets to learn more.

In terms of output, the pickups follow this order from lowest to highest:

  • Burstbucker Type 1
  • Burstbucker Type 2
  • Burstbucker Pro (Neck)
  • Custombucker
  • Burstbucker Pro (Bridge)
  • Burstbucker Type 3

Higher output pickups distort more easily so sound grittier.

Check out my comparison between low and high output pickups to learn more.

Now let’s compare the Custombucker to each version of the Burstbucker.

Gibson Custombucker vs Burstbuckers 1 and 2

Gibson Custombucker pickups sound brighter and dirtier in comparison to Burstbucker 1 and 2 pickups. The difference is more noticeable on the neck position when using the Burstbucker Type 1 which sounds more mellow and cleaner.

The Burstbucker 1 and 2 combination has a looser bass response giving it a warmer and more rounded tone in comparison to the Custombucker pairing which has a tighter bass response and glassier top end.

Check out this video to hear a comparison.

Gibson Custombucker vs Burstbuckers 2 and 3

The Custombucker has a higher output compared to the Burstbucker 2 and a lower output compared to the Burstbucker 3. This means that when using a Type 2 and Type 3 Burstbucker pairing, the Custombuckers sound grittier in the neck positon but cleaner in the bridge position. The Burstbucker Type 3 sounds brighter and hotter compared to the Custombucker.

Check out this video to hear a comparison.

Gibson Custombucker vs Burstbucker Pros

The Burstbucker Pros sound a bit tighter and clearer in comparison to the Custombuckers which sound looser. This is because the Burstbucker Pros have a tighter low-end and more treble emphasis.

When using clean amp settings, the Custombucker sounds brighter in the neck position compared to the neck version of the Burstbucker Pro which sounds a bit fuller. In the bridge position, the Custombucker sounds a bit warmer and fuller compared to the bridge version of the Burstbucker Pro.

The Custombucker has a higher output than the neck version of the Burstbucker Pro but a lower output compared to the bridge version of the Burstbucker Pro. Hence, the Custombuckers sound cleaner in the bridge position and grittier in the neck position compared to the Burstbucker Pro pairing.

Check out this video to hear a comparison.

Pickup Wiring and Design Options

Both the Custombucker and Burstbucker are only available with 2-conductor wiring which can be a bit of a pain if you wanted to coil split them.

Here are the color options available for each type of pickup. You’ll notice that there are far more options with the Custombuckers.

OptionBurstbuckerCustombucker
Nickel 2-ConductorYesYes
Black 2-ConductorNoYes
Zebra 2-ConductorNoYes
Gold 2-ConductorNoYes

Price Comparison

Burstbucker pickups cost between $149 and $175 (depending on what version you choose) whereas Custombuckers are significantly more expensive and cost upwards of $229.

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

Here are some more comparisons you might find useful:
Burstbuckers vs 490R/498T
Burstbucker vs ’57 Classic

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.

2 thoughts on “Gibson Custombucker vs Burstbucker Pickups Compared

  1. Heather,
    These are the best Gibson pickup comparisons I have seen. Very well organized
    and presented.

    I wish you much success!

    Phil (jazz guitar etc,)

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