Here’s Single Coil’s opinions on nearly everything important about guitars. I’ve limited to 20 points, all of which should be accepted as Gospel. Trust ye the word of Single Coil on this folks, he knows what he’s saying.
Point 7 Humbuckers sound “bigger” when playing at higher gain. And they are undeniably quieter. When playing clean or at lower gain overdrive, however, no humbucker can match the sparkle and definition of a good single coil. That’s just the way it is.
Ok, Humbuckers will sound bigger when playing at higher gain, and they are quieter. After that with the advances in pickups and the selection of high end pickups out there, this is less of a truth than it was ten years ago. Cheap pickups will sound cheap. After that a guitar and pickup selection should be aimed at the style of music you are going to play with that instrument. If you are looking for an “all around” instrument, you will have areas where there will be weakness. If you focus your instrument toward a particular tone or Genre you can actually do better. Here’s a good example. If you are setting out to be the next Chet Atkins, don’t get caught up in an Ibanez RG series guitar. Neither the guitar nor the pickups are designed for that style of music. Sure, you COULD play that style, but the guitar is set up to be a rocker. Coil tapping is another thing to consider to make your humbucking pickup more versatile. Well done it can go a long way. I have no idea why the whole concept of the P-90 pickup was left out of this discussion, because when you look at it, A single coil IS NOT a P-90 IS NOT a Humbucker, they all have unique and individual qualities, that is really how it is in 2014.
Let’s not forget to discuss active electronics. There was a move not that long ago to go to active electronics in guitars. There are some serious plusses and minuses to active electronics in a guitar. Active humbuckers will certainly out gain non-active, but that comes with a cost. Batteries, grittiness in low wattage amps. That could be a discussion all on it’s own….