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Anything better for metal?

Discussion in 'Accessories / Connections' started by Guitarfreak, Apr 13, 2009.

  1. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Looking to upgrade the pickups in my Jackson RR. Have heard for years that for metal there is nothing better or simpler than EMG 81-85. I am looking for the Killswitch Engage tone, dirty and chunky but distinguished. I definitely want passive, I don't like a lot of extra wiring/features. I like the rhythms to be chunky and downright heavy, but won't feedback when you cut the note off.

    There really is no way to A/B this is there? Unless I mean if you record your guitar, then change the pickups, then re-record under the same settings. But then again you have to buy the pickups first...
     
  2. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    Either that or find a great guitar tech in your area. He may have a few guitars you could at least try out various pick-ups in. I have a guy like this, he often has or borrows back guitars he has worked on so you can test drive things, he has even swapped stuff out for me in my guitar while I was there until I found something I liked.
     
  3. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    The thing about EMG's is that they can accept extreme gain while remaining pretty clear and cutting. That being said, the tone is pretty processed. The thing about pickups is: the higher output they are, the bassier and muddier they get. Super high output pickups and even high output pickups are mostly marketing gimmicks if you ask me, because the tone is really bassy and muddy, and you also have to move your pickups far enough away from your strings that you lose a lot of clarity. Then there's the whole magnet thing: alnico is warm and smooth, which I think is a bad choice for high gain music. Ceramic and neodymium tend to be a lot cleaner and clearer than alnico, although, not a lot of manufacturers are making neodymium pickups. There's this brand, which I really want to try someday: http://www.q-tuner.com/gl-6.shtml And if you want a ceramic pickup you might as well go buy a Dimarzio or something. But the whole idea that a pickups needs to be super high output is just silly: let the amp do the work. A lower output pickup will be brighter and clearer. If you do feel the need to turn your distortion up to absurd levels, then EMG's are what you want.
     
  4. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Nahh, I don't like having distortion settings too high, I rarely go past 5, when i do it's because I have to play quietly. I believe the gain knob was put there for convenience, so you don't always have to crank up the volume to get good tone. Too bad most guitarists nowadays believe differently, I shouldn't have to say anymore than that lol.

    I guess that pickups are based on the same principle as replacement amp speakers and wattage. The higher wattage rating a speaker has the more signal it can take before it starts to distort, while lower wattage speakers warm up at low/medium volumes. I did not know that about pickups. Or maybe I did, but thanks for reminding me lol.
     
  5. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Pickups themselves don't distort. The more windings a pickup has, the bassier and thicker it gets. And once you get so hot, string pull and ghosting starts to set in, which means the magnetic field is interfering with the strings (which can technically happen with any pickup, but a lot moreso with high output pickups), which means you have to put the pickup lower than you normally would. The whole point is that hotter = less clarity.
     
  6. ahavill

    ahavill Guest

    I have an EMG HZ (passive) combo in an ESP VB-200 baritone that I really like. I had never owned EMG before, since like you GuitarFreak I am not a fan of active pickups. I am more of a rhythm than lead player, & play the ESP & an SG. Sorry I don't have the exact models of the EMG pickups. Either H3 or H4, but no idea if they are Alnico or Ceramic since they offer both. No idea really whats in the SG, its a weird one from the seventies wired with dual 1/4" outs. I really like whatever they are, very dirty & growly. Also what I hear & like from the EMGs. I guess I should go on a mission to figure out exactly what I've got.
    If you are going for the sound I think you're going for (chunky rhythm a la KSE) then I think these HZs are a great choice. I bought my ESP online (first time I'd ever bought a gtr I had never played!) since baritones were not something I could find in any store near me, let alone the make & model I was most drawn to. Because, again like you GuitarFreak, I had heard good things about EMG 81/85 & here was a passive version. & since a lot of bands using ESP were getting tones I liked (Max Cavalera, Lamb of God, Deftones) and, ok I admit I really liked the viper shape, I decided to take the plunge & buy it over the phone. But I was still worried, until I played it. I was really happy with the sound right away, and have started playing it as my main instrument. I can't say its all due to the pickups, since I have a whole rambling tangent I could go on about detuning a regular guitar vs. using a 7-string vs. a baritone, and string gauges, and so on, but I'll save it.
    Of course amp settings are just as (or maybe more) important, but I always feel like you get the sound close to the way you want at the source, first & foremost. So I guess the HZs work for me because they have a little bit of that EMG tone, without going overboard (active.)
    As for A/B tests: I talked with a guitar tech friend a while back, who was planning to build a guitar for that purpose: take a sacrificial guitar (!) and cut down through the pickup cavities, so that the pickup can be removed & replaced from the back of the guitar.
    Thats probably not something you're ready to do unless you've got some damaged beater lying around, but one part of his plan might be useful: wiring harnesses. Maybe not news. I don't know what pickups are in your Jackson, but EMGs come with a harness on them already. Depending on what pickups you want to test, you might be able to install/swap them without having to do any soldering or other alterations. If this is the case, & you can find a music store that would accept such a thing, you could buy a new pickup, bring it home, snap it in to the wiring harness, check it out, & if you aren't thrilled just unplug it & bring it back to the store. Still not a real A/B, but you must have a good feel for what the Jackson sounds like right now; so if you put something new in there & played on it for a week, you could probably tell if you liked it better than what you had. You'll probably know as soon as you play it. I hate to recommend Guitar Center, but I think this is a good exception: they are everywhere, they usually have a number of pickups in stock (always trickier to return a special-order item) and have something like a 30-day return policy. Most places will only let you return gear for store credit, which is fair enough; but it sounds like you'd be buying something eventually so why not.
     
  7. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    So I went to GC today and I have to say, at least for me, passive is the way to go. I think they just have so much more definition. Not to mention it sounds more lifelike. I tried one guitar with EMG 81, and one with EMG HZ passives, and I had a lot more fun playing the HZ's. I played it through a VOX 30 watt if it makes a difference. Thing sounds great, it's not too loud though.
     
  8. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Definitely going to buy a new set of pickups. I'm stuck on model names. There are so many different types of EMG HZ pickups. The website is pretty vague about the differences between them, using words like "modern, hotter, clearer" to differentiate them from other pickups. Doesn't really give any solid specs on any of them. All I know is I played on a few different guitars that have had EMG HZ's and loved them.

    Can anybody help me out please? I really am lost. I need a set, one for neck and one for bridge, there's different models for neck and bridge right? I'd assume as much, but they really only give model names such as H3, H3A, H4A, F-H3? I'm totally confused, hopefully someone can shed some light on the situation.
     
  9. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    I'm a fan of Dimarzio Super Distortion. For a single coil spot, Seymore Duncan Hot Rails are awesome.
     
  10. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    How about you email EMG or call and speak with them re: choices, they probably have sound clips, most pick up manufacturers do. I am certain that the staff at EMG has worked with a bunch of world class guitarists to set up guitars. Use their experiences with the product line and what was the intention of the buyer.
     
  11. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    I emailed EMG, they never got back to me. Meanwhile I've been doing some reading and I've been reading some downright nasty stuff about the pickups and company in general so...freak em. hah. cause i'm guitarfreak get it...

    Anyway, so I'm looking at the DiMarzio pickups now. Hueseph you said you like the super distortions, but I think maybe the lower output and bassier tone of the Tone Zone would be better for me, maybe. I'm going to couple that with the Air Norton in neck position. This seems to be a widely used and greatly liked combination. At least from what I can gather.

    Anything else I should know?
     
  12. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Go buy a Marshall or Mesa while you're at it: then you'll sound exactly like everybody else. Dimarzios give you the Dimarzio sound, and you've heard it on countless records. I prefer something a bit more unique and not as common, but to each his own.
     
  13. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Not everyone wants to sound like an angry gerbil. Sorry I couldn't help it. lml :twisted: lml
     
  14. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Why does pickup selection have to be so difficult? I am re-considering the DiMarzio super distortions again and can't decide between them and the Tone Zone for a bridge pickup. The sound clips at the DiMarzio site are helpful, but only to a degree. They are clips from a song whose guitarists used that particular pickup.

    Wonderful, so between differences in guitar and amp selection, mic choice and position, compression, EQ, and other engineer voodoo I am supposed to decide which pickup I want based on how it sounds on a production CD? sigh, I heard Kurt Cobain used super distortions, and idk if you could tell by my icon and quote, but I kind of like Nirvana. Not that it has anything to do with the selection process, but I thought you'd like to know.
     
  15. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    Kurt Cobain recorded "Smells like Teen Spirit" with a stock mustang. Which means crappy single coil pickups, no, I mean really crappy single coil pickups. It's all preference. Make an intelligent decision considering all the important factors: magnet type, magnet size, number of windings, and pole pieces and pole piece adjustment.
     
  16. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    This pic clearly shows a humbucker in that mustang. It may not be the one he recorded with necessarily though.
     
  17. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Yeah magnet types. One is ceramic and one is alnico 5, what are the tonal differences? And is number of windings directly proportional to output voltage? If so then the SD has more windings. They also cite DC resistance, how does that affect sound/use?

    I really should know this being primarily a guitar player, but hey it happens. Thanks for your continued help.
     
  18. NCdan

    NCdan Guest

    When it comes to pickups, there are 3 basic factors that will affect tone the most: the magnet(s), number of windings, and pole pieces. There are four types of magnets used in pickups, two of which are commonly used: alnico, ceramic, neodymium, and samarium cobalt. Alnico magnets are warm, fat, and a bit compressed -- positively awful for high gain if you ask me. Ceramic magnets are cold, clear, and cutting, in other words, they don't have any mojo in their sound, but they take high gain very well and cut through the densest mixes; the downside is that the cleans are quite sterile. Neodymium magnets are very strong and have a very flat and extended frequency response; neodymium pickups make an electric guitar sound like it was originally supposed to: almost acoustic. Neodymium pickups take very well to high gain and clean and they will almost never compress a signal. Samarium cobalt magnets are used in most noiseless pickup designs; they sort of fall in bewteen ceramic and alnico in most respects, but they do tend to be a bit nasally or beady sounding (at least all the designs that I've heard).

    The number of windings basically determines the output of a pickup. Common thinking these days is that more output = better tone. That is a bunch of crap. All more output does is increase the strength of the magnetic field, boosting the bass frequencies and rolling off the extended highs and treble frequencies. The other issue with high output pickups is string pull: stronger magnetic fields will pull on the strings more, which means choked notes and possibly ghosting (phantom notes and sustain). You have to lower high output pickups lower than is recommended if you don't want to experience string pull and ghosting, and you'll have to put a pickup very low to compensate for very high output pickups, which are oh-so-trendy these days. Note that this doesn't apply to active pickups.

    Pole pieces are important because they play a vital role in shaping the tone and balancing string output. A lot of vintage pickups use alnico pole pieces, but most pickups use stainless steel pole pieces. Blade pickups seem to be gaining in popularity, and blades will yield a softer (as opposed to harsher), but more balanced tonal response: great for people who do big bends. You also don't need to worry about balancing individual string output as much. Traditional pickups use individually adjustable pole pieces, and the size of the pole pieces affects the tone of the pickup: larger pole pieces = a brighter sound. A pickup with small pole pieces will have different sonic effects than a pickup with large blades. Pole pieces are just something to think about.

    That pretty much covers the essentials of a pickup. You should be able to pick out a pickup based on magnet type (and possibly size too, but do I really need to explain that?), number of windings, and pole pieces.
     

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