Emg 81 active pickups

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Deusx, Dec 2, 2005.

  1. Deusx

    Deusx Active Member

    hi every one it's a long time i'ven't posted on this forum and after all i have just ordered my electric guitar which inshallah i'll get soon. :cool:
    it is LTD by ESP m1000fm and has a pair of emg 81 active pickups i want some information on the active pickups, how they work ofcourse they need batteries but can someone give me a website address where there is more info about it available. thanks
  2. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    I've tried pretty well every piece of guitar gear you can imagine. To me the EMG 81s are unusable. Seymour Duncan passives in side-by-side tests (as recent as last week) exceed the EMG 81s markedly in quality and character. Thats just my opinion. None of the hot guitarists I know use EMGs, but they do have a following for sure.

    EMG pushes Zakk Wylde and Kirk Hammett as their poster boys. That sound is more about volume than articulation. I'm not criticizing those guys, I'm merely pointing out that all the most articulate guys, i.e. Jeff Beck, Santana, etc. use passives. Jeff Beck can sound like Hammett when he needs to but Hammett definitely can't sound like Beck. I tend to place a lot of value on flexibility, it all somes down to priorities.

    Noticed EMG started creating and selling passive pickups (HZ) after like 30 years of making only active pickups. You really have to wonder why that is?

    I do like ESPs though, great guitar. As far as I'm concerned as long as you have a great guitar, that's the main thing.

    In terms of operation, yes you need to make sure the battery stays good but that's about it. They're pretty good on batteries so don't worry about that, it's easy. Other than that you just plug and go. The theory behind active pickups is well documented on Google but the equation "in practice" as I see it is whether you would prefer to run everything you play through the EMG onboard preamp first? My Seymour Duncan passives through the Onyx preamps to me sounds superior to the EMGs for my ears in terms of quality and is infinitely more flexible. Again, just my opinion.

    Anyhow the guitar should come with a battery installed, ready to plug and play. Sounds like a nice axe, have fun with it!
  3. Vince Jaeger

    Vince Jaeger Guest

    I've always described the tone of the EMG-81 or any any super hot active pickup as "Rubberband Harmonics" sounding... If thats the sound you're going for you'll be in for a treat. You can forget about super clean sounds though, you will always have a tiny amount of grit to the sound.

    I retired mine after I got to meet Zakk and got it signed.

    Anywho I hope this is the info you were looking for:

  4. Tommy P.

    Tommy P. Well-Known Member

    Hassan, the EMG's will give you the same sound you hear the other players get from them.

    Like everyone has said, active EMG's are close to shredders hearts because they are less noisy when used with insanely high gain amplifiers. The designers knew they could make ultra quiet pickups at the expense of output, then make up for it with onboard pre-amps close to the pickups.

    The onboard pre-amps also make longer cable runs less problematic thru long effects chains. Especially many older effects units which did not contain thier own high quality line driver circuitry would benefit from EMG's on-board pre-amp driving the chain.

    I love all my Duncan pups, especially the JB, but it is a noisy pickup in a high gain signal chain. For mix cuttin nasal/violin-like leads I love my Dimarzio F.R.E.D, a la Joe Satriani, it can sing and get harmonically organic tones in a high gain rig. Dimebag used a Bill Lawrence pickup in the bridge.
    My point is, IMHO, its the tone in your head, and your reflexes that will decide which gear you end up playing thru.

    Here's my fav pups :wink: http://www.prosoundcommunications.com/products/joebarden/jb_pickups/


    Edit: Hassan, as far as setup goes, I believe the pickup distance to the strings with your new EMG active pickups should be closer than would be with regular passive pickups. The EMG's use a very weak magnet, so there is less magnetic string pull to steal vibration from the strings. It is actually very neccesary to have the pickups as close to the strings as possible to get the most out of the EMG actives. Keep this in mind when you set the action on your new guitar. Good luck, and have fun.
  5. Mario-C.

    Mario-C. Active Member

    Mexico City
    Home Page:
    I do love the sound of EMG's ... don't forget top studio guys like Steve Lukather have been using them for years ... I'd recommend an EMG 89 instead of the 81 ... much more versatile and great sounding on the right guitar, to me it's more trial and error ... on the right guitar they sound great, on the wrong one they can really suck ... a nice tip when using EMG's is to change strings often
  6. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Yes that's true but bear in mind that Steve Lukather is using them through one of the largest guitar rigs you'll ever see. He gets some distinctly un-EMG sounds from that rig. I wouldn't consider his end sound as very indicative of typical EMGs. Great example though, you have to love Lukather's sound.

    As for Zakk, he showed up once at "Mainly Music" in Edmonton and played/chatted with whoever was in the shop. I missed it but I heard about it. I'm not really a fan of his recordings but the man can definitely play a guitar. Nice guy too apparently. Really, really nice. I heard he signed everyone's stuff, had a couple beers, hung out for a while, showed some chops, etc. A real class act. I don't listen to his tunes very often but I certainly respect that guy.
  7. GregP

    GregP Guest

    Active pickup technology is excellent. People like to categorize it the same way that people say that 'digital' recording is 'clinical and harsh'. However, there's a huge difference and the analogy fails. Active pickups still use a magnet and coils, but they are linked to a preamp. That's it. They're just really low-output pickups that have their gain boosted by the pre-amp.

    Consequently, the pre-amp will have a HUGE impact on the final tone. People who get a cold tone out of it probably have the mids scooped out and the treble tweaked too high. The wrong EQ has a funny way of making something sound too 'cold'.

    If EMGs aren't your thing, there are other ways of doing it. You can go with something like Bartolini pickups, which can operate as very nice-sounding passive pickups, but which also play well with the preamps and EQs that are designed to work with the pickups.

    Regarding articulation-- I actually find that more people refer to the active pickups as too articulate. They don't like how every single bit of the pick attack and string noise comes through, and wish that there was a bit more forgiveness like in a passive pickup. The more linear response is due to their using bar magnets (think Hot/Cool Rails pickups) rather than individual pole-pieces. The character of the string fluxuation due to being bent over different polepieces is something I love and others dislike. EMG has simply chosen one method over the other.

    Regarding their passive line-- well, if you can't beat'em you join'em. No doubt it makes good business sense to get into the passive pickup market. They already have the active market more or less monopolized, so if they want to 'grow' their company, passive is really the smartest way to go. That's just business, and doesn't really have anything to do with whether one technology is better than the other. They also have their "select" line which are also passive and sold on low-end guitars or through Stewart-McDonald and the like. Does that mean that the "select" line are also better than the active line? Hrm.

    The reason so many high-gain players use EMGs is because of the low hum. This is important because (obviously) the more gain and distortion you apply to a signal, the more noticeable the hum is going to be. At high enough gain settings, even passive humbuckers start to sound noisy. Active pickups were the answer to that. So, sure, EMG has the reputation of being the pickup for high gain players, and they've never bothered to 'fight' that image. It's their bread and butter, so why alienate anyone? But that doesn't mean that they are ONLY good for high gain, the same way that Telecasters aren't ONLY good for country or roots-rock music despite being seen as a 'country-player's' axe.

    One of my favourite guitarists, Martin Tielli of the Rheostatics, famously uses a Steinberger guitar, which features EMG pickups. He DOES a lot of distorted playing, but also evokes some rather nice and characterful clean tones out of it. Make no mistake, despite my saying that they're really just low-output pickups, there IS a certain character to them, and I don't find it clinical at all. I find it quite nice as well as unique.

    That's enough of me rambling.

    Funny thing is, I prefer passive pickups. I just find myself drawn to sharing relevant information. ;)
  8. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Hee. Great post! :)
  9. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Pacific NW
    Its all about gain-staging. Just like every other aspect of recording sounds. The actives are without a doubt the most unforgiving and revealing of the two, but at high gain amplification they are totally needed.

    In my little shop, I've got yer stock Strat and yer SLI with an EMG plate on it, a 1965 stock Jaguar, Tele Thinline...others. I use the Anderton wiring on the SLI with the middle P/U floating on its own volume control and the neck/bridge P/U's wired like a Paul. Standard Strat 3way switch. Its amazing what kinda chimey cool sounds this allows......the great big one-piece birdseye maple Boogie Bodies neck helps here too, but the lowgain of the EMG's really lets you get that chime.

    Amps with a lot of harmonic content help too.

    Here its Fender Blues Jr. , Seymour Duncan Convertible, Vox Cambridge, Fender Princeton Reverb, and recently my guitarist loaned me his 'extra' amp, a Gibson Goldtone which I'm gonna rave about later.

    I had a high-end Charvel with the EMG's for years and finally tired of it. WAy too clean...as has been noted here. For humbuckers for me, its all about Seymour. JB and Jazz...Hot and fat.....
  10. GregP

    GregP Guest

    MMMmm... JB and Jazz.... I have a pair of cream-coloured ones just sitting here waiting to go into a guitar. <looks lovingly at his unused JB and Jazz>
  11. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    I've been using Seymour's JB junior in the middle position for years now and have never once been unhappy with the sound of my pickups. And I've asked a lot of it too. :cool:
  12. Tommy P.

    Tommy P. Well-Known Member

    :D Since Dimarzio holds the patents for double cream bobbins, I suspect you custom ordered your JB/JAZZ with metal covers and politely asked them to put double cream under the hood?
  13. GregP

    GregP Guest


    Nope! Unless they're white and I imagine them being cream. Let's see here....



    I bought them used off a guy in the UK, and they're going into a guitar I'm building, with nickel covers, so I didn't care at the time what colour they were. I always just imagine them being cream, but here's the actual pic of the pickups, and they're clearly white! The "<looks lovingly at...>" was just in there for effect and I didn't actually look at them when posting the preceding post!


    Wow, you know a LOT about guitar pickups! <laff> How the hell did DiMarzio get away with patenting a COLOUR?
  14. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    That's going to sound sweet Greg. :cool:
  15. GregP

    GregP Guest

    ** warning -- thread hijack alert! **

    That's if it ever gets finished. I'm a bit stalled right now (make that a LOT stalled-- I haven't done anything new in half a year), but part of that was due to lack of funding. I'm a bit more solvent now, so I can afford to replace the maple cap that was a bit warped. For the curious, it's HOPEFULLY (provided I don't muck the whole thing up) going to look like a scaled-down Gibson Lucille (ie. 335-style body), but it won't sound anything like one.

    A shot of the body (white limba) and cap (hard maple, not figured since it's going to be painted). The neck pocket area on both look wonky because I left them un-shaped for now while I decide how to contour the pocket:


    And the neck which is in-progress. I had done an inlay on the fingerboard, but the results weren't spectacular, so that's another hold-up. Deciding whether or not to buy a replacement, and whether to get it pre-inlayed. By the time I get an inlayed fretboard, I might be better off getting a neck-through, and cutting up the body to glue on as "wings". <grumbles>

  16. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    Sweet. Reminds me of Brian May's original guitar. :cool:

    Speaking as an artist as well as a guitarist I would say pre-inlayed is the way to go unless you are specifically looking for some practice. That's a pretty tricky art of you are talking about complex stuff, i.e. a PRS dragon. I once tried to do some inlays and I did OK-ish but it was far from sharp, precise work, and forever after I used to occasionally catch the string against 1-2 of the inlays when bending strings. I doubt I'd attempt that again without some lessons first... :cool:
  17. GregP

    GregP Guest

    Nah, it's just block inlays, and I'm not HORRIBLE at it-- plus if you do it BEFORE you fret, it shouldn't be any problem sanding them all level to avoid snagging a string.

    But the problem when doing it by hand (as opposed to CNC or whatever) is that if you screw up just ONE of them, the whole fingerboard is shot.

    If I get a neck-through made, though, I might actually be able to finish this guitar some day, too, which would be cool.

  18. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    You can't beat the feel of a neck through IMO. I mean I love my Strats and Teles but still, a neck through is a very special feel. I bought an Ibanez neck through a couple weeks ago and it felt more beautiful than any axe I've ever played but the "Edge II" bridge was so terrible I took it back. That guitar felt incredible but there were weird overtones all along the neck and the bridge was just terribly unstable. You'd have to spend an hour per day just tuning. God forbid you should break a string, particularly at a gig.

    I'm going to save up some dough after I finish off the acoustics in my tracking room and check out one of these as my next addition:

    I need something with an ultra stable whammy system, the Kahler on my main axe is getting old. It's served valiantly, but alas. This is the sort of abuse it has withstood for years so I have nothing to complain about:

    FWIW compard to all these new supposedly revolutionary bridges this old Kahler more than held it's own. Seems like the new stuff is less stable and harder to deal with. Maybe I'll just try and find a new-ish Kahler and retrofit. But I digress. :-?
  19. GregP

    GregP Guest

    I like the Speedloader system in theory (haven't actually tried one), but I don't like the anticipated high cost of specialized proprietary strings.

  20. Calgary

    Calgary Active Member

    I just ordered a DeArmond Ashbory bass from Fender, had to order in a bunch of extra strings right off the get go because they use a special "silicon band" system in stead of strings. I must admit I wasn't keen on that but sometimes you just have to bite the bullet. :cool:

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