EMG's - for what type of music are they best suited and why?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by shoe, May 23, 2006.


  1. shoe

    shoe Member

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    OK - a number of my favorite players (Steve Luakther, Reb Beach, Zakk Wylde) all are EMG's devotees. My question is what is it that they get from these pickups that they don't get from traditional ones? I've played some EMG's in the past and felt that it almost didn't matter what the instrument was made out of.....the tone wound up being the same. That said, I've also heard that these pickups really shine particularly in high-gain environments. Clearly the boys from Metallica are fans....

    So, for those who have experience with EMG's (specifically the '81, '85 and the SA's) and like them.....can you please tell me what it is about them that you dig so much? I'm seriously GAS'ing for something with EMG's in it just to try but I hate buying crap guitars so will likely wind up spending some bank here.

    Any pointers would be greatly apprecaited!
     
  2. ungarn

    ungarn Member

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    EMG's do not produce much noise in high gain environments...that is a plus. Certainly they sound "different" compared to passive pickups, but definitely not bad. EMG's will certainly force one to improve their technique because the pick up every little thang...sloppy playing will definitely be noticed.

    Find an ESP dealer and check out some EMG equipped geetars...you will probably wind up either loving or loathing 'em.

    Good luck,

    -Thad
     
  3. Hamer95USA

    Hamer95USA Member

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    Hello shoe,

    I am currently using 2 EMG 85 on my '96 Les Paul Custom, EMG DG-20 pickup set on my mid '80s MIJ Fender Strat and the 85, SA, 85 on my custom Strat. I view the 85 pickups as PAF on steroids and the SA as nice single coil with no noise. They have a nice smooth tone, strong output, can play through a ton of effects or a guitar rack system (due to the buffering from the pickups), have a consistent tone, gives good compression and sustain.

    I gig in a Top 40 band and can't have issues with noise from neon lights, etc. affect my sound onstage. The pickups are great for all types of music, not just only for heavy metal. I know of jazz players using them like Larry Carlton (SA pickups & SPC module on his Valley Arts guitars). Go out, buy them, have it installed on your guitar and try it out on your guitar rig. Better yet, try out a friend's guitar that has the EMG installed already. Play it through your amp and see if it will work out for you. That's really the best way to know if it will sound right with your guitar setup.

    Guitar George
     
  4. Platypus

    Platypus not in rivers, but in drops

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    I've used the 81/85 set and I have a set of 707's in my 7 string right now. Fantastic pickups for high gain metal, pinch harmonics are effortless. They sound very processed compared to passives though so I'd say hard rock or metal are the two genres you're sort of confined to.

    That being said some people enjoy the sound for clean or jazzy playing, personally I'm not a fan. I much prefer a passive pickup for that.
     
  5. GM1

    GM1 Member

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    There is an interesting article on the Reb Beach web site where he talks about removing his EMGs when he was in Dokken because he could not get George Lynch's tone. Good read
     
  6. c_mac

    c_mac Member

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    I had a set of SA's in my EBMM Albert Lee. I play rock and country, they sounded great.
     
  7. shoe

    shoe Member

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    Yeah, I've read that as well. The interesting thing is now he's moved back to EMG's almost 100%.

    I have a bunch of Suhr's and have done the passive thing forever. I've played a Brian Moore with EMG's in it (though it think it had an '89 in it) and I didn't care for it. That said, I've heard plenty of players that I admire get great results from them so I'm curious about why it is that they choose them. Zakk I can understand. Reb Beach I can understand. But what about Luke? What is it that he gets from EMG's that he can't get with passive pickups? I've love to hear people's thoughts on that.
     
  8. musicman10_1

    musicman10_1 Supporting Member

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    I like the EMGs in my Steinberger. It covers a ton of ground sonically. It is the only guitar I have with active pickups and for a long time it was my main guitar because it could do so many different tones - everything from very heavy metal to a reasonable tele type sound when manipulated properly. I guess my ears have evolved as I like most of my passive guitars better these days.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. Mike Dresch

    Mike Dresch Silver Supporting Member

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    I think the deal with Luke is the same with many a player that came from the 80's. Luke played through huge racks of gear in the 80's. EMG's worked great for that type of scenario. Low noise, low impedance, etc. I have a number of friends who live and die by EMG's because they've played them for decades. They can't switch because passives feel too muddy for them as their rigs (and ears) have been dialed in for the types of tones that EMG's produce. Me personally, I love the SA's but that's pretty much where it stops. I've tried to like the humbuckers but they've got this low mid hump around 400 or 500 hz that I dislike....A LOT!

    One thing I recommend to anyone who is installing EMG's in their guitar is to wire them at 18volts. Trust me!
     
  10. landru64

    landru64 Member

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    buuuut, luke isn't playing with the EMGs he was using in the 80s. any of you tried the SV's or the SAVs or the actual luke pickups that he's using? i had a friend over here sunday who plays a luke guitar and we were comparing single coils (i just got a set of the dimarzio area58/61s) and his neck pickup sound sounded not exactly like a true single, but pretty convincing, especially when played in that SRV/hendrixy kind of way. i wouldn't have been able to tell it wasn't a true single, really.
     
  11. Mike Dresch

    Mike Dresch Silver Supporting Member

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    I had a set of SV's and a set of S's (along with a set of T's in one of my Teles). Both seemed pretty underpowered for my tastes. The SV's definitely had that vintage vibe though. The S's just seemed anemic when paired with a humbucker (in this case an 89) in the bridge. Overall, I really like the SA's best, especially with the Afterburner control for certain situations. The other guitarist in my new band has a guitar loaded with the Gilmour set (SA's with the SPC and EXG controls) that sounds very straty due to the EXG control (sucks out some mids and adds highs and some lows).
     
  12. CAJUN

    CAJUN Member

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    I have an 81 and 85 in a 78 LP standard and they sound execellent. No anemia there. And the DG20 system with SA's in a 79 strat. Definitely no vintage vibe but you gotta tweak the SPC and EXG controls to get some good strat tones.
     
  13. shoe

    shoe Member

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    OK - let me take this one step further: As the bulk of EMG players tend to be in the heavily processed guitar tone realm (due to low impedance and hot signal), do these pickups sound good through an amp just dry? While I have a DMC GCX switching system and love the reveb/delay of my TC G-Force, I play dry most of the time (through my OD100 SE or my Herbert). How do these pickups measure up through a dry signal? Can they stand on their own or do they need to be shrouded in processing to really shine?
     
  14. DigitalTube

    DigitalTube Member

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    I've owned many guitars with EMG's, and have been replacing them all with other pickups in the last 2-3 years, finally I'm liking the sounds.
    I'm down to only one custom built guitar with EMG's but only because I haven't found the right size pickups for it.
    EMG is a great company, and they build great pickups that sound very clean, my only problem with them is the sound, but they certainly have their fans, it's just a taste thing.
    E.B.
     
  15. EADGBE

    EADGBE Member

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    I have an EMG-81 in my gunslinger. It sounds great through my tube amp. They have a great low end without any mud. And the leads sound boosted, which I love. The low impedance comes in handy when using effects. And it also allows more highs and volts to get through.
     

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