Why were so many big 80's guys like Luke and others playing EMG's?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by james..., Jun 25, 2019.

  1. cheezit

    cheezit Member

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    Oh, not super widespread, and it's been years. But I'm a "wood matters" guy and with EMGs it seemed like the personality of the instrument was just not as prominent. Every guitar with those EMG81s sounded pretty dang similar to me.
     
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  2. willyboy

    willyboy Member

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    in the 80's I swapped my passive pups for EMG HSS because it was quieter, had a greater dynamic range and more output. For me it was the ability to drive the amp input more and have more sustain that attracted me to their sound. I was happy with them for well over a decade (EMG SA's, 81, 85 and 89 in various modded strats) until I wanted to go back to passives again for the feel and tone of those, not better just a different thing.
     
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  3. xmd5a

    xmd5a Member

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    Technically EMGs have less dynamic range than a passive pickup, because there's a 9v powered op amp in between the pickup and the output, where as with a passive pickup, it's pickup to output jack.
     
  4. willyboy

    willyboy Member

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    Oops I meant to say frequency range. Also I ran mine with 18v
     
  5. pipedwho

    pipedwho Member

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    Knopfler had the EMG85/SA/SA set in his Pensa-Suhr. Had a black one of those guitars for a while and they indeed brought the magic. No 'sterile' modern tones there. And they were ultra quiet - no hum, no buzz in what would normally have even a humbucker outputting some noise.

    In the '80s EMGs were just cool. Yeah, they were famous for metal, but after David Gilmore and Mark Knopfler showcased them in their guitars for at least a tour or two, that stigma was broken. I'm guessing they stopped using them after a while because it just easier to avoid battery issues and stick with passive noise cancelling pickups which were improving all the time. Gilmore had some Kinmans for a while and Knopfler started doing less touring. And if you're in a studio, chances are they have good power/wiring and electrically quiet rooms since they had to record vintage guitars with single coils.
     
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  6. Tootone

    Tootone Member

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    I had a brief foray with EMGs after having a Charvel with active pups.

    I found them to be very "sterile" - an almost too perfect clean tone like something you would hear produced by a piece of electronics. But then I heard at a Guitar Clinic that they were like "a blank "neutral" canvas" on which you could build with FX and different amps.... I agree he did have a point.

    But... I still prefer the "warts n all" character of passive pickups.
     
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  7. c_mac

    c_mac Member

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    I have a fairly extensive history with EMGs and have used the same sets of pickups in multiple guitars. It simply isn’t true that they make guitars sound the same.

    One example is that I used to have a Reverend Six Gun that got a set of EMG S pickups. That guitar sounded incredible. I played a lot of big shows with a country artist at the time and it inspired him to have EMGs installed in his Tele. I ended up having a Warmoth built around that set of EMGs that were in my Six Gun. That guitar sounded nowhere near as good and it was spec’d almost identical to the Six Gun. It was simply a dark sounding guitar. I ended up installing a set of the brightest passives I could find, and that helped, but it’s still a darker sounding instrument.

    I have a Tele example, a Strat example, and an 89 humbucker example as well where they have sounded different in different guitars. Like any pickup, there are some certain characteristics that are unique to EMGs but they certainly don’t sound the same regardless of the guitar.

    Being someone who actually uses EMGs a lot, I just find it silly when people make statements about all guitars sounding the same with them. Pretty much 100% of the time I find that it’s because the person making that claim actually has very little experience with EMGs.
     
  8. Blix

    Blix Supporting Member

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    I have a 85 in one guitar and it's sounds awsome, thick and creamy.
    Instant 80s Luke :)
     
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  9. cvansickle

    cvansickle Supporting Member

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    What everyone has said about signal strength and driving effects is true with my own experience. When I was going through a Metallica phase in the 80s I installed EMGs in my Les Paul Custom. Great for the Rockman on steroids sound, but when I ditched the effects and simplified my rig, the EMGs weren't cutting it for me. I switched back to a Gibson 57 Classic/Classic+ set and I've been passive pickup equipped ever since.
     
  10. 83stratman

    83stratman Supporting Member

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    Probably none.

     
  11. 83stratman

    83stratman Supporting Member

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    What? LOL.

     
  12. big mike

    big mike Plexi Loving Admin Staff Member

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    Ed King was a proponent in his Pensa Suhr as well during the Skynyrd Reunion tours.
     
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  13. Whitecat

    Whitecat Member

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    I thought Gilmour's usage of them was because the insanely complex lighting and effects rigs on the big 80s/90s Floyd tours apparently interfered with regular single-coils and the EMGs mitigated most of the problems.

    It's not so much that pickup technology improved over time, it was the theatre/concert tech actually getting better, so they were able to dump them later on.
     
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  14. sahhas

    sahhas Supporting Member

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    I always thought I read that folks liked them for the signal strength for the rack effects used at the time.
    Vernon Reid used them in his Vivid guitar back in the 80s:
    [​IMG]
    and i think was using them in all his guitars up to his new PRS.
    the single coil EMGs in my old Steinberger GL3T I thought sounded pretty good....
     
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  15. big mike

    big mike Plexi Loving Admin Staff Member

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    Had that issue for a long time.
    Love that guitar.

    EMG's are great, I often miss having one, particularly for single coil tones.

    Just cuz they're not popular on TGP doesn't mean they're not still heavily used.

    Love how easy they are to use a S/S/H setup as well, plus the midboost is great addon (SPC)
     
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  16. RayBarbeeMusic

    RayBarbeeMusic Member

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    Not. Hex screws sound different. They are used by pickup designers due to that difference.

    EMGs........well, one of those things I know some people love, but I can't figure out why. Sound ok if tweaked correctly, but I never liked the response to pick attack unless the tone was changed to compensate, at which point they didn't sound good to me. But hey if you like them, use them.
     
  17. TaoInMotion

    TaoInMotion Member

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    I've got a set of the Gilmour singles in a strat and they are fantastic pickups. The tone controls (mid boost and scoop) are great, they're super quiet and they sound like a strat should.

    And, no noise at all even in full mid boost mode.
     
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  18. Benz2112

    Benz2112 Supporting Member

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    Not many people in the 80's were talking about the best low output PAF humbuckers going into a non master volume single channel amp, with the most "transparent" overdrive pedal in front. It was all about studio quality delays, the rise of tube preamps, and EMG's had the fidelity and output to get those tones. Gilmour and Knopfler definitely had that 80's thing baked into their sound at the time, plus a lot of the other players of the era, it was an interesting phase. Guitar tone does not have to be this universal thing.
     
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  19. HesNot

    HesNot Supporting Member

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    I have (well had I've technically given my son permission to use the guitar) a PRS SE that came with the 81/85 set. I didn't mind them but did want a slightly different tone in that guitar and put in a set of 57/66 EMGs (super easy due to the solderless system). They do sound better to my ear or perhaps more accurately are more the sound I was going for - and they look "normal" too.

    Ritchie Faulkner in Judas Priest has 57/66 sets in all of his guitars - they are also stock on his signature models (which he plays, stock, on stage). He swears that all the guitars sound different as well - despite having the same pickups in them.

    There is a good podcast on Everyone Loves Guitar with the founder of EMG. It is an interesting discussion and he talks a lot about how he got started and what they have tried to do with the company, design approaches, etc...

    For those used to vintage style guitars one aspect of vintage instruments, is the pickups varied a lot since they were hand wound. Some of the "mojo" is the variances and inconsistencies - in wood, neck shape and pickups. EMGs are nothing if not consistent - they give you what the guitar has in it.
     
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  20. AR-305

    AR-305 Member

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    I found them to be the only way a strat or tele could be usable on a stage with many different EM field generators and often poor AC wiring and ground. Even now the cell phones produce noise thru my passive humbucking pickups. It always seems the biggest critics are those with the least actual experience with a product. Just as some associate mesa boogie with nothing but the dual rectifier sound and some associate EMG only with the model 81 and metalica sound. I still prefer the SA set to most of the so called noiseless passive single coils available. And the huge benefit of having a totally linear and non tone changing guitar volume control is a beautiful thing.
     
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