SINCE 1976, EMG HAS BEEN MAKING GUITAR and bass pickups that feature active circuitry. The “active” part refers to the fact that inside of each pickup is a miniature amplifier that’s designed to increase tonal range, enhance harmonic content, and provide more output. Another benefit of active electronics is a lower output impedance, which enables these pickups to drive long lengths of cable without losing high-frequency response. Installing pickups— anyone’s pickups—can be a challenge for those who don’t have good soldering skills, and that’s why EMG recently introduced its Solderless Install System, which makes the retrofit process easier and less time consuming.
The 81X/60X pickups on review here ($220 street) sport ceramic magnets and a newly designed preamp, and the set includes two volume controls and one tone control, a toggle switch, a battery clip, and an output jack. Most of the components come pre-wired, so once you’ve installed the various components in your guitar, it’s simply a matter of making these connections to the main buss board, which has a self-adhesive back for securing it inside the control cavity. Depending on your guitar, it may be necessary to open up the pickup routs a bit to make room for the EMGs, but that is most likely the only hitch in the installation procedure that you may encounter.
Tested in a Schecter C-1 guitar with the 81X in the bridge position and the 60X in the neck position, the tones were excellent across the board. While EMGs are suitable for any style of music, their clarity and headroom definitely give them an edge for highly overdriven tones where you need a lot of articulation and tightness. We used this guitar extensively for our recent roundup of 13 high-gain amps (October 2009), and the 81X sounded amazingly focused and detailed, with strong lows, rich mids, and a bright, clear top. It’s no secret that metal players have long favored EMGs, but they also sound great for blues, classic rock, country, and even jazz. Having the 60X in the neck position really opened up the sound of our Schecter C-1, yielding a sweet blend of airiness and girth that sounded fantastic for cleaner tones when both pickups were selected. Not every player is a candidate for active pickups, but if you’re looking for clarity and tight response— particularly in extreme-gain applications—then you owe it to yourself to try a set of these new EMGs.
EMG 81X AND 60X
KUDOS Amazingly articulate. Lots of punch. Easy to install.
CONTACT (707) 525-9941; emgpickups.com