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To EMG or not to EMG
Old 26th June 2009
  #1
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dangoudie's Avatar
 

To EMG or not to EMG

I'm looking into guitars because my current PRS SE Standard isn't doing it for me. I find I desire more definition and meat.

Therefore, I'm looking at Les Pauls, Epiphones rather than Gibsons because of budget.

So the sound I desire is NOT the typical metal sound but I do want the definition that is associated with those sounds. My idea is to run a Les Paul with EMGs through an old Marshall Plexi to come out with something that is defined, chunky but rock, not metal.

So my question to EMG users...is that a good idea?
Would I be better sticking to the stock LP pick-ups (Alnico Classics I believe) in terms of versatility?

I've tried a few EMG-loaded guitars and found they sound great at hi-gain, great on clean but not fantastic anywhere in the middle. Would I be able to acheive the kind of smoothness by just rolling off the highs some?

As budget is a concern I'm not really in a position to buy the guitar and start modding like a madman so suggestions of other pick-ups are welcome but not my primary concern.

Thanks in advance.
Old 26th June 2009
  #2
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i have a couple friends with se's that had fret jobs, setup, and both put emg's in them and they sound great!! i hate to say but there have been times it sounded better than my 2000$ modded out ibanez prestige. one of the guys also has a prs 24 and the se does not sound near as good, but holds its own. amazing when you look at the price of an se and still cheap after having the work done to it. they can get WAY metal though and still retain tone.

emg's are a love hate. for tight metal and such they sound great. but if going for a jangly rock or 80's rock, they are TO tight. i do like the clean on them quite a bit but the problem is their output is so high they overdrive amps WAY to easy. i have a 89 in the neck of one of my guitars that splits it from a 85 in hum to an SA (single coil emg) via a push pull pot on the volume. it is how i dealt with the problem. i could not have emg only guitars though. there is still some things passive pups sound more "natural" on imo.
Old 28th June 2009
  #3
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It really depends on the amp you play. Some amps like the LP/EMG combo, some don't. More often than not they don't however. EMGs usually sound better with guitars that have less wood then the big chunk of LP mahogany.
Old 3rd August 2009
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

Active EMG's good for controling feedback and playing extremely loud metal through a huge amp

Bad for, quiet playing, clean sounds, low volume distortion, batteries, mid range distortions

I'd personaly avoid, they take the fun out if that raw sound you get from passive pick ups

Leave EMG's for the loud metal heads ; )
Old 4th August 2009
  #5
Gear Head
 

I found EMGs don't work too well for non-metal. They tend to sound thin to me. I'd look at Fralin and Lollar if you want to spice up your pickups. I personally like Fralin and have them in all my guitars(Real 54,s humbuckers, and p-92s), but I have heard and like the Lollar humbuckers.
Old 4th August 2009
  #6
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AnalogueRazor's Avatar
 

I've found EMGs very usable and actually quite good sounding when used properly. Amps need significantly different settings for different pickups to sound their best. Turning down the treble on the amp works great. A tubescreamer or other mid-boost before the amp works nicely for more crunch. If you need a bit of subtlety the volume controls on active pickups work much nicer than on passives. A little volume cut at the guitar can help you find that sweet spot on the amp. The tone control on LPs also can work nicely especially for leads.

So... yes, they are quite usable. Unlike what many believe, EMGs don't turn every amp into a 5150. If you have the time to tinker with your amp settings you should find your Plexi works well with EMGs.

I've heard the new x series are a bit kinder to crunch-sounds, but I haven't actually heard them myself so that could be crap.
Old 5th August 2009
  #7
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I have two guitars right now. One is an epiphone flying V that I have modded all to hell, and an LTD F400FM with EMG 81's in it playing through a mesa rectifier. High gain? I love it. Time and time again I keep going back to my flying V though. EMG's are really really tight, this is true, but they certainly lack mid range power. It may just be the 81's I have in my guitar. I actually do like the clean tone I can get through my boogie using the 81's. Crystal clear and nice sounding to my ears, but flip on the high gain and there is no raw power in the tone.

You might want to check out seymour duncan blackouts. They supposedly have a deeper bass response and much more midrange bite than EMG's.
Old 6th August 2009
  #8
Gear Nut
 
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Now that I think about it, I usually do use an EMG SPC midboost on my personal guitar. At 50 bux, that might be essential for a hard rock tone if you are determined to use EMGs. As budget is a concern it may be worth it to look at other brands.
Old 6th August 2009
  #9
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I've had EMG's on various guitars over the years and they've all transformed otherwise good guitars into characterless planks of wood.

No bite in the Strat pickups
No twang in the Tele pickups
The humbuckers are OK if you put so much distortion on that you lose all of the original guitar tone - quiet though, that's their only saving grace.

Never again.
I agree with the comments about good high impedance alnico pickups like the Lollar's and Fralins etc. - they have character.
But then, I don't play metal much anymore....... And when I do I use a guitar with a Fralin humbucker.

K.
Old 6th August 2009
  #10
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Thanks very much for all the advice guys.

I've been swaying away from the EMG route the more I try them. They are fantastic and a couple of sounds but I find it very hard to get the less extreme sounds to work.

I actually made a small change to my guitar that made a HUGE difference, much more than I was expecting. I basically hated the trem bridge mainly because when you tune one string the whole bridge moves and throws the others out and then you tune the next etc etc. So I tightened the springs as far as they would go and stuffed a load of business cards in to really wedge the bridge flat and my guitar suddenly makes the sound I has looking for originally. Loads more body, bite and sustain and a generally less woolly tone. Chuffed!

It's made me reconsider the need for new pick-ups completely.
Old 8th August 2009
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randall View Post

PAF's are where it's at if you're looking for the tone of Page, Gibbons, Montrose and most of the bad boys.

Just my opinion of course
Agreed. EMGs have a sort of synthetic sound that is awesome for modern metal, but I really don't care for them outside of that.
Old 9th August 2009
  #12
Here for the gear
 

.when you roll off the level on the emg81 it goes to quiet .you crank up the level and its full blast.it seems they are best with the tone knob down a little and not up all the way.im going to take them out and put them on a 200 dollar guitar for a variety
Old 9th August 2009
  #13
Lives for gear
Great Thread.. very enlightning.
+1 on "Randall,s" post.... some cool links.
Old 1st September 2009
  #14
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It's very easy to generalize EMGs as being sterile or synthetic...but that primarily applies to their 81 model. For a modern metal player, they are great...but that's it. However, less popular EMGs are actually really, really versatile. My favorite pickup combination is the EMG 60A (alnico version of the 60, which is a very warm and organic sounding pickup) at the neck and the EMG 89 at the bridge (which consists of two EMG SA pickups and is able to be split). These are in my Fernandes Baritone Deluxe (came with stock 81s, which were promptly taken out) and have a phenomenal sound...warm, smooth, and clean. I personally like EMGs, especially in basses. However, at the end of the way, it all depends on the tone that fits your playing.
Old 1st September 2009
  #15
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octatonic's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Conce View Post
It's very easy to generalize EMGs as being sterile or synthetic...but that primarily applies to their 81 model. For a modern metal player, they are great...but that's it. However, less popular EMGs are actually really, really versatile. My favorite pickup combination is the EMG 60A (alnico version of the 60, which is a very warm and organic sounding pickup) at the neck and the EMG 89 at the bridge (which consists of two EMG SA pickups and is able to be split). These are in my Fernandes Baritone Deluxe (came with stock 81s, which were promptly taken out) and have a phenomenal sound...warm, smooth, and clean. I personally like EMGs, especially in basses. However, at the end of the way, it all depends on the tone that fits your playing.
+1.
They did Dave Gilmour just fine for ages.

I still think the Tele neck pickup is one of the best sounding pickup son the planet.
Old 3rd September 2009
  #16
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Just thought I'd add an update to my post above. I found another problem with my guitar that was seriously impacting its sound. Fixed it up. Balls out tone is coming out of that guitar now. Heavy as all hell, cuts through molten gain like buttah, and a much fuller clean sound. Lots of gain is what they are designed for. I play modern metal, so I need a guitar that cuts through the gain and gives me those huge palm mutes.

If you want a more versatile pick up, don't get EMG's. If you like heavily distorted guitars and shimmering cleans, with nothing in between, grab some EMG's.
Old 21st July 2011
  #17
Gear Head
 

I have a esp ltd h-351nt and it is stocked with the oh so common 81/85 set. Just like you said, it does amazingly at high gains (I'm a hard rocker not a metal head) and emg's have very very nice warm but still keep there clarity with clean. But in the middle i hate it. I just feel like emg's lose there tone when you arent going with high gain. If your looking for versitility then hands down the alnico classics that come stock, oh and btw you could find a used gibson les paul studio faded in brown or cherry for around 600 bucks so that might be something you consider because gibson is just a whole new world compaired to epiphone. But if your looking for high gain all the time and clean as well (like metal does) then I'd go with EMG's.
Old 26th July 2011
  #18
Gear Head
 

I have emg's stock in my guitar right now and I'm looking to change them out. There good for what there meant to do and nothing else
Old 26th July 2011
  #19
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Just put a pair of Duncan 59 neck/JB bridge in my PRS SE, couldnt be happier with the choice. Has great bite now. I never cared for the EMG's
Old 26th July 2011
  #20
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Toseben's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by shanabit View Post
Just put a pair of Duncan 59 neck/JB bridge in my PRS SE, couldnt be happier with the choice. Has great bite now. I never cared for the EMG's
+1 Agreed.
Did the same thing with my Ibanez (which actually had passive pickups when bought, but previous owner changed 'em to EMGs) and love the Seymours. Didn't really like EMGs even with metal.
Old 4th May 2016
  #21
Here for the gear
 

I have an ESP E-II Eclipse with EMG 81 / 60, H&K Switchblade and Tubescreamer. Sounds insane!

And its true 1) EMG's are great for rock / metal and especially Metallica style metal.

2) You need to adjust your amp settings.

Also, for the record I have a PRS Custom 24 with HFS / VB stock pickups and tried it next to Charvel with Seymour Duncan JB / 59. First thought, in Switchblade, ok but not much different to PRS.

I like passives, Duncans and EMG's.

Really like Gus G's tone, maybe he's kind of in between.

Hi, by the way. New on here....
Old 4th May 2016
  #22
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you should look at the Burstbuckers as well- I have them in my 57 LP Custom and they are my favorite LP pickup. I've got
57 classics in my other two LPs. but the BB's are my favs.
Old 4th May 2016
  #23
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I've used the same set of emg single coils with active midrange and active top/bottom boost for over 20 years. I play everything but metal. Never a problem dialing in everything from Santana, to Prince, to Trey Anastasio, Jerry Garcia, Nile Rodgers, clean funk, dirty rock, country, Jazz...etc. I love them.
Old 4th May 2016
  #24
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Amroth's Avatar
I am pretty happy with the EMG 57 in my epi LP baritone
Old 5th May 2016
  #25
I'm a fan of EMG's if you're going for a modern hi gain tone but on this one I'll second the Duncan JB recommendation or a Motor City Garuda which is basically like a JB without the treble spike.
Old 6th May 2016
  #26
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These days there are plenty of passive pickups that can give you a great high gain tone. Another option is finding passive pickups you like and hitting them with a preamp, either inside or outside of the guitar.
I think Gilmour was using EMGs for awhile due to the massive lightshow causing a horrible buzz in his guitar rig.
Old 6th May 2016
  #27
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I've never seen such a divisive brand of pickups. You either love em or you hate em. I had a strat with the EMG SA set, but it lacked some of the character I usually associate with a stratocaster. Not great for Hendrix or SRV sounds, etc. I've installed EMG humbuckers for other people. I really don't have an opinion other than to say it's not the sound I want out of a humbucker, but I've known folks who love them for aggressive distorted tones.

EMG bass pickups are fantastic, and much more versatile than their guitar pickups seem to be. They provide great vintage tones if you're using a tube amp. Their P bass pickup is hard to beat.
Old 7th May 2016
  #28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zoobiedood View Post
I think Gilmour was using EMGs for awhile due to the massive lightshow causing a horrible buzz in his guitar rig.
That's the first time I've heard that as the reason he used them and it makes perfect sense.

I personally dislike EMGs for most things (if you want actives I much prefer Bartolinis) for (lack of) tone reasons, and most people use them because of the lack of noise issues, but there are notable exceptions.
Old 7th May 2016
  #29
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You guys need to check out some demos of the EMG 57 / 66 set. They react much more like passive pickups are less thin and geared towards super high gain stuff
Old 21st May 2016
  #30
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Prince used EMGs in just about everything he played (incl his Strats and Hohner Tele), and his tone was (still hurts using past tense...) amazing. Nothing sterile about it.
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