My quest for tone has been a long and evolving process.

I have come to realize that every element in the “Tone Chain” is crucial to the final product that comes out of the speakers. One crucial element is the guitars pickups. There are hundreds of possibilities on the market but a serious contender to be considered is EMG pickups.

 I can trace my first experience with EMG pickups back to the streets of Hollywood California in the early 90’s. I had enrolled in the Musicians Institute to pursue my career in music and had begun to really see the diversity of players in the world as well as the diversity of music gear that they used.

 At this point in my life I was using a late 80’s Crate Half Stack with a homemade guitar that I called “The Log”. It was a total piece of crap that was as ugly to play as it was to look at. It was made of a second hand piece of ash and fitted with a maple ESP neck and loaded with a Jackson J90C pickup. The sound was fair but by no means iconic. The Crate was loud but lacked any kind of soul and Jackson pickup lacked any kind of punch or clarity. I began looking for something to punch up my sound and a few players that I knew suggested I try an EMG pickup.

So I scoured the local music paper for a used EMG pickup and the next thing I know I am on my way  to the intersection of Yucca Street and Franklin Ave in the heart of a very bad section of Hollywood to exchange $25.00 cash for one used EMG 81.

I took my new prize to a local repair guy name Bobby Piper who was a student of guitar guru John Suhr and He retrofitted my “Log” with the EMG 81 and I have been a disciple of the Mighty EMG ever since.

There is a reason that EMG pickups appear in so many great guitars. It’s because they are AWESOME! They are loud and clear and have absolutely no hum or noise. They are the ideal pickup for playing metal and make any guitar scream.

The secret is in the active electronics. They are powered by a single 9 volt battery that boosts the signal and gives a clean consistent flow and a great balanced tone with an incredible metal crunch.
The difference in pickups was so significant that I built my tone around the EMG 81 for the next 15 years.

As a builder I have similar reasons for using EMG pickups in my custom guitars. They are clean and loud but they are also consistent.  They have the same responsiveness in different woods and allow me to get the true tone out of the natural equalization that I get when I balance the body woods on my guitars.  Adding a set of EMG’s to any guitar is a sure way to maximize the tonal versatility.

As the years went on I expanded my palette of EMG pickups and began using the 85 in conjunction with the 81. In fact my favorite tone comes from using the 85 in the bridge position an SA single coil in the middle position with an 89 in the next position because the 89 has a split coil that can be tapped and used a single coil or a humbucker.

I also highly recommend the EMG SA- Single coil pickup with the Alnico magnet as well as the PA-2 gain booster.

With all this great stuff being said let me say that the one thing the EMG lacks is articulation. The pickups sound great when the volume is fully on but a slight roll off on the volume knob leaves the sound a little sterile and thin. EMG pickups have extremely high output but do not have the warmth of a Seymour Duncan JB or a Dimarzio PAF when the volume is lowered.  This is not a fatal flaw and may not be noticeable by some players but to certain ears the can sound sterile and thin.

EMG has since expanded their product line to include some passive pickups (without battery) in order to compensate for the lack of articulation in their active line.

I strongly recommend ANY of the pickups and accessories in EMG’s product line and I am certain that any player can find their tone with EMG pickups.

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Phone: 312-912-7533

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