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Pros: This is a great sounding pickup.
EMG-81 ACTIVE GUITAR PICKUP
If you are a guitarist who is looking for a guitar with a dominant driving metal sound, then you really need to listen to the EMG-81 Active Humbucking Pickup. There is no need to throw away your trusty guitar to get the sound you are looking for. Just replace your current humbucking pickups with one or more EMG81 Active Humbucking Pickups. The EMG-81 lists for $124.00, but it can be had at most musical instrument chain stores for $99.00. Read on and see if this pickup sounds like what you have been looking for.
The company that makes EMG has been around since 1976. Over time the EMG Company has earned the reputation of being the most popular manufacturer of active guitar pickups. EMG pickups can be found on many high-end models of some popular guitar manufacturers, such as Gibson, ESP, and Jackson, to name just a few possibilities. However, EMG pickups are possibly more famous as being replacement pickups for people who are looking for a really hard driving rock sound. It is the EMG-81 Active Humbucking Pickup which made the EMG Company famous. Although the EMG Company makes a number of different pickups, the EMG-81 is by far the most powerful and hottest of the bunch.
The EMG-81 is a "humbucking" pickup, made with a "Ceramic Magnet," and it has "active" electronics. Allow me to explain a bit about what each of these terms mean. The EMG-81 has a U-shaped humbucking structure, where the two coils of the pickup are placed side by side, and the consequent interaction of the coils serves to cancel out extraneous electromagnetic noises, such as the infamous 60-cycle hum. But there is something else that is different about the magnet on the EMG-81. This pickup has what is known as a "rail" or bar magnet design. A rail magnet is just what it sounds like. Instead of having individual magnet pole pieces below each string on a guitar, which is what most humbucking pickups made today have, a rail magnet is designed in the shape of a long rail or bar. Thus when one bends a note, the energy of the vibrating string is picked up more evenly, and the result is a more even and consistent sustain.
As noted above, the EMG-81 is made with a Ceramic Magnet. In general, a pickup made with a "Ceramic Magnet," like the EMG-81 has, will have a sharp biting edge to it, and it will yield a very aggressive and domineering sound. The EMG-81 is also an "active" pickup. Typically, and active pickup will have a lower number of coil windings than a standard "passive" pickup, and as a consequence, it will have low impedance and a low output. However, "active" pickups, like the EMG-81, have an on-board active preamp that is powered by a battery, and this boosts the output, while at the same time maintaining low impedance. A low impedance pickup will also be able to carry a signal along a long guitar cable without the high-end treble loss typically associated with a passive pickup.
Well what does all of this mean to me? Simply put, the bottom line is that the EMG-81 is a very powerful, high output, low noise guitar pickup, that sounds great. Well who is the EMG-81 Active Humbucking Pickup best suited for? This is a pickup that is all business. It is best suited for a lead guitarist who is looking for a powerful, domineering, driving sound. The sustain on a guitar fitted with an EMG-81 is remarkably long, and the attack of the individual notes is very quick and distinct. The EMG-81 is ideal for placement in the bridge position of the guitar. It is also sometimes used in both the bridge and the neck positions of a guitar, such as in Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett's Signature ESP Guitar. Another very good choice is to have an EMG-81 in the bridge position, and an EMG-85 in the bridge position of the guitar, such as in the case of Zakk Wylde's Signature Gibson Les Paul Guitar.
One final note to those of you who may be worried about how long a 9-Volt battery might last in a guitar with two EMG-81's. Typically, battery life is about 3,000 hours. Practically speaking, that would mean that you could play 3 hours a day for a 1000 days, or a bit longer than two and a half years, before you would have to change batteries. Personally, I think changing batteries once per year is a wiser choice, as it lessens the chance of battery leakage, which of course can be a hazard with older batteries.
Well, I would like to thank you very much for taking the time to read my review. But now if you will excuse me, I must get back to my practicing.