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Old 12-05-2012, 08:19 PM   #1
saxman42
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Passive Metal Pickups for My Gibson?

Hey Everyone,

I'm looking for good passive metal pickups for my Gibson SG Gothic. I have the EMG 81-85 combo right now and they're good pickups, but not quite the tone I'm looking for. I don't like the scratchy sound they get and they seem to have a flat tone. I want some passives that sound more lively and responsive.

I'm currently considering the Dimarzio D Activator, X2N, and Crunchlab. I'd love some feedback from people who have played those or anyone who as other recommendations. I'm looking for a really light low end and a lot of presence for fast rhythm chugging and some lead stuff. I play through a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, so I have more than enough bass on tap and a huge range of presence control as well.

Thanks in advance for the help!
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Old 12-05-2012, 08:24 PM   #2
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I would recommend looking into EMG X pickups first.
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Old 12-05-2012, 08:29 PM   #3
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18V mod?
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Old 12-05-2012, 09:07 PM   #4
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I keep going back and forth between the 9 and 18v mod. It doesn't seem to make much of a difference. The 18v has a little more head room on the clean channel, but that's all I've noticed.
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Old 12-05-2012, 09:55 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Offworld92
I would recommend looking into EMG X pickups first.

These

Or Seymour Duncan Distortions or Dimarzio Crunch Lab/Liquifire.
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Old 12-05-2012, 11:03 PM   #6
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not having played the EMG Xs I will recommend the Crunchlab. love them.
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Old 12-05-2012, 11:09 PM   #7
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Are the Crunchlab's tight in the low end and present enough? I hear good things about them, but according to Dimarzio's tone guide they're lacking in the high end.
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Old 12-05-2012, 11:14 PM   #8
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Also, are there any guitars that come stock with the EMG X pickups that I might be able to try out at guitar center?
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Old 12-05-2012, 11:17 PM   #9
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x's are honestly not improved enough over standard emgs, ive had both. in multiple guitars. sound incredibly simialr. if you dont like the emg tone. you wont like the x's. that being said. the emg 57/66 combo sound awsome in that vid with richie faulkner playing them. would love to try them
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Old 12-06-2012, 03:14 AM   #10
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I've tried the 57 and 66. Not in one of my own guitars and not through my own amp, sadly, so it would be wrong of me to draw any drastic conclusions, but I had enough time with them to get an idea of what they're about. They're very nice, but essentially they're just the James Hetfield model with alnico magnets instead of ceramic ones. This is not a bad thing - they sound exactly as EMG claim they do, a great hybrid of modern technology and more standard humbucker tone - but this is a trick they already did with the, in my opinion far superior...

EMG 60AX. That's what you want. The 60A always gets ignored and it's a total crime, because it solves every problem people bring up with active pickups. It's not as flat as the 81, it's not as muddy as the 85 and it's not as harsh as the 60; the regular version gives you a tighter sound than Blackouts if that is the response you like, while the X version gives you even looser response than Blackouts, if that's the feel you're after.
Compared to the passives that have been mentioned, the D Activators are basically like an EMG 81 with the lower-mids sucked out, the X2N is like an 85 with the mids pumped up even more to the point of no return and the Crunchlab is, as far as I'm concerned, an inferior take on the Duncan Custom tone.

I would like to point out that you can't get passive pickups that are "more lively and responsive" than active designs. It's a simple fact of the technology; active pickups are, inherently by design, always more responsive than any passive pickup can ever be. The idea of active pickups was originally to expand the response range for jazz players. If you don't find active pickups are responsive enough for you, then I'd suggest something is wrong with the set up of that guitar, its wiring, your amp or, dare I say it, your technique.
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Old 12-06-2012, 04:07 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MrFlibble
the Crunchlab is, as far as I'm concerned, an inferior take on the Duncan Custom tone.


That's probably why I don't care for my Custom that much. The Crunch Lab does nothing for me.
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Old 12-06-2012, 04:10 AM   #12
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I guess responsive isn't the right word. I know most passives won't have as high of an output as actives. There just seems to be a lack of clarity and presence, which is probably because active pickup magnets are significantly weaker than passive pickup magnets. I was able to improve the tone of my EMGs quite a bit when I moved my pickups really close to the strings, but it still doesn't have the clarity of a good hot passive pickup.

Last edited by saxman42 : 12-06-2012 at 04:13 AM.
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Old 12-06-2012, 04:14 AM   #13
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How long since you've replaced your battery?
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Old 12-06-2012, 04:19 AM   #14
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I just replaced it about two weeks ago. I usually swap it out pretty often. I'm not saying the EMGs don't sound like they should. I've been using them for about two years and they sound good. I just like the passive sound better. Besides, I have a schecter 7 string with EMGs that sound identical, so I wouldn't mind getting some versatility in sound between the two guitars.

Last edited by saxman42 : 12-06-2012 at 04:28 AM.
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Old 12-06-2012, 09:43 AM   #15
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I'm quite fond of EMG's and have had them in a bunch of guitars. I decided to go with passives when I picked up my LP and went with a Duncan Distortion and haven't looked back. Great sounding pickup.
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Old 12-06-2012, 11:56 AM   #16
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Thanks. I'll definitely look into the Duncan distortion.
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Old 12-06-2012, 12:40 PM   #17
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Right well, sticking to passives then...

If clarity is how you define responsiveness, then the Duncan Distortion definitely is a good option. It's pretty much the most balanced of the high-output, ceramic magnet humbuckers commonly available. I've not used one in an SG before, but I've used them in enough Les Pauls and super-Strats to hazard an educated guess that you'll be happy enough with a Distortion.
If I may, though, there are other options from Seymour Duncan and DiMarzio that have particular advantages over the Distortion, if you fancy something that is as generic.

There's the SD Full Shred and DM Evo, both of which have just a touch less mids and a sharper response than the Duncan Distortion. If your SG happens to be one of the classic-sounding, mids-heavy SGs, these could help bring a little tightness to your bass and more cut to the treble. And, obviously, if you do lots of fast solos or complex riffing, these pickups will help define that.

The SD Custom has a slightly more classic, rounder sound than the Distortion. It fills out and reinforces the mix a little better, though arguably doesn't naturally stand out as well. It can balance a thin or bright-sounding guitar better than the Distortion does. If you're the only guitarist in a band, or if the other guitarist favours a thinner tone, the Custom can help add some width to your sound. Check out Nightwish for an example of how the Custom with a Mesa Dual Rectifier can give a big sound by itself.

A DM Evo 2 can be great if you play an even mix of rhythm and lead. It's not quite as piercing as the Evo/Full Shred are, it's not quite as classic as the Custom is and it's not as flat as the Distortion. It is probably the most sensitive passive pickup around, but it's an unusual kind of sensitive; it's bright without having the ice pick treble of most ceramic pickups and the bass is clear without simply being weak. In many ways it is the perfect high-output pickup, but it does have one major drawback: if you play well, this will be exaggerated and you will sound incredible. But if you make the slightest mistake, the Evo 2 will exaggerate that too and make you sound absolutely awful. It's an incredible pickup but you really need to have a lot of confidence in your ability. All your skill and all your flaws will be highlighted; the Duncan Distortion will cover both up a bit, which may be preferable.

There's also the SD Alternative 8. It's basically the next stage of Distortion; more mids, more bass, slightly less piercing treble but still as bright as any high-output pickup can be and slightly less compressed dynamics. If you like the idea of actives but want less laboratory-perfect, clinical response, the Alternative 8 is the way to go. The Alternative 8's EQ is more or less perfect for anything and everything, its only flaw being that the output is simply too much for many rigs and styles of music. You can turn this to your advantage though, by turning the gain on your amp down a little bit more than you'd usually have it, which then gives you more room to play with the guitar's volume control to clean up, which is always a nice option to have even when playing chuggy metal.
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Old 12-06-2012, 01:13 PM   #18
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I like Duncan sh-6,sh-8. And have BKP holy divers in a mohog guitar .....love emmm, but I think Dimarzio super distortions would have worked just as well as for less $$$$$.


I play acdc ,Rush, Prong slayer, 80s hair metal, 70s rock with all of these pups.
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Old 12-06-2012, 09:50 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by saxman42
... I want some passives that sound more lively and responsive.

... I play through a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier, so I have more than enough bass on tap and a huge range of presence control as well.

Thanks in advance for the help!

It could be your Dual Rec and/or setting (I have the Triple Rec/2 ch and had a Dual). If you need responsive, you need something a bit tighter like a Fryette/VHT, a Rivera, etc. I bet you'll immediately notice a difference even through a Marshall.

If you need another set, the Crunchlab + Liquifire would be nice.
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Old 12-06-2012, 11:34 PM   #20
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Wow. Thanks for the detailed description MrFlibble. That's just the response I was looking for. So you're more of a fan of the Seymour Duncan's than the Dimarzios?
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