hey guys. first post on here. so basically, i just bought some emg 81 bridge +85 neck to put in my zakk wylde les paul custom epiphone. i have installed them and they seem to be working but atm are a bit of a let down. so im thinking i have installed them incorrectly or something. theyre are a few problems :

1. volume difference between 81 (softer) 85 (louder), on clean channel. i have adjusted height of pickups. didnt seem to do much. but when i put distortion on they seem relatively the same.

2. the 81 seems to be lacking punch. by this i mean its an active pickup and ive read its meant to be powerful as blah blah, but right now my passive emg hz and dimebucker seem to be more gainier. the 81 seems to have a lag in sound and doesnt seem to give me a full sound. could this be a wiring issue?

3. if anyone has set these up before, or knows any tutorials online step by step how to do this. and if someone could show me how to set up the three way toggle switch correctly. that'd be mad.

pease help . my set up is a boss me-50 (multi efffects) running through a vox ac-30.
EMG's should be run as close as possible to the strings. Set up the 81 first and then adjust the height of the 85 until they balance.
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yeh man 81 is like 3 mm away from the strings. and 85 is way down and 85 is still way louder clean. its ****ed as. dunno wat to do :S
I have an 81TW/89R set that are like that. I can't drop the neck any lower or put the bridge any higher. Sucks because I get my overdrive right where I want it with the bridge and it ends up way over saturated when I switch to the neck.
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Last edited by Prime2515102 at Mar 20, 2011,
I have the same problem. Is there a shim or something that can be used to get the bridge pickup closer to the strings? I have a PRS Tremonti SE and I just put the 81/85 combo in it. I use all three pickup configurations on a regular basis, but now when I switch to neck only, it's much louder. Is there something that I'm doing wrong or do I need to just put a spacer under the bridge pickup? The instructions say to get the pickups as close as possible to the strings, but my bridge pickup is as high as it goes and isn't what I would call 'close' to the strings. The neck pickup is as close as I can put it without it interfering with my picking.

The neck pickup on any guitar I've ever tried has always been louder. I thought that's the way it's supposed to be.
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I have played the guitar with it's stock pickups for a couple of years and not noticed a volume difference. It seemed pretty well balanced from one to the other. Playing the same songs now, with the same guitar, only having changed the pickups, the neck is much louder when I switch to it. Or, more accurately in my case, when I switch from the neck, or both, to only the bridge, I get a very noticeable decrease in volume. The installation instructions imply that the pickups should be very close to the strings. The neck is. The bridge is not, but it is as close as I can get it with the pickup housing that is on the guitar.
My question now is, what is the best way to get my pickup closer to the strings? Is there a good way to shim the pickup housing? I don't want to permanently alter the guitar, and, I don't want to do anything that will degrade the tone of the guitar.

I've got EMG's in 2 of my guitars, 81/85 config in a LP and 81/60 in a Jackson DXMG. In both instances, once installed, the neck was considerably louder than the bridge, and so i went on to fiddle with different settings and did some internet research for why this could be.
basically, the general rule of thumb is, as previously mentioned, to set the BRIDGE (emg 81) as close to the strings as possible without it interfering with the strings themselves, or as far as the surround will let it go, then raise the NECK (emg 85) to an equal position... play the guitar and if the neck is louder, which it almost certainly will be, lower it til they sound more complimentary to each other, leaving the bridge pickup in place.
There are things to bear in mind with this though, if you were to put identical pickups, placed at the same height in to a guitar, the neck will be louder as the strings are vibrating ALOT more above the neck position and it'll seem bassier.
Now, with this is mind, fitting a combination of pickups like an 81/85 config where you are dealing with pre-amped pickups that are set to respond with different frequencies, even with the neck lowered and the bridge raised, the neck may SEEM louder due to the increased bass response.
I know that when i set my emg's, the neck certainly seemed louder, but it was more of what i was hearing, not the actual volume, if that makes sense. The louder bass of the neck seemed to overpower the cutting response of the bridge pickup, especially on a clean channel, but once driven, as mentioned earlier, it all seemed more 'even'.
I'm not really sure if this is helping at all, but i thought i'd pass on this info as it may change the way your listening to the tones your getting coz knowing this can help you pick apart what your listening to when your testing the positions.
also, when testing the different pickup heights, try avoiding some of the bassier strings and see if there is still a big volume difference.

all the best,

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Obvious question..... But did you replace all the electronics with the ones that came with the actives, or are you using the stock pots?
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Thanks for all your help, does anyone have an 81 at the bridge and an 81 at the neck? hows it sound?