I have an Ibanez RG321 and I really want to change the pickups in it. Mainly the bridge since I don't use the neck pickup very often. I was thinking about an EMG 81. I found a great deal on Ebay for one and I was wondering if anyone could give me some more info on it before I buy it.

I mainly play Lamb of God, Metallica, Tool, Iced Earth, Into Eternity, Arch Enemy, and a little Tenacious D, lol. I usually use the Ibanez for the lower tuned stuff and my ESP LTD EC-50 for the standard tuning but I like the Ibanez more so I find myself re-tuning often it to play whatever I happened to feel like playing that day.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Would an EMG 81 give me a better sound or is there a better pickup that someone can recommend?
You really can't go wrong with EMG or Seymour Duncans. If you have the option of going to a local shop (or retailer) to try out guitars, give it a shot. DiMarzios are really good for Ibanez RG guitars.
Well of all the bands you posted, only one actually uses the EMG81, Metallica

LoG use SD '59's, Tool and Arch Enemy use an SD JB, Into Eternity seem to use passives of some description, Iced Earth (IIRC) have custom wound Bareknuckles and JB's

Look into which band's tone you like best and then let that have the biggest effect on your decision.

Also, what amp do you have?
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I've got an RG321MH with EMGs (81 bridge, 85 neck) and I play similar stuff (modern metal). I also went for the EMGs because I got a good deal on them on eBay. Definitely works well for that style. I haven't tried any passives other than the stock Infinitys though so I don't know if there's any passives that would be better.

Blackouts are good too. I've played a friend's guitar that had them, and my Schecter 7-string has the Duncan Design versions. The output's a bit higher than the EMGs and they give a slightly fatter and thicker, if slightly less defined, tone in my opinion. To be honest I reckon you'd be happy with either.

I'd still consider passives too, but I'll let others suggest them as they're not my area of expertise. Active pickups are a bit of a love-or-hate thing, some like the clean modern metal sound they give and some say they're sterile and characterless.
What amp do you use? EMGs sound pretty horrid through solid states, and even through tube amps they're kind of a one trick pony. Pretty good pickup for what you play on that guitar specifically though. Check it out, but personally I'd rather go the passive route, especially since your guitar doesn't have a battery slot in the back to actually power the EMG. Which would be a pain in the ass to install, I would assume.

I say get some DiMarzio's, a pair of Breed's would suit you nicely.
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Most of bands that you've listed use passive pups. SO if you're looking for the similar tone try a SD if you can afford it a BK pup.
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Sorry for just now answering. I'm at work. Lol. I use a Line 6 Spider 1x12. I know it's not the greatest amp. I know it's old. But I'm on an extremely tight budget so I'm trying to start with the little things and work my way up to bigger things. Like buying a nice tube amp (I want a Krank so bad I'd probably piss myself if I actually got one). But alas.. I'm stuck with the original Spider.

I know I'd have to carve out a bigger hole for the EMG so I've already considered that. DiMarzios was going to be my next choice.

Thank you everyone for your helpful advice.
Oh, here come the 'new amp first' replies
Get ready....


Why do you think you'd need to carve out a bigger hole for the EMG's? Why do people even say this, I'm sure you heard this from someone else first. EMG's are a direct fit for any standard humbucker or single coil routing and your battery will fit in your control cavity no problem. Now if you're doing the 18v mod you might run into problems, might not but there is no routing necessary to place an EMG into your guitar UNLESS your guitar is routed for single coils and you want a humbucker but then it's the same if it was a passive pickup.
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Last edited by DSOTM80 at Nov 19, 2009,
Why exactly do you want new pickups? It's not going to make that much of a difference in your sound, especially through a cheap solid-state. And with that amp, EMGs are a horrible idea, moreso than they usually are.

Before you worry about new pickups, get a better amp, that's what's going to improve your sound. That doesn't mean a more expensive amp! You claim to be on a tight budget, so liquidate the Spider, and use that cash to get something else. If you want a modelling amp, go for the Vox Valvetronix, depending on which you get, it won't break the bank, especially if you go used. Or if you want all-tube, a used Valveking is a great deal, though a little more expensive.
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With a small solid state amp like that, changing pickups isn't going to do anything for you, even changing to active pickups (in fact that would be quite a downgrade with an amp like that). Pickups really don't do as much for your tone as some people think, and especially for playing metal, your amp counts for far, far more than your pickups do. You could have the highest output active pickups in the world with a second boost from an overdrive pedal and you sitll wouldn't get anythign close to a metal tone if you were playing through, for example, a small Fender solid state. That Line 6 won't be much different. Until you get a new amp, any money you spend on other ''upgrades'' will just be completely wasted - at best they'll sound the same, more often than not they'll sound worse.
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Well of all the bands you posted, only one actually uses the EMG81, Metallica

I think dethklok also uses emg's, dunno if its a emg81
Quote by zomgguitarz1234
I think dethklok also uses emg's, dunno if its a emg81
Standard 81/85 combo, but it's irrelevant to the OP.
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listen to the above posters and get a new amp. i was thinking of just putting emgs in my starter guitar rather then buying a new amp to get metal tones, so my friend brought over his guitar which had emgs, and it sounded absolutely horrible. yet my piece of crap starter guitar sounded better over his... im not sure what it was xD some sort of Peavey tube combo, but listen to the above posters, get a new amp first
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i have SD blackout on my S series Ibanez and i totally love it. i'm an exclusive SD and Dimarzio pick up user, as i feel Ibanez guitars and this 2 pick up have the best combination of modern metal and very versatile.

not a big fan of EMG.
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There's plenty room in the RG321 cavity for a 9V battery. I'm considering doing the 18V mod soon, and I reckon it'll be a squeeze but will be just about possible if some wires are moved out of the way. And yes, they're more difficult to install than passives, you'll have to rewire all the electronics. If it's the 81/85 combo, you'll have to replace the Ibanez 5-way switch with a 3-way one.

I don't find that EMGs are that bad through solid state, especially if it's modelling.

Bear in mind that with EMGs you'll be throwing away some of the versatility in exchange for something that does one thing well ("well" is of course debatable, read the other replies), especially as you can't do split or parallel wiring with most EMGs. As I say I would've probably gone for good passives if I hadn't got a good deal on the EMGs: they're more versatile, easier to install, and let more of the guitar's own tone shine through: the RG321MH is mahogony and has a nice deep sound to it, some of which was lost with the switch to EMGs. I don't dislike the EMGs at all, they're great overall, I just reckon some Duncans or DiMarzio's might've been even better.
Wow thanks for the help guys. I'm sure it's obvious but I know more about playing a guitar than the hardware it's self. I'm self taught so I never really messed with the hardware in fear of ****ing it up.

So.. New amp is it. I'll just save my money. I will have to look into that Vox Valvetronix since two people recommended it. I always heard tube amps were better period though and I think my ultimate goal will be to get a high end all tube amp. Like the aforementioned Krank.

Thanks again everyone.