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The Ultimate Active Pickup & 18 Volt Mod Thread

This thread is for Questions about ACTIVE pickups and the 18v mod. It is a work in progress and stuff will be added as we go and more info becomes available.
Read the first page before asking a question! Most questions will be answered in the first 15 post. For links to many other great threads, check out the GB&C Central Hub.

The first place you should go to for info on Active pickups is the manufacturers website.
With a little research you can find the answers you need. They have the specs for every pickup, wiring diagrams and lots of other stuff.

I would like to thank SomeoneYouKnew for his contributions to this thread.

Table of Contents:
Post 1: Intro & Table of Contents
Post 2: Important Notes
Post 3: The Difference in Philosophy Between Active and Passive Pickups
Post 4: Wiring Questions
Post 5: EMG 81TW & 89 Wiring Questions
Post 6: Battery Questions
Post 7: The 18 Volt Mod
Post 8: 7 & 8 String Pickups (EMG & Seymour Duncan)
Post 9: Active EMG Pickups
Post 10: New EMG Products Started in 2009
Post 11: Active Seymour Duncan Pickups (6 String)
Post 12: Other Active Pickups (Dragonfire, Guitarheads and others)
Post 13-15: Reserved for Future Expansion
Last edited by zakkwyldefan79 at Jan 11, 2010,

1) Only one battery is required for the pickups,and any active accessories such as the SPC,RPC, EXG, AB, PA-2, and Pi-2.
2) Use an Alkaline or Lithium battery for longest life.
3) The controls included with EMG Systems are 25K Ohm, Audio Taper. This value of control is required for the system to work correctly.
4) When installing EMG Active Pickups, DO NOT connect the bridge ground wire. This wire is usually soldered to a volume or tone control casing and goes to the bridge. This wire grounds the strings and uses them and your body as a shield against hum and buzz. It also creates a shock hazard. EMG Pickups are shielded internally and DO NOT require string grounding. This greatly reduces the possibility of reverse polarity shock from microphones and other equipment.
5) EMG Active Pickups have very little magnetism compared to passive pickups. We recommend you adjust the pickups as close to the strings as possible. Sustain and string movement will not be inhibited by close adjustment. Except with the SV & SAV they have pole piece magnets that can affect sustain & intonation when adjusted too close to the strings.
6) EMG's will fit into your guitar without any routing. As long as you're replacing a humbucker with a humbucker and a single coil with a single coil. EMG pickups are the same size as standard passive pickups.*Except the 81-TW which is taller than the typical EMG Pickup, Be sure to it will fit in your guitar before you start the installation.
7) When you buy active EMG's or Seymour Duncan Pickups new they come with all the parts you will need to install them into your guitar. If your guitar is a Gibson Les Paul manufactured after April 1975 you'll have to contact EMG to get some long shaft pots though.
8) Can I split the coils in my EMG-85? No. The EMG-89 or 89R are the split coil versions of the EMG-85.
9) The pickups used in the signature sets are just the regular pickups. An 81 is an 81, an 85 is an 85 and so on...
Last edited by zakkwyldefan79 at Jan 13, 2010,
The Difference in Philosophy Between Active and Passive Pickups:

I would like to thank SomeoneYouKnew for providing this part.

Active pickups? Why? Passives work fine and don't need a battery. Why do they even bother making actives in the first place? Passive pickups can sound great if everything is just right. But the tone is highly dependent on the load on the pickup. Even something as simple as changing the resistance of a volume pot in the guitar will have a definite effect on tone. Using a long, high capacitance cable will also rob you of some highs. Using an effect pedal that doesn't have tru-bypass or a buffer with a high impedance input can decimate the high frequency content in your tone. And then there's the issue of hum.

Passive pickups are a (relatively) high impedance source. This allows hum and noise to enter the system rather easily through the guitar wiring and the guitar cable. You almost couldn't design a better detector for ambient AC magnetic fields than a Single Coil pickup. The sound is simple and pure. But oh, that hum! Adding another coil, connected out-of-phase, can cancel the hum. But this affects the tone by changing the loading on the coil that's sensing the string.

To address these problems, some manufacturers began making active pickups. By using a preamp-buffer, they are able to control the load each coil "sees" by design. The low impedance output of the preamp can tolerate much heavier loading with no appreciable effect on tone. And putting the preamp in the pickup assembly itself, allows little chance for hum and noise to enter the system. A separate input is used on the preamp to allow for an out-of-phase coil that samples the hum. This is used to cancel the hum from the signal produced by the coil that senses the strings. Since the hum sampling coil is connected to a separate input on the preamp, it has no effect on the loading of the string sampling coil.

If we want to replicate a the sound of a conventional Humbucking pickup, we'll use a reverse-wound, reverse-polarity coil that also senses the strings. This adds the necessary complexity to the guitar signal, since we are sensing the string at two separate points. We can adjust the loading on each coil to shape the tone more closely to that produced by a passive HB. Most importantly, we can adjust the balance between the coils to achieve the best possible hum cancelation.

What's the catch? There's ALWAYS a catch!

True. And there is more than one catch. First of all, we need a battery. Not a serious issue, as most actives are designed to draw less than 100 microamps of current from a 9 volt battery. This allows several months of use before the battery needs to be replaced. Making the battery replacement easy might be another matter, though. Unless you use a dedicated battery compartment, putting the battery in a Strat's control cavity means you need to remove the pickguard to gain access. Possible, but not all that convenient.

The second catch is a bit more of an issue. Actives are usually designed for a wider frequency response (extended high frequencies) and some taming of the normal upper-midrange/lower-treble peak in the response curve that naturally occurs with a passive pickup. Some players prefer those characteristics and find it difficult to adapt to those found in actives.

The third catch is partially correctable. We can't combine active pickups in series. We can only sum their outputs together. This takes a few choices off of our tonal pallete. But most guitars aren't wired to allow pickups in series anyway. Few will find this as a loss of any kind. We also can't connect the outputs of the pickups out-of-phase. But if anyone desires that, they can buy a module that has an inverting buffer to change the phase of one of the pickups.

In summary: Active pickups are a slightly different breed. They have some unique limitations, but provide an effective solution to some serious problems associated with passives. If you learn to work within their limitations, they can provide excellent performance.
Last edited by zakkwyldefan79 at Jan 13, 2010,
Wiring questions:

For wiring diagrams click one of these links. click browse all to view them
If you can't find the one you need post in this thread and I might be able to make one for you. I already have a couple made for mixing active and passive pickups if you wanna try to do that.

The jack I have in my guitar has a much longer shaft than the one supplied with the active pickups. Can I use the one in the guitar?
That depends on what kind of jack you have in your guitar. Active pickups require a stereo jack to turn the battery off when the guitar is unplugged. A stereo jack has 3 solder lugs. Many of the Ibanez guitars come stock with a stereo long shafted jack. There is one lug not used with passive pickups and that is where you will connect the battery black wire. If your jack has only 2 solder lugs it is mono and you will need to replace it. EMG recommends a Switchcraft p/n 152B. You should be able to find it at any decent electronics parts house. If not, you can order it from EMG.

I have a Les Paul and the pots don’t fit through the top. Does EMG have pots that will work for the Les Paul?
Yes EMG does have long shafted pots for the Les Paul installation. Customers can order them directly from EMG or through their dealer. They are not available anywhere else. EMG also has the long shafted push/pull pots for use with the EMG 81TW & 89.
*Note: Gibson Les Pauls manufactured after April of 1975 have a shield can installed in the control compartment and use long shaft pots.

How do I wire a coil splitter? A phase switch?
The design of EMG & Seymour Duncan active pickups doesn’t allow access to the individual coil outputs from the pickups. As such, it’s not possible to wire coil taps or pickup phase switches in the traditional manner. EMG does provide a number of alternative accesories to help you simulate some of these tone mods. To create the sound of a split coil pickup, you can either change to an EMG 81TW or 89 pickup which contain both a dual-coil humbucker and single-coil pickup selectable by a switch, or you can add the EMG DMSK Dual Mode Switch Kit which lets you customize a switchable high-pass filter to create a sound reminiscent of a single-coil pickup. One advantage of using these devices are that they will retain their low-noise performance, unlike a split coil pickup which will be quite buzzy compared to the humbucker mode. The EMG PI2 Phase Inverter actively inverts the phase of an EMG pickup giving you a true out-of-phase effect, controllable by a switch.
*NOTE: I don't know if these will work on active Seymour Duncan pickups though.

What value capacitor do you use with the volume and tone controls?
EMG uses 0.1 micro farad capacitors for all their volume and tone control setups including guitar and bass.
Seymour Duncan diagrams use 0.1 micro farad capacitors in some diagrms and .47 (NOT .047) in other digrams. So I guess either one will work.

Can I use EMG accessory circuits on passive pickups?
Most EMG accessories can be used directly with passive pickups. They are the:

These EMG accessories cannot be used with passive pickups:

Can I mix active and passive pickups?
This is from EMG's website (but it will work with Blackouts too):

It is possible to mix EMG's with passive pickups.
There are three possible wiring configurations; one is better than the other two.

1. Use the high impedance (250K-500K) volume and tone controls.
The problem is that the high impedance controls act more like a switch to the EMG's [either Full Volume or No Volume]. The passive pickups, however, will work fine.
If you have a guitar with two pickups and two volume pots, with a three-way switch, there is another alternative. Use the 25K pots for the EMG, and the 250K or 500k pots for the passive pickup. This way you can use one or the other with no adverse affects, but with the switch in the middle position the passive pickup will have reduced gain and response.

* note from SomeoneYouKnew:
The problem is that the high impedance controls act more like a switch to the EMG's [either Full Volume or No Volume].
This simply isn't true for a single volume control wiring scheme. In that case a high resistance pot will work just fine on an EMG. What you do sacrifice is some of the hum and noise rejection a low resistance pot provides. Its only when we use multiple volume controls that this "switch-like" problem occurs.

There is some debate about this part (above). If you have used high impedance pots (250K-500K) with EMG's please post and tell us what the results were. So we can clear this up.

2. Use the low-impedance (25K) volume and tone controls provided with the EMG's.
The problem here is that the passive pickups will suffer a reduction in gain and loss of high-frequency response.

3. This is the best alternative..
Install an EMG-PA-2 on the passive pickups. There are two benefits to doing this.
With the trimpot on the PA-2, you can adjust the gain of the passive pickups to match the EMG's. The PA-2 acts as an impedance matching device so you can use the low-impedance EMG controls (25K) without affecting the tone of the passive pickups. You will also be able to use other EMG accessory circuits such as the SPC, RPC, EXB, EXG, etc. For this application, EMG recommends ordering the PA-2 without the switch for easy installation on the inside of a guitar.
Last edited by zakkwyldefan79 at Jun 21, 2010,
EMG 81TW & 89 Wiring Questions:

This part was provided by SomeoneYouKnew

Below is my interpretation of what's (probably) going on inside the 89 & 81TW.

The diagram in the upper right is from EMG.

You'll note this has the preamp output going to the wiper of the volume control. This can be useful in 2 volume wiring schemes, to make the volume controls more independent. It has much less effect on the tone than this same kind of wiring does on passive pickup. Personally, I'd recommend connecting the preamp out to the CW lug of the volume and connecting the wiper to the pickup selector. However that allows the possibility of killing the sound if one volume is at zero and both pickups are selected.

In a single volume configuration with two or more pickups, that same lug of the DPDT switch is connected to the pickup selector, rather than the volume control.

The EMG 81TW is thicker than other EMG's, so make sure your pickup routing is deep enough before buying one.

Last edited by zakkwyldefan79 at Jul 13, 2017,

Do active pickups need a battery?
All active guitar and bass pickups made require a battery. The active pre-amp, located in the pickup housing, is powered by this battery.

What kind of battery do active pickups need?
Active pickups and EQs are powered by a standard, rectangular 9 volt battery. They recommend normal alkaline batteries (Eveready or Duracell, for example) for best results. These are the same batteries that you would use in an effects box or wireless unit and are widely available. They do not recommend the use of rechargeable batteries in active systems. Although they are compatible electrically, typically you must fully discharge these batteries to preserve long life, which can be problematic in normal usage.

Where is the battery located?
If your guitar came with active pickups as standard equipment, you may have a battery compartment with it’s own cover. In most other cases, the battery is located in the main control cavity which is usually accessible by removing a cover plate. Stratocaster-type guitars don’t have a cover plate - in this case, you would remove the pickguard to get access to the battery. If you’re thinking about installing an active system, look for a suitable location for the battery. Although it’s tight on Strats, you often can fit the battery under the pots with little or no body modification.
Don’t forget - most 9 volt batteries have a metal casing and should be insulated with foam or tape before installation.

Can multiple pickups/EQs run off a single battery?
Yes. All pickups and EQ units can run off a single battery with no problems. Since the current drain on all active products is very low, you should still get reasonable battery life with any reasonable combination of circuits.

Can I use multiple batteries?
Yes. If you’ve got room for multiple batteries in your guitar, you can use two batteries wired in series to power your onboard circuitry at 18 volts. The output level will not appreciably increase, but you’ll have increased headroom and crisper transients. This is especially useful for percussive/slap bass styles where you can generate enormous instantaneous power levels across the entire frequency spectrum. You can also wire two batteries in parallel to provide a regular 9 volt supply but with much longer lifespan between battery changes.

Although most of EMG's products are rated for 27 volts, They recommend a maximum of 18 volts. The additional benefits of 27 vs. 18 volts are negligible.

How long does the battery last?
All active pickups and EQ systems are designed for extremely low current drain. In addition, the pickup jack included with all models has a switch that disconnects the battery when the guitar is not plugged in. To maximize battery life, you should always unplug your guitar when it’s not in use.

If you left your guitar plugged in day and night, the battery should still last a month. Under normal playing conditions, you would probably be looking at changing the battery once or maybe twice a year.

What happens if the battery runs out?
Because active pickups are designed from the ground up to operate as active pickups, they’re not very functional when deprived of power. As the battery weakens over time, the output level will reduce and become more distorted. When you hear that happening, it’s time to change the battery. Below a certain voltage, the onboard active circuitry will stop working. At that point, you will hear little or no output from the guitar. Don’t let this happen to you!

Other “active” systems run the output of normal high-impedance pickups into a buffer amp or active EQ circuit. If the battery goes dead in one of these systems, you can bypass the active circuit and still get some sound. That’s nice, but this sort of design compromises the pickup design yielding only a few of the benefits of optimized active pickup design. That bypass switch will cost you tone and noise - a BAD tradeoff.
Last edited by zakkwyldefan79 at Jan 8, 2010,
The 18 Volt Mod:

This mod works for EMG's but not Seymour Duncan Blackouts. The Chief Engineer, Kevin Beller, Says that Blackouts will not be harmed using 18-volts, but the preamp is designed to provide all of the awesomeness at 9 volts. This mod does work on Seymour Duncan Livewire pickups (wiring diagrams on SD's site confirm this).
For reference:
Kevin Beller - 1
Kevin Beller - 2
Kevin Beller - 3
The actual thread about Blackouts.

What you really need:

9 Volt battery clip
9 Volt battery
Wire strippers
Electrical tape or shrink tubing
Soldering Iron

Standard 18v Mod:
What to do:
Make sure you have enough room in your cavity for two batteries!
1. Disconnect 9 volt battery.
2. Desolder the black wire where it's circled.
3. Connect the black wire of your new clip to the lug on the jack where the black wire was.
4. Connect the red wire of your new clip to the black wire of your old clip.
5. Insulate with electrical tape or shrink tubing.
6. Attach two new 9 volt batteries, put the cover back on and enjoy.

Reversible 18v Mod:
You can also do this mod without modding your current wiring at all. To do it this way you'll need 3 more battery clips. Wire the black wire from clip #2 to the red wire from clip #1. Wire the red wire from clip #2 to the black wire from clip #3. Wire the red wire from clip #3 to the black wire from clip #1. Tape or use shrink tubing on all connections. Then snap clip #1 to your original clip already in your guitar. Then connect the batteries to clips #2 & #3 and you're done. See pic below.

Wiring with Switch:
(Switch position in picture indicates 9 volt position)

Also, you can use a DPDT to put the two batteries in parallel for equal battery life when in 9V mode.
Here's how to wire it.

Last edited by zakkwyldefan79 at Jul 13, 2017,
7 & 8 String Pickups:

(EMG & Seymour Duncan)

Will EMG 7 string pickups fit why guitar without any mods to the body?
They make 2 different styles so one of the 2 should fit your guitar.

Does EMG make a 7 string single coil guitar pickup?
Yes, they do. 

7 String version of EMG's famous 81 pickup.

7 String version of EMG's famous 60 pickup.

The 707 has been leading the pack of 7-string guitar pickups since its debut in 2001. Before this model was introduced, existing 7-string pickups sounded muddy and dull on the low B string, especially when trying to hit artificial and natural harmonics, but the 707 eliminated all those problems. Featuring Alnico V loaded wide aperture coils we were able to beef up that Low B tone and at the same time provide a more responsive super tight overall sound. Whether you are ringing out Opeth-style jazzy chords or playing palm muted death chugs, even with the amp set to “kill”, these pickups will articulate every note, harmonic and squeal you ask of them. Used equally in bridge and neck positions, these pickups will forever change how you hear and play your 7-string.

If you're using a Low-B String there's no sense in even trying a passive pickup.The 707TW Active Pickup delivers the clearest, fattest low end you've ever felt from a guitar pickup. The 707 is Alnico Loaded and the coils are summed separately keeping the DC resistance down and doubling the low end frequency response. Translated...that means the low frequency response is more natural sounding. Full, but not muddy. In addition, the dual-coil section has a wide aperture for plenty of string sampling. The resonance frequency of the dual-coil mode is 2300 Hz.

In the single-coil mode, the pickup resonance switches up to 3900 Hz and operates in a "stack" mode truly resembling a single coil pickup, not a "tapped" humbucker. Still loaded with Alnico, the single coil sound is as pure as it comes.Dual internal preamps (one tuned for single-coil mode and the other for dual-coil mode) give the 707TW two distinct sounds for two pickups in one, while delivering EMG's well-known low-noise performance in both modes.Only an active pickup can deliver the big tone you'd expect from your 7-string.

How to Identify which active 7 String EMG is in your guitar.
The EMG logo color is different for the various models they make. Here's a list of their popular pickups.

7 String Humbuckers:
81-7 - Silver
60-7 - Grey
707 - Gold
707TW - Copper

Seymour Duncan:
7 string AHB-1 pickups:
Same amazing 9-volt active pickups as 6-string Blackouts, but built to direct retrofit nearly all 7-string electric guitars, thanks to two cover sizes. Perfect for old school metal, garage, punk, thrash, drop tunings, and other heavy rock styles. Like 6-string Blackouts, the 7-string versions use balanced inputs with a differential preamp for reduced noise. They’re voiced for heavy rock with greater dynamic range, less scooped mids, and less compression than other active pickups.

There are two versions of 7-string Blackouts: Phase I and Phase II. Phase I Blackouts are a direct retrofit for most passive 7-string humbuckers, including those by Seymour Duncan and DiMarzio. Phase II Blackouts are a direct retrofit for the EMG 707 & 707TW humbucker.

8 string AHB-1 pickups:
9-volt active pickups, like its predecessors: the 6-string and 7-string versions of the Blackouts, but built to direct retrofit nearly all 8-string electric guitars. Perfect for old school metal and new school screamers, especially dark pounding metal that incorporates extreme lows. Balanced inputs with a differential preamp for reduced noise. Ceramic magnets and calibrated wind for both neck and bridge versions provide for greater dynamic range and allow for specific character in each register with less compression than other active pickups.

Built to retrofit most 8-stringed guitars and can also be found pre-installed in the Schecter Blackjack ATX C-8 limited edition.

Last edited by zakkwyldefan79 at Jul 13, 2017,
EMG Pickups:

There are 2 types of active EMG pickups. The originals were like most other pickups where the wires couldn't be disconnected from the pickup. The newer ones have EMG's quick connect system. That means they have 3 or 7 pins on the back that the Quick Connect harness plugs into. Seymour Duncan uses the same 3 pin set up on their active Blackouts.

One of the most popular EMG’s the 81 is the one that started a revolution. Utilizing powerful ceramic magnets and close aperture coils, the tone was designed with detailed intensity, incredible amounts of high end cut and fluid sustain. Traditionally used in the bridge position, this pickup will make your leads slice right through even the densest mix. When used in both neck and bridge positions the sound can only be described as blistering. Other recommended pairings include the classic 81/85 setup and the versatile 81/60 combo.

The 85 is one of our first pickups and is the slightly more sophisticated and well rounded half of its famous twin, the 81. Featuring close aperture coils loaded with Alnico V magnets, the 85 is a powerful pickup with exceptional tone and versatility. Most often used in the rhythm position, the alnico magnets of this model provide a muscular growl and smooth lead tones to enable you to play the muddiest of blues to the most extreme metal. Try it in the bridge position for exceptional smoothness and soul. This pickup pairs well with just about every other humbucker in our line. Give it a try and experience why it’s been a top seller for so many years.

The 60 packs plenty of output with a balance of tones that is classic-thick; boosted mids, big lows and fat highs. Featuring close aperture coils loaded with ceramic magnets, this model has rich tonal characteristics that gives full treble response for distinct single-note solos and buttery harmonic overtones to provide some serious meat to your playing. Traditionally used in the rhythm position for everything from clean bluesy tones to hard rocking crunchiness.

The 60A packs plenty of output with a balance of tones that is classic-thick; smooth mids, big lows and responsive highs. This model features close aperture coils loaded with alnico magnets instead of the ceramic of the regular 60, giving it a warmer, thicker sound and a full treble response to provide some serious meat to your playing. Traditionally used in the rhythm position for everything from clean bluesy tones to hard rocking crunchiness.

Featuring two pickups in one, the 89 is loaded with alnico V magnets and has separate preamps each providing custom outputs for both dual coil and single coil modes. In dual coil mode, the sound is rich, warm and powerful, but still very clear and is similar to the 85. The single coil mode, accessed via the included push pull pot, delivers the traditional Strat single coil sound: bright, airy, and chimey, and is similar to our SA. In either mode, the clean sound is gorgeously pristine and has a lot of presence. Used equally in bridge and neck positions, whether you are playing hard rock or smooth jazz, you can get it all with this beautifully balanced and versatile pickup.

This pickup is the same as the 89 but the coils are reversed so that the single coil side is nearer the neck to capture that sweet spot.

How to Identify which active EMG is in your guitar.
The EMG logo color is different for the various models they make. Here's a list of their popular pickups.

81 - Silver
85 - Gold (This is the most common humbucker with a gold logo)
60 - Grey
60A - Gold
81TW - Copper
89 - Copper

Single Coils:
S - Silver
SA - Gold
Last edited by zakkwyldefan79 at Jul 13, 2017,
New EMG Products Started in 2009 & 2011:

The X Series:
In 2009 EMG introduced the X-Series pickups. These pickups were designed to sound like regular EMG's with the 18v mod but with only one 9v battery. I have not tried these yet but I'll add more info on them as I get it.
From EMG press release:
EMG has released a new line of high-output guitar and bass pickups for all styles of playing – The X Series. These pickups have an exceptional organic nature to their overall sound due to a newly designed internal pre-amp, which allows for more gain to come from your amp and instrument, rather than from the pre-amp. The effect of this new design is to provide more headroom and overall body while still maintaining the clarity and response that EMG’s are renowned for. Lows will be rock solid, high mids will cut through like the sharpest knife and the treble will be sweet and never grating on the ears. So if you are going for chunky low-string riffing or want screaming string bends in the high register, the X series covers all techniques while retaining superior dynamics.

Kenny Rardin of Premier Guitar magazine has reviewed the EMG X Series. In Addition to the review, Actual sound sample comparisons are provided. You can check out the entire review and the sound samples at the link below.

Solderless Install System:
In 2009 EMG also introduced the solderless install system. Making it possible to install EMG's with no soldering at all.
From EMG press release:
EMG has unveiled the latest advancement in pickup technology, the solderless install. Beginning with their Pro Series pickguards and the new X-Series pickups, EMG will phase in the new components to existing products throughout 2009. “A user friendly approach to the installation process is essential; not only for end-users but manufacturers as well.” says Rob Turner, founder and President of EMG Inc. “We have succeeded in simplifying the process of both installation and upgrading of pickups, putting the players in complete control. Now expanded to everything from pots, to input jacks, to pickups, this is the next generation of our quick-connect concept".

Here's a couple of pics of the solderless wiring.

In 2009 EMG also started making their pickups with chrome and gold covers.

In 2011 James Hetfield got his own signature set and it's not the 81 & 60 set he's been using. It's a set of brand new pickups, the JH-B & JH-N.

Last edited by zakkwyldefan79 at Jul 13, 2017,
Active Seymour Duncan Pickups:

9-volt active humbucker for aggressive playing styles. Recommended for old school metal, garage, punk, thrash, drop tunings, and other heavy rock styles.

The "other" USA-made active humbuckers use unbalanced inputs in a differential preamp. The problem is, an unbalanced differential preamp is not very effective at cancelling hum. Our engineers figured out how to capture the tone that players want in an active design, but using balanced inputs. The result is 12dB to 14dB less noise, plus more lows, more highs, and more output. Simply put, Blackouts have more tone than other active pickups.

AHB-2 Metal:
Updated, redesigned, and re-launched version of LiveWires Metal humbucker with new preamp, new voicing, and ability to switch between output levels. Perfect for all styles of metal, punk, garage, thrash, drop tunings, and heavy rock.

Blackouts Metal pickups are voiced for extreme heaviness. They are our highest output electric guitar pickups. Period. They have a screaming voice with amazing mid-range punch and they produce thick, dark chords, and hard-hitting leads. When you play extreme aggressive styles and you have to cut through above the other instruments in your band, Blackouts Metal are the call.

There’s only one version of Blackouts Metal, but you can dial up two very different output levels. Blackouts Metal have a unique dual pin configuration on the underside of the pickup for two modes of output: loud and louder. With the same aggressive tonality in each mode, you now have a choice in output. With the jumper removed, you have a high output bridge humbucker that’s still compatible with a neck pickup or the clean channel on your amp. However, with the jumper in place, you unleash all the raw power, incredible output, and untamed aggression. The pins can also be wired to a mini-switch or push/pull, for an on board boost! Not splitable. Available with black or white covers. Includes pin jumper.

AHB-3 Mick Thomson EMTY:
9-volt active humbucker for aggressive playing styles. Recommended for all metal and heavy rock styles, including extreme low tunings.

Seymour Duncan Blackouts represent the pinnacle in active pickup technology, and Mick Thomson agrees. In his relentless quest for the ultimate tone, Mick asked for even tighter bottom, and more searing top end cut, and Seymour Duncan delivered with the EMTY, a pulverizing addition to our Blackouts line.

AHB-3 Blackouts are available as Mick's two-humbucker set, or in individual neck and bridge models to mix and match with other Blackouts and Livewires Classic II active pickups.

Available in Black plastic or black nickel covers.

Livewire Classic II:
Nine-volt active humbucker with classic voicing. Great for pop, country, blues, classic rock and heavy rock.

The tone is full-bodied with a wide frequency response and rich sustain. They have a potent sound that lets you hear every note in the chord. The newly redesigned 9-volt preamp gives more headroom than other active pickups for improved tonality and increased dynamic range. These humbuckers do not have a split coil mode.

Livewire Dave Mustaine Set:
Active, 9-volt-powered preamp built into the pickup. Provides the benefits of an active pickup without sacrificing the famous, organic, "Seymourized" tone. Great for classic rock, punk, garage, thrash, old school metal, nu-metal, black metal and other heavy rock and aggressive music styles.

The active preamp allows higher gain and more output without sacrificing tonal response and dynamic feel. The resonant frequency of the bridge and neck pickup is matched with that of the SH-4 JB and SH-2n Jazz Model (neck) respectively.

Comes in a two-pickup, neck & bridge set. Black nickel plated covers.

All Seymour Duncan Blackouts & Livewire pickups are for all humbucker guitars. The blade magnets make these pickups suitable for both humbucker and Trembucker string spacings.

Hot but balanced single coil tone in a direct retrofit for Stratocaster® guitars. Ideal for heavy blues, classic rock, and heavy rock.

Blackouts Singles are voiced for heavy rock. They’ll drive your amp harder and they’re great for use with pedals or other signal processing. They’re perfect for everything from chunky rhythms to searing leads.

Perfect for any electric guitar set up for a standard Stratocaster pickup route.

Blackouts Singles have a unique dual pin configuration on the underside of the pickup for two modes of output: moderate and high-gain. With the jumper removed, you have a moderate output that’s still comparable to passive pickups. However, with the jumper in place, the output is significantly boosted, making Blackouts Singles compatible with full-size Blackouts humbuckers. The pins can also be wired to a mini-switch or push/pull, for an on board boost!
Last edited by zakkwyldefan79 at Jul 13, 2017,
Other Active Pickups:


The Dragonfire 81C:
Based on the EMG 81, the 81C uses a ceramic magnet for that cutting edge tone. Great for rock and metal, this pickup also delivers great clean tone.

The Dragonfire 85A:
The perfect match for the neck position. The 85A is based on the EMG 85. The 85A utilizes an alinco magnet for a warmer tone. Perfect for blues, rock, and metal. Get a great clean/ dirty tone without getting muddy.

They also have a single coil based on the EMG S pickup.


The GuitarHeads Active Humbucker features an Internal Preamp that is designed to increase sustain, add depth, and enhance overall response sensitivity. The Preamp is built right into the pickup's casing, which is Epoxy Potted for the ultimate suppression of microphonic feedback. The result is an Extreme Output, and plenty of bite due to the Anisotropic Ferrite Magnet (a High-end Ceramic). A standard 9v Battery will power a complete pickup system (up to 3 pickups), and will last over 2000 playing hours.
They are availible in black or white.

Bridge Position Model
•DC Resistance: 57.5K Ohms
•AC Impedance: 20.5Z
•Pole Piece Spacing: 48-52mm

Neck Position Model
•DC Resistance: 57K Ohms
•AC Impedance: 18.5Z
•Pole Piece Spacing: 48-52mm

This is what Guitarheads says about how their pickups compare to the EMG 81.
We are often asked how our Active Humbuckers compare tonally to the EMG-81. Our Active Humbuckers feature more of a scooped midrange, and almost twice the overall output.

More to come.
Last edited by zakkwyldefan79 at Jul 13, 2017,
Are the EMG-X series supposed to do the same thing as the 18 volt mod?
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Last edited by mcjosh at Jan 1, 2010,
From what I have experienced, that part SYK said about the volume in a 1-volume configuration not acting like a switch is not true. I had an EMG 81 in a 1V, 1T, HSS configuration (single coils were passive, pots were 500k) and the volume still acted like a switch.
Just as a note, some Ibanez active pickups (the ones they use on the RGA series) use 2 AA batteries instead of a 9v.
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You CAN play anything with anything....but some guitars sound right for some things, and not for others. Single coils sound retarded for metal, though those who are apeshit about harpsichord probably beg to differ.
Quote by oneblackened
Just as a note, some Ibanez active pickups (the ones they use on the RGA series) use 2 AA batteries instead of a 9v.

That's odd.
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Quote by Invader Jim
From what I have experienced, that part SYK said about the volume in a 1-volume configuration not acting like a switch is not true. I had an EMG 81 in a 1V, 1T, HSS configuration (single coils were passive, pots were 500k) and the volume still acted like a switch.
Circuit analysis says that shouldn't happen unless the volume pot is connected with the wiper as the input and the CW as the output. Or if your amp or pedal has a really low impedance input.
Quote by zakkwyldefan79
I've never tried using EMG's with 250K or 500K pots so I don't know. SYK usually knows his sh1t. I'll wait and see what he replies to that and maybe edit it out.
Pull it if you think it's wrong.
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Quote by zakkwyldefan79
I've never tried to use EMG's without the battery. I'll try that tomorrow and post about what happens.

Doesn't that not work :S?
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The output level will not
appreciably increase, but you’ll have increased headroom and crisper transients. This
is especially useful for percussive/slap bass styles where you can generate enormous
instantaneous power levels across the entire frequency spectrum

Less sterile sound people associate with EMGs, better for cleans.

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Absent Mind, words cant express how much i love you. Id bone you, oh yea.

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Absent Mind is, as usual, completely correct.

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respect... thanks for all the info.... this is an awesome thread.

which on is better to use for a 9/18 switch


Last edited by Ital_Stal at Jan 3, 2010,

Quote by dogismycopilot
Absent Mind, words cant express how much i love you. Id bone you, oh yea.

Quote by lumberjack
Absent Mind is, as usual, completely correct.

Quote by littlemurph7976
Id like to make my love for Neil public knowledge as he is a beautiful man
Quote by Invader Jim
another thing is I have run the 81 with no battery and it still worked. it sounded like a crap passive pup. maybe that could go into the end of post 6.

Jim, I tried both of my EMG loaded guitars with no batteries today and didn't get any sound at all. If you had it in a guitar mixed with passives maybe you were getting some sound from one of the passives. I don't know man.
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