Well, after 4 months of waiting my new pickups finally arrived today
It was a tough decision to be honest; the stock Duncans in my RR3 did sound very cool, but somehow they just weren't right for me. I've been a diehard EMG fan for a long time and the 85 (B) 81 (N) combo seemed like the obvious choice, however one thing I did love about the Duncans was the fact that they had a little extra character, which is important given I'm involved in a scene where every man and his dog is rocking an EMG loaded guitar into a 6505, so anything you can do to set yourself apart is very helpful.
Anyways, after much thinking and youtubing I finally decided on something that would give me the output, punch and character I was looking for while simultaneously scratching my Childen Of Bodom fanboy itch.

On the left we have the Alexi signature setup, consisting of a slightly tweaked EMG HZ-H2 B pickup and the ABQ active preamp which provides both a gain boost and EQ shaping. On the right is an ordinary EMG HZ-H2 N which I picked for the neck position based on the idea that it would be a good match volume and tone wise for the Alexi signature model in the bridge.

Took longer than I expected to get everything installed, despite the solderless connectors making life a lot easier than it would have been otherwise.

The stock soldering job was so neat it seemed a shame to rip it all out. Oh well.
For anyone else thinking of dropping an emg setup into a Rhoads model with a scrathplate: The cavity is smaller than you might think, it ended up being quite a job to get everything packed in neatly - and that was with the controls stripped down to just the 3-way switch and 1 volume control. I really don't think I could have packed a tone control in there even if I wanted to.
Finally everything was in place and put back together:

They ended up looking great, I much prefer covers to open coils.

"Quit dicking around with photos and crap and tell us how they sound ya clown!"
I hear you cry. Well, here's my first impressions and I'll do a more in depth review once I've had a chance to give them a workout in a full band situation.
Without the boost engaged both pickups sound very good; The bridge position is surprisingly punchy and clear, and although it lacks some of the output of the JB it makes up for it by having a bigger, more defined low end and a smoother high end which gives a fuller overall sound (through my rig anyways). I actually much prefer the clean sounds from this pickup over the Duncan JB, which was very surprising. Overdriven sounds lack a little of the bite and agression that the JB offered and the lower output is more noticeable, however the tighter bottom end makes for some nice chugga chugga sounds. The neck pickup is *very* different from the Duncan Jazz that it replaced. It's higher output and has a more agressive sound, which suits me perfectly as I generally use the neck pickup for creamy lead tones and although the Jazz owned for clean tones I found it just a little too round and mellow for my taste in lead sounds.

All in all: A very solid set of pickups, much better than you'd expect given the price and the amount of hate the HZ series gets on UG. If you were replacing pickups on a tight budget you'd do a lot worse than a set of these.

With the boost engaged things suddenly get a lot more interesting.
The bridge pickup with the boost engaged into the clean channel of my Crate BV120 yields fat, singing tones with just a hint of grit if you dig in hard. As well as an overall gain boost the preamp also adds some extra kick in the high-mid area to give a much more agressive sound.
Switching to the overdrive channel I was rewarded with metal nirvana the likes of which I have seldom heard before. The low end is super tight, chuggs and djents thump you in the chest like a hammer while the extra gain and top end makes harmonic squeals and lead lines jump off the fretboard. Exactly what I was looking for.
The neck pickup with boost is also very pleasing, cleans have a lot more sparkle and clarity while not losing any of the smoothness and warmth of the neck position. With lashings of distortion the neck pickup sings out beautifully for leads.

All in all: Awesome with a capital AWESOME. Definately my favorite set of pickups so far. To be honest the boost is never going to get turned off, which is really how it's been designed. There's no doubt that the Alexi signature is built with the metal player in mind and will not be to everyone's taste but I was honestly suprised at how versatile it is. Also bear in mind that the ABQ preamp is very tweakable, you can adjust the amount of extra gain and the EQ shaping can be controlled via 3 DIP switches so there is a lot more that can be done with it than what I've outlined here.

That seems to be it for now, keep an eye out for a full review in the "reviews" section of UG.

Oh yes, the Alexi setup came with this bitchin' wristband

Last edited by Waylanderau at Aug 1, 2011,
I have an H2N in the neck of my Ibanez, and I actually like it. Probably the only HZs I would ever use though.
Spin 'round carousel when your horse isn't screwed in.

My band:
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(For fans of Death/Groove/Prog Metal)

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I also have an RR3 and thought the same of the stock Duncans, so i swapped them out for active EMG's. Happy new pickup day.
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