#1
EMG's Tele pickups are some of the nicest on the market. The same tone balance and response as standard Tele pickups but with the output jumped up and no noise. Anybody who thinks EMG only make 'metal' pickups or that active pickups always sound sterile and cold needs to give them a try.

Problem is, their neck pickup only comes in matte black, white or off-white. That's no use if you want a fairly normal look. I wanted the active power in my Thinline Telecaster but there was no way I was going to do it until I could get one with a chrome or nickel neck pickup. Semi-hollow korina and an all-rosewood neck don't match up to flat black or white.

So, say hello to Guitarfetish's new product, REDactive Telecaster active pickups, including a (plastic)chrome-covered neck pickup.



I know there's been some buzz around GFS' active pickups since their passives are okay for the money and these have a solderless system. Yet to see anybody report on how close they are to the EMG/Seymour Duncan/Shadow active offerings we're all more used to hearing.

First thing's first, these pickups do sound pretty good. However, there are numerous flaws. If you're thinking of grabbing a set of these then there are several issues you need to prepare yourself for. Some of them will apply to the other REDactive pickups, too.

  • The solderless controls don't fit in normal routes. Because the solderless system they use has to have a buss, there's twice as much wire as there needs to be (EMG get around this problem by making 3-way and 5-way switches which have the buss and switch as one unit; toggle-style switches still require a buss, though EMG's is also smaller than GFS', at least). The pots are made to metric ('import') spec, meaning they are a loose fit in control plates and pickguards cut to Fender spec. You could buy regular 25k controls and fit everything without issue, just do not count on the solderless install.
  • The pickups don't fit in normal routes, either. Or rather, the way they are mounted and connect does not fit in normal Tele routes. Both neck and bridge pickups use inserts to mount, so you can't use any screws other than the ones they are supplied with; these screws are about 7mm too long to fit in a modern Tele pickup route (vintage routes are even more shallow). You need to mont the pickups in the bridge/pickguard and then cut the screws short, or cut them short and be careful to file the ends so they can still work their way through the inserts. The wires are also an issue, as they are poorly positioned and have to bend under the pickups; you can't screw the pickups all the way down, they need to be quite high to allow the wire to fit. This isn't too much of an issue though, because...
  • They have barely any more output than a normal Tele pickup, even when placed right under the strings. Full disclosure: I'm using a 12" radius fretboard and bridge, so it's expected for the output to be a bit weak on the 1st and 6th strings since these pickups are apparently balanced for 9.5" radius. However, even the 3rd and 4th strings are surprisingly weak. The output I'm getting from these is barely more than a Fender Vintage Noiseless gives me, about half what an EMG active Tele pickup gives and only a third as much as a Seymour Duncan Hot Rails provides. If you're going active then you probably want some sort of increase in output and these just don't match up. This is a shame and if I was trying to drive a valve amp harder I would be very, very disappointed (luckily for me and to your horror, I'm a strict solid state user).
  • Guitarfetish declare a false value for international orders. This isn't a problem for Americans and some people in the EU will think this is good as it ensures you don't have to pay any of our ridiculous import fees, but it's dodgy ground. If someone in H&M Customs catches that you've accepted this package it is you who will be held accountable, not Guitarfetish. It's an unnecessary risk and quite alarming that Guitarfetish would stick this on their customers.
  • The wiring print-outs that GFS supply are terrible, hacked-up versions of SD/EMG diagrams and are actually incorrect; it seems GFS don't know how to wire their own pickups. If you've dealt with EMG's solderless system before then it's okay since the GFS system is a direct copy, but if you're not used to these things then it could be quite confusing.
  • GFS don't suggest how long a battery may last. EMG's Tele pickups drain a battery slightly faster than their other designs and the X-series Tele pickups drain a battery ten times faster than the more common EMG pickups; considering this, I'm suspicious of how long the GFS pickups will last before the battery craps out. Won't know how good the battery life actually is until it dies.
  • They aren't noiseless. There's no 50-cycle hum (60-cycle for Americans and Canadians), but there is general noise, similar to using an unpotted very high-output humbucker with mismatched coils. It's not really noticable until you get the gain up, but it is there. Huge improvement over a passive's noise, but still, unimpressive for an active.


But hey, it's not all misery! Once you do have these pickups fitted (which in my case meant throwing out a body and drilling a rear-routed body to take a pickguard... luckily I love the look of Thinline guards) and deal with the fact that you're not getting any more output than an overwound passive would give you, these do actually sound pretty good.

Compared to the EMG Tele pickups, the GFS ones are a bit brighter. The Thinline that these pickups have been installed in is semi-hollow korina with a 1"-thick one-piece rosewood neck and 24.75" scale, yet this sounds as bright as the solid ash-bodied, 25.5" scale, maple-and-ebony-necked Tele sat next to it. You usually want a Tele for that bright top-end and these pickups deliver.
They're also very, very responsive, far more so than I was expecting from a cheap brand. I'm getting harmonics (natural and pinched) screaming out of the neck pickup clearer than I do with most humbuckers; the bridge pickup is completely unforgiving in its clarity. The roll-off is very smooth and works nicely both for controlling volume and for output, a good sign for both the pickups themselves and the solderless control pots that GFS sell. The magnetic field seems suitably weak; even with the pickups right under the strings there is no sign of sustain loss or strings being pulled out of tune; common problems with regular Tele pickups that are set high.

Overall, I'd give these a 4/10. The tone and response is good but the output and noise control are disappointing for an active pickup and the fact that they simply would not fit in a regular Telecaster make them effectively useless for 99.99% of the people that would consider them. Even with my partsbuild Thinline and my techie know-how, installation was far from easy.

Will I be sticking with them? Yes. I was banking on keeping this guitar for softer stuff so these are fine. Would I recommend them to other people? Eh. If you have the patience and know that a standard hum-cancelling Tele pickup won't quite give you the sound you're after then give them a shot. I can't recommend them for general use though, and absolutely not as a cheap alternative to the EMG designs.
As for the other GFS active designs, I'm now very suspicious. The tone is proven but everything else is very hard to get excited for. I would hope that the basic humbucker models wouldn't have some of the issues experienced with the Tele pickups, but you never know. My advice would be to buy with caution; expect to have to pull a MacGyver to get everything to work.
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#2
nice review there (always nice not to have a fanboy review)

any more pics of your guitar?
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#3
Awesome review.

Was considering getting a set of Red Actives for my next humbucker guitar or my project strat, 100% taking all this into consideration.

Thanks for psoting this here man!
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#4
I've got a redactive humbucker on the way actually.
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#5
Quote by H4T3BR33D3R
I've got a redactive humbucker on the way actually.


Do post a review when you get it.

I'd rather shell out $40 for a humbucker and have it be 'meh' than $75 for one and dislike it. Ya feel me? They kinda seem to good to be true.
Main Rig:

Epiphone MKH Les Paul Custom 7 - Ronda
Ibanez RG8 "Scarlet" - AKA The Rambanez
Fender Strat "Danielle"/"Dani"
Line 6 POD HD Pro
Randall XL 4x12

Come join us...

Purchase list: Jim Root Tele, Jim Root Jazzmaster, MTM20
#6
Quote by H4T3BR33D3R
I've got a redactive humbucker on the way actually.
Definitely let us know how it goes. I've been very unimpressed with the active pickups from Dragonfire and IronGear and of course sometimes the smaller improvement you get from the 'proper' brands isn't worth paying twice as much for; I could get behind the REDactives if the humbucker turns out to be a simpler and less bothersome product.

Quote by Dave_Mc

any more pics of your guitar?
Excuse the crap flash, still haven't got my new place sorted out.

It's just a parts build using a neck and body that I've posted here before. The neck was on a solid ash body which was just about heavy enough to annoy me. The Thinline body had a Warmoth neck, which I'm chucking. I really can't stand the compound radius now and I was never happy with the cheesy finish on it; Warmoth call it a 'vintage amber tint', I call it 'Dale Winton'.





I just love playing with f/1.2 (any camera nerds in the building? No? Shame).






There's a couple of screws missing from the pickguard, since I didn't have enough and I'm too cheap to order another bag. There's also the problem of the hole where the side jack used to be; currently it's just being covered with pickup coil tape.
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#8
Quote by MrFlibble
Definitely let us know how it goes. I've been very unimpressed with the active pickups from Dragonfire and IronGear and of course sometimes the smaller improvement you get from the 'proper' brands isn't worth paying twice as much for; I could get behind the REDactives if the humbucker turns out to be a simpler and less bothersome product.

Excuse the crap flash, still haven't got my new place sorted out.

It's just a parts build using a neck and body that I've posted here before. The neck was on a solid ash body which was just about heavy enough to annoy me. The Thinline body had a Warmoth neck, which I'm chucking. I really can't stand the compound radius now and I was never happy with the cheesy finish on it; Warmoth call it a 'vintage amber tint', I call it 'Dale Winton'.





I just love playing with f/1.2 (any camera nerds in the building? No? Shame).






There's a couple of screws missing from the pickguard, since I didn't have enough and I'm too cheap to order another bag. There's also the problem of the hole where the side jack used to be; currently it's just being covered with pickup coil tape.


oooh that's very nice No worries about the pics, they're far better than the craptacular pics i'm capable of taking And LOL at dale winton

are the irongear active pickups worse than their passive ones? Not that I'm particularly thinking of getting any (I already have a jackson dkmgt with emgs), just out of interest.
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#9
Nice review.

Sounds like they have some work to do yet...
Quote by DeathByDestroyr
See, it's important that people clarify when they say "metal", because I pretty much always assume they are a Cannibal Corpse fanboi.
#10
Quote by MrFlibble
Definitely let us know how it goes. I've been very unimpressed with the active pickups from Dragonfire and IronGear and of course sometimes the smaller improvement you get from the 'proper' brands isn't worth paying twice as much for; I could get behind the REDactives if the humbucker turns out to be a simpler and less bothersome product.




Quote by Charvel1995
Do post a review when you get it.

I'd rather shell out $40 for a humbucker and have it be 'meh' than $75 for one and dislike it. Ya feel me? They kinda seem to good to be true.



For sure. I'll try it out a bit and let you guys know how it works out. My buddy has a switchblade so I'll try to get him to try it out for some br00tz.
Quote by zgr0826
My culture is worthless and absolutely inferior to the almighty Leaf.


Quote by JustRooster
I incurred the wrath of the Association of White Knights. Specifically the Parent's Basement branch of service.
#11
Great review and great pics

Quote by MrFlibble

I just love playing with f/1.2 (any camera nerds in the building? No? Shame).


Nikon nifty fifty? I have an early Japanese made unit, great lens.
#12
Quote by Dave_Mc


are the irongear active pickups worse than their passive ones? Not that I'm particularly thinking of getting any (I already have a jackson dkmgt with emgs), just out of interest.
Their active pickups are utter, utter turd. They do have a lot of power but that's it. From what I could tell, they've taken their regular overwound designs and just shoved a preamp in there. There was a lot of noise and none of the wider treble and bass I'm used to getting from active humbuckers. I will add that I do not own the guitar they were installed in, I stuck 'em in for a friend who plays nowt but sludgy death metal and he's yet to complain. But certainly for how I play_even when I do go into metal—they were muddy, noisy and useless.

Quote by Wesbanez

Nikon nifty fifty? I have an early Japanese made unit, great lens.
Canon for me, the 50 and 85. Once you shoot the microscopic depth of field that f/1.2 gives you at 85mm, you will never go back. It's like jumping from a Squier Bullet Strat to a 50s Gibson Les Paul.
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#14
That is one sexy Thinline you have there sir
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#15
Quote by MrFlibble
Their active pickups are utter, utter turd. They do have a lot of power but that's it. From what I could tell, they've taken their regular overwound designs and just shoved a preamp in there. There was a lot of noise and none of the wider treble and bass I'm used to getting from active humbuckers. I will add that I do not own the guitar they were installed in, I stuck 'em in for a friend who plays nowt but sludgy death metal and he's yet to complain. But certainly for how I play_even when I do go into metal—they were muddy, noisy and useless.


thanks. that doesn't sound so great, emgs are really low output but then the preamp bumps them up, aren't they? as you implied, it sorta sounds like they've missed the point there with those
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#16
I have a set of vintage voiced red actives in my 60's players strat , I bought the non eq set and a pre hand wired plug and play harness, unless ur guitar is routed for humbuckers u will need to make the routes a little deeper about 1/4 in. I did mine with a drimmle, I took out a set of custom shop 69 pickups to put these in the 69's were really weak to me! But I have been nothing but pleased with these pups, they are great sounding, and u still get qwack in the 2 and 4 positions! These pups sing! U can here what they sound like on YouTube just look up 460 South Band and look for the " Bottoms up" Video .