Hi, sorry if it had been done to death, but most of the link i found on this subject are rather old so i'd like an updated opinion on this. I'm buying a used ESP LTD V 300 off of someone. It had EMG 81/81, but i want to upgrade it to either 85 or 60 on the neck (or on the bridge, really). So my question is that which one do you guys prefer? I mainly play metal and got good tones out of my Kramer with stock pickups, but i'd like to have a beefier, strong tone but with good mid and high as well. I'm also planning to put the 24 volt mod on this to increase headroom and more versatility of it. Which set up would best serve what i aiming for? 81/85 or 81/60?

Okay, few things to cover here.

First thing is that supplying 24 volts just wastes a battery and space in the guitar. 16v is all you need to make the preamp in EMG original series pickups work at maximum efficiency, so 18v is already overkill. Note that more power does not increase the "versatility" of the pickup, it just allows the preamp to run cleaner so the output isn't squashed as much when you strum hard. The tone itself does not change.
In addition to that, the 18v mod itself has been rendered obsolete by the EMG X-series pickups. They have a modern, more efficient preamp which can be run on up to 24v but caps out at 8.5v, so a single 9v battery with them is like the 18v mod with original series EMGs. The only 'drawback' to the X-series is that they require a new type of tone control, though even that is included with all X-series pickups you buy.

So if you're absoltuely set on replacing the pickup(s) anyway, you might as well just get X-series pickups and then not need to bother with the battery mods.

Okay, that bit out the way, let's talk EMG humbucker pickup models.

81 = mostly even tone, slight mid/treble emphasis due to the huge power and thicker ceramic magnet. (Think of it like a Seymour Duncan Distortion humbucker.)
85 = nothing but mids and lower-mids. The highest output and the thickest tone. (Think of it like a DiMarzio Tone Zone humbucker.)
60 = very bright, very 'scooped' tone with less output than the 81. Maximum treble, weakest low-mids & bass, very tight and stiff sound. (DiMarzio Evo)
60A = 60 with an alnico magnet insted of ceramic. Still bright compared to the 81 and 85, but the treble isn't quite as piercing as the 60 and it has a little more mids and looser bass. (Seymour Duncan JB/Jazz)
57 = 60A with a little more treble and output. Only really intended for the bridge postion. (Seymour Duncan Custom)
66 = 81 with the output/mids reduced. (DiMarzio PAF Pro)

All come in an 'X' version which increases headroom and output.

If you want "good mid and high" then the 81 is what you want for the bridge and the 81 or 60A are the pickups for you for the neck. For the neck, the 60 would give you more treble but less mids and the 85 would give you a lot more mids and less treble. For the bridge, the 85 will offer a much thicker tone, while all the others will only offer various degrees of less bass than the 81.

In all honesty, I think you should see how you get on with the 81/81 pair which are in there at the moment, then if you don't get on with that have a harder think about whether you want more power in either psoition (swap it for an 85) or if you want more clarity (60A, or 60 if you want something really piercing). I do think the 81/81 set will probably be fine for you, though.
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Wow, thanks for the extensive reply. I will try the 81/81 for now just like you advised and see how it goes. And the 24 mod i said is this http://www.thriftybids.com/site_images/products/emg24vmod(1).jpg
This is not the exact one i will try, but it is technically the same just from different guy, so i could just simply disconnect it if it is not that good.

One question though, if i want a beefy, thicker and heavier tone but with clarity, what configuration should i use? I know that you said 85 on the bridge for much thicker tone, so maybe 60 on the neck? Thanks.
Last edited by Mr.Doh at Apr 5, 2014,
The 85 is the "beefier" version of the 81. More overall output, mostly more mids. Definitely want you'd want for the bridge.
For the neck, the 60A or 66. The 60 is a thinner version of the 81, if the 81 isn't "beefy' enough for you then the 60 will be even less to your liking. The 60A is halfway between a 60 and an 85, so it makes sense to use it as a warmer neck pickup. The 60A does have less output than the 81, though. The 66 has almost as much output as the 81 and it is a little warmer-sounding, but whether it will sound "beefier" to you or not really depends on your amp/pedals. If you have a really high-gain amp/pedal which is giving you all of your distortion regardless of pickup output, then the 66 may sound a little fuller than the 81 in the neck. If your amp is more medium-gain and you're relying on high output to fill out your tone, the 81 will still be better than the 66.
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Thanks for the tips man. I finally got my hand at the LTD V-300. It looked as good as new, with only some visual blemish on the neck that doesn't affect the playability. Now i'm waiting for the EMG 85 to arrive and swap it in. It is gonna be glorious.

One last question: does anyone have any experience using the EMG Afterburner or the Seymour Duncan Blackout PreAmp (is it even work with active, i wonder?) ? For now i'm content with my 81/85 set up, but i'd like to see any more option to get even more output and even stronger tone with further mod.
Last edited by Mr.Doh at Apr 6, 2014,