So the situation is this: guitar, alder body, only bridge pickup EMG81, playing mostly rhythm metal / hard rock / rock. EMG81 is a great pickup for me (quiet, bright, aggressive), but now with regard to the change in playing style of the band i need something different: I would still have a quiet, bright and aggressive sound, but I need more dynamics, a little better clean, and perhaps a little more thick / fat sound. Passive or active. Main goal is agression of EMG and wholle lotta dynamics.
What do you suggest? I like 18V mod, SD Blackout sample on YT, anyone have any experience with this? Thank you all.
SD blackout I really like it's more aggressive and louder. It's also more articulate like if you put the treble to 10 it sounds totally different than 0. If you're buying new buy the "Seymour Duncan blackout metal". It has a mini toggle to turn on a boost to make it sound louder and everything. With a re-wired tone knob you can adjust how much extra power you get out of it.

active suggestions
try an EMG 85 in the bridge, it's hotter
the X series EMG pickups are good, they have more head room and more versatility
and only 18v mod EMG pickups. The preamp in it is different than a blackout. I actually took a blackout apart once and I may post photos here one day.

other passive suggestions
Dimarzio D-Activator (sort of like an EMG 85)
Dimarzio D-Activator X - more bass
Dimarzio X2N ...maybe, it may be a bit too bright
Seymour Duncan Distortion - Ola Englund did a great video on it

seymour duncan , slug (expensive), JB , Black winter, full shred or custom. The invader also has a lot of treble to it too so it may not be idealisitc.
If you're already somewhat happy with your tone and just want little improvements, like better cleans and a slightly fatter tone, definitely try the new EMG 57. It is very dynamic for an active pickup, and they sound a bit more "organic" when compared to the 81.
If you're on a budget try to find an EMG 85 on ebay. It's much more well rounded and can handle different styles of rock better than an 81. It's pretty bass heavy so you may have to compensate with your amps EQ. If you need more clean headroom the 18v mod may be a necessity.

If you're willing to drop over $100 try the EMG 57. It sits somewhere between the 81 and 85 tonally but with better headroom and dynamics.

Best of all if your guitar has the newer EMG quick connect system any EMG will drop right in, literally a 10 minute pup swap.
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So, I'm really going to suggest just turning the volume and tone down on the emg81 and maybe using a different distortion or lower distortion, it's cheaper and the fact is regardless of the pickup your playing will shine through
Last edited by Bad Kharmel at Jan 2, 2015,
Quote by Bad Kharmel
So, I'm really going to suggest just turning the volume and tone down on the emg81 and maybe using a different distortion or lower distortion, it's cheaper and the fact is regardless of the pickup your playing will shine through

This, I used to be able to get a very good clean out of my old 81/81 set up, just roll off the volume a tad and boost the amp volume to make it up.
The cheapest and easiest route, if you like the sound of the 81 but just need a little something more, is to go with the 18 volt mod it's cheap you can get a diagram and make your own adapter or buy one for 3 or 4 dollars on eBay. It's an easily reversible mod.

You'll find that it increases your headroom and the pickups are more responsive to pick attack, especially with clean tones and with distorted tones it has more punch to the sound, I have two nearly identical carved top Jackson Dinkys both with EMGs, one has 81/85 running standard 9 volt the other has 81/81 with the 18 volt mod and the Afterburner 20db gain booster.

Leaving the gain booster off, the 18 volt mod makes a noticeable difference in sound when compared to the standard 9 volt especially the cleans, still sounds like EMG's but more dynamic with increased headroom.

Turn the 20db gain booster on about 1/2 way and your face will begin to melt
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If you like actives, and what you're looking for is a more dynamic and fatter sound, then SD Blackouts (the regular AHB1, not sure about the others) instantly come to mind. Also heard good things about the EMG 57 though.