#1
I've been considering putting some kind of active pickups in my guitar and just wanted to know if someone could give me an estimation of how much it would cost to have all the work done. Is it the kind of thing anyone could do? Or is it best left to the pros? Thanks!
#2
If you pay a tech figure $50-$100 + the cost of the pickups and electronics. EMG has a solder less system now that makes it really easy
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#3
Great. Does anyone know of a place in the Los Angeles area that will do this?
Last edited by Cheeseshark at Jan 12, 2015,
#4
you can put actives on slab of concrete if you wanted to. they even work outside of a guitar to tap and test to ensure they work.

if you buy the new EMG guitar kit you can do it yourself without any wire soldering. I don't recommend actives unless they are Seymour Duncan Blackouts or EMG TWX series for various reasons. But seriously high output passive 4 wire humbuckers are the best. I have sold enough EMG pickups I took out of guitars to build a coffee table out of. Sure lots of guys use them but you can get such a heavy and high gain sound out of passives where you won't need that useless 9v battery. The seymour duncan Distortion , JB, Black winter, custom. The dimarzio X2N , Dimarzio d-activator (or d-activator X). Pickups on les paul tend to be medium output which is depressing as most kids working at guitar shops tend to sell les pauls as "metal" guitars right out of the box for most (but not all) is a big lie so they can get their grubby fingers on some comission. Of course amps, pedals and all can compensate but this is an opinion so I don't mean to sound hateful.

anyways....

before swapping pickups, some beginner tips.
put the strings low to the neck - do all the necessary adjustments after lowering
heavier gauge strings CAN help , but if you're in standard try other pick and string materials
put the bridge pickup very close to the strings for more volume. Gain is your friend for heavier tones.

still not heavy enough and to answer your question some pickup sets I recommend
a regular Seymour Duncan Blackout neck pickup
a seymour duncan blackout metal bridge - re-wire a tone pot to make the boost work on the metal boost on this pickup you'll love it.

EMG 81/85 TWX series or X series
EMG 57/66 - these are very new and everyone loves them so far
EMG james hetfield set
EMG 81/60 TWX - the 60 is more like a single coils jangle
TWX series coiltap and have less compression and are more versatile

don't settle for just the regular 81/85 and if you buy new get the guy working there to assure you that the pots (potentiometers) are long enough for your guitar.


here's how to install EMG pickups using a solderless system. I know it says Zakk Wylde but not much changes in the other EMG pickups.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_F8h457SUMU

try searching for passive pickups though, its cheaper and easier to swap.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3YzI3sd2WA
#5
I just did that for my sons epi les paul. the hardest part was installing a battery box. there's no room in the cutout for a battery. not easy.
#6
Thanks so much for the tips guys! I was thinking of putting some James Hetfield EMGs in it, or just replacing the bridge pickup with a SD Black Winter if i decide to go passive. Does anyone know whether these are good pickups or not?
#7
for the battery you can install one "External" if you know what you're doing. I know EMG offers one but it's so easy to make it's like why bother. You just need two stereo input jacks, two battery clips and a housing. A metal box, butter container.. anything. It would be like a pedal and you could use a DPDT switch (mini toggle or button) to turn on 9 or 18v as it has it's perks. For EMG pickups they test the pickups at 27v to ensure they work. But seymour duncan blackouts there's a transistor inside them and a few capacitors and resistors so not recommended at all for it.

anyways.. to help you out a bit more
for the EMG het set if you want his classic metallica black album sound the 81/85 set will suffice. James didn't have the signature pickups until right after death magnetic or lulu. There is one solution if you want an active tone without spending lots of money on a re-wiring or anything. Ever hear of the Seymour Duncan Blackout modular volume pot? it's 50$ american to buy and is "solderless". Pretty much you put any pickup on it and it turns active as long as you follow the color code. The emgs you got to do what Rob does in that installation video and by the end of it you'll wish you soldered as I hate dupont cables that connect to the PCB on EMG pickups with a passion.

black winter pickups will get you closer to a Norwegian black metal tone. It's a seymour duncan distortion but a bit hotter. 16k and roughly 6.6 resonant peak it's going to be very loud and aggressive. The cool thing is it's 4 wires to do coiltaps and other wiring mods. The black winter is 2 of the easiest solders you'll ever do.

my advice with pickups is find what the guitar is missing. More treble (highs/brightness), not enough output (volume) , too muddy (not clear enough).. that sort of thing. Different string material matters big time, I use really thick picks for this and other picks for that. It seems tedious or like it'll go un-noticed but it'll help big time. If you've got an idea of what kind of sound you want use the tone charts and your ears and figure out what you want. Youtube is usually a terrible place to compare pickups I find. For guys who have played for under 3 years I say just get a good guitar processor or something as 90% of the time when a guitar sounds bad through an amp the pickups get the blame.
#8
I thought Hetfield used an 81/60 combo. One reason I kinda wanted the het set was because they seem to have more 'life' to them than normal actives. One last question (probably) is this the kind of job i should learn to do myself? Or is it really worth taking it to a luthier? I'd rather not damage my guitar in some way trying to do it myself
Also thanks for the tips Tallwood! I'll check out that volume pot thing.

EDIT: Forget what I said, I have another question. Considering I'm using a 400$ guitar, is this even worth doing? Beginning to feel like I might as well buy a new guitar with actives. And while I would kill to play an LTD explorer, I don't think I could justify it having only played roughly a year.
Last edited by Cheeseshark at Jan 13, 2015,
#10
Quote by Cheeseshark


EDIT: Forget what I said, I have another question. Considering I'm using a 400$ guitar, is this even worth doing? Beginning to feel like I might as well buy a new guitar with actives. And while I would kill to play an LTD explorer, I don't think I could justify it having only played roughly a year.

It's really up to you if it's worth it. I put Blackouts in a cheap guitar because that's what I wanted in it so it was worth it to me. I've also put $300 worth of electronics into a bass I payed $200 because I love the way it plays. Part of why I like cheaper guitars is fixing them up to be exactly what I want without breaking the bank.
Last edited by jaymz9350 at Jan 13, 2015,
#11
Quote by jaymz9350
It's really up to you if it's worth it. I put Blackouts in a cheap guitar because that's what I wanted in it so it was worth it to me. I've also put $300 worth of electronics into a bass I payed $200 because I love the way it plays. Part of why I like cheaper guitars is fixing them up to be exactly what I want without breaking the bank.

That's actually pretty helpful, thanks! I'm pretty sure i want to do it, the only question is whether to use the video Tallwood posted and do it myself, or take it in somewhere to have it done.
Last edited by Cheeseshark at Jan 13, 2015,
#12
I would say do it yourself, especially with the solderless system EMG uses it's a snap. Even without that pickup swaps aren't all that hard and it is definitely worth the savings vs paying someone to do it. There is not much you can do wrong that isn't easily fixable/reversible.
#13
the only thing I don't like about the solderless stuff is trying to plug in a neck pickup. This PRS or whatever project I was trying out a 60 and so forth for the first time in the same guitar to compare it was a pain. The bridge I could swap effortlessly.

so X series and the hetfield set, pretty much anything new by EMG the last little while has more life to it. You've probably got enough room to get away with what is called the 18v mod go for it if you're going to use the classic 81/60 (not X series) It's super easy to do like beginners soldering could pull it off if they really wanted. There is also a solderless variant of it on ebay you can get for 10$ american. It probably costs 1.50 to make yourself though haha.

there is three major kinds of EMG that are active. This may get confusing so any questions feel free to privately message me. I respond much quicker.

regular numbered ones.
58, 60, 81, 85. this does not include the new 57/66 set. The others that aren't numbered are the "H or HA" series. They are the first active humbucker Rob made around 1976. The H/HA series stands for humbucker and is not to be confused with the HZ series. What is interesting about the "H" humbucker is that it's actually a single coil in a humbucker housing. So it pairs nicely with a say 81 to get H/S sounds without having to buy a new guitar or whatever.

there is X series
the circuit board inside the pickups is updated to make it more versatile and less comrpessed. So best of both worlds many will say. The "punch"of a passive the clarity of an active.

the TW series
which coiltap for single coil sounds (the 89 is technically a 85TW by the way) there is TWX by the way series where you both the ability to coiltap and X series sounds. Say for example the 81TWX

and finally the R series
these go out of phase. The middle position will have this weird quack to it. Not exactly a metal oriented mod but I'm sure it was asked enough so they did it.


as for your question about if it's worth it to upgrade a mid ranged guitar. In the end if you like the sound of the guitar that is all that matters. I mean if the guitar stays in tune, sounds good and intonates by all means. Price is just a number right? I had a 200$ Jackson JS20 guitar I liked way more than this 1000$ (new) jackson DK2. Similar everything but body wood. In the end listen to the guitar and if you don't like it put it in another guitar and you're fine. Same goes for expensive tuners or anything along those lines.
Last edited by Tallwood13 at Jan 13, 2015,
#14
Quote by Cheeseshark
That's actually pretty helpful, thanks! I'm pretty sure i want to do it, the only question is whether to use the video Tallwood posted and do it myself, or take it in somewhere to have it done.

It's a learning experience but not that hard. I've done both ways and the solder less is a piece of cake. Even soldering isn't bad but you need to be careful and use a low wattage iron or you could mess up the electronics. Just a pointer.

Try it and if you screw it up then take it to a shop. You'll be fine.