#1
Hey guys. So awhile back, I purchased a guitar off of a friend that came with EMGs...
81 in the bridge, and 85 in the neck. I told him before he shipped the guitar to swap the positions of the pickups though, because I had heard that the 81 had no balls and was very thin sounding, and that it was a lot better as a neck pickup...

Anyway, it got here almost a year ago, and I set it to D standard, played a couple of songs on it, set it up, but now, I'm looking to get it some new pickups, cause I'm not that satisfied with the current set up.... Even with the 85 in the bridge, these pickups really aren't for me I guess.

I was able to finally get a somewhat decent tone though... See, my rig set up is pretty simple. I just have my guitar, my amp, and an OD in front to tighten things down and give me more "oomph!"

My amp is a laney ironheart 60 watt head with a marshall 4x12 cab. The great thing about this head is that it has 3 channels! Which I absolutely love!!!

Getting to the tone.. I honestly could not get a single good clean tone out of any of these pickups. 81 in the neck, it sounded like shit. 85 in the bridge? a bit better but still shit...
Almost decent tone when in middle position.


I like to play metal with my gain fairly low, which may account for why these pickups didn't do it for me. I like more natural, organic heavy tones, but im no metal noob by any means. I love and play all kinds (thrash, power, death, melo-death, old school, etc)

I have a schecter 2014 blackjack with duncan nazgul and sentient pickups and that thing fucking screams metal! I only have to keep my gain at 12 o'clock and kick on the OD and I have my sound... Rest of the EQ is more of less around 12 o'clock as well on that schecter that has passives... As for the OD itself, for passive guitars I just blast the output, set the tone knob to about 3 o'clock, and set the gain knob to 0. Easy as pie.


For the EMGs though, this set up would absolutely NOT work though... It sounded like it need more gain, and i didn't wanna just crank the gain knob up on my amp... Fortunately for me, my ironheart amp has a built in boost function... So to get a decent tight ass metal rhythm tone with the 85 in the bridge, I keep the boost engaged and almost on full with the OD not even engaged. The gain of the amp is set to 12 o'clock and same as the rest of the EQ. When I wanna switch to the lead channel, I just stomp both the lead switch on the foot pedal, and also the OD. Only difference this time is, with the EMGs, I switch the tone knob from 3 o'clock, to 12.

^This gives me a really nice, killswitch engage style tone that I'm actually quite fond of...

I still plan on swapping the pups though... Maybe before I completely give up on EMGs I should replace my current set with the 57/66 set, ya know? It's funny, I had blackouts once in a gibson les paul studio, and I never had this problem with tone... They were just so much fuller and tighter sounding... The AHB-2 Blackouts Metal to be exact... That was the best active pickup I've ever played...


I was tempted to get one again, but not for awhile, only because I wanna experiment with some different tones, and see what this new EMG offering is like...

After dialing in a decent rhythm tone, I switched on the lead channel and tried to see if I could get a good shred sound... At first, I couldnt do it. I mean, lack of gain was not the issue, I mean for fucks sake this is a laney ironheart we're talking about here...

I felt like that 85 was missing something when I was running up and down scales and sweeping, and all that shreddy stuff. It's just not the same playing those Paul Gilbert esque alternate picking runs without that percussive pick attack sound... You guys know what I mean.

So at that point I just lowered the gain on the lead channel a tad, and engaged the OD again but with the tone knob set to 12 o'clock as previously stated. Things got nice and tight, but not incredibly hissy and gainy.


I was planning on switching the 81 to the bridge position just to hear what it would sound like and to have the 85 in the neck, ya know? But now it seems kinda pointless, cause even though I was able to get a decent metal tone out of the 85, when soloing I often found myself using the 81 instead, which obviously was inhabiting the neck slot.

What do you guys think of the 57/66 set? Have you ever compared them yourselves? I've seen all the youtube clips and stuff, I was just wondering what your thoughts and impressions were...
Last edited by DeathShredder23 at Feb 22, 2016,
#2
Definitely try the 81 in the bridge and the 85 in the neck before giving them up. I've had that combo in my last 3 guitars and it's a tried about true combo. (Well the last one had an 89 in the neck but it's basically just an 85 with a "coil tap" emulator type thing going on. Gives me some GORGEOUS round cleans. Really love it.) 81 is just made for an aggressive sound with loads of high end bite so it stays really articulate. Using my Peavey Triple X I've been able to have some good sturdy low end from it as well behind all that high end sizzle. So swapping them around and seeing what works for you.

As for the 57/66 set I really enjoy it. Definitely more of a passive quality while still having the active boost that I love.
Quote by Roc8995
Yes, and people still got polio and you had to crank your car up by hand and put whale oil in the lamps every night.

Things are better now.


Quote by dannyalcatraz
Style is in the hands. Taste is in the hands. But tone? Tone is in the gear.
#3
18 volt mod the EMG's. Such a simple mod that's completely reversible and it makes 81/85's sound so much better.
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Violets are blue
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#4
I was thinking of a new battery and the 18V mod as well.
Guitars:
Jackson Kelly KE3 - MIJ (Distortion/Jazz)
Jackson DKMGT Dinky (EMG 81/85)
ESP E-II Eclipse Custom (JB/'59)
ESP LTD EC-1001FR (EMG 81/60)
Fender MIM Strat

Amps:
Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Roadster 212
Laney IronHeart IRT-Studio
Peavey Vypyr 30
Peavey ReValver Amp Sims
TOOOO many T.C. Electronic Pedals. . .
#5
For some reason, it sounds like a foot down wah pedal when I solo with these pickups...


I don't think there's anything wrong with them, I mean, I AM having some electrical problems with the 3 way switch where it's crackling quite a bit, but doesn't that mean that I just have to do some soldering, or at least tighten something inside the control cavity?
#6
Or you could have a partial short and really low output.

Try some contact cleaner in the switch and see if that brings it to life.
Guitars:
Jackson Kelly KE3 - MIJ (Distortion/Jazz)
Jackson DKMGT Dinky (EMG 81/85)
ESP E-II Eclipse Custom (JB/'59)
ESP LTD EC-1001FR (EMG 81/60)
Fender MIM Strat

Amps:
Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Roadster 212
Laney IronHeart IRT-Studio
Peavey Vypyr 30
Peavey ReValver Amp Sims
TOOOO many T.C. Electronic Pedals. . .
#7
Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
18 volt mod the EMG's. Such a simple mod that's completely reversible and it makes 81/85's sound so much better.



+1 on the 18v mod also try swapping the position I never had any issues with the 81 sounding thin @ the bridge.
"A well-wound coil is a well-wound coil regardless if it's wound with professional equipment, or if somebody's great-grandmother winds it to an old French recipe with Napoleon's modified coffee grinder and chops off the wire after a mile with an antique guillotine!"
- Bill Lawrence

Come and be with me
Live my twisted dream
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Time for primal concrete sledge

Last edited by Evilnine at Feb 23, 2016,
#8
The Nazgul/Sentient set is indeed amazing, isn't it?
Dave @ Seymour Duncan
#9
Yea... Duncan does some fine work I suppose... I'm gonna get some contact cleaner and see if the does anything for me.
#10
Soooo I did the EMG swap, and all I can say is, I can't see why anybody in the world would choose the 81 over the 85...

I know that there are a ton of EMG fanboys on this site, but this is just how I feel about their sound. I will say that the 85 still sounded pretty fucking decent. Not gonna lie, I have to give props where it's due.

I feel like the 85 can do everything that the 81 can, only better. Sure, the 81 was slightly, and I mean slightly louder, than the 85, but the more rounded and organic tone of the 85 preamp just sounds SOOOO much better in my opinion.

I was really surprised when I put the neck position on for the 85 and was able to do divebombs pretty effortlessly with harmonics with my gain only set to 12 o'clock.

Of course, I had my OD pedal engaged, and also had the pre boost of the amp engaged as well. Which reminds me, with the 85 in the bridge before, I didn't even need to have the OD engaged to get a good rhythm tone, but with the 81 in the bridge, I needed BOTH!!!

Jeez, it really is true I what they say I guess about that pickup just not having much balls...

The 85 just shits all over it. Especially the blackouts too, as I mentioned before. I'm glad I liked the 85 though, I'll have to buy one for one of my one-pickup guitars in the future...

85/85 would be a killer combo. In the neck, the 85 sounds better than it does in the bridge. I don't know why people have accused it of sounding muddy. Maybe it just really works with my rig...

Clean tones still sucked balls with both pickups. Maybe my laney ironheart just has a shit clean channel. I've always liked it, but maybe It's cause I'm mostly a passive pickup guy.

85 cleans were obviously better than the 81s though.

Idk, I know that at the end of the day it's all about preference, and that's cool, but to my ears, I just don't see what all the rage is about with the 81. I just can't say a good thing about it, other than the fact that I will admit power chords ALWAYS sounded clear with it, but the same could be said for the 85, sooo that's not really a ton of praise...

Maybe I should try 57/66 set. I really want to.

Also, I wanna mention that I am well aware that pickup height affects the type of sound you get from your pickups... The 81 was higher than the 85, and still had less balls and was overall just thinner and weaker sounding.

85 claims victory.
Last edited by DeathShredder23 at Feb 25, 2016,
#11
I had the same problem out of my schecter hellraiser C1-FR. I plugged into my uncle's Marshall and couldn't get it to sound mean and ballsy. My uncle then plugged his carvin guitar into the same marshall and didn't adjust anything, and proceeded to get a wicked sinister metallica sound. I couldn't understand it. Still don't understand it but i also haven't been back to his house to try it again with a new chord. We both looked at each other like wtf lol. He's old school and was like, i thought emg's were supposed to be the shit lol.
#12
Haha yea dude I had the exact same response... After playing both now, I can honestly say that blackouts are the way to go if you have to go active...

Of course, I haven't tried the 57/66 set. I really need to, and then I'll be able to see if they are a vast improvement.
#13
As some one who owns most of those pickups while I'll throw some suggestions.
All of these are based on me playing them on my Marshall.

Het Set: My personal favorite EMGs, It's based on the 81/60 combo but it responds more like a passive pickup. This one IMO fixes what I find wrong with the 81 and that's the compression. The Het set is far more open as well as being higher output than the 81. Best cleans on active pickups I've ever heard and rolling down the volume knobs cleans them up nicely.

AHB 1 Blackouts: Excellent pickups more output than the 81, maybe a bit less than the Het set. Cleans on the neck are great the bridge is all right but really shines in high gain.

57/66: Not as high output as the others but very smooth and articulate pickups. Maybe not the way to go if the 81 or 85 didn't have enough "oomph".
ESP E-II Horizon FR
Gibson Flying V HET SET
ESP Eclipse II FM JB/Jazz
ESP M-II Deluxe EMG 81/SA
Marshall JCM2000 DSL/ JCM800 1960a cab
Mesa Mark V 25
#14
Ohhh c mon. Are you telling me this pickup isn't awesome?

https://youtu.be/jtWMAshBb3U
Quote by Roc8995
Yes, and people still got polio and you had to crank your car up by hand and put whale oil in the lamps every night.

Things are better now.


Quote by dannyalcatraz
Style is in the hands. Taste is in the hands. But tone? Tone is in the gear.
#15
I have never got along with EMGs despite being a fan of a lot of artists and loving their tones of guys who use EMGs.

It's weird.
My Gear:
Ibanez Jet King 2
Ibanez RGDIX7 MPB
Ibanez GRG 7221
OLP John Petrucci
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro
Squier Stratocaster (modified)
Harley Benton CLD-41S (Acoustic)

Peavey Vypyr 30.

Boss CH-1 Super Chorus
Boss DD-3 Digital Delay
Boss FRV-1 '63 Fender Reverb
#16
Quote by N1ghtmar3C1n3ma
I have never got along with EMGs despite being a fan of a lot of artists and loving their tones of guys who use EMGs.

It's weird.


My first "real" guitar had EMGs so I learned to shape my tone with them.
#17
Quote by GraceByDeath
My first "real" guitar had EMGs so I learned to shape my tone with them.



Maybe I just need to spend a while fiddling with an amp and trying to dial them in, I have only really tried guitars in shops with them and played a few friend's guitars with them. I have always just gone "meh" and preferred a passive straight off the bat.
Stuff like the Nazgul/Sentient and Crunch Lab/Liquifire. I A/B'd an 81 and Evolution and straight away preferred the Evolution.
My Gear:
Ibanez Jet King 2
Ibanez RGDIX7 MPB
Ibanez GRG 7221
OLP John Petrucci
Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro
Squier Stratocaster (modified)
Harley Benton CLD-41S (Acoustic)

Peavey Vypyr 30.

Boss CH-1 Super Chorus
Boss DD-3 Digital Delay
Boss FRV-1 '63 Fender Reverb
#18
@Nightmare; Yea I feel the same way... I listen to sooooooo many EMG users and but I just can't seem to dig the 81... Maybe they just know how to EQ everything more effectively.

@Ltdguy; It's not that the 85 didn't have "Oomph". It certainly does under the right settings, I just felt that the 81 was overall a weak piece of shit. I prefer the sound of passives, so maybe a 57/66 set with my overdrive and boosted amp will put me in tonal heaven.
#19
Found something that might help you pick them out. The 81 loaded Schecter I had sounded terrible through my Egnater, but my M-II through my Marshall gets me a really heavy and tight tone.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YlK4LOlB9-Q
ESP E-II Horizon FR
Gibson Flying V HET SET
ESP Eclipse II FM JB/Jazz
ESP M-II Deluxe EMG 81/SA
Marshall JCM2000 DSL/ JCM800 1960a cab
Mesa Mark V 25