Price paid: $ 129
Purchased from: Sweetwater
Sound — 8
This is my first review and probably won't be great, but with that said, I do have quite a bit of playing experience (10+ years). This is a HOT new humbucker from EMG. This pickup is specifically voiced for the bridge position and is best suited matched with the 66. While it is a HOT pickup, from my experience it doesn't touch the 81 but still holds its own in metal and excels in hard rock. It has a very clear sound with nice definition even while doused it gain. The tone is quite balanced and its easy to dial in a wide variety of sounds. Currently I'm running it at 18 volts as in my opinion the added headroom makes all EMG pickups sound much better, but the 57 doesn't benefit as much from this mod as other models since it doesn't get that super saturated sound as easily. The clean tone on this pickup is bright and natural sounding though it breaks up a little too easily for my taste. The only issue I really have with this pickup is that it doesn't have a great mid-gain sound. It sounds a little bit brittle. While it does have a nice response to pick attack letting you dig in for crunchier tones, it sounds a little thin to my ears. I play it through either a Fender Blues Jr or a Mesa Mini Rectifier, and it definitely sounds better through the Mesa.
Overall Impression — 8
This pickup has some characteristics that make it appeal to passive players and those who favor active tones alike. I love how it cleans up naturally with a roll of the volume knob and I love its clarity. It also has some great versatility. I love to play metal but I must confess the vast majority of gigs I play are in a Christian rock band, and this pickup can pull it off. The clean tone is pretty good and the lead tone cuts through the mix with shocking ease. I think this pickup is great but I wouldn't recommend it for a low gain player. Its best application is high gain but it does a good job of cleans, the trouble is the middle ground. With high gain though it retains a nice balanced tone which allows you to shape it to scooped metal or mid boosted Christian rock lead tones (like I use it). If you like a searing, modern sound, especially for lead work but haven't gone all the way over to the dark side of heavy metal, this may be a pickup you want to check out. I think it has a distinctive tone that has the cut and clarity of active circuitry but I have had musician friends/band mates surprised to learn they are active. Its not a wonder pickup or a do everything perfect panacea for tone but it is a well made, sleek looking pickup that gave my EC-1000 versatile modern tones with a touch of Vintage roots. ESP is putting them stock in the new LTD Elite line so check them out if you like high gain but aren't fully devoted to metal. Even if you are big into metal I advise you to give them a shot, especially if you're not a big 81 user.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This pickup is built in the USA by EMG who to the best of my knowledge have a reputation of solid dependability. That being said, with any active pickup circuit you are at the mercy of a 9 volt battery or in my case, 2 9 volt batteries with the added kick of my own soldering ability thanks to my 18v mod (it does sound awesome though). I have run this pickup at home and at gigs several times a week without fail though I do change the pickups at least once a year just to be on the safe side. Keeping a few extra batteries and a screw driver in your gig bag can be a life saver just the same, as can keeping a backup axe with some old fashioned passive pickups.