81 review by EMG

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.4 (83 votes)
EMG: 81

Price paid: $ 100

Purchased from: GuitarWorld

Sound — 9
Well, tonal wise, its great. I've muddled it around at both pickup points on my axe (Explorer), sounds better in the bridge, has a very Adrian Smith Fender sound which is perfect for clean tones and soloing but its also great for 70's/80's heavy metal as a rythm pickup. I use it primarilly through an 80's Marshall with a Boss Metalcore ML-2 distortion pedal (say what you will, it sounds amazing anyway) and I can create a very similar Dance of Death (Iron Maiden) soloing tone. Theres a strong bass 'presence' (theres a bass sound, but not much real bass..if you get what I mean) that is more predominant than in any other guitar I've tried. It also doesn't respond well to having much distortion, it sounds horribly muddy like a badly made grindcore song. EMGs are known for having a 'Live' feeling to their tones and a thick sound which is great for the D - High E strings, but feels gravelly on the other two. I'd say keep it in the bridge slot, it gives a lovely soloing/clean tone and sounds out of place in the neck slot, as the sound is a tad thin. I'd definately recommend getting this with an EMG 85, the pair make a good novelty couple and are both great to use.

Overall Impression — 9
Its very good as a pickup, has nice clean tones for those tricky thrash metal interludes or intense intros (like Lamb of Gods Grace) and its unmatched as a soloing pickup. I don't particularly hate it as such, its near faultless, but there are a few things I don't like (from my point of view of course, its a great thing but I have a few issues with it). I use it in an Epiphone Explorer and I'm getting another installed into an Ibanez XPT300. I put both into the bridge position, I feel it makes no sense to put it into the neck position when it sounds much better in the bridge. If you can help it, get a guitar with pre-installed EMGs, it just saves so much time in getting someone to do it for you (its not amazingly expensive though). But if you can wait for that, then your patience is rewarded. With enough good fables and tales of yore sorrounding it, I'd say get one whenever ya can. Good thing I got it in the US though, its about 33% cheaper there than it is in the UK where I am.

Reliability & Durability — 9
I can't see myself replacing it. If I'd ever buy a new guitar, I'd buy another set of EMGs to make up for the lost tone. Its also aesthetically pleasing you could say, looks good in a lot of guitars I've seen. I'm sure this thing will last a very long time, and the battery has only needed to be replaced once since I had them installed over a year ago.

17 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Tokki Wartooth wrote: i've read that they are not compatible with solid state amps. Is that true?
    hahahahahahahahaha Wait, what?
    Ive got a single emg-81 in my alexi laiho sig and must say, that im absolutely confident with it, sounds just awesome for Metal!
    Personally, I love the 81 in the bridge and the 60 in the neck. The 60 has some of the best clean tones I've ever heard, and its great with distortion. The 81 is pretty much the uber metal pickup, so for my style, an 81/60 combo is amazing.
    bossboy wrote: yea go with the 81+60 i find with my 81+85 cant get good cleans n the cruch on the 85 isnt even that great
    That isn't true at all, I get amazing cleans with both my 81 AND my 85. You must not have a good clean setting on your amp?
    I have it to on neck position and its really great for soloing stuff i play a lot of shreds and such and on bridge i have the Emg 60 a great one too i have to admit im very satisfied by both of them
    Tokki Wartooth
    The EMG 81 rules in the bridge. Not so great for the neck, still does very well though. I highly suggest the 81 in the bridge for extreme metal tunes.
    I was going to replace all three of the pups on my strat with a pre wired pick guard that has all EMGs on it. I play rock my monkey plays metal. He is not paying so? What ya Think?
    witch pickup set up will give you the most unbelievable metal sounding tone????
    I have a friend who just got some of this with 85. I was blown away by them! Can't wait to get my own.
    DropC09 wrote: What is an EMG 81-TW? Probably a stupid question... be gentle?? lol
    In a nutshell, it's the coil-tappable version of the 81. It has 3 coils and 2 preamps, so when you put it into single-coil mode you don't lose as much output.
    i have a dean 350 floyd rose it doesnt have active pickups. do you guys think these are good for my guitar and the most importante can i instal them in a non active guitar? thank you
    I've just had a chance to play guitar with those pick up's... Ibanez RG320E and it sound like- wow! I didn't expected that. I mean this magical sustain is unbreakable. Maybe it doesn't match every type of music but power metal leads/ all of the shredin things sounds great on it. Sometimes i thought it sound too clear xD.
    Tokki Wartooth
    Ascendant wrote: Tokki Wartooth wrote: i've read that they are not compatible with solid state amps. Is that true? hahahahahahahahaha Wait, what?
    I was an active pups noob when i posted that ^_^ I just read somewhere in UG the standard: "EMGs suck you cannot get a decent sound out of them without a gazillion dollar tube amp", and i was terrified
    What is an EMG 81-TW? Probably a stupid question... be gentle?? lol