81/85 Active Humbucker Pickup Set review by EMG

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 8.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.5 (29 votes)
EMG: 81/85 Active Humbucker Pickup Set
2

Price paid: $ 199

Purchased from: Musicians Freind

Sound — 10
A versitile set of pickups with the ability to scream through the heaviest of metal solos or strum a clean, buzz free rythym. These pickups are amazing! The EMG1 is an extremly high output pickup designed especially for soloing. It's at its best for high-volume overdrive and amps with a master volume control. Whether you're playing power rock 'n' roll or overdriving your amp, there's a razor sharp attack and incredible sustain for brilliant soloing. Perhaps my favorite thing about this pickup is the intensity of the pinch harmonics, let me tell you what, they are pircingly loud ... it's like being at a Black Label Society show! The EMG5 pickup has more measurable output than the 1, its frequency response and string interface are different. The 5 uses 2 Alnico magnet-loaded coils with a wide aperture to maintain a beefy low end and a fatter top end. Because the EMG5 has a more natural tone, it works great as a rhythm and blues pickup because it has loads of output but isn't muddy. The clarity of this pickup is hard to beat.

Overall Impression — 9
These things are loud! Much louder than anything I've ever played. Because they are active pickups, the battery almost acts as an amplifier all by it's self. Now being loud is great, but keep in mind that this means your mistakes are also louder. I was amazed that these pickups virtully eliminated all of the "buzzing" coming from my amp. It's a miricle. That alone would give 'em my vote. Installation is a whole nother story though. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It took me twelve hours to install these things. I had to remove the original 52CH and the HOT CH pickups from my Epiphone Les Paul Custom. As well as the original jack and potentiometers and replace and rewire the whole thing. It was quite the task, but well worth it. EMG has far exceeded my expectations with this custom set of pickups, and has become my new pickup of choice for soloing.

Reliability & Durability — 7
I purchused a limited edition set of Camofluage 15's. They are painted with a new method called "dipping" as opposed to the traditional air brushing technique. Claimed to be much stronger, it only took me about two months of straight playing to wear down the east edge of the 1. This was due, inpart to the fact that the instruction manual recommended the bridge pickup to be as close to the strings as possable. Maybe a little too close in my case, so beware. But I bought them to play not stare at. These are "active" pickups so they are run off of a nine volt battery. The battery is turned on when there is a cable in the input jack, and turned off when unplugged. Leaving your guitar plugged in is not a good idea. They claim the batterys have a life of 3000 hours but who knows? Another great thing about these pickups is that they reduce the risk of electricution, which is a great assurence to the sweaty, beer drinking guitarist.

21 comments sorted by best / new / date

    JakoSnako
    Wonka16 wrote: These are "active" pickups so they are run off of a nine volt battery. The battery is turned on when there is a cable in the input jack, and turned off when unplugged. Leaving your guitar plugged in is not a good idea. They claim the batterys have a life of 3000 hours but who knows? after the battery had run out...must we change the battery or the whole emg pickup set?
    HOLY EXPLETIVE, THANK GOD NO, just the battery man, can you imagine replacing a set of pickups every time the battery ran out????
    DropC09
    I just got a Schecter Hellraiser Solo6 with EMG81 and 85... It gives the guitar so much more power! I cant imagine playing through anyother pickups. If anyone has the chance to play with them, definetly go for it! Is it hard to change the battery? Or is it just taking off the back panel and switching?? I guess my question is if it's an easy do-it-yourself change?
    DropC09
    Oh wait! I have EMG81 and 89... What the hell is an 89??? All I know is it sounds great.
    Cade_nickels
    One battery is all you need. Just unscrew the back panel and switch out the old battery with the new one. Easy as that.
    thegrim
    i recently purchased the zakk wylde active emg 81 and 85, this set came with solderless connectors, the only soldering i had to do was on the input jack...awesome set, and easy set up, sweet sounding pickups too!!!
    footsteps7173
    Wonka16 wrote: These are "active" pickups so they are run off of a nine volt battery. The battery is turned on when there is a cable in the input jack, and turned off when unplugged. Leaving your guitar plugged in is not a good idea. They claim the batterys have a life of 3000 hours but who knows? after the battery had run out...must we change the battery or the whole emg pickup set?
    just the battery.
    danvwman
    Bladeguy try turning down the volume to about 5ish and/or use both pickups at the same time. I have these in a USA Bich w/Kahler and I really do not like them. They sound too sterile alone... I need to use both at the same time and blend them together with the two volume pots to get a decent tone. I am also thinking these pickups are no good for guitars with tremlos, tremlos tend to suck out the low end. I think these actives have a really flat output...i.e. don't add volume to any particular frequency and that's why I need to use both pickups at the same time. Its funny ...I always wanted EMG's but now that I have them I really don't care for them.
    aronallcock
    few more weeks and i should have the 81 and 85 zakk wylde pro solderless kit - anyone have these???
    bladeguy
    So I bought a Damien Elite Avenger (shecter) and it came with EMG 81/85. The clean tone sounds horrible (not that I use it much) so what can I do to make it sound better?
    metalhed0294
    Do they make passive versions of there? I'm not about to drill a hole in my guitar just so I can put some batteries in it.
    vmntshredder
    I have a question: If I bought a Gibson Explorer, and switched the pick-ups to EMG 81/85 or 60/85, would I be able to place the 9 volt battery beneath the pickguard?
    shredder3386
    These pickups are amazing, I have tried pretty much everything else imaginable but I always go back to the 81/85 combo. Nothing compares to palm muting at high volumes and gain with an active 81 in your bridge.
    Asdefer
    marshallrocks : Are these pickups any good on a clean setting?
    Yeah, they are. Specially if you don't set your strings too low.
    evospectre
    just installed set in a epi les paul goth and I am in freaking love!!!! I have two other guitars with the 81/60 and this blows them away. I had very little issues with the wiring using the new plug and play. The only snafu was i broke the pa2 when i overtightened it and broke off the switch.
    Wonka16
    These are "active" pickups so they are run off of a nine volt battery. The battery is turned on when there is a cable in the input jack, and turned off when unplugged. Leaving your guitar plugged in is not a good idea. They claim the batterys have a life of 3000 hours but who knows? after the battery had run out...must we change the battery or the whole emg pickup set?
    asfastasdark
    mountaindrewy10 wrote: ive got passive pickups, is it possible to put in active pickups in it? i have no clue what to do... i was thinking about getting a pair of emg 81 and 85.. plz help
    Yes, you can. All you need is a space to put a 9-volt battery.
    mountaindrewy10
    ive got passive pickups, is it possible to put in active pickups in it? i have no clue what to do... i was thinking about getting a pair of emg 81 and 85.. plz help
    ErinDunne
    i got emgs in my epiphone g400, the 58 60a combo. i had to chang my batterie only once in two years.