81/85 Active Humbucker Pickup Set review by EMG

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 8
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.5 (29 votes)
EMG: 81/85 Active Humbucker Pickup Set
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Purchased from: Came with guitar

Sound — 9
High output, metal pickups. Its obvious what these were made for, and for what is intended, its done well. I have them in 3 guitars, and all of them they came already equipped with them (To my dismay). But its not really the tone itself that I don't like, its how dry the sound is in general. No matter what you do with it, the pickups always have this dead, dry, dark tone to them which isn't dark in a good way. If they were dark in a good way people wouldn't play them, they would just buy a warm pickup with moderate gain. The tone isn't bad, its very balanced with no real problems to be perfectly honest. The neck does what a neck pickup does, and the bridge does what a bridge pickup does, there aren't really any strange things to say about them. On top of all this though, they have a huge amount of on-board gain, and don't clean up very well, even at low volumes (20% on volume knob), they STILL cause decent breakup. In the end though, it is a decent tone palette to choose from. It sounds like I'm bagging on them, but I'm just stating problems, if your reading this, then you are bound to have heard about how great these pickups are balanced for high gain pu's.

Overall Impression — 8
To end this, if your a metal-head, and HAVE TO HAVE DISTORTION AND THICKNESS, then these are definitely for you, but people who love love love their tone like me, should stay away. And its not because they have bad tone, it just TOO balanced to my ears, so they do everything ok, but not a single thing great you know? I play alternative metal, and modern rock mostly, but desire more powerful, throaty & detuned sounding, mid/bass oriented tones(think baritone guitars basically) with moderate gain instead of cutting, overly-aggressive, screaming gain tones. I like really nothing about these, other than how they have more than enough gain for any usage, which guarantees they will fit any distortion needs you have, they Drive the amp very very well, and are EMG's so they are backed up and you know they aren't cheaply made. I dislike though, how they have no true tone, and take YOUR tone away from the guitar, they aren't transparent at all so if you put these in your guitar, your not going to sound like a Les Paul Classic, your going to sound like a EMG loaded Gibson, see what I'm saying? I would look elsewhere if you want high gain, but want to keep your tone, BUT BUT BUT! These are still fantastic, great pickups. They only do one thing great, while everything else is done ok is what I'm trying to say, and that's balls out grind, distortion, and metal.

Reliability & Durability — 10
These pickups will most likely never stop working until I let the batteries die, which is something I will never do of course. Very dependable so far.

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