81/85 Active Humbucker Pickup Set Review

manufacturer: EMG date: 01/21/2013 category: Pickups
EMG: 81/85 Active Humbucker Pickup Set
A versitile set of pickups with the ability to scream through the heaviest of metal solos or strum a clean, buzz free rythym.
 Sound: 9.3
 Overall Impression: 8.8
 Reliability & Durability: 8.8
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reviews (4) 29 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 8.7
81/85 Active Humbucker Pickup Set Reviewed by: Cade_nickels, on july 23, 2009
2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Price paid: $ 199

Purchased from: Musicians Freind

Sound: 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. // 10

Reliability & Durability: 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. // 7

Overall Impression: 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. // 9

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overall: 8.7
81/85 Active Humbucker Pickup Set Reviewed by: unregistered, on january 23, 2012
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: £ 144

Purchased from: Andertons

Sound: The sound is excellent for both cleans and heavy distorted music in my opinion, I do think though that the 81 is too muddy if you want sparkling cleans but if you have EMG's that's not what you are really after. I use the 81/85's with a Vox VT 40+ and an Ibanez Tone Blaster 100 stack with an array of Boss distortion pedals, they all sounds pretty solid with no horrible muddy rhythm sounds it does however sound the best though the Ibanez. // 8

Reliability & Durability: The pickups seem to be pretty strong, I've only had them in my Vintage V100 a few days but their look and feel to me say they are going to last. // 9

Overall Impression: I love the heavy distortion sounds that can be attained by the EMG's, the 85 is a little muddy for my liking but they are a great setup non the less. I have the 81 in the bridge and the 85 in the neck with the EMG 3 way toggle (supplied free and I can fault them for metal/hard rock genres. // 9

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overall: 9
81/85 Active Humbucker Pickup Set Reviewed by: thetobarmethod, on september 17, 2012
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Purchased from: Came with guitar

Sound: 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. // 9

Reliability & Durability: 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. // 10

Overall Impression: 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. // 8

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overall: 9.3
81/85 Active Humbucker Pickup Set Reviewed by: spectre0618, on january 21, 2013
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Purchased from: The Guitar World

Sound: Firstly, the output level is excellent. The sound is very clear, the 81 in the Bridge has great tone and definition and when Palm Muted it has a really nice crunch. When I play odd Chord shapes, all of the strings come through clear as a bell. Nothing gets lost in the mix. I play in C# and I am currently using a Peavey 6505+ Head with a Peavey XXX 4X12 Cabinet. The 85 in the neck position is only ever used for clean channel and it really helps add more depth and tone to what is a decent but not quite Stellar clean channel on the 6505. I am very happy with the sound. // 10

Reliability & Durability: The pickups came installed from the factory. I bought a used ESP LTD MH-400NT about 6 months ago and I haven't had an issue yet. The pickups seem to be pretty easy on the 9V battery. They don't seem to suck a lot of juice and the fit and finish impresses me as top notch. There is no unusual noise from the pickups when no notes are being played and they seem like they will last a long time. I have absolutely no apprehension about the reliability and I never feel nervous about having any kind of technical issue on stage. // 9

Overall Impression: I love the fact that the pickups have a very balanced sound overall. There is plenty of low end crunch, but there is also a wealth of Mid and High range tone and the sustain is quite good. For the 85 when in clean channel, it sounds very clear but there is also a softness to the tone, especially when strumming as opposed to picking. I never use the 81 in clean because I absolutely despise the twang. My only gripe about the pickups is the noise level when I'm muting the strings. The fact that the 6505+ is a high gain amp doesn't help either, nor does my lack of a noise suppressor. Small price to pay for Active pickups but one that is easily remedied without too much expense. // 9

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