85 review by EMG

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.7 Superb
  • Users' score: 8 (43 votes)
EMG: 85
3

Price paid: $ 100

Purchased from: GuitarWorld - NY city

Sound — 9
As one of the leading and most famous products of EMG, it definatly lives up to a reputation. Its sound is, bluntly put, massive. As a humbucker, its made for being a rythm pickup and having a huge crunch to it. And that it does. To me, it makes the sound of the guitar much thicker, it vastly improves the sound of a guitar, and gives it a unique tone too. I'm also able to mimic a vast range of band sounds, like Machine Head, Slipknot, Amon Amarth and to a lesser extent Scar Symmetry (cheap but good 7 strings are hard to find). Its got a very strong ''80's heavy metal'' quality to it, making it very appealing to the ears, so to speak. Sounds great for playing anything heavy, makes palm muting sound very chuggy like old Judas Priest or Metallica. It is best paired off with another EMG, possibly an 89 or in my experience an 81, which is a classic pickup set-up. The only thing I'm not comfortable with is its sort of, disdain for the top 3 strings (G B E). They sound incredibly thin, and even with the volume fully up, you cant get rid of the plucking sound which dominates the tone. That said however, in my set up of an Epiphone Explorer with an EMG 81 at the bridge and the 85 at the neck and the toggle switch in the middle, it has a very good solo-ing tone for Machine Head, particularly for their album, the Blackening. This has become my main tone for playing. It actually has a positive effect to distortion, it requires less effort for hammering and improves the crunch by a substantial amount and responds much better than an 1. I'd say keep the pickup in the neck position, it has no use in the bridge because of the confusing sound you get. By confusing I mean it has no real place, its too strong for soloing but with too much bass for rythm playing.

Overall Impression — 9
Its a bit hard to fault, overall, though it does have some problems. Price for one, it costs a lot for the actual pickup, and it does increase the price of guitars with pre-installed pickups by quite a lot, such as when comparing the Ibanez MBM2 (Matt Bachand Signature and the Ibanez MTM2 (Mick Thomson Signature), The MBM2 is around 490 and uses an 81/85 setup, while the MTM2 is more or less the same except from the paint job and the headstock, yet the MTM2 has Ibanez passive V7/V8 pickups, and is around 100 less. As mentioned, I installed this into an Epiphone Explorer, which is a somewhat basic guitar, but the EMG makes it sound as good as something 3 times as expensive. And I wouldnt have it any other way. In all honesty, I couldnt imagine having a guitar without it. It just feels so good to play. Also, it looks killer, very smooth and shiny with that golden logo on it and of course, black goes with everything. In my humble opinion, if you're thinking about buying one then get it, the only thing you need to think about is what its attatched to (or not attatched to).

Reliability & Durability — 8
Like the 1 I wrote about earlier, it seems very durable, the only thing needing to be replaced is the battery which lasts very long indeed. Apprently if you have two battery connections it improves the sound somewhat, I havent tried this as it has a large electric fault factor. I can definately say I'd replace it if it did break. May be a pain because of installation waiting periods and the fact that its pretty expensive to buy. But dont let that put you off, if you happen to have 90 for a small, absolutely magical electromagnet, then dont hesitate!

25 comments sorted by best / new / date

    EpiExplorer
    It is best paired off with another EMG, possibly an 89 or in my experience an 1, which is a classic pickup set-up.
    Meant to put 81, not 1
    nido
    18v mod is all i have to say. it will drastically improve lead tone.
    Tokki Wartooth
    i have two 81's right now and i'd like either the 85 or the 60 for the neck position. Gonna go with 60 for damn sure, more versatility.
    EpiExplorer
    mekani wrote: I have it in bridge position in Les Paul Custom, and sounds incredibly good. NOw, 81 is in the neck position and it seems to me sound is more balanced (85 adds some bass to the bridge, 81 takes some bass from the neck). Anyway, it's much better then 81 in the bridge, in my opinion (depends on the style you're playing). I didn't notice any "problems" with the strings you've mentioned, but every guitar is uniq, so who knows what's cousing it.
    Thats true, probably cuz I have new strings, still need to be worked it so to speak
    EpiExplorer
    blankoff wrote: i thought machine head used EMG 60 for soloing
    Foooool XD Naw, Flynn and demmel both use 81's to solo, Demmel uses and 85 for rythm and Flynn uses his stock pickup from his ESP Flying V
    SuperFlyinMonke
    I put 81/85s in my SG and it's an absolute dream. I play the 81 in the bridge more often, but it's all personal preference. I find that they have a really tight response and great tone for any application.
    Gyroscope
    I only use the 85 for clean to give it a much fuller sound, and the 81 for distortion.
    CustomCustom
    I used to have the 81 br / 85 neck in a LP studio but ended up with a 60 in the neck and felt it was much more versatile than the 86 in the neck that is. I tried 85 in bridge and got similar results to TS, G B E didnt sear like the 85 for solos so I went back to 81 bridge and dialed up more bass w/ the amp
    iceh88
    dont use the 85 for cleans unless your playing blues and want some break up in your sound. other than that this sounds great with overdrive or distortion.
    dustyboy316
    81/60 is supposed to be better for cleans I heard. I have an EMG 81 in my LP. I have it mixed with two passive humbuckers (stock right now). I am going to add in 2 Seymour Duncans, and will have the most versatile guitar in the world. Don't expect the best cleans outta these, it's their downfall. They aren't brutal and I'm sure the 85 is better for cleans, which is why they say to get the set.
    Nameless742
    mekani wrote: I have it in bridge position in Les Paul Custom, and sounds incredibly good. NOw, 81 is in the neck position and it seems to me sound is more balanced (85 adds some bass to the bridge, 81 takes some bass from the neck). Anyway, it's much better then 81 in the bridge, in my opinion (depends on the style you're playing). I didn't notice any "problems" with the strings you've mentioned, but every guitar is uniq, so who knows what's cousing it.
    That's a really interesting and good point. I have 81 in bridge, 85 in neck, but I do find my 85 in neck can be a tad over-bassy. the 81 sounds nice and crunchy, I see maybe why Kirk Hammet likes 81/81.
    Vypor
    oh yeah i forgot, (not sure how to edit comments) the 18v mod is MUST. When i got my EMG 81/85's installed I requested this, and was well worth it.
    Vypor
    i love my 85 in the bridge. I like the 81 and the 85 together, but for some reason when I plug up, just running the 85 sounds like home to me.
    I_Forgot_My_Pen
    I run 81 at the bridge and 85 at the neck. It was set up opposite when i had them installed, but i didn't like the sound and switched them. Now i love the 81 and am only half-way happy with the 85 I don't like the way my E and A sound with it.
    FFFDFEFRFKFFF
    it's much better then 81 in the bridge
    Completely agree. I find it lacking in the neck position but in the bridge it cuts a lot better than an 81. I didn't feel the like I absolutely had to boost solos(I mean I still will because it's the principle of the thing ) because I just felt it cut through more due the more midrange. Also the 18 volt mod give more headroom and less compression, so I'm told. I plan on trying it out as I've heard almost everyone rave about it.
    Oligog
    Would anyone say that this pickup replaces an EMG 60? I've got an 81/60 setup and i've heard good things about the 81/85...
    mekani
    I have it in bridge position in Les Paul Custom, and sounds incredibly good. NOw, 81 is in the neck position and it seems to me sound is more balanced (85 adds some bass to the bridge, 81 takes some bass from the neck). Anyway, it's much better then 81 in the bridge, in my opinion (depends on the style you're playing). I didn't notice any "problems" with the strings you've mentioned, but every guitar is uniq, so who knows what's cousing it.
    animemetalhead
    The 81/85 came standard on my LTD H-351 NT. They are the best pickups for heavy distortion in my opinion. The 85 itself, despite other opinions, I prefer in the neck because I play rhythm and the way I learned to play with a strap was higher up, almost to playing on the neck itself. All in all, great pickups for any price.