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!