ZW Set Review

manufacturer: EMG date: 11/05/2012 category: Pickups
It is basically the standard EMG 81 85 with a bit of Zakk's "vibe" added is how they described it. I recommend these to any metal or rock guitarists who have some extra money.
 Sound: 7.5
 Overall Impression: 8
 Reliability & Durability: 9
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reviews (2) 11 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 8
ZW Set Reviewed by: jedke, on november 30, 2011
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: C$ 210

Purchased from: Guitar Works

Sound: Alright I bought these pickups because I am a huge fan of Zakk. It is basically the standard EMG 81 85 with a bit of Zakk's "vibe" added is how they described it. They worked hand in hand with Wylde to create these. You wont be disappointed. Setup is relatively simple with the standard EMG solderless design. It comes with its own 50k pots that are required for them to work. Which means you have to gut everything but the selector switch which can be a pain. The 81 goes in the bridge and the 85 in the neck. I am playing it with my Gibson Les Paul Studio through a Dunlop Cry Baby and my Peavey Vypyr 30. The tone of these pickups with the distortion on them is killer. Its got a bassy vibe to it. You can crank metal through the 81. And during the faster picked parts in solos you can put it to the neck pickup for wicked sustain and clarity. Or you can play some bluesy rhythm through the neck pickup. These pickups are extremely versatile to a degree. They sound amazing with distortion. Pinch harmonics scream with this and galloping riffs sound amazing. Where these pickups start to lack is in the clean channel. You get a rough sound on clean. And its not very crisp. There is a way of course to fix this which is the 18v mod. I have tried it and highly recommend it. The thing about these pickups compared to others that I find amazing is the lacking of background noise. They have an internal pre amp which takes the noise and eliminates it. I'm giving it a 7 out of 10 because of the clean problem but it can be fixed. // 7

Reliability & Durability: These pickups are built insane they look great. They have the black plastic casing that protects them well. I dropped them quite a few times during installation and the casing takes all the fall. One this about these though is the connector pins on the back, easily being the easiest to damage part of the pickups. They will bend and break easy so you have to be careful. I definitely depend on these allot I have them in 2 of my guitars. I dislike the fact they require batteries, but it's easily gotten around if you make sure to carry around extra 9vs. This gets 9 out of 10 because of the pins on the back and the battery. // 9

Overall Impression: I love the sound out of these. The tones amazing with jaw dropping sustain and pinch harmonics. They lack in the clean channel but that can be fixed. They are also expensive. Another thing that really made me upset almost to the point of returning them was EMG customer support. So the pickups come with short shaft pots. A Les Paul requires long shaft pots. In the included manual it says to phone them and they will send them free of charge. When I phoned he claimed to have sent them. After not getting them for 2 months, I phoned again and they hadn't even left yet. I guess I can't complain since it was free. But its Zakk's signature pickups and he plays a Les Paul I think long shaft pots should have came instead of short ones. This gets 8 out of 10 because of customer support and the clean channel. I recommend these to any metal or rock guitarists who have some extra money. // 8

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overall: 8.3
ZW Set Reviewed by: krehzeekid, on november 05, 2012
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: C$ 200

Purchased from: Avenue Guitars

Sound: This pickup set is obviously geared towards very aggressive metal tones, given its namesake. My particular set is loaded into an 2005 Epiphone Les Paul Custom, and are currently set-up for 18 volt operation. However, for this review, I have removed the extra battery. Currently, the guitar is being used through either a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier Roadster or a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. The bridge pickup, which is an EMG 81 unit (a ceramic magnet based pickup), is extremely bright and tight. It is designed to be able to cut through any mix with ease, and to provide very tight bottom end and precise highs. Overall, I find the pickup is perfectly suited to metal rhythm work, and it is good for lead work. It is definitely very bright, and will probably be too bright for some amps, particularly on lower-gain and clean settings. I've found that backing off the volume a little bit, and possibly the tone control too, can help to reign in the high end and give the pickup as surprisingly good clean funk tone. The neck pickup, an EMG 85 (Alnico 5 magnets), is much warmer and more lower-mid and bass heavy. This results in very fluid and warm lead tones, without the tendency to become muddy or ill-defined with extreme gain settings. It is a great lead tone, working well for all metal and rock tones. The real kicker for the neck pickup, however, are it's clean tones. Through a properly set-up amp, this pickup can deliver very warm, bouncy and clear clean tones, which are able to cut through the mix very easily both during chord-work and lead playing. Overall, I like these pickups quite a bit. However, EMG's - and most other actives - have to be treated a little differently than passive pickups. Because they're actually very weak pickups with pre-amps that boost the signal, they have a flatter and wider frequency response than most other pickups. This can result in a sterile sound if the amp isn't properly set-up to accommodate the pickups. Generally, this is much more pronounced with solid-state amps - which lack the harmonic content of tube amps - and when playing alone without a band. However, with a properly set-up amp, these pickups are capable of playing nearly any style you could want: I've played in metal bands, jazz groups, wedding bands and even a country band for a while, and the pickups have worked fine. EMG's are definitely best suited for metal, but if you know what you're doing, you can get more versatility of out them. That being said, they definitely are not for everybody, as some players may find that they lack dynamics or that they make mistakes pop out too clearly. // 8

Reliability & Durability: I have had these pickups in my guitar since mid 2006, and I have yet to have an issue other than the battery running out. So long as you are careful to ensure that you're unplugging the guitar when you finish playing - and making sure you keep an extra battery in your case- there's absolutely no reason you should have to worry about long - term reliability. 6 years and no issues is pretty impressive. The 9 is only because the battery does tend to go with no warning whatsoever, which can be a bit of a pain. // 9

Overall Impression: I have very much enjoyed these pickups since the day I got them. The have tremendous power, and the flatter, wider frequency response suits my playing very well. Generally, I like the sounds and versatility that I've gotten out of the pickups, and I've really only been disappointed when I've used them far outside their intended purposes with an amp that really wasn't up to the task. As with all EMG's, it is important to know what you're getting. EMG's have a fairly unique response character and they sound different than most any other pickup. I feel like many of the complaints leveled against them stem from people buying them because they're "FOR METAL!!!" without really understanding how they work. I love them because they are significantly more precise than my passive pickup loaded guitars, which is perfect for some of my music. However, if I had to pickup one pickup set for life, I am positive that this would not be it. Overall though, I am quite happy with these pickups as they provide exactly what they promise: boosted output, added presence and massive clarity. // 8

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