EMG pickups - have they no soul?

The other night I saw a certain band, who were all perfectly competent but for me the whole thing was ruined by the guitarist's sound. He had a Gibson Les Paul which had been loaded with EMG pickups. WHY do some people do this? EMG pickups just sound like EMG pickups. You could put them on a shovel and they'd sound the same. They don't seem to transmit any of the natural nuances of sound from the guitar itself, hence putting them into a guitar such as a Les Paul is, in my book, complete sacrilege. Why bother with the Les Paul. Stick them on a piece of crap if all you're interested in is that horrible sound.

I suppose they are OK for digitally processed sounds as they don't really have any soul, and are completely lacking in any vibe. But on a Les Paul going into a tube amp? No thanks!

Sorry... rant over. (For now).

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

glw wrote:
Yes, they might be loud, but my point is that they just have their own sound and don't transmit the natural resonance of the guitar, so it is pointless putting them into guitars such as Gibsons because you may as well put them on a cheap guitar and get the same sound.

Hey there folks... Just had to comment on this because I couldnt disagree more. Recently I have had the opportunity to install EMG's into three different guitars and a 4th coming up. All 81 / 85 combos and ALL sounded completely different. In fact I changed the 85 to a 60 for the
neck on an Explorer becuase the 85 sounded muddy butv the 85 blowes the 60 away in the Les Pauls. The Gibson LP sounded different than the Epi and different still than the Jay Turser. So, In MY experience. They DO sound different from one to the next. I also run them at 18v because it DOES make them sound richer.
Oh and a ^5 to the support at EMG as well. Those guys go out of their way to make it a great experience when they are needed.
Just my 2cents

Your $0.02 is very welcome here, as indeed are you, showey. Nice to hear experiences having tried them out in several guitars. What I don't get is Lucasite's point about not getting shocks when using EMGs. Does anyone have more info on this?

Thanks for the kind words. To answer your question, its has to do with the way passive vs. active pickups are grounded. Passive p'ups are grounded thru the bridge and strings to you in most cases so as you can imagine if there is a ground fault on say a microphone system, or where your amp is plugged in there could be trouble. EMG's are internally grounded (battery has pos and neg) so your strings are no longer grounded thru you, the jack etc.
hope that makes sense.
see this link for all the infor you never really wanted to know but should!

Thanks for the link, showey, and I recommend ALL readers here click and thoroughly digest it. I get it now; the wire to the bridge (that my Jazz has but my active basses don't) is the difference.

Surprisingly, electrical safety in British venues is generally much safer than I hear from US players. Although we're less litigious, regulations and inspectors practically crawl over every public building in this country (I'm glad to say). No mention of RCCD in that link, though, and my big-blouse guitarist never plays anywhere without one (and I'm the one with the frightening, vintage valve heads packing 450V+)


Emg's at work through tube amps!

are you lot mad? i've never heard so much rhubarb in my life.

music theory, practice, your guitar setup, picks, strings, pickups, leads, amps, pedals, all of this stuff makes your "guitar chain". EMG's are fantastic pickups obviously understanding about your equipment means you can adapt the rest of the chain to make it fit your needs.

For an example please sit down and watch this video:

if you cant be bothered to watch it all, then fast forward to 3 minutes 37 seconds and you can see EMG in action through a basic Marshall 5w Class 5 tube amp.

EMG's are great pickups so are most pickups out there - there are ways to make them fit any your needs, knowledge is key here people.

And to be honest a lot of people here are knocking genre's of music - please dont be a retard - music is music you can like parts of music and not liking parts of music is good as well, but completely blanking a genre of music is being a "music snob" and I don't like that. Make your opionions about songs, but blanking a genre is just the same as racism. i don't like anyone from a particular country is a stupid, backward kind of attitude to have. There is no helping some people...

Hey Bro,

Good to have a new contributer...not sure calling us retards is the best welcome but... lol! Healthy debate, that's what we need.

However, I totally agree with your 'Music Snob' comment, currently listening to Melanie (Safka), Disturbed and Rory Gallagher...all kick ass!

Personally, the EMG's I've heard (only a couple admittedly) have been too clinical for my liking (I should add at this point , I'm a bass player)...I prefer passive Pups and fancy a pair of Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounders...but it's preference and, as you say, my playing style and my rig suit Passive Pups.

Sorry man I was actually just talking to a guy called Michael, he posts here a lot so I will say this without knowledge of his usual antics, but in the very second post in this thread he said:

"Wasn't metal or some trollap was it?"

Now, that comment ignites a flame for me. But after re-reading my comments I will apologies for calling him a retard and will just leave at snob / racist. hehe. Everyone has their own opinions, but being open-minded to areas of life that you enjoy and are learning about. We are all learning, no matter how brilliant you may think you are and taking the open-minded view will make you more polished in the head and technique etc.

Anyway moving on...

hey, too clinical is an excellent way to describe them :)

they are clinical and dull, although not dull across the dynamic range, so clinical is a great way to describe them. However for guitar duller strings (ernies over d'arraio) are sometimes better as you drive them through the amp, but compared to seymours which are more lively, it's actually quite crazy how much difference there is between them.

I just did a test for guitar. I actually did this test totally by accident, but I think this might be a good example of 2 types of pickups against each other.

OK, dokee basically this is the 4th song I have ever covered and recorded, and this is the first time I have ever double-tracked guitars. I used to play the guitar between the ages of 13-16 years old and then quit and now im 30! i had not touched a guitar until 7 months ago, when someone showed me how good and easy it was to record nowdays and bloody hell I went out and bought 4 guitars in 1 day :)

I have been playing technical songs for practice for the past 4 months, since I had to get my technique back a bit, since I was RUSTY!!!! and still am, but I keep taking baby steps and working on things that i can't do. So basically i have been using a DAW for 2.5 weeks Cubase 5 and good god it's not easy, but it's a hell of a lot nicer to work with than my original 1993 4-track tape recording thing was, and holy crap you can do so much stuff nowdays. It's all very well but there's so many plugins and wonderful things out there, so I have been reading up on compression and allsorts of stuff and decided to try mixing songs. So, I have picked a really easy song to start with, I did not know how to play it and i worked it out (it's nice and easy :)) and mixed where I have so far got to in just under 2 hours. There are problems in the mix, that I will work on when I understand more, but I thought instead of practicing hard songs then trying to mix hard songs, since I'm a total noob to DAW land i would try and mix easy songs to to start with so I can concentrate on certain mixing techniques.

Here is the link (it is not finished):


OK, basically I have 2 LTD EC400 Guitars, they are EXACTLY the same, one has EMG's in and the other has Seymour Duncan's.

Basically as I was recording this about 5 hours ago I did all of the rythmn parts on the LTD with EMG 81, so the whole song is played on the EMG 81's I was going to work out the solo at the end and put that in (I didn't finish working out the solo this still needs working on), but basically as i was practicing the solo my little E string snapped, i was pretty gutted, so I liteerally just swapped out the guitar over to my Seymour Duncan guitar plugged her in and played the solo, there is also a snippet of the main riff just before the solo that I also played on the Seymour's. So I guess my some random fluke this will be a test, not necassarily a good one (obviously getting out a wave analayser on a good DI signal would be a good test for example Voxengo Span which I have done but anyway).

So the whole song is double tracked, everything is played on the EMG's, apart from between 1 minute 25 seconds to 2 minutes 5 seconds which was played on the Seymours. I messed this bit up! I need to redo it, but it was just a test to see what difference it made, I will redo it on the EMG's since the rest of the song was on them when I get my new strings. I think I preferred the Seymours tone, although both sounded ok to me, yet very different.

The first thing that suprised me was to hear the Seymours being louder, basically I love both pickups it's amazing to me how different pickup's sound, but one thing they all sound bleeding great :) I think that having a good variety of pickups at your disposal is great when recording, it always amazes me some pickups sound better at the most unexpected songs when you are mixing, but you can pretty much make most pickups sound how you want.

Righty, this has been a good test for me. After relistening and then comparing the Duncans and the EMG's with Voxengo SPAN wave analyzer, I have come to the concusion that EMG's are compressed, compared with the Duncans which are fruityful, fullbodied and pack an almighty punch accross a wider dynamic range. Now, the thing is here this is a cool thing and not a cool thing. Although I have to go with Duncans over EMG's, but in EMG's defence a slighty more compressed sound makes them easier to slot into the mix of a digital song, or I imagine even with a band on stage depending on the construction and dynamics of the songs being played.

The reason I say I prefer Duncans actually is that I guess you can not get back what wasnt there already (usually) in this situation, so basically if you use EMG's remember your pickup sound is being compressed a little bit by the internal preamp so you should fit into the mix of the rest of the instruments easier, whereas with Duncans rich sound may be TOO MUCH for some things and may require some more tweaking and more compression to fit in like the EMG's did.

This is very interesting, at the end of all this for me both are bloody great and it's understanding the equipment you are using that is the most important thing here, and with this understanding you should be able to do more with Duncans, but you might have a little less hassle with EMG's for mixing certain songs. I guess the conclusion here for me is it doesnt really matter what you got, definately making what you have work for the right situation is the key point. Referring to the thread starter it's not the pickups that dont have soul - soul comes from you and people you are making music with.

Another cool point here is string choice, I don't know about you guys but I use D'addario and Ernie Ball Strings. I think it's obvious D'addarios are much brighter sounding than Ernie's, but of course brightness is not always a good thing. But it's interesting if you use EMG's putting D'addarios on will help get more of a passive kind of a sound, whereas putting Ernie's on will give you duller tone and the duller pickups. And the reverse for Duncan passives slap D'addarios on and it will be very very bright whereas dulling the Passives down a bit using Ernie's might be a cool idea. Remember duller sound is not always a bad thing since when you amp up that dull sound of the pickups it ain't dull any more far far from it. So these are things I have been thinking about for thre past month and it's great to actualy run a test and find some cool results, which i can use to make string choice and better pickup choice for different songs.

Thanks all!

Hey, crazy at work atm, so, sorry for the slackness...Cheers for updating us (just about to check your links so more on that later) but interesting you effectively came to the same conclusion, the performance is, shall we say, 'controlled'...but liked it! Horses for courses I guess. Personally I'd rather have a wild bass/guitar and a compressor (or in my case LMB-3 Limiter) Pedal in my chain to control it.

But yeah, digital recoring is amazing these days...I keep meaning to pimp my mate on here, he lives on guitar but knows Cubase etc backwards.
Unfortunately his Uchoob channel is all recorded on a sh*tty cam, the sound is ok, but doesn't show what he can do on the (digital) desk.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions. Do not include any spaces in your answer.
Copy the characters (respecting upper/lower case) from the image.

Contact | Contents | Privacy Policy | Forum

This site is published by Hitsquad Pty Ltd. Copyright © 1999 - 2018 , All Rights Reserved.