James... 12/28/2011

EMG 81 : James...'s user review

« Try 18 volt for extra awesome »

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I tried my first 81 model probably a decade ago in an ESP guitar. At the time it blew my mind. It was super aggressive and super hot. It always cut through and seems to slice through every amp I used with it. It had killer bass response too. Sure the cleans don't sound too hot with it but isn't that what the EMG 60 is for? I really think this pickup only lends itself to heavy metal type players. It's way too overdriven for light rock or anything like that. It's hard to get a sound out of it that's not blistering distortion.

These are active pickups of course and so your EQ will be a bit more responsive. One problem I always had with my 81 was a lack of dynamic response. Rolling down on the volume knob never seems to do too much to clean it up (god forbid when you want a little less DISTORTION) from it. A friend of mine suggested a mod he heard about where you wire another battery in the loop to make it an effective 18 volt pickup. I figured heck why not and gave it a go. The result is a very responsive and dynamic pickup with tons of headroom. It almost turns it into a passive pickup in some ways. It makes the 81 sound more organic and less machinelike if that makes any sense at all.

I don't really recommend this to anyone but hard rock and heavy metal type players. I have tried it for other genres and it's just not fit for it, even with mods. Still, for my prog metal playing it can't be beat. I love it. The clarity is just so much better than passive pickups. notes really pop. It's really a love or hate kind of pickup.