EMG is the market leader when it comes to active pickups. They also sell their models in the size of single coils too for people who have really long signal chains or just want the huge output and tone of an active pickup in the size of a single coil. With EMG their modern design give you a modern sound. Guitarist are pretty traditional but EMG's are starting to become tradition now with their unique approach to pickups. With EMG pickups they use a rail magnet that is pretty weak. With this weak rail magnet you get two advantages. It does not produce must magnetic drag on the strings. This drag would lower your sustain and can even pull your notes out of tune if your magnet is too powerful. With the long rail magnet there is no dead zones in the magnetic field. On some pickups if you bend the string away from the pole piece you may get a slight loss in signal because the string is farther away from the magnet. Thanks to the active preamp you do not have to load the pickup with super powerful magnets to get the tone but since the preamp is active you will need to wire it up with a at least one 9v battery to power the whole system. The SA has a much thicker tone than the EMG S does. You can say if the S is an 81 the SA is an 85. The 85 is known to be the fatter cousin of the 81 and this relationship is similar. Because this pickup has a fatter tone it sounds less of a single coil than the S does. The S has a brighter tone like the 81 but also like a single coil. The SA is much fatter in tone and has more beef to it. You can run this pickup and just about any position. In the bridge it will give you a great beefy tone and in the neck you will get super smooth high gain leads. If you are looking for a active signle coil with fat tone the EMG SA is one of the fattest.
I Installed this pickup in the neck position of an ESP SC6 which has an alder body, maple neck, ebony fret board, and tune-o-matic bridge. My main amp is a framus cobra 100 watt tube amp and I sometimes use a peavey 5150 or hughes & kettner triamp. I play a mixture of metal, prog rock, and spacey clean music.
This pickup is an unsung hero in the EMG line. Everyone raves about the 81/85 for metal but honestly after I did some searching with passives I removed and sold all my EMG pickups with the exception of the SA. This pickup sounds great and does not have that stiff hard sound like their humbuckers nor is it sterile in any way. Think of the things you like about single coils all the clarity, sparkle, and snap is there but without the noise and with an increased output. The EQ curve seems to be mid-scooped and although it's not the greatest for neck pickup lead work it is exactly what I like for clean tones. This also responds much better to playing dynamics thn the other EMGs and actually cleans up well by rolling the volume knob back. My only beef with the SA is that it is hard to work into a guitar that has passive pickups in the other positions since you have to use the EMG pots (25k) and the output is a little high to match with low-medium output humbuckers. Other than that it is a great sounding single coil.
I was playing my guitar in a shop one day and this traditional blues guy walked up really excited to see what pickup I was using. Needless to say he was shocked when he saw it was an active EMG. I think David Gilmour uses these and he can do no wrong tone wise.
The EMG SA is very similar to being a single coil sized version of the EMG 85. This is the Alnico magnet version of the pickup, and it’s an active pickup which means it runs off of a power source – in this case, it’s a 9V battery.
The EMG SA is a pickup that’s getting a bit dated today, but it is still a decent pickup. It’s housed in an epoxy housing that allows the strings to always be under the magnets and never fade out like some of the regular single coils do when bending. The biggest benefit is that it can be run without a buffer during long cable runs thanks to the built in active preamp. This also helps keep it very quiet and avoid RF interference, especially during live situations.
I said that this pickup is similar to the EMG 85, but that doesn’t mean they’re exactly the same. It has that fat low end that the EMG 85 has, but it has more clarity like a normal single coil would. I find it to be a better “all around” pickup than the EMG S in that it’s fat enough to be run in any position, hot enough to be run in both the bridge and/or neck and a bit more tame sounding when under gain. Don’t be fooled, it can still deliver those screaming tones, but it’s just not as picky when it comes to certain woods, I find.
If you’re looking for a single coil sized EMG, this is a pretty good candidate. It can be a bit “linear” sounding and somewhat compressed at times, but it still delivers some good tones, especially in the neck and especially for heavy metal. If you find it to be too fat, get the S which has the ceramic magnet inside of it. It’s a bit more clear sounding.
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jmabate's review (This content has been automatically translated from French)
I play metal for over 15 years.
I played on guitars with pickups (middle position), DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan and all are very good microphones.
but since I'm on EMG, I have a more airy, straighter, more accurate and finer grain tighten!
SA gives it the shine and softness of light and crunch sounds really good and it always made of vélocitées in EMG which allows great flexibility of the right hand (for right handed).
for the price, the EMG SA is a good mic added to this config MSM, already equipped with:
81 and 85
81 and 89