The EMG SAX is part of the newly revised EMG X series. The X series features a brand new, revised preamp to help combat some of the issues people had with active pickups. Outside, the pickup looks the same, but the new preamp helps make this pickup less compressed and more like a passive pickup.
Recently, people on forums have been experimenting with running pickups at 18V to get more headroom out of their pickups. This helps them sound more organic and less linear and compressed. The newly revised X series preamp basically takes the concept of running at 18 volts to a new level.
The EMG SAX still sounds similar to the original EMG SA. It has that warm, fat and round single coil tone going for that works absolutely amazing for lead tones in the neck position. It has that “vowely” quality that single coils are known for, but it’s also extremely quiet thanks to it being an active pickup. The SAX is now more open and less compressed than the original SA. It seems to sound much more organic and lively than the original one does.
The EMG SAX works in any wood you throw at it, but I find that EMGs typically sound best when they’re in mahogany. Some people argue about EMGs having a signature tone that takes over the guitar, and this is true to an extent, but wood still plays a very important factor. I’m not a huge fan of EMGs in basswood, but they can work with the correct EQ. This pickup also works nicely in the bridge of a brighter guitar.
If you ever wished your EMG SA sounded more open and more like a passive pickup, check out the EMG SAX. The EMG SA is still my favorite single coil active pickup, but the SAX is great for those who used to run their SA at 18 volts. If you find that the SAX is too fat, check out the S or SX instead.