Active pickups, once loved by everyone and their mother in the metal genre, and now…

…strangely hated on by a lot of people.  

This is especially ironic given a lot of players complain about EMGs sounding compressed, then go and use 3 compressors, 2 TubeScreamers, and 7 noisegates with their passive pickup setup.  

At the end of the day, I don’t personally think it matters much and you should just use what works for you, but let’s go over a few popular misconceptions regarding EMGs today….

EMG pickups lack definition for high gain tones/sound muddy.  

I see this circulated around a lot, especially as of late, with a lot of players switching over to passives.  Granted, there’s nothing wrong with passive pickups (I prefer them myself), but EMGs definitely do not have an issue staying clear and punchy for high gain tones.  

Just listen to the Killswitch Engage albums recorded with EMGs.  Sound pretty good, don’t they?  

Most popular metal albums recorded over the last 15 years or so have featured EMGs, a 6505/5150/Dual Rectifier and a Mesa 412 loaded with V30s for good reason.

EMGs make all guitars sound the same.

This is a tricky one.  They do have an active preamp, which gives guitars equipped with EMG pickups a certain flavor, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying it makes guitars with them all sound exactly the same.  If you’d like to test this, plug in any two guitars equipped with EMGs and you’ll be able to hear a difference.

EMGs are a one trick pony, and only sound good for high gain applications.
Sort of, they definitely aren’t as flexible as most passive options, but most metal oriented passive pickups have the same issue.  A lot of guitarists forget that EMG makes more pickups than just the 81/85 set.  They also make fantastic single coils used by guitarists like David Gilmour of Pink Floyd and the new 57, which uses alnico magnets instead of the usual ceramic magnets found inside of their pickups.  

Here’s a video of Scale the Summit demonstrating clean tones on an EMG equipped guitar:

So, should you buy EMGs?

I don’t know.  I think it really depends on the person and what kind of tones they are going for.  It’s perfectly possible to get a wide variety of tones from them, and you shouldn’t stop yourself from experimenting with them because of what you read on the internet.  Personally, I’m a passive pickup guy, but if EMG came out with a new model that had a cool twist to it like the 57, nothing would stop be from a trying a guitar out equipped with them to see what they are like.

If you’re trying to decide between buying passive or active pickups, then we strongly recommend reading our guide to both, here.  

Oh, and by the way, stop by our shop, we are fully authorized dealers for Ibanez, PRS, Schecter, Thorn Guitars, Jackson, and Mayones

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