Poll - How often do you use active pickups? And why?

Do you use active pickups?

  • Yes. Almost exclusively

    Votes: 2 1.3%
  • Yes. A fair amount

    Votes: 15 9.8%
  • Yes. Once in a blue moon

    Votes: 13 8.5%
  • No. Don’t even own any

    Votes: 120 78.4%
  • No. I’ve got a guitar equipped with them but never play it

    Votes: 3 2.0%

  • Total voters
    153

chris m.

Poster Extraordinaire
Joined
Mar 25, 2003
Posts
9,707
Location
Santa Barbara, California
I have the David Gilmour EMG set in my Stratocaster. Here's their marketing blurb about them:

The EMG DG20 puts David Gilmour's signature sound inside your Strat, with EMG's exclusive solderless Quik-Connect system. Identical to the system in David's red Strat, the EMG DG20 pre-wired white pearloid pickguard is loaded with EMG's ivory alnico-loaded SA single-coil pickups, an EMG EXG expander for added fatness, and an EMG SPC presence control to enhance the natural Strat tones. If you're looking to add the same unique tones David used both with Pink Floyd and as a solo artist, then drop the EMG DG20 into your Strat!

Here's why I got them. I had a constant struggle with getting a Stratocaster to sound just right for me. If I had the pickups wound light enough to sound super chimey, sparkly, and lovely when playing clean, they sounded too thin and anemic when playing with any gain, except on the neck pickup. If I had them sounding great with gain, even on the bridge pickup, they didn't quite have the sparkle I was looking for when playing clean. My best compromise with passive pickups was to go slightly hotter than vintage wind on the bridge pickup, turn one tone control into a master tone knob, and turn the other tone control into a spin-a-pickup for the neck pickup so I could dial in as much neck pickup as I wanted to go with the bridge pickup for a more Tele-ish sound. When using the bridge pickup I would roll back the tone knob a bit as well. This custom wiring configuration was my best compromise solution.

However, with the EMGs and in particular their SPC and EXG active EQ shaping controls, instead of traditional passive tone knobs, I finally get great clean and dirty sounds. When playing clean I add a little bit of SPC for extra sparkle. When playing with gain I add a little (or a lot) of EXG mid boost and then it sounds killer, even on the bridge pickup. There's also no hum, and a bit of additional compression/sustain. It definitely is a different sound, and normally I wouldn't go for it, but for me this EMG set has done the best job to date of solving my tone issues with Stratocasters.

Also on a Strat you don't need to do any routing to hold a 9v battery. On a Tele I don't know where you would fit the battery without doing some alteration to the guitar.
 

Leonardocoate

Tele-Holic
Silver Supporter
Joined
Nov 16, 2015
Posts
676
Location
Ohio
I do not own any, but I have installed many for a client of mine so I have test driven them. My client is a metal high gain guy all the way, so I tried to adapt them to my way of playing (polar opposite). You can buy them with switchable EQ setting or level response. I think they sound pretty good. They work well with modeling amps (IMHO) The amp I played it through was a Roland 20x. It is the only guitar to sound good through that amp (anybody want it?) I see them as a blank canvas if you have a EQ pedal. I plan on setting up one of my guitars with a set. They do take some getting use to. P.S. Strat body can give you an easy option for battery placement...Tele bodies require easy routing
 
Last edited:

24 track

Doctor of Teleocity
Ad Free Member
Joined
Nov 6, 2014
Posts
19,081
Location
kamloops bc
I built this thing it has a set of reflex red dots ( from England ) the pre amp in the unit has 2 modes the first is a power boost and the second mode will allow me to drive the EQ to a pedal distortion level off of the guitar but does not diminish the highs or lows , I added a 0-6-12 db boost to the first single coil ,
one of my first go to guitars for playing it sound differnt than a strat say but all controls are where they need to be

P1011377_3.JPG
 

guitar_paul1

Tele-Holic
Joined
May 29, 2003
Posts
875
Location
washington state
Mark Knopfler used to play Pensa Suhr guitars with EMG's and studio guys liked them bc they are so clean with unlimited "headroom". They never "muddy" or compress when pushed with volume. That is the stigma against them I think, that they are too clean and sterile. They don't "breathe" as an alnico magnet does. Almost the same battle as tubes vs solid state it seems.

Good description. I guess that's why they never excited me
 

Nogoodnamesleft

Tele-Meister
Silver Supporter
Joined
Aug 19, 2020
Posts
401
Age
50
Location
Canaduh
I'm currently torn on this issue since the EMG T System is on my list of pickup upgrade options. I REALLY like the sound of the neck pickup. And seeing as it's going in an Affinity Tele it's a whole electronics upgrade in one go.

The only guitar I've owned in the past with active pickups is a Gibson J-45 that sounded incredible.

But, and it's a big but, having done sound for enough open mics and gigs I have a somewhat traumatic bias (no pun intended) against anything with a battery in it unless it's a really basic circuit like a fuzz that tolerates and sometimes likes lower battery charges. One gig in particular was kind of a big deal with kind of a big deal headliner. Things went great all day until this person got up on stage. The battery must have been teetering on the edge of not enough juice because after intermittently working, long stares akin to 'wtf' from this person and the audience, swapping everything I could think of, they finally changed the battery in their guitar for the last couple of songs and everything worked smooth. After the gig they were insistent the battery wasn't the issue but to me and every other person in the audience it was the obvious solution. I wasn't going to get into a debate about voltage characteristics of different battery chemistries with them.
 

That Cal Webway

Friend of Leo's
Silver Supporter
Joined
Nov 16, 2012
Posts
3,780
Location
Minot
addendum:

In Oct got the Reverend Koch T w active Fishman Fluence pups.
Charges via usb port.

Fantastic sounding!! .com
 

lupowitz

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Jan 31, 2007
Posts
1,784
Location
Hungary
Mark Knopfler used to play Pensa Suhr guitars with EMG's and studio guys liked them bc they are so clean with unlimited "headroom". They never "muddy" or compress when pushed with volume. That is the stigma against them I think, that they are too clean and sterile. They don't "breathe" as an alnico magnet does. Almost the same battle as tubes vs solid state it seems.

Half of the EMG line is equipped with alnico magnets. They have them in strat, tele, traditional humbucking cases. Or P90.
 

Si G X

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Dec 8, 2019
Posts
1,560
Location
England
But active pickups use a passive pickup, too. The difference is the similarity.

Not really sure what that means. Can you explain?

.. by 'active pickups' we mean pickups that require active circuity for them to work don't we? Passive pickups don't, that's the difference isn't it?

... or maybe I don't understand what 'active pickups' are.
 

Greg70

Tele-Holic
Joined
Feb 21, 2021
Posts
637
Age
51
Location
St Louis, MO
I have a 1988 Charvel Model 4 that has the Jackson active electronic pups in an HSS configuration. The battery life is incredibly long in these guitars and can last for years sometimes. Way way way longer than a battery in any pedal I've used. The previous comments about driving a high-gain tube amp are correct. This guitar drives my JCM 800 quite well. It also has a mid-boost control for a fatter sound. I guess it's funny that us tone snobs that want "pure tube distortion" will use a guitar with a built-in solid state preamp! The active electronics people also claim better sustain because the pickup isn't loading down the string as much. I haven't really noticed that aspect of it.
 

lupowitz

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Jan 31, 2007
Posts
1,784
Location
Hungary
I must be the oddball then. The one who choose the almost exclusively option in the poll....

I got hooked on their sound in the '80s. Vinnie Zummo, Joe Jackson's guitarist used Steinberger GL guitars, those came equipped with them .He had five of'em. On the Big World session he used a GL2 with dual EMG 85 pickups, those are equipped with alnico magnets.
The other band was Men at Work. Both guitarists - Colin Hay and Ron Strykert -used Yamaha supercombinator strat copies - maybe due to sponshorship deals-, both equipped with EMG S ceramic strat pickups. Both guitars weirdly ended up in the hands of TDPRI members. :)
I"m not kidding.
I suffered throughout the late '80s with passive single coils under flourescent lights and whatnot, trying to controll buzz and squeal.
Funnily I switched to EMG's, when I quit playing live.
There are lots of benefits. They are dead silent, and their headroom abilities I only can compare to regular passive pickups when you first drive around in a convertible, but only realise the fact that you can actually open the top during the drive, and you do so.
The main factor for me is their standardised use of 25K pots.
So you can switch EMGs around as long as they can fit into the pickup slot.
I have a tele copy which sports the alnico T set. But since it has a humbucker rout under the pickguard I dropped into that slot what I had around, Emg 85, 81, 60, 60A, and strat pickups too, both alnico SA and ceramic S variants.
I have Steinberger copies too, one with Hsh, one with hss version, they are also welcome new pickups from time to time.
This situation allowed me to debunk one of the biggest false myths regarding active pu's, that they make everything to sound the same. Quite the contrary. Although both Steiny copies are made of hard maple, and use the same alloy-zinc R-trem system, they sound very different. 81s are terrible in the Hohner's bridge position but sound great in the Spirit.

Emg's shine with effects, which I rarely use, plug straight into a Tech21 Trademark 60 combo, or into a Zoom R8 recorder.

To add to my oddballness, I can't stand basses with actives....

All my comments are about Rob Turner's wonderful creations, the EMG pickups, never in my life have used nor Duncan Blackouts, Fishman Fluents or any other type of active pickups.
 
Last edited:

loopfinding

Friend of Leo's
Joined
Jun 19, 2011
Posts
3,624
Location
europe endless
Not really sure what that means. Can you explain?

.. by 'active pickups' we mean pickups that require active circuity for them to work don't we? Passive pickups don't, that's the difference isn't it?

... or maybe I don't understand what 'active pickups' are.

It’s a low impedance pickup where the coils are run through a differential amp. If they’re like EMGs, the differential amp circuitry is in the pickup itself, and if the battery runs out, you’re screwed. Other systems may have the differential amp outside of the pickup, and you could run them passive but it would probably sound like crap. I guess you could always put a backup pre in a pedal.

I see the benefits of the actives, and many systems are voiced just like traditional passives now...but a) I don’t need more output; b) I don’t need tone shaping stuff on the guitar, I mostly run the guitar wide open and let the amp or pedals do that universally for all my guitars; c) I’d rather just use the music man silent circuit on passives for no hum with any choice of pickups and a better failure mode if I was going to have to put a battery in, but d) I can’t be arsed to change batteries, one more thing to go wrong live.
 
Last edited:

bebopbrain

Tele-Meister
Joined
Feb 5, 2021
Posts
311
Location
New York City
Not really sure what that means. Can you explain?

.. by 'active pickups' we mean pickups that require active circuity for them to work don't we? Passive pickups don't, that's the difference isn't it?

... or maybe I don't understand what 'active pickups' are.

Let's say you wind a pickup. Is it passive or active? Does it have a preamp? Does it require a preamp? Does the designer get to say? The consumer? If it has a preamp, is the preamp part of the pickup? Can electrons tell the difference either way?

Let's define an active pickup as a product marketed as an active pickup. Now we have a clear distinction (between possibly identical things).
 

rojo412

Tele-Meister
Joined
May 23, 2019
Posts
279
Age
41
Location
Cleveland, OH
@lupowitz Men At Work was a definite reason I was thinking “80s clarity” as a desire for an active 80s guitar. Didn’t even know they played Yamaha, too!
Gotta put on “Business as Usual” now :D
 

telemnemonics

Telefied
Ad Free Member
Joined
Mar 2, 2010
Posts
31,571
Age
62
Location
Maine
Used EMGs in a Strat ‘88-‘89 and had an Alembic bass then too.
So I guess every day for two years?
Because I liked them.
Then I didn’t so I took them out.
 

lupowitz

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
Jan 31, 2007
Posts
1,784
Location
Hungary

Resojazznblues

Tele-Meister
Joined
May 4, 2021
Posts
453
Location
Virginia
Half of the EMG line is equipped with alnico magnets. They have them in strat, tele, traditional humbucking cases. Or P90.
Yes, but they still have active preamps, thus set parameters. Take out the battery and it doesn't work. My mistake on not adding ceramic to magnet materials.
 

Cali Dude

Tele-Afflicted
Joined
May 20, 2020
Posts
1,708
Age
58
Location
California
I have active midboost in my Buddy Guy Strat. I love that feature. It's the same as the one in the Clapton Strat.
 




Top