Talk me out of Active Pickups

11 Gauge

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I think it would be nice to have some actual factual statistics on just how long a battery lasts with EMGs. I hear some folks saying that a battery died on them mid-song, but were they neglectful to the # of hours they'd been using it?

...And I have to think about all the pro players who've used EMGs night after night, on really long tours. Has anyone ever heard of an instance where some pro player's guitar died mid-song (directly as a result of a dead battery)? I know that pro players have guitar techs, but c'mon - it's really just about being responsible for changing the battery at reasonable intervals.

Other than that, the only reason I personally won't use active pickups is because I use old tech fuzz and boost pedals, and they sound like garbage w/o a passive pickup to get loaded down via the pedals' low input impedance.

Edited to add - I never knew that EMG even offered something P90-sized, or that they actually offered basically the 60, 81, and 85 in a P90-sized form factor. I'm glad I clicked on this thread for that reason, because one of the main things that keeps me from getting any guitar with P90s in it is if I find I can't deal with the noise. It's just nice to know of any/all noiseless options that exist (even if they don't sound like an actual P90).
 

radiocaster

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I don't like batteries.

Really, I don't know much about your gear, but if that thing you mentioned is a processor, you could dial in some noise gate.
 

swarfrat

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All pickups are active. Most just offload the first amplifier stage to the end of a noisy cable. If you like it why worry about what the internet thinks?
 

fretWalkr

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After thinking about it, there's one exception I would make for using active pickups. A friend had a bass with active pickups that he used in a studio. He plugged it directly into a channel on an SSL board and used the phantom power. I wouldn't have thought that would work but he used the board to power the pickups. I thought that was a good place for active PUs. Sounded great.
 

Wallaby

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I tried EMG's once. I can't remember too much about the experience, but I recall that they were disappointing and were replaced by a set from Joe Barden. Early 80's, sorry, I have no idea what I expected from them.

Based on that bare minimum of information, I'd skip the EMG's and go for some Bardens?

You did ask... :)
 

ukepicker

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I appreciate all of your [failed] attempts to talk me out of actives.

I've got a bunch headed my way, all EMG: P81, P85, P60 and PSA (tried to get a P60A but they were sold out).
PLUS the little wiring harness(es) they require.

I'm pulling out the Kleins and emerson wiring kit. Going into the reject box next to the Lollars and the Sunday Handwounds, and the Gibsons. Seems a bit crazy, I know.

I've thought long and hard about this.
I'm not married to the old technology. I'm not in a lifelong pursuit of Clapton tones or Jimi tones or SRV tones. I'm pursuing my own tones. I just want to be inspired by the music I make and right now, I need to give active pickups a try.
 

CCK1

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I had an EMG SA set with the expander module in a 1972 Stratocaster for years. I just never bonded with them, nothing negative about the sound, they just didn't seem to have any "dirt" or "hair". They were stone dead quiet, no buzz, no hum, nothing. They would probably be a wonderful starting platform if you run through a lot of pedals/effects, (I use none at all). I think that's why they work so well for David Gilmour. I replaced them with a set of Fender Fat 50's in the neck and middle, and a Fender Custom '69 in he bridge. Very happy with that arrangement.
 

ukepicker

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Other than that, the only reason I personally won't use active pickups is because I use old tech fuzz and boost pedals, and they sound like garbage w/o a passive pickup to get loaded down via the pedals' low input impedance.
THIS is my only reservation. I've had a long desire to really dig into the FF circuit and do some experimenting.

My main fuzz for the last year or so has been a GCI Baracus. It works great for me with buffers before and after. I don't know enough about circuits to understand why, but I've enjoyed the best and clearest tones - as well as great cleanup - with it after my buffered TS7.

I like having a buffer early (or first) in the signal path. EMGs take care of that automatically. So, you know, "one less thing"
 

ukepicker

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I had an EMG SA set with the expander module in a 1972 Stratocaster for years. I just never bonded with them, nothing negative about the sound, they just didn't seem to have any "dirt" or "hair". They were stone dead quiet, no buzz, no hum, nothing. They would probably be a wonderful starting platform if you run through a lot of pedals/effects, (I use none at all). I think that's why they work so well for David Gilmour. I replaced them with a set of Fender Fat 50's in the neck and middle, and a Fender Custom '69 in he bridge. Very happy with that arrangement.

I enjoyed the fat 50s I ran for a while. Beautiful sounding pickups.

I'm no expert, but I think you're right about Gilmour and the noise. And "stone, dead quiet" sounds like a dream come true to me right now.

I also seem to get most of my "sound" from pedals - especially since I stopped using an amp. I'm hoping that a clear, noise-free representation will simply be good source material for the pedals to work with.
 

11 Gauge

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THIS is my only reservation. I've had a long desire to really dig into the FF circuit and do some experimenting.

My main fuzz for the last year or so has been a GCI Baracus. It works great for me with buffers before and after. I don't know enough about circuits to understand why, but I've enjoyed the best and clearest tones - as well as great cleanup - with it after my buffered TS7.

I like having a buffer early (or first) in the signal path. EMGs take care of that automatically. So, you know, "one less thing"
That's interesting, because I looked into that particular fuzz, and it's based on a Baldwin Burns Buzzaround. It's definitely got the old school low impedance input design, so 'on paper' it should sound bad with a buffer in front. But if you like how it sounds with the buffer, there's no arguing that you like what you hear!

A staple with one of my rigs is a scratchbuilt variation of a Catalinbread Naga Viper, which is essentially a Rangemaster with a silicon transistor, and greater tonal flexibility thanks to its additional controls. Sometimes I forget and put a Boss pedal first in the chain, and the NV just sounds wickedly awful.
 

sloppychops

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I'm sure there are good sounding active pickups, but it's nothing I've ever been interested in. Just the notion of having to keep track of battery life, and having to change out batteries really puts me off. I can't stand how the batteries in my TV remote are always wearing down and needing to be replaced. Can't imagine adding that annoyance to a guitar.
 

Grateful Ape

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I'm sure there are good sounding active pickups, but it's nothing I've ever been interested in. Just the notion of having to keep track of battery life, and having to change out batteries really puts me off. I can't stand how the batteries in my TV remote are always wearing down and needing to be replaced. Can't imagine adding that annoyance to a guitar.
I think the life of a 9v battery used with EMG's is typically in excess of 1,000 hours.
 

mistermikev

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In a nutshell:
Looking for your testimonials (for or against) EMG active pickups.
And before we go any further: in my defense, my favorite sound to hear and play is a tele with broadcaster style pickups into a silverface vibrolux.


But my first tele had an EMG active set. And they were decent and 100% silent. I swapped them for keystones and never looked back. Until now.

I need something P90-sized with very very little noise and a nice full-frequency range for my #1. And that has me thinking about EMGs again.


____________________________________

Background:
I've recently moved over to a Boss IR-200 and good headphones, for lots of reasons. My #1 is a 2018 SG Special (soapbar-sized routes). And I've had one heck of a time finding pickups that I like.
Not the stock Gibby "mini humbuckers".
Not the custom handwound humbuckers from my favorite winder.
Not the Lollar P90s.
Not the Klein firebirds that are currently installed.

The frequency range on the firebird pickups is close to what I'm after and I've been able to tame them to something enjoyable with the IR-200 and a few other pedals on my board. They are still a tad noisy - and only because I'm listening on headphones. But mainly, I don't care for the way they roll-off. Hyper-microphonic and bright at 10, not too bad at 8, dull and lifeless at 6. And did I mention they are microphonic? As in "I can't softly touch my volume knob without it clanging through my amp" microphonic?

So now I think that something with basic, clean representation of the strings is all I really need. Most of the tone is in the amp anyway (or, as in my case, the amp model and IR).

So why not go with something very quiet and very accurate?


What has your experience taught you?
well... imo emg are great for when you need heavy... but not great for when you want clean/clear. that said I often think back to a mark knopfler vid where he plays "brothers in arms" using single sized emgs and he def makes them talk.
they are very quiet and will have less issues with shielding noise because of how they work... there is a preamp inside there that takes the signal from one coil, compares to the other... and only amplifies the difference. as such they really don't need shielding nor a ground wire connected to the strings.
all that said... for my #1? I would want passives... but I have made good compromises using 1 emg and one passive pickup in a les paul. there is quite a volume jump, but i generally want softer sounds when I go to the neck anyway. ymmv.
 

chris m.

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I think the life of a 9v battery used with EMG's is typically in excess of 1,000 hours.
I had the DG set in my Strat. I don't know about 1000s of hours. Changing out the 9v about once every six months is adequate as long as you remember to unplug it when not playing. Why cut it too close? I used the mid-boost circuit a lot, which probably draws more power.

I switched back to passives on my Strat-- a DiMarzio Injector/Area 67 loaded pickguard that I had kept when I put on the loaded DG (David Gilmour) EMG pickguard-- not because one sounds better than the other, but because I just wanted a change. The EMGs sound more refined, the DiMarzios are noiseless but have a different flavor.

And I also didn't want to have to think about the battery at all....

The EMG DG pickguard that comes with the mid-boost and mid-scoop controls instead of regular tone controls really does allow for very versatile tone shaping. If I had to have one guitar to cover a wide range of tones it would be a great candidate. I was able to get really chimey quack tones using the mid-scoop circuit, but I could also get real girth out of it by using the mid-boost circuit. I guess I'm saying that it's not just the pickups, but the circuitry that can come with it that makes EMGs a worthy candidate.
 

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Swirling Snow

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I've thought long and hard about this.
I'm not married to the old technology. I'm not in a lifelong pursuit of Clapton tones or Jimi tones or SRV tones. I'm pursuing my own tones. I just want to be inspired by the music I make and right now, I need to give active pickups a try.
(italics mine)

Right now, I'm trying a tremolo bridge for the first time in 50 years. I also just built my first pedal board. Hardtails straight to the amp has been my style, but there's so much more to learn!
 

ukepicker

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My EMGs and harness arrived yesterday. I'll try to install today or tomorrow and give them a go.

I've got 4 different pickups to play with. But I'm expecting to prefer an 85/85 set for what I do.
 

ukepicker

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well... imo emg are great for when you need heavy... but not great for when you want clean/clear. that said I often think back to a mark knopfler vid where he plays "brothers in arms" using single sized emgs and he def makes them talk.
they are very quiet and will have less issues with shielding noise because of how they work... there is a preamp inside there that takes the signal from one coil, compares to the other... and only amplifies the difference. as such they really don't need shielding nor a ground wire connected to the strings.
all that said... for my #1? I would want passives... but I have made good compromises using 1 emg and one passive pickup in a les paul. there is quite a volume jump, but i generally want softer sounds when I go to the neck anyway. ymmv.

Thanks, Mike! Exactly the kind of info I was looking for.

I agree: I've heard some pretty good EMG tones before. And some pretty bad ones. Heck-I've made both kinds myself. I'm leaning heavily on my pedalboard and the tweakability of the IR-200 to make things sound compelling.

(Not grounding the strings?!? I've heard people say this before. Good grief. I can't even imagine having a guitar like that.)
 

ukepicker

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The EMG DG pickguard that comes with the mid-boost and mid-scoop controls instead of regular tone controls really does allow for very versatile tone shaping. If I had to have one guitar to cover a wide range of tones it would be a great candidate. I was able to get really chimey quack tones using the mid-scoop circuit, but I could also get real girth out of it by using the mid-boost circuit. I guess I'm saying that it's not just the pickups, but the circuitry that can come with it that makes EMGs a worthy candidate.
This - the optional (and easy-to-add) on-board circuitry - is also attractive to me.

I only bought the standard tone controls.
I'm mostly a tele player and prefer one volume, one tone. With the SG, that means I could have two extra knobs to play with. The BTC (bass and treble control, +/-12db cut or boost) and a VMC (variable mid control, +/-12db and sweepable 100hz to 1khz) seem like they'd make things VERY tweakable. Almost like having a channel strip right in the guitar. But since I have similar controls in my Pettyjohn Filter EQ PLUS the two EQs available in the IR-200, I've decided to wait to add those.
 




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