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EMG EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup White

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The EMG-81 is a high-output pickup designed especially for the lead guitarist. The 81 is at its best for high volume overdrive and amps with a master...Click To Read More About This Product

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The EMG-81 is a high-output pickup designed especially for the lead guitarist. The 81 is at its best for high volume overdrive and amps with a master volume. Whether you're playing power rock 'n' roll, or overdriving your amp, there's a razor sharp attack, and incredible sustain for brilliant soloing. If you're looking for exceptional qualities in a rock pickup, the EMG-81 is the one.

Distortion during lead passages is consistent, sustain is long and the breakup fades smoothly. The ceramic magnet in combination with wide aperture steel poles lend a quick attack but the tone stays nice and fat at the same time. Perfect if you're the only guitarist in the band, and need to switch from rhythm to lead and still keep the band moving. Another great thing about the EMG-81 is it's quiet. If you're playing at really high gain the last thing you need is noise.

FEATURES
Package includes: 
EMG's exclusive Quik-Connect cable
Prewired split shaft volume/tone control set
Output jack
Battery clip set
Screws and springs
SPECIFICATIONS
Resonant Frequency (kHz): 2.00 
Magnet Type: Ceramic/steel
Output Voltage (String): 2.0
Output Voltage (Strum): 4.5
Output Noise @ 60Hz: -91 dBV
Output Impedance: 10 kOhms
Current @ 9V: 80 microamps
Battery Life: 3,000 hours
Maximum Supply: 27V DC
Reviews
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Review Snapshot

by PowerReviews
EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup
 
4.7

(based on 67 reviews)

Ratings Distribution

  • 5 Stars

     

    (55)

  • 4 Stars

     

    (6)

  • 3 Stars

     

    (3)

  • 2 Stars

     

    (1)

  • 1 Stars

     

    (2)

92%

of respondents would recommend this to a friend.

Pros

  • Good quality (12)
  • Improves sound (10)
  • Easy to use (6)
  • Functional (6)

Cons

No Cons

Best Uses

  • Concerts (6)
  • Practicing (6)
  • Back-up (4)
    • Reviewer Profile:
    • Experienced (10)

Most Liked Positive Review

 

Never would have known.....

On a whim I picked up a cool looking Godin Redline 1 with a single EMG 81 in the bridge. So out of character as I've been playing Fenders and Ibanez's w/single coils...Read complete review

On a whim I picked up a cool looking Godin Redline 1 with a single EMG 81 in the bridge. So out of character as I've been playing Fenders and Ibanez's w/single coils and have a LP copy with Duncan 59/JB. Never had any experience with active pickups, but was completely blown away by the clarity of tone and especially how well it cuts through the mix. Talk about turning heads! Had to do a few tweaks to my amp Eq and pedal levels to get better control, but it's really growing on me. Even sounds decent clean through my tube amps-real nice bite that cuts through for funk (tele on steroids). So far I've been able to play everything from funky rhythm to Living Colour and even had to try some Metallica! The 81 simply excells with any kind of Drive or Distortion. Be careful as you may make your cats explode!!

VS

Most Liked Negative Review

 

Heavy metal, nothing else

This pick-up is really really really awesome... if you are playing metal. And metal only. I put this thing in my epiphone sg for when I was in a metalcore band and...Read complete review

This pick-up is really really really awesome... if you are playing metal. And metal only. I put this thing in my epiphone sg for when I was in a metalcore band and it did exactly what I wanted it to do. It sounded perfect for metalcore, chugging, and just heavy music in general. But, when I left that band to join a new softer sounding indie band that uses a lot of clean tones, it was awful. The pickup was really bright on clean channels in a bad way. I had to play softly and be sure not to strike the strings to hard because if I did the sound would crack and sound bad. Bottom line, this pickup is really awesome if you are playing in a metal or hard rock band. But if you want to play some blues or country or softer stuff, FIND ANOTHER PICKUP!

Reviewed by 67 customers

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(8 of 9 customers found this review helpful)

 
5.0

EMG 81

By chop883-t3zpx

from Traverse City, MI

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Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

I am a very slow convert to EMG pickups in general. I am an engineer, and when you look at the idea of using an active preamp at the source and having a low impedance signal to connect your source (guitar) to your amp, it makes sense that it would solve alot of problems like noise and hum. In addition, because these are epoxied, the possibility of having one become microphonic is The first time I bought them and installed them in a Les Paul, I did not like them - I was very into the passive pickups I was using at the time, but because of the high gain/low noise features these offer, I have kept coming back and trying EMGs again. I now have 2 similar type guitars with EMG 81 in the bridge, and also about 4 similar type guitars with a passive higher output in the bridge. i often go between them to see which tone I prefer. These days, I am becoming more of a fan of the EMGs. Some people have accused the 81 of always just sounding like an EMG 81 and masking the voice of the guitar. That is completely false. They, like all other pickups or microphones, are voiced to enhance or excite certain frequencies, but the voice of each of my guitars, which I know well, still comes through when I install EMGs. For recording, they are an answered prayer because they are high output with very low or even no noise. The 81 has abundant midrange which is important to me. The 81 has a sharp attack, which I expect as it is a ceramic magnet powered pickup. I think when most people hear the term "EMG" they assue "81" and judge what all active pickups will sound like based on the 81. However, the 85 to my ear responds more like an Alnico pickup would normally respond, and the 81 responds like a ceramic pickup would normally respond. That is another great feature - the quick disconnect makes it a snap to change pickups. So if I need a more classic vibe for a recording, i will pop in an 85 in the bridge. When I I need the power and attack to rip it up, I put the 81 in the bridge. I am a passive purist who has converted to the active pickups of EMG. I like them, I like the idea behind them. I like the way they sound, and I like the versatility. I just wish they looked like a normal humbucker so it did not change the appearance of my guitars so dramatically from the "stock" look.

(4 of 4 customers found this review helpful)

 
5.0

I keep coming back to EMG....

By john harrell

from Georgia

See all my reviews

Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

I have played metal, blues, and various other types of music for the last 18 years on a gillion different guitars and amps, alone at home, in a band, and recording tracks on my computer. I have used Duncan Blackouts, passive pickups of all sorts, and I always keep coming back to the EMG 81. It's just my staple sound and I like it more than anything else out there. I cuts through the mix in a band or recording better then the Blackouts, clean tones are still clean, and they are plenty brutal when you want a metal sound, which is what they are made for. They don't get muddy when you play more than 2 string power chords like others do. I have 8 guitars, and my favorite is an Ibanez SA that was reloaded with these pickups in the bridge and neck, and just articulates every little gritty, grainy, gain-saturated note I play like no other guitar I own or have ever played, with any type of pickup or wood. These are the best!
It's a pickup. Not a lot in the way of features.
If these weren't top notch pieces of gear, then professional musicians wouldn't all be usng them and swearing by them.
You get what you pay for, and these are worth more than what they cost in my opinion.

(3 of 7 customers found this review helpful)

 
3.0

Heavy metal, nothing else

By tanner125

from Lexington, KY

About Me Experienced

See all my reviews

Ask me a question

Pros

  • Good Quality
  • Good With High Gain
  • Heavy Chugs

Cons

  • Bad Clean Tones
  • Difficult To Use
  • Hard To Install

Best Uses

  • Metal

Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

This pick-up is really really really awesome... if you are playing metal. And metal only. I put this thing in my epiphone sg for when I was in a metalcore band and it did exactly what I wanted it to do. It sounded perfect for metalcore, chugging, and just heavy music in general. But, when I left that band to join a new softer sounding indie band that uses a lot of clean tones, it was awful. The pickup was really bright on clean channels in a bad way. I had to play softly and be sure not to strike the strings to hard because if I did the sound would crack and sound bad. Bottom line, this pickup is really awesome if you are playing in a metal or hard rock band. But if you want to play some blues or country or softer stuff, FIND ANOTHER PICKUP!

(3 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

 
5.0

Never would have known.....

By Funkstroke!

from Tracy, CA

About Me Experienced

See all my reviews

Pros

  • Cuts Through Nicely
  • Functional
  • Good Quality
  • Improves Sound

Cons

  • Clean Tones Challenging

Best Uses

  • Leads

Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

On a whim I picked up a cool looking Godin Redline 1 with a single EMG 81 in the bridge. So out of character as I've been playing Fenders and Ibanez's w/single coils and have a LP copy with Duncan 59/JB. Never had any experience with active pickups, but was completely blown away by the clarity of tone and especially how well it cuts through the mix. Talk about turning heads! Had to do a few tweaks to my amp Eq and pedal levels to get better control, but it's really growing on me. Even sounds decent clean through my tube amps-real nice bite that cuts through for funk (tele on steroids). So far I've been able to play everything from funky rhythm to Living Colour and even had to try some Metallica! The 81 simply excells with any kind of Drive or Distortion. Be careful as you may make your cats explode!!

(2 of 3 customers found this review helpful)

 
4.0

versatile humbucker

By Mike

from TN.

About Me Experienced

See all my reviews

Ask me a question

Verified Buyer

Pros

  • Clean Clear Tones
  • Good Quality
  • Improves Sound

Cons

    Best Uses

    • All Types Of Music

    Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

    First time using this type of humbucker system in my guitars. I was very pleased with the tone and sound. I'm not a shredder or a metal player, mostly just Rock music but this pickup is surprisingly clear. If you want to overdrive the pickup, it can be done at the amp. Meaning that it not muddy on a clean setting and not to distorted on the dirty channels. All notes can be heard and ring out. I've read that this pickup was for thrash metal only and not bluesy types of rock and roll, well they are wrong! This pickup cuts through and spices things up, brings an added presence to the mix. By-the-way, they are so easy to install. Not more hot iron or soldering connection to fight with. PLUG and GO!!!!! My old les paul has new life and I was able to keep my Gibson 57 Plus in the neck. Works with all types of pickup combination. It seems that EMG makes pickups now for all. Check out their website, you'll be amazed. A long way from the late 80's. Still hate the Battery.

    (2 of 10 customers found this review helpful)

     
    1.0

    Clarity and attack

    By 60293017

    from Antioch IL

    Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

    I used to run an 85 in the bridge due to its warmth and because It was easier to get harmonics, but I found that I like the 81 in the bridge. I have a Warlock NJ with Blackouts and I think the 81 has a little more attack, but the blackouts fall between the 85 and 81 in terms of sound. ( I like the EMG's a little better in the bridge, but I like the blackout better in the neck). I play through a Bugera 6262 and a TBX150H and these sound great!
    The EMG 81 features clarity and attack that cannot be found elsewhere.
    Made in USA. The solderless connections make installing these really easy. I always had a hard time soldering the ground leads to the back of the pots and stripping the pickup wires. EMG has made this really easy. If you have a 3 way toggle switch, you still need to do a little soldering, but its no big deal.
    A little more expensive than the blackouts, but the solderless wiring and sound is worth the money.

    (2 of 4 customers found this review helpful)

     
    3.0

    EMGs aren't all what they're cracked up to be

    By jGYCb3.sw

    from Zanesville, Oh

    Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

    To simply put it EMGs are pickups designed primarily for metal, which is good. But on the other hand they don't offer a lot of tone variety. Getting good specific tones with these for metal is nearly impossible. Though if you want palm muted sounds then it's oretty good but thats about as far as they go.

    (2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    Pick-Up of Destiny!!

    By gardner1727

    from Ohio

    See all my reviews

    Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

    I have always used Passive pickups, from Vintage to Modern and Until recently I considered my friends Original Dimarzio Super Distortions to be the Best I have ever heard,which are on the best Guitar I have ever played (There on his 1983 Electra Lady,1year of production,less than 200 made)But, after a need 4my own great guitar that has a look like no other, i managed to get the Last Schecter Devil Spine 4sale here on MF,which has a Single EMG-81on it. When i 1st played it,i was in love with the sustain,clarity,and sheer aggression this EMG-81 Pick-Up Can do,even my friend(Who was against Active Pick-Ups) Was blown away and said he was wrong and should have tried it before listening 2these guys who hate change. Dont believe guys saying the "TONE IS STERILE"or sucks , TRY IT BE4 YOU MAKEUP YOUR MIND BASED ON SUM1 ELSES PREFERANCES. This Pick-Up is a must BUY OR ATLEAST TRY, IT CAN DO JUST ABOUT ANYTHING FROM CLEAN 2 MEAN,BLUES 2 METAL , AND THATS WHY ITS MY Pick-Up of Destiny !!

    (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    Most neutral pickup on the planet

    By SlickGuitar

    from PA

    About Me Professional Musician

    See all my reviews

    Ask me a question

    Pros

    • Easy To Use
    • Functional
    • Good Quality
    • Improves Sound
    • Neutral
    • Smooth

    Cons

    • None

    Best Uses

    • Any guitar
    • Any Type Of Music

    Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

    I've been using EMG 81/60 pickups for a long, long time. They are extremely neutral ... meaning, they don't color the sound. I want to hear the wood of my guitars and the amps, not a coloration of such. I play primarily through ENGL E670 SE EL34 heads as well Mesa Mark V heads and these pickups just sound incredible with them. Plenty of bark and bite when you need it, yet mellow when you back off. And they are very quiet. Pair these up with an EMG Afterburner and you will never go back to using floor pedals for boost ever again. 100% guitar and amp. That is the way it should be. If you need pedals to make your guitar/amp/pickup sound good, you have the wrong setup.

    (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

     
    5.0

    Great pickup

    By carlitos

    from St louis

    About Me Professional Musician

    Verified Buyer

    Pros

    • Easy To Use
    • Functional
    • Good Quality
    • Improves Sound

    Cons

      Best Uses

        Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

        If you play modern nu metal this the way to go

        (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        Great pickups

        By Thijs

        from Belleville IL

        See all my reviews

        Ask me a question

        Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

        Great way to upgrade a mid range or entry level guitar.
        Got these as a replacement set for my Jackson Warrior JS32.
        Solderless pickups (which is awesome). A word of caution: If your output jack is on the opposite end of the control cavity (i.e. controls are in the lower wing, output jack is in the upper wing), you'll need to contact EMG to get a longer set of battery/tone cables. They'll send you some for free but they're not standard included with the package.
        Anyway they work as I expected. Nice saturated tone, great sounding pinch harmonics.
        Great for distortion, too much output for clean playing.

        (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        Magic TONE machines!

        By NashvilleROCKS

        from Nashville,Tn

        See all my reviews

        Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

        Let me just start by saying that I first started using these in 1988 and have been blown away ever since. It has become "my" tone. There is absolutely nothing I can say negative about these. They tend to make everything else sound dull and lifeless. I will also say that I have NEVER had a battery go down on me. It's not like a stompbox battery draining. Just make sure to unplug the cable when not playing. The reason I am writing this is to say how blown away I am at the new solder-less connections and the fact that I just put 2 chrome ones in a Silverburst Les Paul Custom. Retaining the original chrome look but still having "my" sound is amazing. Buy them, it's like an invisible magical kick in the "axe" to super charge your playing.

        (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

         
        4.0

        sweet but pro

        By PlayerSince1990

        from jefferson city, mo.

        See all my reviews

        Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

        this is a great pickup. i got the EMG-81 yesterday and me and a friend put it into my Epi LP Standard. it sounds great. it works awesome. i love the crunch sound it has. just make sure you have a professional guitar electriction to put it in for you. i already have a problem with the volume potentiometer that it came with. so whoever is reading this and is wanting to buy the EMG-81, make sure you have somebody who knows what they are doing. over-all, this piece is sweet for anyone wanting a great crunch sound

        (1 of 2 customers found this review helpful)

         
        4.0

        its ok but I have better

        By Jesus_chrysler

        from madison, wi

        Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

        I bought a used epi flying V with EMG 81 bridge and 60 neck. It sounds ok but doesnt have the attitude I was hoping for. I have a gibson dirty fingers in my explorer and it has so much more depth of sound with heavy distortion and still screams. They are not bad but I was expecting more.

        (1 of 7 customers found this review helpful)

         
        1.0

        Terrible tone!!!

        By Yuck!!

        from Provo, UT

        See all my reviews

        Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

        This thing has plenty of output but the tone is harsh and terrible!! Go with a passive pickup. Everyone just wants to be like Zak Wydle or Kirk Hammett when the truth is there tone is far more complex then a pickup. Active pickups have artificial tone. I have tried an 81/85 combo on more then one of my guitars and i could not handle them so i sold the guitars. Its not just a matter of taste either why do you think nobody wants EMGs?? cause they suck!!Another problem is spending a fortune on 9 volt batteries

        (1 of 5 customers found this review helpful)

         
        2.0

        emgs suck!

        By EMGsucks

        from Undisclosed

        Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

        I bought this last year thinking I'd get a lot of power and sustain in my guitar. I got them both but one thing that pissed me off was the tone. It sounds absolutely artificial and goes muddy when you tweak up the gain. Emg pickups suck. Seymour duncan rules emg anyday! If you're thinking of buying this, forget it! Get the seymour duncan dave mustaine set, I'm using those right now and they blow any emg pickup right out of the water.

        (1 of 4 customers found this review helpful)

         
        3.0

        One Dimensional and Sterile

        By Anonymous

        from Undisclosed

        Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

        I bought an Ibanez RG that had EMG 81/85s stock. I fought for 2-3 years with the EMGs to get a decent tone. They were 1 dimensional. You lost the sound of picking dynamics and the feel of the guitar itself.The EMGs would also add way too much ice-picking treble. Could never add any highs without piercing your ear drum.After changing out the EMGs for different brand of passives, the same guitar has come to life. It has brand new character.

        (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        greatest pickups ever!

        By Ironwolg-p7-3X

        from Alabama

        See all my reviews

        Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

        This pickup is awesome. If you're looking for an awesome heavy metal crunch then this is the best pickup you can get. MetallicA's James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett use the 81's.

        (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        Read this before you buy.

        By Brad-PlTYK

        from Canada.

        Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

        Hey guys, I have a Kramer Vanguard 2010 with this pickup in the bridge and the 85 in the neck. All I have to say is that this pickup is amazing for leads when you need to get through the bass and drums! Very nicely designed pickup. And for the people wo say the 9V's cost a lot, they don't. They're 6$ each? I go through 1 a year, and it's worth it. These things may have a distinct picking tone with gain but the home made EQ tone is amazing once you hit the right sound. BUY AND TRY THEM FIRST THEY'RE NOT FOR EVERYBODY.

        (1 of 1 customers found this review helpful)

         
        5.0

        This pickup has won me over

        By Moonshield 42

        from Drexel Hill PA

        See all my reviews

        Ask me a question

        Comments about EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup:

        10
        I stayed clear of this picup for so long, and now that I've played it, I cant give it enough praise. I have this pickup equipped in my b.c. rich asm pro and I play through a peavey vypyr 30 watt amp. This pickup has major guts and tons of tone. Its also dead silent when your not playing "no hum". Chords are tight and single notes are clean, clear and focused. I love this pickup. If your having second thoughts about using this like I did for so long, just buy it, I think it will win you over like it did me.

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