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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This was always interesting to me. Ibanez artist and players generally avoid putting
active pickups in their guitars. Why is that? Is it because Vai-Gilbert-Satch-Petrucci(ex) and others have always prefered Dimarzio so I should too? I am planning to put EMGs in my new Premium because I simply love the sound of the pickup. But I would love to hear your opinion on this one. Which passive pickup could ever have similar specs?
 

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I don't like EMGs because, to my ears, they are EQed flat. They have good mids good lows and good highs, but there is nothing special about them. I went back to passive pickups years ago and never looked back. There is so much feel and tone. Dimarzio D activators, I think, are the closest to EMGs. I don't like them either. ha. Just my opinion on everything though. Everyone hears things differently. :D
 

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I have EMGS in my RGA121, because I love the sound of them in mahogany bodied guitars. For my style of playing it can get really heavy while retaining clarity. It picks up more sound, so it's a little easier to get away with things on it, I call it a "cheater" pickup. I have tried every combination of EMG in my RGA: 81, 85, 60, 60a, 58, JH Set, old ones, new ones and so on.. You name it, I've tried it. I've found (for myself), the perfect combination is 85(b)/60a(n). The 85 has more lowend, a little more natural, and a bit more thickness than the 81, eliminating the grief of the shrillness or that "lifeless" tone people talk about. No one ever gives the other pickups a shot. The only thing I'd change... if they came out with black/cosmo chrome covers for the 85/60a like the JH set

I also have an 85 in the bridge of my RG565 paired up with a SA, the thing is tits. That's the only word I can use to describe it :p

My RGA and 565

 

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I like the eq curve but I guess I can't live without the harmonics-noncompressed sound of passive pickups.

I haven't played on yet but from sound examples musicman LUKE has a very good sound though using EMG's
 

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I think the problem a lot of players (such a myself) have with EMG's is they sound like EMG's. It doesn't really matter what you put them in from a cheap POS Indo RG to a J-Custom... Sounds about the same. They do not transfer much (if any) of the guitar's tonal qualities - it's just the standard EMG sound. Passive pickups, contrastingly, can sound dramatically different in different tone woods, with different playing styles, etc. As such they are significantly more "moldable" to a player's personal tastes.

I have seen a description of EMG tone several times that rings true to me: Ifyou put EMG's in a $100 guitar you will make it sound like a $1000 guitar. If you put EMG's in a $5000 guitar you will make it sound like a $1000 guitar. This sums it up nicely - EMG's level everything out and have a good, solid tone, albeit a somewhat flat EQ. If you have a cheaper guitar they can make you sound much better BECAUSE they negate the sound of your low-grade body wood, etc common on cheap guitars. But if you put them in a nice guitar you are LOWERED to the EMG common denominator, and you LOSE the sound of the top shelf tone wood(s) your guitar is made of.
 

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This was always interesting to me. Ibanez artist and players generally avoid putting
active pickups in their guitars. Why is that? Is it because Vai-Gilbert-Satch-Petrucci(ex) and others have always prefered Dimarzio so I should too? I am planning to put EMGs in my new Premium because I simply love the sound of the pickup. But I would love to hear your opinion on this one. Which passive pickup could ever have similar specs?
I absolutely love EMG's.





I haven't had time or money to switch out any of the pickups on my new guitar, hell I'm keeping it at my parents house 2 hours away, so I don't even get to play it.

I plan on trying a Dimarzio Steve's Special, but they have big shoes to fill. If I can't get the crunch I got with EMG's (85's) I'll be going back.
 

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Any of you tried the 18v mods? Supposed to give a lot more clarity and punch, but I haven't tried it yet!

Anyway, I have a set of 81-85 lying around that I'll put on my Art100, it's in drop C and made of mahogany. I asume it will expoit thoses specs pretty badly!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Any of you tried the 18v mods? Supposed to give a lot more clarity and punch, but I haven't tried it yet!

Anyway, I have a set of 81-85 lying around that I'll put on my Art100, it's in drop C and made of mahogany. I asume it will expoit thoses specs pretty badly!
It should sound great, it always does with mahagony. I own an ltd ec1000 custom and I'm amazed by the combo. That is a problem actually, I am in somewhat a comfort zone with EMG/mahagony combo while I'm about to buy a passive electronics Ibanez Premium and I'm still not sure whether I should buy Premium with D Activators or RGA with EMG's? Dunno.
 

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kssfdude said:
They do not transfer much (if any) of the guitar's tonal qualities ... and you LOSE the sound of the top shelf tone wood(s) your guitar is made of.
I hear this from time to time and wonder what makes people think the wood in their guitar has anything to do with how a pickup works. There is nothing about the wood that transfers into the pickup turning a string vibration into an electrical signal.
 

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I hear this from time to time and wonder what makes people think the wood in their guitar has anything to do with how a pickup works. There is nothing about the wood that transfers into the pickup turning a string vibration into an electrical signal.
The wood a guitar is made of effects the resonance, sustain, and other subtle characteristics of the "quality" and/or "color" of the string's vibrations. Similarly, strings of different guages and/or materials that are tuned to the exact same pitch will also have subtle differences in "color". So your guitar combines many different materials that together generate the "tone".

Strictly speaking, the movement of the metal string within the magnetic field of the pickup is what gets converted into an electrical signal. However, passive pickups are much more sensitive to subtle variations in string vibration than active pickups. This is because a passive pickup utilizes a "natural" magnetic source whereas an active pickup utilizes an electromagnet. As a result, the active pickups are essentially amplifying the vibration of the string, adding their own color and distortion. This is why actives are ideal for high gain applications. Contrastingly, passive pickups translate the "tone" of the guitar and all of its components (i.e. tone woods) much better than active pickups. Furthermore, the signal generated by a passive pickup is directly effected by how it is mounted and its surrounding tone wood because those materials are also vibrating and resonating with the string. This causes very subtle changes in the magnetic field through the vibration of the magnet, which in turn effects the overlap of the waveforms, creating some constructive and some destructive interference. This directly effects the perceived "tone" of the guitar/string/pickup combination. An electromagnet, however, creating considerably stronger and more uniform magnetic field, negates most of this effect. It essentially normallizes the generated current, which is precisely why it makes a crappy guitar sound good and an extremely nice guitar sound the same as the active equipped crappy guitar.

The fact that different players and luthiers all over the world have preferences for and utilize different materials in electric guitars is not an accident. There are distinct, measurable differences between different combinations of woods AND pickups.

And for the record while I am not a luthier I am a grad student in physics, so as a 30+ year guitarist I've always been fascinated by the physics of the guitar and so I've studied it pretty extensively. :)
 

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I used EMGs for years in a couple of guitars, and found them to be great. If you set them up right, EQ your amp for actives, etc they sound fantastic.

The talk of EMGs sounding the same no matter what guitar, bad cleans, etc is most probably due to people pushing the pickups right against the strings so that the tone is overly compressed.

I had two guitars almost identical in specs other than different body woods, and you could definitely hear the difference in tone when playing. Alder was brighter, and the basswood was more neutral.

The 18V mod is a great move with the standard line of EMGs too,
 

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I'm not a big fan because they don't pick up any picking nuances, at least on the guitars I've tried in the store. It's like they're binary or digital; the sound it makes sounds the same no matter how it's played. EMG's don't have that "color" that passives produce. Don't get me wrong, they're excellent for playing Metallica and the like, but IMO they're not as versatile as passive pickups.
 

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I hear this from time to time and wonder what makes people think the wood in their guitar has anything to do with how a pickup works. There is nothing about the wood that transfers into the pickup turning a string vibration into an electrical signal.
Ummmmm..........yeah, OK.:?::?:
 

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The D-Activators are meant to be the closest thing to actives, before actually going active.

I'm 95% a clean player, so I like the "air" that passive gives, allows the sound to breathe + No batteries ;)
 

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I don't have an Ibby with EMGs, but I do have a Strat that I modded the piss out of. It's got an EMG 81 in the bridge position and and an S in the middle and neck position, and it sounds great. To me it all depends on what you're playing. I prefer Dimarzios over any pickup, but that guitar with the EMGs sounds awesome, but then again I only play metal with that guitar. I personally wouldn't want a guitar with EMGs to play anything but metal.
 

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I decided against EMGs cause I don't didn't want to worry about batteries. Just seems like another thing to go wrong. And I didn't go for their passives, cause.... well.... I'd may as well go with Dimarzio who specialize in passives, and lets face it, Steve Vai's tone sounds pretty tasty.
 

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I like the eq curve but I guess I can't live without the harmonics-noncompressed sound of passive pickups.
Reb Beach, who uses nothing but EMG pickups, had to install DiMarzios when he was playing in Dokken. He said that he simply couldn't get all those Lynch harmonics with EMG's.

I like the EMG's in my RBM2, but honestly I probably like the pickups in my RBM1 better, even though they're probably cheap pickups. I'm also not a fan of very hot pickups. I prefer the PAF Pro or FRED over all the newer, hotter pickups, which is another reason I don't really care for EMG's.
 
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