EMG vs. Seymour Duncan - Active vs. Passive Pickups - Part 3 of 4




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Published on Aug 12, 2008

This is the third chapter of my comparison between active EMGs and passive Seymour Duncans.

Do you like my guitar playing?

I'm playing these guitars:

. ESP M-II (Japan) with active EMG 81 pickups (bridge and neck).

. Jackson King V KV2 (USA) with passive JB TB-4 (bridge) and JB SH-4 (neck) Seymour Duncan pickups.

I discuss the following:

. Active EMGs sometimes catch the vibration created by the strings, tremolo springs and other bridge parts (even if you don't use the tremolo), creating a dirty sound.
This vibration may be invisible to the human eye but not to the EMGs.

. I compare the sound of string brands such as Ernie Ball, D'addario and Dean Markley Blue Steel. I also demonstrate the EMG 81 pickup on my B.C. Rich Wartribe Warlock guitar with a Kahler Hybrid tremolo.

. Wood is a matter of taste, but based on my tests with numerous guitars, alder is my favorite wood for heavy metal. Not only it's light in weight but also sounds extremely heavy.

. A Kahler installation on a Gibson Explorer was my best evidence on how much the bridge's metal affects the sound. The Gibson pickups became excessively bright (without crunch), and I got tons of pickup noise. My costliest mistake! I ended up selling the guitar. Some players haven't had problems with Kahlers on their Gibsons, but at least on my Explorer, it diminished the sound.

. You can have the heaviest guitar with the loudest pickups ever, but depending on your right hand technique, you may still not achieve that crunchy, powerful sound.

. EMG also makes passive pickups such as the EMG-HZ series, and Seymour Duncan makes the highly acclaimed active Blackouts.

. DiMarzio, Bill Lawrence, Carvin and other brands also make high quality pickups. I was impressed when trying out a B.C. Rich with Rockfield pickups. The combination of Rockfield, Floyd Rose and nato/maple produced a clean and crunchy tone.

. One of the best (yet underrated) pickups I've ever played is the active Jackson on my old Charvel Model 4. The sound is clean and defined.

Then I conclude the following:

. Active EMGs are incredibly noise-free, but depending on the string brand and/or bridge, they might enhance the string oscillation and create a dirty sound.

. Passive Seymour Duncans work great with any string brand or bridge, but they might create excessive amplifier hum -- mainly if the guitar is poorly shielded. Some guitar companies, unfortunately, do a poor shielding job (or do nothing at all.)

. It's hard to say whether a pickup brand or model is better than its competitor. Many other factors impact a guitar's sound such as wood, bridge, strings, amp/effects and even playing style.

. When trying to find your desired guitar sound, at least make sure you test different guitars using the same string brand and amp/effects set-up.

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