EMG 81 Black

449 Customer Ratings:
  • 5
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4.8 / 5.0
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30 written ratings
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Metal Standard
Richard936, 09.09.2013
What can you say about the EMG 81 that hasn't been written before, in truth not much. The EMG 81 is the standard metal pick up that all other metal pick ups are measured against and in all fairness they fail to match up the 81.

While the cleans are not the best, the distorted tone is fantastic for all types of metal. Ive used the EMG 81 in various guitars, Jackson's, PRS SE's and Ibanez and I have never failed to get a killer tone out of them.

My current Amp is a H&K Tubemeister 18 Head and with a EMG 81 equipped guitar I can get a real great crunch tone with no hum, which is the bonus of an internal pre amp in the 81.

There is a reason the 81 is on some of the classic metal albums of all time and the user list for the 81 is so long, this pick up slays end of story.

The quick connect system is a really good system but make sure you have space in your control cavities for the 9v Battery. You may find that abit of drilling may be required to get the thick cable down to the new jack socket, I've only found this on Ibanez guitars so far.

The quick connect system is also usable for SD Blackouts, so if your are someone who likes swapping pups there is another reason to get an 81.

Pairs well with an 85 or the 60 in the neck position.
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Classic Metal Tone
23.11.2015
Little more to say than if you are looking for the sound of Metallica, Zakk Wylde, Jim Root (Slipknot), etc., or looking to upgrade your pickups for rock or metal actives then this is most likely where you will start. I bought this for a Hetfield 'Rusty' tribute that I wanted to do with one of my Gibson Explorers.

Plenty of reviews and sound tests online and on YouTube. People will debate the benefits of active and passive, compression with EMG's. For me, they deliver the tone that I want for certain types of guitars while trying to replicate certain bands/artist tones. You really just have to try them to see if you like them.

One thing that no one else seems to have mentioned is while they are traditionally used in the bridge, I have had also had an 81/81 combination in a Epi LP Midnight Custom and found it to be just fine.

Note that I, in my own personal opinion, have found that the 81 responds better to Gibson/Orville/Epiphone Custom models as opposed to Standard models. Tone is generally 'darker' and helps with the 81 being somewhat brighter or having a greater treble response. Again, my own personal preference, and this can always be adjusted with EQ on the amp, or indeed your tone knob.

There is an excellent video demo from EMG for the installation if you are worried about the wiring diagrams. The quick connect system is very straight forward so do not be too nervous if you have never done this before. I do recommend that you experiment with voltage variations - Google 18V modification.

Price, customer service and shipping from Thomann was excellent as always.
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EMG 81 pickup review
rammstein, 11.02.2014
EMG pickups are the best pickups I have ever used, the EMG 85 always picks up the best tone out of your guitar, also it is the clearest pickup I have ever used I have put this pickup through the dirtiest channel possible and it still retains all of the clarity of when you put it through a clean channel, I don't think i will ever use any other brand of pickup in my life the EMG 81 and EMG 85 are the best pickups for putting through a dirty channel in my opinion, to anyone who is thinking about buying this pickup GET IT!!! i would buy a hundred more if i had the money.
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The Original Metal Pickup!!!
Philip669, 16.08.2013
What can be said about the EMG 81 that already has not been said?
Well its the industry standard for that searing metal tone, Bands like slayer, In flames, even judas priest now use EMG's.
I've used EMG's for over 25 years mainly in metal guitars for extreme music, but i bought this 81 to go in my Jackson Bengal which will be only used for old 80's hair metal & hard rock, well without a doubt it can nail that sound easy, its now looking that the old 81 is more of an all rounder than many people initially thought, Most think EMG are a one trick pony only for extreme metal.
I must praise the Guys at EMG for coming up with the solderless design.
It makes changing pickups a pleasure rather than a chore, Most people cannot solder very well so the solderless range is ideal for the beginner or if you just want to save money on getting a repair shop to fit the pickups, I am going to try the 18 Volt mod on my guitar to check out the headroom it gives these pickups.
I for one will always use EMG's i love them & they do exactly what it says on the tin METAL!!!!
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Spice up your guitar
01.04.2016
I installed this pickup in the bridge of an old guitar with useless pickups I had lying around. Since the pickup comes with all wiring and pots, battery clip and output jack, this is the only new "component" I had to buy. It brought that guitar back to life, it went from almost no output to a nice high output when the volume is maxed out.

It's great to play some harder rock and metal and if you tweak your amp and volume you can even get some useable clean tones out of it, alltough that's probably not why you would buy this pickup.

There are loads of well known guitarists using EMG 81's in their bridge position, the 81 is often paired with the 85 or the 60 in the neck to give more versatility to your guitar.

I'd definitely recommend this pickup, It's easy to install, great for heavier music and not that expensive if you think about it (wiring, pots, etc included).
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Very heavy sound
Lion Wolf, 02.02.2018
Simply the best sound for metal around in terms of active pickups.
And it looks as heavy as it sounds too, its as instantly recognizable in terms of sound as well as looks.
Love this pick up!!!
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Good for heavy tone
Roman6517, 04.06.2016
Installed this one on my PRS McCarty Corina. There were McCarty Bass and McCarty Treble pickups installed before and they sounded realy good except there was not enough output for playing metal. With EMG 81/85 set everything fell into place. Especially when using gain-sensitive devices like Fracral Audio Axe FX or vst plugins.
I used EMG pickups previously on other guitars and the primary thing I would say about them is predictability of sound you get. Though this might be an advantage or disadvantage for one. Also clean tone suffers a bit comparing to passive pickups but I have abandoned the idea of having ideal metal and jazz tones in one particular guitar.
Soldering-free set is a great option. Installation was fast and easy even for such a low experienced user like me. The manual instructions leave no questions. It would be great if other manufactures also used it as a standard.
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17.06.2015
The first time I played a guitar with EMG's I immediately fell in love with them.
I have since then put 81's in all my guitars.

Quality is excellent, tone is awesome and the price is affordable.
Easy and quick to install, it takes me around 15 minutes to tear out the old stuff and put in the EMG's.

5/5
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Great pickup with a great tone.
H M S, 06.09.2019
Great pickup with a great tone. It has a very nice definition combined with a very strong but controlled low end. Depending on the guitar and amp eq's it can be a versatile pickup.
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Activate the actives
IsaacH, 08.08.2015
The EMG 81 is the classic and is vastly compared to other active pick-ups and also some passives, but they've always served my playing style extremely well. Though mainly used for metal, their versatility is second to none.
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Excellent for heavy stuff... and cleans...
conlondf, 26.11.2018
THE METAL PICKUP? silent when supposed to be, because of the active design? but brutal into an overdriven amp! Also good for glassy clean stuff, in a clean amp? but heavy is where they shine!
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Typical EMG quality!
Antonis A., 26.01.2015
Typical EMG quality! Easy installation, all needed accessories are included, the sound is the standard by others are measured!
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Less Metallica than I thought
Roger N., 22.11.2013
This is a good mic. I replaced a Seymour Duncan Alt8 with it, lost the split/parallel opportunity but still, it was worth it. A clear nice sound, high outout but not overly so.
Recomended, when switching options is not an issue.
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Super cool pickup!
Vasily, 05.05.2017
I have ordered this pickup in couple with EMG60 to upgrade the LTD M-100FM guitar and have active pickups set like Kirk Hammett. The quality of the sound is amazing! Both clean and distortion are great - real improvement to original passive LTD pickups.
The set of electronics provided with pickups is very easy to assemble. Soldering is only needed for switch, the rest is connected by adapters - so comfortable!
I would easily recommend this pickups for very high quality of manufacturing and sound!
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The best!
Andrew3674, 21.08.2015
You want soaring leads and biting rhythm? Look no further, this is the only bridge pickup you will ever need or want! Just google the emg 81 and you'll see its favoured as by the best in the business! The real who's who of both classic and modern metal!
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Fantastic!
Michael4919, 05.07.2015
Excellent pickups with a fantastic sound. Very easy to put together with the solderless system, just make sure you have enough space for the battery in your guitar cavity! The 18volt mod gives a lot more headroom which is nice
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Gotta hand it to EMG
Erkan D., 10.11.2013
EMG has made a really solid pickup here. The EMG 81 can't go wrong for metal. Sure, it does sound boring for someone who has used them for years and has worked with others who also use them. But for someone who wants a really good tone out of an ordinary guitar - these are KING. The distortion is really tight and clear. I agree on the fact that they sound very similar, even in different guitars, but that doesn't bother me at all. They're easy to work with (mixing and so on), and they produce a reliable tone time after time. I had no problems during my use of this pickup in my old guitar, and I used it for almost 2 years.
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Hang up your Neck !
Siamac, 17.10.2018
The best Pickup for Neck all time!
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great pickup
estrombe, 05.04.2018
very good sound quality for the price that has cost. if you dont have a good guitar and you put this pickup it realy makes the diference.
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This is metal!
17.12.2014
I installed this pickup in a esp ltd kh-202 and the guitar reborn! To me they are the best pickups for playing metal! It wasnt easy to wire it up but it was my first time wiring active pickups. The tightness of the pickup translates into extremely clear, precise distorted tones where other pickups would get muddy. This also makes it ideal for recording and live use, as it requires less EQ tweaking to get sounding right in a band/mix, but at the same time this can make it sound slightly unappealing played on its own. Unlike most pickups, due to its weak magnetic coils and active preamp, the EMG 81 is almost free of any hum whatsoever! Keep it Metal!!!
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Professional Tone
Guitarnomicon , 23.02.2019
The best bridge pickup for all musical styles!!
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Great metal pickup
Ross N., 09.03.2015
It's an EMG 81, the pickup that's been synonymous with metal since the 80's. Tight, focussed and cutting, this pickup tracks faster than any other I've ever used. Even when used with extremely high amounts of gain, OD pedals etc, the pickup stays tight and defined. This pickup does tend to sound very similar in all guitars, regardless of their wood/neck joint types etc, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I would not use this pickup to play clean tones, all the qualities which make it excellent for metal (tight/cutting) ensure it isn't suited to that. I think this pickup works nicely in the bridge position, but prefer to use something else for clean tones in the neck (eg EMG 60). I've used these active EMG's for years and never had an issue with them, other than requiring the odd battery change. The solderless connection system also ensures a simple installation, it's nice not to have to use a soldering iron to install these.
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EMG 81
Tomasz Helel Popowicz, 16.05.2013
hi,


Great active pickup for bridge position.
I'd say one of the best most popular EMG's there are and that is for a reason.

Tomasz
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emg 81 BK PICKUP KIT
Paul7219, 10.03.2015
Wow what can i say? not only was this the cheapest price on the planet, i even got all the wiring & pots, i got the power distributor and several wiring diagrams too. I was well impressed with the whole package, it was like christmas morning.

Thanks again Thomann
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Metal standard for sterile sounds
LaszloM, 20.03.2017
I use this pickup in a PRS SE Tremonti Custom for Drop B tuning. I'm used to use only passives in my other guitars, so it is another world to me. The differences are not subtle at all. What I like is the aggressive yet articulate sound which is suitable especially for djent type single notes picking. What I don't like is the sterile sound without soul which is not suitable for normal rock for me. The biggest con: you cannot leave your cable plugged into the guitar as it will drain your battery.

For djent-type metal it's OK. For low-end thumping metalcore it is not so good. For rock look for anything else.
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EMG 81 Black

85 €
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