EMG X Series 81X and 85X Pickups
EMG, Inc, emginc.com
Originally published in Guitar World, November 2009
If you love EMG sounds but want more control over output and response, the X Series is for you.
EMG has dominated the active pickup market for more than 30 years. High-gain players in particular revel in the unique way EMGs clarify, separate and enhance the harmonic spectrum. EMG has its detractors, too, who most often cite EMGs as being cold, compressed and sterile.
EMG’s response to these critics is the new X Series. It utilizes a fresh preamp design that offers a more dynamic response while it preserves the sustain, EQ and original character of each pickup model. This preamp isn’t the only update; each X Series pickup now comes with EMG’s revolutionary solderless connection system, which makes installation, system modification and maintenance incredibly swift and simple. Most of EMG’s more popular pickups are available as an “X” type, but for this review I focused on the 81X and 85X.
Aside from the new X Series logo, everything about the EMG-81X and EMG-85X looks the same. The pickups are still sealed in EMG’s special epoxy resin and feature the three-pin connector on the bottom. To use the X Series pickups, you will have to install the supplied solderless system. Essentially, all of the wires plug into a small terminal buss that distributes power and signal between the pickups, selector switch, jack and pots. The pots now have pin-type connectors on their underside just like the pickups. And the new tone pot is active, relieving the need for a capacitor between the volume and tone controls.
The identifiable personality of each pickup model is still present, but the X-types offer increased separation between the renowned overtones and less of that preamp-born chorusing effect. This comes through as a more hollow and open sound. Dynamics are improved by about 20 percent over the originals, offering a greater variation in volume and gain along with a much quicker response time. Although far less compressed, these new pickups also seem to have more sustain, most likely because the redesigned preamp now allows the amp’s first gain stage to react to its full potential.
THE BOTTOM LINE
EMG’s X Series pickups are dynamic and sound natural. Just as exciting is the new solderless connection system, which all but eliminates the need to ever heat up your iron. If you love EMG sounds but want more control over output and response, the X Series is for you.
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