Frequently Asked Questions

he EMG Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page collects the most common questions about EMG pickups, electronics, and installation issues. You may find more detailed technical information elsewhere in this section.

If you have a question that isn't addressed here, please write to us at Items of general interest will be considered for inclusion in this FAQ.

p.s. Installing a Zakk Wylde Setup? Put the 85 (gold logo) in the neck position, and put the 81 (silver logo) in the bridge. (Thanks Bret!)

FAQ Table of Contents

    General Questions
  1. What's an active pickup, and why would I use one?
  2. What are the advantages of an EMG pickup?
  3. Why an internal pre-amp?

    Pickup Questions

  4. How can I tell which pickup I have?
  5. What is the difference between the EMG-81 and the EMG-85?
  6. What is the EMG-89?
  7. Can two EMG-89's be wired to a single push/pull switch?
  8. EMG-89 volume differences in different modes?
  9. Does EMG make a mini-humbucking pickup?
  10. Does EMG make a Rickenbacker bass pickup?
  11. Can I use my original long-shaft output jack with my EMG pickup?
  12. Do you have pots for the Les Paul?
  13. Do you make 25K concentric pots?
  14. What do the DIP switches on my BT/BQ EQ system do?

    Acoustic Questions

  15. What is the difference between the EMG-AS93U and the EMG-AS125U?
  16. Can I put a volume control on an EMG-AS93U or AS125U?
  17. Can the EMG Acoustic pickup be used on a nylon string guitar?

    Battery Questions

  18. Do EMG pickups need a battery?
  19. What kind of battery do EMGs need?
  20. Where is the battery located?
  21. Can multiple pickups/EQs run off a single battery?
  22. Can I use multiple batteries?
  23. How long does the battery last?
  24. What happens if the battery runs out?

    Wiring Questions

  25. How do I wire my pickups up?
  26. How do I wire a coil tap? a phase switch?
  27. Can I adjust the output level of my pickups?
  28. What value capacitor do you use with the volume and tone controls?
  29. Can I mix EMG's with passive pickups?
  30. Can I use EMG accessory circuits on passive pickups?

What's an active pickup, and why would I use one?

An active pickup is one that uses electronics to improve the sound and enhance its operation. There are a variety of ways to "Activate" a pickup. A simple "buffer" pre-amp will do the trick, but it will also amplify the hum and buzz the pickup produces. Just because a pickup is "active" doesn't guarantee you'll get great results. EMG pickups utilize an internal pre-amp (inside the pickup), which not only makes the pickup louder, it also reduces the noise!

What are the advantages of an EMG pickup?

The greatest is reduction in noise. No longer will the dimming of the house lighting system cause your guitar to buzz incessantly. You can use an extra long cable, or a wireless, and you'll get the same great tone every time.

Why an internal pre-amp?

It's the most efficient way to create an active pickup. All the coil connections are shielded, the pre-amp is shielded, and the output of the pickup cable is low-impedence, which makes it less susceptible to noise. Also, it avoids a spider web of wires and possible loose connections in your guitar and the installation is simple. All the benefits with none of the hassle.

How can I tell which pickup I have?

A number of the EMG models consist of different magnets, coils, and electronics in similar shells. That can make it hard to tell at a glance what kind of pickup you have.

Of course, the first indicator is the shape of the pickup - humbucker, Strat-style, Tele-style, Precision (split-coil) or Jazz bass, etc. If you see visible pole pieces, then this is a Vintage Series pickup.

Once you've narrowed down the general family, you can tell the specific model by the color of the EMG logo on the face of the pickup. For example, if you have a humbucker sized pickup with a silver logo, it is an EMG-81; with a gold logo, it's an EMG-85. The identifying logo color for most of our pickups is listed with their specs on the Product Specification page.

That's still quite not good enough for the Extended Series bass pickups. They all have the same external appearance and all have a silver logo. There's two things to try here. First, there's normally a sticker on the back of the pickup that shows the specific model number. If that's not present, you will want to use a piece of our Magnetic Viewing Paper to visualize the pickup's magnetic structure. You can then determine the appropriate model by matching what you see to our Extended Series Specifications.

What is the difference between the EMG-81 and the EMG-85?

The EMG-81 is our highest output pickup. The EMG-85 has slightly less output than the EMG-81, yet still has plenty of output to overdrive an amp. The EMG-85 has more low end and less high end then the EMG-81. The EMG-81 has less low end and is brighter than the EMG-85.

What is the EMG-89 ?

The EMG-89 is a dual-mode pickup. There is no electronic filtering going on to simulate a coil tap. There are two bona fide pickups in a single humbucking housing. The single coil portion of the EMG-89 is located on the logo side of the pickup. It is identical in sound to the EMG-SA. The humbucking portion is spread across the entire pickup and sounds like the EMG-85. It's perfectly OK to rotate the pickup 180 degrees to locate the single coil portion of the pickup further away from the bridge for a "beefier" tone. You may also order the EMG-89R, which has the single-coil portion located opposite the logo.

Can two EMG-89's be wired to a single push/pull switch?

Each EMG-89 requires it's own double pole/double throw (DPDT) switch. For example, if there are two EMG-89's in a guitar, you will need two push/pull pots, two mini toggles, or one of each. The pot portion of the push/pull pot is 25K ohms. It can be wired as a volume control or a tone control. Even though the pot and switch portions of the push/pull pot are physically joined together, they are really two separate circuits.

Is there supposed to be a volume difference between the single coil and humbucking portions of the EMG-89?

There is a noticeable difference in gain between the single-coil and humbucking portions of the EMG-89. It's design reflects the fact that single-coils generally have less gain. Obviously, there are tone differences as well, but the gain difference is also a factor. You can compensate for the gain difference by putting an EMG-PA2 (pre-amp booster> on the single-coil portion of the EMG-89. However as the gain of the single coil is increased, there will be less difference in sound between the single-coil and humbucking portions of the EMG-89.

Does EMG make a mini-humbucking pickup like the one found in the Les Paul Deluxe?

EMG does not make a mini-humbucking pickup. The only humbucking guitar pickup is a standard size (1.5" X 2.75").

Does EMG make a replacement pickup for the Rickenbacker 4001 bass?

EMG does not make a direct replacement for the Rickenbacker 4001 bass. The closest size available is the EMG-HB ("1.5 X 2.75"). The EMG-HB can be installed with some modification to the instrument.

The jack I have in my guitar has a much longer shaft than the one supplied with the EMG pickup. Can I use the one in the guitar?

That depends on what kind of jack you have in your guitar. Active pickups require a stereo jack to turn the battery off when the guitar is unplugged. A stereo jack has 3 solder lugs. Many of the Ibanez guitars come stock with a stereo long shafted jack. There is one lug not used with passive pickups and that is where you will connect the battery black wire. If your jack has only 2 solder lugs it is mono and you will need to replace it. We recommend a Switchcraft p/n 152B. You should be able to find it at any decent electronics parts house. If not, you can order it from us.

I have a Les Paul and the pots don't fit through the top. Do you have pots that will work for the Les Paul?

We do have long shafted pots for the Les Paul installation. Customers can order them directly from us or through their dealer. They are not available anywhere else. We also have the long shafted push/pull pots for use with the EMG-89.

Do you make 25K concentric pots?

Yes! We stock the A25KX2 dual concentric 25K pot. This model features two independent audio taper controls that fit in a single hole. It's particularly useful when you add one of our single knob EQ units (the SPC,RPC, or EXG). Using the A25KX2, you can relocate your original passive tone knob and volume knob in the same hole, and add the new EQ without making additional holes in your axe.

EMG also offers a dual ganged balance pot for two pickup systems. This unit has two independent control elements on a single shaft.

What do the DIP switches on my BT/BQ EQ system do?

These switches set the frequency where the active treble control kicks in. The BT Accessory Technical Page shows the various switch settings and the resultant effects. They make a huge difference in your sound! We highly recommend that you experiment with the switches to find the setting the best suits your playing style.

What is the difference between the EMG-AS93U and the EMG-AS125U?

The only difference between these two pickups is the width. The AS93 is .093" (3/32) and the AS125 is .125" (1/8). They are both 2.70" in length. The AS93 would be for the traditional saddle widths such as Martin guitars. You would use the AS125 on guitars with 1/8" saddles.

Can I put a volume (or volume and tone) control on an EMG-AS93U or AS125U?

It's no problem to add either a volume or volume and tone control to these pickups. Simply install them in line after the preamp. You should use the same 25K audio taper pots that are used with our electric pickups. These are generally available from your EMG dealer, or can be purchased directly from the factory.

Can the EMG Acoustic pickup be used on a nylon string guitar?

The EMG Acoustic pickup works great on nylon string guitars. Most nylon string instruments have a 3/32" saddle width so the AS93 would be the appropriate choice, but be sure to measure your instrument. The EMG transducer uses piezo film rather than crystals and runs almost the entire length of the pickup. There's a .17" void located on the end of the pickup where the cable connects which will not detect sound.

Do EMG pickups need a battery?

All of the active guitar and bass pickups we make require a battery; the Select models are passive and don't need one. The active pre-amp, located in the pickup housing, is powered by this battery.

What kind of battery do EMGs need?

EMG active pickups and EQs are powered by a standard, rectangular 9 volt (IEC 6LR61/NEDA 1604A) battery. We recommend normal alkaline batteries (Eveready or Duracell, for example) for best results. These are the same batteries that you would use in an effects box or wireless unit and are widely available.

We do not recommend the use of rechargeable batteries in EMG systems. Although they are compatible electrically, typically you must fully discharge these batteries to preserve long life, which can be problematic in normal usage.

You can externally power your EMG system, although we do not provide parts for this option. We don't recommend doing this, however, as the you will require extremely high quality power filtering to equal the performance of a regular battery. Since the pickup is the very first stage of your system, it's particularly sensitive to noise.

Where is the battery located?

If your guitar came with EMG pickups as standard equipment, you may have a battery cavity with it's own cover. In most other cases, the battery is located in the main control cavity which is usually accessible by removing a cover plate. Stratocaster-type guitars don't have a cover plate - in this case, you would remove the pickguard to get access to the battery.

If you're thinking about installing an EMG system, look for a suitable location for the battery. Although it's tight on Strats, you often can fit the battery under the pots with little or no body modification.

Don't forget - most 9 volt batteries have a metal casing and should be insulated with foam or tape before installation.

Can multiple pickups/EQs run off a single battery?

Yes. All pickups and EQ units can run off a single battery with no problems. Since the current drain on all our products is very low, you should still get reasonable battery life with any reasonable combination of circuits (unreasonable combinations too!).

Can I use multiple batteries?

Yes. If you've got room for multiple batteries in your guitar, you can use two batteries wired in series to power your onboard circuitry at 18 volts. The output level will not appreciably increase, but you'll have increased headroom and crisper transients. This is especially useful for percussive/slap bass styles where you can generate enormous instantaneous power levels across the entire frequency spectrum.

You can also wire two batteries in parallel to provide a regular 9 volt supply but with much longer lifespan between battery changes.

Although most of our products are rated for 27 volts, we recommend a maximum of 18 volts. The additional benefits of 27 vs. 18 volts are negligible.

How long does the battery last?

All EMG pickups and EQ systems are designed for extremely low current drain. In addition, the pickup jack included with all models has a switch that disconnects the battery when the guitar is not plugged in. To maximize battery life, you should always unplug your guitar when it's not in use.

The Specs Page includes current requirements and estimated battery life for each model. Generally, each pickup requires about 80 microamps (uA), except for the Vintage Series pickups which require 220 uA each. EQ circuit requirements vary widely but are higher than pickups.

For your reference, a standard 9 volt alkaline battery provides 580 milliAmpHours (mAh) of power. That means that it will provide 580 milliAmps for 1 hour or 1 milliamp for 580 hours. There are 1000 uA per mA. You can figure the approximate battery life of any setup by adding up the individual power requirements, then dividing 580,000 by this total. Here's an example:

1 - EMG-81                =  80 uA
2 - EMG-SV = 220 uA*2     = 440 uA1 - EXG                   = 410 uA
Total required            = 930 uA
Total life = 580,000 uAh / 930 uA = 623 hours
If you left your guitar plugged in day and night, the battery should still last a month. Under normal playing conditions, you would probably be looking at changing the batterytwice a year. Of course, you should treat these numbers conservatively and not try to drain every last uA out!

What happens if the battery runs out?

We were afraid you were going to ask... Because EMG pickups are designed from the ground up to operate as active pickups, they're not very functional when deprived of power. As the battery weakens over time, the output level will reduce and become more distorted. When you hear that happening, it's time to change the battery.

Below a certain voltage, the onboard active circuitry will stop working. At that point, you will hear little or no output from the guitar. Don't let this happen to you!

Other "active" systems run the output of normal high-impedance pickups into a buffer amp or active EQ circuit. If the battery goes dead in one of these systems, you can bypass the active circuit and still get some sound. That's nice, but this sort of design compromises the pickup design yielding only a few of the benefits of optimized active pickup design. That bypass switch will cost you tone and noise - a BAD tradeoff.

How do I wire my pickups up?

Complete installation instructions and hardware are included with all of our pickups, accessories, and systems. In addition to basic assembly, there are often useful customization tips which are worth checking out. If you need a new copy of the installation sheet, contact EMGTek to get a new copy.

We also have a set of our nine most common wiring diagrams available here online. This covers most basic setups, but you can contact us for assistance with any custom requirements you may have.

Our pickup wiring color code is standardized across most models for simplicity:

The EMG-89 wiring is quite a bit more complicated and is covered by it's own tech page.

Similarly, the color code for our accessory circuits looks like this:

How do I wire a coil splitter? a phase switch?

The design of EMG active pickups doesn't allow access to the individual coil outputs from the pickups. As such, it's not possible to wire coil taps or pickup phase switches in the traditional manner. We do provide a number of alternative accesories to help you simulate some of these tone mods.

To create the sound of a split coil pickup, you can either change to the EMG-89 pickup which contains both a dual-coil humbucker and single-coil pickup selectable by a switch, or you can add the EMG DMSK Dual Mode Switch Kit which lets you customize a switchable high-pass filter to create a sound reminiscent of a single-coil pickup. One advantage of using these devices are that they will retain their low-noise performance, unlike a split coil pickup which will be quite buzzy compared to the humbucker mode.

The EMG PI2 Phase Inverter actively inverts the phase of an EMG pickup giving you a true out-of-phase effect, controllable by a switch.

Can I adjust the output level of my pickups?

The pre-amp circuitry in each EMG pickup is factory preset for the optimum output level. This level was carefully determined to minimize hum and noise while maximizing a clean output signal under heavy playing and high transients, and can't be modified. Please note that a clean, high output level from the pickup into a high-gain amplifier is the BEST way to get a full, distorted tone!

If you would like to have increased output from the guitar, you can add our EMG-PA2 inline pre-amp booster which includes a trimpot that lets you adjust the output level up to +20dB(!).

EMG active pickups have higher output levels than traditional passive pickups. If you find that the output level of your EMG pickup is too hot to get clean tones, the easiest fix is to reduce the gain on your amp (if it has pre-amp/master volume controls). If that doesn't do the trick, then try turning down the volume control on your guitar. Unlike a traditional passive volume/tone system, the low-impedance EMG system lets you turn down the volume with very little effect on the tone, so you won't sound muffled when you back off the volume knob. If this is still a problem, contact EMGTek for more info on circuit mods to address your problem.

What value capacitor do you use with the volume and tone controls?

We use 0.1 micro farad capacitors for all our volume and tone control setups including guitar and bass.

Can I mix EMG's with passive pickups?

It is possible to mix EMG's with passive pickups. There are three possible wiring configurations; one is better than the other two.

Can I use EMG accessory circuits on passive pickups?

Most EMG accessories can be used directly with passive pickups. They are the

  • EMG-PA2

These EMG accessories cannot be used with passive pickups