EMG Pickups Better Suited To Mahogany Body?

Charvel1975

Active member
Currently have old EMG-81 non quick connect and a slant single coil in the neck (It's either an S or SA the logo color is worn off so can't tell which one) in my Charvel Model 5fx and they sound thin and just don't sound good in that guitar so I just got to thinking about maybe having a partscaster built once I get some funds saved up and I also have an EMG-85 as well. Are the EMG's maybe better suited for a Mahogany body guitar? I also have an 80's black Floyd Rose Original. Maybe a Hum, Single, Hum mahogany Strat or Super Strat body already routed for an original floyd and put the EMG's in it with a 5 way blade switch and either 1 or 2 volume controls and 1 tone control?
 

glpg80

Well-known member
I have an 85 in the bridge and an 81 in the neck of my mahogany neck Norlin Les Paul.

Here’s a tone sample.


I find it compliments the thick nature of mahogany and doesn’t sound thin and all treble like an 81 in the bridge can sound. I also find the neck to bridge balance is better. Technically an 85 is a higher output emg intended for the bridge, but people swap them because that’s what Zakk wylde did. I half wonder if his set was installed wrong by accident and he just ran with it that way IMO.
 

Monkey Man

Super Moderator
My take on the '89, '85 and '81:

'81
Works great on fat / warm-sounding woods such as mahogany 'cause it's the brightest and "thinnest", but not in a bad way. Rock 'n' roll all the way baby.

'85
The middle ground. Warmer than the 81, which is why IMHO it makes sense for @glpg80 to have placed it in the bridge slot and the '81 the neck.

'89
Warmest / jazziest of the 3. Do not put this in a mahogany SuperStrat if you intend to layer heavy-rhythm parts; it'll become mush.

To sum up:
They become fatter-and-duller as you move up the numbers from '81 to '89. I learned the hard way by ordering a custom guitar back in the '90s, which took 7 years to complete, with a mahogany body and '89s in HSH config. '81s would've been sensational, I learned much later when the builder, after having bought it back from me for 20% of the original cost, swapped the '89s out for '81s. You can imagine how I felt when I heard it. :doh:
 

Bash_Man

Well-known member
I have an 85 in the bridge and an 81 in the neck of my mahogany neck Norlin Les Paul.

Here’s a tone sample.


I find it compliments the thick nature of mahogany and doesn’t sound thin and all treble like an 81 in the bridge can sound. I also find the neck to bridge balance is better. Technically an 85 is a higher output emg intended for the bridge, but people swap them because that’s what Zakk wylde did. I half wonder if his set was installed wrong by accident and he just ran with it that way IMO.
THICK!
 

Detroit1973

Active member
oh i know.. as soon as I heard the clip, i started to check how much an EMG85/81 set will cost to put in my LP Classic. haha
My Biggest Complaint with the 81's(Especially the newer ones) they are super fizzy & thin sounding. They are also not as warm as the older 81's.
 

Steinmetzify

Well-known member
For me I love the 81 in a mahogany guitar, have the 81/60 set in my ESP Viper, and it slays.

Also have an 81 in a Caparison TAT-FX, which is a mahog body with a maple cap, also slays.

Buddy of mine and I had a long talk a while back about dialing amps to suit guitars, and I’ve since taken a lot (really like a LOT) of time dialing my amps to suit those guitars and those pickups.

I play a lot of different stuff but it’s primarily doom/sludge and faster Killswitch type metal, so I don’t have any complaints about the 81 at all.
 

Monkey Man

Super Moderator
For me I love the 81 in a mahogany guitar...
This is what I was trying to say.

You have to match the EMG model to the thickness & warmth of the body by "inverting it".

This is why the brightness of the '81 works well with a mahogany body and the worst combo would be the '89 / mahogany.
 

Detroit1973

Active member
This is what I was trying to say.

You have to match the EMG model to the thickness & warmth of the body by "inverting it".

This is why the brightness of the '81 works well with a mahogany body and the worst combo would be the '89 / mahogany.
The 89 was designed to be essentially a splitable version of the 85.
 

cardinal

Well-known member
IME the 81 wants to be set as close to the strings as possible without hitting them. It gets thinner sounding as it's backed off from the strings.
 

anomaly

Well-known member
I've noticed that too. did you notice a change between an older one & a newer one?
They are made with exactly the same materials they have always been made with. I've noticed no difference in the older EMG's vs newer EMG's. My fav EMG right now is actually the 57, it's kinda like a 81, but more dynamic.
 

Detroit1973

Active member
They are made with exactly the same materials they have always been made with. I've noticed no difference in the older EMG's vs newer EMG's. My fav EMG right now is actually the 57, it's kinda like a 81, but more dynamic.
I Have a 57/66 Set in my Les Paul Studio. All my Other Les Pauls have 81's.
 

Charvel1975

Active member
IME the 81 wants to be set as close to the strings as possible without hitting them. It gets thinner sounding as it's backed off from the strings.
You know what you brought up a good point about how close the 81 is to the strings 👍 I'll have to check the charvel and do I just adjust it as close as possible to the strings? I'll also get a new 9 volt battery too.
 

Charvel1975

Active member
They are made with exactly the same materials they have always been made with. I've noticed no difference in the older EMG's vs newer EMG's. My fav EMG right now is actually the 57, it's kinda like a 81, but more dynamic.
I've debated on getting the EMG-57TW to have the coil split ability for the Charvel too but don't know that much about those and the Retroactive's?
 
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