EMG, Inc.

EMG, Inc. is the current legal name of a company based in Santa Rosa, California which manufactures guitar pickups. Founded in 1976, the company was originally called "Dirtywork Studios". The name was changed to "Overlend" in 1978 and then to the current name in 1983. However, its products have always been called EMG pickups. "EMG" stands for "Electro-Magnetic Generator".


EMG has over the years garnered a reputation as the most popular manufacturer of active pickups for electric guitars. Their pickups are standard equipment on some high-end models from guitar manufacturers such as ESP Guitars and Jackson Guitars. EMG active pickups tend to have much higher output than passive pickups of similar design because of the on-board preamp. The high output has made them popular with hard rock and heavy metal guitarists because they overdrive the input stage of guitar amplifiers more dramatically than a lower output pickup could.

In addition to pickups, EMG inc also have a line of guitar/ bass accessories, mainly for altering the guitars EQ settings, and designed to work with EMG pickups. This can be seen in companies such as Schecter, who ship almost all of their basses with EMG EQ shaping circuitry,

Players and bands who use or endorse EMG pickups include: Atreyu, Shadows Fall, Cannibal Corpse, Dethklok, Opeth, Shinedown, Black Stone Cherry, Steve Lukather, Reb Beach, Prince, Metallica, Slayer, Machine Head, Les Claypool, Zakk Wylde, Judas Priest, Deftones, Rammstein, Killswitch Engage, Trivium, Vince Gill, Slipknot, Nevermore, Nickelback, Tom Morello, David Gilmour Title Of Injustice and many others.

Active EMGs - Advantages & Disadvantages


  • Because of their incredibly high output, active EMGs are ideal choices for heavy metal and hard music in general. They have a warm and rich tone when used without distortion, being good choices for other music styles as well.
  • Their output blends extremely well with alder, maple or mahogany -- three of the most common wood types in guitar building.
  • Because it's fully shielded outside, the EMG pickup prevents dirt, dust, sweat and skin from going inside.
  • More recent models include a "Quick Connect" plug which allows the player to change pickups relatively quickly and without soldering.


  • Active EMG pickups catch the string vibrations more than passive pickups, sometimes creating excessive oscillation with open notes. This problem is particularly noticeable on guitars equipped with the Floyd Rose tremolo and/or with certain string brands such as Dean Markley Blue Steel. Active EMGs enhance the vibration created by strings, the tremolo springs and/or the metal parts working together on the guitar bridge, sometimes creating a dirtier sound. Active EMGs perform better on guitars with fixed bridges and/or with string brands that have a more linear oscillation such as Ernie Ball and D'addario. The issue is clearly shown on a YouTube video called "Ernie Ball - The Best Strings for EMG Pickups."
  • Active pickups are more expensive than their passive counterparts, and most luthiers will charge extra to install them due to the extra electronics. It's recommended to buy guitars that already come with active EMGs rather than paying for post-factory installation.
  • Because of the extremely high output, it is generally difficult to get a clear, even clean sound when using EMG pickups, because even the slightest amount of breakup in the amp will be pushed. As a result, only the cleanest of amps can get a true clean sound with EMG pickups, and even then, unless a zero-breakup tube like the 6550 is used, the small amount of breakup will lead to a dirty sound. The high output and bass presence also leads to muddiness in the sound when compared to most passive pickups.

Product Range

EMG Inc have two distinct product ranges; EMG (standard series) are the 'flagship' pickups developed and distributed by EMG as high quality, pro choice pickups. Made in the USA, these pickups are the items of choice for many musicians from Metal to Jazz genres. All are active pickups such as the 81 and the 85, except for the HZ series

The Select series (sold as 'Select, designed by EMG') is the low cost, entry level pickup version of the EMG standard series. They are similar in design to the standard series, but with less precise manufacturing, lower quality materials, and a slightly different design. All the pickups in this series are passive.

External links

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