EMG X Series Pick-ups Review by Tony Pasko

This month I have the great pleasure of reviewing the new X Series pick-ups by EMG. I have a long history with this company. I bought my first EMG pick-up in 1988 and installed it in my red Charvel Model 1: 80’s flash back….. I have contributed songs for both EMG’s compilation CDs and have been an endorsee since 2000.

There is a reason I stay with EMG and why I chose them in the first place: They just make a GREAT pick-up. That’s it hands down!!!!!! They are good at what they do. I have NEVER had a problem with any EMG pick-up I have ever owned, and I have been all over the world with them.

EMG is a company that is always looking forward. They were making active pick-ups when nobody else was, and now they are the bench mark, but they didn’t stop there. They came up with tone controls so you can tweak the pick-ups, mid boosts, Presents controls, boost and cut EQ capabilities, etc… Then they came up with the quick connect system. This way you didn’t have to solder the pick-ups if you wanted to change them out. VERY COOL!!!!!

The quick connect system has now come full circle with the X Series Solderless system. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that EMG has built a better mousetrap. They will be the bench mark on how guitars are wired. I can see guitar manufacturers jumping on this big time…… A quick easy way to interchange your pick-ups and electronics… Finally!!!!

If you have never bought a set of EMG pick-ups, let me fill you in on what you’ve been missing. The box is full color and your pick-ups are encased in foam, and individually wrapped in plastic. When you remove the pick-ups, you will find a pre-wired assembly with the volume and tone pots pre-wired and ready to go. Usually all you have to do is solder the out-put jack, to the battery, the pick-ups to the switch and you’re done. If that’s not your cup of tea, they even have pre-wired pickguards that you can buy. I’ve been a huge fan of DG system for years.


Anyways EMG sent me the classic combo of the 81’X and 85’X with the pre-wired assembly. I installed them in an old frankenstrat that I have had for years. I’m pretty familiar with the tone I usually get from this guitar. The pickguard is a typical strat pickguard with two humbuckers routed in it.

The pre-wired assembly was a single volume and a single tone set-up, and the schematic suggested that I use a toggle switch instead of a blade switch. I had one on hand and routed the middle tone hole a bit bigger and fit it in, following the volume and tone pot assembly. Keep in mind this took me about 10 minutes. I then installed the out-put jack and ran the wires through the body to the pick-up cavity.

This is the coolest part of what EMG did, they have this circuit board assembly thing that I’ll call the “Mothership” it’s where everything connects to, the Pick-ups, the pots, the battery, and the out-put jack. They all run into this hub and then run out to their separate connections. The “Mothership” comes out fitted with two sided Velcro and attaches to the pickguard.

Wiring the switch was pretty easy with the solderless connecters and the only soldering I had to do was the ground wire on the switch. (That was the only soldering it required)

I then installed the pick-ups, connected them to the “Mothership” connected the output jack to the volume and the rest of the assembly, plugged in my 9V battery, and then I was ready to test to see if I had a signal. I plugged the guitar into my amp, and tapped on the pick-ups. Guess what? I had a signal, and everything was working great.

I assembled the rest of the guitar, and I was off and running. I have a few guitars with EMG pick-ups in them and I wanted to compare if the tone is different because of the solderless connections.

Other than the tonal difference in the guitars themselves, the new X Series is 100% EMG. Like I said before they sent me the 81’ and 85’ set-up, that’s the same combo that Zakk Wylde uses and who is going to argue with Zakk?

The whole installation took about a ½ hour, and that’s pretty sweet. The schematic was very easy to read and it’s laid out very well. It’s written so no matter what your tech skill level is, you will be able to get through it.

If you are shy about trying out new pick-ups because you are not good at soldering or you have never wired pick-ups before? I feel your frustration, changing pick-ups is a pain in the butt; it’s time consuming, and a hassle.

Now you have no excuse to try EMGs. They have made it so easy and you’re not sacrificing any tone. I do want to add that the parts EMG uses is 9 times out of 10 better quality than what comes in your guitar out of the factory, especially if your guitar is made over seas.

The only suggestions I have are to leave some of the connection wires longer and add a couple of extra wires for additional switch options.

The X Series pick-ups retail for:

EMG 81X, 85X, 60X: $149.99
EMG SAX, SX: $119.99
EMG JX Set, PJX Set: $229.99
EMG PX: $139.99
This is what we as a community of guitar players have been waiting for, interchangeable pick-ups and easy installation. EMG makes many different types of pick-ups from vintage to modern, whatever your tastes are EMG has the pick-up and now the solution. Trust me EMG is the pick-up your guitar wants, and you can get EMGs just about anywhere.

For more information go to: www.emgpickups.com


Tony J. Pasko

For more of Tony's insight and for some great tips on how to use your gear check out GEAR411 at Rock House Method GEAR411

Readers may also be interested in reading an interview with Rob Turner the owner of EMG, Inc. that was done for The Rock House Blog here..... Conversations with EMG Pickup Owner Rob Turner - A RHB Exclusive Interview


Anonymous said...

I love EMG's and was in great anticipation of the release of these pickups, the EMG site touts them as being more organic but this review didn't really expand on the tonal qualities aside from saying that they are 100% EMG. It sounds like you are paying 10 to 20 bucks more for the solderless system and 'mothership' setup and not necesserily for a more organic sounding active EMG. And that's ok, I can live with that, it looks like a pretty innovative user friendly assembly. I guess I was just expecting a new 'flavor' if you will, from one of the greatest pickup manufacturers in the world.

Stormy Maverick said...

Thanks for the review, Tony! Sounds like EMG has really taken pickup installation to the next level.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's really kewl that you don't have to solder them. We get it. It's great. So uhhh, how do they SOUND? How do they COMPARE? Both to regular EMG's and SD Blackouts?

Anonymous said...

yeah we all know its easy to install what we want to know is the sound compared to the old 81 85's

sarge1875 said...

@ Anon

From Tony P:


They sound the same. If they didn't, I would have said so. EMG didn't change the tone of their pick-ups they changed the way you install them and cut down on install error.


Tony J. Pasko

Jumble said...

I don't mean to burst your bubble or anything mate, but the "X" doesn't actually signify solderless installation. In fact, they're going to bring that in across the whole range.

The "X" series *are* meant to sound different. EMG say that the new preamp "provides increased headroom, giving the voicing an organic and open tone while still maintaining the clarity and response that EMG’s are renowned for."

So if it does sound exactly the same, then we're all going to be a bit disappointed. Perhaps you could go back and listen again and see if it does sound different?

Oh, and perhaps you could be a bit less patronising to people who ask questions on your blog, especially given that you turned out to be wrong.

Anonymous said...

how come theres a pickup selector featured in the illustrated picture..
but not in the emgs website?

Anonymous said...

how come theres a pickup selector featured in the illustrated picture..
but not in the emgs website?

Sarge said...

I have no idea Annon