General Questions +

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

An active pickup is one that uses electronics to improve your sound and the overall performance of your instrument. EMG pickups utilize an internal preamp, which makes our pickups louder, more responsive, and reduces unwanted noise.

What are the advantages of an EMG pickup?

The greatest advantage to using EMG pickups is the reduction in noise. No longer will bad power, dimming house lights, neon signs... cause your guitar to buzz incessantly. You can use an extra long cable runs, wireless systems, pedals... all without the loss of treble or your overall tone. You’ll get your sound consistently every time.

Why use an internal preamp?

An internal preamp is the most efficient way to make an active pickup. All the coil connections are shielded, the preamp is shielded, and the output directly from the pickup is low-impedance, making it less susceptible to noise and outside interference.

Why use EMG solderless systems?

By changing all of our wiring to solderless, EMG has eliminated the hassle of replacing, upgrading or swapping out your pickups and accessories. Once you've converted to EMG's solderless quick connect cables, switches, and pots; changing components on the fly is fast, easy, and sounds consistently great. No more cold solder joints.

Can I split the coils in my EMG active humbuckers?

No. However, the EMG 89, 89R, and TW pickups offer true dual coil (split) sounds utilizing separate coils and preamps for the humbucker and the single coil. This is very unique to EMG and makes our dual-coil pickups produce accurate humbucker and single coil tones from one pickup.

Can I change the covers on my EMG pickups?

No. Once the epoxy in the pickup is cured, the pickup covers cannot be removed without damaging the pickup.

My pickups aren't working properly. Can EMG help me?

Yes. We have many wiring diagrams on our website and have techs available during business hours (Monday - Friday, 9:00 -5:00 PST). They can be reached at tech@emgpickups.com

Which pickups go in the neck and bridge positions?

Traditionally, guitar players have put the 85 or 60 in the neck position, and the 81 in the bridge. However, many prefer the pickups swapped in the other positions. Most all EMGs are not position specific and we recommend experimenting to find your tone. With our solderless system, it's easy to swap pickups around.

What kind of wood screws should I use if I'm direct mounting the pickups to the instrument body?

Products designed for mounting to pickguards or pickup rings do not come with wood screws, we suggest using the screws that came with the instrument to prevent damaging or stripping the threads. Pickups that are designed to mount directly into the instrument come with a #4 Wood Screw, length = 1 & 1/4".

Pickup Questions +

How can I tell which pickup I have?

You can tell the specific model of your pickup by the color of the EMG logo. A gold logo means the pickup uses Alnico magnets, silver means ceramic magnets, grey for ceramic and steel, and copper means it's a dual mode 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 are listed on the spec sheets available on their product pages online under 'info'.

Can two EMG 89 pickups be wired to a single push/pull switch?

No. Each EMG 89 requires its own push/pull pot or mini toggle to switch between single coil and humbucking modes. Our push/pull pots can be wired as a volume or tone control. So, a guitar with two 89 pickups can have a master volume and a master tone control.

Should there be a volume difference between between the two modes of my EMG 89?

Yes. To give you accurate single coil and humbucker sounds, you will hear a difference in gain/volume between the two modes of the EMG 89. Its design reflects the fact that a single-coil pickup generally has less output.

Can I use the stock output jack on my guitar with EMG pickups?

Not with our active pickups. EMG active pickups require a stereo output jack to turn the battery off when the guitar is unplugged, saving your battery. Most guitars and basses come with a mono output jack, which will work just fine with our passive (HZ) pickups.

Acoustic Questions +

Can I adjust the volume of individual strings with my ACS acoustic pickup?

You can raise or lower the individual pole pieces of the ACS to fine tune you string balance. Players often need to lower the B string pole piece or remove the pole all together in order to get a proper balance.

How can I reduce feedback on my ACB banjo pickup?

Your ACB banjo pickup comes with plastic pieces that act as an acoustic plug. Place the plug between the two pickup coils to reduce feedback as shown here in diagram 9.

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.

Battery Questions +

Do EMG pickups need a battery?

All of our active guitar and bass pickups and accessories require a 9 volt battery. Any EMG passive or HZ pickup does not.

What kind of battery do EMGs need?

EMG active pickups and EQs are powered from a standard 9 volt (IEC 6LR61/ NEDA 1604A) battery. We recommend alkaline or lithium batteries 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.

Where is the battery located?

If your guitar came with EMG pickups as standard equipment, you may have a battery cavity with its own cover. In most cases, the battery is located in the main control cavity, which is usually accessible by removing a cover plate from the back of the instrument. Stratocaster-type guitars often have the battery located under the pickguard.

Can multiple pickups/EQs run off a single battery?

All EMG pickups and active accessories in your instrument can run off of a single 9 volt battery.

Can I use multiple batteries?

If you have room for multiple batteries in your guitar, you can use two 9v batteries wired in series to run your pickups at 18 volts. The output level will not improve significantly, 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.

How long does the battery last?

A typical EMG equiped guitar or bass will get up to 1,000 hours of battery life. All EMG pickups and EQ systems are designed for extremely low current drain. Additionally, the stereo output jack included with our active pickups has a switch that disconnects the battery when your guitar is unplugged. To maximize battery life, you should always unplug your instrument when it's not in use.

If you left your guitar plugged in day and night, the battery should still last about a month. In typical playing situations (gigging and rehearsing), you'll want to change the battery once or twice a year. It's a good idea to change the battery before you go on tour or record an album.

What happens if the battery runs out?

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 active circuitry will stop working. At that point, you will hear little or no output from the guitar.

Wiring Questions +

How do I wire my pickups up?

EMG's solderless wiring makes installation easier than ever. All EMG pots, cables, pickups, accessories and output jacks are plug and play - no soldering needed. Complete installation instructions and hardware are included with all of our active pickups and accessories.

Our 'Top 10 Wiring Diagrams' online provides the most common EMG wiring diagrams for guitar and bass. For additional questions or support, email tech@emgpickups.com.

Our pickup wiring color code is standardized across most models:
White = Signal Output
Metal braid = both signal & power Ground
Red = Power feed (+9V) to the active electronics

The EMG 89 and TW wiring color code looks like this:
White = Signal Input
Green = Signal Output
Red = Power feed
Black = signal and power Ground

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 get a split coil sound out of a humbucker we recommend the EMG 89, which contains both a humbucker and single-coil in one pickup switched via an included push/pull pot.

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?

EMG active pickups have higher output levels than traditional passive pickups. If you find that the output level of your EMG is too hot to get clean tones, you may want to lower your pickup. EMGs are very sensitive to string height. You can adjust the overall output and tone of your guitar by raising and lowering your pickup. If that doesn’t do the trick, you may need to adjust the gain on your amp or try turning down the volume control on your guitar. Unlike a traditional passive volume/tone system, the low-impedance of an EMG lets you turn down the volume with very little effect on your overall tone and virtually no high end loss.

What value capacitor do you use on your tone control pots?

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 active EMG’s with passive pickups. However, we don't recommend it.

Passive pickups traditionally use 250K/500K volume and tone pots. These pots will act like a switch with EMG’s, turning them on and off rather than up and down. If you have a guitar with two pickups and two volume pots, you can use the provided 25K pots for the EMG, and a 250K/500K pot for the passive pickup. This will allow you to use either pickup. However, in the middle position the passive pickup will have reduced gain and response; and the passive pickup by itself will have far less output than the active one. You can use our low-impedance (25K) volume and tone controls provided with the EMG’s on a passive pickup. But the passive pickups will then suffer a reduction in gain and loss of high end response, sounding muffled.

The best alternative would be to install a buffer (impedance converter) on the passive pickup like the EMG PA-2 and use our 25k pots. A trim pot on the PA-2, allows you to adjust the output of the passive pickups to match your EMG’s for a more balanced volume between the two. For this application, you can order the PA-2 without the switch for easy installation on the inside of a guitar.

Can I use EMG accessory circuits on passive pickups?

You can use any EMG active accessory with any passive pickups.


EMG's are easy to install. Each pickup features EMG's own Quik-Connect™ header and mating cable for quick installation. Included with each pickup are pre-wired volume and tone controls, battery clip, output jack, and diagrams. All models are designed for direct replacement into most standard instruments. There are instances where "direct" replacement isn't possible, but a minimum of work should be required.


There is no other pickup built as well as an EMG. The coils are precision wound, matched both resistively and inductively, and finally, vacuum sealed. All internal preamplifiers are Surface Mount Technology (SMT) for quality and reliability. Each pickup is tested for audio quality and reliability before encapsulation and again before shipment.


The first choice in design is the string interface. The selection of a bar magnet or individual pole pieces is also an important one. All initial EMG designs use a bar magnet for two reasons - Pole pieces place too much magnetism under the strings and cause the lower ones (primarily low E, A, and D) to go "out of pitch" with a Doppler effect. This is especially true of the Fender Stratocaster™ where 3 poles under each of the strings push and pull them through a variety of unnatural movements. Poles can also make intonation and tuning difficult. On the other hand, pole pieces have the benefit of a percussive attack giving the pickup much more of a "plucky" sound. Designs featuring a bar magnet have a much more linear (balanced) output from string to string. Its attack is less pronounced than the pole piece design resulting in smoother distortion, and much better sustain. String bending is smoother because the output doesn't fade when you bend strings. By relying on the internal preamp for gain the bar magnet can also be smaller, further limiting the magnetic "pull" on the strings. And, the continuous magnetic field of the bar allows for any string spacing. Perfect for any multi stringed instrument, and the less conventional instrument.

Most EMG Pickups use a magnetic bar. Single coil pickups are available in both bar and pole-piece designs. There are fewer negative attributes to the bar and it's preferable, but if you like pole-pieces for your playing style then there is an EMG model for you.

Magnets +

It's not really necessary for a pickup to have a magnet at all, but it helps. The magnet acts as the juice for the signal flow. The shape and type of magnet used in each EMG Pickup is different. Ceramic magnets don't affect the inductance of the coil but have a much stronger magnetic field. Alnico material exhibits less magnetism yet greatly increases the inductance of the EMG design. Each has an affect on the resultant output and frequency response of the pickup. The addition of steel poles (either bar or screw/stud) increase the inductance of the pickup design and further change the results.


Tall and skinny, short and squat, long and wide, every EMG Pickup has two and they are the basis of each EMG. There are different types and sizes of magnet wire that can be used, combining their attributes with the shape of the coil has a tremendous affect on the tone. A long, skinny coil will have more resistance yielding less low frequency response, while a short, squat coil will have less resistance, and more inductance.

It's a balancing act to achieve the style of tone you want. In all cases, EMG Pickups have two coils. This is necessary for noise reduction, while providing the vehicle for the distinctive EMG tone. Coils are sometimes placed side by side, or stacked, but in both cases each coil is treated independently by the preamp. Instead of having the coils in series or parallel with a single output, they are electronically summed so their attributes can be controlled individually.


The preamplifier used inside each EMG Pickup is no ordinary preamp. Built directly into each pickup, the preamp is an integral part of the pickup design assuring quality of sound performance, incredible noise reduction, and simplicity in installation. It provides a variety of benefits for us as the designer and for you as the player. A natural by-product of the preamp is gain. It allows us to design a pickup for its particular tone without concern for the pickup's output. After the coils have been modeled, any amount of output needed is available from the preamp.

Tone Modeling +

One of the most important aspects governing the tone of a pickup is the resonant frequency. EMG Pickups use "Impedance Modeling" to manipulate the two coils. This innovation allows us to shape a mix of the reactive slope and resonance from each of the two coils. The idea is to achieve a complex mixture of each coils phase and frequency response resulting in a richer tone from the pickup. This means the sound is vibrantly alive with more harmonics than from conventional passive pickups. EMG Pickups like the EMG-S, EMG-SA, and the EMG-60 use this technique to its fullest, while the EMG-81 uses modeling in only a small way. Modeling might work well for a single coil pickup, but not for a design such as the EMG-ACS Acoustic Sound Hole Pickup. As each pickup design is approached differently, it all depends on the final result we're searching for.


Another benefit from the internal preamp is noise reduction. By integrating the preamp into the housing, all the elements of the pickup can be shielded. By matching the coils to a high degree, the low frequency hum and buzz are virtually eliminated. In addition, each EMG is housed in a composite cover cap that eliminates all other forms of interference. Most EMG Models have noise figures of better than -85dB, still other EMG Pickups achieve a noise figure that exceeds -100dB. All the internal components are fully vacuum-sealed and encapsulated in epoxy to prevent microphonic noise and to increase long-term reliability.


The low impedance output of the EMG internal preamp provides other great features. You can run a cable for up to 100 feet (30 meters) without losing high frequency response. You'll also be able to get the same tone with a wireless unit as you do with a cable. The tone of your instrument will remain consistent when you change the volume control as well. Not only can you plug directly into your favorite amp, you can go direct to tape preamp (especially for acoustic guitar recording) or direct to a mixing console input without a direct box. You can plug into any portable cassette recorder, or even your home stereo auxiliary input, and play your instrument with incredible results.


An instrument equipped with EMG Pickups requires power from a single 9 Volt battery. With two EMG Pickups installed, your instrument draws about 160 microamps of current. Even if you play eight hours a day, this small amount of current drain means that a battery will last up to a year. A single 9 Volt battery will power as many EMG Pickups and Accessory Circuits as you can fit in your guitar. Power to the pickups is turned off by unplugging the guitar cable from your instrument.



EMG has a history of making passive pickups that dates back to 1984 when we made passive pickups for the Steinberger G Series instruments. In addition, we have made the Select Series Pickups in Korea since 1985.

EMG has always been known as the "Active" Pickup company, so it was a tough decision to design and promote a passive pickup line. Music is created using tools and not everyone uses the same tools. Some players use a Strat, some a Les Paul. We still think the Active pickup is the best, but there are players out there who don't like our active pickups for one reason or another. In a manner of speaking, EMG is in the tool business, so why not supply some different tools to players?

After 25 years of creating pickups, we've learned quite a bit about what works and what doesn't. So, we've created the HZ Line and included features that other companies don't.


Just like EMG's Active Pickups the coil is the most important factor in a pickups construction. The balancing act of short and squat, tall and skinny, what style and amount of wire make all the difference. Overall, the coil in an EMG-HZ pickup is larger than that of an active pickup. The surface area under the strings is larger, yielding more output when combined with magnetism and steel. Humbucking models use side by side coils, while single coil models S1,S2,and S3 use stacked coils. The S4 on the other hand has side by side coils.

Magnetic DESIGN

The EMG-HZ Pickups use a variety of magnetic materials and in their construction. Alnico Magnets of two types (II and V), are used to increase the inductance of a pickup as well as add a mellower attack and longer sustain. Ceramic magnets are used to add even more output and give the pickup a more pronounced attack. Both pole piece models for a more percussive attack and bar magnet models with their linear response are available throughout the EMG-HZ Line. Steel, either as pole pieces are bars is also a major addition in passive pickup design, it allows the magnetic field to be directed to the strings while also adding inductance and output to the pickup.


Just by looking at EMG-HZ Pickups you can see they're made differently than any other passive pickup. Under EMG's distinctive cover cap, each HZ Pickup is fully shielded, and coils are vacuum sealed and then encapsulated preventing microphonics. In fact, EMG's HZ Pickups are probably the quietest passive pickup available. Models featuring either pole piece or bar magnet design are available and each with a variety of coil designs. Also, each EMG-HZ Pickup features EMG's exclusive 5-pin Quik Connector cable for easy pickup installation or exchange. By including all of these features and then adding over 25 years of EMG Active Pickup design, passive pickups can't get any better.


EMG-HZ Pickups are designed to be direct replacements for existing pickups. They will use the existing passive control set and switching, so there is no need to change the controls or switching. 500K Ohm controls are recommended for dual-coil models while 250K Ohm controls are recommended for single coil pickups. Guitars already fitted with Active EMG's will require the controls to be changed to these higher values. The 5 pin connector allows you to wire the guitar before installing the pickup, and lets you change pickups anytime you want easily, without soldering. A variety of installation diagrams are included with each pickup, so if you want to try something different, you can.