EMG 81 Vs 81X Pickup [Difference & Which is Better]

It’s no surprise that the EMG 81 and 81X pickups are two of the most popular and sought-after pickups in the market; they have been proven to generate a powerful and clear sound with great sustain. We will overlook the differences between the EMG 81 Vs 81X pickups, their sound qualities, and the best choice for a particular playing style and needs.

We will explore the difference between both pickups so that a well-informed decision can be made when selecting the ideal pickup for an instrument. With this information, one will be able to more accurately differentiate between the pickups & make a sound decision about which is the best for their needs.

EMG 81 Vs 81x

Comparison Table:

Features –EMG 81EMG 81X
Magnet Type:Ceramic Alnico V
Output Type:PassiveActive
Design:HumbuckerActive Humbucker
Tone:Rich, warm midrange and plenty of crunchesTight, aggressive attack and extreme output level
Gain:High outputReduced
Price:Fairly ExpensiveMost Expensive of the Two

The Details About of EMG 81 Pickup –

The EMG 81 pickup is a popular choice among rock & metal musicians. It is an active pickup with a high output level, resulting in a notably invasive sound. Featuring an Alnico V magnet, two-conductor wiring & ceramic construction, this pickup is renowned for its clarity & bite, often used in a bridge position for a bright, cutting tone.

It is versatile, lending itself to a variety of musical genres. The EMG 81 pickup is ideal for anyone seeking a powerful sound.

The Details of EMG 81X Pickup –

The EMG 81X is a modern version of the famous EMG 81 pickup, designed for maximum output and clarity. This pickup incorporates a ceramic bar magnet, re-voiced coils, and a newly-designed preamp that offers more headroom & punchier lows while preserving excellent high-end clarity and articulation. As a result, it provides a more robust and articulate tone which is perfect for rock, metal, & fusion.

The 81X has a tighter and more focused sound than the EMG 81, with a more noticeable attack. It also has increased output, making it suitable for high-gain playing styles. With its versatility & powerful sound, the 81X is an ideal choice for heavier styles of music.

Difference Between EMG 81 Vs 81X Pickup:

1) Sound Quality –

It comes down to sound quality in the end. The EMG 81 and 81X pickups have different tones, so you should consider which one suits your playing style best. The EMG 81 has a more vintage sound with a slightly rounded attack, while the 81X offers a more modern sound with a brighter attack.

Both pickups deliver a tight, focused sound with excellent clarity & punch, but the 81X has a bit more output and is better suited for heavy metal and other high-gain styles.

2) Gaining and Output Ability –

The EMG 81 pickup is well-known for its high output and ability to provide a robust and aggressive tone. Conversely, the EMG 81X pickup has a slightly lower output, characteristically producing a smoother, warmer sound. Both pickups offer good gain, though the EMG 81 provides a bit more.

Depending on the desired sound, the EMG 81 is the optimal choice for those seeking a powerful & aggressive tone, while the EMG 81X is best suited for those looking for a more balanced and mellow sound.

3) Noise –

The EMG 81 and the 81X have distinct differences in terms of noise levels. The EMG 81 has a higher output, resulting in a slightly higher noise level than the 81X. Still, this level is much lower than traditional pickups & making it a desirable option for those looking for an active pickup with low noise levels.

The 81X produces a slight amount of noise, which is typically unnoticeable and should be fine when performing live.

4) Configurations –

Configurations EMG 81 Pickup

They are dual-coil active humbucker pickups, meaning each one has two coils powered by a battery. The 81X offers more versatility as it has an EXG Expander switch, which allows you to adjust the gain and tone of the pickup to your preference.

The 81X also has a slightly higher output than the 81 & making it a better choice for those who need a powerful sound.

5) Battery Life –

The 81X utilizes the latest battery technology to provide up to five times more battery life than the 81. While the 81 will offer around 300 hours of battery life & the 81X can provide up to 1500 hours of battery life.

This makes the 81X the perfect choice for musicians who want the convenience of a battery-powered pickup without having to worry about changing out the battery frequently.

6) Versatility –

The 81X is more versatile in terms of tone. It has an extended frequency range that allows for more tonal options. Its humbucking mode delivers a more natural, organic sound than the 81, and its single-coil mode offers a bright, articulate tone that is great for funk, jazz & country music.

The 81X has a switchable active/passive mode, giving you even more sound flexibility.

7) Price –

The price of EMG 81 and 81X pickups is the same, which is excellent if you’re on a budget. Both pickups are top-notch, and you will be satisfied with them regardless of your choice.

Of course, you can always find less expensive pickups on the market, but you will get a different level of quality than you would from an EMG pickup.

So, Which Should I Choose?

Both pickups are famous for their clear and powerful tones. The 81 is a classic, passive humbucker pickup with a ceramic magnet, while the 81X is a passive humbucker with an Alnico V magnet. The 81X has a hotter output and a slightly brighter sound, while the 81 has a more balanced sound & a warm, vintage tone.

EMG 81 vs 81X are both great pickups to consider for your guitar. While they both have the same design, they differ in sound & output significantly. The 81 is great for metal and other classic sounds. The 81X is more versatile and can fit into various genres, such as country and blues. The choice between the two pickups comes from personal preference and the sound you want.

FAQs –

Question 1: Is EMG-81 active or passive?

Answer: EMG-81 is an active pickup.

Question 2: What is the difference between EMG pickups 81 and 85?

Answer: EMG pickups 81 and 85 feature Alnico V magnets designed for high-output lead playing. The difference between the two pickups is that the 81 is tuned for higher treble response and is typically used for the bridge position. In contrast, the 85 is tuned for slightly lower output and is generally used for the neck position.

Question 3: What is the difference between EMG 60x and 85x?

Answer: EMG 60x pickups have lower resistance and are brighter-sounding pickups that are best suited for the neck position, while EMG 85x pickups have higher resistance and are warmer-sounding pickups that are best suited for the bridge position.

Last Updated on March 31, 2023 by Perry Garner

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