EMG 81 Vs 85 Pickup Review [Difference & Which is Better]

A guitar is meant to provide the sound that you are craving as a musician. But the responsibility of producing a robust melody is not entirely on the guitar. Rather, it is a pickup that carries the major part of the responsibility of producing the sound that the musician wants.

A buzzing sound on stage is not what the audience wants. Therefore, musicians make a great effort in finding a suitable pickup that will suit their taste and guitar as well. Among many types of pickups, the variations are significant. Between EMG 81 Vs 85, people get hugely confused. There are many reasons for this confusion.

EMG 81 Vs 85

First of all, they both are from the same manufacturer, and this leads to confusion that if both pickups come with the same feature. But as a pickup manufacturer, EMG knows how they progressed in making varieties of pickups to meet the expectation level of almost all types of musicians. But there have certainly been some other distinguishable differences between these EMG 81 and 85 pickups.

These differences might not seem so significant to you, but for real musicians, attention to detail is what they perceive. For metals, hard rock, or heavy metals, these pickups provide sounds that are beyond magical. Yet they don’t come with the same feature and provide different sounds from each other to some extent.

To give you clear data about both EMG 81 and 85, we have prepared some important segments that include a comparison overview too. So, without further ado, let us get into the next segments for better-detailed information.

Details about EMG 85 Vs 81:

Electromyography is progressing immensely in making suitable and significant tools that increase the sound status of your musical instruments. From humbuckers to pickups, the gradual progression of this manufacturer is worth mentioning. With slight diversity, this brand has made the group of music startled.

Their pickups are very controversial and EMG 81 pickups and 85 pickups are two of those types of pickups to speak the real truth. As pickups have different features and not all the pickups are proper for all types of music genres, sorting out the right one might require legit research.

Therefore, we have come forward with both EMG 81 review and EMG 85 review. So, let’s learn about them in detail.

Review of EMG 81:

There are some particular reasons for people asking for a detailed review of EMG 81 pickups. Among those reasons, the major one is that it is an active humbucker pickup that helps the guitar to produce an immensely brighter sound.

To get the highest output, you cannot simply rely on other pickups than EMG 81 pickups. EMG has featured this pickup in a way that you need to position it in the bridge. Even Zakk Wylde had announced this pickup as his one of the suitable sound-producing tools.

EMG 81 Brushed Black Chrome

This EMG 81 pickup can be easily paired with a pickup that needs to be positioned in the neck of the instrument. And for this pairing, most people chose EMG 85 pickup with it. Together they make a very twisting sound. This sound gives a grim feeling to the hard rock or metal songs.

Many famous musicians including Zakk Wylde used to make this pair to bring about their desired sound. Apart from this pairing thing with EMG 85, many people are curious to know if EMG 81 can be used in both neck and bridge positions at the same time.

The answer to the question is in fact very relieving. You can definitely use EMG 81 pickup in both neck and bridge positions and create a brighter sound than you can imagine. For experience and betterment of the sound quality, you should try out this trick at least once.

As pickups are meant to provide vibration to the strings, their duty is also to cope with these strings of the guitar as well. Some pickups might come with the problem of not coping with the strings. But brace yourself because EMG 81 pickup has no such issue and goes along with the strings of a guitar pretty well. You will find two variations of EMG 81 pickups – the 81-X and the 81TW.

Both of them are pretty efficient and slightly different from each other. Also, because it is a ceramic-made pickup, this EMG pickup helps in eliminating the buzzing sound of the primal instrument and lets the authentic brighter sound out of it.

Another fact about EMG 81 is musicians take it as a lead pickup. It is because it comes with a top-notch range of output and it carries a rail magnet too. This rail magnet helps the pickup to have immense controlling power of the sound. It also helps to provide a lot smoother way to deliver sound to the EMG 81 pickup.

Besides, to have a strengthened signal from the strings, there is no other better option than this EMG 81 pickup. Apart from its amazing feature, the consistency of the tone because of this pickup is also worth mentioning.

On top of that, it can bring distinct clarity to the sound which other ordinary pickups fail to do mostly. Also, the manufacturer avoids adding polepieces to this pickup because they are not effective and affect badly on the performance of the strings of the guitar.

Things We Liked about / Pros :

  • It comes with a brighter and cleaner sound, and it is perfectly made for the bridge position of your instrument
  • Provides the accurate output that let the strings be strengthened enough to tackle the desired expectation of the sound of hard rock music
  • Does not come with the feature of polepieces for it has a negative impact on sound quality, rather it is featured with magnet rail
  • Can hold the consistency of tone with its ceramic-made structure, and can act coolly under grim distortion

Things We Didn’t Like about / Cons :

  • The brighter sound of the pickup might seem overrated due to its continuous use

 Review of EMG 85:

If you already have a bridge pickup and badly asking for a quality neck pickup then EMG 85 neck pickup has got your back. We are mentioning and glorifying this neck pickup to some extent because it really has the tremendous feature that will leave you startled.

About EMG 85 Chrome

To get a focused and consistent tone, EMG 85 is skilled enough for this service. Besides, you will learn at a point that most people love to pair this EMG 85 neck pickup with EMG 81 bridge pickup.

However, the primal specialty of this neck pickup is that it is one of the very first pickups that is manufactured by EMG with lots of progressions. People also recognize this neck pickup by its amazing feature that is made with Alnico V magnets.  This particular feature not only introduces the sophistication of the pickup to us but also reveals the powerful performance it can provide with magnanimous strength.

For metal and hard rock, musicians have greatly stuck in the enchantment of EMG 85 pickup. Because of the magnetic feature, this neck pickup produces a grim growl that combines perfectly with metal or hard rock genres. Besides, the lead tone it provides is so smooth that you can actually play other genres with it too.

No joke, but this active humbucker guitar pickup is also tremendous in the bridge position. By alternating the position, you can notice the twisted and interesting sound of the EMG 85 pickup. It also produces a bombast tone and gets along with metal and hard rock with ease.

Though there is controversy regarding the output that this neck pickup serves, you will definitely get enough of it. However, to some extent, the output might overdrive the amplifier. Another great fact about the magnet that the neck pickup carries is that it is bar-shaped.

The significance of this shape is it works on the strings managing conformity. And thus you can get consistency and clarification in the sound. Besides, the consistency, a warm sound will also come up because of the tremendous bar-shaped feature of the magnets.

About the frequency providence ability of this neck pickup is worth mentioning. This EMG 85 pickup can offer a 2.45 kHz resonant frequency with 10k Ohms impedance of output. Many musicians fear that this range of output might not be enough for their desired level of performance.

But we would recommend you to try it because this neck pickup provides output far better range than other many ordinary pickups. Not only with EMG 81 pickup but also EMG 85 pickup has this extraordinary power to get along with other bridge pickups of EMG line.

Things We Liked about / Pros:

  • Featured with the best bar-shaped alnico magnets that help the sound quality to increase and provide conformity
  • Get a muscular, robust, and bombastic sound from this neck pickup desired for metal and hard rock genres
  • Can pair up with the other lineup of EMG pickups of the brand to enhance the work ability of the original instrument
  • A versatile pickup not only fits for metals but also can cooperate with other blue genres too

Things We Didn’t Like about / Cons:

  • pickup has a problem in mudding up during providing the vibration to the strings of the guitar

Difference Between EMG 81 Vs EMG 85: Which Pickup is Better?

Difference Between EMG 81 Vs EMG 85


Pickups always play as a gem to the guitar. But there must be a  distinct connection between your genre type and the pickup you are picking to fit your guitar.

Otherwise, things can go really wrong. There are particular pickups for particular genres. And EMG knows how to bring up the right lineup producing pickups.

EMG 81 and EMG 85 are two that types of pickups that are made in different ways to bring up different tones.

Though they sound almost the same, some dissimilarities will make them separate from each other. Also, these similarities will get you to a conclusion about which one you should pick for your guitar.

1) Sound Quality:

Seeing from the sound quality, it can be said that EMG 81 pickup is more efficient as it carries the consistency till the end. On the other hand, you will witness EMG 85 neck pickup, in the first place, which would sound so right.

But after some moment, you might not get the consistency from this pickup eventually and gradually. Musicians fall into great trouble because of this problem of the pickup. Apart from that, the muscular growl sound of the EMG 85 neck pickup provides a twist to the sound too.

2) Gaining and Output Ability:

The gaining ability of a pickup has always been a question. Musicians who look to attention to detail can relate to this aspect of the output ability of a pickup. EMG 81 bridge pickup, in this respect, does fulfill the expectation level of the musicians with its high gaining power and accurate providence of output.

Conversely, most musicians have complaints about EMG 85 neck pickup as it provides 10kOhms output impedance. They claim that this pickup does not possess as much gaining ability as EMG 81 bridge pickup can and produces extreme, unnecessary output.

3) Noise:

It is clear at this moment that EMG 81 has the sharpest sound of any other pickup. Because it mixes well with the sound, we can totally rely on this bridge pickup.

It has no problem with inconsistency and thus does not come up with muddied noise. But EMG 85 neck pickup has this serious problem of creating muddied noise. However, the measured noise of both these EMG 81 and 85 pickups is the same and it is -101dBV.

4) Battery Life: 

9 V Battery For EMG Active Pickup

The battery life of EMG 81 and 85 pickups is almost the same. You can make the EMG 81 bridge pickup run for 3000 hours straight with its 9V battery power. The same longevity we can get from EMG 85 neck pickup as it provides 3000 hours of performance with a 9V battery as well.

5) Versatility:  

About EMG 81X And EMG 81TW

It is evident from the review that EMG 81 pickup has its other two versions which are EMG 81-X and EMG 81TW. These two varieties increase the versatility and lineage of EMG 81 pickup to a great extent.

Besides, their sound quality is cleaner, brighter, and sharp and slightly varies from each other. But on the other hand, EMG 85 does not have as much versatility as EMG 81 has. But with its less versatility, you can work it out to the best.

6) Configurations:  

EMG Pickup Magnet

EMG 81 comes with ceramic-made construction. This type of construction enhances the sound quality and clarifies the tone to make it sharper.

On the other hand, we see EMG 85 as a neck pickup that is very well-configured with the alnico magnets. But this makes the pickup more bass-oriented and this is where a pickup loses its efficiency.

Finally, EMG 85 Vs 81  – Which Guitar Pickup to Choose?

From the comparison segment, it is clear that EMG 81 bridge pickup has more points while meeting the standard level of an ideal pickup. But that does not lower the individual quality of EMG 85 neck pickup.

Also, there is a chance that you can use them together on a guitar putting them both in neck and bridge positions Many musicians have loved this combo and there are pretty much chances that you will like it too.

As both EMG 81 vs 85, these pickups are made for different positions of your guitar, you can try them both individually. But if you want to have one pickup with slaying quality with no compromise, then EMG 81 should be your pickup. This pickup is considered legit good.


Question: What is the difference between EMG 81 Vs 81x?  

Answer: EMG 81X is one of the variations of EMG 81 itself. Still, there is a difference between these two bridge pickups. While EMG 81 produces a little bit of compressed sound,

EMG 81X excels in producing brighter sound than the former one. The tone difference between these two is evident as well.

Question: What does EMG pickup stand for?

Answer: EMG has a significant elaboration and that is Electro-Magnetic Generator.

With the popularity of guitars, EMG pickups also started to get huge attention and today it is recognized as one of the most successful providers of pickups for rock and metal musicians in America mostly.

Question: What is the output of EMG 81?

Answer: With the less low end, EMG 81 provides 10k Ohm output impedance. This same feature is also in EMG 85 active humbucker neck pickup.

Final Words:

By reading this article on EMG 81 Vs 85 Guitar Pickup Review, hopefully, now you know which guitar pickup is best for what purposes. Try to draw compatibility between your guitar type and music genre and then look for the best guitar pickups for them.

Last Updated on December 12, 2022 by Perry Garner

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