While EMG has gained a reputation for its low impedance line of active pickups, the company also has a history of producing passive pickups. This began in 1984, when for a period of two years, EMG started to make high impedance units for the Steinberger G Series. In 1985, the Californian company also started to produce its own Select passive pickup line, under license, in Korea. However, in 2000, EMG decided it would produce an American hand-built line of High-Z pickups for the ESP Guitar Company, an arrangement that exists to this day. In addition, EMG also now produces high impedance units for Spector, Jackson, Schecter, Fernandes, and a number of other companies. Having ramped up US production of these models to a sufficient level, it was only a matter of time before EMG began to produce its High-Z line for over-the-counter sales worldwide. Why did it take so long?
"I wanted to be sure we were going in the right direction, developing products players wanted to buy," explains EMG President, Rob Turner. "And the feedback we got from ESP and Jackson suggested we did get it right. You only have to look at ESP's success in the market with High-Z EMG loaded guitars to realise this. We were getting a lot of phone calls from players who wanted to buy High-Z pickups from us after playing an ESP or Jackson guitar.
"If you go back to when EMG's initially appeared on the Steinberger basses, those instruments were expensive. The result was that some players began installing our pickups in instruments they already had, instead of laying out a thousand dollars or more for instruments they didn't want. And much the same thing has happened with ESP. Not everyone wants a new guitar.
"Certainly, after trying to convince the guitar playing public to try an active pickup for so long, it seemed an odd decision to come out with a passive pickup line. But, you have to bear in mind that music is created with tools, and not everybody is happy using the same tools. Some players demand a Stratocaster, others a Les Paul. Similarly some players will always choose active, whereas others will insist upon using passive. Since after 25 years of creating pickups, we've learnt a significant amount about what works and what doesn't, and bearing in mind EMG is in the business of supplying tools, why shouldn't we put to use what we've learned, and develop a completely different set of tools for a different audience? Besides, there are a lot of players out there who'll always shy away from putting a battery in their guitar or bass. I guess it just seems alien to them."
All models in the brand new EMG HZ Line, which the company describes as traditional in design, are hum cancelling. Including all single coil units. While the dual-coil models come in classically wound or over-wound options, both are available in Alnico and ceramic magnet versions. Not only are all pickups in the range fully shielded, all feature EMG's exclusive 5-pin quik-connect system. In addition, each model featuring pole pieces also includes an extra set of poles, enabling users to change the look of the pickup if desired.
"By adding the quik-connect system," reveals Turner, "I thought we could get players to try different pickups in our new HZ Line. I can even envisage players executing some neat swaps with other players who've bought our HZ Line.
"What kind of musician is the new passive line aimed at? We initially set our sights on the heavy metal player," acknowledges Turner. "This came about because of our involvement with ESP and Jackson during the early stages of development. But, while these particular guitars were equipped with specific models, the new HZ Line comprises 19 different humbucking models with 6 of those dedicated to Floyd Rose players. On top of that, we have another 4 pickups for single coil instruments and a pair of P-90 models too. Due to the massive variety of tones that will be available from the HZ Line, I would imagine we'll appeal to players of tremendously varying styles. And no, we haven't forgotten 4-sting players either," adds Turner, reassuringly. "The bass line already consists of soap bar models and we're planning to add more as time goes by. We'll also be introducing accessory circuits for the HZ Line, similar to the ones we produce for our active line. These will include boosters, plus equalisers for guitar and bass, and plenty more to follow."