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EMG EMG-ZW Zakk Wylde 81/85 Humbucker Set

Sound Quality

Wide open sound with heavy rhythm playing, can clean up beautifully with the volume knob on the guitar. Solos are juicy with a good mid bite, but not as boomy or chunky/wooden as some other pickups, and I like that because I need to hear some flesh in my fingering (guitarists will get that one.) Balanced volume between both pickups; makes you wanna use the selector switch. I disagree with other reviewers who say all guitars with ZW EMG's sound the same. I use mostly the same exact equipment as Mr. Wylde, and my guitar sounds nothing like his when I play it. I will also assume HIS guitar will sound nothing like his if I played it, as your sound is mostly in your fingers. Develop it with that in mind and no equipment will make you sound like anyone else but you. My amp of choice- mid 80's Marshall JCM800 single channel half stack, 100 watts. Guitar straight into the amp for rhythm, using the guitar's volume and tone knobs to affect the sound for different songs (something of a lost art in today's "bridge pickup on 10" society.) With the 800's gain maxed and the master volume hovering around 4 or 5, I am louder than the drummer. The EMG pickups sound fine straight into the amp-- very good clarity, way better than a few other brands I have tried, and alot better than the stock Gibson pickups (i have stocks in my other Les Paul.) If you want AC/DC, you got it. If you want Cannibal Corpse, you don't without a distortion pedal. For solos, I use a Boss DS-1 distortion and DD-3 delay for a bit of sustain and ambience, using the tone knob on the DS-1 to round out the sound. I know, I read the reviews of the DS-1 and lotsa kids say it sucks or it's too tinny or whatever. These kids most likely never bend down and move the knobs away from "10," or they are playing this pedal straight into an M-Box or something. For my setup, and for the loud, bluesy rock and roll music I play, there is no need for a $400 wonder-pedal because in the loud ******' NYC dive bars i usually play, you'll never hear those heavenly harmonics that guitarists rave about anyway. Plus, using **** that you can get at any Banjo-Mart if you need a replacement just makes things easier on tour. Bottom line, adjust your settings on the cheapy pedals, they might not be as bad as you think-- and use a good tube amp (obviously.) I also use a crybaby wah.


General Comments

Playing 25 years, have only really had Gibson Les Pauls and Fender Strats, and have no interest in trying anything else, guitarwise. Call me a snob, but I just love the old classic rock sound, and it was all mostly played on one of these two guitars. This is my sound, not searching at all anymore (though sometimes I love to also play my Fender Strat thru a Twin Reverb, totally different sound but just as exciting to me as well-- but that's for another review.)


The 81/85 EMG pickup set (branded as the ZW set, but existing before Zakk's name was on it) lets me re-create any sound I want, from AC/DC to Skynyrd to Kill 'Em All era Metallica, and the combo of the Les Paul with EMG's and the 100 watt Marshall is my dream tone. No pedals necessary except for a bit more sustain and ambience during some soloing. Soloing without the DS-1, by the way, sounds great too, and i do not hear this sterility that other reviewers seem to get. I am getting a wide open sound that {censored}in grooves. Total 70's rock if ya want it, and metal as well if ya want that too.


One thing I did do, and have done since i bought these in the late 80's, was the two-battery mod. I believe EMG has the directions and explanation right on their site. Maybe this accounts for the success i am having with these pickups when other people hear them differently in their guitars? Its something easy and good to try.


These pickups are cheap too, compared to some 300 to 600 dollar sets on the market. I would buy again if lost.

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