EMG 81/85 vs. Seymour Duncan Blackouts


Make sure to watch the video FIRST … Then VOTE!

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  1. David says:

    I thought that while having some similar characteristics, the EMG was a superior sound. Clean tone: both were full and reasonably good dynamic response, the EMG had beter clarity and better response for higher frequencies. I can always dial them back for warmer tones, but if they aren’t there to start with I can’t use them when I need them. On the distorted tones I thought the EMG was better at picking up frequencies across the entire spectrum, and more dynamic in bringing out different attack characteristics. Again, I can always dial back a biting and crisp attack, or bring up certain frequencies for warmer tones, but if I am playing a faster and more staccato metal riff I may need that razor shatp attack and rapid response to give me the punch the song needs on that riff. I would be happy playing through either, I just think the EMG gives me more to work with.

  2. Oilid says:

    Hi !
    Here’s a vid with D.I. files. 😉

  3. Eddie says:

    I thought the EMG’s sounded a little better. I have seen other videos where the difference between the two is hard to tell. In this video I like the sound of the EMG’s better!

  4. Andy says:

    That’s it….I’m switching my Kramer over to Duncans.

  5. joão says:

    I have 2 guitars, one with the EMG 81/85 set and the other with the blackouts, and I can say that yes, the blackouts sounds much better, in the cleans, in the high riifs, the only thing I feel the EMG better is in lead guitar and when I am playing solos.

  6. Marc says:

    Well I am an EMG 81 user but I must say I do like the sound of the Duncans for their clean tone. They sound too muddy for high gain IMO. The EMG’s seem to have a clearer low end and more distinct mid range. I think an 81 in the bridge and a duncan BO in the neck might be an interesting setup.

  7. SGEbony says:

    Here are both the 81 and the BO in mixes:


    I personally think the EMGs owned the BOs here. Just my opinion though.

  8. jay says:

    I don’t like active pick ups but they do have certain uses.I have the 81-85 set but when I heard the black outs they just sounded more full than the Emg set.

  9. Tony says:

    EMGs sounded thin on the clean tone, while the Blackouts were warmer. On the overdrive tone, they were virtually identical to my ears. On the final highest gain sound, the Blackouts were again more full sounding, so overall…

    Blackouts win!

  10. Russ says:

    Thanks for the comparison. There’s so much gear out there that it’s often a difficult decision to make unless you can A/B two similar products – and most of us aren’t able to do that for one reason or another. So please keep up these kinds of shootouts – they are really helpful.

    It would have been difficult for me to make a choice without this video. As you say, there’s no wrong answer and it comes down to personal preference. I definitely prefer the Duncans. The best way I can explain the way the EMG’s sound *TO ME* is that they’re sterile and lifeless, while the Duncans sound warm and have so much more character.

    I don’t have any guitars with active pickups, but I’m looking to get one. This review just made my decision on choice of pickups an easy one.

  11. TVLTNT says:

    TTK, I’m also not one for active pickups however regardless in this case. I like the nice sound of the Duncans totally.

    It’s sort of a NO brainer just IMHO.

  12. Bob says:

    To me on the clean channel especially, I thought the 2 EMGs sounded too similar whereas the Blackouts each had a distinct sound. Thanks TTK! Love your shootouts!

  13. David says:

    Interesting shootout — I personally don’t care for active pickups, [ I’m old school ] The EMG’s sounded to me way thinner than the Duncans, so I would probably go with them if I had to choose.

    Great job TK !!

  14. nellymalta says:

    Funny thing personal preference. I have EMG’s in 2 of my guitars but I think i actually prefer the Blackouts based on the shoot out.

    Hey, TTK. I think you should consider doing a shootout between these beasts and their low budget competitors from GFS/Irongear etc and perhaps throw in a $9.99 chinese ebay cheapy for fun. I guess it would take too much setting up though.

  15. Stray says:

    With distortion (how I mostly play) I think the EMG’s were clearer and more distinct, whereas the Duncans were melodic mush? I have owned lots of Seymour’s products through the years, but in this setting the black-outs wouldn’t be one of them.

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