21 Guitars with EMG 81 & 85 Pickups – Plus 3 Best Ones

You are currently viewing 21 Guitars with EMG 81 & 85 Pickups – Plus 3 Best Ones

Many famous guitarists have chosen the EMG 81 & 85 to nail their metal tones (including me, haha). Jokes aside, EMG 81 and EMG 85 are especially popular with more modern metal, and they do offer mean sound and are surprisingly versatile.

I got my ESP LTD MH-400 equipped with EMG 81 & 85 in 2012, after doing some research about it (not enough tho). But I got lucky. I still own this axe and I love it. It’s hard to imagine that I could have chosen any better guitar at the time. And because I really dig this EMG 81 & 85 combo and I have been using them for years, I was happy to put together this article listing the top-notch guitars with EMG 81 & 85 pickups. I also reveal the 3 best ones so that you don’t have to trust in only luck as I did in 2012.

If you have any questions, just check the FAQ section or leave a comment. Let’s get started!

photo reveals owner of guitaristnextdoor.com

Author: Teemu Suomala

I first grabbed the guitar in 2009. I started this website in January 2020 because I couldn’t do window installation anymore due to my health problems. I also noticed that most guitar websites don’t do a really good job, so I decided to just go for it! I got lucky and managed to get awesome people to help me with my website. I also got lucky because I have you visiting my website right now. Thank you. I do all this for you guys. If you have any recommendations, tips, or feedback, just leave a comment, I would love to chat with you. I have been fortunate to produce content for several large guitar websites, such as Songsterr, Musicnotes, GuitarGuitar, and Ultimate Guitar. I spend my spare time exercising and hanging out with my wife and crazy dog(I guess that went the right way…).


21 Guitars with EMG 81 & 85

Jackson X Series King V is a great affordable shred machine with EMG 81 & 85 pickups. It features a comfortable 12″-16″ compound radius fretboard, Jackson’s speedy “Speed” neck shape, and a Floyd Rose.

Price Range Icon Meanings:

$= $749-999

$$= $1000-1299

$$$= $1300-1799

$$$$= $1800-2399

$$$$$= $2400-

*Consider all links in this post to be affiliate links. If you purchase, at no additional cost to you, we may earn a small commission. It helps us to keep the lights on, thanks! 🙂

ModelPickupsBody StylePrice RangeCheck Current Price (affiliate links)
Schecter Damien Platinum 6 – Best BudgetEMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$Sweetwater* – Thomann*
Jackson X Series King V KVXMG – Great Budget V ShapedEMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerV$SweetwaterThomann
Jackson Soloist SLA6 DX BaritoneEMG 85 Humbucker
& EMG 81 Humbucker
Modern Stratocaster$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD Viper-400 BaritoneEMG 85 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerSG$SweetwaterThomann
Schecter Damien Platinum 6 FREMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$SweetwaterThomann
Jackson KVX-MG7 King V X-SeriesEMG 85-7H Humbucker
& EMG 81-7H Humbucker – 7 string version of EMG 81 & 85
V$SweetwaterThomann
Jackson X Series Rhoads RRX24-MG7EMG 85-7H Humbucker
& EMG 81-7H Humbucker – 7 string version of EMG 81 & 85
V$$SweetwaterThomann
Jackson KVTMG Pro King VEMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerV$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD MH-1001NTEMG 85BBC Humbucker, EMG 81BBC HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD Arrow-1000 CARSEMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerV$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD MH-1000 Evertune FM – Best OverallEMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD MH-1007ETEMG 85-7H Humbucker
& EMG 81-7H Humbucker – 7 string version of EMG 81 & 85
Modern Stratocaster$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD Arrow-1000 VLANDEMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerV$$$SweetwaterThomann
Dean Guitars Kerry King VEMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerV$$$Guitar Center Thomann
ESP LTD H-1008 Baritone EvertuneEMG 85-8H Humbucker
& EMG 81-8H Humbucker – 8 string version of EMG 81 & 85
Modern Stratocaster$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP E-II Arrow NT – Best PremiumEMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerV$$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP E-II Arrow FR SWEMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerV$$$$SweetwaterThomann
Jackson USA Select Dinky DK1EMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$$$$SweetwaterThomann
Charvel So-Cal 2H FR Blackened USAEMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$$$$Thomann
Jackson Dinky QMT Amber Lager BurstUSAEMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$$$$Thomann
Jackson Rhoads RR24 W/B Pinstripe USAEMG 85 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerV$$$$$Thomann

If you want more guitars with different kinds of EMG pickups to choose from, check these articles: 47 Guitars with EMG Pickups – Plus 3 Best Ones & 23 Guitars with EMG 81 & 60 Pickups – Plus 3 Best Ones.

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3 Best Guitars with EMG 81 & 85 Pickups – My Favorites

Best Budget – Schecter Damien Platinum 6

What I like

  • Tusq nut improves sustain
  • The narrow neck (1.653″ nut) and Thin C neck shape make this Schecter smooth to shred
  • Contour for easier upper fret access (for example with Schecter Omen Extreme-6, upper fret access is worse)
  • Great quality Grover Rotomatic tuners (stays in tune well)
  • Really nice value overall
  • Cool “Bat” fretboard inlays
  • Versatile meta axe

What I don’t like

  • Compound radius would be just awesome

Who is it for?

If you are after affordable guitar that offers outstanding value for the money, Schecter Damien Platinum 6 is one of the best options. It sounds mean, is comfortable to play, and has great quality hardware. A great budget pick.

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Best Overall – ESP LTD MH-1000 Evertune FM

What I like

  • Thin U neck, Extra Jumbo frets, and flat 13.7″ fretboard radius provide really smooth playability
  • Evertune bridge keeps the guitar in tune
  • Has a smooth looking “Neck-through” neck joint
  • Great quality Grover tuners
  • Killer distorted sound

What I don’t like

  • The use of plastic nut feels cheap for this price

Who is it for?

If you are after a smooth overall finish & playability, you dig the Evertune bridge, and want an overall great quality package, ESP LTD MH-1000 Evertune is a great pick. This MH-1000 has really similar playability to my ESP LTD MH-400 (a bit smoother feel tho) and that’s why I like it a lot. Hitting this with a Tusq or Bone nut upgrade will make everything even better.

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Best Premium – ESP E-II Arrow NT

What I like

  • Gotoh Locking tuners keep this axe in tune
  • Real bone nut increases sustain and overall tone
  • Really fast playing
  • Comfortable feel, especially when shredding
  • Great quality Gotoh Tune-O-Matic bridge

What I don’t like

  • Expensive

Who is it for?

If you are after premium-level guitar with EMG 81 & 85, and are ready for V shape, ESP E-II Arrow NT is one of the best options. It’s the highest-priced guitar with these pickups I would ever get, since more expensive ones don’t offer any better sound. It’s smooth to shred, looks rad, and has premium-level hardware.

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FAQ

Are EMG 81 & 85 Pickups Good?

EMG 81 and EMG 85 is excellent pair for modern metal sound. The sound is aggressive, thrashy, and mean. I personally prefer the clean and classic metal sound of EMG 60 more, but for other stuff, EMG 81 & 85 pair is awesome. It of course can handle older metal too.

What’s The Difference Between EMG 81 And 85? – Specs of EMG 81 And 85

Here are the specs and differences between EMG 81 and EMG 85:

SpecsEMG 81EMG 85
Logo ColorSilverGold
Magnet TypeCeramic/SteelAlnico
Resonant Frequency (KHz)1.631.87
Output Voltage (String)3.003.10
Output Voltage (Strum)4.504.50
Output Noise (60 Hz)-100-101
Output Impedance (Kohm)1010
Current @9V (Microamps)400400
Battery Life (Hours)600600
Maximum Supply (Volts DC)2727
I got these specifications from EMGs PDF.

So the key differences between EMG 81 and EMG 85 are the magnet type, resonant frequency, and string output voltage.

Is The EMG 81 for Bridge or Neck Pickup?

EMG 81 can be usually found from the bridge position.

Is The EMG 85 for Bridge or Neck Pickup?

At first, EMG 85 was used in the bridge position, but nowadays it’s usually used in the neck position.

Who Use EMG 81 & 85?

Here are some great guitarists who use EMG 81 and EMG 85 combo:

  • Jinxx/ Black Veil Brides
  • Jon Donais/ Shadows Fall
  • Kerry King/ Slayer
  • KK Downing/ Judas Priest
  • Matt Heafy/ Trivium
  • Matt Tuck/ Bullet for My Valentine
  • Michale Paget/ Bullet for My Valentine
  • Eric Calderone/ Erock
  • Björn Gelotte/ In Flames
  • Chad Kroeger/ Nickelback
  • Chad I Ginsburg/ CKY
  • Gav King/ Fields of The Nephilim
  • Zakk Wylde/Black Label Society

And here’s one average guitarist who uses them:

  • Teemu Suomala/Guitaristnextdoor.com

Conclusion

While EMG 81 & 85 combo might not be my favorite pickups or even my favorite active pickup pair, they are still awesome. I’m just in the middle of moving and I had to sell several of my guitars because we don’t want to rent a moving truck. But guess which axe definitely stays with me? ESP LT MH-400 with EMG 81 & 85. I’m never going to sell it. I have gone through too much stuff with it. It’s my guitar for the rest of my life.

I hope this article helped you out, and maybe you even decided to get one of the guitars featured. If you have any questions, leave a comment, I and the GND team are here for you.

Now go, my son, and Rock!

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