47 Guitars with EMG Pickups – Plus 3 Best Ones

You are currently viewing 47 Guitars with EMG Pickups – Plus 3 Best Ones

EMGs have been a weapon of choice for many legendary guitarists from James Hetfield to Jim Root, and from Alexi Laiho to Jeff Hanneman. EMG pups have shaped the sound of metal for decades (founded in 1976).

So if you are a metalhead, it’s no wonder you are here. Getting mean-sounding pickups that will serve you well in your next metal jams is a killer idea. Personally, I have been shredding ESP LTD MH-400 equipped with EMG 81 (bridge) & EMG 85 (neck) since 2012. These pups really chug. And since I also like the aggressive tone of active pickups, I was happy to put together this article listing the cream of the crop guitars with EMG pickups. I also reveal the 3 best ones. If you have any questions, just check the FAQ section or leave a comment.

Let’s get started!

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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…).

EMG Pickups

displays EMG Active pickups

EMG pickups have magnets with copper coils around them like any other electric guitar pickup. But they also have a preamp circuit and battery to power up the signal and circuitry.

35 Guitars with EMG Pickups

ESP LTD EC-401 is one of the best guitars with EMG pickups under $1000(the best EMG single-cut under $1000 in my opinion). It’s equipped with EMG 60 & EMG 81 humbuckers (Hetfield used these back in the day) and these pups offer killer thrash metal sound. Playability is comfortable (not the best upper-fret access tho) and the value for the money is high.

Price Range Icon Meanings:

$= $380-499

$$= $500-899

$$$= $900-1299

$$$$= $1300-1899

$$$$$= $1900-

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ModelPickupsBody StylePrice RangeCheck Current Price (affiliate links)
Harley Benton SC-550 Plus EMG – Cheapest2 x EMG Retro Active FAT 55 Zebra PAF Style Alnico-5 humbuckersSingle-Cut$Thomann*
Harley Benton EX-84 LH Modern EMGEMG81 active (bridge) – EMG60 active (neck)Explorer$Thomann
Harley Benton SC-Custom Plus EMGEMG Retro Active Hot 70 Covered Ceramic (bridge) & EMG Retro Active Hot 70 Covered Alnico-5 (neck) humbuckersSingle-Cut$Thomann
Harley Benton Fusion-III EMG HT Roasted2 x EMG Retro Active Hot 70 HumbuckersModern Stratocaster$Thomann
Harley Benton SC-Custom Plus EMG FR EMG Retro Active Hot 70 Covered Ceramic (bridge) & EMG Retro Active Hot 70 Covered Alnico-5 (neck) humbuckersSingle-Cut$$Thomann
Cort KX 300 Etched – Cheapest US Market2 EMG Retroactive Super77 humbuckersModern Stratocaster$$Guitar CenterThomann
Jackson Soloist SLA6 DX BaritoneEMG 85 Humbucker
& EMG 81 Humbucker
Modern Stratocaster$$SweetwaterThomann
Schecter Sun Valley Super Shredder FR – Best BudgetEMG RetroActive Neck Humbucker & EMG RetroActive Bridge HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$SweetwaterThomann
Schecter C-1 Platinum SBKEMG 89 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$SweetwaterThomann
Schecter Damien Platinum 6EMG 85 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD KH-202 BLK Kirk HammettESP LH-301N Humbucker, ESP LH-301B HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$SweetwaterThomann
Jackson X Series King V KVXMGEMG 85 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerV$$SweetwaterThomann
Jackson Demmelition Fury PDT SWEMG 60 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerExplorer$$SweetwaterThomann
Ibanez RGIB21 – Excellent Baritone ShredderEMG 60 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$SweetwaterThomann
Schecter C-1 Hellraiser BLKEMG 89 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD EX-401EMG 60 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerExplorer$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD Viper-400 BaritoneEMG 85 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerSG$$$SweetwaterThomann
Kramer Guitars Charlie ParraEMG 66 Humbucker & EMG 57 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD EC-401EMG 60 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerSingle-Cut$$$SweetwaterThomann
Schecter Sun Valley Super Shredder PT FR with SustainiacSustainiac Driver Pickup, EMG Retro Active Hot 70 HumbuckerTele$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD EC-1000 Vintage Black – Best OverallEMG 60 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerSingle-Cut$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD Arrow-NTEMG 81 HumbuckerV$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD MH-1001NTEMG 85BBC Humbucker, EMG 81BBC HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$$SweetwaterThomann
Dean Guitars Exile Select FEMG 57tw and 67tw Humbuckers (coil-split)Modern Stratocaster$$$Guitar CenterThomann
Schecter Banshee GT-6 FREMG 60 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$$SweetwaterThomann
Schecter Banshee GT FR SSustainiac Pickup, EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD EC-1000 Evertune BBEMG 60TW-R Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerSingle-Cut$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD LF-1001 Violet AndromedaEMG-81TW HumbuckerLTD F-1001$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD KH 602 BLK Kirk Hammet – For Metallica Shredders2 x EMG Bone Breaker Active HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD James Hetfield Signature Snakebyte – For Metallica RiffersEMG JH-N Active Humbucker, EMG JH-B Active HumbuckerSnakebyte$$$$SweetwaterThomann
Fender Jim Root Telecaster – For Slipknot & Stone Sour FansEMG 60 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerTelecaster$$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD James Hetfield VultureEMG JH-N Humbucker, EMG JH-B HumbuckerV$$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD James Hetfield Iron Cross SWEMG JH Set Humbucker, EMG JH Set HumbuckerSingle-Cut$$$$SweetwaterThomann
Dean Guitars Kerry King VEMG 85 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerV$$$$Guitar Center Thomann
ESP LTD Kirk Hammett EKH-3 Spider2 x EMG BoneBreaker HumbuckerSingle-Cut$$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD TE-1000ET Koa – Best PremiumEMG 66TW Humbucker, EMG 57 HumbuckerTele$$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD H-1008 Baritone EvertuneEMG 85-8H Humbucker, EMG 81-8H HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP LTD Alexi Hexed SawtoothEMG HZ FH-2 HumbuckerV$$$$SweetwaterThomann
Fender Jim Root StratocasterEMG 60 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerStratocaster$$$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP E-II Eclipse DBEMG 60 Humbucker & EMG 81 HumbuckerSingle-Cut$$$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP E-II M-II2 x EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP E-II FRX FMEMG 89R Humbucker, EMG 89 HumbuckerFRX$$$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP E-II Horizon NT-IEMG 66 Humbucker, EMG 57 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$$$$SweetwaterThomann
ESP E-II RZK-I Burnt2 x EMG 81 HumbuckerOffset Stratocaster$$$$$SweetwaterThomann
Jackson USA Select Dinky DK1EMG 85 Humbucker, EMG 81 HumbuckerModern Stratocaster$$$$$SweetwaterThomann
Suhr Standard Legacy – Awesome Premium Guitar2 x EMG SA single coils (neck and middle) and 1 x EMG SA/85 humbucker (bridge)Modern Stratocaster$$$$$Thomann
ESP James Hetfield Signature Snakebyte 2 x Active EMG JH humbuckersSnakebyte $$$$$SweetwaterThomann

If you want more guitars with EMG 81 and EMG 85 or EMG 81 and EMG 60 pickups to choose from, check these articles: 21 Guitars with EMG 81 & 85 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 Pickups – My Favorites

Best Budget – Schecter Sun Valley Super Shredder FR

What I like

  • Smooth Hard Rock Maple neck
  • A really thin neck (1.625″nut) and thin C neck shape make playing easy for my small hands
  • EMG RetroActive pickups offer well-balanced but aggressive sound
  • Easy access to truss rod from the bottom of the neck
  • Great all-around quality

What I don’t like

  • A compound radius would be just awesome

Who is it for?

If you are after an affordable metal machine with aggressive EMG pickups, Schecter Sun Valley Super Shredder FR is one of the best options. It offers great value and there’s almost nothing to complain about for this price.

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Best Overall – ESP LTD EC-1000 Vintage Black

What I like

  • Great metal tones
  • Stunning looks
  • Spot on the action and smooth neck make this axe comfortable to play
  • Works well with small hands too
  • Versatile
  • High quality
  • Tons of different color options are available
  • You can get LTD EC-1000’s with tons of different extra features from piezo pickups to Floyd rose

What I don’t like

  • Upper fret access is not great
  • The use of plastic nut feels a bit cheap for this price

Who is it for?

I’ve been lovin’ this guitar since I first tried it out a couple of years ago. With this axe, you get excellent value for money. It’s built for metal but can handle different music too. For people who mostly play metal, but want to explore other genres too, this guitar is definitely worth the money.

And another awesome thing is that there are so many different versions of this guitar available. Versions with:

  • Evertune bridge
  • Seymor Duncan pickups
  • Floyd Rose
  • Piezo pickup
  • etc.

I know, it can be hard to decide which one, but it’s awesome that there’s an LTD EC-1000 for almost everyone. It’s an awesome, versatile metal machine, and this version with EMG pickups is one of the best options out there (the one with the Fishman Fluence pups is awesome too).

You can read my full review of ESP LTD EC-1000 here.

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Best Premium – ESP LTD TE-1000ET Koa

What I like

  • Evertune bridge and LTD locking tuners will keep the guitar in tune
  • A thin U neck with a 1.653″ nut width makes this axe smooth to shred
  • Comfortable to play
  • Stays in tune well
  • Premium quality
  • Not that expensive

What I don’t like

  • The use of plastic nut feels a bit cheap for this price

Who is it for?

If you are looking for a premium-level guitar with EMG pickups and smooth playability that doesn’t require you to apply for a second mortgage, ESP LTD TE-1000ET Koa is a great option. It does have a plastic nut, which is a bummer (doesn’t ruin the guitar tho), but if you replace that, this guitar is a true pro-premium-level beast.

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What Are EMG Pickups Good For?

EMGs are active pickups, and they are made for playing metal. They offer hot & heavy sound. They can handle softer music too, no question about it. We all have heard beautiful clean segments played in metal ballads, and many times, EGMs were used to play those parts too. And as you can see from the EMGs artist page, most of the guitarists there are associated with metal.

Are EMG Pickups Good?

EMG pickups are a good option especially for metal. They handle rock and hard rock really well too. They are not the best choices for jazz, blues, funk, and country. But still, EMGs are usually surprisingly versatile.

What EMG Pickups Does Metallica Use?

Nowadays James Hetfield’s ESP signature guitars come with EMG JH-N Active Humbucker & EMG JH-B Active Humbucker. James has previously used  EMG-81 (bridge) and the EMG-60 (neck).

Kirk Hammet’s ESP signature guitars usually come with 2 x EMG Bone Breaker Active Humbucker. Kirk has previously used EMG KH-21s (Dual 81’s).

Do EMG Pickups Work Without Batteries?

No. EMG makes active pickups and they require a battery in order to power up the signal and preamp circuitry.

Alternatives to EMG Pickups

The main alternative to EMG pickups are Fishman Fluence pickups. They use completely different technology and are more versatile. Check some cool guitars with Fishmna Fluence pickups out and learn more here: 33 Guitars with Fishman Fluence Pickups – Plus 3 Best Ones.

Guitar Brands Using EMG Pickups

Here are a couple of great guitar brands that frequently use EMG pickups:

  • ESP
  • Jackson
  • Schecter
  • Harley Benton

Here are a couple of brands that sometimes use EMG pickups:

  • Kramer
  • Fender
  • Ibanez
  • Dean
  • Cort
  • Suhr


EMGs are one of my favorite active pickups. And the most legendary to me for sure. They do offer mean sound, and many popular metal masterpieces are shredded by using them. That’s why getting a guitar with EMGs is usually a solid choice for metalheads. With them, you can achieve sound really close to those metal masterpieces.

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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