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Upgrading Pick-ups

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I just joined the site and am pleased to see so many great topics to read and learn from. I am a novice-wanna-be metal head...middle aged and still head banging!

I have two electrics and an acoustic. My question is in regards to upgrading pick ups...I have a Epiphone SG model about 3 years old-I am aware that it is a cheap knock off. I want to change out the "factory" Humbucker pick ups and replace them with an EMG 81/85 set up, or EMG 80/60 set up or whatever you folks can recommend to get that cleaned up metal crunch, aka Metallica, Prong, Killswitch Engage, Bison B.C., etc... First, is this type of upgade even possible on my SG and secondly, is this something I should have a "professional" guitar tech do or can this be done as a DIY project?

I appreciate any feedback.


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Welcome TY-BigE48 - I can't help with your upgrade questions, but I'd be interested to know what others here say. You say your Epiphone SG model is a cheap knock off, do you mean it's not a real Epiphone? I was recently checking out some Gibson and Epiphone guitars and here's what I found re humbucker pickups:

Epiphone LP standard: Alnico humbuckers - no other details

Epiphone SG G-400 - High Output Alnico Humbuckers

Epiphone LP Classic - Alnico Classic humbuckers

Gibson LP Studio - 490R and 498T Alnico II magnet humbuckers

Gibson LP Studio Faded Finish models - Burstbucker Pro pickups

If you check out a few retailer stores they will usually specify the type of pickups that are installed on the various guitars. So if you identify the guitar/giutarist that gives the sound you are looking for, you can check out the pickups on their guitars. Of course, sometimes the guitarists change their original pickups, which would basically make all the above totally irrelevant. :) It's a start though.

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It is possible to swap the current humbuckers for pretty much any other make/model. The difference between your current setup and an EMG 85/81 or EMG 81/60 setup is that all those EMG pickups are active pickups requiring an independent 9V battery supply whereas your current pickups will be passive.

In order to retrofit active pickups you will need have or make space in the cavity behind the pots to accomodate the battery. Alternatively you can look for some higher output passive humbuckers from one of the well known manufacturers (Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio, EMG) or even some lesser known ones (e.g. IronGear or Bare Knuckle - these may be a bit UK-centric but you get my drift).

Either way, to fit them yourself you'll need to be competent/confident with a soldering iron (and woodwork if you need to chisel room for a 9V battery). Even if the pickups come with solderless connections (like the EMG's do now) you'll probably still need to be able to solder the connections to your pickup selector switch.

Good luck and welcome to the forum

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