I love to play heavy metal on the guitar and like most guitar players, I am always chasing the perfect tone. Most of my heavy metal heroes use stock EMG pickups. The problem is, I’m not a big fan of active pickups. To me, they sound to sterile and dont have that warmth or the organic tone that passive pickups provide.
I was excited to see that James Hetfield partnered with EMG to release his signature set of pickups that take the classic EMGs and give them some of that organic and warm tone of a passive pickup. The Het set captures the clarity and punch of a passive pickup and still retains the classic active tone that we have come to know on countless metal and hard rock albums.
The pickups are completely solderless which makes it a breeze to install. I’m no master guitar tech by any stretch but had absolutely no problem installing these in my LP. I ripped out all of the electronics that were in the guitar and following the wiring diagram provided, installed the Het set within an hour.
the JH Set consists of the JH-N (neck) and the JH-B (bridge). Both pickups were modeled after the pickups James has used for decades. The JH-N has individual ceramic poles and bobbins that feature a larger core and are taller than the 60. EMG says that it produces more attack, higher output, and fuller low end in the neck position. The JH-B uses the same type of core but has steel pole pieces, unlike the 81 that uses bar magnets. This produces the familiar tight attack with less inductance for a cleaner low end.
Once I got them installed and the guitar restrung, I plugged in and cranked out some tasty metal riffs. I was quite surprised. I really dug these pickups. I dont buy in to all of the marketing hype that manufacturers throw at us guitar players but EMG’s description of the Hetfield set was right on. They give you that classic active pup tone but fill out the low end and add warmth to give some of that passive pickup tone and feel. Sort of a best of both worlds scenario. If you are trying to that James Hetfield tone, these pickups will certainly help.
Here is video review of the James Hetfield pickups from resident metal guitar instructor for Lick Library, Andy James that was featured in iGuitar Magazine-
Also check out the 2 part interview with James as he discusses his signature pickups-