• EMG DG20 pickups review

    The candy apple red Fender V57 reissue Stratocaster is the iconic guitar that defines David Gilmour’s tones of the 80s and 90s. Perhaps equally iconic are the EMG pickups and tone controls that created much of David’s super smooth tones of the era. Here’s my review of the EMG DG20 pickup set.

    This is an updated review originally posted January 2010.

    In early 1984, David and his long-time technician Phil Taylor, visited the Fender Warehouse in Einfield, Middlesex, UK and tried a bunch of the new reissue guitars from the Fender Fullerton.

    This was just prior to David heading out on the About Face tour and apparently, he didn’t want to bring his old guitars as they now started to rise in value (International Musician August 1984).

    They bought a total of seven guitars and at least four were modified with EMG SA pickups and the EXG and SPC active tone controls. Including the V57 candy apple red. Read more about David Gilmour’s red Stratocaster here.

    The EMG DG20 is a set containing both the three SA (single coils with alnico magnets) pickups and the active SPC and EXG tone controls. While older sets needed to be soldered, the current one has a solderless system making them very easy to install.

    The SA single coils are similar to 60s era Fender pickups, with a distinct bell-like chime and nicely rounded low end. They do have a tad more output though, which adds more mid range too.

    The active pre-amps drive the signal through large pedal boards much like a buffered pedal but they also add a slight compression to the tone. This evens out some of the high transients, which can be a good thing on brighter sounding guitars but it also makes the pickups somewhat less dynamic and open sounding compared to vintage style passive single coils. A matter of taste, I guess.

    Much of the magic lies in the active tone controls. The EXG boosts the treble and bass frequencies, while the SPC boosts the mid range around 400Hz. It’s really much like adding an EQ pedal first in your chain EQing the singal fed into the pedals, rather than after.

    David Gilmour would use the tone controls with care, only boosting the frequencies slightly, and surely the actual settings depended on what he needed right there and then based on how the guitar sounded in a specific environment. Much like how you would use an EQ or compressor pedal.

    Personally I don’t use the EXG much. I can see how it might be useful for adding a bit of sparkle to darker sounding guitars and amps, but to my ears it also makes the SA pickups sound slightly processed and the top end gets very ice-picky very fast.

    Boosting the SPC just slightly makes a huge difference. The guitar cuts through more and it makes everything sound smoother and more dynamic. How much you want to boost depends on the character of your guitar, amp and the pedals you use but 2-3 is often enough in my opinion to make a big difference and you can really hear David’s PULSE tones coming to life (pun intended).

    The SA pickups are very quiet and all hum and RF interferance is practically gone but keep in mind that if you boost the tone controls too much, you’re also boosting the noise in those frequencies so too much will mean more hiss.

    I’ve had the DG20 set for years and I did use the guitar quite a lot in the early days of my band Airbag. They’re all over our second album, All Rights Removed (2011). They gave me a bit more power and output compared to the passive single coils I was using but since then, I’ve moved on to humbuckers in particular.

    I still prefer passive pickups as they, to me, sound more dynamic and they just seem to respond better to my playing and the amps and pedals I use. Still, there’s something about the combination of the SA pickups and the SPC mid range booster in particular that takes me right back to both Delicate Sound of Thunder and PULSE. Add a bit of compression and delay and you’re there.

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193 Responsesso far.

  1. Hey Bjorn! How do these pickups compare to the PRS Silver sky’s 635JM Pickups and Dimarzio’s BC-2 billy corgan pickups in terms of Dynamics and clean bluesy sound?

    • Bjorn says:

      I haven’t tried those so I can’t really tell. The EMG SAs are modelled after late 60s and early 70s Fender pickups. Compared to those, the EMGs has a tad more output but they’re very similar. They do sound a bit more compressed tho, so generally I find them a bit less dynamic and responsive compared to passive pickups.

  2. Ron says:

    You can google a David Gilmour wireing3 diagram .My David Gilmour setup is solder Less EMG SSS loaded pickgaurd .I removed the back plate & removed the middle spring & put my 9volt battery just fit’s nice on a USA Fender Stratocaster standard..But as I said Google David Gilmour wireing3 diagram for in your case Fishman you said & IAM 100% you will find what you need..Rock on.

  3. John Stanley says:

    Hi Bjorn.
    I love this site and appreciate you work in compiling and maintaining it.
    I have just fitted a DG20 loaded pick guard to my American Pro 2 Strat and am just setting up a bunch of Gilmour sounds using my GR1000 Core and assorted pedals you have recommended in the past.
    Many thanks for your continued efforts,


  4. Brad Roller says:

    I love going back and reading old posts and I seen some people mention they feel the emg pickups sound flat or too fat sounding. And that is true IF you’re using amp settings that you used your vintage pickups with. I urge some of you to really tweak your amp to get the tone you want. That’s how I found the strength of these pickups. I always added a little treble, cut back the midrange some, for starters. Experiment with your amp settings and pedal settings too. Try lowering the pickup height also. It will give a more scooped strat tone I promise. I go back and forth and I love true vintage pickups, but when it comes to reliability and versatility the EMG dg-20 can’t be beat. IMO. Bjorn, what say you?

    • Bjorn says:

      Definitely. You can’t really use the same amp settings as you’d do with passive pickups. That goes for humbuckers VS single coils too. Or at least, you can compare the two tones on the same amp setup. A good example, I think, is going back to Albert Hall in 2006 when David would use the Black Strat for most of the show but the red for a couple of songs. A very different effect setup compared to 94 but you can really hear how different those two guitars sound and IMO I don’t think the red sound any good at all on those shows. Experimenting with different amp and pedal settings, different pedals and pickup height will dramatically change the overall tone of any pickup.

  5. I had a set for EMG DG20s and to be honest I never got on with powered pickups, they always seemed to much in your face. I am sure for DG playing in large venues with large sound they would be great, but playing small gigs and at home I wasn’t keen on them. However, Brett Kingman introduced me to JJ Guitars V12 set which I have acquired and to be honest they are as close to the Blacky strat as anything could be. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qguhkVfRmoM&t=97s. and https://www.jjsguitarpickups.com look under price list. This is from Australia so perhaps not seen so much here.

  6. Lin Sprague says:

    I consider Gilmour’s tones to be the idea Stratocaster tones. They maximize the guitar’s best points and minimize its weaker points. I really appreciate your long study on how those sounds were got.

    I’ve had a set of EMG SAs in my Strat for about 30 years (sparked by Jamie West-Oram’s tones in The Fixx, not necessarily Gilmour’s.) I have a love/hate relationship with them. I’m currently in a hate phase. I don’t know why, but sometimes they sound bloated and toneless to me, sometime they sound OK. Maybe I’ll come back to them later, but now I’m ready to replace them with passive pickups, and I will probably take your suggestions. I thank you for doing so much of the grunt work and for so thoroughly documenting your journey.

  7. Ronnald Stein says:

    Yeah IAM using a Line 6 Helix with 2 headrush speaker FRFR 112 Full rang Flat Response .All my tone is modelling technology so I’ve David Gilmour’s sound patche’s getting those tone’s.I did notice thought it took me awhile twerking the volume & the Gain.The DG20 set of EMG’ are great I absolutely love the crystal clear tone’s & some nice Rockin tone’s .But I’ve yet to decide to swap out what strat.ive 3 U.S.A HIGHER END FENDER’S.I tryed the DG 20’S IN MY STANDARD witch had a shawbucker humbucker & 2 Fat 50’s.My Fender Elite or my Fender ultra.or just by another Strat .But I’ve to many Guitar’s since Covert pendemic. But I will say at fist day or 2 I wasn’t sure ide like the DG20 But after a few day’s I got to know them better & now need to decide.as I put my Shawbucker humbucker & 2 fat 50’s as there a great combination in them selve’s.????ROCK ON ROCKER’S

  8. david says:

    Hi there, im using a marshal mg dfx 100 and i put all my effects and delays through the send and return and i cant get a decent sound out of the emg dg20’s.. what am i doing wrong?

    • Bjorn says:

      I’m not that familiar with that specific model but I would start with plugging the guitar straight into the amp. No pedals. Turn the EXG and SPC on your guitar off. Set the amp up for a nice and warm clean tone. Adjust the amp until you get the tone you want. Add pedals AFTER you’ve set your amp and add the desired amount of the SPC and EXG on top of that. I would run all of the effects into the front end of the amp for a cleaner signal.

  9. Ronnald says:

    I made a 9 volt plug on my USA FENDER Stratocaster standard it went through the back plate.Ive yet to make it side by side with the input jack.I was buying $15 9 volt battery’s but for some reason they went flat quick . Unplugged in it’s case Volume & time’s put on 0 thought that might help .Or might put a on/off switch on the back sprig cover.But love the DG20.My Stratocaster was HSS Tim Shaw Humbucker bucker & 2 fat 50’s.I bout a USA FENDER Stratocaster elite to put the loaded pick guard in but it’s HSS Tim Shaw Humbucker &2 noiseless single’s with S1 switching So I’ve left that as is.Then bought a FENDER Stratocaster ultra SSS 3 Noiseless pickup’s it sound’s mad .So I suppose I’ll get a USA FENDER Stratocaster to put the HSS as the fat 50’s with the shawbucker sounds absolutely awesome.?

  10. Ron says:

    Here is a tip. My EMG DG20 sat in the closet for 10 years because after I installed it, I would leave the guitar plugged in and that drained the battery. I got tired of taking the pickguard assembly loose. Recently, Fishman came out with a rechargeable Battery Pack that replaces the back cover on a Stratocaster. So I reinstalled the DG20 and wired it to the Fishman Battery Pack in one of my American Standard Stratocasters and now out of multiple Stratocasters with various pups, this configuration is my “go to” for gigging in my classic rock band. I can use EXG and SPC to cover the gamut of tones form the 60s through the 90s. Occasionally I pull out my tele for slide and my HSS when I absolutely must have a humbucker, but I am finally very happy with EMG DG20. I use it with a HELIX LT and KC500 keyboard amps that I have owned for years.

    • Aym says:

      Hi Ron, that’s exactly what I’m hoping to do as well, so maybe you could shed some light regarding the wiring of the fishman battery and the DG20? I’m assuming the black and red cables from the Fishman battery go to the black and red battery cables from DG20 clipping off the 9V connector. But could you confirm where the white cable from the fishman go to? the sleeve connector of the output jack, where the EMG black cable is already soldered? I want to make sure plugging out the output jack cable acts as a circuit breaker, stopping any battery drain once the guitar is unplugged. thanks in advance for any guidance.
      Bjorn, many thanks for excellent site, all the hard work compiling and sharing this wealth of knowledge, brilliant platform!

  11. Ronnald says:

    So IAM about to install the EMG dg20 into my USA Fender Stratocaster standard HSS 2017 has Shawbucker humbucker & 2 fat 50s.I run it through a Headrush pedal board & 2 FRFR112 To get stereo or through my Line 6 Helix into the FrFR 112 or through my Line 6 /240 watt Spider Amp with also puts out in stereo it has 2 /12 inch + 2 mid tweeters.Iam looking for that Gillmore tone.Maybe I already have the tone and just haven’t masterd it yet.Waiting on the delivery of the EMG DG 20 .My Stratocaster sound’s nice hope I’ve made a good investment $500 au for the EMG dg20 pickgaurd..Any tip’s or thing’s I should know like how long dose the 9 volt battery last & where’s the best place to house the battery someone said in with my noiseless spring’s I have a floating tremelo with a return spring stop setup .

    • Bjorn says:

      The battery should be placed behind the last tone pot. Should fit in right there. I don’t use the PUs that much but the battery seem to have a pretty long lifespan.

  12. Paul Booth says:

    I also love the spc but i wish it cut more highs and had a narrower mid q

  13. Andrea says:

    Hey Bjorn, congratulations for your website, it’s amazing!
    I just wanted to ask you something: since EMG is selling the SPC control separately, and they say it works fine with passive pickups… how about installing CS69 + SSL-5 + SPC control to get the PULSE tone when you want, but still have that vintage feeling provided by the CS69?
    Would that be crazy? What do you think about that?
    Thank you so much!

    • Bjorn says:

      Hi Andrea! Sorry for my very late reply. I haven’t tried that so I can’t really tell how it’s working. The SPC provides a nice mid range boost so if it does work, I would imagine that it adds the mid range the 69s need. However, it can be a bit too much for the SSL5 as it’s already pretty hot and mid rangy.

  14. Paul says:

    Hi B – Did you have any problems with any compressors losing their volume with these pickups. I’ve tried both my CS2 and MXR and have the same issue with each. If I use a passive guitar, the compressors work fine. Thanks Paul

  15. Francesco Cagnacci says:

    Hi Bjorn, how can you change the pickguard on this set?

  16. Daniel Willman says:

    I was thinking about installing the DG20 setup into my 1998 cream colored AVRI strat. It is advertised with 11 mounting holes. The AVRI pickguard has 9 holes. Will I be able Ito pickup 9 holes and just leave 2 empty. I really don’t want to drill 2 more holes into my mint guitar. Other thought I see in the pictures of you 60’s strat that there are only 9 holes. Did you just install the system to your existing pickguard?

    • Bjorn says:

      I just got the pickups so I used the pickguard that was on the guitar. The holes on a 9 is usually lined up slightly different to a 11 so you might want to swap that pickguard.

      • Daniel R Willman says:

        Yes that’s the answer and I confirmed with EMG today just going to swap the whole setup onto my pickguard. Thank you for your quick response.

        • GDKZen says:

          I actually did this a couple of months ago. Swapping out the electronics and pickups to another 11-hole is super easy. I bought a cream colored Am. Std. Strat a few years ago, and (since it has no collectible value) have been slowly customizing it. Prior to the DG20, I added two tremolo springs (upgraded to 10’s over stock 9’s) and swapped out the stock tuners for Fender locking tuners. I also setup the bridge so that I get a m3/whole step/half step bend on the top three strings when pulling back. Love it, and like no other guitar that I have it is “my guitar”…

  17. Jim Painter says:

    I recently purchased an EMG DG20 pre-wired pickup set. A few years back I was gifted a First Act (Wal-Mart) strat clone guitar. It’s about the worst guitar to own. It sat on it’s stand over two years. It’s only saving grace was an amazing acoustic tone. I used the DG20 set with the EXG and SPC controls. The stock tuners were ditched in favor of Gotoh staggered, locking tuners. No more string trees! The bridge was replaced with a Fender 6 screw tremolo with a brass sustain block. I had the frets re-dressed and polished, added a bone nut and finished with a pro setup. BTW- Sweetwater Music has the DG20 set in all black! The 3 ply pickguard, pickups and the control knobs in black. I have an American strat fitted with Texas specials for playing SRV stuff but the DG20 equipped experiment guitar is my #1 go-to guitar for everything else. I love this set! They allowed me to turn a piece of crap into a pure tone machine! Lastly, a quick note about tone that really inspired me. “There is no such thing as bad tone, only tone that you do not like.”

  18. Nick L. says:

    Hello! Thanks for all of your wonderful advice thus far. I’m looking for a strat that has it’s own sound but can come close to both the classic black strat and red strat emg sound. I actually really like the EMG for their higher output and their smoother creamier sound with dirt pedals, but the battery is a pain to change and the sound is a little “processed” as you say. I have a new American Pro strat that is HSH routed, and I love p-90’s (I had a Gibson SG Classic loaded with them that I sold which I’ve missed to this day), so I am thinking of having a pick guard routed for a p-90 neck, a texas special middle, and a p-90 bridge. I was going to go with the vintage p-90’s from Seymour Duncan. I understand with a p-90 in the neck I will lose that vintage CS69 scooped pickup sound, but I’m hoping I could get close to the Pulse-era Shine On You Crazy Diamond sound, and also be able to approximate both a Wall-era and Pulse-era sound out of the bridge p-90. In your opinion, will this be a versatile setup?

    • Bjorn says:

      The Duncan Phat Cats has a lot higher output than 69 single coils but they will provide some of that mids scooped vintage flavour. A compressor, EQ boosting the lower mids or a booster like the Xotic EP or Effectrode Fire Bottle will also create some of the same effect you get from the EMGs, without compromising the tone.

  19. Steven Sher says:

    I Was trying to install the EMG Gilmore pickguard on a vintage routed strat body. Seems like the pickup cavities are not routed deep enough to fit the DG20s. Is this typical on vintage stratocaster routed bodies?

    • Bjorn says:

      It’s been some time sinde I installed mine but I remember vaguely that they were a bit bigger than the average single coils but they fit nicely with my guitars. I can’t really give a better answer…

    • Tim Munsey says:

      Hey Steve.

      As i recall, the pick-up cavities in a Fender Strat are about 5/8″, which is more suited for the vintage style single coil pickups. What you may need to do, if your looking for a low action set-up, is mill the pick-up cavities a bit deeper by 3 or 4 mm. That should be able to allow the coaxial wiring cables for the EMG set to have more room. I read somewhere online that is what David had done with his Red Strat while Floyd was on tour in Australia in 1988.

      Hope that helps, and good luck.
      Tim Munsey.

      • Ryan Daws says:

        This is true. I just got my vintage strat body, same situation. You can install the set fine, but the pickup height will have to be be taller. David had to have his strat routed 3-4mm deeper, since he liked the EMGs to be as low as possible and had a single ply pickguard.. This is what I’m going to to do to mine, but for now I’ll have to deal with the pickup height being a tad high.

  20. Paul says:

    I wish I would have thought to check your review here first! I bought the DG20 set to replace my factory custom shop Fat 50’s. After playing with them over the weekend, that Fat 50’s are back in the guitar. Although these may be great pickups, they just push my bedroom setup a little too hard. I have a Laney Cub Stack with the following pedals (in order) Whammy 5, Boss TU-3, 73 Rams head, IronFist, Plexi Drive, Script Phase 90, ElecLady, TC Flashback. My setups sounds MUCH better with the Fat 50’s! I was thinking about trying the Seymour Duncan SSL-5 in the bridge and adding the switch setup that is in David’s black strat allowing the neck pickup to be active in positions 1,2, and 3. But after the EMG experiment I think I may leave well enough alone.

    As always, thanks for this site!!

  21. Thomas says:

    Dear Bjorn,

    I just installed the DG20 into a Blade Texas Standard Pro 3 (instead of the Blade system) – and it is simply EXACTLY what I was looking for. Thanx for your help. What a great sound!

  22. ronnie says:

    hi Bjorn i just put emg dg 20 in my strat and when i move with my guitar some places in the room there is no humming from my pick up and some places there is lots of noise coming from my pick ups is this normal and with my big muff there is lots of noise to from my pickups thank

    • Bjorn says:

      Hi Ronnie. Sorry for my very late reply. Sounds to me like you’re experiencing some 60 cycle hum, which is caused by nearby electrical components. That shouldn’t be a problem with the DG20s. At least not nearly as much as with passive single coils. Are they properly installed and have you eliminated other possible flaws in your signal chain?

  23. Thomas says:

    Hey Bjorn! I own a Blade Texas Standard Pro (3). Blade have a similar thing going with their enhancers. Do you have any idea if the DG20 would be a worthy update? I really do not like the single coil hum, and my go-to sound would be close to Steve Rothery from Marillion – who is not reall far away from DG. Thanx!

    • Bjorn says:

      Hi Thomas! The EMGs are, as you probably know, slightly hotter than your usual single coils and you got the SPC and EXG booster controls as well. They should do a nice Gilmour/Rothery thing. Keep in mind that they are active and they do not sound as open and vintage as passive single coils. They’re very very versatile but if you’re looking for a vintage flavour, then this is not the way to go.

  24. Trenton Ortgies says:

    Hi Bjorn! Would you say this is the most versatile strat sound out there? I’m interested in this or the Clapton setup but the DG’s seem so much easier to install! For the record I play lots of Gilmour and The Edge stuff.

    • Bjorn says:

      I guess versatility depends on what tones you really want. The EMG DG20 are versatile but so are most pickups I think. It comes more down to how you combine them with your amp and pedals and what amp and pedals you use.

  25. Do you think a pedal like the Seymour Duncan Pickup Booster (with its mid boost knob) placed before the pedalboard could somehow emulate the SPC ?

    Bu the way, the SPC sold alone is not that pricey, do you think we can get that smooth SOYCDiamond PULSE sound if mounted on Vintage Strat Pickups?

    Thanks in advance Bjorn!

  26. Brad Roller says:

    Just thought Id share this, but if anyone wants to get a slightly more straty tone out of their dg-20 set, just lower the pickups lower than what EMG recommends. Thats what David did. I got a better tone with mine when I tried it but it may not work for everyone! Hope it helps someone!

  27. Manuel says:

    Thank you for the excellent review Bjorn, and for keeping the conversation still active after 5 years :-)

    I am considering replacing the EMG SA pickups + SPC mid booster (without EXG expander) of my American Deluxe Strat with the D.Allen Echoes set (or with Fender CS ’50 + CS’69 + Seymour Duncan SSL-5, still not decided). I have been happily playing for many years with the EMG but I would like to try something different, with more dynamic and vintage strat-flavor.

    However, I have one doubt: with the passive pickups (D.Allen or Fender + Seymour Duncan), do you think that I could still get the “creamy” mid-range cut tone of the EMG SA + SPC? (e.g: David Gilmour at the records Pulse, Delicate Sound of Thunder or Division Bell). I am using a Fractal Audio Axe-FX II, therefore I can insert a parametric equalizer in front of the chain. I am just wondering if you have experience recreating the tone of the EMG SA + SPC with the D.Allen Echoes set by using pre-EQ.


    • Bjorn says:

      Well, they’re obviously different kind of pickups. The vintage style passive single coils has less output and considerably less mids. The SSL5 will provide something similar but you might want to consider using either an EQ, boosting around 400Hz, or a compressor… or both. That will give you a smoother tone, with more mids and sustain. I also recommend experimenting with effects that has more mids than the typical Gilmour effects. Try distortions like the RAT and overdrives like the Tube Screamer… or anything similar.

  28. Arya Boustani says:

    Hi again Bjorn,
    Thanks for the review. I have a bit of issue with over-emphasized high frequency I get from my lower three strings (especially E and B strings) while top three don’t have that overwhelming high frequency peak. I use EQ to tame it a bit but I thought I pick your brain if there is any other way to make the sound a bit more lush and complex and spread across with partials rather than this. I use a compressor but pushing it too far takes the life out of the tone. If I EQ it to make E and B sound nice and smooth (let’s say bringing down 3K frequency) then the G and above sound a bit dull. I checked with EMG guys and they didn’t think pickup height would make much difference. I wish they had a custom design with lower amplification and more magnet (sort of a hybrid of regular Alnico V and EMG-SA).

    • Bjorn says:

      How does it sound with the EXG and SPC bypassed? Are you still experiencing the unwanted frequencies? Keep in mind that those tone controls are meant to be used as tools to further shape the tone you already get from your amp, so if your amp has an emphasised high mids peak, then you might want to be very careful when using the SPC is particular. I’d also experiment with different pickup heights. Lowering them just a tad might do the trick.

  29. Giovanni says:

    Hi Bjorn! I have a question about the fact you replaced the pearl pickguard with a white one. Me too I don’t like the pickguard featured in the set and I’d like to replace it with an anodized gold pickguard for my Strat… The question is: how can I do that without doing a messy work? The pickups, the pots and all the other electric parts are fixed to the pickguard featured in the set… I don’t want to do an ugly work!
    Thanks :)

  30. Nuno says:

    Hi Bjorn,

    In my experience with EMG’s DG20 i found them a little noisy with high gain pedals. The problem is, we can get rid of the hum noise but we won a extra hiss noise. The tone is very good, tremendous in some settings, but sincerely i am disappointed by the extra hiss noise.
    I would like to know your opinion about the hiss noise compared true single coils.


    • Bjorn says:

      There is a bit of hiss but that’s partly due to the higher output of these pickups and the fact that when you’re using the tone controls you’re also boosting, which obviously will increase the noise. Some have experimented with different batteries and found that some are less noisy than others but I don’t have any experiment with that.

  31. Matt says:

    Hey Bjorn, just wondering: can you still get Dark Side of the Moon and Wall tones with the DG20? I have a nice FSR stratocaster (the one that looks like the Black Strat) and it has a set of stock Fender Custom shop “Classic” pickups. I would like to be able to cover Dark Side, Wall, and Pulse tones. Since David plays songs from both the Dark Side and Wall albums on Pulse would the DG20 set work? I am hesitant because I don’t want to spend $300 for the DG20 set and phase out the good Custom Shop pups and have the EMG’s not work well when for $60 I can buy an SSL-5 for the bridge on the FSR. Or would I be better off in buying a used MIM Strat somewhere and putting the DG20 in that guitar and putting the SSL-5 in the FSR? That way I’d have two Gilmour guitars and if I don’t like the DG20 set then I can sell it and the MIM Strat as a set. What are your thoughts?



    • Matt says:

      Also, you said above that the DG20 allows you to get convincing Humbucker tones as well. If the DG20 works like you say then that would negate the need for me buying a LP or SG to give me those kind of tones. It seems that if I get the SSL-5 in the Bridge of my FSR and get a MIM Strat with a DG20 set, I’ll be able to cover a lot of sonic ground with just two guitars. And since my FSR looks like Gilmour’s Black Strat, the MIM Strat that the DG20 will go in should definitely be Red, correct?



      • Bjorn says:

        They don’t sound like humbuckers or P90s but the SPC control in particular with give you the mids and presence needed for heavier and fatter bridge tones, which I guess will take into that humbucker territory. Like I said in my previous reply, the EMGs does sound very processed and if you’re not certain on that’s what you want then either go for vintage pickups and use mids oriented pedals or, like you suggest, get two guitars :)

    • Bjorn says:

      I would say that it’s easier to cover PULSE with vintage style pickups than getting authentic 70s tones with the EMGs. They do PULSE perfectly but they do sound very processed. It’s a matter of taste but your Dark Side/Wall tones will sound like PULSE and not the album or early live tones. I’d either get a CS69/SSL5 combo setup or just update the bridge with a SSL5.

  32. Uwe says:

    hello Bjorn,

    I’d like to know if you’ve had your pickups cavities routed deeper in order to set the EMG SA pickups very low like David :


    Best regards,

  33. Brad Roller says:

    No man that’s fine! Thank you for your time. It’s not that boomy in the bridge position, just the neck position with distortions using dg20 pickups. I compensated for that by using a rat when I want to play in the neck position, to get those “what do you want from me” live tones. I learned on here that the rat doesn’t have much lower end so it works great in the neck. I use the evolution for bridge solos! In time I may change speakers but for now, to me, it sounds great! Thanks again for your time. BTW…I was jamming to your solo album the other day Andy gf asked “who is this?” And I explained. She really digged it! Rock on man

    [Awesome! – Bjorn]

  34. Brad Roller says:

    Hi Bjorn, happy New Years!!! I have a quick question, I just bought a fender hot rod deluxe due to my blues jr frying! Anyhow it sounds great! I’m getting great endless river and pulse tones BUT it’s really bassy with my EMGs (which I know has very high output in the neck position) I’m using the 2nd input clean channel. Should I consider a different speaker? I’m using the amp at the same time with my motion sound srv-112. Pretty meat because the amp can power it’s internal speaker and the rotary speaker at the same time a blended signal sounds awesome! Any way I’m off track, any suggestions on speaker changes or settings thanks!!

    [Hi Brad! Sorry for my late reply. The Deluxe is indeed quite boomy. I don’t have that much experience with typical Fender speakers so I can’t really recommend anything. Don’t be afraid to roll down the bass considerably though. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful. – Bjorn]

  35. Brad Roller says:

    I agree with you. I was trying to replicate that tone using my boss rt-20, buffalo evolution, blues jr and emg strat in the neck pickup. I’ve gotten pretty dang close IMO. I watched the “bootlegging the bootleggers” and if I’m seeing right, it is the neck pickup. So you are right as usual! Btw I’m still stoked about your new album man, it’s really inspiring! And pink Floyd’s new album too, is making this year very exciting! Btw November 3rd is my birthday so your album comes out on a cool day! Haha jk!

    [Happy birthday! – Bjorn]

  36. Brad Roller says:

    Ok another question, I’ve been listening to what do you want from me bootlegs and on pulse, and to me it looks and sounds like he is using the neck pickup for the leads and bridge for chorus/rhythms. What is your opinion on that? Btw those demos are a great example of what his doppolas really sounded like!

    [I haven’t studied that in detail but it sounds like he’s mostly using the neck. He did use the RAT too, which can often make a single coil sound like a neck but again, it sounds like he’s using the neck. – Bjorn]

  37. Tommy Bruner says:

    Hi, Bjorn. I play two Clapton Strats (2013 and 2006) with DG-20 packages and the trems unblocked. I recently discovered a pedal called a T.C. Electronic Dark Matter Distortion, which I use with a Retro-Sonic Analog Delay for the solos on Comfortably Numb, and its a very workable combination through a good tube amp. Don’t know if you’ve checked out a Dark Matter, but I’d be interested in your opinion. Its smaller than a Muff, about the size of an MXR and it works very well for my application. Thanks for a great site.

    [Yep, very nice little pedal. Kind of a blend between a Muff and RAT. – Bjorn]

  38. Brad Roller says:

    Bjorn quick question, on the stratocaster 50th anniversary video, of Gilmour playing Sorrow, is that a g-2 or just a muff? I wanna say it’s a g-2 but wanted to get your opinion. That tone sounds amazing to me! It’s so raw! If you have any input please let me know! Thanks man!

    [Hard to tell for sure. There was both a Muff and G2 in the board but it sounds very much like the G2 to me. – Bjorn]

  39. Kevin says:

    I put the DG 20’s in my Strat last Feb. And was instantly amazed with the sounds I got compared to the original pickups that my 08 had. I record my own creations and love coming up with new sounds. This little setup gives me more options and sounds that I find has given me another writing angle to get into. Very good article on these pickups!! Kevin I.

    [Cheers! – Bjorn]

  40. Justin Mosher says:

    Is it easy to change the pick guard?

    [It’s all screws so just unscrew everything and change it :) – Bjorn]

  41. Alexis says:

    Hi Bjorn!

    Do you think the EMG DG-20 could be a good investment to give a new youth to my Fender American Standard Stratocaster? Not only for Gilmour tones, I like Mark Knopfler and Eric Clapton tones too, maybe it could be a good idea to be closer to their sound (as MK have Pensa strat guitars with EMG PU, and Noiseless mid-boosted Clapton’s PU are near to EMG imo).

    With my Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Strat (non modified) and my Squier Vintage Modified 70’s Strat (modified with the D Allen Echoes set, great versatility!), I could cover a wide range of tones and musical eras! =)

    Last informations I need, where have you placed the battery, and how long can you play before replacing the battery? I’m a bit lazy, I don’t want to change too often the battery ^^, but most important I would avoid too much stress on the body screw holes.

    Thanks in advance for your answer and your tips!


    [The EMGs are very versatile and they’ll cover a wide range of different tones. The battery should be placed under the tone circuits so that you can loosen one or two screws on the bridge place and change it easily. Depending on how often you play you should expect to replace the battery every 6-12 months. Just remember to unplug the cable whenever you’re not playing so save battery life. – Bjorn]

  42. Steve Steele says:

    I’ve had the DG20 set in my 60s style Strat for about 5 or 6 years now and I would like to give a different perspective. Yes I love Gilmour’s tone, but I bought these to get a Blackmore tone! Those two have a lot in common tone-wise. Listen to Blackmore on the Rainbow “On Stage” live album and listen for his quiet bits (like the blues jam).

    Also, although with the SPC and EXP at 0 the pickups are boring, it’s the EXP that brings it to life for me.

    I set the EXP between 4-7 and the SPC between 3-4 and the neck tone is beautiful through my rig (a Bogner Ecstasy Classic). The only non delay/mod pedal I use is a Mad Professor Forest Green compressor which is quite a unique and quiet pedal. I also use a plate reverb and delay.

    Now, I don’t like the bridge pickup much, but quite love the neck and middle.

    To me the EXP is the key.

    Also, I too found the pearl pickgaurd with Ivory pickups hidious. So EMG kindly sent me an un-assembled DG20 in all white.

    I love a pure Strat tone. But with my three channel amp going from very clean to Van Halen territory, there is just no way to use single coils.

    I plan on replacing the bridge pickup with a passive HB using an EMG preamp (forget the model name – not the AB, but the other one). Yes, it can be done. In fact I have thought about putting a 69 in there but need a HB.

    Although I love the Blackmore/Gilmour bridge sound, overall it’s not for me. But positions 2-5, yes. The SAs plus the EXP get me there.


  43. Jean Loup Pecquais says:

    Chris, I got the exact same idea!
    At this time I search around to find the set of pickup I need for my tone… Hard quest!
    Speaking about SPC, I think noise can be an issue.
    But yes I really think it´s the key.
    In my mind the most versatile set up would be a Echoes set from D Allen, plus the SPC.
    Should be great for any type of music.
    But, my greatest fear by changing my clapton pu is to get a lot of extra noise… Do you think it would be very dramatic?

  44. Chris says:

    Hello Bjorn! The SPC Control seems to be the key to get some of the pulse tones. EMG sells the SPC as a seperate unit for passive pickups. If i would sacrifice one of my regular tone controls of my strat with SSL5 and CS69 pickups and install a SPC unit, wouldn’t this be a nice upgrade to have both worlds in one guitar?

    [I haven’t tried that my self so I can’t really tell. Anyone? – Bjorn]

  45. Fernando says:

    Hi Bjorn:

    Just to share with you. I have just finished my red Stratocaster, Fender c-shape MIJ ’58 maple neck , with Candy Apple Red Fender American Vintage body and hardware and of course EMG DG20 pickups. Although I own a Black Stratocaster replica that I love, the red is the one that I David used when I seriously started to listen Pink Floyd and watched Delicate Sound of Thunder in the 80’s. Therefore is more a sort of emotional thing than a musical one. Having said that, I am impressed of how close you can get to that era sound. I play with a Fender Bassman ’59 Reissue (of the ones made in the ’90s, not the current ones), and with a little of overdrive and chorus you get the Learing to Fly sound instantly, or use de EXP and start with the solo of Another Brick in the Wall, Shine on, etc. Also I loved how Coming Back to Life sounds, it is a song that with my black guitar I can’t get the proper sound.

    I have to admit that I rather the sound of the SSL-5 or the Fenders of my other guitar, but for the 80’s and 90’s sound you can´t beat the EMG DG20. Also I am a fan of Pete Townshend an IMO you can get close to his current sound with this pickups.

    [Thanks for sharing! – Bjorn]

  46. Antonio says:

    Hello there, Bjorn!
    A couple of nights ago I saw “Remember That Night” in it’s entire lenght for the first time. I never really liked the RTN dvd because I think David’s tone is a bit harsh on the overdrives/distortions. I’m a huge fan os PULSE and DB and I’ve been considering in adding the DG-20s to my set. So, you can imagine that I couldn’t be more happy to see the red strat with de EMGs on Shine On.
    However, halfway through the song, when David kicks in the Tube Drive, the tone seems harsh. Did I just imagined it? I watched and listened to it several times and came here to make a comparison between the rigs in PULSE and RTN. As far as I can tell the only difference in David’s rig is the MKII pedalboard (with a couple of different effects here and there). So here’s my question: Was PULSE so damn mixed that every guitar part sings like heaven? Is the DG-20 just a ilusion to the tone I’m looking for? Or is just David’s tone on RTN that had something really different in the mix?
    After rereading this review, I’m believing the later. However, I’m not so sure.
    Sorry for the long post.

    [Hi Antonio! It’s two very different setups and performances. Although the guitar, pickups and amps are the same, David used chorus on PULSE, which makes the tones smoother. He also blended all of his tones with the Doppola rotating speakers, which added a subtle modulation. There’s also a lot of reverb added to the mix on PULSE and the tones are probably a bit more processed in the mixing. In 2006 and on the RTN show he used less effects and the overall production is much more transparent and less processed. This makes his tones more honest in a way. It would have sounded pretty similar if you stood right in front of his amps on PULSE… without all the modulation. Then there’s the subtle differences like pedal settings, mic placement etc. I wouldn’t say that his RTN are harsh but they’re different than PULSE :) – Bjorn]

    • Ronnald says:

      Sorry mate I read your post wrong .I forgot all about the DG20 setup as I put my HSS Tim Shaw humbucker & 2 single Fat 50’s back on .But after reading your post I just researched the Fishman rear spring cover battery with USB charge cable .So I jump onto eBay even though it was $210 au I decided to buy 1 I noticed there are PDF wirering diagram’s .Hope you worked out where the White wire goe’s let me know .Have a great day .Rock on.

  47. Brian says:

    Hi Bjorn, I am thinking of getting another MIM Strat because I love the one I have so much with DAllen Echoes pups I wanted to get another one and put different pups in it, possibly the EMG DG20. I was also considering an SSL-5/CS69/CS69 combo but that might be a little too similar to the Echoes pups I’m already using, not that that is a bad thing but I’m sure they wouldn’t be exactly the same. I thought I read something about an SSL-5 with coil tapping kinda like the Echoes bridge pup, have you heard of it? Do you ever use the EMG DG20 for your original tones? Do you think they would be good for original stuff as well as Gilmour tones? Btw great review of the Buffalo FX Patriot. Sorrow has always been one of my favorites and I’m always coming up with excuses to play it. Thanks Bjorn.

    [Hi Brian! A SSL-5/CS69/CS69 combo would be very similar to the Echoes, so if you want something different, then the EMGs are a good choice. They’re not Gilmour-in-a-box but suitable for almost any genre and style. You might find that they lack some of that vintage mojo but they cover a lot of ground.
    I think Duncan offer a coil tap version of the SSL5, which would be very similar to the bridge in the Echoes set. – Bjorn]

  48. vito says:

    BJORN HELLO! with regard to the ‘height of the pickups have never experienced any other setting?? or did you put everything flat and immediately you find all fantastic?

    [I’ve tried different setups but, on my guitar at least, they sound best set flat and about 3-4mm off the strings (press down the low E on the last fret and measure. I think this is more or less what’s recommended by EMG as well but you might want to make adjustments for your guitar. – Bjorn]

  49. Brad Roller says:

    Yeah it’s not like it’s hard lifting the guard up. Thank you for your time and answer. I know it is getting harder keeping up with all this with your band becoming more and more popular and more busy. I love my EMGs. That neck pickup with an OCD is hard to beat. Anyways take care! Y’all keep rocking!

    [Cheers, Brad :) – Bjorn]

  50. Brad Roller says:

    Hey Bjorn, this may be a dumb question but do you know how Gilmour might change the battery on his red strat. Just lifting the pickguard like the rest of us or did he have it specially routed? I read somewhere that he may have the battery routed to the back where the tremolo is…not that it matters I’m just curious cause I don’t really see how that would much easier. If you know anything on that it’d be appreciated. Btw did you use your EMG strat on your newest album? I see you’ve been using humbuckers more often. Thanks for your help. God bless!

    [Hi Brad! I’m not sure. I would assume he just lifts the pickguard but I really don’t know. I used the DG20s on some stuff on the new album, like the modulated clean solo in the middle section of Call Me Back but I mostly used humbuckers and P90s this time. Most of the All Rights Removed album was with the DG20s. – Bjorn]

  51. Dave E. says:

    Checking the EMG DG20 Battery

    A little time saving trick for owners of these pups. To check the battery voltage slide an unconnected guitar cord plug into the guitar jack, but don’t push it all the way in, just insert until you first get some push resistance and get a voltage reading. Measure the voltage across the plug at the other end of the cord. The voltage will be just a few tenths of a volt lower than what the free unloaded battery would measure.

    You can use this method to check some stompboxes as well.

  52. Martin says:

    Hi Bjorn…..having purchased the DG20s approx 3months ago and immediately looking for a forum to find ot more about this product a cannot tell you how much I have enjoyed reading everyone else’s opinion I I am very happy with my Strat how it is now set up……….however I seem to have one problem that it would appear I am the only person who seems to be suffering……….. The battery……..when I have finished playing I always unplug the lead…..however every battery I install only lasts 3-4weeks, I had presumed they would probably last a year ….. If i do not solve this the holes in the guitar body for attaching the pick guard will be too big Any thoughts would be appreciated. Regards

    [Sorry for my late reply, Martin. The battery should last much longer than that… be it that you don’t play 24h a day every day :) I’d send EMG an e-mail and ask. They usually respond very quickly and are helpful. – Bjorn]

  53. Ziad says:

    Hi bjorn
    I hope you are doing well!!!
    I have the 57 reissue strat with the emg dg20 and I am having a problem on the neck pickup while using the bk tube drive the sound on the 6th and 5 the strings is not clear at all like bass boosted and fuzzy I tried many setup from the amp and the bk and the both tone control and I tried to to replace the tube of the bk and still the same, my tech told me that the emg deliver a digital signal not like passive pickups and that I am having a difference of impedance between the pedal and the cab gently asking what do you suggest to do so I can solve this problem I know it is not only one factor but many
    Thanks regards

    [Could be an impedance issue but I’ve never experienced that with my DG20 and Tube Driver. The TD doesn’t have that much mid range and it can choke up pretty badly if your amp is too dark or if there are too many pedals with buffers next to it. Try setting your amp fairly neutral and clean, unhook everything and just plug into the Tube Driver. Set the DG20 all passive with the tone controls rolled off. How doesn’t that sound? Could there be a problem with the setup on your guitar? Any of the strings that are too close to the neck or the pickups? Hard to tell when I’m not standing in front of your rig but try eliminating as many possible sources as possible and if the problem continues you might need to consider the impedance issue. – BJorn]

  54. Mark Gardiner says:

    Hi Bjorn – thanks.

    I got an update from EMG :

    From: Rick Hunt
    Date:09/12/2013 19:33 (GMT+00:00)
    To: MarkG
    Subject: Noise

    Yes, that is normal. The pup covers are conductive, which is part of the internal shielding process. A slight signal can still be detected even though the volume is off. This is more noticeable at high gain levels.

    Hope this helps.

    [Thanks for the update! – Bjorn]

  55. Mark Gardiner says:

    Hey Bjorn,

    Just a couple of queries….what height do you have your EMG’s set and why? I just built a Red Strat tribute and want to optimise it : http://s179.photobucket.com/user/JestersTear1/slideshow/Building%20the%20Gilmour%20EMG%20Stratocaster

    Secondly, I’ve noticed that even with the volume on the guitar down, at gig levels I can still hear a boom if I tap the pickguard near the bridge pup or control section – is this normal? It does it whatever pickup I have selected. On my Black Strat it is silent if I have the guitar vol down (passive pups).

    Also (again with volume at zero on guitar) if i put the SPC to 10 (on a high gain patch) and hit a chord I get some ‘bleed through’ of sound…is this normal?

    Sorry for all the questions – nobody else on other forums seems to know!


    [Hi! I keep mine 2-3mm off the strings, when the strings are pushed down at the last fret. This is also recommended by EMG. Make your own adjustments based on your amp and what tones you want. I have never noticed any of the problems you are experiencing… Try sending EMG an e-mail and ask. They usually answer very fast. – Bjorn]

  56. Sanny says:

    Hi Bjorn
    I just want to keep you updated about my issue with the DG20’s pots. I wrote to EMG customer service and they understood the problem – not common at all – and in no time they sent me a replacement of the EXG/SPC board, free of charge. I’ve replaced it very easily and my Strat is back in top shape. How is that for customer care? Owesome. EMG pickups are plain amazing and the company that produces them is as cool as it gets. Thanks Bjorn!

    [Thanks for the update, Sanny! Glad it worked out :) – Bjorn]

  57. Roger Sartori says:

    That’s my favourite tone of Gilmour! I have a MIM 50’s strat with the EMG kit installed. I also don’t like that pearl pickguard but I was afraid of removing all the pre-mounted parts and put on the 50s strat original pickguard! So I leave it with the pearl one… I also have an original 57 reissue strat for earlier Gilmour tone but I confess I prefer my EMG strat. I thank you for your reviews and, more important, your point of view to help me to get to that tone!

    [The pickguard should be easy to remove. Just unscrew everything and mount it on a new pickguard. – Bjorn]

  58. Sanny says:

    Thank you for your answer. Naturally, I have sprayed the pot several times but after a short while the problem keeps coming back. I will do as you suggest and ask to EMG directly, maybe they have had other cases. Thanx again, keep up the wonderful job. Sanny

  59. Sanny says:

    Hi Bjorn
    I love your site, world class! I have a question for you, if you please would care to answer. I have installed DG-20 on my Strat years ago and I am absolutely in love with the sound. My problem is that now I urgently need to replace one potentiometer (EXG or middle one) since it crackles quite a bit and it often cuts out the signal – it happened bad two weeks ago at a gig and it was a total nightmare. The challenge is that on my DG-20 the pots are welded to the main board (I think in earlier versions the pots were detached but I may be wrong). Have you ever done it? Do you know were I can get information on how to proceed and what kind of potentiometer I should buy in the first place? I would appreciate your help very much.
    Thanx – Sanny

    [Sorry to hear. I haven’t experienced anything similar so I can’t really tell. It might be a very easy solution but it might be something more severe as well. I’d take the guitar to a tech and have him look at it. You can also try sending a mail to EMG. They usually answer quickly. – Bjorn]

  60. Tone Control says:

    I have 2 DG20 strats. The older one has separate EXG and SPC controls, and the EXG has to be dialled to 7 to get the effect the newer DG20 (with a single vol/EQ PCB) gets when set to 3

    Therefore don’t take DG’s settings on videos literally if you have later DG20 setup, use your ears instead

    [I wasn’t aware of this. Anyone can confirm it? – Bjorn]

  61. Elliot Glos says:

    Hey, I follow your site quite a bit, and am an avid fan of Pink Floyd (actually its more, I have a copy of every known concert they ever played, and all there albums of course). I, as of most people who play know that they way the pickups are wired can make a difference in tone. I was wondering if someone knew the wiring setup on Gilmours guitars. I know this is gonna be a bugger to figure out, so take your time if your even gonna try.

    [Hi, check out this feature for details on David’s Black Strat :) – Bjorn]

  62. Bengt says:

    Having just bought and installed the EMG dg-20 on my guitar, im sitting here watching the Pink Floyd live Venice consert from 1989. What strikes me, is that it seems the pickups’s are set very low on David’s guitar. EMG recommends them to be as high as possible, but David seem to have them set fairly low… any recommendations on this? If i set them close to the strings, it seems to be best to set the volume at 5-6 (on the guitar). But would it actually give me a better tone if i set them lower and set the volume to 10? Yeah, i know.. test it out and decide for myself, but im kinda lost deciding if it’s better to crank the volume on the guitar, the pedal board (boss me-50) or on the amplifier (fender FM 212R)…

    [You’re raising two issues here really. First, the best signal and feed for your pedals, is to set the amp as a basis for all your tones. Layer the effects and always keep the guitar volume at 10. Use a volume pedal to adjust the master volume of your rig, or, if needed lower the amp volume. Make sure that all pedals are set to flat volume with the amp unless you want a boost effect. The reason you want to keep the guitar at 10 is that the pickups are “feeding” the pedals. Lowering the guitar volume, mains that the pedals get less signal (and volume) and they’ll loose, or at least change, in tone and character. The best way to use the guitar volume is to use it to control your effects and tone. Rolling off a hair can smooth out harsh overtones. Roll it back to 5 and get overdrive tones from your distortions.
    EMG recommend having the pickups as close as possible to the strings. About 2-3mm. I’ve seen David keeping them much further away but as you say, only your ears can decide. Neither is wrong. It just depends on what tones you want. – Bjorn]

  63. Carlos Brazil says:

    A complement that may be usefull for Nathan who had some doubts about the “strings height”. I’m using the “ghs Boomers David Gilmour Signature” (.10 .12 .16 .28 .38 e .48) in my RedStrat replica and also with the BlackStrat signature guitar. With some adjustments made by the luthier (a little bit difficult with the BlackStrat because it was necessary to remove the guitar’s arm – the guitar is sealed exactly where the tool for adjusting the arm enters…) and this “configuration” works fine! Regards.

  64. Carlos Brazil says:

    Hi, Bjorn, hi gilmourish fans. As I’ve mentioned on Bjorn’s FB site, as a beginner (still learning to play…), the DG20 Kit sounds great in a “second american standard modified guitar”. My luthier made an extra grounding on the guitar’s body. All common noisy pedals with my principal strat(including Muffs, overdrives & cia) seem to show their “clean effects” without the need of any noise gate activation (and all we know that great musicians, like Dave, have their own high level noise suppressors on their racks configurations or something similar dealed by their sound engineers working on complex mixing gadgets). I loved this alternative for home/bedroom playing! :-D

    [Glad to hear :) – Bjorn]

  65. Nathan says:

    So I just built a new guitar with a set of DG20’s (white with black pickguard… my black strat’s evil twin!) and so far I love the sound. But I haven’t quite found the sweet spot for pickup height, so I was curious, what do you use on yours?

    [There are different opinions about this. Some say that since they’re active it does’t matter or that you can keep them quite low but I think EMG recommend having them as close as possible to the strings. I keep mine about 3mm off the strings on each side (press down the string on the last fret and measure. Ultimately, your ears must be the judge. – Bjorn]

  66. Mikey D says:

    Among the active EMGs, these are the ones that every dealer says to go for. I think these things are pretty sweet especially in the neck position. You do know your shit, but I gottta say that I’m really, really into these pickups.

    [What I like about the DG20 is that they’re based on the late 70s SA pickups, which have, even for EMG, a bit of that vintage flavour. The SPC mid range booster in particular makes the set very versatile. – Bjorn]

  67. Zac says:

    Hi Bjorn, not sure if you’ve seen or heard of them, but there’s a BYO guitar/parts company called tnt guitars and they do a dg20 knock off loaded pickguard, they are supposedly the same except in the tnt one, both tone controls can be push/pull bypassed and the volume knob when in the neck or middle pickup can be push/pulled and adds the bridge pickup. i bought this a few weeks ago for around $100 (Australian dollars) with low expectations. put them in and they are amazing! for the first time i’m able to use my iron bell and usa muff and it sounds so authentic! i also have a strat with ssl5, 50fat,cs69 in it but i haven’t picked it up at all since i got these pickups. was wondering if you’ve ever heard of them or no if there is much difference between them and the real thing… I highly recommend trying them or doing a review (please!) :) love the site and congrats on 10 years! iv’e been here for 4 years now and love seeing all the stuff you put in, really appreciate it so thanks! :)

    [Thanks for the tip! I haven’t heard about these before. I’ll check them out. – Bjorn]

  68. Anton says:

    I bought a used mexican strat back a few years ago with dg20’s previously installed by the original owner, it was a bargain.

    I have to agree that the pearloid pickguard is ugly, I swapped it out with matching aged pickguard, control knobs, and position switch knob, it now looks beautiful with the red metallic maroon body and maple neck. It’s a stunner.

    A buddy of mine who’s been gigging for over 30+ years says it’s the best strat he’s ever played and heard. he keeps on bugging me to sell it to him. :)

    One thing to note for passive players switching to an active setup is the increase of volume, remember, you can turn the volume down on the guitar, it doesn’t have to be at ten.

    The only one negative that I have about them is that there is no treble cut, sometimes I like to turn down the tone knob to 3 while on the bridge pickup when using a fuzz face to give me a solid rythmic tone. There is only boosting of fequencies, I wish it did cutting too. There’s no way you’ll get the ‘Woman tone’ out of these.

    Lastly, I’ve wired my set to be powered by 18v, apparently, it gives more headroom. But, unfortunately the cork sniffers on this mod seem to have won on this one, I don’t hear a difference whatsoever. Anyone else out there tried this? I have two 9 volt batteries in mine, other people swear there is a dramatic increase in headroom when this is done.

    [I haven’t tried that my self but I would imagine that the possible increased headroom depends on your amp and and pedals as well. – Bjorn]

  69. Pete Tatooles says:

    how hard is it to change the ugly pearl pickguard on the DG-20?

    [Just unscrew it, loosen the pickups and voila! Takes about 2mins :) – Bjorn]

  70. Brad says:

    Yes thank you very much for the detailed answer! :) God bless Bjorn!

    [Happy to help :) – Bjorn]

  71. Brad says:

    Hello Bjorn, hope all is well! I got the dg-20 in my candy apple red strat, I changed it out from the pearl pickguard easily also. So if anyone reads this, like Bjorn said, its very simple. But what Im wanting to ask you, is, when you said your sweet spot on the EXG was around 5 what did you mean? For using the neck pickup alone for Shine on intro? or coming back to life? You also stated you dont use the EXG that much, so do you use the EXG only when you have it set to 5? Im still learning how to use the controls, and Im playin it all by ear. I get a good tone(I think personally) but Id like to know, what settings on the EXG and SPC do you recomend while using a big muff and some modulation? Im using a north effects violet rams head and the boss rt-20 as the main tone, and a MXR delay. And playing through a blues Jr. amp most of the time at home. Also, what settings should work with the SPC? All in all, I make it sound pretty good, its just hard getting used to these controls and I thought Id ask you some questions on it! Thank you so much for your help! and the time you put into this wonderful website! God Bless you my friend!


    [Hi Brad. The EXG and SPC are active tone controls or EQs and should be used with care and matched with your amp. How you should set them depends entirely on the tone of your amp, its settings, how loud you play and in what environment, the tone and timbre of your guitar and what pedals you use. Perhaps it sounds best with both controls rolled all the way off or both maxed? I can’t tell you that so you just need to try different settings and also, you need to adjust them whenever you change a pedal or adjust the pedal settings. A Big Muff will require different settings than a clean tone etc. The best way to start is by running a bypassed signal into your amp with the EXG and SPC all the way down. Set the amp up for the tone you want and slowly increase the EXG and SPC. Hear how they change the tone. The EXG will boost the highs and lows, which you might want to do when using flat sounding overdrives or you need to add some crispiness for your rhythms. I rarely use it. The SPC boosts the mid range, which is great to beef up your cleans and to make a scooped Big Muff cut through the band mix. I use this for most of the stuff alternating between 4-8 depending on what tones I want. Hope this helped :) – Bjorn]

  72. Josh says:

    Ive often wondered how David gets that scream when he hits a high note in the delicate time solo, that sounds more like feedback than a pick, maybe you dont know what im talking about, but anyways these high output beauties may get me there.

    [That’s a pinch harmonic. Keep the pick barely visible, pick the string and instantly mute it with your thumb. I’m sure there are some tutorials on YouTube. – Bjorn]

  73. Brad from Cleveland says:

    This being the first time I’ve commented, I wanted to thank you for a very enjoyable
    web site. Your information and reviews are always well thought out…well done sir.
    I wanted to touch on something only Bernhard mentioned…the importance of height
    adjustment with these pickups.
    I’ve never owned any others that are so extreme in their tone and responce as these
    when it comes to string distance from the pickups. They can almost sound like dual
    coil humbuckers if you have then too close to the strings.
    When I read comments saying the DG20’s dont sound “Stratty” enough, I wondered
    how the commenter would have reacted if he’d lowered the pickups and turned the
    EXG up just a bit.
    Admittedly, they will never sound like old passive single coils, but if you’re willing
    to experiment with the screwdriver for a while, I believe more people would be
    enjoying this set and not be dissapointed.
    I’ve been using them for a couple years, and just love them.

    The best to you from Cleveland Ohio.

    [Hi Brad! Thanks for your kind words and your post! Indeed, the SA’s are very sensitive and I find that I need to position them differently every time I swap them around on different guitars. It’s about taste too I guess. I understand that some may dismiss them for being a bit too modern sounding but they are very versatile and you can pretty much use them for anything. – Bjorn]

  74. Matthias says:

    Hi Bjorn, after a long time I played my Strat with the CS69 pickups today… and I realized how low the output of these pickups is. And the less sustain… I played Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and had to increase the volume and master volume much… is this the reason David Gilmour used the Power Boost ? Sorry for the question, but I play guitar since 2009 and your site helped me very much, and I try to get a general understanding for the different eras and the equipment. Best wishes from Germany !

    [All of the 50s and 60s era pickups has a fairly low output. That’s how they wound them and it gives the pickups a clear, natural and transparent tone. Pickups with higher output, more wounds, has a darker tone, more mids and are perhaps not as “honest” sounding as the vintage ones. It’s a matter of taste and of course how they ultimately sound, depends on the guitar, amp, pedals etc. Personally I have never considered the 69s to be flat nor have less sustain than other models. The bridge is a bit thin but the neck especially, has all the qualities I’m looking for… again, matter of taste. I don’t think David, nor anyone else, used treble boosters or overdrives, like the Powerboosters, to compensate for low output pickups but rather for pushing the amp a little extra. Back in the late 60s and early 70, you pretty much had a handful of pedals to choose from, so to get overdrive you either had to push the tubes or combine the amp with a booster like Gilmour, Beck and other did. So in one sense, that made the guitar sound hotter and bigger, but the pedals was employed just like modern overdrives. – Bjorn]

  75. Hans says:

    Hello there,

    Very Nice comment, however i play some Suhr Guitars in à dutch PF tribute band and THE Fletcher/landau pups are working realy great here!!
    Bought THE DG 20 and installed it, but it did not worked out for me
    I”ll stick to my suhr pick up system.
    Very Much about tone has tot do with whats under your fingers and how you adjust your pots in terms of dynamics.
    Every soul has his or her’s expression wich can be translated to tone.
    Thanks Hans

  76. Joe says:

    Hi everyone, I fitted a DG20 set to my ’57 reissue and I found them to be easy to fit EXCEPT!!! for the lack of room under the bridge pickup which causes hassle to fit the wires going to the other two pups. There simply isn’t enough depth and the bridge pup kinda sits on the wires a little. While the while thing fits there is very little movement allowed if you want to drop the height of the pickups later.

    Having said all that they really sound fantastic and so quite too. I am totally happy with them. If you like Gilmour’s sound on the above mentioned albums then you will be delighted with them. As for sounding like an ordinary Strat .. yes they sound like an ordinary Strat also … the difference in tone some people hear may well be the difference in amplifier used .. they are that close to the originals.

  77. Jamie says:

    I was wondering if anyone had any experience playing with the Dragon Fire DFDG pre-wired pickguard?

    Just curious if they are complete garbage or not compared to the EMG DG-20’s. Aside from the fact that they can’t seem to spell David’s last name, I like the range of pickguard colours.

    [Ha ha! Great marketing… Anyway, I haven’t tried them so I can’t really tell. – Bjorn]

  78. Emanuele says:

    Yes I see the screws and all the regular stuff but I was wondering how the entire solderless system is fixed to the inner side of the pickguard. I’d say the copper foil is glued..btw I’ll figure it out!

    Thank you again bjorn, we all appreciate your work. Best wishes to you and your band :)

  79. Emanuele says:

    Hi Bjorn,
    I recently got the DG 20 set as a present. I love the pickups, but i’d like to replace the pearloid pickguard with my old white one. Is it that difficult? I mean, is it possible for me to do the job or should I ask a tech to do it for me? I don’t want to break anything :) that solderless system seems a bit challenging to remove..

    Thank you

    [Congrats! As long as the new pickguard has eleven holes it should be an easy job. Everything is mounted with screws and nuts so it shouldn’t take more than 15mins :) – Bjorn]

  80. KEITH says:

    I have a question, and a comment. Does it make any difference whether I sign up for the pickup giveaway once, or multiple times. I have the urge to fill in the boxes every time I log on?

    Now, part two. I know you are familiar with the Fralin pickups, but I wonder why you haven’t reviewed them. Full disclosure, I do not work for, nor receive any compensation for my posts about any products, although I am a petsonal friend of Tom Rodriguez, of Rodriguez guitars, and Lindy Fralin. My personal opinion of the pickups in the $4000.00 DG Strat, are infetior, and like many Seymour Duncans, sound thin. Lindy’s vintage hots are as close to a real vintage 50’s, or 60’s Strat, or Tele pickup as you can get. This would explain why PRS, and many of the World’s great luthiers have, or do exclusively use his pickups. They are also priced very reasonably, and he will wind them as hot, or warm as you specify. This would akso explain why before his recent overhaul by Fender, DG hades his original black Strat pups wound by Fralin.

    As for guitars, I think Spending $4000.00- $4800.00 on a DG Strat to be a huge waste of money. Unless you plan on using it as furniture, why pay $800.00 extra for reproduced wear and tear. While I am having my guitar made by Tom, there are, to be fair, many makers of handcrated guitars. The differece between a CS DG Strat, and a handcrafted replica is that a one man building every facet of a guitar gives it a continuity not found even a limited production guitar. No CNC cut bodys, or necks, hand sanding that makes every surface smooth as glass, and the fact that YOU decide what pickups, wiring scheme, tuners, pickguard, pots, wire, neck radius, which piece of wood, etc. And in the case of Tom Rodriguez, you will get all that input for around $3000.00. This of course is just my opinion, but I have played many guitars, and the ones Tom has made, scream quality the minute you “feel” every string vibration throut the guitar when played accoustically. He uses Fralin
    pups also.
    Thanks Bjorn, hope this post was okay! Take care, Keith

    [First of all, no it doesn’t matter if you sign up a 100 times. All duplicates will be deleted and doesn’t make your chances bigger to win :)

    In regards to the Lindy pickups. I’d be happy to review them but they’d have to send me a set first :)

    I totally agree that $4000 is a waste on a signature guitar. I’m not saying that the guitar is crap but for me a guitar is a very personal experience. Like you, I want to play a guitar that feels and sound right. I tried the DG Strat but I didn’t like it. Simple as that. It’s overpriced for sure. But that’s the rules of the market. I do however, understand people’s urge to own a guitar like the DG Strat. Some really enjoy playing it while others are collectors. I respect that but at the same time I have no problem in saying that for me, I like my guitars better. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  81. Marcio cardoso dr law says:

    Hi Bjorn , I have a ask. Do you know if the SAs can be change for SAVs in my DG 20 system without loose the tone? Or this pickups have diferent sounds?

    [I have no idea… Send them an e-mail or post on their FB page and ask. They’re very helpful. – Bjorn]

  82. Matthias says:

    Hallo Bjorn, are you sure that the EMG DG20 pickguard change is so easy with the new clip system for the wires, shown on the photo above? How is that stuff fixed?

    [Yep, I’ve done it many times. The pots are fastened to the pickguard with nuts, juts like ordinary pots. The swap takes 5 mins. – Bjorn]

  83. David McDade says:

    i see, the guys at the shop are either lazy or dumb and didnt even look, they just made it sound extremely complex so i didnt want to mess with it, just swaped em to a black 1ply in about 5 minutes. thanks again for the answer others cant give, even if its stupidly easy…

    [Glad to hear it worked out :) – Bjorn]

  84. David McDade says:

    its the spc and exg mounting they couldnt help with, pickups i can do myself, but i dont have any idea on what kind of sheilding tape or whatever is used to hold the backss of the.electronics to the pick guard

    [That’s strange. Do you have an older model? Mine are solderless and the tone and volume pots are fastened right onto the circuit plate. You just swap the pickguards like you’d normally do. Could you send me a pic of yours on post(at)gilmourish.com and I’ll have a look. – Bjorn]

  85. David McDade says:

    hey bjorn, how did you switch the pickguard? i asked my guitar shop a few times and they told me they couldnt do it, then call emg and ask them. i cant get a straight answer. is it easier than how people have made the change sound?

    [You can easily switch the pick guard as long as the new has equally many holes as the stock and aligned according to your guitar. All pickups are mounted with screws so it will probably take you 10mins to swap. Don’t know why your local shop couldn’t help you out… – Bjorn]

  86. Toni says:

    Sorry, I forgot to mention that I mean the Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster with Noiseless N3 pickups and reconfigured S1 switching.

  87. Toni says:

    Hi Bjorn,
    Have you tried those Fender Noiseless N3 Strat pickups? I’m thinking of a Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster. Moreover, what do you think of that strat model?
    Once again, thanks for your info and support!

    [My usual answer is that as long as the guitar fits your style and playing, then go for it. Doesn’t really matter what I or anyone else says if the guitar doesn’t feel right to you. That being said, the Deluxe is a fine instrument and you can always upgrade the stock pickups. I’m personally no fan of the N3 – they sound a bit too dull for my taste. For a bit more vintage tone, check out the Fender CS69s, TTS Crazy Diamond or some Duncans. – Bjorn]

  88. Pasqual says:

    In that case i’ll just beter wait for a chance on ebay. I’m really curious but no one in my surroundings owns a strat with this set. I don’t think a simpel midrange booster will do the trick…

  89. Pasqual says:

    Hi Bjorn, thanks for your excellent review. How does the DG20 set differ from a ordinairy EMG SA set?
    In other words: is it possible to make your own DG20 set by just buying some SA pickups and the proper electronics? I think 400 euro is a lot of money for a set of pickups without knowing in front if i like it enough.

    [The SA’s are just the active pickups for a standard electronics setup. Quite dull tone if you ask me. I’m sure you can buy a mid range booster kit and fix it your self but I’ve never tried this. – Bjorn]

  90. Marcio cardoso dr law says:

    I am a brazillian guitar player, in first place is a pleasure write here in this blog of the best guitarrist ever ,David Gilmour.I have used the DG20 set for 5 years,for 5 days per week First im my MIM vintage white lh strat and now im my american standart 99 wine left hand strat.The sound of this set is amazing. When I bougth my MIA I leave it with the original pick ups,they are good,but dont have the tone flexibility of EMG.When i play the floyd’s songs i close my eyes and listen the red strat tones.congratulations for your review.

    [Thank you Marcio! Good luck with your playing and tone! – Bjorn]

  91. David McDade says:

    Yea I have been looking at the Fender classic 50s, the Squier is rite next to em in my American Musical Supply magazine, and im torn between the two, im not a snob about the name on the headstock, id have no problem with buying the Squier because for arround $280-$380 I wouldnt feel bad about frankensteining it with different mods(DG20s, bridges, ect..) But withe the Fender I would only be comfortable with replacing the pickups, cs69s and a SSL5 bridge pickups for a Black Strat clone. Man im overthinking this way too much, im going to wait and see what my tax return is and that will give me my guideline on how much id be starting with cash-wise and go from there. I just cant wait to get whichever strat I decide on, plug it into my 50w Vox Valvetronix and hit the first bend on S.O.Y.C.D. and play the rest if I dont feint from extreme happyness.
    Again thanks a ton Bjorn for your imput and resource guide here on Gilmourish!

    [The MIMs has a better wood selection so I think it’s a better instrument. Still though, replacing the bridge and pickups on the Squire will make it a great instrument. I’d done that with the MIM as well. Doesn’t matter what it says on the headstock as long as you like playing it :) – Bjorn]

  92. David McDade says:

    I got a chance the other day to try the DG20’s out and instantly fell in love with them! So im definatley going to invest in them, but ive decided to spend the money on another guitar first, putting the pups into my ibanez is just a waste of time. Ive been searching arround and I beleive I found a guitar in my price range that has what I want, the Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Stratocaster. I was wondering if you or anyone has played one? From my research I havent found anyone with anything bad to say about em, except for the standard Alnico III pups are a little cheesy, but overall it seems like a great low budget guitar that with a set of DG20’s would be a Gilmour’s red strat without the Fender logo on the headstock. Any imput or suggestions would be very much appreicated!
    Thanks a ton Bjorn for such a great source of info on everything Gilmour!

    [In that price range the Classic Vibe guitars are definitely worth a shot. Great value and tone and replacing the pickups makes the guitar into an excellent option for David’s red. I also recommend that you try the Fender MIM Classic Series 50s jut to compare a higher price range. – Bjorn]

  93. johnm2432 says:

    Well i have to thank you bjorn,After reading your page i have just ordered my set from thomann in germany so they will be here by friday i only have a MIM arctic white with MF its not the best guitar i have owned (it has a horrable vibration on the middle two strings?) but i think with a little time spent on setup i will get it there,I cant wait to try these bad boys and i will post when i have had a chance to thrash the life out of them so thank you for your review its nice to see a reviewer thats not getting paid from the company ;) cheers m8 ..

    [Thanks! I think the problem with the vibrating strings will be solved with the proper setup. You probably need to adjust their height or perhaps the curve of the neck. – Bjorn]

  94. Patrick says:

    Good job as usual Bjorn. I was warned about putting active pu on guitar, but I got normal SA’s and put them into my cheap Ibanez. It’s pretty good piece of gear with amazing neck and it was my first axe ( before I really knew what I liked ), that was waiting around for some good upgrade. Friend was selling prewired pickguard from EMG with three SA pickups and after installation made really good standard guitar ( it had two humbuckers originally so it didn’t get played much lately ) to my favorite backup one.
    I plan to get DG set too and can’t wait to hear SPC and EXG in action. Thank you for great unbiased ( it’s hard sometimes, right?? ) reviews and please continue to do so!!! I already show this site ,,few” friends who are true gear heads and they were freaked out. In best sense of the word.

    [Thanks for your comment and support Patrick! – Bjorn]

  95. David McDade says:

    Hey bjorn ive been using your site sence about 08 for DG settings, i had to sell my strat so I only have my beater Ibanez rg350dx left so it’s really hard to get those david gilmour tones out of my rig but I manage. Im 23 so I heard PF in my mamas belly for their MLOR tour and havw been a gilmour deciple sence. so I’ve been thinking about putting a set of dg twenty’s in my Ibanez until I can afford to buy 57 reissue stratocaster for two reasons, 1. I think I can get a good metal ssolo tone from them for my band and still get my beloved 80s Gilmour tone, and 2. Whwn I get the cash together for another strat I can throw the dg20’s in and im set. My question is my Ibanez has a floyd rose floating bridge, is this going to cause problems with instalation, tone, ect…? thanks alot for the help over the years

    [I haven’t tried the EMGs on any other guitar than a Strat but I’d imagine it would work fine. You just need to have enough space in the cavity for a battery. – Bjorn]

  96. Oscar says:

    Hi Bjorn, when i installed my DG20 i didnt see a ground wire, do i need to put one in or not, if yes, where do i place it? Ty.

    [You don’t need it. – Bjorn]

  97. Wayne says:

    I have not read all the postings or everything EMG DG20 related here. Sorry if this has already been asked somewhere before. I was wondering if anybody has run this set using two 9V in a 18V set up ? Im sure its not a dramatic tone change, Ive done the same with a EMG 85. Id think the headroom and dynamics would increase close to the same I got with the 85.

    Thanks !

  98. Jan H. says:

    Would it be possible to use a EQ pedal set for midboost to achieve a similar effect to the SPC or does something special happen within the SPC circuitry that can’t be replicated elsewhere in the signal chain?

    I know that the SA are different to passive singlecoils, but still?

    [You could achieve something similar but it wouldn’t be the same. The SA’s are very similar to the late 60s and early 70s Fender pickups and you could place an EQ first in the line, in front of all the pedals, with a slight volume and mid range boost. You could also go for something like a complete set of Duncan SSL5, which is similar to having the SPC on full effect but then you’d have no way to adjust the effect. Still, if you want THE tone, you just need to buy them :) – Bjorn]

  99. Treavor says:

    Thank you so much for your expertise Bjorn. I appreciate all your input. Maybe I can piece together something nice.

    [Thanks Treavor! – Bjorn]

  100. Treavor says:

    Would the Clapton mid range booster play welll with the Us Standard pickups or Mexican vinage better than the Texas specials and if so which combination is going to give me the closest tones to the Black Strat?
    Thanks for the input Bjorn.

    [I wouldn’t use a mid range booster at all for the BS tones. You want mids scoop, so try a set of Fender CS69s, Fat50s, 54s, Texas Special or Duncan SSL1 or SSL5. My favourite BS setup is Fender CS69 neck and mid and Duncan SSL5 bridge. Check out the TTS Crazy Diamond set that I just reviewed too. – Bjorn]

  101. Treavor says:

    I noted somewhere on the site that you stated that all CIJ MIJ strat’s have custom shop pick-ups in them. Does this include all year production MIJ CIJ models. If so are they nice enough pick-ups to add a Clapton mid boost from Fender and get a simular sound to the cs69’s, or would they be somewhere in between them and the dg20’s?
    I have settled for a MIJ CIJ strat thanks to the expansive knowledge you guys lay down along the way here at Gilmourish! Yet, I am not wanting to get to far ahead by swapping for dg20’s immediately. Would it be worth my Money and Time (no pun intended) to give the Clapton midboost a try with Custom Shop pick-ups?
    Thank you so much Bjorn for your passion for playing and helping others develop the right tones. You are a gift to us all.

    [Thank you Treavor! Recent years MIJ/CIJ comes with Fender Texas Special pickups. Older models (aprox pre 2000) comes with either US Standard pickups or Mexican vintage inspired ones. The Texas Specials are very similar to the CS69s with a bit more mid range and higher output. Mind that the CS69s has a scooped mids character so adding a Clapton mid range booster to the Texas Specials isn’t a good idea if you want a more vintage tone but it might get you closer to the EMGs. – Bjorn]

  102. Patrick says:

    Hallo, you wrote that you changed the ugly pearl pickguard, was that a big deal? I installed the DG20, but can’t remember how it was wired or fitted… if you say it’s easy I will remove the strings and change it. Otherwise I will rest with it. Thank you !

    [I never used the pearl pickguard – just replaced the pickups that were on the guitar at the time. Replacing pickguards is very easy and you don’t have to rewire anything. You can even keep the strings on but it’s easier to just take them off, unscrew the pickguard and the pickups and pots and screw them back on the new pickguard. Shouldn’t take more than the time it takes to loosen/fasten all the screws :) – Bjorn]

  103. erik says:

    i forgot to say that the delay sounds greater than before.

  104. erik says:

    thank you very much, it was the t-rex delay vol. level that was to high, this was no matter with the setup before, but now with dg20. i thaught that the compressors create a part of the sound from pulse. is that wrong?

    [Glad you got it sorted out :) The Replica volume can be tricky. The compressors plays a part of the PULSE sound but that doesn’t mean that you have to use them to get the same tone. Keep in mind that David’s PULSE rig is HUGE with lots of pedals, rack units, a complex routing system, miles and miles of cables etc. This require an effect setup that’s a bit different than what you’d use on a smaller rig. Add to this the volume of David’s amps, his style and technique and how he picks the strings etc. As I said, compressors are a tool that should be added if needed. You will get much of the same tone by setting the amp and DG20 up for a warm punchy clean tone and rolling off the guitar volume control from 10 to 9. Add a very mild transparent booster like the Colorsound Powerboost or BK Tube Driver for a slight crunch and you’re there. You might want to add a hint of delay too. If you still feel the tone needs a bit of squeeze then you add a compressor. – Bjorn]

  105. erik says:

    i forgot to say that when i play chords, it sounds not very clear. it sounds like a bit overdrive.

    [See my reply below. Try the suggested amp settings and roll off the active tone controls on the EMGs to hear their true sound. Switch off the compressors and listen to how they affect the tone. – Bjorn]

  106. erik says:

    good evening, i started playing the guitar 2 years ago because of pink floyd / david gilmour. i saw the pulse concert and the royal albert hall concert and have learned the song shine on you crazy diamond, solo 1,2 and 3.
    i installed this emg dg20 set to my fender usa strat, and i’m not very satisfied. first of all i noticed that the strings were very sensitive, i noticed that when bending, the string above sounded, so i had to decrease volume and master on my dr504. i don’t like that because i know that these amps should be set as high as possible to open up the character of pedals like the tube driver.

    on my previous pickups (cs69) i played the first solo on the second position of the pickup switch. i saw at pulse concert david played in the first position (neck). I also saw a video on youtube where somebody played the 1st and 2nd solo that way and it sounded great like pulse.
    i don’t get that sound. i have the exg off and tried several positions on the spc knob. but there is no pulse sound. i’m using a boss cs2 and a mxr dynacomp script logo.
    On the second position of the pcikup switch they sound not very different to the cs69. but the output is higher in my opinion.
    one positive aspect is that the distortion from the rat sounds “cleaner”.

    i miss my cs69, but i had to cut off the cables and i’m no technician who can reset that easily. i will try further on with the dg20. i noticed that with these pickups my whole settings must be changed. maybe you can give me some advice, i would very appreciate. thanks

    [There might be many reasons why you don’t get the tones you want. The DG20 are quite different from the CS69 so you can’t really compare the two. The DG20 sound darker, they have a bit more output and the active tone controls will alter the tone dramatically. The reason you experience that other strings ring when you bend is probably the fact that the EMGs have a higher output that reveals details in your playing. I’m afraid it means more practice on those bends :)
    The best way to set up your tone is to start with a clean tone. To get to know your amp and pickups you should always start off by just plugging the guitar straight into the amp and set the amp controls as desired. Adjust the pickup volume and controls and listen to how that affects the tone. Keep in mind that the active tone controls on the DG20 are off when they’re rolled all the way back. That’s the bypass signal. When you increase them towards 10 you will alter the tone. Do the adjustments that fits your setup. I rarely use the EXG but like to have the SPC around 7.
    Using compressors is tricky and they should not be treated like other pedals. A compressor is a tool you use when your tone require it. If it doesn’t then don’t use it. Don’t use compressors just because you think you need to. David used two compressors in 1994 because his setup was so incredibly big that he needed to sustain and drive the signal. On the 2006 he used a smaller more transaprent set up and rarely used the compressor. See this feature for more details.
    I’d set the amp to something like this: bass 50%, treble 40-60%, mids 40%, presence 50-60% and set the master volume to about 2/3 of the channel volume. To get even more presence and a brighter tone you can combine the channels on your amp with a small patch cable. Plug the cable into the upper normal and lower bright and plug the guitar into the upper bright. Set the normal channel volume slightly higher than the bright. Hope this helped. – Bjorn]

  107. El Gasty says:

    Hi Bjorn, its me again. I have another question.
    When I removed the pickward to install the DG20, I realised that the body had not a foil (metal paper, you understand).
    So, my question is: Does the foil work?, or leave it that way?
    Whats the diference?


    El Gasty

    Pd: sorry for trying to add you insist on facebook. LOL. Im Gaston Villagran

    [Copper foil is not standard on any guitar. You have to do that your self. It’s used to shield the guitar, meaning that it a bigger surface that drains electrical interferance to ground. You probably don’t need it with the EMGs since they are shielded. – Bjorn]

  108. ElGAsty says:

    HI Bjorn, How are you?
    I will try to make my question for you with my special english (long time without speaking it), LOL
    I have a black MIM stratocaster with the original pickups, and I bought the DG20 kit. I know the kit works with a batery, so, my question is:
    Have all the strats the space to install that pickups?
    Will I need to make a special space for that?

    Thanks Bjorn, greetings froms Argentina

    [All Strats will have enough room under the pickguard for the battery. Place it under the tone pots. That way it’ll be easy to change as well. – Bjorn]

  109. Xvince1 says:

    Hi Bjorn, thank’s a lot for taking time to answer. So, to look further, I have borrowed yesterday a kit of SA’s to test myself and to compare with Blackouts (on the same guitar).

    First, I have that same problem with SA’s and cleans, so I think it’s more a issue with output level than equalisation. My amp is really tight with headroom (It’s a Tech21 Trademark 120, and it’s well known for that, in fact…)

    So comparing SD/EMG : Both are quite very silent (even with my big muff). I understand now what you (like many friends of mine) say about EMG and their dull and flat tone. I find the Blackouts much more “organic” and “alive” than EMG (As I’ve read a lot before). With the SA’s, It’s very strange, but I do not recognize some strats tones (especially in intermediate positions, and the “quack” is much more present with SD). I thought that SA’s sounded very (too much ?) 80’s and I had that weird feeling of playing keyboard with them. Although, It can be very interesting for some stuff, I think.

    So, I thought the BO sounded closer to passive PU than EMG, even they’re far from CS69 or fat50. They give a steroid feeling to my Strat and I think they are much more closer to Texas Specials (without being muddy), or to the Woodstock plus set from Kinman or Blues Special from Lindy Fralin. (and they work very well with SPC & EXG too)

    So I will keep my Blackouts and look for a new amp with much more headroom. :-) (I will go further with some interesting settings for good cleans with them on my V-Twin Mesa). I will be far from edge tones of Animals but I can achieve some wonderfull mild OD with them.

    Cheers !!!

    [Thanks for your input! – Bjorn]

  110. Xvince1 says:

    Hi Bjorn, I have a question about the DG20. I have bought a kit off Seymour Duncan Blackouts singles (AS-1) as an alternative to the DG20 (I very like the Red Strat era and Steve Rothery…)


    They sounds really good for crunch and distortions but it’s quite impossible to keep them clean (even with jumper in moderate position) because they do have a huge eq in mediums :


    So I know that EMG have huge output compared to vintage singles coil, but I wanted to know about their equalisation ? bass/mid/highs If you know what I mean. I understand that the blackout are agressive because of their abusive mid equalisation compared with traditionals single coil (wich have à smiling EQ with huge brightness), and I wanted to know if you see something like that with the SA’s, outside their high level of output (without EXG/SPC, I mean) ?

    Thank’s !!!

    [I haven’t tried the Duncans but the DG20 doesn’t appear to be that aggressive. They do have a considerable higher output than vintage pickups like the CS69s and more so when you engage the EQ controls but with the controls rolled off (set neutral) the pickups are pristine clean. I’ve never had any problems with not be able to get a clean tone. Depending on how much headroom your amp has the DG20 can perhaps be a bit difficult to tame when you increase the SPC mid range control but there shouldn’t be a problem. – Bjorn]

  111. Hi again,
    Installed the new DG20’s into my candy apple red hot rod 57. What can I say? For home use – through a Pod X3 live, mixer and monitors, the set is awesome. Silent and exceptionally flexible. Really drives the effects and delivers tone and sustainnnnnnnnnnnn to die for. The Pulse like lead tones are exceptionally satisfying to play and the pups have dynamics and super attack. Harmonics bounce out. And the Shine on tone… well… :-)

    My last experince with dg20s was with an amp and cab .. not nearlly as satisfying (for my home use puroposes) as through the POD.

    Thanks Bjorn bor the reviews and bloggs. Keeping the Gilmour dialogue informtaion and news flowing. I love my red strat.
    My custom shop 69’s are for sale on ebay. No reserve.

    [Glad you figured it out Howard :) Cheers! – Bjorn]

  112. The noise is crazy so I have emgdg20.’s on order. The 69’s will be on eBay on a singly ply guard with waxed cloth wire n cts pots. Anyway, this will be my second set of dg20’s. Great neck tone and quiet. The 57 will be a looker and a player:-). Thanks for you review and bloggs. Happy strat playing.

  113. Hi bjorn
    Just re-read your review and the blog posts. I have cs69s in my vintage 57 hot rod. I popped the noiseless/ dimarzio set into my 70’s reissue. Nice!
    Trouble is, I play and record at home and the noise from the 69’s spoils an otherwise awesome tone; especially the neck and combined pup settings. When I kick in my keeley

    [That’s the downside of vintage style single coils… The poles are exposed so you will get some level of noise no matter how good the guitar is shielded. Recording at home can be a challenge though because your instrument is exposed to all kinds of interference from the computer, close by electric components like the fridge etc. I find it very hard to record at home but if you spend some time finding the right angle in the room it might reduce some of the noise. Walk around and find a spot that’s less noisy. – Bjorn]

  114. Andy butler says:

    Hi I’m thinking of adding the fender eric Clapton active mid boost kit and tbx control to my strat as it can be used with any passive pickups so maybe you can have the vintage sound with the 69’s and the ssl5 and the fat sound of the red strat all in one? Has any one tried this or is it a bad idea? Cheers andy

    [Haven’t tried this myself so I can’t really tell how it sounds… – Bjorn]

  115. voxx says:

    JUst a note to let you know that there is a less expensive alternative to the EMG DG20 set and it is made by Dragon guitars . The cost is about half of what the EMG set is and does require a minimum of soldering (the input jacvk must be unsoldered then re-soldered after passing the wires through the body rout.
    I was amazed how much my Strat now sounds like David’s Red Strat. The sustain in greatly increased and with a Proco Rat in the pedal chain the tone is indistinguishable from David’s on Delicate Sound of Thunder-LIVE. I also used a Carbon Copy delay and a touch of chorus.

    [Thanks for the tip. I pasted the link here. – Bjorn]

  116. sebastián says:

    hi, sorry for my english, but i’ve a question, it’s related to the DG-20 so..these EMGs can be use on a different guitar model?? ..for example, Yamaha Pacifica with DG-20 or Ibanez Gio with DG-20. etc. or it’s just exclusive for Fender??..

    and, what’s the influence on sound of a maple fingerboard v/s rosewood fingerboard with DG-20??

    thanks for your answers..

    [The EMGs will fit any guitar that has three single coils like a Fender Strat. Maple has a slightly brighter tone compared to rosewood. – Bjorn]

  117. Alan says:

    Thanks for a great article Bjorn. I have a candy apple red 57 reissue strat and have been considering installing a set of DG20’s for a while. I too am not keen on the pearl pickguard and was wondering how easy it is to swap it over for a plain pickguard. Is any soldering required?

    [Nope. Just the screws holding the pickups, knobs etc. – Bjorn]

  118. Joe says:

    would you consider using the SPC with your vintage pickups in order to get an extra sound or is that a mismath.


    [It’s not that easy with the new EMG system but personally I’d keep two different guitars anyway. – Bjorn]

  119. Sven says:

    I got the EMG DG20 about 6 years ago. At first i was frustrated: my std stratocaster sounded more like SOYCD with the original pickups than with the EMG’s. Of course that in itself is no big surprise, but i wanted my old strat tone back! Going back turned out to quite hard because of the noise the original strat pickups produce when exposed to electric light. On the upside, i really do *love* the sound the neck pickup gives with the SPC about halfway and the EXG almost completely down. For funky sounds i turn the SPC down and take the EXG to about three. It works fine, but somehow the standard single coils still performs better for funky rifs.

    To arnni: 5 hours battery time is incorrect. I had them in for well over a year before i decided to change the battery: the difference was hardly audible.

    [There’s always pros and cons with all pickups. I use the EMGs a lot with my band Airbag. They allow me to replicate some of those humbucker sounds I recorded but still with the single coil flavour. On some stuff though I prefer the CS69 and SSL5 setup on my main Strat. Noise isn’t really an issue if you ground the PUs properly and shield the cavity. My main Strat is as quiet as the EMGs and the CS69s are known to be quite noisy.
    According to EMG, the 9V battery should last well over a year with 3-5 hours playing each day. Just remember to unplug the instrument cable when you’re not playing. – Bjorn]

  120. bernhard says:

    thanks bjorn! yes, the wires are a bit of an issue too, as the let you loose 1 or 2 mm extra depth as they are running underneath the pickups, especially irritating in regard to the neck pu.

    I am mostly concerned with the bass side, I have taken two pics, bass and treble side, images here



    as I mention, the neck pu is my biggest concern, which is approx. 6mm from the pickguard and 4,5 – 5mm from the strings on the bass side, on the treble side approx 4mmm from the pu and equally 4 from the strings. middle pu bass side is 4,5 mm from the pg and 5 from the strings, all in the lowest possible setting, I can’t go lower than that, as the pu is hitting the bottom of the cavity.

    I am using an 8 hole 1 ply pickguard (original eric johnson), and I know you are using a 3 ply with your new strat, but I checked the pulse dvd, pu settings there look a lot lower than my bass side with david’s 1 ply pg.

    I know this seems a little pedantic ;), but my concerns are mostly about the fact that I would like to get more room on the bass side of e.g. the neck pu, again also taking into account that I want to go lower on the bass than on the treble side with leaving enough room to the strings on each side…

    thanks again, your input is greatly appreciated!


    [I’ve tried a couple of heights and I don’t think it matters that much. EMG reccomends that the PUs are as close to the strings as possible but that’s a bit too boomy for me. A mm or two either way doesn’t make much of a difference but that might depend on your amp etc too. You can also compensate to some extent by using the EXG and boosting the highs. – Bjorn]

  121. bernhard says:

    hey there again,

    hmm, I sort of have to relativize my initial happiness as I seem to run into a rather strange and somewhat ugly problem.

    I have installed the dg-20’s in my eric johnson strat, which is based on a 57 body. the thing is that the cavities for the pickups don’t seem deep enough to put the pu’s into a low enough setting, e.g. like david’s setting, and even from an objective point of view, I am running too hot with the pu’s, especially in the neck position. (the johnson pu’s are much flatter in construction than the dg-20’s, so they fit).

    I am baffled to be honest, I never imagined the cavities not deep enough for any pu that would fit in any other strat…

    has anybody else ever run into problem like that, with any other guitar, and the question also is, is there any other solution except carving out the cavities (which btw. I wouldn’t mind to I reckon) ?

    thanks and cheers!

    [You’re certain it’s the depth of the cavity? I had problems with fitting all the wires etc and nearly gave up trying to get everything in there but it worked out somehow. My PUs are 5-6mm off the pickguard, aprox like David’s. – Bjorn]

  122. bernhard says:

    well, björn, your article finally turned me on to my own set of dg-20’s. just got my red strat back from the luthier, pickups in place, I had to just re-adjust a little bit in order to make them a little less boomy. all in all I second every line you wrote about the exg and spc controls, rather flat if turned to zero, a bit pale and lifeless, but turned to the respective sweet spots ( my exg comes in at 5 as well, spc around 6 to 8 depending on which pu I dial in) and there you go.

    I really really like them, have to spend a lot more time, but I now totally get the point of these. only tried them with my home setup so far, but I can already imagine how they will open up with my band setup, sadly no chance to take them to the edge at home, the whole house would come after me ;)).

    it’s interesting to find that very crystal clear clean balanced sound we know from pulse, it’s within a rather small area with the dg-20’s, that kind of suprises me. but again I have to take it to my band’s pedalboard I will get a signifcantly enhanced impression there, I lack a clean treble booster at home, using the byoc tri-boost at the moment, and a proper preamp, which is essential for me. but again, so far, even with my home setup I am already impressed and I can really feel, and most importantly comfortably feel, the direction they are pointing into….

    so, thanks for your great, great review, really helped me to make a long pondered decision.


    [Glad it worked out for you Bernhard! I’m starting to really appreciate these pickups my self. Use them a lot. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  123. Matt Rigby says:

    Peolple, if your aftre a strat type guitar with EMG SA’s in check out the Court G290. I have one and its a great guitar! You get a lot for your money! People in the UK can get them here http://www.richardsguitars.co.uk He is a great guy and his customer service is outstanding. My guiter came with an impecable setup! Take a look!

  124. James says:

    Hey Bjorn!

    Love the site, what do you think of the EMG’s through your Marshall? I use an AVT at home, and I can get a good tone through all my pedals with passive p/ups, but am considering these. What do u think?


    [My Marshall has lots of headroom so it’s no problem getting Hiwattish tones. I’ve tried the EMGs on other amps that tend to brek up more easily and they get a bit too hot for my taste. – Bjorn]

  125. Dave A says:

    Hey Bjorn,just read your comment over on the Dg gear forum that you bought your 62 strat from Ebay, was that from America or Europe,i was wondering if you got clobbered for a big cost when picking it up ! Or if its a second hand product does the this mean its exempt.Its sort of stopping me as god knows what it would cost this end when i went to pick it up.

    [Bought it from Katana Guitars located in Japan. High score on EBay, super fast delivery and reasonable shipping costs. Highly recommended. – Bjorn]

  126. Jackson says:

    I’m really considering getting a new guitar just to put some EMG’s in but i do think my overdrive tones is very similiar to 90’s gilmour just buy using the Am Std strat whose pickups are fairly middy, guitar>mxr dynacomp>ts-808>fulltone ocd (clean boost)>dd7>Fender hot rod deluxe (boosted the mids on amp slightly).

    the combination of the ts-808 and the fulltone ocd (by the way which is a very transparent and powerful overdrive! thoughts?) is very very reminicent of that super thick gilmour sound on the neck pickup neck pick-up. i love it!

    [Personally I’m not a huge fan of the Standard Strats and the pickups. I think you’re way better off in terms of Gilmour’s sound with either the EMGs or something a bit more vintage like CS69 or some Duncan SSLs or similar. The Fulltone is a great pedal with some of the same characteristics of the Tube Driver and Colorsound Powerboost. – Bjorn]

  127. Eric says:

    Bjorn, how close would a modern Clapton strat be to a Stratocaster with the EMGs? I’m thinking of getting one, or making one to those specs.

    [I’ve never tried the EC my self but it has a mid range booster which would work about the same as the SPC feature. – Bjorn]

  128. Jon Fink says:

    Thanks again Bjorn for your well rounded criticism of the DG-20 set, but I have to disagree with you on a few points:
    1. I prefer the pearliod pickguard over a plain jane standard white pickguard any day! (He he). I personally do not want a guitar that looks exactly like David’s, just his tones.
    2. I think the DG-20 is the best, well I think the SA’s and the SPC are absolutely fantastic (the EXP is always off – because of the Tube EQ in my pedal chain)and wouldn’t think of using anything else in a strat. ( I have the DG-20 on two custom made strats) I use an Electro Harmonix TUbe EQ with two Tung-sol 12ax7’s in my pedal chain so I have no need to boost the bass and treble anymore. I don’t know whether anyone else uses the TUbe EQ pedal in their EQ section of their chain, if they don’t they should!!! I simply cannot play without it.!! Give it a try Bjorn !!!

    [Thanks for the tip! Never tried the EH EQ. My criticism over the pearl pickguard has nothing to do with Gilmour just my taste towards pickguards :) The pearl is ugly but that’s my opinion anyway :) Cheers! – Bjorn]

  129. Arnni says:

    I have actually purchased a set before xmas and im loving the tones… my only problem is deciding to put a hole in the back of my strat to have easy access to the battery or just leaving it… how long does the battery tend to last ive been told up to 5 hours

    [5 hours? I don’t have much experience with using active pickups over a long period but I’ve been using the EMGs for at least 100 hours now and the battery is working fine. I’d assume that the battery will last up to a year with around 2 hours play a day. – Bjorn]

  130. Evan says:

    Has been a while since I last stopped in. Very cool article here, makes me want to try a set for myself. Also really enjoyed the stuff on David’s Les Pauls.

    But, reason I post here is due to some news out of the NAMM show. I don’t know how aware you are of the company Tech 21, but they’re the people behind the Sansamp pedal/preamp/directbox thing that’s been around since the late 80s. Anyway, last year they introduced a line of pedals emulating a certain family of amps, the Character series. Uses analog modeling, if that makes sense. First five were the Blonde (Fender, blackface through tweed), the British (Marshall), the Liverpool (Vox), the California (vintage Mesa Boogie), and the VT Bass (Ampeg).

    Reason I bring it up is they’re putting out some new ones this year, including the Leeds, which emulates Hiwatts. They go over it a bit in this video here, and though they’re focusing more on the Pete Townshend Hiwatt tone the pedal NAILS it. So I would expect Gilmour cleans could be easily and authentically gotten.

    Having owned the Blonde model for about a month now, I’ll stake whatever reputation I have on endorsing these. They’re BRILLIANT pedals. The Blonde sounds like, FEELS LIKE real Fender amps, cops blackface, blonde, oxblood, tweed vibe, does everything. And now I find out they’re putting a Hiwatt out, my lust can hardly be contained. ;)

    Just wanted to pass along something I can’t frickin’ wait for. Hope life is treating you well, man.

    [Thanks for stopping by and for the tip! Tech 21 makes some really cool stuff! I haven’t seen these new pedals before but the Leeds sounds very promising. I’d assume that it’s very similar to a Colorsound Powerboost and the Tube Driver. I’ll definitely check it out! Cheers! – Bjorn]

  131. Eric Nyberg says:

    Hey Bjorn, Still in the process of setting up my wall tone, I have a BYOC triangle muff and a Keeley BD-2 blues driver, where should I have the gain and tone knobs on the BD-2 when I’m using it a s a clean boost?

    [Depends entirely on your amp, volume, pickups etc. I normally set the BD2 right in the sweetspot before it breaks. Just a hint of crunch with a slight volume boost… not much. The tone is backed off to around 10:00. – Bjorn]

  132. Fernando says:

    Excelent Article Bjorn. Although I really love the SOYCD tone of Pulse, generally speaking I rather the sound of the pasive single coils (for me the sound of the SSL-5 is priceless), therefore I wouldn’t buy a pick up set and modify a guitar for playing just one song, I rather try to get the tone with a EQ.

    I wonder who suggested to switch from the red Strat to the Black for Live 8. A DG decision? Phil Taylor doesn’t say. Tim Renwick or Jon Carin? Why If they toured twice with DG playing the red one? A PF member? Prehaps, but which? I don’t think that NM cares to much, Roger Waters doesn’t seem to care too (just hear the guitar tones from his tours). That said, for me maybe it was Rick Wright for the tone or Roger Waters for the tone and/or the spirit of the event. Does anyone who knows the truth?

    [Taylor mentions this in the Black Strat book “The favoured red Strat had been used for the first two days of rehearsal at Black Island Studio, London. During the third day it was suggested that David should try the Black Strat, as he had used it on the original recordings of these songs. He put down the red one and began playing the Black Strat.” It doesn’t say who suggested it but I’d assume it was Phil. None of the others would have cared or remember… or so I think. – Bjorn]

  133. Cody says:


    Haha is that really all he is doing? I could definitely hear the tonal differences as that had taken place but it seems like there was something else..

    [I think that’s all he does. The rest of the song is with the bridge pickup and you can see he’s switching over for 20-30 sec and then back to the bridge. Perhaps he’s kicking in the compressor as well but I’m not sure. – Bjorn]

  134. Andy Bolger says:

    Hi Bjorn,

    I spent a long time deciding which pick ups I wanted to install in my start and finally settled on the EMG SA’s. To be honest I was really disappointed with the sound of the EMG SA’s on their own, they just seemed so flat and didn’t have that Bell like tone EMG promised.

    Recently, I bought the EXG and SPC modules separately and installed them in my guitar. They have totally transformed the sound. For me the best tone is reached having the EXG set between 2-3 and the SPC between 8-10.

    Thanks for the great site

    [My oppinion exactly. – Bjorn]

  135. Danielkn says:

    Bjorn! Now that you have this set of dg-20 in one of your guitars, and I’m guessing you still have the dg-1, y’think you could do some sound clips or videos giving us a good achievable PULSE tone?

    :) Pretty please?

    [I have lots of YouTube clips planned for the coming months. Stay tuned :) – Bjorn]

  136. Gary says:

    I am very interested that you have got another strat – and with a rosewood board this time. How does it compare to your other strats and why did you buy a CIJ rather than a USA RI or a MIM ? I am looking at getting another strat myself, so i’d be interested to hear your views.

    [I’ve sold the 70’s Strat, which was a MIM. I liked it but it wasn’t really what I needed. The new ’62 reissue is fantastic. Couldn’t be happier. I love Japanese Fenders. They’re just as good as the US models and they’re cheaper. In my opinion the US guitars over priced much due to the US stamp. Japanese guitars are gaining more and more recognition although Fender US closed down the export from Japan years ago. MIMs can be great but you have to really know what you’re looking for and spend some time finding a good piece. Check out this article for more info. – Bjorn]

  137. Cody says:

    In response to your last comment reply…Didnt they stop making CIJ strats? Id love to pick up a second guitar and you and others have highly recommended them but I have heard they arent made anymore making them somewhat sought after. Is this true?

    Also, on a separate note. What do you think David is doing here right before 4:35 and after. He does something right at that point and his following tone is AMAZING. Any ideas? ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4kgBpgoQaU )

    [I think they’re still making CIJs but they stoped using MIJ some years ago. He’s switching over to the neck pickup. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  138. Christophe says:

    Very interesting review, thanks.

    One day I’ll have to try, not only for David’s sound, but for Marillion guitarist Steve Rothery fantastic sound during 80’s and 90’s…(EMG SA and Jc 120….)

  139. Alan says:

    Great Review and, when did you put a rosewood neck on the other strat??? or is that a new guitar?

    [It’s a new Fender CIJ ’62 reissue. – Bjorn]

  140. Giorgio says:

    Hey Bjorn,

    Always a pleasure to read your articles and blogs.
    I must admit I have always been sceptical about the ‘post-Waters’ tone, (until the Black Strat return). I bought Floyd’s records nonetheless and saw them live in Italy in 1994 and, although that was an unforgettable experience, I found the sound a bit artificial. A great sound of course, but a bit too fabricated.
    But your article now has made me curious about these pups, and the low hum perspective is intriguing.
    Would you recommend the EMGs for home practice setups or is it a bit of a waste with small transistor amps? You said they sound dull on your Marshall. Ciao.

    [Well, I agree but I must say that I like the pickups more now than last time I tried them. They’re great for some stuff while I prefer the vintage style pickups for other things. The EMGs are hot and whether or not they work on smaller amps depends entirely on the amp. I wouldn’t recommend them if your amp tends to distort easily. However they can also compensate for some of the tone you’ll miss when you need to play at low volume at home. – Bjorn]

  141. Ernest says:

    The Red strat EMG system can do things the black strat can’t do and the black strat can do things the red one can’t do ;-)
    I love them both.
    I fell in love with this huge EMG sound I heard during a PF concert in stadium in 1994. What do you want, SOYCD, SORROW, CN, etc, etc, …
    Play the EMG with the right amp and pedals, like boosting a CWM with a TD and PULSE here we come ;-)
    Here’s my EMG demo:
    (guitar solo starts at 2:08)
    Or this demo: http://www.ebaumsworld.com/audio/play/80780206
    (Rams Head BYOC + CE-2)

    [Thanks for sharing the clips! Nice playing! – Bjorn]

  142. Deck says:

    Bjorn, in answer to your reply to Joe, here’s a pic of my 2002 EMG DG20 kit. You’ll notice how things changed compared to the pic you post in your article.
    I mostly use these pickups in my band nowadays since they are quite silent. I couldn’t deal with the hum of my passives single coils anymore. While playing with overdriven tones, I tend to add a bit of chorus with these EMGs to bring some life to them.
    But I agree with you, they don’t have that passive single coil mojo, and I still prefer my CS’54 kit. But no hum… And SPC!

    [Thanks for the pic! – Bjorn]

  143. Nick says:


    Thank you for the great review once again! I was just wondering, what is the difference between the DG20 and “hotter” blues single coils?

    Also, off topic (sorry), I love the Echos solo on Remember That Night where David used the G-2. Is there anything you could recommend that is similar to the G-2?


    [The DG20 is perhaps closer to the Texas Special than 69s but in my oppinion they’re hard to compare with most single coils. As I said in the review I think the neutral position is weak and dull, while the SPC makes them sound more like humbuckers than anything else. That being said, the SPC makes them ideal for blues.
    You could use a Muff, perhaps a Sovtek for a slighty fatter and more saturated tone. I also get very similar tones with a RAT boosted by a transparent overdrive like the Tube Driver, Colorsound Powerboost or Boss BD2. – Bjorn]

  144. I have used EMGs ever since I got my first Strat (a Mexican Standard) back in 1997. My first exposure to David’s tone was during the Division Bell/Pulse era, so that has always been my favorite. My first Strat had 2 EMG SAs (Bridge/Mid) and an SV (Neck) and I also had an SPC installed with it. I absolutely loved them, but that guitar was stolen. When I bought its replacement (the Strat I’m currently using – a 1998 California Series) I decided to get it in Candy Apple Red and put a set of DG-20s in it. I have loved it ever since. I rarely use the EXG but every once in a while it helps for rhythms. I play a lot of classic rock/blues covers in my band Plastic Saints and I find the DG-20s incredibly versatile for that stuff as well as for our originals. I’m glad you finally went back and revisited them and gave them some love!! Thanks for the review!

    [Cheers Brandon! – Bjorn]

  145. Bryan Hudson says:

    Nice review. A few years ago I switched to the DG20 in my main Strat, my 89 American Standard and never looked back. It absolutely nails the eras you stated. While giving up some of the “pure” Strat tones is a concern, I find it makes the guitar more versatile and able to cover more sonic ground. I can use my Strat to get decent humbucker tones that a regular one can’t do. Overall I’m pleased with the set. Being older I don’t have the quick connect setup but all I had to solder was the output jack and I was up and running. Oh and you’re also very correct about the pickups by themselves. The SPC and EXG are the keys to making this system come alive.

    [Yeah, I think the pickups alone are not worth it. You have to have the whole set to get that magical tone. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  146. very good bjorn. i have been using these for 20 years and am still in awe of them and rarely use my black strat on stage. i recall during the debut at live aid that david was having alot of trouble with his guitar, eventually having a stagehand bring a new guitar out to him during the song jealous guy i think. may have been a flat battery but i would love to know for sure what the problem was. once again bjorn it is always a pleasure to read your thoughts. long may it continue

    [Thanks Marty! It was actually a different guitar that stopped working during Sensation, Ferry’s opening number. Looks like a sunburst ’57 reissue with vintage pickups. In the middle of the song David is handed the red Strat with the EMGs :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q56jUEwdkcM&feature=related – Bjorn]

  147. Cody says:

    Very nice review Bjorn! You have certainly perked my interest and I am curious to try some of these out for myself.”

    Which performance were you referring to in the last couple sentences?

    Thanks :)

    (Also, where would one go about asking a general question?)

    [I was basically just referring to the tone in general. There are lots of those moments but I Put A Spell On You with Mica Paris is one that comes to mind. You can post general Qs anywhere or feel free to send me an e-mail. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  148. Josh says:

    Great review! I’ve always been interested in those pickups, but never picked up a set.

    For many years I’ve had an early Clapton strat with Lace Sensors and the Clapton mid-boost – this setup gets a very similar sound to the DG EMG set, to my ears. It is a wonderful thing when the mid-boost gets dialed in, hey? I would suggest to your readers that if they don’t want to go whole-hog and use EMG pickups, the Clapton mid-boost kit _is_ in fact available on its own from Fender, and can be used with _any_ pickup and installed in any strat. It’s been my secret weapon for years – I’ve had it installed in every strat I’ve ever had. Just a suggestion!

    As for the DG20 set… I’ve strongly considered putting a set in a second Black Strat (so, with black pickguard, etc) as a backup guitar to be used in venues where there is a lot of noise. Seems to me like a very sneaky way to combat the hum.

    [Thanks for the tip Josh! The EMG controls can’t be used with other pickups so this might be a good alternative. – Bjorn]

  149. Seb says:

    As usual, Bjorn, good and complete review.
    I installed this EMG set 4 years ago on my Japanese Red Stratocaster. Last year I changed the SA Bridge pick up for an EMG Humbucker 89 (which can be splitted with a Quickswitch). I did this for more versatility.
    I also installed a Graphtech Piezo and the Roland GK3 Hexaphonic Divided Pickup.

    [Thanks for the tip Seb! – Bjorn]

  150. Dave A says:

    Hey Bjorn.A very well written and informative review one could also use the word educational.Nice new guitar mate.So a new Airbag album is to be expected soon then,I look forward to it.Are you gonna be playing any of the new tracks in Holland.All the best to you and the band with the Album.Have a great 2010 !

    [Thanks! We’re working on the new album but it’s way too early to tell when it’ll be finished. We’re hoping that we can start sessions this summer and have the album ready around this time next year… we’re not very effective but then again we’ve learned that from Floyd LOL! Cheers! – Bjorn]

  151. Kjetil Gilje says:

    Thanks, Riis! That was very interesting. Maybe someday you can put up a youtube clip so we can compare the sound to the Fender pups when played through your rig?

    [Thanks! I’ll try to record something! – Bjorn]

  152. Raphaël.B says:

    Nice review Bjorn!
    It give a lot of informations =)
    happy to read that review!
    Thanks a lot!


    [Cheers! – Bjorn]

  153. tim says:

    I’ve always been more of a fan for the EMG’s then any other pickups. The Gilmour set is on both of my fender strats. They sound awesome. Love the piece on the EMG’s. Keep up the good work Bjorn. Cheers.

    [Thanks Tim! – Bjorn]

  154. Bill says:

    I had a Mexican Strat with the DG20s installed and really liked them. I also have a 1989 Clapton Signature Strat (with the Gold Lace puckups) and though they sounded a LOT alike! In my opinion, the Clapton setup had more “balls” behind it.

    I ended up selling the other Strat and kept the Clapton Strat, later adding the Custom Shop model to it. I would definitely recommend the DG20 as a great upgrade. The sound great even in a regular Mexican Strat.

    I can still get a decent “Pulse” sound using only my Clapton Strat and Fender Frontman 25 watt amp.

    Keep up the good work!

  155. Kit Rae says:

    Nice article. I wondered if you would ever try these again. I tried them for a few months several years back, could not get on with them and sold them. Last year I decided to give them another go and bought set to put in my spare strat. I decided I liked them for certain things. Enough to keep them.

    They do sound great for the neck pickup/Tube Driver stuff, but for bridge pickup Big Muff stuff I never thought they sounded as good as my SSL-5. The SPC just makes a muddy mess of my tone if I go over 5. I just don’t hear what everyone else hears with the SPC I guess. I actually prefer the bridge tone when both EXG and SPC are off, as long as I have a Boss CS-2 compressor going. They do nail Pulse pretty well with the CS-2, CW Muff, CE-2, and delay.

    I can make the EMG SA pups sound really great by adjusting my amp and a few pedal settings to work better with them, but then I find my black strat with vintage pups does not sound right and have to change them back, so I keep them somewhere in the middle.

    Based on my examination of David’s knob positions in Pulse he seems to always have the EXG off. His SPC settings vary.
    Coming Back to Life first solo is 1, second and third solos around 4.5.

    For SOYCD I can’t see it clearly in Pulse, but listening I think it is off. In the Gdansk DVD you can see it is clearly set around 2.

    Sorrow solos are 5, and for the outro phrase (same as intro) he cranks it to 10.

    Comfortably Numb is set around 5 for both solos.

    [Well I agree with you completely. The pickups works for some stuff but I definitely prefer the SSL5 bridge PU especially for my Muff tones. The SPC is very sensitive to which amp you’re using. It works great on my Sound City and Reeves but sounds quite muddy on the Marshall 5210 I have at home but then again this is a transistor amp. – Bjorn]

  156. Joe says:

    Glad you rediscovered them Riis. Man they really changed the way the underside looks on the system from back when I got mine.

    [I’ve never seen the old ones so I can’t really tell but the new solderless system works great. Especially for someone like me who’s allergic to soldering LOL! I must admit that I was pretty excited with the SPC especially and I’m glad I gave them a new chance. As I said in the review though I like them for some stuff but I still prefer the CS69 and SSL5. It’s nice to have different sounding guitars anyway. – Bjorn]

  157. danielkn says:

    Excellent review! I love David’s red strat tone, and that Shine On tone is absolute heaven. Those videos of him playing blues songs with B.B. King and I’m not sure who it is, but that video of him doing I Put A Spell On You.

    ;) Those texas blues tones are overplayed, we need more Gilmour blues tones running around.

    [Agree! I Put A Spell On You is with Mica Paris and Jools Holland.- Cheers! – Bjorn]

  158. Thomas says:

    Awesome Bjorn! I have been pondering myself whether i should by the set or not. That fat bluesy neck pickup tone is just awesome! I love it!I still have my very first guitar, a strat copy which has crappy electronics and hardware. Many times I have thought about putting the DG20 set in with a Callaham bridge assembly. Hmmmm I may have to blow the dust off of it and get to work lol.

    [Now you have a reason :) – Bjorn]

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