A LITTLE HISTORY
EMG, Inc. is well known throughout the guitar community as a leader in active pickup systems. What you may not know is that the company, which recently celebrated its 35th anniversary, originated as Dirtywork Studios, then Overlend, before settling on its current name, which is short for ‘electro-magnetic generator’. What you may also not realize is despite a strong reputation for active pickups, EMG also offers a variety of passive pickups. Included in these offerings is the ST12, a complete system designed to drop in to your Strat with minimal fuss.
The ST12 comprises two humbucking OC1 (open coil) pickups: bridge and neck. These are pre-wired and built into a choice of white or black pickguard. Controls include a 3-way pickup selector, master volume, and master tone. Installation is easily managed thanks to EMG’s Quick-Connect system.
With no soldering required and the only wiring requiring replacing the stock input jack with the included replacement jack, installation was a breeze. It literally took me longer to unscrew and pull out the old pickguard than to install the ST12.
Giving the ST12 a test run, I ran the axe through a Blackheart Little Giant Half Stack. The bridge pickup performed with clarity and leanness without ever sounding too bright or thin. True to the signature Strat sound, aggressive picking came through with punch and there was a quality to it that begged to be shifted into overdrive. Flipping to the neck pickup, the tone filled out with a round and heavy bottom end (for those of you who like that kinda thing…). The character came across more mellow but there was still a bit of that punch. Depending on your perspective, blending the two pickups could be thought of as rolling off the lower frequencies of the neck setting for a more balanced tone or inflating the bridge setting with fullness and a more dynamic frequency range. All in all, the ST12 offers three voices different enough from each other to provide versatility while maintaining familiar qualities that provide a cohesive palette of tones within a single unit. A standout quality at all settings is the clarity and quietness. Hum-free is a beautiful thing.
THE FINAL WRAP
If you’re looking to experiment with different sounds for your Strat and would rather spend more time playing and less time hunched over your work bench with your soldering iron – or worse, paying someone to do it for you – the EMG ST12 is worth a look. Not only can you maintain your stock pickguard as is, it will take you less time and hassle to install the entire unit than replacing a single pickup the old fashioned way.
The sounds are a bit on the generic side, but maintain some classic Fender Strat characteristics. For clean, clear, noise-free output, you can’t do much better than EMG.
Street Price – $189
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