Do high-output and active pickups make sense with a wireless?

I always use my Shure wireless and only have guitars with active hum-bucking EMG pickups. I have started to question the EMGs jamming massive output into my wireless only to have it pad its input by zillions of dB so I don’'t clip its ADC.

I’m starting to think that I can get some passive DiMarzios with relatively wimpy magnets in an HSH configuration with a 5-way switch and just send that signal over, and then on the other side my Axe-FX 3 can pretend that the signal was brutal, and nobody will be the wiser.

So, should I stop with EMGs? I suspect so, but wanted to be sure. I think they still make perfect sense if one plugs in a cable right into an analog amp, but if one is digital, I’m not sure if there is a point any more, particularly for hum-buckers. (There are probably still advantages for single coils in terms of making them noise cancel.)


Something to consider is the preamp in the pickups. Are you used to the compression in the “classic” emg range? If so, you might have to tweak some settings in your AFX. If you’re using the newer “X” range of EMG’s, you might not notice much of a change going to passives.

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An outstanding point! I have lots of the “classics” (81/85) and that’s like having a compressor and drive pedal inside my guitar. It’s probably better that I do that inside my Axe-FX, as you suggest.

Perhaps the EMG of the next generation will have an ADC inside it, and then one just sends bits out!

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At that point you might as well just do MIDI pickups lol. Does the AFX take midi? Would be interesting…

Are there any tonal issues? If not, then I wouldn’t worry about it. Wireless kits are made to suit a variety of guitars and pickups. When I used to use one, I used the pad switch that reduced it by X Db for humbuckers and turned it off for single coils, so that the levels were well balanced.


If a device is attenuating the signal too much before the ADC, that’s more a problem with the device than the signal. Too much signal is bad, like you said, but if the signal level is too low you’ll run up against the quantization noise floor. The nice thing about active pick ups and integrated pres is that the output is less susceptible to loading so it doesn’t change based on what you connect it to. I’d recommend keeping the actives for that reason, and use the volume control to see if the tone changes at high and/or low levels. If it does, just keep the volume where it sounds best. From a subjective standpoint, passive or at least different pickups may well sound better, but analytically, active pickups would be your best bet.

I want to thank everybody for the input. This is what I concluded:

Electric guitar wiring has always been terrible, because it wasn’t done by electrical engineers but talented inventors. EMGs were a major improvement in the early 1980’s, and they made perfect sense… but that was forty years ago! Those assumptions are perfectly valid today if one has analog amps and cables; but I don’t have that.

Right now I have a good wireless (Shure UXLD4), and I can only imagine that if I advance to their next generation (Shure Axient) it will be even better.

But I overlooked the whole HSH thing that they did in the 1980’s, and that was actually quite brilliant. So I am reaching back 40 years and rejecting one technology (the opamp) and embracing another (HSH). :rofl:

I think all of this is an elaborate justification for me to build a new guitar from Warmoth, but I don’t know if I can put a 5-way switch on a King V body. I’ll call them now. :rofl: (They said no space for a blade switch but that was the solution.)

I have been wondering if there are issues using one with an interface(like focusrite). Pretty much just for fun but wondering if it’s viable because it would be convenient for messing around since I’m mostly amp sims now(currently live in a condo)

As long as your clip light doesn’t come on, it’s all good!!

In passing, I don’t replace my batteries often enough, so sometimes my EMGs are not ferocious beasts but mewling kittens. You’re probably more diligent than I am, but it’s worth measuring the voltage every now and then, as EMGs sound pretty bad (IMHO) on weak batteries, and given that this happens by degrees, it’s easy to miss. In fact, I’m (usually) putting 9V lithium batteries inside my guitars now.