EMG 18 Volt Mod





Introduction: EMG 18 Volt Mod

This instructable is meant to show you how to change your standard 9 Volt Active Pickups into 18 Volt beast.

Somethings you will need:
1. Tools needed. I needed only a screwdriver, electrical tape, wire cutters, and wire strippers.
  • You may also wish to solder the joints and heatshrink but this is optional.
2. Two 9 volt batteries.
3. Three new battery connectors.
4. If you do not already have something to wrap the batteries a piece of foam or battery clip holders will be needed but are not completely necessary.

Before I start:
1. If you attempt this I am not responsible for any damage that may occur. If you feel like this is too difficult do not attempt there is always someone who has tried this before such as a guitar tech and I am sure they could help you if you ask.
2. This mod is for a specific set of Active Pickups most all actives in guitars are about the same but make sure you know what you are doing before you attempt this. Refer to number 1.
3. Be safe and careful. I did make a few shortcuts: For example I taped the 3 way battery clips. I will be going back to solder them and heat shrink but for pictures I just taped so that it would not take all day to finish.
4. Feel free to message me here if you need any help with this mod. I plan on later adding a pot so that I can dial in the Volts from 9 to 18 and also installing a switch for plain 9 or 18 volt operation.

Step 1: Assess the Setup

This is a picture of the back cover that contains the active electronics(well part of them)

I am preforming this mod on a PRS CE so your guitar maybe different.
This guitar has already been fitted with EMG Active pick ups. If you do not have actives you will not be able to do this. However if you have them then this should work.

Most guitars will have about the same setup throughout with small differences but be sure before you get in to deep.

Remember to keep the screws and cover set together and out of the way. It is a pain to grab a flashlight and look for those tiny screws all day.

Step 2: Stock Harness

Okay here you see the stock harness.

Remove the battery and pull your wiring out a little bit.

Step 3: New Wiring Up

Okay you can "hardwire" if you want but I wanted to be able to go back to stock easily. I decided to add three new battery connectors so that I can easily add or remove the additional battery.

I bought 5 heavy duty battery clips for $2.00 at Radio Shack. I recommend a heavy duty clip.

Now join the ends in series.
So you attach black to red / black to red / black to red. This will give you a triangle looking harness now.

Step 4: Added the Harness to the Guitar.

I would recommend that you solder the wires together with a drop of solder and then heatshrink. I will be doing this later but the pictures will show they are taped. I did this so I could get done with the pictures quicker. Sorry! Just a forewarning ... I also advise you tape and then test. If all goes well then you can go back and solder like I am doing.

So you attach all the wires together nicely.

Then you attach your batteries.

And finally you attach the third battery connector to the stock battery connector.

Step 5: Repackage!

Now you want to make sure that you secure the batteries in place by wrapping them or you can purchase a few battery clips but make sure you shield them because most are made of metal.

Many people do not worry with securing the batteries and they beat the electronics of the guitar to pieces and it sounds like crap also.

Step 6: Finishing Up.

Almost done.

Now make sure you have clearance for the back cover.

Now run the screws back into place and you are almost ready to test.

Since it is right in front of you and it has been handled go ahead and give the ol girl a wipe down with a polishing cloth real quick!

Step 7: TEST AWAY!

Take a few minutes to test the new sounds/tones.

This PRS became a little more "dark" without getting "muddy". By that I mean it is a little lower than my Telecaster but not muddy like the Les Paul. It now has an even more unique sound and tone.

A little of the back story behind the mod for me.

9 Volt Actives tend to compress and clip your signal. I am not opposed to clipping the signal but the compression is a little bit of a pain. The 18 volt mod make the tone sound like a perfect match between a passive and active sound. I play Metal and this is a better tone for a wide open sound.

You may however disagree but you have the option to open her back up and easily reverse this mod. Good Luck and hope you are happy with it! I am !!!

Take a little to some good tunes full of good tones.


We will have our new full length album out this coming month so keep looking.

This guitar is used on the recordings.

A little bit of the legal stuff.
PRS and logo/trademarks are property of PRS and is in no way affliated with or being used for any profit or gain. I have the guitar and I only used it to show as an example.
EMG and logo/trademarks are property of EMG and is in no way affliated with or being used for any profit or gain. I have the pick ups and I only used them to show as an example.
RadioShack as mention belongs to RadioShack the company and is in no way affliated and is only mentioned to note where I purchased some of the products needed and not being used for gain or profit.
Please feel free to contact me if you believe this to be in anyway infringment of the copyrighted materials of said companies.
Thank You,



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    19 Discussions

    In comparison to the Tele and PRS the Les Paul sounds low but muddy. The Tele and PRS retain a sparkle that the Les Paul seems to lose. Maybe it is subjective maybe not ... it has been tested and my ears have been known not be perfect because of a lot of abuse.

    have you ever played a gibson les paul, or is your experience solely with epiphones? because I have a vintage gibson sonex 180 deluxe (not a les paul but its close) and it sounds simply amazing on clean and drive channels. it has a really bright sound and when you put a little reverb on with it, it sounds even better.

    a sonex is not a les paul by any stretch of the imagination,it sold for under $600 new and was essentially made from compressed garbage plastic products.

    its actually more of a les paul shaped toilet seat than a true les paul,any epiphone les paul is a 1000 times more true and accurate to a gibson than any sonex my friend.im just some guy who has owned 5 gibson les pauls ,at least half a dozen epiphones and has researched and played guitar for over 30 years.

    actually hes right les pauls do sound low and muddy compared to a tele and a prs and im talking from playing a vintage gibson les paul and an epihone les paul guitar....and epiphone is a subdivision of gibson thats why they make les pauls

    Thanks luneydude for the explaination.
    I agree.
    @ u_r_teh_svck: Most and I say must this doesn't mean all haha of Les Pauls and Gibson guitars usually have a 500K pot and a different value cap. When you have a straight pot that's usually your volume the the next one will have a cap attached to the pot or inline with the pot then it is tone knob. Tele's normally have a 250k pot and a different value cap so it will give a different tone shape because of that.

    So as a generalization the majority of the Gibson and Epiphones I have played or worked with or worked on have a lower tone. They have a different build and made with different materials. They have different pickups and different electronics inside as well. I love Les Pauls so I am in no way downing them or any other Gibson guitar. I would like to get ahold of a nice Wilshire soon. My only beef is with SG'sbecause me and SG's don't get a long. I have had to work on soooo many and I hate working on them in comparison.

    Thanks for reading my post. I hope you were able to take something valuable from it. If I made any mistakes let me know. Good luck with your mods, repairs, and music to all!

    so is this possible to do without emg pickups i have stock Ibanez pickups
    if so where do the 9v batteries go

    I couldnt find a wire diagram but i know it goes from input to volume to tone to 5 way switch
    it has 1 neck 1 middle and 1 humbucking bridge 

    1 reply

    You need active pickups to do it. Active pickups need a battery to operate, so finding the right spot to connect to is easy. You could always replace the stock pickups.

    AFF thank you sooo much that was the best advice i could ask for and on the emg website it says somthing about rythm position what dose it mean by that is it bridge position or neck?

    3 replies

    No problem! I just hope it helped you some. The rhythm position if I am not completely wrong is the neck pick up. At least on a Gibson it is the neck. It is thick and chunky where as your bridge is less chunky and more trebly. It is a little confusing because many guitarist use the neck pick up to solo on and then most of the sound the lead player will use their bridge pick up. (Not everyone plays this way but I know a lot of players do ... this may just be a more classic rock/hair metal style). I think I remember the EMG 60 being a neck position pick up. I have a Telecaster that I put 2 hot rails in so I have high output pickups in the neck and bridge. I like the bridge sound but I am seriously thinking about changing the neck pick up soon ... half the time it is too muddy and a little to over bearing for that position. I own an EMG HZ4 pick up but it is sitting in the box on my shelf otherwise I could advise you more on there passive humbuckers. I have played the passive single coils and they are pretty decent. To let you know ... you may get some criticism about EMGs as being stale and lifeless. EMG's are not as robust as a well made passive in my opinion but I still like them. The EMG's in the pictured PRS never sounded as good as the ones in the Epiphone Les Paul. A few different things come in to play there ... guitars construction, wood, strings, and hardware.

    If you know you want EMG's then you probably have an idea already for what you are after. Make sure you look at the Blackouts and the X2N is a nice pickup that rivals the EMGs tonally to me. Your ears may say something different. Tone is subjective and you are the only one who can judge your own tone ... unless you are tone deaf LOL!

    good luck and let me know if there is anything I can help you with. If I don't know then I will find someone who does. Your Washburn is a pretty nice guitar so if the EMGs don't work for it then go passive and pop those EMGs in another guitar. I bought a Showmaster off Ebay for $90 shipping included a little while back so keep your eyes open ... that way you have multiple guitars for multiple options. I have the Showmaster, Peavey Pred, Silvertone Strat copy I paid $5.00 for, and the upgraded Telecaster. There is a lot of tonal capabilities right there and I didn't spend over 100 bucks for any of those guitars.

    Good luck on your tonal quest! Let me know what you decide on.

    dude thanks for the coment about myguitar being nice im just a little disaponted about the price of emgs and im 12 but ill think i have enough saved up soon thanks for the advice 

                                                                      rock on pyroninja21

    No prob. You have a good guitar for your age ... you will probably have a nice hobby/career ahead. Look for some used EMG's right now on Ebay or somewhere and see if  you cannot get a beat up set for cheap then you can replace them and have a spare project set. Good Luck with it all man and I wish you luck. Let me know I can ever help you any more.


    hi i got a washburn wi15 and i want to switch out the stock pickups with emgs and i just wanted to know if you put the 81 at the bridge or the 85 or if it matters at all

    1 reply
    I would suggest the 81 in the bridge. A lot of people also choose to replace their neck pick up with the EMG 60. I think EMG has a list of what to expect from each pick up on their page ... the reason I would say check with them ... 81/85 pick ups might not be the best for certain types of music ... but another EMG set might work for everything you can hope to play.

    Some setups I have heard of:
    Bridge   /    Neck
    81                  81
    81                  85
    81                  60

    Long story short ... make sure you want EMG pick ups first. Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio, GFS, and Dragonfire are just a few options. Dragonfire pickups are my favorite. DF's are exactly the same as the people clone  their pickups from but so much cheaper and the staff that makes them is fantastic and friendly!!!


    Youtube videos can sometimes be a little misleading because of sound quality of the mic and interface used. Be sure to listen to someone who used a good recording setup.

    Anyways. If you have more questions let me know. I will help you anyway I can. Just make sure you know what you want before you buy.

    Nice. I would love to try this eventually.... But I dont see how I'd have any room in my guitar! I have an Epiphone LP Prophecy, and there is a separate battery compartment... I couldnt even get the connecter out far enough to replace the battery.... I had to cut the zip tie that held the wires in place in the main compartment.... Then I had a little bit of slack. Its a mess... Other than than, its an amazing guitar, with amazing sound. (EMG 81/85)

    2 replies

    I am actually thinking about looking into one of the 18Volt batteries that I saw at RadioShack a few weeks ago. It is just a little bit bigger than a standard 9V and it has an 18 V charge. I had to cram everything in the PRS and then when I cracked open the Les Paul I noticed what you mentioned. LPs are a tight fit even for one and two might work but it will take some hard work to get it in there. Good Luck and if you get it done post an Instructable in case more people need to know how to get two batteries in there! By the way ... the 18V sounds a whole lot better but I think my lead guitarist is going to end up swapping to Dimarzio D Activators. 18V is absolutely perfect for rhythm guitar. Our Metal sound works great for the 18V EMGs in the rhthym tone. -AFF

     Epiphones are way worse than Gibsons on space..... Gibsons have a large triangular cavity (4 knobs), while my guitar has.... *gets measuring tape* A 5x2" oval on the back of it... And thats just the outside of it...... the inside is tighter, and crammed with pots!

    (I only have 2 knobs, because my guitar comes standard with EMG's and 2 knobs....)

    I just put the 85 In the bridge, and I'm happy with my tone now....