EMG vs Fishman Fluence Pickups: Which are the Best?

EMG and Fishman Fluence are two very well known brands in the guitar pickup industry, but who makes the best ones? In this article I’ll compare the tone, ranges and prices of both brands in detail, so you can decide which pickups are best for your guitar.

At a Glance

EMG make a wide range of active and passive humbucker, single coil and P90 pickups, whereas Fishman Fluence specialise primarily in active humbucker pickups, but also make active single coils. EMG pickups usually have more bass, whilst Fluence pickups sound crisper with more mid-range and treble.


This is a pretty in-depth comparison, so I’ve broken it down into the following sections.

  • Overview of Both Brands
  • Tone Comparison
  • Installation and Features
  • Ranges and Options
  • Price and Value for Money
  • Which are Best for Electric Guitars?
  • Bass Guitar EMG vs Fluence Comparison

Brand Overview

Before we jump into the comparisons, I thought it’d be useful to briefly outline the ranges offered by both brands so you can get an idea of the types of pickups on offer. If you already know the different ranges inside out, then feel free to skip ahead to the next section for the first comparison.


EMG produce active and passive pickups in single coil, humbucker and P90 designs. Here is a brief outline of each main pickup type they produce.

Active Humbuckers

Here’s a summary of the active EMG humbucker range. The pickup position refers to the typically positioning, but it is definitely possible to put all the pickups in either the bridge or neck position if you want to experiment.

PickupDesignMagnetsCoil SplitPositionVariants
57Cased, visible magnetAlnicoNoneBridgeN/A
58Fully casedAlnicoNoneAny58X
60Fully casedAlnico/ CeramicNoneNeck60A, 60AX, 60X
66Cased, visible magnetAlnico/ CeramicSomeNeck66TW
81Fully casedCeramicSomeBridge81X, 81TW, 81TWX
85Fully casedAlnicoNoneNeck85X
89Fully casedAlnicoYes Bridge89R, 89X, 89XR
Fat 55Open coilAlnicoNoAnyN/A
Hot 70Open coilAlnico/ CeramicNoAnyN/A
Super 77Open coilCeramicNoAnyN/A
HFully casedAlnico/ CeramicNoAnyHA, HAX
Active EMG Pickup Summary

As you can see above, a lot of the pickups have variants e.g. X or TW. Some may have more than one of these abbreviations. Here’s what they mean:

  • A = alnico magnets (not all pickups with alnico magnets have the A)
  • TW = dual-mode (humbucker and single coil tones using coil splitting)
  • X = X-series pre-amp which provides better clarity
  • R = reversed single coil positioning

Passive Humbuckers

The passive humbuckers in the EMG range are named either H1, H2, H3 or H4. There are two types of each pickup, one uses ceramic magnets, and the other with alnico. If the model has an “A” in the name, e.g. H1A, it has an alnico magnet. Otherwise, it will have a ceramic magnet. Alnico pickups have a lower output and sound warmer than ceramic pickups.

Single Coils

EMG make active and passive single coils. Here is a list of the main models.


  • Crossroads (any position, alnico)
  • FT (neck position, alnico or ceramic)
  • Maverick (any position, alnico)
  • RT (bridge position, alnico or ceramic)
  • S (bridge position, ceramic or alnico)
  • SL/ SV (any position, alnico or ceramic)


  • S1 (any position, alnico)
  • S2 (any position, alnico)
  • S3 (any position, alnico)
  • S4 (any position, ceramic)

As with the humbuckers, you can also find different variants of some of the single coil pickups. Here’s what they mean:

  • A = alnico magnets (not all pickups with alnico magnets have the A)
  • C = ceramic magnets (not all pickups with ceramic magnets have the C)
  • X = X-series pre-amp which provides better clarity


EMG have 6 main fully cased, P90 pickups, here is a table outlining the key features. The pickup position refers to the typically positioning, but it is definitely possible to put all the pickups in either the bridge or neck position if you want to experiment.

EMG P90MagnetsPosition
P60AAlnico VBridge
P85Alnico VBridge
P92HZAlnico VNeck
EMG P90 Pickup Models

Here are some images (all link to Amazon) of some of the most popular EMG pickup designs. Most models are available in a few different colours.

EMG 85 Humbucker

EMG 57 Humbucker

EMG Super 77 Set

EMG S Single Coils

Check out my complete guide to EMG pickups for tonnes more info on choosing the best one.

Fishman Fluence

Fishman Fluence mainly produce active humbucker pickups, although they do produce some passive and active single coils as well. What’s unique about Fluence active humbuckers, is that they are dual-voiced, allowing you to achieve passive and active tones, so they are excellent if you want the most versatile option possible. It also means that you won’t find a completely passive humbucker in the range currently.

Fluence have a smaller range than EMG and a large chunk of it consists of artist signature models. EMG also make signature models, but the summary above would’ve been way too complicated to include them all, plus many of the signature pickups are very similar to the standard pickups.

Here is a brief outline of the range.

Active Humbucker

Fluence HumbuckersVoicesCoil SplitMagnetsDesignString Options
Open Core Classic3YesAlnico VOpen Coil6,7,8
Modern2NoAlnico V or CeramicFully Cased6,7,8
Classic3YesAlnico VFully Cased6
Killswitch Engage3YesAlnico V/ CeramicFully Cased6
Tosin Abasi3YesAlnico V/ CeramicFully Cased6,7,8
Javier Reyes3YesAlnico VOpen Coil6,7,8
Will Adler2NoAlnico V/ CeramicCased, Visible Magnets6
Devin Townsend2NoCeramicCased, Visible Magnets6
Stephen Carpenter2NoAlnico V/ CeramicFully Cased7,8
Keith Merrow3YesAlnico VOpen Coil6,7,8
Fishman Fluence Humbucker Range

Single Coils and P90s

The single coil and P90 range is much more limited and includes the following pickups:

  • Active Single Coils: alnico V, 2 voices
  • Passive Single Coils: alnico V, 2 voices
  • Active Greg Koch Gristle-Tone P90: alnico V, 3 voices

Here are some images (all link to Amazon) to show the design of popular Fluence pickups.

Fluence Modern

Fluence Single Coils


Fluence Classic Open Core

Check out my complete guide to Fishman Fluence pickups for tonnes of info to help you choose the best ones.

The Tone

So in this section, I’ll attempt to decipher to the ones of these two pickup brands. It’s a little bit of a challenge considering that both brands make different pickups with different tones, so I’ll compare some specific popular pickups, and try to pin down the signature tones.

EMG 81 vs Fishman Fluence Modern Ceramic

These are probably the two pickups in each range that you’d go for if you were looking for super high output to achieve the heaviest of metal tones.

The EMG 81s have a single voice whereas the Fluence’s have two voices. Voice 1 is the modern active high output tone characterised by the tight low-end and crisp tone. Voice 2 is the passive high output tone, which has a wide dynamic range.

The EMG 81 pickups have more low-end compared to the Fishman Fluence Modern pickups which have a much crisper tone with less bass. The treble emphasis on the Fluence moderns gives them a much crunchier and brighter tone compared to the dark sound of the EMG 81s.

Here is a video comparing the tone of these two pickups back-to-back.

EMG Hot 70 vs Fishman Fluence Classic

Moving away from something a little less heavy metal and a bit more vintage, I wanted to also compare the EMG Hot 70 and Fishman Fluence Classic pickups. Again, the Fluence Classics has multiple voices, in this case it actually has 3. Voice 1 is a classic vintage PAF tone, voice 2 is described as a classic hot rod tone and voice 3 is the coil split voice.

The EMG Hot 70 pickups sound warmer than the Fishman Fluence Classic pickups which have a very bright, yet still a full tone. The EMG Hot 70s have a scooped tone causing them to sound a bit thinner in comparison to the Fluence Classics.

Here is a video where you can listen to each pickup back to back.

Overall Tones

Generally, Fishman Fluence pickups sound a bit crisper and clearer than EMG pickups. EMG pickups tend to sound a bit warmer with more bass, but less treble and mid-range than Fluence’s. This makes Fishman Fluence pickups very suitable for lead playing and EMG pickups well suited to rhythm guitar.

Of course, it’s all personal preference, and due to the size of both brand’s ranges, it’s hard to answer questions surrounding the tonal differences.

However, I think the dual/ triple voicing on the Fluence pickups makes them more versatile, although some can still find them a bit too crisp for rhythm guitar. EMGs on the other hand have a very dark and heavy metal tone, which some guitarists will prefer, and the specific tone is more difficult to achieve using Fluence pickups. Still, it is also difficult to achieve the crispness that characterises Fluence pickups whilst using a set of EMGs.

Other Features

Before we take an in-depth look at the range and prices of the pickups, I wanted to address a few other features you can find on each brand’s selections.

Fishman FluenceEMG
Around 200 hours battery life1000+ hours battery life
2 or 3 voices1 voice with some exceptions e.g. EMG 89
Installation requires solderingNo soldering needed to install
Usually supplied in setsCan be purchased individually or in sets
Fishman Fluence vs EMG features.

Ranges and Options

I also wanted to take an in-depth look at the ranges that Fishman Fluence and EMG have to offer, so I have created these tables to compare pretty much every pickup available from both brands.

The EMG range is much larger so I have not included signature models, whilst the Fluence range is smaller so I have included signature models in the comparison. The prices are subject to change and based on the time of writing from the EMG website, and Guitar Center/ Sweetwater for Fluence pickups.

Guitar Center have a huge range of pickups at great prices so make sure you check them out if you’re in the market for some. Here’s a link to take you directly to Guitar Center’s pickup range so you can check for current deals.

I’ve split this section into the following categories:

  • Active humbucker
  • Passive humbucker (EMG only)
  • Single coil
  • P90

Remember to scroll sideways if you’re on mobile to see the full table.

Active Humbuckers

PickupMagnetCoil SplitVoicesPositionPrice
EMG 58AlnicoNo1Any$99
EMG 60CeramicNo1Neck$99
EMG 60AAlnicoNo1Neck$99
EMG 81CeramicNo1Bridge$99
EMG 85AlnicoNo1Neck$99
EMG HCeramicNo1Any$99
EMG HAAlnicoNo1Any$99
EMG 58XAlnicoNo1Any$109
EMG 60AXAlnicoNo1Neck$109
EMG 60XAlnicoNo1Neck$109
EMG 81XCeramicNo1Bridge$109
EMG 85XAlnicoNo1Neck$109
EMG HXCeramicNo1Any$109
EMG HAXAlnicoNo1Any$109
EMG 81TWCeramicYes2Bridge$119
EMG 57AlnicoNo1Bridge$119
EMG 66Alnico/ CeramicNo1Neck$119
EMG 89AlnicoYes1Bridge$119
EMG 89RAlnicoYes1Bridge$119
EMG 81TWXCeramicYes2Bridge$129
EMG 89XAlnicoYes1Bridge$129
EMG 89XRAlnicoYes1Bridge$129
EMG 66TWAlnico/ CeramicYes2Neck$139
Fluence Open Core ClassicAlnico VYes3Neck$139
Fluence Open Core Classic Alnico VYes3Bridge$139
Fluence Modern Alnico or CeramicNo2Any$139
Fluence ModernAlnico or CeramicNo2Any$139
Fluence ClassicAlnico VYes3Neck$139
Fluence ClassicAlnico VYes3Bridge$139
EMG Fat 55AlnicoNo1Any$199 (for set)
EMG Hot 70 BridgeCeramicNo1Bridge$199 (for set)
EMG Hot 70 NeckAlnicoNo1Neck$199 (for set)
EMG Super 77CeramicNo1Both$199 (for set)
Fluence Killswitch EngageAlnico V/ CeramicYes3Both$269 (for set)
Fluence Tosin AbasiAlnico/ CeramicYes3Both$269 (for set)
Fluence Javier ReyesAlnico VYes3Both$279 (for set)
Fluence Will AdlerAlnico V/ CeramicNo2Both$279 (for set)
Fluence Devin TownsendCeramicNo2Both$279 (for set)
Fluence Stephen CarpenterAlnico V/ CeramicNo2Both$279 (for set)
Fishman Keith MerrowAlnicoYes3Both$279 (for set)
Fishman Fluence vs EMG Active Humbucker Range

Passive Humbuckers

PickupMagnetCoil SplitVoicesPositionPrice
EMG H1CeramicNo1Any$99
EMG H1AAlnicoNo1Any$99
EMG H2CeramicNo1Any$99
EMG H2AAlnicoNo1Any$99
EMG H3CeramicNo1Any$99
EMG H3AAlnicoNo1Any$99
EMG H4CeramicNo1Any$99
EMG H4AAlnicoNo1Any$99
Passive Humbuckers by EMG

Single Coils

EMG CrossroadsActiveAlnico II1Any$89
EMG FTActiveAlnico V1Neck$89
EMG FTCActiveCeramic1Neck$89
EMG Maverick VActiveAlnico V1Any$89
EMG RTActiveAlnico V1Bridge$89
EMG RTCActiveCeramic1Bridge$89
EMG SActiveCeramic1Bridge$89
EMG S1PassiveAlnico V1Any$89
EMG S2PassiveAlnico V1Any$89
EMG S3PassiveAlnico V1Any$89
EMG S4PassiveCeramic1Any$89
EMG SAActiveAlnico V1Any$89
EMG SAVActiveAlnico V1Any$89
EMG SLVActiveAlnico V1Any$89
EMG SVActiveAlnico V1Any$89
EMG FTCXActiveCeramic1Neck$99
EMG FTXActiveAlnico V1Neck$99
EMG RTCXActiveCeramic1Bridge$99
EMG RTXActiveAlnico V1Bridge$99
EMG SAVXActiveAlnico V1Any$99
EMG SAXActiveAlnico V1Any$99
EMG SLVXActiveAlnico V1Any$99
EMG SXActiveCeramic1Any$99
Fluence SinglePassiveAlnico V2Any$119
Fluence SingleActiveAlnico V2Any$119
Fishman Fluence vs EMG Single Coil Pickup Range

P90 Pickups

EMG P60ActiveCeramic1Neck$99
EMG P60AActiveAlnico V1Neck$99
EMG P81ActiveCeramic1Bridge$99
EMG P85ActiveAlnico V1Bridge$99
EMG P91HZPassiveCeramic1Bridge$99
EMG P92HZPassiveAlnico V1Neck$99
Fluence Greg Koch Gristle-Tone ActiveAlnico V3Neck$169
Fluence Greg Koch Gristle-ToneActiveAlnico V3Bridge$169
Fishman Fluence vs EMG P90 Pickup Range


EMG pickups are less expensive than Fishman Fluence pickups, when purchased individually and in a set. Single EMG pickups start at around $89 and go up to roughly $139, whilst a set usually costs around $200-270. Fishman Fluence pickups usually come in a set costing around $250-280.

Whilst you can purchase some Fluence pickups individually, they are much less readily available than single EMG pickups. Whichever option you choose (single or set), except to pay around $30-$50 for Fluence pickups compared to EMGs.

It’s worth noting that the dual/ triple-voicing found on most Fluence pickups gives them a tonne of versatility, making the price increase quite fair in my opinion.

Which are the Best?

So this brings us to the ultimate question, should you go with a set of EMGs or Fishman Fluence pickups. Of course, this is a pretty hard one to answer, and without hearing them in person, it can be really hard to tell which ones are most suitable. However, here are a few key points to consider:

  • The different voicings on the Fishman Fluence pickups makes them very versatile compared to EMG pickups which typically have a single voice, with a few exceptions.
  • EMG pickups are easier to install.
  • EMG pickups are slightly cheapest.
  • EMG have a much larger range of pickups than Fishman Fluence, so you may be able to find something more specific with a set of EMGs.
  • EMG pickups have better battery life on average.
  • Fishman Fluence pickups have a crisper tone compared to the more mellow and warm tone of an EMG pickup.
  • Fishman Fluence pickups are very punchy, making them excellent for lead playing, whilst the warmer and darker tone of an EMG may be better for rhythm playing.
  • EMG pickups typically have a higher output.

Bass Guitar Pickups

Don’t worry bass players, I’ve not left you out! Both brands make bass guitar pickups, so I wouldn’t be fully answering the EMG vs Fluence debate if I didn’t address them. Here’s a quick rundown of the ranges to start.

Fishman Bass Pickups

  • Legacy Series Mike Inez (humbuckers, 4/5 string options, 3 voices, 2 band EQ, coil split)
  • Soapbar (4/5 string options, 2 voices and single coil mode, 2 band EQ)

EMG Bass Pickups

EMG make a very large range of bass guitar pickups with soapbar, humbucker, split humbucker and single coil options. I won’t list the whole range here, but know that if there’s a specific pickup type you’re looking for, EMG almost definitely make it.


Typically, EMG bass guitar pickups are slightly cheaper than Fishman Fluence bass pickups. On average, a set of Fluence bass pickups costs around $290, whilst individual pickups cost around $190. A set of EMG bass pickups costs around $150-$200, and individual pickups around $100.


Here is a video comparing the tone of some Fishman and EMG bass pickups.

Here are some more articles you might find useful:


Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

Recent Posts