SMG REVIEW: EMG’s DG20 Prewired Pickguard

Take your Strat tone to another level with EMG’s DG20 Prewired Pickguard!

EMG is recognized as an innovator in the guitar industry, having designed the first active pickups. Rob Turner, who ignited his brainchild in high school by experimenting with passive pickups and preamps, is the company’s founder. Interestingly, Rob started his music career as a drummer. He eventually traded in his sticks ‘n skins for guitar and amp repair and then moved on to professional pickup design. It was during this time that he developed a pickup capable of long cable runs without compromising signal integrity, and the elimination of hum. This low impedance design made use of an onboard preamp powered by a 9-volt battery. Sound familiar?

Today, EMG offers a large selection of both active and passive pickups for electric and acoustic guitar, and bass. They have additionally developed prewired drop-in pickguards based on the electronics built into the guitars of some very heavy hitters. The DG20, modeled after the same assembly that David Gilmour has been using in his red Strat since 1985, is one of these offerings.

WELCOME TO THE MACHINE

The EMG DG20 is a full pickguard/pickup replacement kit that includes ivory alnico-loaded SA single coil pickups, an EXG guitar expander, and SPC mid-range control. This is all prewired into a white pearl pickguard with white knobs and pickup covers making for a very attractive package.

ANOTHER PICKGUARD (BRICK) IN THE GUITAR (WALL)

Hey, work with me here – we’re having fun. EMG employs the Solderless Install System to simplify installation. The process could not have been easier: remove strings, separate original pickguard wires from output jack, swap output jack with prewired replacement jack, swap pickguards, slide connecting wires from new output jack onto leads mounted to new pickguard, plug in 9V battery, and put it all back together. Easy as pie. Not a bit of soldering required and one Philips screwdriver is all I needed to complete the task.

WISH YOU WERE HERE…

…because this upgrade literally transformed my guitar from so-so to awesome. The guinea pig for this test was my Midnight Wine 60th anniversary Strat. In configuring a base setting for the guitar, I dialed down the two tone knobs. These have been designed as EXG and SPC Accessory circuits which range from fully bypassed to fully boosted – more on this in a bit. Taking pick to strings, I instantly noticed greatly improved clarity and articulation. My original pickups were mushy in comparison. No more getting away with sloppy playing. The pickups were evenly balanced across selections with the 5-way switch – nice.

The upper tone knob has been configured as an EXG circuit which is described in the lierature as boosting low and high frequencies. The effect is that the signal expands with life, enhancing body and richness. The lower tone knob, reconfigured as an SPC circuit, serves as a mid-boost. This gives muscle and a heavier feel to the sound. Combined, the two work as an effective and wide-ranging onboard EQ system.

THE FINAL WRAP

EMG offers a complete pickguard/pickup replacement system for Strats that is damn sexy physically and sonically. Installation is a breeze and after plugging in you’ll feel like you died and went to heaven to that great gig in the sky. For fans of Gilmour’s tone and fans of Strat tone in general, I can’t say enough good things about this upgrade.

Pros: Simple and quick installation. Will give your Strat life you didn’t realize it had. Effective and useful onboard EQ control.

Cons: You still have to put in years of practice to sound like Gilmour, despite capturing his tone

Street Price: $310

Dan Coplan is senior staff writer at SMG. Dan is a Los Angeles based cinematographer and self-admitting guitar junkie.

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