EMG-HZ Bass Pick-Up Review

EMG-HZ Passive Pick-Ups for the 12-String Bass
by Philip Snyder

Finally... it has happened!

After previously being available only to manufacturers, EMG has unleashed their HZ line to the public! The EMG-HZ's are a passive line of pickups and come standard on many name-brand instruments such as ESP, Jackson, Schecter, Spector, and the Dean "Rhapsody" 12-string basses. They are direct replacements for EMG's active pickups as well as the Korean-made pickups that come in many imported 12-string basses.

There has been discussion for some time concerning passive versus active electronics in 12-string basses.  For those of you who appreciate the traditional tones and warmth of passive pickups, the EMG-HZ's offer a wonderful option to what has been historically a very limited selection of less than exciting pickups.

I had the chance to play a Dean 12 back-to-back with my Hamer CH-12 some time ago and was very impressed with the sound I was able to get out of the Dean. Not that the Hamer sounded bad, but the Dean had better presence and mids than the Korean humbuckers in my Hamer. I think that passive pickups offer a warmth and depth that active pickups often lack in favor of brightness and attack. The EMG-HZ line delivers all those qualities without being too harsh on the high-end.

After that trial I contacted Rick Hunt at EMG to find out more about the HZ line. Unfortunately, that was when they were available only to manufacturers... and nothing I said would allow Rick to sell me a pair at that time. Recently I found out EMG had made them available to the public. Having waited for some time for this I contacted Rick immediately. Here are the specs he sent me:

Bass Passive units available from EMG:

These units have a 5-wire output cable featuring the EMG Quick-Connect.

Models available are:      Dimensions:
35-HZ 4 String Bass      1.5” (38mm) x 3.5” (89mm)
40-HZ 5 String Bass      1.5” (38mm) x 4.0” (101.5mm)
45-HZ 6 String Bass      1.5” (38mm) x 4.5” (114.3mm)

Each pickup is mounted with 2 screws located in the center at the ends of each pickup.
Mounting dimensions (Screw Center to Center) are .125 in from each end, or
0.250 less than the overall pickup dimension.

These units are passive (without internal pre-amp) and feature a dual-coil design for low noise and plenty of output. They are manufactured in EMG’s Extended series housing and are directly compatible with EMG’s entire “Active” pickup line. All feature the ”CS” design (Ceramic and Steel). The CS design has the punch and fullness of the older passive designs along with added brightness for a better-defined tone. EMG’s Active CS Series Pickups feature the same construction and have proven popular among bass players. The five pin connector allows multiple wiring combinations so you can get both dual-coil and single-coil tone with simple switching. Each Pickup is fully shielded for a minimum of noise. The HZ Series Pickups are available in Black color only.

All HZ Pickups are fully shielded for a minimum of noise. String grounding is recommended for minimizing noise. Coils are fully impregnated for quiet performance. In addition, the HZ Bass Pickups are encapsulated in epoxy to limit microphonic noise.

The EMG-HZ logo appears on the top of each pickup. EMG-HZ Pickups are made in Santa Rosa, California, USA.

Model:                                                       35-HZ      40-HZ      45-HZ
Inductance (Henries)…                              2.65         3.15          3.62
DC Resistance (KOhm) …                           8             9.6            11
Resonant Frequency Hz (1) …                  2850        2600         2400
Resonant Frequency Hz (2) …                  4900        4400         4050
Impedance @ Resonance (KOhm) (1) …   47.5         51.5          54.5
(1) Loaded with 250K or 500K V & T w/20’ cable (750pf)
(2) Loaded with 1 MegOhm/47pf

Passive Installations:
5-wire cable allows Series / Parallel switching or simple single / dual-coil combinations can be used.
The HZ Bass Pickups will work with either 250K Ohm or 500K Ohm pots (Audio Taper) and a tone capacitor value of .047 microfarad. 250K pots are suitable for bass because the frequency response is an octave lower than guitar.

Here's the bottom line:  My bass player has a new Schecter 4-string bass that has HZ's in it. I hear these pickups at full band volume every week when we practice and they really do sound great! Furthermore... being the guitarist, I'm on the opposite side of the drums from the bass amp. If it sounds good where I am it passes the toughest test of all! They cut through beautifully with wonderful tone and plenty of attack. Color me sold!