How to Install Epiphone Zakk Wylde EMG Pickups

Written by douglas quaid
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How to Install Epiphone Zakk Wylde EMG Pickups
Changing your pickups is an easy way to customise your guitar. (guitar player image by bright from Fotolia.com)

Rock out with the signature Zakk Wylde sound with the ZW signature pickup set from EMG. Zakk Wylde pickups use a snap-together, solderless system for connecting pickups and controls, so you can install these with no electronics experience. Three control configurations are possible. The standard configuration has only master volume and tone controls, and the other configurations allow you to control volume and tone separately for each pickup. The Zakk Wylde Pickup Set fits the Gibson Les Paul and similarly styled guitars.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • EMG Zakk Wylde Pickup Set
  • Wire stripper
  • Soldering iron (in special cases, see tips)

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Remove the strings from your guitar, and use a screwdriver to the remove the pickups and open the control cavity. Remove the existing knobs from the control cavity, and install the control knobs that came with your EMG ZW-series pickups. Leave your existing pickup selector switch and its wires in place, and take note of which pickups are connected to each wire on the selector switch.

  2. 2

    Route the pickup cables from the pickup cavity to the control cavity. These cables will plug into the pickup buss, which routes power to the pickups, and signal from the pickup to the controls.

  3. 3

    Set the pickup buss in the control cavity, making sure that the pickup cables can reach from the pickups to the control cavity. If you have excess cable, coil it under the pickups, not in the control cavity. The end of the cable in the control cavity should have a black connector with two cables attached, and a red connector with one cable. The end of the cable that connects to the pickup has a single black connector attached to all three wires.

  4. 4

    Plug the pickup cables in the control cavity into the black shrouded socket on the pickup buss, with the orientation arrows on the connectors facing up toward the red connector on the pickup buss. The bridge pickup goes in the position closest to the green power connector, and the neck pickup connects to the centre position.

  5. 5

    Connect a coax cable from the third position on the black pickup buss (the only position that's still open) to the master volume control. The master volume control connector has positions from three cables, like the pickup buss. Connect the cable to the volume control so that the orientation arrow is visible, and is on the far left side when the connector prongs are pointing toward you. Run another coax cable from the centre position of the master volume control to the left position of the master tone control. The tone control has positions for two connectors.

  6. 6

    Strip the insulation from the ends of the pickup selector switch wires and insert them in the green terminal block on the pickup buss. Tighten the screws on the terminal block to secure the wires. The bridge pickup wire goes to the "BR" terminal, the neck pickup wire goes to the "NK" terminal and the output wire goes to the "O" terminal. If there is a ground wire on your selector switch, connect it to one of the terminals on the black terminal block on the pickup buss.

  7. 7

    Connect the output cable to the unused position on the master tone control. The other end of the output cable has two separate wires with clip terminals. These go to the output jack. Clip the white wire to the "T" terminal and the black wire to the "S" terminal. Clip the black battery negative wire from the battery holder to the "R" terminal of the output jack.

  8. 8

    Plug the red wires from the pickups into the red shrouded connector on the pickup buss. The order doesn't matter, as this is a battery power line. Plug the red wire from the battery holder into this connection as well.

  9. 9

    Install the pickups, and connect them to the pickup cables so that the white orientation arrows are visible. Set the battery holder in the control cavity and install a battery. Plug your guitar into an amp and test it before closing the control cavity.

  1. 1

    Install two volume controls, instead of the one master control in the configuration above. Connect the neck pickup cable to the centre position of the neck volume control, and connect the bridge pickup cable to the centre position of the bridge volume control.

  2. 2

    Connect a coax cable to the bridge volume control so that the white orientation arrow is on the outside edge of the control, and connect the other end to the first position on the pickup buss as the bridge cable connected to in the configuration above. Similarly, run a coax cable from the neck volume control to the centre position of the pickup buss.

  3. 3

    Run a coax cable from the third position of the pickup buss to the master tone control, and run the output cable from the other connector of the master tone control to the output jack, and connect as above. Connect all power and selector switch lines as before.

  1. 1

    Connect the pickups to their respective volume controls so that the white orientation arrow is alongside the centre connector on the volume control.

  2. 2

    Use a coax cable to connect the centre position on the volume controls to the pickup buss, configuring the connections to the pickup buss as before.

  3. 3

    Connect the last open position on each volume control to a tone control, using a coax cable. Plug the cable into the tone control so that the white orientation arrow is alongside the outside edge of the control. Connect all other power and selector switch connections as before.

Tips and warnings

  • If you are replacing passive pickups, use the stereo output jack included with the kit. If your guitar has a long panel jack, make sure it is a stereo jack. If you need to replace it, EMG recommends a Switchcraft 152B jack. In this case, strip the ends of the wires that connect to the output jack and solder them instead of using the clips.
  • If your guitar already has a 9v battery holder, clip the wires from the battery holder in the kit and solder them to the wires on your existing battery holder to allow them to connect to the kit. Insulate the joints using the supplied heat shrink tubing.
  • Many guitars have a ground wire that runs from the pickups to the bridge, grounding the pickups to the strings. Do not connect this wire. The active pickups in the Zakk Wylde kit have their own ground, and grounding the pickups to the strings creates a risk of electric shock.

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