Originally Posted by thrashinbatman
I'd argue that, by the time you're drowning the guitars in gain, that pickups have far more to do with feel than tone. Microphones simply reinforce the effect; even if you think you can hear a difference in the room, you won't hear it in the control room when recorded. I feel I have pretty good ears, but that goes out the window every time someone posts one of those pickup shootouts with back to back recordings. And after all of that, you have to consider that a killer guitar sound in the mix probably sounds like garbage by itself. I've met tons of players who say, "I just can't get my sound out of a Recto," because they never played one in a band setting. It really is the worst bedroom amp on the planet.
So, pickups, strings, and power tubes are all in the same bucket. Pick the gear that makes you not think about it when you're playing. It's hard to quantitatively describe, since everyone is different, but EMG Hz feel stiff and unresponsive to me. I feel like they are not responsive to my playing at all, have no dynamics, and always feel like I'm having to work harder than I should. An 81/85 set is the exact opposite, where I feel like everything is jacked up to 11 and if I breathe on it it's all attack. As a brand, their guitar pickups absolutely do not work for me, even though some of my favorite recorded sounds feature them.