This is a simple, theoretical build guide for an Epiphone Les Paul standard, with EMG 81 and 85 pickups.
We'll list all the parts for this upgrade, along with some additional recommendations that go beyond the pickup swap, which is already set in stone.
We'll use the Epiphone Les Paul Standard base body for this particular build.
All the components we'll be recommending are listed in the table below.
Pickups and Components
We're pairing the EMG 81 and 85 active humbuckers, along with a couple other parts for boosting the value of the Epiphone Les Paul Standard, primarily focusing on the electrical components.
Epiphone Les Paul Standard
EMG 81 Humbucker
EMG 85 Humbucker
Dunlop Super Pots
Gibson Top Hat Knobs
The Guitar Base: Epiphone Les Paul Standard
Epiphone's Les Paul Standard sits at a price point that makes it a good candidate for an upgrade. It's got a solid base body, but Epiphone goes cheap on the humbuckers and potentiometers.
Some would argue for replacing the bridge/tailpiece and tuners as well, but we're content to leave those since they don't employ any kind of tremolo. Tuning and intonation should be pretty stable without the floating tremolo factor.
Pickup Set: EMG 81 and 85 (active pickups)
Active pickups are a different animal than passive, and we think these really improve the appeal of your Epiphone LP Standard. We like the added sustain, better handling of distortion, and overall quality upgrade this humbucker set brings to your guitar.
Read more: Active VS passive pickups
Note that the pickup set will need to run off a 9V battery (since they're active), which should come with the installation package from EMG.
Jim Dunlop Super Pots
Epiphone uses a fairly cheap manufacturer to make their pots. So whenever we do a build guide, we recommend swapping with Jim Dunlop Super Pots.
Their turn is smoother and the components are better quality, which will pair especially nicely with your new active pickups.
Note: The solderless install system with the EMG pickups comes with two 25k pots per humbucker (two with the 81 and two more with the 85), but we'd prefer the Dunlop Super Pots, which should be compatible with the solderless system. If you don't want to worry about pots at all, just use the ones that come with the EMG system.
Gibson Top Hat Knobs
To finish things up and complete the look, add the Gibson Top Hat knobs for controlling your new pots and pickups.
This upgrade gives your entire electronics system an overhaul, leaving only the original body, hardware, and tonewood of the Epiphone Les Paul Standard. You'll get a more modernized and aggressive tone while also improving the general sound quality of the guitar. Pots are optional, but just make sure you use either the EMG pots that come with the 81 and 85 humbuckers, or the Dunlop Super Pots.
Do you have questions about our build guide?
If so, leave them in the comments section below and we'll jump in. Questions about the guitar, pickups, parts, or alternative configurations are certainly welcome there.
We'll talk then.
- Guitar: Epiphone Les Paul Standard
- Pickup Configuration: HH (dual humbuckers)
- Bridge Humbucker: EMG 81
- Neck Humbucker: EMG 85
- Potentiometers: Dunlop Super Pots
- Knobs: Gibson Top Hats