Ok, so I purchased an EMG 40 P5 from a fellow TBer. I put it in the neck of my Ibanez K5 (basically a Soundgear) in place of my Bartolini CF5CBC (Classic Bass series in a Cort shape, just a tad bigger than the EMG 40 shape).
Here are the differences as I found them.
No, EMG's are NOT brittle and certainly do not hammer the Bart's in the upper frequencies.
No, the Bart's are NOT super quiet (in volume) compared to the EMG's. They are about on par with them actually.
Yes, the EMG's have WAY MORE HEADROOM! I can barely overdrive it in 9v mode with my fingers! Heck, I guess 18v mode is for slap/pick. (For those who don't know, headroom is the amount of range in volume available before clipping/distortion begins. With Bart's, this is their classic "compressed" sound many people refer to when playing hard)
Yes, the Bart's are more ballsy. WAY more ballsy. Strum the E string and the Bart's sound thick and low mid heavy (shakes walls), but the EMG's "sing" with a crisp note that rings just a tad with much less pronounced low-mids (bringing out the low-lows more).
Yes, EMG's have a better B string. Wow! I thought this whole time my bass was to blame. Bad neck, quality, etc. Nope! Those Bart's seemed to be tuned such that the E string is nice and thick which makes the B WAY too thick and muddy. The EMG's are thick in the B, but crisp in the E. When I hit the B, my whole garage rattles.
Yes, EMG's are DEAD QUIET (in unwanted noise). The Bart's require string grounding and shielding in the control cavity. I wired the EMG's with the leads wrapped around the plug and the battery dangling out of the bass. Nothing, no hiss, RF, etc. at all! I was impressed to say the least.
Now, please note that the strings and bass were the same and the pickups were wired straight to the jack.
If I had to choose, I'd go EMG. I like the Bart sound, but I overdrive the coils with just my fingers a lot, and I do like playing with a pick so Bart's don't do well with that. Plus, I like ska, punk, indie, punk rock, grunge, etc. (no screamo
) like The Raconteurs, The White Stripes, Nirvana, NIN, RATM, etc.
However, the Bart's would kill the EMG's in country, some jazz, soft rock, etc. where notes with more fundamentals are prized (i.e. thicker, rounded tone).
I do realize that the P configuration has a very big part in this, but even in single coil mode, the Bart's are noisy, lack ANY headroom, and are just much too polite for my tastes.
Hope this helps those who are thinking about one or the other.
Now, I have to decide if I should keep the Bart's for my project bass or sell parts (including the Bart's) and get a BQC system.