No idea about everybody else's neck of the woods, but I paid $200 for the ZW set a little over a year ago. Most SD pickups are in the $65-$85 range. Strange that the there would be so much difference where you are.
Adding to what is said already and I agree with most:
They also have less copper onboard, but they do come with an preamp underneath the pup hidden under epoxy and ABS plastic.
The pots are equipped with PCBs. Should one of those fail, you can't repair it.
(With that being said, repairing a regular copper coil is also hard to do.
Mostly, this just means rewinding it from scratch. Making it a new pup in essence too.)
One advantage of EMG's is that they are low-Z meaning they'll drive cables better and all and also you won't die, should there be an electrical failure in the amp, as they are not earthed by strings.
So actually, that combined with the price, makes it interesting for me. Should it be expensive to be good? I don't know.
What I can understand is that some people might be a bit cynical towards stuff like that.
They are just a bit younger and more modern. Which is a kind of paradox in a sense compared to more classic styles.
(EMG was established in 1976. Same goes for Parker (1990s) and Steinberger (1979), compared to Gibson (1902) for example.)
This is one of my favourite guitarist, who can shred and play melody in quick changing intervals with style and ease.
[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gf-NoYBovA]EMG - Luke Jaeger - "Anabolic Salvation" - YouTube[/ame]
That tone is pretty slick, but its mixed with effects and a over-the-top amp.
I think for metal, these are the future classics. They tend to sound clean and soulless, but for a high gain amp with a character of its own this is good.
We might frown upon them now, but in a few years, who knows?
Old strats and Pauls used to just be old guitars, now they are worth gold.
EMGs are not characterless or soul-less. They have a sound! If they didn't, you wouldn't hear anything now would you?
In my opinion they are just another crayon in my colouring box. The clean sounds you can get with the single coils are totally unique and not obtainable with passives. And there's a bark and even drive from an 81 that I've never heard from a passive.