For other uses, see P90 (disambiguation).
The P-90 (sometimes written P90) is a single coilelectric guitarpickup produced by Gibson since 1946. Gibson is still producing P-90s, and there are outside companies that manufacture replacement versions. Compared to other single coil designs, such as the ubiquitous Fender single coil, the bobbin for a P-90 is wider but shorter. The Fender style single coil is wound in a taller bobbin but the wires are closer to the individual poles. This makes the P-90 produce a different type of tone, somewhat warmer with less edge and brightness. As with other single-coil pickups, the P-90 is subject to mains hum unless some form of hum cancelling is used.
Around 1940 Gibson offered a new bridge pickup for ES-100/125 series, as an alternative to the classic Charlie Christian pickup, cased in metal.
Officially, P-90 pickups were introduced in 1946, when Gibson resumed guitar production after World War 2. They were initially used to replace Gibson's original "bar" or "blade" pickup, also known as the Charlie Christian pickup, on models such as the ES-150, and by the end of the 1940s it was the standard pickup on all models.
The P-90's reign as the Gibson standard pickup was short-lived, as a new design of pickup, the humbucker, was introduced in 1957. Equipped with double coils, the new pickup boasted greater output and less hum, although with less high end response. This new pickup, occasionally named PAF, very quickly took over as the preferred choice for all Gibson models, relegating the P-90 to budget models such as the ES-330, the Les Paul Junior and Special, and the SG Junior and Special, such as those used by Pete Townshend and Carlos Santana. This trend continued throughout the 1960s and particularly in the early 1970s, where the P-90 all but disappeared from the entire Gibson range. By the 1970s, smaller single-coil pickups, mini-humbucking pickups, and uncovered humbucking pickups began replacing the P-90 pickups on Gibson's budget and lower-end models.
In 1968, Gibson reissued the original, single-cutaway Les Paul, one version being a Goldtop with P-90 pickups. In 1972, they produced Limited Edition reissues, called the "58 Reissue" though actually based on the 54 Goldtop Les Paul, with a stopbar tailpiece; and the 54 Custom, the "Black Beauty," equipped with a P-90 in the bridge and an Alnico 5 pickup at the neck. Total production of these guitars was quite small. In 1974, Gibson put the P-90 pickup in their Les Paul '55, a reissue of the Les Paul Special from that era. It was followed in 1976 by the Les Paul Special double-cutaway (DC) model and in 1978 by the Les Paul Pro (which had an ebony fingerboard with trapezoid inlays). Since the 1970s, the P-90 pickup has seen some success in various models in the Gibson line, mostly through reissues and custom versions of existing models. Currently it is featured most prominently on the Les Paul Faded Doublecut, and certain models in the Historic range.
In the early 1970s, punk rock guitarists such as Johnny Thunders of The New York Dolls began using Les Paul Juniors and Les Paul Specials equipped with P-90s because of the cutting overdriven sound and the inexpensive nature of the guitars. In both The Dolls and The Heartbreakers, Thunders influenced younger punk rock guitarists who adopted his look and choice of guitar. Mick Jones of The Clash and Steve Jones of The Sex Pistols both owned Les Paul Juniors, and the double-cutaway Junior became the first choice for punk rock guitarists.
The P-90 was also marketed by Gibson in the 1970s as the "Laid Back" pickup, as part of a line of "named" pickups.[page needed]
For the 2014 model year, the Les Paul Melody Maker featured a variant of the P-90 pickup called the P-90S, inspired by the original pickup of the Gibson ES-125. This variant possesses six rectangular Alnico-slug pole pieces with no individual height adjustment.
There are three major varieties of P-90 casing:
- Soap bar casing has a rectangular shape and the mounting screws are contained within the coil perimeter, positioned between the pole pieces, between the second and third strings and between the fourth and fifth strings, thus creating an irregular and somewhat unusual pattern. Occasionally they are mistaken for pole pieces, thus sometimes the P-90 is erroneously said to have eight pole pieces. The soap bar nickname most probably comes from its shape and proportions, and that the first P-90s on the original Gibson Les Paul Model of 1952 were white.
- Dog ear is a casing type with extensions at both sides of pickup. These are extensions that hold the mounting screws. Dog-ear P-90 pickups were commonly mounted on Gibson's hollow-body guitars like the ES-330 and occasionally on solid-body models like the Les Paul Junior. The same pickups were also available on Epiphone models (since Gibson was building Epiphone guitars in the 1950s) and the design is best remembered for its appearance on the hollow body Epiphone Casino of the mid to late 1960s.
- Humbucker Casing To install a P-90 in a guitar routed for humbucker pickups (a Les Paul Standard for example), the installer must modify the existing rout in the body. This may result in aesthetic issues, due to gaps between the body and hardware, or even structural problems, as is the case when re-routing the neck humbucker opening on a Gibson SG guitar. Because of this, pseudo P-90s in a humbucker-sized casing are common (see below).
Being a single-coil design, the tone of a P-90 is somewhat brighter than a humbucker, though not quite as crisp and snappy as Fender's single-coil pickups. The tone therefore shares some of the single coil twang, but having large amounts of midrange and often described as “thick". The reason behind the tonal difference between P-90s and Fender single-coil pickups is due to construction methods. P-90s use bar magnets set under the polepieces, much like a humbucker, whereas Fender single-coils use rod magnets as the polepieces. Popular guitars that use or have the option of using P-90s are the Gibson SG, Gibson Les Paul, Ernie Ball Axis series and the Epiphone Casino. Fender Jazzmaster pickups are often confused with the P-90; however, their only similarity is cosmetic, since there are many significant visual, dimensional and electrical differences.
All Gibson P-90 pickups (vintage and otherwise) were machine wound on Leesona coil winding machines, although their electrical specifications may vary slightly due to operator error. In common with many other modern pickup types, there are two versions of modern P-90: neck and bridge version. Their DCresistance tends to be around 7–8 kΩ for neck pickups and 8–9 kΩ for bridge pickups. Early P-90 pickups made before approx 1974 were manufactured with no difference in the bridge and neck position and were interchangeable. After winding, pickups were hung on a rack holding 20 pickups and assembled according to the model of guitar they were to be used on (Soap-Bar or Dog Ear). Earlier pickups (around 1952) had Alnico 3 magnets, but in 1957 Gibson switched to Alnico 5.
Hum-canceling and humbucker-shaped versions
One negative aspect of the P-90 pickup is its susceptibility to 50 Hz / 60 Hz mains hum induced in its coil by external electromagnetic fields originating in mains-powered electrical appliances, motors, lighting ballasts and transformers, etc. This susceptibility is common to all single-coil pickup designs, but the P-90, having around 2,000 more turns of wire in its coil than Fender pickups, receives a relatively large amount of mains hum. Several manufacturers now make hum-canceling pickups that resemble the P-90 but most do not have a similar sound.
There are three types of hum canceling pickups that look like a P-90:
- First generation Stacks (vertically stacked coils) such as Gibson’s P-100 and their H-90
- Sidewinders (horizontal side-by-side coils) such as those produced by Lace and Fralin.
- New generation vertical humbuckers such as Kinman P-90 Hx (Patented).
First generation Stacks have a second identical coil below the main one. Hum is effectively cancelled by connecting both coils out of phase. However, as with all common stacks there is a large degree of magnetic coupling between the coils, cancelling string signal along with the hum. Manufacturers over-wind the coils to recover the output loss—but this introduces a second problem: excessive coil capacitance that robs the sound of dynamics, presence, and touch sensitivity. These two design issues gave these types of pickups a bad reputation among musicians.
The Sidewinder is an attempt to overcome the drawbacks of the stacked design. It does this by reorienting the coils so that while electrically cancelling they are on opposite poles of a magnet. Thus, unlike stacked coils, output is hotter since the net effect is to add rather than subtract the signal between the coils; thus, the impedance can be lower, avoiding overwinding to obtain sufficient output. There is less signal cancellation. Sonically these sit somewhere between a true P-90 and a stacked pickup. They don't chime but they aren't nasal or lifeless either. They are ideal candidates for overdriven sounds where loss of sparkle is less important than avoiding hum amplification. These type of pickups have the same appearance of P-90s.
The new generation Zero-Hum P-90 Hx by Kinman strives to have a P-90 sound and appearance, but is far more complex, with 202 individual parts. Sonically destructive magnetic coupling between the coils is negated by highly efficient magnetic shields around the upper coil. The lower coil is wound with much thicker wire and far fewer turns onto a unique laminated steel bobbin for high efficiency. Kinman advertise their P-90 Hx as having a 600-Ohm hum sensor. Thus, the hum voltage is the same as the upper coil and cancels hum.
Finally, there is the Quiet Coil design by Mojotone, which focuses on the original size, parts, and materials found in vintage P-90s. The Quiet Coils strive to match the inductance and resonant peak frequency of a true single coil P-90 but without the hum. The simplicity of the Quiet Coil design allows more traditional P-90 sound without the need to modify the guitar with extra routing or electronics.
There is a fourth type of pickup under a P-90 cover, referred to as a large mini-humbucker. These, however, are not intended to mimic the sound of a P-90. Like all side-by-side humbuckers, they have lower hum levels. This configuration operates in the same way as a humbucker: both coils individually respond to string vibrations, but since the two coils have a reversed magnetic polarity, the signal from both coils is added, while the hum is effectively canceled. Consequently, these types of pickups sound more like a humbucker than a P-90.
Around 1970, Gibson replaced the P-90 on several models with a mini side-by-side humbucker now known as the mini-humbucker. This pickup was originally used on Epiphone models such as the Sheraton and with suitable mounting hardware became interchangeable with the P-90. In response to a resurgence of popularity of the P-90 Gibson issued the P-100, a stacked version (see above) of the P-90. Gibson also makes a new noiseless P-90 version called the H-90, which is found in Billie Joe Armstrong's Signature Les Paul Junior. The H-90 has two stacked coils and Gibson claims that it does not lose the characteristics of a P-90 although many players feel differently, perhaps contributing to its lack of use in other guitars.
- ^Brosnac, Donald (1983). Guitar Electronics for Musicians. New York: Amsco Publications. ISBN .
The magnet swap experiment
P-90s are such a wild animal; they have a primitive quality that instantly grabs you. It’s all there, raw boogie, frenzy R n’ R, smooth jazzy tones and the sweetest blues. But every story has two sides, right? They will often fight back, sometimes you have to push a little harder, it really feels like a relationship between humans and maybe this is what makes for a kind of a fatal attraction!
This whole experiment came alive due to my curiosity in the way these pickups are built.
I have a guitar fitted with a really nice pair of P-90s, built by one of the top winders in the world. Though still, I couldn’t feel totally satisfied with the sound. It felt a little harsh and with an unpleasant hump somewhere in the low mids, big and clear, yet not in the way I wanted it…
So I thought I’d give them away and tried something different. One day I had them off the guitar, but not disconnected, in order to see if there were any writing on the back about their output… It was then when I started noticing a few things about the construction of the thing, removing the plastic covers, turning them upside down etc.
I realized the simplicity of the design, six screws, a wire wound around them, two base plates underneath and, in between the metal plates two magnetic bars on each side… Well, seems like it’s the opposite way than humbuckers are. Humbuckers: two coils, one magnet bar between them, P-90s: one coil, two magnet bars underneath…two small screws keep the plates tight and the magnet bars in place.
Then I wondered: why in the world do they put two bars underneath?
I did a little search on the web and found out that this was the fundamental way of their construction from day one.
But, also found a lot of conversations between musicians about magnet swaps on P-90s.
I want to clarify here that all my conclusions in this article are coming from personal experience and not from stories read…
P-90s are using alnico bars (in some cases also ceramic). Most common alnicos are A2, A3, A4 and A5, each with its own strength and tonal character.
They come roughcast or polished and in some variations (A5) they can be unoriented or not.
It’s been said that roughcast/unoriented alnico bars are bearing a smoother tone, more organic and complex.
Some general sonic info: A2=warm, middy, A3=clear, spanky, A4=flat response, A5=strong, lots of highs and bass, UNA5=between A2 and A5.
I read a lot of things about long, short and degaussed magnets, vintagology, myths and facts.
My question though was this: what if I remove one magnet bar from the pickup? Will it still be sonorous? I couldn’t find any info on that, I thought about it and said to myself: well, this ain’t no rocket science man, it’s reversible and –more or less- an easy thing to do…loosening the two small plate screws, removing one bar, screw them tight again and here you go…can’t be too much work…
Indeed. Takes about 5 minutes to do the whole thing. So, I did just that on one pickup, put it back in place, plugged in and, voila! A new sound!
The pickup sounded just fine with one magnet bar. Not a distinctive difference in volume (if any) but a serious one in tone.
Less body, not so refined but more bite, feeling great in the hands. Exactly the way I wanted it to be! Did the same thing on the neck pickup and started to play a little more to feel the differences. I liked what I heard, but the sonic character did not change much…still a bit harsh and some strange mid/low hump but more tamed nevertheless.
I remembered I had some A2 bars around, so I changed the bridge (originally degaussed A5) with an A2. Wow! What a huge difference! Now the sound was rounder, warmer but with guts at the same time…no harshness and no unpleasant hump on the low mids… I was impressed. In addition, I ordered some extra bars from the net.
Over the next days, I experimented with almost any combination you can imagine. Mixing different alnicos, two bars in one pup and a single in the other, the opposite, you name it… I also found two old Gibson short ones and the whole thing turned into madness! Some combinations were compressed, others funky, some bars liked each other and some didn’t. To spice things up even more, I proceeded with experimentations with middle-position-out-of-phase tones, but for this it would take a whole other article !
In conclusion, this is was a very pleasant progress to try (at least for me), it’s fun and informative, and shows the player the expanded sonic pallet of different magnet bars. It really gives you a chance to fine-tune and personalize your sound and, without spending a fortune, practically gives you the feeling and rush of playing a new pickup.
All you need is a quality basis, aka a well constructed pickup with the “right” wire and turns, to be a little careful with the screwdriver and some of your free time.
These days, I use a UNA5/RCA4 combo on the neck with A2/RCA3 on the bridge. But who knows how long this will last… ain’t done just yet!!
About the author:
Elias Zaikos is widely considered the #1 Blues authority in Greece. He is a singer, composer, author, recording artist, but first and foremost a guitar player. He is the leader of the Blues Wire.
You can find his music on youtube and through www.blueswire.gr .
You can contact him at: [email protected]
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DIY Workshop: Easy and affordable humbucker and P-90 pickup mods
If you’ve ever investigated pickup construction, you may have noticed that most are made with exactly the same ingredients. All you need are some flats or bobbins, magnet wire, magnets, screws, slugs and wax. So how there can be such variation in output and tonal characteristics?
It’s a dark and complex art, but part of the alchemy is understanding how to combine those ingredients and make seemingly minor changes that can elevate your guitar’s performance from the mundane to the sublime.
Most of us swap pickups from time to time, but have you considered modifying the pickups you already have? Changing the component parts can dramatically change tone and output, and it will cost you far less than a new set of pickups. You can learn a lot in the process too, which may help you differentiate the snake oil from the science if you eventually decide to upgrade.
The P-90 and PAF-style humbucker mods covered here are entry level stuff, but some care will still be needed. Both of these pickups are ideal for modifying because their modular construction means there are several things you can try, and for the most part all you need are a couple of screwdrivers and a pair of pliers.
P-90s have pole screws and PAF-style humbuckers have screws and slugs – none of which are permanent magnets. Instead, magnets are located under the bobbins and because the screws and slugs are ferric, the magnetic field passes through them. The screws are a component that only pickup-makers tend to talk about.
Not all steel is created equal, and it’s graded by carbon content, but we’ll leave the academic treatise on metallurgy for another occasion. All we need to know is that the screws do have a subtle impact on tone, grades with a higher number equate to higher carbon content, and anybody with a flathead screwdriver can swap them.
Most pickup parts suppliers don’t specify the grade of their pole screws, so you can ask before buying or find a supplier that does. According to Jon Gundry of ThroBak Electronics, vintage screws varied from 1006 to 1018 grade steel. Try 1010 screws for a sweet, smooth and more ‘vintage’ tone with a rounded attack. For more upper mids, punch and percussiveness, try 1018, 1020 or even 1022. A set of six screws should cost you £5 or less.
Higher carbon screws can help with brightness and clarity. You can get more bite and aggression too, but higher carbon can be counterproductive when combined with loose coils and naturally bright vintage-style pickups. This simple mod involves unscrewing the old screws and screwing the replacements back in. Try an electric screwdriver because it takes forever with a manual one.
Covered humbuckers are a stumbling block, but once you know how to remove and refit them, it’s game on for all of our mods. Humbucker covers are fixed with a couple of solder blobs and you have to break those joints. My method is to use a soldering iron set to 450°C to melt the solder as quickly as possible, then I use a solder sucker to remove the majority of it.
You can cut through some of the remaining solder while it’s still hot using a single-sided razor blade, or once it has cooled, a veneer saw. With unpotted humbuckers, the cover should simply ease off. But potted pickups may need to be heated with a hairdryer before the cover will loosen.
Removing the covers was probably the very first PAF mod. Rock players began doing it in the belief that they could get more output and therefore more overdrive, and reduce squeal. But whether removing humbucker covers increases loudness or brightness is open to question.
Either way there’s a noticeable difference and I hear more air frequencies and harmonic bloom. There’s an increased sense of openness, but some of the vocal quality that you can get with covered humbuckers is lost. It’s a trade off, and if you like brighter and more aggressive tones, you’ll probably prefer the covers removed.
Much depends on the covers themselves, because if they are thick and heavy, you may struggle for clarity and chime, and string-to-string separation suffers. Vintage PAF covers weigh around 24 grams and were pressed from very thin nickel. I recently tested some highly regarded vintage repros that weighed 32 grams and at 0.7mm, were 0.25mm thicker than vintage covers.
They had all the right curves and contours, and the ageing was impressive, but they had a detrimental effect on clarity and harmonics. Swapping them for some cheap nickel covers that were nearly identical to the vintage ones in weight, thickness and tap tone was a huge improvement. Testing a vintage PAF with and without its cover, I feel the cover has a very slight sweetening and balancing effect. Seth Lover probably chose the materials and thickness to minimise the cover’s sonic impact.
If your humbuckers sound dull, consider removing or upgrading the covers. If the stock covers are brass, you’ll really notice a difference. But be aware that even in the PAF replica world, vintage looks can be prioritised over tone. Also, if your pickups are wax potted and wound hot, they might not have enough treble content to make cover swapping worthwhile.
When humbuckers are too microphonic, try attaching a large piece of masking tape to the inside of the cover or apply a few small dabs of silicone sealant between the slugs to dampen the covers down before replacing them.
Whether they’re soapbars or dogears, using P-90s without covers isn’t really an option. But, you can still change the covers. Try plastic instead of metal if you need more bite and clarity, or vice versa if you want mellower and woodier tones. If you have chrome-plated covers and like the metal look but need greater clarity, nickel-plated covers might help.
Magnets are mysterious, especially among the guardians of PAF lore. For our purposes, there are three factors to consider – smooth and rough (sand cast) magnets, magnet length and the type of alloy.
It’s easy to spot the difference between smooth and rough cast magnets because they look exactly as you’d expect. Whether they sound different is somewhat contentious, but some argue that rough magnets sound warmer in the treble and have a softer bass response.
Others claim the surface texture makes no audible difference, and point out that for humbuckers, the thin edges are ground smooth to make a proper physical contact with the slugs and keeper bar. But when it comes to vintage Gibson pickups, they all have magnets with rough appearance, so that’s what the vast majority of boutique replicas come with.
Gibson changed the length of the magnets around 1961. As always, there was some degree of crossover, with short magnets documented on 1950s PAFs and long magnets being used beyond 1961. Actual lengths varied, but for our purposes ‘long’ magnets measure around 2.5 inches and they were shortened by between 0.125 and 0.25 inches.
The debate about tonal differences is complicated because alnico V magnets became standardised around the time of the length change. But those who detect tonal differences suggest that short alnico V magnets are sweeter in the highs and have stronger mids than the longer equivalents.
The various grades of alnico magnets used in P-90s and PAFs all have distinct tonal characteristics. However, there is some confusion, because our natural tendency to think in terms of worst/better/best makes everything subjective.
Since we all hear things differently, listening for yourself through a familiar rig is always the best option. But for what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve found when testing full-length alnico magnets using loosely wound, unpotted coils that are offset to vintage specs and enclosed in thin nickel covers.
There are differences in brightness, bass response, output, sustain and sensitivity but for vintage PAF tone, alnico V and alnico II seem to be the most convincing. I find alnico V the closest of all, because it has a mid-scoop at precisely the right frequency band to create a cocked-wah quack, while not being too hyped and harsh in the upper mids. Sustain, output and sensitivity impress too.
Alnico II isn’t as scooped and it’s a tad more rounded and forward in the upper mids. With the right amp settings, it can produce a detailed and pretty tone. But it doesn’t have quite as much bass or heft as alnico V and can get harsh. In contrast I find alnico IV has the most even frequency response, with very balanced mids, but a slightly neutral quality that some may find lacking in character.
Alnico III sounds like a kinder and gentler alnico V, with similar midrange characteristics and very sweet but open treble. It’s lower in output but the weaker magnetism helps sustain, and it would be an ideal choice if you’re looking for mellower humbucker tones with plenty of characte, rather than an aggressive edge.
Alnico VIII and ceramic magnets are very popular for heavy rock and metal, where aggression, high output and definition across the frequency spectrum is required. They aren’t vintage spec, but old isn’t necessarily best.
Swapping magnets is easy. Simply loosen off the four screws under the baseplate by a few millimetres to free the bobbins, gently grip the exposed end of the magnet with fine nose pliers and pull it out. If the pole screws are screwed into the baseplate, you may need to slacken those off too, but you don’t need to remove them from the bobbin entirely.
The magnet’s south edge should be marked but if it isn’t, use a compass to determine which edge is south. The south edge goes on the screw side, but there are exceptions. The bridge pickups of three-pickup Les Paul Customs and Varitone-equipped semis are oriented with the north magnetic pole on the screw side. And if you want the Peter Green in-between tone, you need to flip the neck magnet so north is facing the screw side.
P-90 magnets are the same size as PAF magnets, but you’ll need two magnets for each pickup. While uncertainty remains about vintage PAF magnets, most agree that alnico III was used in P-90s from their debut in 1946 until Gibson began the transition to alnico V around 1957.
Everything said about the tonal characteristics of the various grades of alnico magnets in PAFs applies to P-90s. If yours are too edgy, try alnico III. If you need more power and bite, try alnico V or even ceramic. Like in PAFs, it’s still the convention for the magnet’s south pole to face the screw side, which means the P-90 magnets will try to repel each other when they’re installed in the assembly.
Removing and replacing P-90 and PAF magnets is an almost identical procedure, but P-90s only have two bobbin screws. Another trick you can try is offsetting P-90 magnets by a few millimetres. Lots of P90s ended up that way and you might hear a quackier vintage tone. It’s something you can try with your stock magnets too.
This may be the nerdiest mod of all, but dogear P-90 fixing screws and PAF bobbin screws (number two diameter, 0.5-inch length) can function as extra polepieces. In P-90s the fixing screws are located between the A and D, and G and B pole screws. The vintage screws were brass, but to make this work you need steel.
The very first PAFs had steel bobbin screws, but Gibson very quickly changed to brass. Even so, steel screws did show up on occasion and they have been documented on Peter Green’s Burst and one of Paul Kossoff’s. Maybe it even explains why Duane Allman insisted on hanging onto his pickups when he swapped his ’57 Goldtop for a ’59 Burst.
In a nutshell, steel screws give P-90s and PAFs a little more bite, edge and midrange push. Everything else being equal, brass screws will give you more sweetness, clarity and smoother dynamics. As ever, it depends on your priorities.
The bottom line
The artistry in pickup making is the way the coils are wound and an understanding of how all the components sound and interact. Even if you’re stuck with your coils, almost everything else can be changed and the affordable mods covered in this article can dramatically change the tone of your pickups.
If this has piqued your interest, check in again soon for some Fender and Gretsch pickup mods. Many thanks to Stuart Robson of Sunbear Pickups (sunbearpickups.com) for his invaluable assistance with this article.
For more DIY workshops and guides, click here.
Hello and welcome back to Mod Garage. This month we continue our relic'ing project, taking a closer look at the pickup and its black plastic cover. Our Harley Benton project guitar has a single P-90 dog-ear pickup at the bridge position, similar to a vintage Gibson Les Paul Junior. The P-90 is a single-coil pickup, but sound-wise, its raw, raunchy, beefy tone is the perfect crossover between a single-coil and a humbucker. No wonder many players prefer this type of pickup to have the best of both worlds.
Our guitar is loaded with a pickup from Roswell Pickups. If you've never heard of Roswell, it's one of the biggest pickup manufacturing companies in the world, serving countless guitar companies, including the big guys. Chances are good that you've played their pickups without even knowing it. The company's former name was WSC Pickups before it was renamed in 2014. Our pickup, shown in Image 1, is the "P90D" Dog Ear model with a black dog-ear cover sporting the Roswell logo. Interestingly, it's a neck pickup they put in the bridge position of this guitar, but a bridge version is available as well.
The overall construction of the pickup looks very classic. It even features the typical braided shielded wire type that was used in the '50s (Image 2). It's a scatter-wound pickup with degaussed alnico 5 bar magnets, so we can say it's close to an original pickup from the '50s. I was really curious how it would sound. To my surprise, it sounds very fresh and alive, with a good portion of high-end—definitely more on the single-coil side rather than in the humbucker ballpark. It's not the typical P-90 sound we all know and expect, but I really like this pickup.
Personally, I think it's better to have some high-end even if you don't need it, rather than to need it and not have it. I decided to keep it for this guitar, but my brain already worked in the background on how to tweak the electronics to also receive a more typical P-90 tone (more about this in the next part of this series). Anyway, if you want a heavier and darker tone, it's easy to get a replacement pickup and there are many, many P-90 pickups available without breaking the bank.
After taking the pickup out of the guitar, I decided to change the cover for a more vintage-looking overall shape. The cover the pickup came with is rectangular and looks too boxy to my taste. The covers from the '50s are rounder and smoother, so I decided to change it because I prefer this aesthetic. A surprise was just around the corner: The cover is glued onto the pickup, so removing it on the fly wasn't possible. I have no idea why they glued on the cover in the factory, but after a minute it was clear there's no easy way to remove the cover without damaging the pickup. The cover was absolutely bonded to the pickup's top. So, I used a simple hairdryer to warm up the cover and, after some minutes, I could remove the cover with my hands (Image 3).
It's up to you if you want to remove the glue from the top of the pickup by scraping it away after warming it up with the hairdryer, or simply leave it as is. I decided to leave it because, with the new cover on, you can't see it anyway. A word of warning: Don't use a heat gun for this operation. A hairdryer is all you need. The pickup cover is thin plastic, which a heat gun can melt within seconds.
Comparing both covers side by side (Image 4) clearly shows the different shapes, and you can decide what you like best. The rounded-edge cover I chose is very close to the vintage pickup covers from the '50s, and I had a used one in my parts tray. I didn't care about the scratches and paint on it because we want to relic it anyway.
Next, I took out the six pole-piece screws of the pickup because we want to age these, too, along with the two screws holding the pickup in place. If you've been following along at home, you know this procedure by now, but if you missed earlier parts of this series, please reference "DIY Relic'ing: Break the Shine," "DIY: Relic'ing Tuners, Part 1," and "DIY: Relic'ing Metal Hardware." We'll use the same relic'ing process here as we did for the other metal parts. As always, first break the shine with fine sandpaper or steel wool. After cleaning the screws with a brush, put them on a wooden board and use the iron (III) oxide (ferric oxide) liquid to create some patina. Don't forget to wear gloves and goggles and to use old newspapers to protect the surface you're working on. Once you're pleased with the result, stop the process with water and dry the screws with a paper towel before putting them back into the pickup.
Now, this is our first time with a piece of black plastic to relic, and, as you can imagine, it's harder to do compared to white plastic because the visible results are more subtle on darker materials. For an idea of what we're going for, Image 5 shows a vintage P-90 soapbar pickup cover from the '50s, which gives an impression of how a pickup may look after 70 years.
Images 6 & 7
As you can see, it's not just about building up artificial dirt marks, so I decided to follow this photo as a pattern for the replacement cover regarding scratches and damages. First, I took some fine steel wool and rubbed off the shine. After cleaning it with a brush, I used a steel scribe to mimic the damages between the holes. You can also use a nail, X-Acto knife, scalpel … whatever you have available. Next, I used a needle to put some fine scratches at the top and a very sharp small chisel to create some chunking damages on the border and the corners. To finish, put the cover inside your box with the mixture of nails, metal parts, broken glass, gravel, sand, little stones, basalt, etc., and shake it around until you like the result.
After cleaning the cover, put it on the pickup to see the final result, as shown in Image 6 and Image 7. Voilá!
Images 8 & 9
In closing, some words about height adjustment of such a pickup. I like a pickup height adjustment of 1/16" (1.6 mm) for a P-90 at the bridge position, but as you may know, there is no way to adjust the height of such pickups. All you can do is adjust the pole-piece screws to follow the radius of the fretboard, but there is no spring or latex tubing under the attachment screws of the pickup. For this, special shims are available to put underneath the pickup so it will rise. These shims are available in different thicknesses so you can balance your individual pickup height adjustment. I decided to put a 7/32" (2.5 mm) shim underneath the pickup, so it's perfectly balanced to my ears. To keep an optical appearance, I decided to use a shim made of black plastic in the exact shape of the cover (Images 8 and 9).
That's it for this round. In the next part of this series, we'll discuss the electronics for this guitar and start aging the components, including the knobs, the output jack, etc. But before this, I'll close the chapter about grounding next month.Until then ... keep on modding!
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Pickup construction p90
In-depth: the history of P-90s, and how to pick one
We meet with ThroBak’s repro supremo, Jon Gundry, to look at how Gibson’s preeminent single-coil pickup evolved.
The earliest P-90 pickups appeared just after the First World War in 1946, having evolved from the short-lived P-13 single-coil variants.
Using a plastic bobbin and two Alnico bar magnets, they were wound with 42-gauge plain enamel wire and can be found on a variety of post-war Gibson electric models including lap steels, archtops and solid-bodied guitars.
The ensuing success of the P-90 helped to bolster Gibson’s status as a market leader in the new era of electric guitars and it remained the company’s standard pickup until being eclipsed by the PAF humbucker in the late 50s.
Nevertheless, testament to its winning design, the P-90 has remained in regular production to this day and is often cited as the pickup of choice for many a guitarist across a diverse range of styles including jazz, blues, rock and punk.
Although its basic construction remains the same, having been in production for well over seven decades, the P-90 has seen many changes with respect to manufacturing techniques and materials - changes that, to many people’s ears, significantly affect both the pickup’s sound and appearance. As such, over the years, guitarists have increasingly turned to period-correct repro P-90s and sought out original examples from the earlier periods of Gibson production for a piece of that elusive vintage magic.
Hoping to arm our readers with some down-to-earth knowledge by shedding some light on the evolution of the P-90 throughout Gibson’s golden era of the 50s and 60s, we spoke to Jon Gundry, founder of Michigan’s preeminent P-90/PAF repro specialists, ThroBak, located in Grand Rapids, some 50 miles north of Gibson’s old Kalamazoo site.
“The initial design appealed to people for good reason,” Jon tells us, “and that design evolved over time because of Gibson’s desire to improve efficiency and I think that’s what drove the evolution of [P-90s]. Those changes inevitably affected the sound, so what I try to do is recreate those variations and elements of the 50s and 60s from ’52 onward. We make every single part of the pickup assembly here in the USA, and for some of our P-90s, we use one of the original machines with the original fixtures that Gibson used. It’s a Geo Stevens machine made in 1950, so that’s probably a reliable timeline as to when the P-90’s design was finalised.
“As far as the magnets go, P-90s generally have the same 1/8-inch thick magnets that you see in PAFs, but there was a very small window where they used a thicker [3/16- inch] Alnico III magnet. Those sound quite good. They appear randomly during ’52, and you can also find some from ’53.
“After that, they mainly used Alnico IV, V and II. I’ve seen a pattern of Alnico IV being used for bridge pickups and Alnico II being used for neck pickups, but like many things with vintage guitars, they weren’t consistent about it. By 1960, you often see them with shorter magnets [50s magnets typically measure 21⁄2-inches in length], and by ’61, they became standard. The shorter magnets generally sound a little more aggressive than the longer equivalent Alnico magnets.
“In the 50s, Gibson used the same 42-gauge plain enamel wire you find in PAFs. The general consensus is 10,000 turns, but that varies depending on the era and it’s not unusual to find P-90s well under 10,000 turns. P-90s most often vary between 7.2k and 8.1k[ohms DCR]. You can find outliers above and below, but throughout the 50s they’re generally not as hot as later ones. You see random differences in the ohms [resistance] per foot of the wire and the 42-gauge diameter tolerance. It becomes much more consistent when they go [from plain enamel] to poly-coated wire around ’65 to ’66, but the poly wire really changes the character of the sound.
“The P-90’s character also changes depending on which winding machine was used because of the differences in coil tightness. That really affects the tone. I equate a more compact coil with a crisper treble response in the low-end, which gives a slightly harder tone.”
Not all P-90s were created equal. Since the unit’s introduction in 1946, the ongoing changes to Gibson’s manufacturing methods and supplies - coupled with the quirks and foibles of man, machine and materials - have bolstered the P-90’s enigmatic charm by rendering it with a multitude of tonal variances.
Although we can easily hear the bigger picture, the partially random nature and complex interaction of wire tolerances, number of winds, coil tightness, Alnico magnet type, magnetic charge, carbon steel composition, baseplate materials and plastics have long shrouded the P-90 in vintage mystique/confusion. And so, hoping to impart a touch of P-90 wisdom to you by shedding light on how some of the nuances of its inner workings translate into sound, we caught up with Jon Gundry of P-90/PAF repro specialists ThroBak in Michigan.
Picking a P-90
“When people are trying to choose a P-90,” begins Jon, “I tell them to think of the lower-resistance pickups as having a crisper pick attack. They’re more articulate and dynamic and will clean up more readily. With a lower-resistance P-90, your amp is going to see more headroom and, therefore, is less apt to be driven into distortion with pick attack.
“The higher-resistance P-90s sound fatter and more aggressive. Although they have comparatively less headroom with the amp and are naturally more prone to distort, the upside is you have more usable room when rolling back the guitar volume. As the resistance goes up, you get a thicker tone with more midrange and the amp gets driven harder. But, at some point, you might sacrifice a bit of low-end clarity.
“Along with our DE MXV reproduction dog-ear P-90 bridge pickups [available with long Alnico IV magnets in a choice of 7.8k, 8.4k, 9.0kohms or custom-spec DCR] we have three basic models of the soap bar P-90 in our SB MXV range based on the variations I’ve seen during repairs and in original guitars. We have a ’52/’54 set, a ’55/’56 set and a set called the Special. The differences between those mainly relate to resistance and Alnico magnet choice [including long Alnico II and IV types].
“Since there are two Alnico magnets in a P-90, and because of the way they are positioned, there is a more pronounced effect on the inductance of the pickup than in a [single-magnet] PAF. In other words, you get a different EQ profile with the same Alnico type in a PAF. A P-90 tends to have a little less dynamic range and is more apt to compress with pick attack than a PAF, but that’s part of their character. When it’s distorted, it sounds a little squishier than a PAF - particularly with hotter, higher resistance P-90s - and, as far as low-end articulation goes, you seem to hit the end of the range far more quickly.
“Generally, the best approach for getting the optimum tone out of a P-90 is to get the entire pickup as close as you can to the strings and then fine-tune it with the pole screws. The treble response is more pleasing with vintage era, or vintage reproduction P-90s like ours, because the carbon content in the steel pole screws is lower. Part of the reason you can get a P-90 so close to the strings is because it doesn’t have as much magnetic pull as a Fender- style pickup, so you’re not going to get those weird oscillations [aka ‘Strat-itis’].
“If you want a more acoustic quality out of the guitar, there’s an advantage with a 50s- or 60s-style P-90 because you have the added benefit of good microphonics from it not being wax potted - they just have the same flat black paper tape as a PAF. Direct contact with the guitar body is also an advantage; the better the contact is with the body, the better the acoustic microphonics transmitting through the pickups will be. In that sense, there’s something to be said for a dog-ear P-90, although if you have a Les Paul Special or Les Paul Model, those [soap bar P-90] pickups do sit on the bottom of the cavity, so you’re still getting some of that.”
We would like to thank Jon Gundry of ThroBak Electronics
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The question of “which is better- the P90 pickup or the humbucker pickup” is almost as old as “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
There is a whole list of significant differences between the P90 pickup and a humbucker pickup, not in only in how they are physically built, but also in the sound that their produce.
Both the P90 pickup and the humbucker pickup have their unique disadvantages and advantages, which means that you might find one pickup to fit better the sound style you’re looking to achieve better than the other and of course it will depend in which electric guitar do you have.
Main Differences Between P90 vs Humbucker
The main differences between the P90 and Humbucker are:
- The Humbucker uses two coils, whereas the P90 has just one
- The P90 produces a more gritty sound, whereas the Humbucker is smoother
- Humbucker pickups are generally more expensive than P90 pickups
What is a P90 Pickup?
A P90 pickup provides users with a sound that sounds a bit like a single-coil pickup, a little bit like a humbucker pickup, with a vintage low output sound thrown into the mix.
A lot of famous guitars, like the Les Paul (humbucker pickup) or the Strat (single-coil) depend upon these two types of pickups to produce their sound.
However, the P90 pickup is a pickup that’s often forgotten in the guitar market and without good reason.
I always recommend the sound of a P90 pickup to musicians that are looking for the sound body that single coil pickups don’t offer or if they are looking for a high-end bite that humbucker pickups don’t provide.
When comparing a P90 pickup to a humbucker pickup, you’re going to notice that the P90 pickup makes up for the midrange growl and the twangy highs that the humbucker lacks in.
Fun fact about the P90 pickup: the P90 pickup pairs exceptionally well with semi-hollow guitars that are in need of a full-bodied, bright tone!
Famous bands/musicians to use the P90 pickup
- The Sex Pistols
- New York Dolls
- The Clash
- Cheaper than humbuckers
- Provide a versatile sound
- You have to worry about buzzing
What are the different types of P90 pickups?
There are several different versions of P90 pickups on the market, but all of these pickups sport a similar tone and have different shaping to their bodies. Here are the three different types of P90 pickups:
Humbucker casing: This is comparable to the standard humbucker design, as these P90s are a little thinner and longer than your traditional humbucker would be. However, humbucker casing P90s don’t require any modifications on your instrument.
Soap bar: This looks like the Gibson P90 with a rectangular shape; the mounting screws are located in the middle of the pickup, so it doesn’t sit into your pickguard.
Dog ear: The dog ear pickup has a comparable design to the soap bar, as the dog-ear pickup also has a rectangular shape. But with the dog ear pickup, the mounting screws are located on a triangular extension on each end of the pickup. This may require some modification on your guitar, as dog ear pickups with a hook into your pickguard.
What is a humbucker pickup?
Humbucking pickups are going to be an excellent choice for you if you are someone who is looking for a pickup that will:
- Repress external noise
- Create a large, warm sound that sounds incredibly different than the bright, brisk sound that many single-coil pickups create.
Single coil pickups are a magnet wound with wire, which turns them into incredibly sensitive antennas that are very sensitive to electromagnetic interference. However, humbucker pickups are created with two coils rather than one singular coil. Having two coils cancels out electric hums and other external noises that are often associated with single-coil pickups, while also managing to leave the signal from the strings intact.
But, how does a humbucker pickup solve all of the problems that come with a single-coil pickup? By using two coils that produce a signal instead of just relying on one coil to do all of the work!
The two coils that come with the humbucker pickup have opposite polarities and windings; this arrangement of the coils creates cancellation of any unwanted electromagnetic interference. This special arrangement of the two coils also improves the overall quality and output level of the signal, while also increasing the length of your sustains and an increasingly dynamic range.
Famous bands/musicians to use the humbucker pickup
- Billie Joe
- Greg Howe
- Ian D’sa
- Fat, large sound
- Incredible sustain
- You don’t have to worry about humming
- Twice as much output as a single coil pickup
- More expensive than P90s
- Less presence
How are humbuckers and P90s different?
When you look at the basic structure of these two pickups, you’re going to notice that they are incredibly different. Humbuckers use two coils whereas the P90 pickup uses just one coil- but it doesn’t stop there.
The geometry of the configuration of the coils, as well as the arrangement of the magnets, is entirely different too. Due to the differentiation in the setup of the coils and magnets, users will be able to hear differences in tonal qualities.
With the configuration of the humbucker pickup, you will be able to see a single bar magnet that is located under the two coils; this setup will give users a sound that is less dirty and gritty sounding (in comparison to the P90). Humbucker pickups also provide users with an incredibly powerful overdrive, but at the same time, also can deliver loud, clean tones. Generally speaking, a humbucker pickup is going to provide you with more versatility across a large selection of genres.
Best P90 Pickups
Seymour Duncan Phat Cat
The traditional P-90 has a sound that is more powerful than a single coil, but is cleaner and clearer than a humbucker.
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Seymour Duncan is famous for producing some of the best pickups that are available on the market today. You will be able to find Seymour Duncan pickups on guitars across Fender, Ibanez, Gibson, and other famous guitar brands!
The Seymour Duncan Phat Cat P90 uses the Alnico II magnets, which provide this P90 pickup with an increase sustain, as well as a softer attack. This pickup has outstanding tonal clarity, even when you’ve switched yourself over to overdrive!
In terms of durability, you’re going to find that the Phat Cat P90 has a durable metal cover that provides increased noise reduction and even more shielding, which gives the pickup a cleaner, smooth sound.
One of the coolest things about this P90 pickup is that it has a humbucker pickup, which means that it’s compatible with humbucker guitars. However, the biggest downside of this pickup is that does have a bit of a muddier sound than your classic P90. You can find it on Amazon for $87.
Seymour Duncan Vintage P90
In the neck position, this pickup sounds sweet and smooth, and will deliver big fat sounding chords. In the bridge position, this pickup has sparkly mids that really give it a gritty, open tone.
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10/10/2021 03:46 am GMT
Seymour Duncan made their own twist of the vintage Gibson P90 by releasing their own vintage P90 pickup, the Seymour Duncan Vintage P90. The Seymour Duncan Vintage P90 is fitted with Alnico V magnets, which are the same magnets that the original Gibson P90 has. However, this pickup does have a higher output than a lot of other single coil pickups, which is what makes the gravel voice of the midrange so easy to tell apart.
The Seymour Duncan P90 has the traditional soap bar design, which will allow this pickup to comfortably fit into a guitar that accepts any classic P90 pickup. What I like best about this pickup is that comes with a matte black, which provides users with a sleeker look than the cream that Gibson uses on their P90.
The biggest downside of this pickup is that provides musicians with a muddier tone than the Gibson P90, but it balances out this poor quality by maintaining the original tonal characteristic that comes with the vintage Gibson P90. You can find them on Amazon for $184.
Lindy Fralin P90
The Lindy Fralin P90 pickup is famous for its substantial mid-range. Setting itself apart from other P90 pickups, the Lindy Frailin does provide users with a sound production that’s truly noiseless. You can think the reverse wound bridge on the Lindy Fralin P90, which helps to cancel out the hum when both pickups are turned on.
The best thing about this pickup is that you can choose between Alnico II magnets or steel poles; with the Alnico II magnets, you will receive a clear sound that has an increase sustain, whereas with the steel poles you will have a sound that is more similar to an original P90 in the 50’s. The biggest downfall about this pickup is that the hum-canceling may not be possible for your guitar to achieve if your instrument can’t use both pickups at the same time. You can find the Lindy Fralin P90 on Amazon for $184.
Recommended for bridge position, solid body guitars with soap pickup cavities.
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While the Lindy Fralin pickup may sound like all fun and games (because it is), the price tag that comes with it makes it a pickup that isn’t easily accessible for a lot of musicians. However, just because this P90 pickup is a lot more affordable than the pickups on this list doesn’t mean that is scarified in quality.
When you first lay eyes on this P90 pickup, you’ll notice that it looks a lot like a humbucker pickup when referring to its shape and size, but don’t be fooled by appearance- this pickup is a P90. This pickup comes with two single coils; one coil is referred to as the ‘hot’ coil and is depended upon for sound, while the other coil mainly acts to cancel out the noise.
Having the two coils in this P90 pickup will provide you with the opportunity to play around with your sound. If you want to make your sound warmer, you’ll want to place the ‘hot’ coil closer to the neck of your instrument; if you’re looking to create a brighter sound, place the ‘hot’ coil closer to the bridge.
What I like most about this pickup is that by having the adjustable ‘hot’ coil, you’re going to be able to play around and experiment with your sound. When playing around with the DiMarzio Bluesbucker, I also found that when I paired two of these pickups together, I was able to achieve a sweet, hollow sound that was extremely similar to the sound of two single coil pickups.
What I dislike most about this P90 pickup is that it doesn’t come with a cover, which means it’s going to be a lot less durable than a pickup that does come with a cover. I also noticed that this pickup doesn’t reduce that humming noise as a humbucker would. And while I don’t view this one as too much a con, I do feel like I should mention it: you can’t fit this pickup on a guitar that doesn’t have humbuckers, unless you want to go and modify your guitar. You can find the DiMarzio Bluesbucker for $75.
Gibson Gear MIP9R-CC P90
If we’re going to take the time to talk about the best P90s, I have to mention the original Gibson P90. This pickup has been a favorite among musicians of all backgrounds since the late 40’’s, as it promotes a combination of a clear sound and a high output.
You’re going to be receiving a classic P90 sound from this pickup, nothing too muddy and nothing overly bright. It also comes with a waxed finish to help reduce microphone feedback and uses the Alnico V magnet which provides the overall sound with a more robust tone.
The biggest thing that I like about this pickup is that achieves a warm, vintage P90 sound without too much effort in on your part. However, I don’t like the vintage cream finish that this pickup is painted in, as it looks incredibly out of place, especially on new guitars.
Kent Armstrong Stealth 90 Noiseless P90
Best Double-coil Pickup
Making its debut at the 2012 summer NAMM show, this design uses the hum-cancelling properties of opposing coils but defies the normal high output that would accompany similar resistance designs.
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The Kent Armstrong P90 is especially unique when compared to the other P90s on this list- this pickup has a double coil setup, instead of your average single coil. Having two coils provides the pickup with a better hum canceling ability, but it does come with its downsides.
The Kent Armstrong P90 has a lower output than a lot of other P90s, which means that it has a duller sound and a high end that’s much darker. On the other hand, this harder sound makes it a great P90 pickup to use if you’re looking to play in metal, hard rock, or other heavier genres.
Knowing that this model isn’t meant to be top of the line, it does make a great pickup for those who are looking to experiment with their sound without spending too much money.
Best Humbucker Pickups
Seymour Duncan SH-PG1 Pearly Gates
The SH-PG1 Pearly Gates guitar pickup is sweet, but slightly rude, with great sustain and a bright top end that make harmonics jump out of the guitar.
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10/10/2021 03:43 am GMT
For our first humbucker pickup, we’re going to be discussing the Seymour Duncan SH-PG1b Pearly Gates, which gives users with an edgier tone with a brighter top end that makes great if you’re looking to play lead guitar with a lot of solos. If you are a musician that primarily focused in playing blues-rock or hard rock, this is going to be amazing humbucker pickup for you.
You will be receiving excellent sustain and clear high ends, which will provide your harmonics with more projection than you could ever imagine. What I dislike most about this humbucker pickup is that it doesn’t really allow you to experiment with your sound too much if you’re not looking to stay within one music genre.
Seymour Duncan SH-13 Dimebucker
The secret to the Dimebucker’s hard-hitting crunch is the small amount of metal mass in the core of the pickup. This allows the SH-13 to have both high d.c. resistance and a high resonant peak. The result is a high-output, aggressive humbucker with lots of treble bite and clarity, as well as punchy bass response and exceptional dynamics.
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10/10/2021 03:46 am GMT
The Seymour Duncan SH-13 Dimebucker is perfect for heavy metal guitarists, as it’s durable enough to keep up with even your most aggressive riffs. If you happen to go with this humbucker pickup, you’re going to find yourself with a pickup that provides outstanding clarity in the top end, paired with groundbreaking impact on the lower end.
What I dislike most about this pickup is I found that the pickup didn’t respond very well when I tried to play rhythm instead of lead, so I would keep that piece of information in mind if you’re shopping around for a humbucker for your rhythm guitar. However, I did like how much this kept up with my sound purity when playing through hard, aggressive riffs.
EMG-81 Humbucking Active Guitar Pickup
The EMG 81 Active Guitar Humbucker Pickup makes a great choice if you are a lead guitarist that enjoys playing hard rock and/or metal, especially when it’s paired with a high gain amplifier! When playing around with this humbucker pickup, I found that I was able to achieve outstanding overdrive sounds when I adjusted my master volume knob.
What I dislike most about this pickup is that this pickup is only good if you’re looking to play metal. I tried playing around with this pickup in several different genres, metal, metalcore, heavy metal, indie, and alternative. I found that when playing around in genres that weren’t heavy, this pickup didn’t perform very well as the clean tones were too bright or the sound would crack. However, as a musician that enjoys playing heavy metal, I found that this pickup performed exceptionally well for everything that I put it through.
Gibson ’57 Classic Plus Pickup
This Gibson 57 Classic Plus Humbucker will provide musicians with the ultimate old-school tone with a smooth, velvety tone. This humbucker pickup was created to mimic the sound of a late 50s humbucker and does an excellent job of doing so. You’re going to be getting your hands on an authentic tone that has just a bit more output than an original humbucker from the 50s.
When playing around on this pickup, I did feel like this pickup was lacking a bit in the midrange, especially when being compared to the other humbucker pickups I had just played around with. On the other hand, I did really enjoy the full, smooth sound that I received from this pickup.
DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion
4-conductor versatility with coil-splitting capability. Regular or F-spacing. Many of the classic rock sounds of the '70s and '80s came from this pickup.
10/10/2021 03:46 am GMT
If you were someone who grew up on 70s and 80s rock, you’ll probably be very familiar with the sound of DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion humbucker pickup, even if you know almost nothing about pickups. This humbucker pickup packs a hard punch, especially in the midrange of a guitar.
What I dislike the most about this pickup is it doesn’t provide an enjoyable, clean sound; when I was playing around with a clean sound on this humbucker pickup, my sound was very dull and lifeless. However, I do think it’s a great bonus that this pickup will fit with most Gibson’s, Floyd Rose, and Fender bridges!
Railhammer Hyper Vintage Humbucker pickup
Efficient magnetic structure, the rails/poles are larger than traditional polepieces, and have a very large surface area contacting the magnet. This produces a strong and wide magnetic field which is very touch sensitive and responsive to your playing technique.
10/10/2021 03:46 am GMT
The Railhammer Hyper Vintage Humbucker Pickup is a newer pickup to the market and provides musicians with bell-like highs with an overall warmth to the sound. This humbucker pickup is extremely popular with musicians who are looking to experiment with their sound, because this Railhammer pickup provides balance among the volume of each string, which is something we haven’t seen on the market yet!
What I disliked the most about this humbucker pickup was that it was a bit more expensive than your standard Duncan or DiMarzio, which makes it less available to musicians of all different backgrounds. When I was playing around with this pickup, I did thoroughly enjoy the versatility that the pickup provided me with. I was quickly able to achieve rich tones, bell-like tones, clean tones, a powerful overdrive, and fuzzy tones without too much effort on my part.
I also enjoyed the physical build of the instrument, as the rails were a bit longer than the average humbucker and the poles are oversized, which allows this pickup to be placed into any guitar, in any position.
Final Word on Humbucker vs P90 Pickups
At the end of the day, there isn’t a right or wrong answer to choosing between a humbucker or a P90 pickup. Both of these pickups have the ability to provide the right user with an unlimited amount of benefits, but depending on your situation and needs, one pickup may be a better choice than the other.
If you’re looking for a tone that is brighter, punchier attacks, and a taste of a vintage sound, a P90 pickup is going to be a better choice for you. On the other hand, if you are a musician that is looking for a dark tone, a humbucker is going to be a better choice for you.
Whatever pickup you end up going with, the pickups that we have listed above are going to provide you with high-quality sound, clarity, and intense power that’s hard to find in other pickups.
Good luck and have fun choosing your next pickup!
Danny grew up playing anything that looked like a guitar. Since some kids just don’t know how to grow up, he continues to write about guitars because you can do that these days.
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