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FDP Forum / The 'Pup' Tent / Are P90's the PRS's of pickups?


Ontario, Canada

my pacemaker is all tube
Dec 17th, 2015 05:42 PM   Edit   Profile  

A lot of people think that PRS, in trying to do both the strat thing and the les paul thing, accomplishes neither.

I see P90 pickups the same way. "let's build a pickup with the fullness of a humbucker and the clarity of a single-coil". Great idea but a failure imho. To me P90's accomplish just the opposite - the muddiness of humbuckers and noise of single-coils.

I'm not completely hating on these pickups. To me they sound good but only in one application - pushing a tweed amp. you know that gritty, snarly, thing tweed amps do. that's it. nothing else imho. if you've ever dug the tone coming from P90's, I'm guessing it was doing that sound or some variation of it.

but try playing P90's clean say into a Twin or DR and honestly it sounds annoying. no shimmer or complexity. there's this midrange-y, muscular honk that never goes away. i think that's why they work well driving tweed amps.

since i play mostly clean stuff, i prefer strats and teles. but some of the greatest clean tones i've heard came from low-output PAF style pickups on SG's and les pauls. just amazing. never heard any P90 come close to what some of these humbuckers can do - and without the noise. makes me think why would anyone use a P90 when there are some great hb's out here.

i also noticed that some guys just never use P90's. JB never uses 'em and has even said he doesn't like 'em. Some other big name guitar players never use them either.

just throwing this out there to see how some of you guys use P90's and what your experience has been like.

(This message was last edited by telezebub at 07:45 PM, Dec 17th, 2015)

Contributing Member

Chain Smokin'

Gas Station Attendant
Dec 17th, 2015 05:49 PM   Edit   Profile  

It totally depends on the tone you're after.

Ask Pete Townshend why he dragged an SG with P90s to The Who's Live at Leeds.

Better yet--give it a listen.

That's the beauty of guitars: there are so many choices, you can't like 'em all.

Contributing Member


Stale bread and flea circuses
Dec 18th, 2015 12:20 PM   Edit   Profile  

Considering they've been around since WWII, I can't exactly connect the dots between them and PRS in terms of an analogy. I've owned very few P90 equipped guitars and have either parted with them or (in the case of my Studio 50's LP) swapped them for Mini Humbuckers. I, like you prefer the clean of Strats and Teles, but the grind of a nasty P90 is undeniable. I'm actually GASing for another set of P90s for the LP, but they'll have to be noiseless because of my E-E (electro-environment). I hear the usual "they gotta make noise to be a P90" sentiment, but I've heard some highly satisfactory results from the noiseless ones. I think FDPer SMark has posted some awesome clips of his Kinmans. Right now Fralins are catching my ear.

The right tool for the job (and the technician's hands) I say. I can't make a Tweed Deluxe sound clean and tasty to save my life, but a friend of mine makes the same guitar and tweedy sound unparalleled.

(This message was last edited by littleuch at 02:21 PM, Dec 18th, 2015)

Contributing Member

Chain Smokin'

Gas Station Attendant
Dec 18th, 2015 01:53 PM   Edit   Profile  

You cannot deny the raw rock power of a single P90 in a Les Paul Junior running through a cranked Marshall amp. It is the sound of Leslie West (Mountain), Johnny Thunders (New York Dolls), BJ Armstrong (Greenday), and countless others.

I think the P90 is no more 'vanilla' than any other pickup tone. Soon as music becomes a contest, you're the first loser :0)


World Traveler

Wood, magnetic coil and strings.
Dec 21st, 2015 09:40 AM   Edit   Profile  

Santana's early recordings were done with P90s and to my ears sounded better than his Yamaha and PRS phases. Black Magic Woman was done on a P90 equip guitar and that some got his tone recognized.


Fredericton, Canada

"pulled by rubber dolphins"
Dec 21st, 2015 07:13 PM   Edit   Profile  

Remember - Ted McCarty tasked Seth Lover with the job of of creating a humcancelling version of the P-90 and Seth created the PAF.
Quiet byes, but it sure doesn't sound P-90. But I guess McCarty liked the result!!

Contributing Member

SW Burbs of Chitown

Dec 24th, 2015 12:41 AM   Edit   Profile  

P90's short wide coil makes for less clarity compared to a strat tall narrow coil. Some reason manufactures today think P90's should be wound hot. There weren't wound hot in the 50's and 60's. Reason why I dewound mine. Much better tone.

Contributing Member

Chain Smokin'

Gas Station Attendant
Dec 24th, 2015 06:59 AM   Edit   Profile  

Spot on. P90s that are less than 7.5K are generally quite bright sounding.

FDP Forum / The 'Pup' Tent / Are P90's the PRS's of pickups?

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