P90 Pickups - Ultimate Versatility

P90 Pickups - Ultimate Versatility

Permeating the annals of music history, the P90 has been heard countless times across some of the best albums you've ever heard - but what are P90s? Unabashedly sat between Single Coils and Humbuckers, the P90 Pickup is arguably the most versatile option for guitarists who don't want to limit their sound.

Let's take a deep dive into the world of P90 pickups, their history and some of our favourite models!

Birth of the P90

The development of the P90 predates the second world war, with it's lineage in Gibson's first electric guitar pickup - the 'Charlie Christian' named after the eponymous Jazz Guitarist. Combining features of this first Gibson pickup and the later P13, Walt Fuller brought us the P90 in 1946 - and so it began.

Finding their home in countless Gibson models, including the iconic 52' Goldtop; their sound at the time was favoured for it's brilliant top end shine, which we now associate with the classic Blues and Rock hits of the 50s.

Although I didn't know it at the time, my love for P90s began with the Beatles. I bought an Epiphone Casino for that iconic Beatles tone, which in part owes a lot to the unstoppable sound of the P90s, as they cut through the mix in 'Revolution' like a steak knife through a slab of butter.

Since their initial rise to popularity in 50s and 60s Rock N Roll, P90s have proved their staying power, playing a huge part in the punk scene of the 70s, thanks to bands like The Clash and Sex Pistols. They continued to maintain their importance in the 80s New Wave and Indie scenes, and re-emerged more popular than ever in the last couple of decades thanks to the popularity of Fender Mustangs and Jaguars used by popular bands, such as Arctic Monkeys and The 1975.

Behind the scratchplate

What are P90s and how do they compare to other pickups? Essentially P90s are a single coil pickup designed with more output and greater tonal variety in mind. They're made with two alnico 'bar' magnets on each side of six screws, which induce a magnetic field that runs through the screws.

Although their design is similar to that of Single Coil you find in a Strat or a Tele, their repsonse and sound is entirely different. They're known for balancing clarity, brightness and mid-range punch, bringing together the desired qualities of both Single Coils and Humbuckers into one Soap Bar shaped pickup.

They suffer less from hum than a single coil, but more than a humbucker (as you would expect from it's name). Versatile enough to be used by both BB King and Joe Strummer, it's hard to find something P90s can't do!

The right P90 for you!

Before you buy a set of P90s it's important to note there a two main types of P90s, Soap Bars and Dog Ears. The noticeable difference between the two is the mounting; the classic Soap Bar style P90 is mounted onto the guitar using two screws located between the pole pieces, whereas the Dog Ears are mounted at two extensions either side of the pickup.

The mounting style of the Soap Bar makes it easier to adjust the height of the pickup as opposed to the Dog Ears. Here are some notable guitars that feature P90s.

Guitars with P90 Soap Bars:

- Gibson Les Paul Standard 50s

- Gibson SG Spcial

- Gibson ES-335

- Fender Mustang

- Fender Jazzmaster

Guitars with P90 Dog Ears:

- Gibson Les Paul Jr

- Gibson SG Jr

- Epiphone Casino

We've got a variety of options when it comes to P90s, so let's take a look at some of our favourites!

Tonerider Rebel 90

Fancy swapping out your Humbucker for something a little more versatile? The Rebel 90 is a Humbucker sized P90 that opens your guitar up to a wider range of sounds, making it a viable option for a vareity of genres. Powered by 2 Alnico bar magnets, with crisp highs and fat mid range, the Rebel 90 embodies the adaptability P90s are known for! On top of this the Rebel 90 uses vintage grade AWG42 wire wound to almost 10,000 turns for that authentic, vintage P90 sound. For £47.99 this Tonerider's impact far outweighs it's price point.

Lollar P90 Dog Ears

The industry standard, these Lollar P90s have become a flagship for the ever growing Pickup brand. Scatter wound with de-gaussed Alnico V bar magnets, these pickups give you a full clean tone with smooth treble and punchy mid-range. At just over £200 for a neck and bridge set, these Lollars are a huge upgrade for a guitarist who's looking to push the limits of their sound and creativity!

Seymour Duncan Antiquity P90

Throwing their hat into the ring is pickup kings Seymour Duncan, with their take on the P90. Capturing the weathered midrange growl and grit of the original '59 ES-330' this Antiquity P90 uses two specially calibrated Alnico 2 bar magnets and custom winding to deliver the sweet balance of singing highs and growling lows. At £165 you know you're getting top quality, authenticity from an iconic pickup designer.

Wilkinson R Series P90

If you're looking for intense attention to detail, the Wilkinson R Series P90 achieves vintage character and tone through it's meticulous hand crafting and original specifications. Featuring a bent nickel silver backing plate and wooden spacers, this pickup is constructed with rough cast Alnico V bar magnets and is wound with AWG42 plain enamel wire. Coming in at £89 this R Series pickup represents Wilkinsons' leap in innovation and dedication to authenticity.

Artec Alnico V P90

Last, but not least is the most budget friendly option; but don't let it's price point fool you - this Artec packs a punch! Unlike some of our other options, these pickups are double wax potted to reduce noise and feedback, negating the hum you normally expect from a P90, pushing it slightly closer to a humbucker. For £29.99 what better way to dip into the world of P90s.

Winding down

With a history of almost 100 years, it's impossible to cover everything about P90s in one blog, but hopefully we covered the basics and helped you decide on the right P90 for you! Let us know what you'd like us to cover next, thanks for reading and enjoy the best of both worlds with your P90s!

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