Talk to me about P-90 pickups

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by Col Mustard, Sep 11, 2015.

  1. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    'allo me Droogies... today I want to hear all of your opinionated thoughts
    on the venerable P-90 pickup, and the amps and f/x that you like to use with them,
    and I have a couple of questions to throw down.

    I never had any interest in P-90 pickups until I started reading posts on this forum,
    way back in like 2007 or so. The first time I read a member's statement that an SG with
    P-90s had a tone to die for, I was like... "Really?... aren't those from the 40s, like the
    Spitfire and the Messerschmitt and the TBF Avenger?"

    Then I started listening for them, and I realized that: "Oh, that's the sound of the early Who
    recordings that I like so well, and it's the sound of Lennon's guitar after he gave up on that little Rick that he played his early hits on... and more and more. I realized that FZ used them to make some of his sounds, as did Bob Marley, and then I saw Pat Metheny using them to play Jazz, and I listened more and more and more. It's been an interesting Odyssey,
    learning stuff. The P-90 seems very versatile to say the least, and clear as a bell when dialed in that way, and rude and growly when called for, and jangly and bright at will.
    _DSC0041@100.jpg
    So I've been absorbing wisdom from this site for eight years now, and developed a hankering in my craw for a P-90 guitar of my very own. I finally bought one a few months ago, when all the sturm und drang about Gibson's 2015 models was at its height.
    My vote in the debate was to buy a brand new Epiphone ES-339 P-90 pro when M/F marked them down to an irresistible price. I've only made cosmetic mods to this blonde beauty so far, wanting to grok the P-90 vibe in fullness as we used to say.
    ES 339 practice.jpg
    First question: If I was going to replace the wiring harness, would a set of Gibson 300K pots be a good idea for these single coil p'ups? I have the original wiring harness from my 2007 SG special, which I removed intact to replace with high quality 500k components, and this opens up the sound of the '57 Classic humbuckers. I was wondering if the 300k pots would be more appropriate for the P-90s. Also, I have them just sitting in a box, along with some other components. I have another harness with 500K pots that I could use. Which to choose...
    SG wiring orig@100.jpg
    Second question: I want to hear opinions on the Chinese made P-90s that came stock in my Epiphone. They sound ok to me, and I've played this guitar for several months, getting to know them. If I were going to start ripping into it, I'd put a new wiring harness in first, and then play some more and listen. While I was doing that, I'd watch for Gibson P-90s to go on sale, and I'd also consider getting a set of Lollars, or Lindy Fralin's, or maybe Golden Age.
    P-90s@100.jpg
    I'm not in a hurry to do these mods, just wondering if guys here who have more experience with P-90s would have an opinion. Is a pickup upgrade worth considering for this Epiphone, or are the Chinese made p-90s just as good? What improvements in tone would come with the boutique pickups, if any?

    And of course, I want to hear all about the amps and f/x you guys use with P-90s
    and why.
     
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  2. JohnnyGoo

    JohnnyGoo Well-Known Member

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    i have no answere for ya Col. for i have no P90 guitars but this post should make some good reading for sure.id be interested in what people have to say.on the other hand i got 2 early 2000 Epi Dots with the Humbucker pickups in them that i dont even consider changing.i love the stock Epi Humbuckers.
     
  3. Yes G

    Yes G Active Member

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    I've played a Les Paul that had a set of hand-wound Eden P90s made by Ken at Rose Pickups and they sounded great and the price is extremely fair (less than 50 bucks a pickup). He'll talk to you and listen to your comments about the sound you are looking for and make you a great pair of pickups. There are audio samples at the Rose Pickup Website.
    I have no affiliation with them, just a fan of the pups and their exemplary customer service.
     
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  4. ghostwolf

    ghostwolf Well-Known Member

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    i have a SX LP Jr copy with ceramic P90s that really sound good to my ears, especially through my BDRI at medium-loud levels. It took a bit of adjustment to the pickup heights to dial them in, but time spent was well worth it. So far, the ceramic magnets sound good enough that i haven't felt a need to change them out. If and when the need arises, Ken at Rose Pickups is who i'd turn to as well. He does great work at a really nice price, and the man has the customer service thing down pat.
     
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  5. eS.G.

    eS.G. Well-Known Member

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    I have a Casino, an Epi SG 61 Reissueand an Agile Lester with P-90's I have owned a dozen epi P-90 loaded guitars....several Squires with Seymour Duncan styled P-90 -ish (Jazzmaster) pups AND (thanks Johnny Goo) I currently own (which gets swapped in and out of various guitars for FUN) a GIBSON P-90.
    Unless you have some issue with the current pups....I have found the Epi P-90's to be every bit as good as
    A. the Gibson P-90
    B. The after market P-90's
    like these...............
    blue1.jpg

    Or anything else I have come across.

    IMHO COl. IF you want to change out any part of it ---its your baby----rip her apart (Lord knows I play Frankenstein all the time!!!) But I can tell you this........and I am a MODDER extrodinaire.....I wouldn't think of changing the pups in Either of the Epis ....ever the Casino is sheer perfection the 61 Reissue captures that old school Townsend sound like no bodies business......and the Agile I removed the Humbuckers to AD Chinese cheap P-90's lol

    Stay the course I say damn the torpedoes full speed ahead!
     
  6. JimD

    JimD Member

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    I've posted it before but you might like this video of Dave Gregory from XTC playing his SGs, including a P-90 equipped Special



    Then there's this article regarding tone and wiring on the P-90 equipped Epiphone Wildkat that may be of interest too - capacitance kills treble!

    http://www.award-session.com/pdfs/Epiphone WildKat Tone Mods.pdf
     
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2015
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  7. Kerry Brown

    Kerry Brown Well-Known Member

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    Not sure about the 339 but when I bought the Riviera with 3 P90s I was very disappointed with the sound. It has the Epiphone Chinese P90s. It very muddy compared to my Epi Les Paul jr and my Gibson SG 50's Tribute. Those two are both awesome sounding. Totally controllable from a huge growl to an almost acoustic like clean just with a twist of the guitars controls. I hit up Google and found a lot of posts saying the actual wire used is causing a loss of treble. Wonder if the 339 uses the same wire? I never did fix the Riviera yet. I found that I was trying to play it too clean. It needs lots of dirt then the P90s start to sing. I'm sure a wiring and pot upgrade would really wake things up but there is only so much time in a day:)

    Edit: I see from JimD's post the Wildkat has the same problem. Check the wiring.
     
  8. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    Muddy P90s on my LP Special 1, but great on the 61's reissue SG. I don't think they are the same, can't be.
    I replaced the LP P90s with Tyson Tone 57 Wraptails and now it is a tone encyclopedia. They are now more than twice what I paid for the guitar, but I got them almost half price and it turned that little simple guitar into a keeper.

    I also have a pair of noise cancelling P90S (S for slug) from a 2014 Gibson Melody Maker, that traveled from one guitar to the other. They are half way between a humbucker and a P90. Not a bad thing, but they are "cleaner" than real vintage P90s, not the same growl.
     
  9. Paul G.

    Paul G. Well-Known Member

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    Not a fan of Chinese P90s. They tend to be muddy and mushy.

    I've owned guitars with Gibson, Lindy Fralin and Seymour Duncan P90s and they all were more dynamic, with more pop and growl when pushed, and more bell-like when dialed back than Epi P90s.

    I have a MelodyMaker with the 2014 P90s pickups. They are wonderful pickups, but sound more clear and refined than regular P90s. P90s always seem to have a bit of "grit", even clean.

    I would stay with the 500kOhm pots.

    P.
     
  10. Bullfrog

    Bullfrog Well-Known Member

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    When I bought my '01 LP jr back in January, Kris Ford recommended that I go with 500k's.

    P-90's are definitely my favorite pick up.

    Early Black Sabbath, early Santana, Mountain era Leslie West, The Who. These guys all had their best tones when they used P-90's.

    Danny Kirwans tone in the original Fleetwood Mac is pure P-90 heaven. In my mind it just doesn't get any better than that!

    Did I mention that I'm obsessed with P90's?

    :D
     
  11. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    I just looked up the Unofficial Epiphone Wiki for run dates on the Epi Special One LP and the '61 reissue SG. The SG is 2011 and the LP is 2012-2013. The P90s on the 2011 SG sound really good, but the 2012-13 LP are muddy. What to make of that. One would think that the most recent pickups would be the better ones, but it's the other way around, and by far.
     
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  12. Bullfrog

    Bullfrog Well-Known Member

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    Speaking of muddy, Muddy Waters played a a p90'ed Goldtop back in the day.
     
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  13. eS.G.

    eS.G. Well-Known Member

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    I find the P90's to yes be muddier....and noisier and way grittier than the humbuckers. I am no expert but the P90's tend to "break up" a tube amp faster than say a 57 humbucker. with all knobs settings etc. being equal.....
     
  14. Yes G

    Yes G Active Member

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    Interesting observation. Thanks for the head's up on that. I don't have any of the newer Epi P90 pickups to compare to but I can say that the P90s in my 2011 '61 Reissue SG Special sound extremely good and actually quite similar in overall character to the P90s I have in other guitars (which are older MIA P90s) I would never expect a properly built P90 to sound muddy.
     
  15. frankd

    frankd Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for posting .And Colonel Good luck in your quest. Im on a Vintage Paf 4 conductor quest and this
    post may just helped end it!
     
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  16. zisme

    zisme Well-Known Member

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    i've never played with any true soapbar p90s, but i have a pair of handwound Buddah humbucker-sized p90s that i've tried in a jay turser lp and two different blackseed magnolias. i've just never jived with them. they sound pretty good at bedroom volume levels and would probably be nice for recording, but they just don't have enough umph when i play with the band. now i'm not sure how closely the hum-90s approximate the real sound, but i would describe them as raw, chimey on cleans, jagged on drive. they've got the single coil hum, but it's not too bad. they cut nicely, but lack the punch i can get from my humbucker equipped guitars.
    h90.jpg

    maybe one day i will get a true p90 axe. i'd really like to get my hands on a fsr 72 custom p90 telecaster..
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
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  17. Dave_Death

    Dave_Death Well-Known Member

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    I don't find the Bare Knuckle P-90 I have to be muddy. It is a high output pickup, their Stockholm model, and I have 500K pots and a 0.033uf poly cap and modern wiring. This particular model has a lot of bass. I would probably go for a lower value pot like a 300K if the output of the pickup was more vintage.

    It has quite a throaty roar to it, which you might be able to hear in this video.

     
  18. CATMANDUE

    CATMANDUE Well-Known Member

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    They make noise more than humbuckers but, the tone is very cool. I don't hear any muddy sound to the ones I have on my 2012 Junior Special LP at all. They are more temperamental than humbuckers but, the sound is in the same ball park in a big way. I feel they have a certain character of their own. They sound good through any decent amp but, just cleaner through some.
     
  19. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    What I like best with the P90, is volume response and pick attack. That's why many single P90 guitar players don't see the need for a neck pickup.
     
  20. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    Really interesting comparisons here from Doug and Pat in this video. The Sanford Magnetics at the end are the fullest and really come very close to the vintage Gibson P90s.

     
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