Who has upgraded Epiphone P90s?

Discussion in 'Epiphone SG' started by Rob Millis, May 1, 2021.

  1. Rob Millis

    Rob Millis New Member

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    Hi all,

    I just picked up a lovely TV yellow Epi '61 50th anniversary Special. It was £200 on FB market place and has very minor wear and tear indeed. Been looking for a while and was prepared to spend more (been there before with missing the boat on a limited Epiphone; eventually I got a Royal Tan '61 Casino but it was more than the new retail price was!) which means I've got a bit of 'budget' left over.

    I've stuck a Bigsby on it already. This was always going to be done, so that was an expected cost. Now I'm thinking about the electrics.

    I was all set to pull the trigger on a set of Jason Lollar P90s but I really don't know - I'm not sure that the stock Epi units aren't just fine, and that more expensive stuff would just be 'different' rather than 'better'? They certainly don't offend my ears, the Epi units, but there's a difference between 'pleasantly surprised' and 'blown away'!

    I'm never sure what to make of pickups. Many think that you should immediately throw any budget ones away and put new ones in, and I do have experience of the Fralin/Lollar league stuff and it's lovely, but there's another thing: the number of times you read that a cheap set of GFS pickups is all you need to upgrade! I don't get that; I don't believe they don't come off the same production line as the Epi units I've already got! But I'm open to persuasion!

    Any experiences grateful. I should at that as a bare minimum, and first job, the old harness is going in the bin and a good quality one to '50s' spec going in. Maybe that'll be quite some improvement without new pickups.
     
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  2. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    I had a black '61 Special for a couple of years, and it never crossed my mind to replace the P90 in it. These are tone monster in that small thin body. The Epi P90 is amongst the best ones out there. I presently have Tyson Tone and Lollar, I also had Gibson and none shame the Epi P90. I doubt changing the harness for same value components will bring anything different. Chasing your tail here.

    I don't remember hearing a bad P90, different flavours certainly, but always good.

    Here's some clips from that '61 with OEM P90 through a small Fender Super Champ XD.



     
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  3. Rob Millis

    Rob Millis New Member

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    Thanks for that. I'll stick with the stock ones for now. I will do a new harness as the old one has been messed around with, and I'll do the 50s tone control that keeps better clarity at lower volumes.
     
  4. Les537

    Les537 Member

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    I prefer standard gibson p90s. My only epi with p90s right now is a casino. I absolutely hate the sound. They read about 13k resistance compared to gibsons which read around 8k. Compared to the p90s in my gibson LP and SG the epi p90s are very dark, very muddy, very fuzzy and flat. I could not replace them easy due to metal dog ear covers with metric hole spacing (sigh).

    I tried to sell the guitar because I hated the sound and hated the poly finish. The thing that really made me hate those p90s is the cheap chrome all tarnishing - feeling terrible to touch and ugly to look at.

    I couldn't get more than a few hundred for the guitar so I decided to go with option B - I sanded off the horrible poly finish and ordered some tyson tone low output 50s style dog ears to try. I've been waiting THREE MONTHS for those pick ups. I guess I better email that guy again since he hasn't responded since my first request for info at the 30 day of waiting mark.

    In short - I think epi p90s are trash and I'd recommend trying some others because they 100% don't sound comparable to gibson - at least the ones in my casino. I would not recommend Tyson tone unless you want to wait a few years for them.
     
  5. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    422295.png
    The Casino is known to have overwound P90s, You're not the first to complain about it. It is also discussed that the metal cover is of no help in that.

    All other Epiphone P90 are wound between 8k and 9k and are far from muddy, trash or whatever you want to call them. They are very melodic and responsive and clean well when voulme is rolled back. Very similar to Gibson's.
     
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  6. Col Mustard

    Col Mustard Well-Known Member

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    Personally, I'd play it and listen, and make up your own mind.
    I own an Epiphone ES-339 P-90 Pro made in 2014. The stock pickups
    and wiring were fine. I played it for a year or so, and listened.

    I ended up buying a set of pickups from Ken Rose Pickups in California,
    simply because I'd fallen in love with my Epi and wanted to give her the
    best. The Ken Rose pickups are excellent of course, but were they miles
    better than the stock Epi p'ups? I don't know, I love my ES-339 and don't
    fuss over it. That's the beauty of an Epiphone.

    The beauty of getting pickups from an outfit like Ken Rose is that after
    playing my Epi for a year or so, I knew more what I wanted. The guys
    at Ken Rose asked me about my style, and the amps I used, and listened.
    Then they wound my pickups. And I really like them. They weren't
    outrageously expensive.

    So I'm happy with my upgraded Epi, but I was happy with it before.
    Go figure. Actually, just play yours and listen. I'll bet you decide that your
    stock pickups are good enough. Ignore all Epi bashers... my feeling is that Epiphones seem to get better all the time. The best money you could spend
    on it would be on Professional setup. That's my recommendation.

    One other problem with spending a lot on mods for an Epiphone:
    You'll never get your money back. So the value of your guitar is in
    the music that you play. ETSG wisdom states:

    YOU CAN PUT A $2000 STEREO SYSTEM IN A $500 CAR
    AND IT'S STILL A $500 CAR...

    Good luck with your new guitar. There's nothing wrong with the Polyurethane finish
    either IMHO. if the back of the neck feels sticky, rub it down with a green kitchen
    scrubbie until you like the feel. It's easy. The Poly finish is very practical, and
    impervious to just about anything. People who say lacquer is better are just blowing
    smoke.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2021
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  7. Rob Millis

    Rob Millis New Member

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    Thanks! Yes, the pickups are fine I think. I guess it was concern that this is my third "50th Anniversary" grade Epiphone, and I was half expecting USA P90s in there because that's what my royal tan '61 Casino has (and USA minis in a '61 anniversary Sorrento that I didn't keep). But maybe that only applied where the anniversary subject matter was an Epiphone design not a Gibson one and thus they didn't want to make it so close in spec that it encouraged you to buy the Epi Anniversary instead of a main Gibson brand guitar.

    I agree Epis are getting better, and especially the small batch stuff where some attention to detail is taken. I've got a Jack Casady bass and it is phenomenal; the '61 Casino is the best guitar I own (and I include a real '66 Sheraton in that!) and this TV yellow '61 Special is definitely the best SG I've ever had, which over the years has been a couple of 90s Gibsons, a Tokai and a Gordon Smith.
     
  8. papagayo

    papagayo Well-Known Member

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    Epi P90 on my Casino are not bad
     
  9. pedecamp

    pedecamp Well-Known Member

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    I was pleasantly surprised how good the stock Epi pickups were in my LP! :yesway:
     
  10. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    They're not anymore ?
     
  11. pedecamp

    pedecamp Well-Known Member

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    Not at the moment, I have alot of pickups and juggle through them.
     
  12. DrBGood

    DrBGood Well-Known Member

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    Right. Did that with my 2020 LP Special, but came back to the original P90.
     
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  13. alex1fly

    alex1fly Member

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    Replacing pickups is always tricky. Tends to lead one down an endless tone chase. I think it's good to try quality pickups at some point, just so you have something to compare to. Then you don't necessarily have to pull out stock pickups because you have a baseline for what a good pickup sounds like.

    Also, there is no such thing as a Good Pickup or Bad Pickup. All elements work together to make your tone - pick, strings, pickups, wood, metal, pedals, amp, speaker, room, ears, fingers.

    I've thrown a lot of money at Duncans/Dimarzios/EMGs chasing tone. These days I stick to stock pickups and try to work with what the manufacturer intended.
     
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  14. Go Nigel Go

    Go Nigel Go Well-Known Member

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    Wow, again +1 to alex1fly. Something is telling me you have been playing for quite a while. Pickups are just one small piece of the total package. Nothing is going to get you where you want to be if you are hyper focused on any one thing. Add in all of the performance variables regarding styles, genres, and just how you are feeling the music on a given day, and you will quickly find that tone is a moving target from the get go. Hell, if your band changes singers, you may need a totally different sound to blend without stepping on someone's sonic toes. Most of these purported "golden tones" sound great soloed, but will require significant amounts of frequency cutting to sit well in a given mix without either dominating everything but the snare and high hat, or getting lost entirely in the mud. It is all about carving out sonic space on the spectrum for every performer on the song. Watch some videos of engineers analyzing your favorite songs where they solo some individual tracks. As often as not that "golden guitar tone" your brain thinks it is chasing sounds quite unremarkable when soloed outside of the context of the finished product.
     
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  15. neoclassical

    neoclassical New Member

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    I usually never like stock pups unlees they are Seymour Duncan, EMG, or sometimes a Gibson humbucker. I want more clarity and slightly more output from my bridge pup, so I've contacted Gemini Pickups (local builder) to make an early Iommi like P90 for me. I'll see how it goes.
     

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