How do you find the Best P-90 Pickups? The story of the P-90 is a sad one in many respects for some people. There are those who say it didn’t ever really have a chance to prove itself. And there are some guitar players who swear by them.
First produced by Gibson after the Second World war they became the standard pickup until the late 50s when the humbucker arrived. Some people think that the P90 was an early humbucker, but it wasn’t. It was a single-coil that was wound a little differently from the Fender single-coil. Hence it had a slightly different, thicker sound.
While Fender persisted with their ‘noisy’ (and boy, could they hum at times) single-coil pickup, the P90 was relegated down the chain to cheaper Gibson models. The new PAF humbucker all but destroyed what to some was the better pickup and the P90 all but disappeared from the Gibson range.
It seems that everyone wanted the dirty sounding PAF rather than the cleaner but still with a ‘kick’ P90. In 1968 Gibson re-issued the Les Paul gold top with P90’s. There have been several re-issues on other models using the P90, but it was essentially confined to the history books.
Way back when, I had the joy of working with a guitar player who had an SG Junior with a P90. He still has it and uses it today. He also has a Les Paul with its noisy humbucker and also a classic vintage Telecaster with its ‘noisy’ Single-coil. But of the three, it is the SG with its P90 he loves the most. Nowadays, he only uses it to record, but whenever I hear him, I think… mmm P90.
I must confess to being a Fender person and that single-coil twang of Tele and Strat, so the P90 is a pickup I naturally like. Even though it does sound a little different to the Fender.
Today there are companies that make the P90. People want them, and I am not surprised. They are a great pickup. So, let’s take a look at what’s on offer and find the Best P-90 Pickups for you…
Top 5 Best P-90 Pickups On The Market 2020 Reviews
1 Lindy Fralin P-90 Soapbar Pickup
Lindy Fralin has gone out of their way to produce a P90 that is as close to the Gibson original as possible. It isn’t even noiseless, so you are getting as dead on a sound as the real deal as possible.
They have a vintage style braided single conductor and a standard pole spacing of 49.5mm. And are built in the soap bar shape rather than the more familiar dogear. The pickups are exactly the same size as their Gibson predecessor. They come with a black finish. The bridge pickup is reverse wound to cancel a little bit of the hum if you are using both pickups.
The Gibson pickup was well known for its heavyweight mid-range sound, and this certainly has that. Quite clean and with its natural lack of too much top at reasonable volumes. But then you crank it up and off she goes. It sounds a bit like someone starting up a chainsaw — a unique sound, with the Alnico bar magnets working overtime.
These are a two-pickup set. There are one standard vintage bridge pickup and one neck pickup that is underwound by ten percent — an interesting combination but one that produces a good sound range.
It should be noted that these pickups are for guitars where the pickup screws straight into the body. They are not suitable if the pickup is screwed in through the scratchplate.
The look and the sound are reminiscent of the real thing. They recreate that very special P90 sound. These are an excellent option if you are looking to replace older P90s or want to try them for the first time.
They are not the cheapest option you will find, but it will be harder to find a better sounding pickup — certainly one of the Best P-90 Pickups on the market.
- Well-designed vintage style with good materials and accurate recreation.
- Produce a great P90 sound.
- Some may find them expensive.
2 Seymour Duncan Antiquity P-90 Dog Ear Pickup – Bridge
Of course, you would expect to find Seymour Duncan producing a vintage P90. It is what they do.
They were founded in 1976 and since have built a reputation for fine pickups. Of course, pickups are a big part of their business, but they also make effects pedals and a couple of amps as well. It is the pickups though they are best known for and rightly so. The manufacture of p90 pickups is just a small part of their range. But for P90 lovers, it is an important part.
This is a dogear design P90 from the Seymour Duncan’ Antiquities’ range. This range of vintage pickups first appeared in the 90s. There was a boom in the market for vintage guitars. But, there weren’t that many around, so the next best thing was to recreate the sound, hence the Antiquities range.
The 1950s Gibson ES-330 delivered a very recognizable growly sound from its bridge pickup. Seymour Duncan has recreated that with this P90. Using a couple of Alnico 2 bar magnets and added a special coil wind, you have that gritty sound.
The chords sound powerful and laced with that heavy mid-range P90 sound. Underneath the dogear cover, you will see a similar bobbin and mag wire as per the originals. To add to the authentic vintage sound, the top cover has been given an aged look.
These are a great sounding P90. They are quite expensive and as they are just a bridge pickup only sold singly. But, if you want that 50s 330 bridge pickup sound, here it is. Vintage with plenty of bite.
- Great vintage sound.
- Made with an authentic design.
3 Seymour Duncan SHPR-1n P-Rails – Neck Pickup Black
If you want a pure P90 and nothing else, maybe this isn’t the pick up for you. If, however, you are a Gibson fan and you want the P90 sound plus a little more, it could well be?
This pickup from Seymour Duncan is really a simulation of three iconic pickups in one. You have the P90 sound, or if you prefer, there is a Fender-ish single-coil sound. But then for the third a full-size humbucker. All the musical styles covered in one pickup.
The sounds probably don’t quite produce the originals for the individual pickups. But they go close, and for anyone wishing to employ a neck pickup with these many options, it is ideal. Of the three sounds, it is probably the humbucker that sounds the most powerful and authentic.
The mismatched coil configuration delivers a thick and full sound. The P90 sound is quite nice as is the final single-coil sound, but without the punch of the humbucker. That is often the case, though when single-coil and humbucker were played side by side.
You should be aware, though, that you do need some switches. A toggle or push and pull is needed to operate the humbucker and P90 together. To have all three, you will need a three-way switch.
The price point is set realistically, though, for a single pickup, it is not cheap. But you are getting three pickups in one.
- Three different styles of pickup in one unit.
- They deliver some powerful sounds.
- It will need some switches to operate fully.
4 Seymour Duncan SPH90-1N Phat Cat Humbucker Neck Pickup
Another pickup option from Seymour Duncan. They certainly cannot be accused of not trying to cover every possible pickup requirement that guitarists might have. This pickup is a P90 that hides inside a humbucker’s exterior, and leaps out unexpectedly and bites you. A sheep in wolf’s clothing if you like.
The Phat Cat is a P90 that gives you a tone that will cut through. It has a powerful mid-range that dominates, as it should. But it also possesses a clear and crisp top. Add to this an understated bottom end that allows the mids to be the dominant force in the sound.
Your guitar might have been conceived and born with those noisy humbuckers. But it doesn’t mean there isn’t room for a change. Just pop a P90 in, and it is welcome to an iconic sound.
It has two Alnico 2 magnets that help to deliver a big sound that has plenty of sustain and attack. They are given metal covers to provide better shielding and help to reduce any unwanted noise.
One of the interesting design issues with this pickup is that it delivers high output. Normally you might expect the humbucker to win in any duel in a volume battle with a single-coil. It is quite even with this P90.
As this fits precisely into the space of a conventional humbucker, it will fit just about any non-single coil guitar. So not only a Gibson, Epiphone or a copy but also a Fender, Squier, etc. providing it has the humbucker already factory fitted. This pickup is provided with a single conductor cable.
It is not an attempt at a copy; this is a big sounding P90 that has decided to have some fun and hide underneath a humbucker fitting. The price is set at a reasonable level, making this one of the best p90 pickups currently available.
- Big mid-based sound.
- Designed to fit into a humbuckers space.
- Some might want just the standard fitting.
5 Tonerider Hot 90 Soapbar P90 Bridge Pickup
This may, at first glance, look like an ordinary bridge P90 pickup. But the Tonerider is a P90-like pickup but with a bit of a difference. They do look like a typical soap bar P90, but inside there is something waiting to get out. We have to say on listening to them, that it was hard to remove the ‘this sounds more like a humbucker than a P90’ feeling.
P90 it might be, but it is a P90 with a bit of attitude. It has two Alnico V magnets, and this pick up is overwound. Actually, overwound quite a bit. It delivers a much bigger sound than the usual P90 might give. But it was most noticeable is the bottom end. That is probably why they sound a little ‘humbuckerish’. They are certainly going to impress those players who like letting go with some hard blues.
Tonerider has paid some deference to the P90 design with vintage braided conductor wire. It also has a nickel-silver baseplate.
This pickup may not suit the P90 purist. The player who is looking for that pure mid-based sound but with a little kick. This pickup really isn’t like that. The mid-based sound has taken a little bit of a back seat, and the sound is definitely more aggressive and attack-minded than the usual P90 sound.
It is going to suit someone who likes the Gibson classic single-coil but wishes it had just a little bit extra. This has quite a bit extra and at a very affordable price.
It is easy and straightforward to fit and is an option for a variation on the P90 sound. Very much a budget replacement model, it serves a good purpose if you want this sort of sound.
It looks like a soap bar P90, but do not try and feed it, it bites!
- Plan and simple design and easy fitting.
- Gutsy sound at an affordable price point.
- Won’t suit those looking for a pure P90 sound.
Best P-90 Pickups Buyers Guide
The Return of The Jedi
The pickup with mystical qualities. To deliver justice in the world and possessing supernormal powers to make us all run for our guitars and play. The P90.
It was and is a sound that is unique. Just as the single-coil on the Telecaster was unique, so is the P90 on a 330 or an SG, or even a Les Paul junior. There was just something about it. Somehow it just got lost when the humbucker arrived. And Gibson threw the new addition at everyone instead of allowing a choice. If there was a choice, it was very limited.
But now it has returned in various guises. And the P90, while never really going away, is prominent again. There are some great options from talented manufacturers.
What Sort of Pickup Do You Want?
There are some options to consider. First, of course, a bridge or a neck pickup or maybe both. We looked at all three options. What sort of casing might be determined by what you have already. The two main options are soap bar and dog ear.
If you have a choice, you are lucky. Normally the fitting is slightly different. We are not saying that it can’t be done. Getting the same cover will just make life easier for fitting a replacement.
The P90 sound is unique, and most, we suppose, will be going for the pure sound. There are though options. There are some that have that humbucker edge and even one option we looked at where there were three different pickup configurations built-in to the same pickup setup. Great, if that is what you want.
Not a great deal of difference, we did look at one that we might consider a budget model, but the others were similar in price.
So, at the end of the day, it is all about what sound you want. The pure P90, a few options, or a P90 with a bit of an extra kick. Have fun, we did.
We haven’t actually reviewed that many pickups on this website yet, but we will try and do a lot more in the future. But if you’re looking for pickup options for either a Telecaster or Fender Bass, check out our reviews of the Best Telecaster Guitar Pickups, the Best Precision Bas Pickups, and the Best Jazz Bass Pickups currently available.
So, What Are The Best P-90 Pickups?
As we said in the introduction, we love the single-coil sound anyway, so this has been a labor of love. But in buying a P90, we are going to stick to the purist version we can find. We appreciate and recognize all those noisy humbucker types. But for the moment, it is the return of the classic P90 we are considering.
The pickup that, in our opinion, delivers the best P90 sound is the…
Great sounds, great mid-range with plenty of power. And when you crank it up, it sounds great. Our choice as the Best P-90 Pickup.