P90 pickups have been the benchmark ever since these pickups hit the market in 1946. These single coil electric guitar pickups were produced by Gibson, and have certain features exclusive to them. These unique characteristics make P90 suitable for tones which are warmer with relatively lower brightness.
The tones produced by these pickups are generally described to be predominantly midrange with a certain amount of single coil twang. These pickups are now available in hum-cancelling versions as well. However, a regular P90 pickup still comes with 60 cycle hum.
Main Styles of P90 Guitar Pickups
Before you hit the market for picking up P90 pickups, it is important to know the three main styles of these pickups. The most prevalent styles are Soap Bar, Dog Ear, and Humbucker casing.
Soap Bar: These pickups are characterized by the mounting screws which are placed between the strings. Such placement makes the pickup seems to have eight poles instead of regular six poles. The casing comes in the rectangular shape and the nomenclature is based on its resemblance to regular soap bars.
Dog Ear: This variant features extensions on both the sides of the pickup and the mounting screws are outliers. This design allows the pickup to be affixed on to the pick guard on only one side.
Humbucker Casing: This casing mimics the shape of a humbucker, but still provides a P90 performance. The close inspection will also show that this casing is slightly longer and thinner than a humbucker. Many a times, the installation of this casing style will require modification in the guitar body.
Apart from the casing shape, you might want to pay attention to magnets as well. Alnico magnets will allow your pickup to produce brighter sounds while ferrous magnets offer flat tones with better low and mid punch than Alnico. Ceramic magnets, on the other hand, provide more aggressive yet distortion free sounds.
The magnets are available in different strengths for varied performances. Now, you are all set to experience the unique performance of P90 pickups, and here are top P90 pickup recommendations for you.
Seymour Duncan Phat Cat
This humbucker sized pickup is specifically designed for guitars which cannot accommodate P90 pickups. This is especially true for guitars which are routed in Gibson or Fender style. This pickup is just the right choice for fingerpickers as it is able to produce more robust big tones.
It is also highly versatile making it suitable for a diverse range of music styles, right from metal to country. Seymour Duncan Phat Cat comes with braided cabling, which makes the installation clean.
It also lends a certain amount of brightness to the tones and is highly useful for boosting up the bridge position. Due to its very design, the sounds produced by this pickup differ slightly from the classic P90 tone. The pickup is set in a nickel case and is designed to retrofit into a normal humbucker position.
DiMarzio DP163 Bluesbucker P90
This pickup is yet another humbucker which can give you a near authentic P90 experience. So, if you have a guitar which features standard size humbuckers, you may decide to get this Bluesbucker to replicate P90 experience. The pickup also cancels regular 60 cycle hum, giving you crisp and clear tones.
DiMarzio DP163 Bluesbucker P90 comes with patented Airbucker and Virtual Vintage technologies which makes this pickup perform like a true single coil. You can easily replicate the sound of two single-coil pickups with the help of a pair of these Bluesbuckers.
However, you can also replicate Strat pickup sound by splitting it. These DiMarzios come with an adjustable hot coil which allows you to customize it to your requirements. However, make sure that you do not overshoot. The pickup is highly suitable for a bridge position.
Kent Armstrong Stealth 90
This pickup’s unique characteristic is that it uses a double coil design, ensuring that there is no distorting hum and that the tone is on the warmer side. The pickup is also highly versatile, making it suitable for a wide range of music styles, right from heavy rock to blues. Kent Armstrong Stealth 90 is outfitted with the ceramic magnet, bestowing it with hard crunchy sound.
The pickup is also economically priced, making it a decent value product. Kent pickups feature resistance design but still provide clear sound, thanks to its hum cancelling properties. These pickups are available for both neck and bridge positions. You can also choose between metal and plastic casing. Metal casing is available in gold, nickel, black, and chrome plating while plastic coverings are available in black and cream color.
Lindy Fralin Hum Cancelling P90
One of the most sought after replacement P90 pickups, Lindy Fralin P90 pickups are available in dog ear style as well as in soap bar variant. You can also have your pick between steel poles or Alnico. The steel poles variant will allow you to replicate original P90 sounds while Alnico is more suitable for producing cleaner sounds.
Lindy Fralin P90's give you hum free performance and thus offer the best of single and double coil designs. However, such hum free performance is only available when both the pickups are used simultaneously. The sounds produced by Lindy Fralin P90 are also brighter and more colorful. The pickups are on the pricier side and are popular among connoisseurs.
Tonerider Hot P90 Bridge Pickup
This pickup comes with a pair of cast Alnico V bar magnets, making it highly suitable for rock and blues music. These magnets allow the pickup to produce fatter sounds. The base plate for the pickup is made from nickel and silver while it uses braided single conductor wire as its hook up wire and is wounded in a clockwise direction.
The coils are wax potted to avoid distortions at high gain settings. The pickup is available in black or cream color cases to allow you to meet your style requirements. The Tonerider Hot P90 Bridge Pickup comes with a carefully reconstructed retro 1950s style and all its parts are custom made for the best performance.