P90 pickups are the perfect hybrid pickup. They offer you the brightness you get from a single-coil pickup together with the warmth and noise reduction from a humbucker.
Imagine a sound somewhere between the meat of a Gibson ES-335 and the brightness, power, and richness of a Strat – yes, now you’re getting the picture.
In this article, we’re going to look at the best P90s on the market and break down for you the pros and cons of each.
At a Glance – Our Choice of the 9 Best P-90 Pickups on the Market
Table of Contents
- What is a P-90?
- Buying Tips: Key Considerations
- Product Round-up & Reviews – Best P90 Pickups
What is a P-90?
As guitar pickups go, the P-90 has more punch in the mid and high range than a standard single coil which gives it a fuller and brighter sound (more attack and articulation) than a humbucker and delivers plenty of top-end response.
They have been a massive success and the chosen pickup of many of the greats, including Carlos Santana, Pete Townsend and Tommy Iommi of Black Sabbath, among many others.
Buying Tips: Key Considerations
P-90 Pickup Styles
There are three types of P90 pickups.
The original P90 pick up was a soap bar style pick up. Used on solid body guitars, with these pickups the mounting screws are placed between the strings so that it appears to have eight rather than six poles (they’re often mistaken for pole pieces).
Since the mounting screws are within the middle of the pickup, they don’t need to fix into your pickguard.
Dog ear P-90s are similar in shape to the soap bar, but with a triangular plate extending from either end of the pickup on which the mounting screws are placed.
This means they affix into your pickguard on one side, so if this is not an option on your guitar, then you will want to take a look at the soap bar design.
Gibson hollow-body guitars in the 1960s used these dog-ear P90s.
In Humbucker Casing
If you want to put a P-90 on a guitar designed for humbuckers such as a Les Paul, you have to make modifications to the guitar (you’d have to modify the way the instrument is routed which can cause structural and/aesthetic issues).
To get around this, humbucker casing is available, so you get the P-90 sound in a humbucker body.
One of the main things that affect sound is the magnet. Magnets come in two varieties:
- Alnico – a brighter sound than steel, and usually arranged differently within the pickup casing and traditionally used in high-end pickups
- Ceramic-based – a more aggressive tone that suits overdrive and distortion better than others.
Product Round-up & Reviews – Best P90 Pickups
Ok, let’s look at each of our favorite products in more detail.
Lindy Fralin P-90
This popular pickup is available in multiple configurations. You can choose to have either soap bar or dog ear casings, depending on what you need.
The magnets are also available in a choice, between Alnico and Steel rods, for either a cleaner and brighter sound or a retro tone.
The hum-canceling function on this pickup is hugely effective, so expect the silence of a humbucker while enjoying the bright sound of a P90.
- Plenty of custom choices available regarding casing, magnet material, dog ear size, finish and so on
- Highly controlled production to specifications for delivering the perfect sound
- Has a hum-canceling effect when both pickups are used (may not be possible if your guitar only switches between one pickup at a time)
- Fairly expensive
- Choosing anything beyond the stock set is complicated if you don’t have a solid grasp of all the terminology and interactions between the inner workings of pickups
- If you’re looking for a classic P90 sound, you might be disappointed by how much closer this sounds to a humbucker
Seymour Duncan Phat Cat P-90
If your guitar fits humbuckers, and you’re desperate to get the big, fat tone of a P90 the Phat Cat is worth looking at. It uses an Alnico magnet for a vintage sound and gives you a nice mix of output and high-end response.
- Produces big, fat tone with enhanced mids for extra cut
- Exceptionally high production quality, made in the USA and utilizes braided cabling, making it much more resilient.
- Brightens the tone of a guitar, and brings a lot of life into the bridge position.
- Only for humbucker-equipped guitars
Kent Armstrong Stealth 90
A rather interesting take on the P90, the Stealth 90 uses a double-coil design to eliminate the last vestiges of hum. It has a ceramic magnet that offers a full-throated roar, while brightness is accessible when needed. These are truly versatile pickups and are available at quite a friendly price.
- Has a lot of tonal flexibility
- Has a hard crunch and low hum making it an ideal candidate for guitarists that like to play harder styles
- As it’s a double-coil design, it’s debatable whether this is a “true” P90 pickup or merely another variation on the design.
- Doesn’t play very well when used with 250k pots, but it responds very well to 500K
- The high end is darkened compared to the sound of others, so if you wanted a brighter tone, this is not the way to go
Seymour Duncan Vintage P90
These Seymour Duncan Vintage P90s do a VERY good job of capturing the vintage Gibson P90 tone.
Like the original Gibsons, they’re fitted with alnico V magnets in traditional soap bar design with that signature grittiness (especially in the mid-range) we all love.
- Captures the vintage Gibson P90 tone
- Choice of black or creme finish
DiMarzio DP163 Bluesbucker
Cheaper than many of the others available without sacrificing on quality. The DiMarzio Bluesbucker uses dual coils to cancel out hum and has adjustable poles on the active coil that allow you to alter the character of this pickup easily. They’re designed like humbuckers, but function as single coils and the sound is impressively bright and twangy!
- The adjustable hot coil means you are able to alter the pickup to match the overall sound of your guitar, making it thicker or brighter as needed.
- Low cost makes it one of the most affordable aftermarket pickups
- In the bridge position, this pickup comes to life
- Although the secondary coil does reduce the hum significantly, it isn’t as effective as a Humbucker.
- Although you are able to adjust the coils, it’s easy to overshoot what you were aiming for and takes some fiddling around with to get it ‘just right.’
- Replaces humbucker-sized pickups, so if your guitar isn’t routed for this size of the pickup, you will need to consider modifying the body or trying a different pickup instead.
The Fret Wire P90s
If you’re shopping on a budget, then this set by The Fret Wire is a great option. They are perfect if you’re curious to try out a pair of humbucker sized P-90 pickups to get a more vintage tone but don’t want to drop a fortune in the process. They’re easy enough to fit too.
- Super budget-friendly
- Easy to install
- Won’t sound anywhere near as good as higher-end products, obviously.
Seymour Duncan Antiquity
The Seymour Duncan Antiquity pickups offer an excellent precision of sound as they respond to your playing style with extreme accuracy. They have a vintage look and sound and offer a fullness that is perfect for recording with. This is a professional product that will serve you well.
- Hum canceling function, at a reasonable price.
- Excellent precision of sound
- In the neck position, this pickup has a really smooth tone
- They are a little bit microphonic – which causes feedback and other unusual noises at times
- The vintage sound may not suit all styles of playing
Gibson Gear IMP4T-BS P-94T
As well as their soap bar, Gibson offers a pickup that will fit in the place of a Humbucker. It is easy to fit to a guitar that has humbuckers already, so if you’re craving that P90 sound without having to make too many changes to your guitar, this is the product for you! It also has superior sustain. These pickups really allow your notes to ring and ring.
- Humbucker sized, so it’s easy to install on a guitar made to fit humbuckers.
- Responsive enough to enable a high level of control over dynamics
- Excellent sustain, for those who like their notes to ring and ring!
- The hum will not be reduced in the way it would using a humbucker
- Doesn’t quite offer the smoothness of a standard P90 pickup
- Replaces humbucker-sized pickups, so if your guitar isn’t routed for this size of pickup you will need to consider modifying the body or trying a different pickup instead
Fender Pure Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster
For the classic warm Jazzmaster sound, look no further than these pair of Fender Pure Vintage ’65 Jazzmaster pickups. They’re waxed finish to reduce microphonic feedback, and ship with Alnico V magnets (and enamel-coated magnet wires) to produce a clear sound with high output.
- Warm vintage sound
- Alnico V magnets
- Only one color (creme)