p90 les paul tribute

Discussion in 'Pickups' started by afranke, Oct 29, 2017.

  1. afranke

    afranke Senior Member

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    so I purchased a les paul tribute with p90s.[seems like a lot of my favorite guitar tones are recorded with p90s]. but I find im not in p90 heaven with this guitar.maybe the stock Gibson wiring harness is not up to par?? or the caps?? need some advise.
    by the way this is a 2011 tribute that is hand wired,no pc board and tiny blue colored caps.
     
  2. Al Walker

    Al Walker Senior Member

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    I Have a 2016 60s Tribute and I changed some magnets around. I put 1) a3 in the neck pickup and 1) a4 in the bridge pickup. Brightened up the neck and darkened the bridge. I'm alot happier. My$.02
     
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  3. mdubya

    mdubya Senior Member

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    :photos:

    I had a 2010 50's Tribute with P-90's. I thought they sounded great.

    I buried the neck pickup to tame it and dialed in the bridge for a killer AC/DC and Led Zep crunch. With low gain fuzz through my old JMP 2204, I have never had a guitar sound so much like early Led Zeppelin.
     
  4. Al Walker

    Al Walker Senior Member

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    Mine sounded good, but, needed something. So, I started experimenting with magnets.
     
  5. Benjammin

    Benjammin Senior Member

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    personally I'm not fond of the stock Gibson P90s (flame-suit on), playing around with magnets could help, and new pickups all together wouldn't be a complete waste IMO Have you played around with the heights of the pole-pieces? Sometimes that makes a big difference
     
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  6. afranke

    afranke Senior Member

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    it does sound and play good,just think it could be a bit better.
    to me it sounds a little dark,so im thinking the pots are not 500+k
    maybe a new wiring harness would do the trick..

    also I did adjust the pole pieces and pickup height,it did make a small difference.
    but again i think its the pots.
     
  7. Al Walker

    Al Walker Senior Member

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    The magnets made a big difference and balanced the pickups out. I had the neck pickup buried and the bridge pickup way up before the swap. Magnet swaps are easy, cheap and reversable
     
  8. afranke

    afranke Senior Member

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    ill try out the magnet swap also...thanks..
     
  9. C.J.

    C.J. Senior Member

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    I have one of these and just spent a week off work with the flu. Naturally I decided to 'finally dial in that f*** tone' on my tribute.

    Can I just say: don't immediately go out and buy new pickups. The stock short A5 magnets in these guitars really give it a lot of attack and high end and I *hated* them when I first got it. I spent years playing mini humbuckers in this guitar instead of the P90's until becoming obsessed with 'nailing' that vintage tone..

    There's nothing wrong with the Gibson P90. Its just as good a P90 as anything else. Its just lots of wire wrapped round a bobbin. Compared to other kinds of pickup the P90 is not rocket science.

    Anyway ..

    I went here: http://www.cermag.co.uk/ (who I can recommend as having shipped me, in separate bags, labelled clearly, the right magnets in the stated dimensions and with the stated charges - nobody else has).

    I ordered 4x A2, A3, A4 and A5. These were the 62x3.2x12.5 (long) 'rough' cast and were fully charged at my request to establish a solid base-line for my experiments. Total cost plus shipping and taxes was £21 (UK Earth Dollar Pounds). I think these are like £5 each on fleabay and you'll likely get crap/the wrong magnets/not charged properly. Just my experience there ... !

    I then spent hours listening to vintage gold top videos on Youtube and mixing and matching.

    There's basically two types of 1956 goldtop tone to my ear.

    Type 1: There's the incredibly articulate 'flute' like tone that sustains literally forever and that has that 'nailed on' PAF-not-PAF bridge tone and a very Fender-y middle position. The neck has cut glass clarity and rings for rhythm playing (and especially Jazz/early Chicago blues stuff) but sounds fairly bleh over-driven (whatever you do really). The bridge tone is more telecaster than Les Paul but driven it has just enough midrange to stand out as unique.

    Type 2: This is basically balls to wall 'blues rock' with a howling bridge and a warm neck. Its always warm and much less defined, but in a good way. It sounds much more like the 'modern' Les Paul tone from the 80's, 90's and 00's than Type 1 and *nothing* like Type 1.

    They are completely, utterly, different in how they sound and the moment someone starts playing one you instantly know what kind of magnets are in it (after some experimenation).

    Here's two examples of the two different types in action. There's LOADS on youtube but these two were quick to hand.

    Type 1:


    Type 2:


    Type 1 is pretty much always a fully charged A4 magnet.
    Type 2 is pretty much always A2 or A3 or even a poorly charged 'old formula' A5 (or just sporting an 'original' resistor instead of a PIO cap hehe)

    Type 1 is the 'classic' tone for me. It covers a lot of the early blues stuff and was clearly (in my subjective opinion) the baseline tone for the PAF.

    Personified by guys like Sumlin:

    [​IMG]

    Kirwan..

    [​IMG]

    and of course Jones:

    [​IMG]

    Being a few examples I love ..

    Type 2 is that A2 tone that defines modern blues, blues rock and beyond.

    They're both awesome, but you can't have them both from one guitar. You got to decide which you are aiming for and dial it in accordingly with the magnets. You can split the difference and go A3/A4 and this helps to balance the output for sure and sounds lovely but you still have a pretty bass heavy neck (because its 8k) when hitting power chords etc.

    Point of consideration:

    Because Gibson winds both pickups the same to 8k and then pots them to death, there will always be a volume mis-match with the higher output magnets: the neck would always overpower the bridge if they had the same magnets. Especially A5.

    May matter to you, may not, depends what you play and if you use the middle position much or EQ your amp for the neck or the bridge.

    I found the best cure for that was A3 in neck and A4 in bridge. However I've been asked to play a lot more Free songs recently and Koss made extensive use of the neck for semi-dirty rhythm - so I changed it to an A4 for extra definition. I may go back though as I really, really liked the A3/A4 combo.

    Pickup height is *crucial* with P90's. Its hugely hugely important to tweak that.

    PS: Gibson didn't really bother to ground their PCB/P90 models in 2013. So sounds like you got lucky! I was actually getting radio on mine fully audible before I re-wired the guitar point to point with single strand braided wire. When I did I noticed that Gibson used 4 core wire on these P90's with the 5th wire being a bare ground.

    They didn't bother to ground the ground on the pickup base plate so they had a very pronounced 60 cycle hum plugged in. Re-wiring and properly grounding has practically eliminated the hum and no more radio! I had huge problems soldering to the base plate, even with flux.

    I don't have any of those neato screw collars you see on 'proper' P90's. So, in the end, I just wrapped some thin hookup wire round one of the two screws that holds the P90 together and ran it all the way to the back of a pot for each pickup. I ran out of wire for the bridge, so just used an old E string. Works fine. :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2017
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  10. mdubya

    mdubya Senior Member

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    :applause: Great post, CJ!

    I haven't played every type and brand of P-90, but between my experiences and what I have read, I do believe there isn't much wrong with the standard Gibson P-90 (modern, current production)

    Lot's of 50's guitars had the pickups very low due to being unadjustable. We have all seen the guitars with the pole screw a mile high (which interferes with picking) or unremarkable sounding examples which eventually someone shims the pickups to a more reasonable height and they come alive.

    I prefer to give some breathing room between the pole screws and the strings. I DO have a set of Gibson A2 P-90's (they claim to be underwound, too), which sound better closer to the strings than the standard Gibson A5 P-90. The A5, too close to the strings, screams too much on the top end. A little bit lower and it mellows and sweetens.

    The guitar with the A2 P-90's (ES 330) sounds great through slightly stiffer, colder sounding amps (Fender Champion 600 - glorious!, or Fender Mustang Digital Modeler) vs. the A5's which love my very saggy old JMP 2204 or equally saggy and loose 1978 Champ.

    The A5's sounded much different in my SG Classic vs my 50's Tribute LP. And the A2's sound different again in my ES 330. All will do AC/DC and Sabbath and Zeppelin, though. :hmm:

    Best P-90 tone (or any tone!) for perspective on my opinion

     
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  11. C.J.

    C.J. Senior Member

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    Thanks. I waffle on a bit but I really (and I mean it) want to try and help anyone with an interest get their guitars sounding 'right' hehe.

    I'm not an expert (seriously), so this is just my 'pub guess' but that sounds a lot like A3 or heavily degaussed A5 to me. They have really low output so you have to dial the height in just right (there's a gnat's testicle in it) and forget using your 'tried and tested' amp EQ. As I found out ..

    A3 sounds great in necks though but best in slab bodies imho.



    I liked A3 to be fair. I remember jamming on it after changing the magnets and having an 'emotional' moment. Up around the 12th fret its really special. But my 'acid' test is the 3/5 B bend double tap with gain. Its got to have some 'cut' because I need my guitar to be a swiss army knife of tone: if you don't that's different obviously! I mean , as nice as that A3 tone is, could you play an entire set with it? I honestly could not say 'yes'. Anyway, if it flubs, its a fail. For me anyway.. :) I should point out that I am using a AC30 w/ Alnico Blues. So if it flubs on that, its not going to sound great on much else. Heh. Also as mentioned power chords or any sort of gain on the neck you can forget unless its a solo.

    Maybe if you/I/we took some winds off the neck it would work ..

    I'm not going to bother trying that on anything potted tbh. I don't understand why anyone pots anything. Its just lazy engineering imho (I can say this because I don't run a business lol).

    PS: As to why Gibson doesn't use A3 or A4 much (or at all) these days. I think thats part economy of scale and part about brand ring fencing. Let's be honest the 3's and 4's take a Gibson in to Fender territory ..
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2017
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  12. mdubya

    mdubya Senior Member

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    Have you tried mixing the magnets in the same pickup? A3/A5, A2/A3, A3/A4?

    I don't play distorted chords in my neck pickup, but I do play leads on it/them. Especially with P-90's, I almost prefer to play distorted lead on my neck pickup. I overload it for all its worth, too; AC/DC dirty Marshall + fuzz + boost.
     
  13. C.J.

    C.J. Senior Member

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    No. I googled the poop out of it; found lots of threads of SD forums etc. Lt Kojak has some strong opinions
    on that. Blueman335 also.
    TBH when people start advocating A8's - I'm out. I don't like A5 tone at all. The only exception being in the fantastic PG replicas made by Throbak. Kid Anderson rocks the shizzle out of those:



    I will at some point but since I knew what tone I was after and that it would have been unlikely that Gibson was mixing magnets in the 50s, I didn't see much point. Rightly or wrongly my guess was (and I will need to test these assumptions hehe) that unlike with a double coil, mixing magnets on a single coil would just act like an extreme EQ with either the treble (N: facing the nut) or the bass side (B: facing the bridge) being dominant. Unlike a PAF where the second coil simply just adds bass to the overwound screw coil (and bucks the hum) in a single coil you would just get a weak and exaggerated tone as per w/e magnet you'd put in the 'treble' side of the P90. I will try it though at some point..

    Would like to hear some sound samples if you have them? I deliberately did not buy a Focusrite this week but I can see now I am going to get one and re-do the full range of magnets and combinations and start recording the sound samples for feedback? Might be fun!
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2017
  14. mdubya

    mdubya Senior Member

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    ^^^^ I love Kid's playing! :yesway:

    I don't have any sound examples right now. I will see if I can cook something up in the near future though.

    In the meantime, some standard Gibson A5 P-90's and over the top fuzz. My "other" favorite P-90 tone demo. :laugh2:



     
  15. filtersweep

    filtersweep Senior Member

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    How long have you had it?

    It can take some real time to dial in a good tone with a different pickup configuration.
     
  16. Al Walker

    Al Walker Senior Member

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    Mine are mixed magnets . a3/a5 neck, a4/a5 bridge.
     
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  17. syrinx

    syrinx Senior Member

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    I had a guy trade me a 2010 50s tribute-which was the original P90 tribute model. It was the hardest P90 guitar I have ever tried to set up to get a good range of tones out of. The pickuo height is super critical- I dont know if it is the chambering or what-but it almost seems to eat overtones. Cleaner jazz blues sounds are easier to get- its more trying to get an articulate gain sound that is problem. Love the rest of the guitar, and since set up it really sings-but not the best platform for P90s
     
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  18. C.J.

    C.J. Senior Member

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    I learned something today that is probably totally obvious to many .. but was news to me ..

    I learned that whatever magnets you put in the bridge or the neck of a P90, being x2, will affect the tone from the other pickup as well.

    I may be wrong about this but its the only explanation I have for how changing the magnets in the neck pickup made the bridge tone change too.

    Presumably the fields overlap ..

    Am liking A4/A4 neck and A2/A2 bridge at the moment with the stock Gibson P90's. Long/rough cast variety. Neck level with the pick guard and the bridge up snug. 500k (or +-20%) and .22uf caps (cheap metal film ones off ebay).
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017
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  19. Al Walker

    Al Walker Senior Member

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    I didn't think the magnet change in one pickup effected the tone of the other. My change balanced the outputs of the pickups. I am no expert on this subject, but , I feel that changing one magnet gives a subtle change in tone. The a5/a5 just lacked character. a3/a3 and a4/a4 may work but may also be too much. Don't know, I just liked what I got with what I did.
     
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  20. C.J.

    C.J. Senior Member

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    Only other possible explanation is the difference in string pull if neck mags get changed?

    It seemed that the r/h side neck magnet would throw over the field of the bridge though in a way a humbucker wouldn't?

    I *totally* agree that a5/a5 is crap. Goodness knows why Gibson use those. They are short A5's as well! Even more spikey. A4 works really well in the neck. A3 has some nice tones but its still unusable (way too much boom/bottom end) as hell owing to the wind.

    The absolute best combo was A4/A4 A4/A4 for everything BUT lead work. That would be a rhythm monster. For lead A4/A4 A2/A2 just works so well with my AC30 ..

    That's my sentiment exactly! :)

    Also for the sake of being a bro. Google doesn't really have any suggestions as to what you do with the RWRP magnet polarity shizzle.

    In the Gibson RWRP P90 sets its North up on the neck and South up on the bridge. Or vice versa for an in-phase tone.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2017

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