Borrowed a Friend's Guitar: First Time Playing With P90s Today (w/ Pics)

Niloy63

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Thanks to a few MLP members, I’ve been considering the idea of purchasing a P90 loaded guitar ( looking at a LP Classic Player Plus or an SG Special Faded). Until today, it's all been theoretical since I’ve never played them before. My buddy was kind of enough to lend me his ’98 Gibson Blues Hawk for a test run. I was able to jam with a drummer for a bit to really push it. It was fun to play, minus the whole tuning stability issues, but that's another story. I was hoping to ask if any of you thought that the P90 tone in the Blueshawk would be somewhat comparable to the P90 tone in a LP Classic Player Plus or even an SG Special Faded? Do different P90s vary as much as humbuckers do?

The P90s. I felt that they had a lot of character. On a scale of 0-10 (0 being single coils, and 10 being humbuckers), I feel they sat around 6ish. A humbucker with spanky overtones, if you will. The P90's output was noticeably quieter than my humbuckers when I A/B'd them back to back. For those experienced, is that normal for P90s, or is it a pickup height adjustment issue? The cleans were really immaculate. The guitar has one of those Varitone switches, which was fun, but rendered me with option paralysis until I just pulled out the tone pot and bypassed the varitone circuit. Where the guitar really shined for me was with low to mid level [classic] gain settings. The harmonic content was inspiring. So full! The volume pot was very responsive as well. But as I turned up the gain, I found myself wincing at the treble a bit. In hind sight, I just realized that I didn’t mess with the tone pot at all today. :facepalm: I've been trying to be better about that, but I hardly ever use it unless I'm recording. And the humming didn’t help things either in the higher gain settings. I’m sure if I sat with the amp and properly adjusted it notch by notch, I could suppress some of the issues I had. But I didn’t have that much time to play. A question, if you fine folks wouldn't mind answering. Are you able to fluidly switch between your humbucker guitars and your P90s without changing amp settings?

I was tremendously happy with the clean tones up to the mid gain tones. But anything past that, I was unable to control my tone very well. I am still very interested in getting a P90s loaded axe. I think it will be a great addition to the tonal palette I'm trying to collect in my modest and humble collection.

Some Pics:







 
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Stinky Kitty

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I chased humbucker tone for entirely too long before discovering that I'm after P90 tone.

To my ear, there is more definition and clarity string to string. Additionally they seem brighter, and don't lose that brightness when rolling off the volume. If anything, they seem to brighten up. Everyone's experience is different; to me P90s also feel more touch sensitive.

After realizing this, I remembered that -almost- all of my fave tones came from P90s.. to name a few: Martin Barre, Steve Marriott, Neil Young, John Fogerty, Blind Al Wilson, Leslie West, The Beatles' Casinos, Pete Townshend, Johnny Thunders, Santana (early albums), Mick Jones, Robby Krieger, Bob Marley...
 

dodona

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The P90s. I felt that they had a lot of character. On a scale of 0-10 (0 being single coils, and 10 being humbuckers), I feel they sat somewhere around 6ish. A humbucker with spanky overtones, if you will.
Excellent description. I add a a clearer and somewhat glassier tone.

The first thing I noticed was how quiet their output was compared to my humbuckers during an A/B comparison back to back. For those experienced with P90s, is that normal, or is it a pickup height adjustment issue?
I don't know the blueshawk P90, but Gibso(Les Pauls), Lollar, and Rockinger(I prefer). They all having only slightly less output then vintage style humbuckers. They have a clearer and somewhat glassier tone, which might sound quieter .
 

integra evan

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The P90s in the Classic Player Plus sounded awesome.
You should still try a P90 LP, as the Blueshawk is a smaller body and longer scale length, so that affects the overall tone you get.
 

MSB

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i've never really cared for the hawk series, but that is a great looking guitar
 

mdubya

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P-90's sound different between SG and LP and, say, an ES 330 due to neck joints and the physical placement of the pickups.

The Blues Hawk should be very similar to an LP with P-90's. It shouldn't be far off an ES 330, either.

IMHO, P-90's have MORE output than a typical PAF style humbucker due to having 2 magnets per pickup, which is part of their charm.

Humbuckers can be easier or more fun to play, but P-90's, like most single coils, just sound better, IMHO.

P-90's with A5 magnets sound best with some breathing room and, with A2 or A3 magnets, react better being a bit closer to the strings.

My advice: Find a guitar that sounds great the way it is.

With an LP, it works best for me to setup the bridge pickup to sound the way I want it to, then adjust the neck pickup to balance with the bridge.

My current P-90 guitars are: SG Classic, ES 330, and non-reverse Firebird III. I previously had an LP with P-90's. For classic rock tones and beautiful, sweet clean tones, I cannot recommend them enough. I love fuzz, too, and they excel at fuzz tones. They are to die for with Fender amps with some reverb and tremolo of vibrato. Vintage tones are off the charts.
 
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Niloy63

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I chased humbucker tone for entirely too long before discovering that I'm after P90 tone.

To my ear, there is more definition and clarity string to string. Additionally they seem brighter, and don't lose that brightness when rolling off the volume. If anything, they seem to brighten up. Everyone's experience is different; to me P90s also feel more touch sensitive.
Thanks for your input! I really liked what I was hearing in the cleans. Very sparkling. Defined, just like you said. I though that the low and mid gain settings were even better with harmonic content. But as the gain turned up any higher, that brightness started kickin my ass a bit. And the idiot that I am, I forgot to use the tone pot during the entire jam. I think a P90 guitar for me would amazing for some overdubbing on recordings with less gain to perk up some definition, and perhaps take over the clean sections altogether as well.

Excellent description. I add a a clearer and somewhat glassier tone.

I don't know the blueshawk P90, but Gibso(Les Pauls), Lollar, and Rockinger(I prefer). They all having only slightly less output then vintage style humbuckers. They have a clearer and somewhat glassier tone, which might sound quieter .
Thank you! I appreciate the advice, friend. Since they're only slightly less output than PAFs, maybe it was a height issue on the P90s! Haven't heard of Rockinger. I'll look into them now. Thanks!

Gotta use that tone control with P90s. It works along with the volume to give you anything you want. Great pickups.
That makes complete sense. I'm not sure what I was thinking... or should I say the lack of thinking. lol I'm happy with the cleans and overdrive tones, but I think I'll remain in the humbucker camp for my higher gain stuff.[/QUOTE]
 

Niloy63

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The P90s in the Classic Player Plus sounded awesome.
You should still try a P90 LP, as the Blueshawk is a smaller body and longer scale length, so that affects the overall tone you get.
Hey Evan! I appreciate your input here. I think you may be right. Being a semi-hollow probably makes a big difference as well compared to an LP like the one you had.

i've never really cared for the hawk series, but that is a great looking guitar
I think it's a good looking guitar for sure. I told my buddy that I was pleasantly surprised at how easy the guitar plays. Playability is definitely a high mark on this guitar.

The classic with p90s sounds perfect...
MUCH ‘heavier” tone-wise than a hawk....not on the same planet imho
Hey Chris. Thanks for chiming in. I'm glad to hear that. Ya think it's the semi-hollow body that makes it less thick? I'm a fan of those Sunrise Ltd Classic Player Plus' that @integra evan used to have. @DarrellV still has his, though, if I remember correctly.
 

Niloy63

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@mdubya Thank you for your detailed response. I really appreciate it!

IMHO, P-90's have MORE output than a typical PAF style humbucker due to having 2 magnetics per pickup, which is part of their charm.
I was A/B'ing the P90s against a Seymour Duncan Custom and a Rio Grande Greasegunner in a Tele. Since I found them really quiet, do you think it may have been a pickup height adjustment issue with the P90s?

Humbuckers can be easier or more fun to play, but P-90's, like most single coils, just sound better, IMHO. P-90's with A5 magnets sound best with some breathing room and, with A2 or A3 magnets, react better being a bit closer to the strings.
I was very happy with the cleans and the overdrives I got through the P90s. Great harmonic content in the tone. Sparkly, thick, defined. They were fun. But any gain that went past that, I couldn't properly control the guitar. I was wincing a bit at the treble. The humming was kicking my gonads. The P90s weren't pushing the amp as hard as I'm used to when I get into the higher gain territory. Maybe the P90s are A2's, and A5's would give me more juice just like in a humbucker.

My advice: Find a guitar that sounds great the way it is.
So would you recommend against aftermarket pickups? I've already been looking at the Hum-cancelling Fralin pickups. lol

My current P-90 guitars are: SG Classic, ES 330, and non-reverse Firebird III. I previously had an LP with P-90's.
Last question... how do you compare your previous LP with P90s to your current SG with P90s? Like I mentioned, I've been eyeing those 2018 LP Classic Player Plus and the 2019 SG Special Faded.
 

DarrellV

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I've been eyeing those 2018 LP Classic Player Plus and the 2019 SG Special Faded.
@CerebralGasket , hey, buddy... the OP is asking about Fralin P-90s and such and I thought you could give him a rundown on the different ones you use... Thanks!

Niloy, I do have that sunrise burst still, but not the stock pickups.

They are sitting in a bin for whoever wants them.

The black plastics have already found a new home with another forum brother too..

I found them way too dark, especially the neck pup. No tone was needed or could be used at all. There was no high end or sparkle to even roll off.

The bridge pickup was ok, still a bit dark and seemed kinda plain vanilla to me. Not really fat or toneful to my ear..

So I went looking for some cheap replacements to see if it was just me and found a set of Zhangbuckers for 85 dollars...

I grabbed this review from my modifications thread....

I found the ZhangBuckers to be amazing since I first started pulling the strings up to pitch after the re fit! :shock:

I tuned with the neck pickup and was so floored with the rich tone of it, i forgot to even check the bridge pickup till almost a half hour later! Wow!

IMO his design nailed it perfect for what I was looking for, I really got lucky on this find..:thumb:

In a recent trip to Parkway Music I brought it along to show it off and try it out on the Magnatone amps they have there.

I was lucky in getting one of the owners, Matt to help me demo it through an amp.
He is a way better player and plays jazzy stuff i don't know yet, so I got to just listen.

He played it through this amp, actually.. It's listed on Reverb ATM.


To me its sounded really good. Clear, fat and full, as Matt said, 'like a Strat on steroids'.
As he closed his eyes and ran it through its paces, testing the different pickup positions he stopped for a moment and exclaimed, 'Man! This thing sounds great! It's just inspiring me to play!'

The man owns a music store and more vintage gear than i ever will, so I'm happy to take his word for it as well as my own ears.

But while sitting there in between jams there was the familiar 60 cycle hum.....

These are not RWRP pickups..
But that aside, the setup and playability of that surise burst is excellent!

I just played it yesterday (Sunday) for the first time in weeks and couldn't put it down!

So there is that!

 
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mdubya

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@mdubya Thank you for your detailed response. I really appreciate it!



I was A/B'ing the P90s against a Seymour Duncan Custom and a Rio Grande Greasegunner in a Tele. Since I found them really quiet, do you think it may have been a pickup height adjustment issue with the P90s?

The Custom is pretty high output, I think? Not familiar with the Rio Grande. I have a Duncan Phat Cat in the neck of another SG. It is quiet compared to the '57 Classic Plus I have in the bridge. It sounds great on its own, but is not a good match for the '57, IMHO. I am not sure why that is.

All of my Gibson P-90's, adjusted to what I like, match up very well with my PAF type humbuckers, volume output wise. I shimmed the neck A2 P-90 on my ES 330 a little bit higher for a bit more volume from its stock height. With the A5 P-90's, I am usually lowering them to get them in line with my other guitar/pickup combos.

I have found P-90's to be extremely sensitive to height adjustment. It took me a long while to get the SG Classic "just right." Maybe I just needed to get used to them? :dunno:


I was very happy with the cleans and the overdrives I got through the P90s. Great harmonic content in the tone. Sparkly, thick, defined. They were fun. But any gain that went past that, I couldn't properly control the guitar. I was wincing a bit at the treble. The humming was kicking my gonads. The P90s weren't pushing the amp as hard as I'm used to when I get into the higher gain territory. Maybe the P90s are A2's, and A5's would give me more juice just like in a humbucker.

The A5's make a surprising difference. I don't do more gain than nwobhm levels, and I do have humbucker guitars, too. I usually don't play very loud these days, but when I was gigging regularly I played loud and proud. I loved the hum, it got everyone's attention. I do understand how annoying it can be for some, though.

You can do P-90's with ceramic magnets and with A8, also.

I like that they put me in instant vintage tone territory, more than any humbucker ever has been able to.


So would you recommend against aftermarket pickups? I've already been looking at the Hum-cancelling Fralin pickups. lol

I am sure the Fralins are excellent. I have hum cancelling singles in my Ibanez FRM 100. That guitar puts me right smack in vintage P-90 and PAF territory, believe it or not.

What I have found is that I have no problem with the stock Gibson P-90's I have.

I know some have tried a bunch of different P-90's and it was just more that they didn't really like the P-90 sound than that the stock Gibsons were lacking.

My experience is that they do wild things more that humbuckers will; feedback, double tones, overtones and harmonics, you name it. My stock P-90's do all of that.


Last question... how do you compare your previous LP with P90s to your current SG with P90s? Like I mentioned, I've been eyeing those 2018 LP Classic Player Plus and the 2019 SG Special Faded.

Both had the same stock Gibson A5 P-90's @ ~ 8Kohms. They were very similar, with the SG being very mid-focused and the LP covering a broader spectrum with more highs and lows mixed in with the mids. The LP with my Marshall and a little bit of fuzz did early Led Zeppelin like nobody's business.

The SG covers AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and pre 1970 The Who like nobody's business.

I only sold the LP when I was in a pinch for cash. I will have another P-90 LP soon enough. :yesway:

I wrote in another thread recently, I am not anti humbuckers, but I need a P-90 guitar for every one with humbuckers.


And now for some temptation! :p

The 50's Tribute LP



The Firebird :shock:



The SG



The ES 330

 

Brewdude

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The 330 is the best guitar Gibson makes, don’t @ Me

Only like half joking.

As has been said it’s a shame a lot of players don’t have much experience with P90s, not only are Gibson P90s pretty darned good compared with their humbuckers, the tone people chase is all too often a P90 they just don’t know it yet. Now spread the good word!
 

Wailing

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I don’t want to add to the confusion but to my ears, dog eared P90’s have an extra edge over soap bars..and...Bareknuckle Nantucket’s are hard to beat
 

Niloy63

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Niloy, I do have that sunrise burst still, but not the stock pickups. They are sitting in a bin for whoever wants them. The black plastics have already found a new home with another forum brother too.. I found them way too dark, especially the neck pup. No tone was needed or could be used at all. There was no high end or sparkle to even roll off. The bridge pickup was ok, still a bit dark and seemed kinda plain vanilla to me. Not really fat or toneful to my ear.. So I went looking for some cheap replacements to see if it was just me and found a set of Zhangbuckers for 85 dollars...

... the setup and playability of that surise burst is excellent! I just played it yesterday (Sunday) for the first time in weeks and couldn't put it down! So there is that!
I appreciate your review Darrell. Much appreciated. Those sunrise bursts look fan-freagin-tastic. No doubt about it! Thanks for the low down on the pickups and sharing your prior review here. I've never heard of Zhangbuckers, and from what I've been reading on his site, they seem really interesting! I like his descriptions. A bit of good comedy flare in there. lol. He mentioned in there that all his P90s are RWRP unless otherwise requested. Is there a reason you forwent the RWRP?
 

Niloy63

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The Custom is pretty high output, I think? Not familiar with the Rio Grande. I have a Duncan Phat Cat in the neck of another SG. It is quiet compared to the '57 Classic Plus I have in the bridge. It sounds great on its own, but is not a good match for the '57, IMHO. I am not sure why that is.

All of my Gibson P-90's, adjusted to what I like, match up very well with my PAF type humbuckers, volume output wise. I shimmed the neck A2 P-90 on my ES 330 a little bit higher for a bit more volume from its stock height. With the A5 P-90's, I am usually lowering them to get them in line with my other guitar/pickup combos.

I have found P-90's to be extremely sensitive to height adjustment. It took me a long while to get the SG Classic "just right." Maybe I just needed to get used to them? :dunno:





The A5's make a surprising difference. I don't do more gain than nwobhm levels, and I do have humbucker guitars, too. I usually don't play very loud these days, but when I was gigging regularly I played loud and proud. I loved the hum, it got everyone's attention. I do understand how annoying it can be for some, though.

You can do P-90's with ceramic magnets and with A8, also.

I like that they put me in instant vintage tone territory, more than any humbucker ever has been able to.





I am sure the Fralins are excellent. I have hum cancelling singles in my Ibanez FRM 100. That guitar puts me right smack in vintage P-90 and PAF territory, believe it or not.

What I have found is that I have no problem with the stock Gibson P-90's I have.

I know some have tried a bunch of different P-90's and it was just more that they didn't really like the P-90 sound than that the stock Gibsons were lacking.

My experience is that they do wild things more that humbuckers will; feedback, double tones, overtones and harmonics, you name it. My stock P-90's do all of that.





Both had the same stock Gibson A5 P-90's @ ~ 8Kohms. They were very similar, with the SG being very mid-focused and the LP covering a broader spectrum with more highs and lows mixed in with the mids. The LP with my Marshall and a little bit of fuzz did early Led Zeppelin like nobody's business.

The SG covers AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and pre 1970 The Who like nobody's business.

I only sold the LP when I was in a pinch for cash. I will have another P-90 LP soon enough. :yesway:

I wrote in another thread recently, I am not anti humbuckers, but I need a P-90 guitar for every one with humbuckers.


And now for some temptation! :p

The 50's Tribute LP
So the P90s are extremely sensitive to height adjustment? That sounds reassuring, because I had to boost the signal to get it in th same ballpark as the Custom (which you're right, is a pretty hot version of a PAF) and the Greasegunner. If this was my guitar, I would've adjusted them, but I didn't want to mess up my buddy's setup.

That's also cool that you can do all the magnet swaps on the P90s like you do humbuckers. But that's a dangerous road to go down chasing tone all over again. lol. I would be curious to hear an A8 in a P90, though. I bet that would thicken things up even more! I'm pretty certain that I'll need to get Hum-cancelling P90s if I intend on getting one of these and playing them regularly. The Fralins look really interesting, and so do the Zhangbuckers that Darrell mentioned. But obviously, I would need to sit with the stock p'ups for a bit and feel them out before I run out the door modding the thing to a different species. When I was younger, I played the mod game REALLY fast whenever getting a new axe. In my more mature approach, while I still admit to modding too much, I've at least slowed that down significantly.

Thanks for the comparison between the LP and SG. That's important to hear about since I'm most likely going to pick between them. Both are so damn appealing to me at this point, that I'm gonna have to hunt down one of each of those guitars and really see what it can do. I don't have an SG, so one part of me says, "Hey, might as well add variety to the modest collection I have." And the other part of me recognizes my undying love for a well made LP, so might as continue to grow the LP collection. Oof! :facepalm: :run:Why can't I just have them all?!?!?!:rofl:
 

mdubya

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Arcane makes the Phil X P-90 with an A8 magnet.

You could try to source some John Birch Iommi style pickups.


These are way out in the weeds for P-90's imho, though. :p
 

DarrellV

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I appreciate your review Darrell. Much appreciated. Those sunrise bursts look fan-freagin-tastic. No doubt about it! Thanks for the low down on the pickups and sharing your prior review here. I've never heard of Zhangbuckers, and from what I've been reading on his site, they seem really interesting! I like his descriptions. A bit of good comedy flare in there. lol. He mentioned in there that all his P90s are RWRP unless otherwise requested. Is there a reason you forwent the RWRP?
First of all, I wish he would still visit our site, he used to be a member here.

I had only heard of him in here, no first hand experience, and his site is interesting... :laugh2:

I bought the set used from fleaby so I had no clue, but it turns out I have 2 different models. I have his 'Cherrick' neck pickup, and his 'Blues 90' Bridge.

They are purpose matched for their place in the guitar, not electrically matched.

I suppose if one ordered a set of 'Blues 90s' or 'Cherricks' they would come RWRP. He also does requests..

But there is no way mine could be hum canceling because they are two completely different builds.

Coils and mags have to be the same geometry for equal and opposite hum cancel to work.

The reason I like these so much is because they are tailored to where they sit in the guitar.

The neck pickup is under wound, and the magnets themselves are not only lower strength, they are physically smaller than the bridge pickup.

End view shows the different coils and mags.

Bridge on left (bigger coil and mags) , neck on right (smaller coil and mags)
 

ehb

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The biggest difference to me with a P90 Lester is on bends. (My opinion).....

There is a fat smoothness on P90 bends that is magical to me....

Although I do not have a P90 Lester at the moment, I played a bud's 57 P90 Goldie a bunch of times along side other Lesters and that difference stuck out in my mind....

Love me some P90 tones out of my Casino too....

Just can't justify adding another Lester.....
 




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