When it comes to guitar pickups, there are a few different types to choose from, each with its own unique sound and characteristics. Two of the most popular options are the P90 vs single coil pickups. While they may look similar at first glance, these pickups actually have some key differences that can affect the tone and playing experience.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the P90 and single coil pickups, exploring what sets them apart and which might be the best fit for your playing style and preferences.
What is P90 pickup?
A P90 pickup is a type of single-coil electric guitar pickup that was first introduced by Gibson in the late 1940s. It is named after its physical size, which is 90% of the dimensions of the Gibson PAF humbucker pickup.
P90 pickups are known for their distinctive tone, which is often described as having more midrange and bite than a traditional Fender-style single-coil pickup. They are also known for their high output, which makes them popular among rock and blues guitarists who want a powerful and dynamic sound.
P90 pickups can be found on a variety of electric guitars, including Gibson Les Paul Junior and SG models, as well as some Telecaster-style guitars made by companies like Fender and G&L.
What is single coil pickup?
A single coil pickup is a type of electromagnetic transducer used in electric guitars and other stringed instruments to convert the vibration of the strings into an electrical signal that can be amplified.
It consists of a coil of wire wrapped around a magnetic core, with one or more magnets placed beneath the coil. When the guitar string vibrates, it creates a fluctuating magnetic field, which induces an electrical signal in the coil. This signal is then sent to the amplifier, where it is processed and amplified to produce the sound that we hear.
Single coil pickups are known for their bright, clear tone and are often used in genres such as blues, country, and surf rock. However, they can also be prone to picking up unwanted noise, such as hum and interference from other electronic devices.
P90 vs Single Coil:
Pickups are the component of an electric guitar that convert the vibrations of the strings into an electrical signal that can be amplified and heard through an amplifier.
Single-coil pickups use a single coil of wire wrapped around a magnet to create a magnetic field. When the guitar string vibrates within this magnetic field, it generates a small electrical current in the coil of wire, which is then sent to the amplifier. Single-coil pickups tend to have a bright, clear sound that is often associated with genres like blues, country, and funk.
P90 pickups are a type of single-coil pickup that uses a wider coil of wire with larger magnets. This gives them a slightly different tone than traditional single coils, with a warmer and fuller sound that can be described as somewhere between a single coil and a humbucker pickup. P90s are often associated with genres like garage rock, punk, and classic rock.
Humbucker pickups, on the other hand, use two coils of wire wound in opposite directions, which cancels out the hum and noise that can be present in single-coil pickups. Humbuckers tend to have a thicker, fuller sound that is often associated with genres like heavy metal and hard rock.
In short single-coil pickups and P90s use a single coil of wire wrapped around a magnet to create a magnetic field. Humbucker pickups use two coils of wire. The size and shape of the coil and magnet, as well as the number of coils, affect the tone and sound of the pickup.
History and Origin
The P90 and single-coil pickups are both types of electric guitar pickups, but they have different histories and origins.
The P90 pickup was invented by Gibson in the late 1940s as an improvement over their earlier single-coil pickup design. It was larger and had a wider coil than the single-coil, which allowed it to capture a broader range of frequencies and produce a more robust and powerful sound. The P90 quickly became popular among guitarists of various genres, from jazz and blues to rock and roll.
On the other hand, the single-coil pickup was developed by Leo Fender in the early 1950s for his Fender Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars. The single-coil pickup is smaller and thinner than the P90, and it produces a brighter and more twangy sound. Single-coil pickups are also known for their characteristic hum or noise, which is caused by electromagnetic interference from other electronic devices.
Both the P90 and single-coil pickups have been used extensively in a wide range of musical genres, and they continue to be popular among guitarists today. The choice between the two pickups ultimately depends on the player’s individual style and preferences.
|Single Coil Pickup
|Thicker, warmer tone with more mid-range and bass frequencies.
|Brighter, thinner tone with more treble frequencies.
|Higher output than single coil pickups.
|The lower output than P90 pickups.
|Can be wired in a humbucking configuration to reduce noise.
|Not humbucking, prone to hum and noise.
|Larger size than single coil pickups.
|Smaller size than P90 pickups.
|Uses a bar magnet with adjustable pole pieces.
|Uses individual pole pieces with Alnico magnets.
|Well-suited for rock, blues, and heavier styles of music.
|Suitable for a wider range of genres, including rock, blues, jazz, and country.
|Peter Green, Carlos Santana, and Billy Gibbons.
|Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Jeff Beck.
While there are some significant differences between P90 and single coil pickups, there are also a few similarities, including:
- Both P90 and single coil pickups are passive pickups that do not require a battery or external power source.
- Both types of pickups are made with magnets that generate an electromagnetic field to convert string vibrations into electrical signals.
- Both pickups can be adjusted for height and pole piece placement to fine-tune the sound and output level.
- Both pickups can be wired in different configurations, such as series or parallel, to further customize the tone and output level.
- Both pickups have been used by famous guitar players across a wide range of genres and musical styles
The Advantages and Disadvantages
Advantages of P90 pickups:
- Thick and warm sound with plenty of mid-range and bass frequencies.
- Higher output than single coil pickups, making them well-suited for heavier styles of music.
- Can be wired in a humbucking configuration to reduce noise.
- Good for players who prefer a vintage or classic sound.
Disadvantages of P90 pickups:
- The larger size can limit guitar design options.
- Can be more prone to feedback and noise than single-coil pickups.
- May not be as versatile as single coil pickups for different styles of music.
Advantages of single coil pickups:
- Bright and clear sound with plenty of treble frequencies.
- Smaller size allows for more guitar design options.
- Can provide a wider range of tonal options suitable for a variety of musical styles.
- Typically less prone to feedback and noise than P90 pickups.
Disadvantages of single coil pickups:
- The lower output than P90 pickups, which may not be suitable for heavier styles of music.
- Can be more susceptible to hum and noise.
- May not provide the same level of warmth and mid-range frequencies as P90 pickups.
Ultimately, the choice between P90 and single coil pickups depends on personal preference and the specific needs of the player, and their musical style.
Cost and Availability
In general, single-coil pickups tend to be more widely available and affordable than P90 pickups. This is because single-coil pickups are more commonly used on guitars and are produced by a larger number of manufacturers.
P90 pickups, on the other hand, are less commonly used and are often associated with more niche styles of music, which can make them less readily available. Additionally, P90 pickups require more materials and are more complex to manufacture than single-coil pickups, which can contribute to higher costs.
That being said, the cost and availability of both types of pickups can vary depending on the specific brand, model, and quality of the pickup. High-end single-coil pickups or rare vintage P90 pickups can be quite expensive and difficult to find. Conversely, budget-friendly options for both types of pickups can be found at a more affordable price point.
How to choose
Choosing between P90 and single coil pickups ultimately comes down to personal preference and the specific needs of the player. Here are a few factors to consider when making a decision:
If you primarily play heavier styles of music such as rock, blues, or metal, you may prefer the higher output and thicker tone of P90 pickups. If you play a wider variety of genres or prefer a brighter, more articulate sound, single-coil pickups may be a better choice.
The size and shape of your guitar’s body can also impact your decision. P90 pickups are generally larger than single coil pickups, which may limit your options if you prefer a smaller or more streamlined guitar design.
Ultimately, the most important factor in choosing pickups is the sound. Take the time to listen to recordings or demos of guitars with both P90 and single coil pickups to get a sense of which sound you prefer.
As mentioned earlier, P90 pickups tend to be more expensive than single-coil pickups. Consider your budget when making a decision, and keep in mind that the cost can vary widely depending on the specific brand and model of the pickup.
Finally, consider your playing style and technique. P90 pickups can be more responsive to aggressive picking and strumming, while single-coil pickups may be better suited for more nuanced playing styles.
Ultimately, the best way to choose between P90 and single coil pickups is to try out different guitars with each type of pickup and listen carefully to how they sound and feel.
Options for Beginners
For beginners who are just starting to explore electric guitar pickups, single-coil pickups are generally a good place to start. Here are a few reasons why:
- Single-coil pickups are more common: Single-coil pickups are the most widely used type of pickup, so there are more guitars available with single-coil pickups in a variety of price ranges.
- Single-coil pickups are more versatile: Single-coil pickups are often used in a wide range of musical styles, including blues, rock, and country. They can produce bright, clean tones as well as distorted, gritty tones.
- Single-coil pickups are easier to maintain: Single-coil pickups are generally simpler in design and require less maintenance than P90 pickups, which can be more sensitive and prone to hum.
That being said, P90 pickups do have their benefits and can produce a unique, powerful sound that is favored by some guitarists. If you’re interested in exploring P90 pickups, consider trying out a guitar with P90s at a music store or borrowing one from a friend to see if the sound and feel is right for you.
Ultimately, the best pickup for a beginner will depend on their personal preferences and playing style. It’s important to try out different types of pickups and guitars to find what works best for you.
Tips and Tricks
P90 and single-coil pickups are two common types of electric guitar pickups that produce distinct sounds. Here are some tips and tricks for using each type of pickup:
Tips for P90 pickups:
- Experiment with pickup height: P90 pickups are sensitive to pickup height, so try adjusting the height to find the sweet spot where the pickup sounds best.
- Use the tone control: P90 pickups can produce a lot of treble, so use the tone control on your guitar to tame the high frequencies and achieve a warmer sound.
- Consider using a compressor: P90 pickups can have a wide dynamic range, so using a compressor pedal can help even out the volume and sustain of your notes.
- Experiment with gain levels: P90 pickups can handle a lot of gain, so try cranking up your amp or using a distortion pedal to see how the pickups respond.
Tips for single-coil pickups:
- Use the pickup selector switch: Most guitars with single-coil pickups have a pickup selector switch that allows you to choose between the neck, middle, and bridge pickups. Experiment with different combinations of pickups to find the sound that works best for you.
- Use the tone control: Single-coil pickups can also produce a lot of treble, so use the tone control to shape the sound to your liking.
- Try playing with a light touch: Single-coil pickups are often sensitive to your playing style, so try playing with a light touch to produce a cleaner, more articulate sound.
- Consider using a compressor: Like P90 pickups, single-coil pickups can have a wide dynamic range, so using a compressor pedal can help even out the volume and sustain of your notes.
Overall, the key to getting the most out of any pickup is to experiment and see what works best for your playing style and musical preferences.
A: P90 pickups have a wider coil and stronger magnets than traditional single-coil pickups, resulting in a thicker and grittier tone with more midrange. Single-coil pickups tend to have a brighter and more sparkly tone with less midrange. P90 pickups also tend to have a higher output than single-coil pickups.
A: It depends on personal preference and the style of music being played. P90 pickups are well-suited for genres like blues, rock, and punk where a thicker and grittier tone is desirable, while single-coil pickups are often preferred for genres like country, funk, and jazz where a brighter and more sparkly tone is desired.
A: It is possible to replace single-coil pickups with P90 pickups, but some modifications may be necessary to accommodate the wider size of the P90 pickup. Additionally, the different tone of the P90 pickup may not be suitable for all playing styles and genres.
A: Single-coil pickups cannot be used in place of P90 pickups without modifications to the guitar, as the P90 pickup requires a larger cavity and a different mounting system. Additionally, the different tones of the P90 pickup may be desired for certain playing styles and genres.
In conclusion, the decision between P90 and single coil pickups ultimately comes down to personal preference and the desired sound. P90s offer a warmer, fatter tone with more midrange and bass frequencies, while single coils provide a brighter, more articulate sound with more treble and less emphasis on the midrange. Both have their own unique characteristics that make them popular among different genres of music and styles of playing. Ultimately, it’s up to the player to decide which pickup type will best suit their needs and help them achieve the sound they’re looking for.
Hey Everyone! I’m Herbert Smith. I’m a guitar enthusiast and I love helping beginners to master their string instruments!