P90 vs Single Coil: What to choose?

The parts make up the instrument. Each part has its own vital role to play. Structural formation, or even sound formulation, today, we lay down the facts about one such part of a guitar, the pickup.

Putting these distinctly different entities against each other up for comparison between p90 vs single coil and to draw out a conclusion might seem, like a difficult task. However, through this article we will try to understand how they work, what makes them stand out, and which out of the two is suitable for what player.

What is a p90?

A p90 is a single coil pickup which is used in electric guitars. These pickups were Gibson’s first product in mass production and made a huge impact on the instrument industry.

As we will see further, the impact was not as long lasting as if was originally thought to be. There are always new competitors in the market, and the p90, had its fair share of competition.

History of p90

In the 1900s, the Gibsons were a well-known name in the instrument market industry. After the world war ended, the Gibsons got back into the production of guitars. Resuming their previous work.

The main motive for the introduction of the said pickup was to introduce an alternative to the ‘Charlie Christian pickup’. The only difference was going to be was that, this one in particular, would be enveloped in metal. The p90 was introduced in the 1946, which could be termed as the mid-40s.

By the end of them, every standard guitar model supported a p90 pickup on their guitar. Its success in such a short duration of time speaks volumes about the impact it had on the music industry.

However, while the 40s had been a golden period for the p90, its success wasn’t as great in the 50s. Another model by the name of ‘humbucker’ was introduced in 1957 and replaced the p90 pickup at a quick rate. Slowly and steadily, the p90, all but disappeared from the scene of the guitar industry. However, the production of these pickups still continues, and it is to this day, a preferred choice of many.

Features of p90

  • The p90 pickup was manufactured by the brand ‘Gibson’ which was a known name back then. It was manufactured in the year 1946.
  • It is known to be as a type of, passive single coil pickup.
  • The magnets used at an earlier stage were the ‘Alnico 3’. However, at the later stages of production, a different type of magnet was used, which was the, ‘Alnico 5’.
  • The voltage of this pickup [RMS(V)] is 241.1 mV at 6.405 kHz resonant frequency.
  • The impedance (kΩ) supported by the p90 pickup rests at, 7.47 kΩ at 6.405 kHz resonant frequency rate.

Sound of p90

The p90 guitar pickup produces what one can classify as a bright, but not crisp sound. The voice can quite often be called thick or be described as having a mid-range.

A thick voice can be bright but it might lack precision, which can be included as one of the factors, included in the sound quality for a p90.

The p90’s sound structure comes from the bar magnets that have been set under the pole pieces. These pickups were created using the Leesoma coil winding machine.

In modern versions of this pickup, there are two varients. The neck version, that offers a resistance from 7-8 kΩ and the bridge version, who’s resistance goes from 8-9 kΩ.

Negative aspect of p90

  • Notable among the limitations for the p90 pickup, it can be said that it does not fare well with a high gain setting for the amp. The reason for this may be, that it supports only a single coil.
  • Secondly, the p90 has quite a weak bass response while playing. The bass is what gives definition to the sound produced. A weak bass response can be considered a big setback for the said entity.
  • Thirdly, if you’re a fan of modern metal music, and are keen to play it, a p90 might not be the best choice for you, as it lacks the basic sound capabilities to produce such desired results.

Positive aspect of p90

  • If the high end snap and the mid-range offered by this single coiled pickup is in any way of interest to you, then the p90 is the ideal choice and the right fit for your guitar.
  • The type of music you play is a big deciding factor in the type of pickup that you should choose. If you are looking for something that sounds warm and soft, and lacks a sharp edge, then this pickup is for you.
  • The p90 pickup is great when you would want to experiment with sounds and try to produce new ones. If the softness is taken up a notch, it can produce a sort of a sizzle or a sharp, cut edge noise, which may be a preferred sound for many players.

Good products available online

P90 Soapbar Single Coil Pickups Neck Bridge Set

Alnicov P90 Single Coil Bridge & Neck Pickups Set

What is a single coil?

A single coil pickup is a type of an electrical transducer for electric guitar. Its purpose is to convert the electric vibrations of a guitar into coherent and comprehend-able sound.

It can easily be classified as one of the most popular designs in the arena of guitar pickups.

History of single coil

The history related with a single coil pickup goes way back to the mid-1920s. At that time, a guitarist by the name of ‘George Beauchamp’ began experimenting with electricity amplifying and modifying the guitar, as it was known back in the day.

Beauchamp’s major approach in order to achieve the desired results was to try out various combinations of coils and magnets in hopes of creating something revolutionary, in hopes of creating the first electromagnetic guitar pickup.

He had a little help from an accomplice by the name of ‘Adolph Rickenbacker’. His efforts were then successful as he came up with the first electromagnetic, single coil pickup.

Features of single coil

  • A single coil pickup includes elements like, a permanent magnetic pole piece, base plate, and a winding.
  • This pickup has a soap bar like shape that makes placing and holding strings on it easier. The name soap bar probably comes from its thick rectangular structure.
  • The single coil pickup has dog ear shaped extension to its side.

Sound of single coil

A single coil guitar pickup is in possession of a high frequency, highly clear sound. This is a result of its electromagnetic dynamic that comprises of well-placed magnets, which in turn produce the sound of the highest precision.

This sound is not foggy or soft. However, the sound can also not be termed as shrill and sharp. It can be called a high-pitched clear sound that resonates well while playing.

Negative aspect of single coil

  • The single coil pickup is very peculiarly known for its sound. However, if it is not played in control or with caution, the high-pitched sound and very easily turn to something that is sharp and very unpleasant to hear.
  • Secondly, this particular entity is known to have a lower sustain, when it comes to guitar pickups.
  • Thirdly, even after its popularity and varied advantages, one thing that still pertains, is the hum that is left in the wake, when a player is playing using this particular pickup.

Positive aspect of single coil

  • If someone is looking for a bright, crisp, straightforward and a harsh edged sound for their guitar, a single coil pickup is the right choice for them.
  • The single coil pickup is a favourite amongst metal music players. Metal music is what one might term as loud and sharp. The coil produces a sound that makes it ideal for just that kind of music.

Good products available online

Seymour Duncan SSL1 Vintage Staggered Single Coil Pickup

Seymour Duncan STK-S2 Hot Single Coil Pickup

P90 vs Single Coil: Positive & Negatives Compared

If the high end snap and the mid-range offered by this single coiled pickup is in any way of interest to you, then the p90 is the ideal choice and the right fit for your guitar.

Notable among the limitations for the p90 pickup, it can be said that it does not fare well with a high gain setting for the amp. The reason for this may be, that it supports only a single coil.

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The most vital element of any guitar is the type of sound it produces. The suitable sound for everyone may vary as per one’s preference in music.

There are metal fanatics, there are people that like the softer side of music. There is a varied amount of audience, and there are different categories of people. Putting such entities up against each other is not a wide choice.

Each one of these, are better in their own way, in their application at the right occasion and for the right style of music. This article has been written with the hopes of a better understanding of an essential element of the instrument that is, a guitar.

Now, with a clear image in mind, and a better understanding of the two types of pickups, it’s time to choose the right one, and start strumming.

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