If you’re after a top-of-the-range guitar, you often hope that will have some of the best P90 Pickups available included there. Whether it is Seymour Duncan, Lollar or Fralin, you will probably find these on many top-line instruments.
The best P90 Pickups are ones that are versatile for most genres, and produce full and balanced tones. When deciding on a P90 pickup, you should consider the style of music you’ll be playing, but there are many that work across multiple genres.
Since they were first designed by Gibson in the 1940s, I have seen P90 Pickups on many legendary instruments over the decades, including the Gibson Les Paul and the Epiphone SG.
Nowadays, you will find these on all leading instruments—in a variety of shapes and sizes. But what are the best P90 Pickups on the market today?
What Are P90 Pickups?
In the extensive world of guitar technology, P90 pickups hold a special place, known for their unique sound that strikes a middle ground between the sharp bite of single-coil pickups and the warmth and depth of humbuckers. Before we delve deeper, it is paramount to understand what exactly P90 pickups are and what sets them apart in the orchestra of electric guitar sounds.
A Brief History
Developed by Gibson in the early 1940s, the P90 pickup arrived at a critical juncture in the history of electric guitars, bridging the gap between the early rudimentary pickups and the more advanced technology that would follow. Their introduction provided guitarists with a new palette of sounds that were richer and more nuanced, quickly gaining traction and cementing its place in the electric guitar landscape.
P90 pickups are characterized by their single-coil construction, which essentially is a wire wrapped around a magnet, creating a magnetic field that captures the vibrations of the strings and converts them into an electrical signal, which then can be amplified. Despite being a single-coil pickup, it shares some similarities with humbuckers due to its wider and flatter design, leading to a tone that can be described as a hybrid between a single-coil and a humbucker pickup.
This distinctive construction grants P90 pickups a higher output and a fuller midrange compared to traditional single-coils, while still retaining a bright and articulate top end. Moreover, they tend to have a slightly gritty character, which can be a boon for musicians looking to add a bit of a raw edge to their sound.
The Signature Sound
P90 pickups are renowned for their versatility, offering a tonal palette that is rich and balanced. They provide a tight and focused sound with a pronounced midrange, enabling artists to craft tones that are warm yet articulate, with a distinctive growl that can turn into a creamy, smooth texture when played softly. This sound profile makes them a preferred choice for a wide variety of music genres, from blues and jazz to rock and punk, showcasing their ability to deliver both aggression and subtleness adeptly.
The Best P90 Pickups Rated
The Standard-Bearer: Seymour Duncan Phat Cat Pickup
Seymour Duncan is one of the leaders in making P90 Pickups and the prime example of this is the SPH90 Phat Cat Pickup. What makes this P90 Pickup such a brilliant choice is that it can fill holes left by a humbucker pickup.
The body of the Phat Cat has been altered to fit a humbucker opening, meaning giving that option to switch to a much cleaner sound when you’re playing. This means that the SPH90 will work on guitars designed primarily without a P90 slot, such as any Fender model.
Designed to slot in on the bridge, the Phat Cat gives excellent full tones in both middle and treble ranges. The pickup also gives softer and warm notes to leave a slight fuzz when hitting the bottom strings.
With a nickel finish, it is also a great-looking piece that has a classic design that fits in with any body, color or style. Therefore, Seymour Duncan proves they are the ones to beat with P90 Pickups.
- Fits into humbucker slots
- Excellent sounds
- Classic design
- Some guitars may need reconfiguring when the pickup is installed
- Not suited for heavy metal
The Les Paul Alternative: FLEOR Alnico P90 Pickup
- Fit Les Paul P90 electric guitar parts upgrade or replacement.
- Alnico 5 magnets with adjustable poles, high power fatter sound.
- Pole Spacing: 50mm; Resistance: 7-8K.
- Cream cover; Wax potted to eliminate any unwanted feedback and noise.
- Package Included: 1 x Neck Pickup, 2 x Screws, 2 x Springs.
If you are looking to alter your sound on a Les Paul-style instrument, then adding the FLEOR Alnico P90 Pickup could be just what you need. Able to be installed either on the bridge or neck, FLEOR’s pickup gives extremely clean sounds once installed.
They emphasized the clean sound further thanks to a wax covering that reduces the risk of feedback as you play. It’s also easily secured thanks to an Alnico 5 magnet and 4-screw attachment.
In terms of design, FLEOR has taken on the classic soap-bar design, which allows the pickup to engage and produce full and clean tones as you play. The cream colour also makes it a piece that fits with a wide range of designs without being distracting to the eye. All this combines into a mid-range pickup that gives your Les Paul an added edge should you want it.
- Uses classic design patterns
- Reduced feedback
- Easy to mount
- No chrome covers
- Poor gain levels
The Wired Choice: Metallor Soap Bar P90 Pickup
- Traditional soap bar single coil, Standard size and format, ideal for general P90 style electric guitar parts replacement.
- Pickup pole spacing: Neck 50mm; Bridge 52mm; Overall size: Approx. 85.5 x 34.6 x 21mm.
- Resistance: Neck 8.22k-ohms, Bridge 9.57k-ohms; Inductance: Neck 5.83H, Bridge 6.54H; The P90 delivers a fatter sound similar to a humbucker, but retains the brightness and clarity of a single coil unit.
- PVC coated magent wire, vintage ferrite & alnico-v magnets with adjustable poles, two Conductor, plastic cover, matched pair in cream finish.
- Package Include: 1pc neck pickup, 1pc bridge pickup, 4pcs screws, 4pcs springs, easy to install.
Sometimes, wiring in your pickup gives you greater flexibility when setting up your guitar. Should you want that option, then Metallor’s Soap Bar P90 pickup is just what you need.
The long wires mean this pickup can operate at up to 9.57 Ohms on the bridge and 8.57 Ohms on the neck, giving the option to handle large power volumes with ease. The wire design is also reversed once installed, which helps prevent unnecessary humming when playing in lower ranges.
The addition of a 6-screw fixing also helps hold the pickup in place as you aim to get that fuller sound. Metallor’s offering also fits a wide range of string layouts working with designs that cover up to 52mm spacings, allowing it to fit on many of models. Throw in a PVC coating to reduce excess feedback and this is a solid offering for anyone looking to minimize any affects on their overall sound.
- High resistance
- Easy to install
- Works on bridge and neck
- No instructions provided
- Some quality issues with screws
The Throwback Choice: Tonerider Vintage P90
It can be tricky finding a pickup to replicate that classic rock sound, but Tonerider’s Vintage P90 Pickup ends that battle. Using a classic soap bar design, the Vintage P90 has no issues replicating the full and strong sounds that bands of yesteryear mastered. With an all-black look, it also fits seamlessly into any instrument no matter where you place it—on the neck or the bridge.
Once installed, the Vintage P90 sounds great. This comes thanks to including an alnico II magnet that boosts sustain levels as you play. This reduces the risk of feedback and promotes the ability to produce clear sounds as you play. They primarily designed it for Les Paul-style guitars but makes for an excellent inclusion no matter what instrument you use.
- Excellent sound
- Great look
- Well-secured when mounted
- Small risk of buzzing sounds
- Only pickup included in the pack
The Money Saver: Yootones P90 Pickup
- Guitar neck bridge pickup is compatible with guitar models SG, Les Paul, Ernie Ball Axis series Epiphone Casino Fender Tele.
- On the pickup back, N for neck, B for bridge.Neck 50mm and Bridge 50mm Pole Spacing.
- Resistance: Neck 7.5K, Bridge 7.5K.
- high quality and testing is fine.
- Easy to install.A good replacement part for broken or old one.
Not everyone will get a premium P90 pickup, but the Yootones P90s Pickup proves that you don’t have to break the bank to get a good pickup. Utilising the classic soap-bar design, this P90 pickup works on both the bridge and the neck, giving you great flexibility to wear to install it. Needing just a few screws to install it, this P90 pickup offers low resistance to give a great sound as you play.
It fits a range of styles, with the pickups able to work with strings that are spaced between 50-52mm. Yootones have also designed this using a metal-plastic composite which not only adds to its durability but also reduces feedback options whenever you play in lower ranges. It all combines for a great pickup that delivers just as much as more established names might.
- Clean sound
- Easy to install
- Works on bridge and neck
- Large body may affect placement on some models
- Low resistance limits style settings
The All-Rounder: DiMarzio Dp280K P90 Vintage Pickup
- Recommended For All Positions
- Quick Connect: No
- Wiring: 1 Conductor
- Magnet: Alnico
- Resistance: 8.12
Designed to replicate sounds from throughout the decades, the DiMarzio DP280K is a P90 Pickup that has no weaknesses. What makes Dimarzio’s pickup work is the blend between old and new technology. This is because of the pickup using a wind-tape mechanism and dual magnets to give crisp sounds that were rife decades ago. Mixed with the Alnico magnet design, you find that sounds using the Dimarzio are full-on and crystal clear as you play.
The mix of power chords and slick sounds is further emphasised by the sleek look of the piece itself. With its jet-black design, it fits in neatly wherever it is installed and won’t distract from other details that might be found on your guitar. Overall, this is a pickup that helps merge the divide between old and new sounds.
- Vintage design
- Dual Magnet set-up
- Excellent clarity on sound
- Tricky to install
- Only one conductor
The Dog Ear Choice: Hurricane Dog Ear P90
- Magnets: A2
- DCR: 8.6,
- Wire: 42 Gauge
- Vintage Braided Shielded lead wire.
- White covers
Not all P90 Pickups use the soap-bar design and the Hurricane P90 is proof of that. Designed using the Dog Ear body that angles the ends, the Hurricane P90 delivers a big sound that can fill rooms in a heartbeat. The dual-alnico magnets keep feedback down to a minimum, increasing the crispness of the notes you play.
There has been a lot of care paid to the attention of the electronic features too. The main wire connection is braided and shielded to increase the longevity and durability of the pickup itself. Throw in a classic all-black design and you have a pickup that looks and sounds incredible. It shows that you don’t always need the classic soap-bar design to get the P90 Pickup you desire.
- Good look
- Reinforced protected wiring
- Delivers big sounds
- Plastic cover feels out of place
- Screws don’t align with some pickup slots
The Big Choice: SAPHUE P90 Pickups
- Set of neck and bridge pickups, with adjust spring and screw
- Ceramic bar magnet pickup
- Bridge resistance: 8.0k; Neck resistance: 7.5k
- Pole spacing is about 52mm on bridge and neck
- Sound great and perfect for an upgrade or replacement on any guitar that has P90 style pickups.
Most P90 Pickups look compact, but the SAPHUE P90 proves that size doesn’t always matter. Using an elongated soap-bar design, this P90 setup works on 52mm spacings and slots onto both the bridge and neck.
It fits easily on any Les-Paul style body and the ceramic bar makes it easy to fit with little drama. The magnet is located just underneath the ceramic layering to reduce the chances of feedback ruining the clarity of your notes.
You can play using the SAPHUE Pickups without having to worry about the power levels as the pickups operate at a resistance of up to 8 Ohms. The O-shaped openings on the screws also make it easy to install and adjust, adding to the versatility of this pickup. It’s a great way to bring in a big pickup for big sounds.
- Easy to install
- Fits on bridge and neck
- High resistance
- Struggles to process low notes
- May need filing to fit some pickup slots
What should you should know about P90 Pickups?
P90 Pickups are an all-around pickup that works for most genres. Whether it be blues, rock or even country, a P90 Pickup works wonders. But there’s more to this piece than giving big sounds. So what should you need to know about P90 Pickups?
When to use P90 Pickups
As versatile as they are, they do not design P90 Pickups for all genres. If you are looking to play heavy metal or music that is bass-heavy, P90 Pickups won’t work well. However, going for clean and full sounds—that’s where they work best.
Thanks to their single-coil nature, they hang on each note that you play and deliver real clarity compared to using a humbucker pickup. Therefore, they are extremely popular with genres that put melody above the noise. Take blues, for instance. Many famous Blues guitarists in the 1950s and 1960s—like Les Paul, and BB King — developed their key sound by using guitars that used the P90 sound.
By particularly emphasizing treble and sustain over fuzz and bass, it meant P90 pickups became the go-to for anyone looking to hit big with guitars in the mainstream. That has spilt over into alternative and pop-rock in modern times, hence why they remain popular to this day.
In terms of their overall design, they design P90 pickups in three principal ways:
- Soap Bar
- Dog Ear
- Humbucker Cover
Each of these varying bodies offers a slight difference in the sound they are produced, the way they sound, and what a guitarist can achieve when they are playing.
- Soap Bar: Soap Bar bodies are the common type of P90 Pickup. Named after looking like a soap bar, this places the screws in the middle of the body. This links straight into the guitar rather than integrating with the pickguard or other aspects of the guitar’s external structure.
- Dog Ear: Less common, the dog ear is defined by its triangular endings. These endings are where the pickup is mounted to the guitar and can limit where you can place a P90 on your guitar. Aside from that, it shares the same properties and set up as a soap bar pickup.
- Humbucker Cover: A humbucker cover allows for P90 pickups to be used on guitars that came with a default humbucker pickup. They usually do this style to allow guitarists to install P90s on rival brands to Gibson, such as Fender. This gives the fullest and loudest sounds out of the three body types.
Once you know what style best fits your guitar, it then makes it easier to pick the right pickup for your needs and maximize your overall sound.
What’s The Difference Between P90 and Humbucker Pickups?
Despite sometimes being viewed as occupying different ends of the spectrum, when analyzed closely, these pickups offer unique characteristics that can cater to a wide array of musical needs. This section aims to shed light on the specific attributes of both, offering a comparative analysis to aid musicians in making an informed choice.
Before we proceed with the comparison, it is essential to understand the historical contexts of P90 and humbucker pickups. While P90s were introduced by Gibson in the early 1940s, offering a balance between early single-coil pickups and the richer sounds that humbuckers would later provide, humbuckers came into the scene later in the 1950s, designed to “buck the hum” of single-coil pickups, hence offering a quieter, yet richer tonal output.
Construction and Design
- P90 Pickups: As discussed in previous sections, P90 pickups feature a single-coil construction, characterized by a wider and flatter coil winding around a magnet. This design gives it a higher output and a full midrange, yet retains a bright and articulate tonal quality, albeit with a tendency to hum in the presence of electrical interference.
- Humbuckers: Conversely, humbuckers consist of two coils wound together, which not only cancels out the hum associated with single-coil pickups but also results in a thicker, warmer sound, characterized by a smooth, full-bodied tonality and a softer high end compared to single-coils.
- P90 Pickups: Known for a more pronounced midrange and brighter, more articulate sound, P90s offer a grittier, rawer tonal characteristic, retaining the ability to offer creamy textures at lower volumes. Their dynamic range allows musicians to traverse a landscape of tones, from a growl to a whisper, making them quite versatile in various genres.
- Humbuckers: Humbuckers, on the other hand, are revered for their warm, rich sound with more emphasis on the lower midrange and bass frequencies. Their noise-canceling property allows for a cleaner, hum-free performance at high gain settings, making them a favored choice for heavy rock and metal genres.
- P90 Pickups: P90s find their calling in blues, classic rock, punk, and even jazz, where the nuance and versatility of their sound can truly shine. Their slightly gritty character adds a raw edge that can complement a wide variety of musical styles.
- Humbuckers: Humbuckers, with their rich and warm sound profile, are a staple in genres requiring a thicker sound, such as heavy rock, metal, and jazz, offering musicians the ability to craft dense harmonic textures without the interference of unwanted noise.
Are P90 Pickups used on Gibson guitars only?
No—P90 Pickups can be used on almost any type of guitar. Although Gibson designed the P90 pickup for the Les Paul models, some versions have a changed body to allow them to slot in other pickup slots.
Are P90 Pickups good for delivering clear tones?
Yes—that is their main calling card. We know p90 Pickups for producing clear tones that promote treble layers as in the overall tone. It is one reason Les Paul guitars helped establish Gibson as a leading guitar brand.
Should I use P90 Pickups for heavier sounds?
No—this is the one downfall to P90 pickups. They struggle to handle bass sounds, and increased levels of feedback can ruin the clarity and delivery of what you play. This is where a humbucker pickup is usually the better option.
You won’t struggle to find a P90 Pickup that delivers crystal clear sound as you play. P90 Pickups are great for filling a room with sound and showing off your playing technique. Most options that use the Soap Bar design—such as the Tonerider Vintage or the DiMarzio DP280K—and offer impressive sounds that make a real impact as you play.
Even dog ear pickups such as the Hurricane P90 are worth investing in even if they can be a little tricky to install in some models. However, the benchmark is still set by Seymour Duncan, who proves they are the expert in P90 pickups. Their assortment of P90 pickups are the best available and the Phat Cat P90 is a prime example of these thanks to producing huge sounds with little effort. It’s why these are the best P90 pickups on the market today and found on the best guitars made today!