P90 Pickups: Everything You Need To Know

Posted on December 01 2022

We've talked about Mini Humbucker Pickups and PAF Humbucker Pickups. Now we're on our way to P90 Pickups. Enjoy the ride as we explore the land of 1954 Gibson Les Pauls and a mid-60s Epiphone Century. Below, we'll break down the most versatile and excellent pickups in the history of guitars. We've got your guitar supplies and guitar pickups covered here at Monty's. We'll help you understand everything you need to know about P90 pickups.

The Era Of The P90s

The sound of an electric guitar is the sonic trademark of rock and metal music genres, and the P90 is a defining moment in music history. In the 1930s, Gibson's first guitar pickup debuted on the ES-150. It was a 2 lb pickup with massive cobalt magnets, all before the Alnico magnets were invented. By 1940, Gibson came up with a diagonally mounted pickup that was much larger than most pickups today. By 1941, the two Alnico bar magnets had been phased in, leading to increasingly more compact pickups.

Walt Fuller combined the best features of the P13 that he developed with the two Alnico bar magnets and a shorter diagonal pickup to create the P-90. Musical instruments make a genuine era of music what it is, and it isn't a stretch to say that the P-90 defined moments of history. Gibson collaborated with musician Les Paul to create a solid-body electric guitar, wanting to top Fender's Telecaster. At the time, Fender used pick-ups that were little single coils. These single-coil pickups lacked the thick, louder sound that musicians sought.

Gibson decided to use a pickup design they had developed to replace the early single coils in their ES-150 models. This was the P90. The wider coil was wound to a significantly higher inductance, which gave a more powerful output with a darker sound. Though, as with most pickups and pieces of electric guitar gear in the early eras, the early P90s suffered from inconsistency. Some were great, and some could have been better due to differences in manufacturing.

As the 50s went on, Gibson standardised this process, and their machines would shut off after a certain number of turns. The magnet strength was standardised, which created the loud, thick pickups that we know as the P90s! P90s strike a balance between a single coil's clarity and the humbucker's power and bite.

Vintage Sound

Pickups are dependent on their coil inductance for their sound. Coil inductance can be complicated, with many factors creating the sound of the pickup. Even if both coils have the same number of turns, if they're a different size, they will have vastly different inductance and sound different. Since single coils are taller and narrower, their sound is clearer and brighter than some other pickups. Humbuckers generate a warmer, thicker sound that depends on the dimensions of the coil. The P90 sits between these two guitar pickups in tonal quality. 

Vintage recreations of '54 P90 Pickups have thick tones but with a brighter clarity like a single coil. Vintage Gibson P90s do have a less mid-range and lower output than modern P90s, but that brings a distinct sound to them. This created a classic sound in Les Paul guitars, especially in Les Paul Jr.

Most pickups are wound by hand by human operators and with that comes inconsistent tension that doesn't have uniformity. Machine-wound pickups will sound different than a hand-wound, but many players prefer hand-wound because it adds a more natural, human sound. Players want to recapture the early magic with vintage music, and a hand-created recreation is the way to go.

The Classic P90: Upgraded

P90s were meant to sound great over a variety of different genres. They were added to pretty much everything Gibson made from 1946 to 1957, from their jazz guitars, and student models, to the Les Pauls. P90s cover authentic jazz tones, death metal, and regular play. This versatility has made the P-90s popular in the current scene.

Take a look at our Full Monty P90 Pickups. Players who want a versatile sound can pick up a supercharged P90 from Monty's with more output and mid-range bite. It's made to sound great, from the tight and punchy lows to the high cut-throughs. The sounds are beautiful. We don't just say that to stroke our egos–try the Full Monty P90 yourself in a dog ear or soap bar style.

Leviathan Sound

Guitar supplies such as pickups, boost pedals, and amps help define a genre's sound. It's no surprise that P90s help define rock. The upper-midrange character of a fantastic P90 can be the sound you're looking for, but what if you wanted more? The Leviathan P90 Pickups are what you need. A high-output humbucker is excellent for rock, but there's a specific tonal range that cinches a jaw-dropping sound, and the Leviathan marries both of those ranges flawlessly.

Enjoy the harsh tones of a P90 built for rock with the Leviathan, but we recommend hearing protection if you use a cranked tube amp. Your audience might want to hear the rest of your set after the first song, so be careful of the volume.

Chase That Old Sound

P90 recreations are worth looking into for everyone. P90s are diverse and produce a unique range of sonic qualities that are still incredibly popular. Professional guitarists have always prized the quality of their guitar sound as necessary. A good sound helps you play your best. You will play and develop your style if inspired by your guitar's sound. That is why experimenting with different guitars, boost pedals, amplifiers, and guitar pickups is crucial for your growth as a musician.

With the right sound, playing can be a smooth process. The right balance between your guitar supplies creates your voice, and while your hands are creating that sound, it's crucial to consider gear if you're searching for your musical voice. Creating the perfect sound can be a long haul, but the journey is exciting and worth it.

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