When you have a good replacement set of pickups, it is easy to revamp the sound of any guitar you are playing – without the cost of purchasing a new guitar all the time.
Instruments are expensive, and guitarists know that very well. A common issue we all share is the incessant need to buy a new guitar every time we pass a store, when you have several guitars lying around in your house.
Sometimes you may even want a guitar that you cannot afford, simply because you saw your favorite guitarist using it in a recording or live performance.
While this is a common struggle, it is unrealistic to expect that you can simply buy new guitars on a whim – it is financially irresponsible, and you may not even use that guitar that frequently.
Instead of buying new guitars, it is a much better choice to upgrade what you already own and give it a new spin to its sound – the easiest way to do so is through buying new pickups.
Here are some great P90 pickups you can start with when updating your instrument’s sound qualities, and will save you a ton of money along the way.
The best P90 pickups of 2021 – Table Guide
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Seymour Duncan SPH90-1N pickup
DiMarzio DP210 P90 Tone Zone pickup
C.B. Gitty P90 guitar pickup harness
Gibson Age Parsons Street pickups
Fender Pure Vintage Jazzmaster pickup set
The best P90 pickups of 2021 – List of Top Picks
To start off this review, the Seymour Duncan SPH pickup is worth mentioning, as they make a wide variety of options to suit various budget ranges. They are mostly a custom shop, with this pickup serving as a humbucker-size piece.
- Humbucker retro-fit size pickup design
- Mostly shines in heavy and classic rock, rockabilly, jazz, country, and blues
- Metallic covers provide noise reduction and shielding
- Includes single-conductor hookup cable
The design is classically elegant and uses a single coil setup, with the exterior featuring high-quality metallic housing to help reduce annoying humming sounds when playing your guitar. The durability of the unit is not in doubt; it has a nice weight and feel to it, as well as a polish in its aesthetic quality.
The unit also uses Alnico II magnets to soften its attacking approach and brightening its tone. This also makes them excellent in reproducing a rich audio quality with their P90 thickness, and will serve you well if you want a clear vintage sound when playing. Even when playing on overdrive, the tonal quality is maintained and the result is a cleaner sound with plenty of headroom. It also retains presence and sustain when using it in a rhythm or lead guitar.
- Functions as a great P90 replacement pickup
- Alnico II magnets give it a rich tonal quality
- Metallic housing to improve durability
- Tends to be noisier compared to most P90 pickups, likely due to the size
Overall, while this is a great P90 pickup to use for general guitar playing sessions, it does have some limitations due to its physical dimensions. However, it does its best to maintain the classic P90 mojo, as it sounds good on any humbucker-loaded guitar.
Many people know DiMarzio pickups for their efficiency and structural strength. It is meant to act as a careful replacement of standard-size humbuckers, and it is very easy to install even for beginners using a guitar pickup.
- High output performance
- Designed for bridge positioning
- 4 conductor wirings for split-coil or humbucking modes
- Thickened middle, but not heavy
- Ideal for bluesy music due to the quiet humbucking feel
Its sound and design allows you to achieve a pleasant P90 tone without structural changes to your instrument, and it even includes a manual to provide you with wiring instructions.
It weighs only 0.48 ounces and measures 7.5 x 7.5 x 1.6 inches in size. If you are looking forward to installing a pickup easily and achieve a bright sound with a strong tonal quality, it is worth your investment. Like the Seymour Duncan P90 pickup, it also has a warm sound quality and plenty of headroom, while the unique design of two single coils eliminates noise while maintaining a high output.
- Very high output
- Flexible enough to use in multiple guitars
- Thickened middle, though it is not heavy
- None noted so far
The DiMarzio DP210 is the best option if you want to upgrade the sounds of your guitar without wasting your financial resources. While its price may make you underestimate and dismiss it initially, it does not sacrifice the quality even for the slightest bit.
This is more of a bargain option and is geared towards people that have little experience in wiring pickups to their guitars. It comes with pre-wired tone and volume modes, alongside an output jack, making it a very easy install for your instrument.
- Pre-wired design and setup with an output, tone, and volume jack
- Classic soapbar tone which is reminiscent of rock and roll guitar tones
- Lead between pot and pickup is 10 inches
The pickup easily delivers the entire snarl you would expect from a typical P90 sound, but comes at a budget-friendly price to serve anyone on a tight budget. It includes long pole pieces that will tend to stick out at its bottom section, so mounting them in cigar-box guitars requires you to unscrew and trim them. The construction is not very durable though, so you will need to install it with care to avoid damaging the pole pieces.
Since soapbars tend to be noisy, it is important to ground this pickup when installing it. The tone quality is slightly more lo-fi than you would initially expect, but it packs plenty of clarity and warmth that you will enjoy if you love playing folksy music.
- Alnico II magnets add plenty of warmth to the tone
- Vintage-sounding quality
- Pre-wiring makes it easy to install
- Are at an affordable price
- Some parts are fragile in build
This pickup is a great option for people that love building their guitar equipment from scratch, as they make it easy to install and upgrade the tone of your instrument.
When you think about the classical sounds of early blues and rock music, you are likely thinking of a Gibson P90 pickup, with this being among the popular picks in the series. It is a single coil pickup type that works for either a bridge or neck position.
- Features a plastic bobbin build with a vintage-style enamel unspotted coil wire
- 8.0K ohm winding
- Includes color codes and wiring diagrams
- Uses Alnico V magnets and a black plastic soapbar cover
- Comes in a set of 2 pickups
The Gibson Golden Age pickups are the direct replacements for the default Gibson Les Paul pickups, as well as archtop and semi-hollow guitars. It uses Alnico V magnets to achieve its classic rock tone, making it a great choice if you want to achieve that type of sound in your playing style.
You will definitely like its responsiveness to different sound effects; it sounds very professional and reacts very well to various modulating effects like delay, reverb, and chorus. It will also act organically when using it alongside overdrive pedals and a tubular amp.
- Very affordable price
- Good sound quality that works well for a variety of genres
- Friendly for beginner users
- Very nice tonal quality
- None noted so far
If you want to achieve a classic vintage rock sound when using your instrument, this pickup is the best way to do so. It features high quality construction as well, so you are certain that it will serve you for a long time.
You can hardly talk about guitars and their equipment without mentioning Fender, and their P90 pickup is a classic example of that. It caters to Jazzmaster Fender guitars, originally made in the late-1950s for high-end musicians that wanted exclusive instruments catering to unique playing styles.
- Alnico V magnets to produce more focus and dynamics
- Enamel coating on the magnet wire to produce a vintage-style tone
- Includes a 1-year warranty
- Wax potting for extra durability
- Even string responses due to the flush-mount pole pieces
Its design specifically works brilliantly when you use it on the guitar’s neck, even though it bases its modeling on the original pickups used in the 1950s. Its design allows you to achieve a high level of authenticity in terms of Jazzmaster sounds, even in its shape and the cloth in use.
Unlike most pickups in the market, this uses cloth wiring and bobbins that have fiber construction – the aim is mirroring the manufacturing methods of the time. Its sound is of a vintage quality, thanks to the enamel coating of the magnet wires, while the use of Alnico V magnets adds dynamism to its response. You will particularly like the flush mounting of the pole pieces, which ensures that they do not favor specific strings, as well as the wax potting to reduce noise.
- Produces a vintage Fender tone
- Little noise production due to the wax potting
- Very durable build
- Great upgrade for your guitar’s neck
- Quite pricey
This pickup set is very easy to like because of its superb design and manufacture, as well as a balanced string response.
General facts about P90 pickups
The P90 pickup has a long history in the music world, having first come to the scene in 1946 as a way to fatten the sound that single-coil pickups produced. In a very short time of less than 5 years, they became the standard of what pickups should sound like, especially when playing blues or rock music.
Their popularity was short though, as humbuckers came along to revolutionize the music scene – but they are not completely out of favor, as many guitarists see them as a split option of the humbucker’s double-coil configuration.
P90 pickups primarily differ from the single-coil pickup because of their less wounded design, and this provides them with better clarity and brightness in their sound output. This also makes them a good option if you want to achieve a mixed tonal sound without the fullness of a humbucker but slightly muddier than a twangy single coil pickup.
What are the advantages of P90 pickups?
Since a P90 pickup has a thicker and bigger sound compared to a single coil pickup, it has a richer middle quality that provides you with more options when playing different music genres.
With that said, it does not have the power as a humbucker pickup, so it may not work as efficiently when you are playing heavier music such as metal, but their tonal quality is very good for playing general rock music and blues, as well as genres such as jazz.
Features to look for in P90 pickups
The pickup type you prefer
When it comes to pickups, there are plenty of options you can consider – and it all depends on your preference. It is important to know the different types available, not just in light of P90 types but a general overview, which will help you have a better idea of what to choose and why it works for you.
All pickups aim to change the vibrational signals from the guitar strings into electrical signals that you can alter and amplify. The stronger the signals are the stronger and louder the output is – which leads to specific pickups working better for specific music styles.
These pickup types are:
- Single coil: These are the most well-known pickups, and are known as Strat or Fender pickups. They are the most basic in setup, and have a bright tone. However, their disadvantage is their vulnerability to electrical interference, which leads to humming noises more often than not.
- P90: They are similar to single coil pickups, but provide more output at lower volumes. They are also highly versatile types. They have different casing types, though the most common are dog ear and soap bar designs.
- Humbuckers: These are among the most popular pickup designs, and feature a double-coil design that provides more output and volume while reducing or eliminating the humming noise of single coil pickups.
- Active: These are a fairly recent addition, and were popularized by heavy metal players that wanted more gain than a humbucker provides.
If you already have a choice, it is easier to know what to go for.
P90 pickups have a very unique sound output that you cannot match when using most pickups, so the sound is an important factor to consider. Some P90s will have a more humbucker edge to their sound, while some have different configurations depending on the specific music you are playing – so it depends on the sound output you prefer.
This does not make much of a difference, though there are P90 pickups that have a more budget-friendly pricing while others are more expensive.
Other factors to consider that also prove important when selecting pickups in general are:
The magnets it uses
This is a major consideration when purchasing any pickup, because it affects the tonal quality and the output. The most common material is an alloy that is known as ‘Alnico’ – a combination of Aluminum, Nickel, and Cobalt. It comes in 4 varieties, which are:
- Alnico II: This has a vintage-style tone with a strong output.
- Alnico III: Its tone is very gentle and soft, and it has the weakest magnetic pull. You will mainly find it in vintage Stratocaster guitars.
- Alnico V: This has quite the bold sound and very high output, and its versatility allows for many guitarists to use it when playing multiple genres.
- Alnico VIII: This has the heaviest and most aggressive sound quality.
The tone your guitar produces will change drastically depending on the positioning of the pickup in relation to the strings of the instrument, so this is important to consider. Some general rules to keep in mind are:
- Pickups that are nearest to the bridge have the shortest sustain, but plenty of brightness in their tone.
- Neck pickups have the longest sustain and the fullest, warmest sound quality
- Pickups that have middle positioning get the best of both neck and bridge pickups.
Choosing a P90 pickup does not need to be a complicated process, as you can use these recommendations as a place to start. Ensure that you select one that fits your guitar and playing style, and you will enjoy using it for many years to come.
What types of guitars can accommodate P90 pickups?
You can use any guitar that has a humbucker fit, as long as you know the style of humbucker you have. The P90 pickup is great because it can fit a variety of instruments, and you can always ask a professional if you are unsure of what to choose.
Do P90 pickups suffer from noise production?
While P90 pickups do not ‘cancel’ humming entirely like a humbucker would, they do not have the same levels of noise that a single coil pickup does.
What pots can I use with a P90 pickup?
The best ones to go for are the 500K Pots due to the darker sound of the pickup.