Are P90s "honky" or am I crazy?

Byron

Country Gent
Sep 4, 2009
1,212
uk
Anyone try Tonerider Rebel 90 pickups? They're Alnico 2 bar magnets and boast AWG42 wire and 10,000 turns, fitted into a humbucker case. I want to like them and have them fitted on a solid body guitar. I've changed caps, fooled around with height but just can't seem to stop them sounding BRUTAL! Kinda fierce in the highs, rather harsh n nasty. Not in a good way. Folks also recommend having them high to the strings but boy, I couldn't wait to lower them
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,437
Tucson
I was actually going to say that, I love dynas and would just use them instead of p90's.
They are in an interesting place, beefier than a Telecaster pickup, but not as beefy as a P-90. I had a Dynasonic Jet, some years ago, and it was sort of like a Telecaster‘s brother; the one that works out.
 

swivel

Country Gent
May 13, 2018
2,260
PNW
I've just tried out a Casino, and a 5627-p90 (semi hollow), and they both sound -- and this is really my best description -- "honky." Like the sound has sort of a nasal, honk to it.

Is this a bug, or a feature? Is this the awesome sound that everybody raves about, and I'm just discovering it's not for me? Or am I missing something?

I can find some sounds I like if I fiddle around, staying on the neck and rolling off the tone, but it just feels like trying to avoid the natural tone of the pickups.

(On a totally separate note though, I think it finally clicked why people love teles so much, and I'm very happy I didn't give up there.)
yes they can be 'honky', middy. The more you turn up , it becomes 'raunchy'. (Now if we could just all have the same definition for those two words! ) I think the hollow body adds to it also ....at lower volumes anyway.
I prefer genuine Gibson P90's and they aren't very expensive used.

Some of the wannabee P90's out there are just 'not right'.
The Epi P90's in my Casino measure about 13k ohms.
That's very high for a P90 type. I often wonder if it's to offset the metal covers they use? Genuine Gibson P90's (modern ones) test about 8k ohms.
 

swivel

Country Gent
May 13, 2018
2,260
PNW
Depends on the pickups I think. I love my P-90s for their bark and growl but don't care for them so much at lower volume. They sound best with overdrive and fuzz and effects. Rock, R&R, Blues, Punk. Juicy feedback.

For low volume clarity and chime I prefer my G5129 Dynasonics or a Strat or Tele.
JMO

Edit: as I reread the posts above I think some of you are just expecting a different voice...P-90s are the single coils that are leaning toward the HB realm. Nasty, rough, uncivilized, sometimes honky or muddy, not clean or clear or sparkly or chimey like what we love in our Fenders or Rics or Gretsches.
Again, Just My Opinion.


If you ask me that's a very poor demo of "what a P90 sounds like".
It sounds great.... but it's an OD, warm, raunchy version of what can be done with a P90 if you just plug and play into say a BF Fender amp.
Plug in with no pedals or amp OD and it will be quite a bit cleaner.
 

stiv

Country Gent
Sep 12, 2014
2,564
Firenze, Italy
If you ask me that's a very poor demo of "what a P90 sounds like".
It sounds great.... but it's an OD, warm, raunchy version of what can be done with a P90 if you just plug and play into say a BF Fender amp.
Plug in with no pedals or amp OD and it will be quite a bit cleaner.
SG with P90s + Blackface Super Reverb has been my rig for a decade (before that, I was using Bassman reissues). I agree that if you turn the volume up until it slightly break up, the tone is to die for. Clean enough, full enough, rich enough to play almost every genre and also to take pedals very well.
Over that level though, to me it's just too muddy and too barking unless you're playing garage punk (where everything could go as long as it make noise, basically :) )
On the other side, plug an SG Special into a JTM45 or a Bluesbreaker and turn up. Tone heaven. Blues/rock blues in spades. Americana, alternative rock. Almost anything.
 

Berington

Gretschie
Jan 6, 2014
119
Los Angeles
Years ago I used to play an incredible '59 L.P. Special w P-90 "soapbar" pickups, through a '65 Twin Reverb also going through an additional tall Bassman 2x12 cab. Very much like the L.P. Jr in the demo video, but TV-white w 2 pickups. That rig could tear the back walls out of buildings, and that little L.P, with those pickups, made an AMAZING sound. It ROARED! Sadly, it was stolen after a gig one night in Pittsburgh.

Around '74, I acquired a gorgeous 1962 Gibson ES-330 with nickel-plate covered P-90s - standard on 330s and Epi Casinos. Still have it, and LOVE it. Again, warm, solid tones with amazing variety that can go from warm jazz to serious rock n roll in a heartbeat. "Plays like butter," as is often said. Truly one of the most beautiful guitars I've ever seen or heard. A pride & joy for me.

No P-90 problems here. That said, though, I also have 2 Gretsches, the '62 Reissue Country Gent and '62 Reissue Tennessean. They ARE brighter and twangier, & with a Vox AC-30, perfect for the L.A.-based Beatles tribute I have, The Beatunes. They're my iconic guitars... the Gent being The One that got me fascinated with guitars and learning to play in the first place, after seeing George's with The Beatles on Ed Sullivan & later. Later, his Tennessean just made it worse! HAD to HAVE 'em! It took many years, but now I still stare at 'em lustfully!

So mechanics have different tools because wrenches aren't screwdrivers. Guitars are no different. The Gibson 330 doesn't do what the Gretsches do; in fact the 2 Gretsches don't each do what the OTHER does! Different pickups, bracing, etc. But the Gretsches don't do what the 330 does, either, nor what my Strat does. My "toaster" pickup '66 Ric-12 is in a league of its own, as well.

Players with P-90 questions may be expecting something from those guitars they're just not built for. Though pickup changes are an option, that kinda defeats their purpose. But isn't it amazing that we HAVE these options? One doesn't equal another, but that's the beauty of 'em. Get (& LOVE) 'em BOTH, depending on the music you're playing! Gives a player good excuses, too, don't you think? "But honey, I NEEED it!" HA! Enjoy... whatever you have! Cheers!

P.S.: I do agree with the writer who said the "P-90 Demo" wasn't accurate, because he used distortion the whole time. Too MANY guitar demos make the same mistake IMHO. I played my '59 thru a Vox Wah-wah & an original Univox Uni-Vibe, then an EP3 Echo-Plex & into the amp. No distortions whatsoever, only that Twin turned up enough to crunch all on its own. Delicious. I agree that "demos" should NOT use effects, except after hearing the original sound on its own.
 
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BuddyHollywood

Synchromatic
Sep 11, 2009
540
Venice, CA
Years ago I used to play an incredible '59 L.P. Special w P-90 "soapbar" pickups, through a '65 Twin Reverb also going through an additional tall Bassman 2x12 cab. Very much like the L.P. Jr in the demo video, but TV-white w 2 pickups. That rig could tear the back walls out of buildings, and that little L.P, with those pickups, made an AMAZING sound. It ROARED! Sadly, it was stolen after a gig one night in Pittsburgh.

Around '74, I acquired a gorgeous 1962 Gibson ES-330 with nickel-plate covered P-90s. Still have it, and LOVE it. Again, warm, solid tones with amazing variety that can go from warm jazz to serious rock n roll in a heartbeat. "Plays like butter," as is often said. Truly one of the most beautiful guitars I've ever seen or heard. A pride & joy for me.

No P-90 problems here. That said, though, I also have 2 Gretsches, the '62 Reissue Country Gent and '62 Reissue Tennessean. They ARE brighter and twangier, & with a Vox AC-30, perfect for the L.A.-based Beatles tribute I have, The Beatunes. They're my iconic guitars... the Gent being The One that got me fascinated with guitars and learning to play in the first place, after seeing George's with The Beatles on Ed Sullivan & later. Later, his Tennessean just made it worse! HAD to HAVE 'em! It took many years, but now I still stare at 'em lustfully!

So mechanics have different tools because wrenches aren't screwdrivers. Guitars are no different. The Gibson 330 doesn't do what the Gretsches do; in fact the 2 Gretsches don't each do what the OTHER does! Different pickups, bracing, etc. But the Gretsches don't do what the 330 does, either, nor what my Strat does. My "toaster" pickup Rickenbacker-12 is in a league of its own, as well.

Players with P-90 questions may be expecting something from those guitars they're just not built for. Though pickup changes are an option, that kinda defeats their purpose. But isn't it amazing that we HAVE these options? One doesn't equal another, but that's the beauty of 'em. Get (& LOVE) 'em BOTH! Gives a player good excuses, too, don't you think? "But honey, I NEEED it!" HA! Enjoy... whatever you have! Cheers!
Yes you articulated what I think the original post is about. P90s are a whole different kind of pickup than Gretsch pickups. If I'm playing my Duo Jet and then all of a sudden plug in my Casino it takes me a while for my hearing to acclimate to the Casino. If I plug the Casino in first I'm ready to go immediately.
 

DasherF

Gretschie
Aug 28, 2020
260
25 miles SE of Rogers, Mn.
I've just tried out a Casino, and a 5627-p90 (semi hollow), and they both sound -- and this is really my best description -- "honky." Like the sound has sort of a nasal, honk to it.

Is this a bug, or a feature? Is this the awesome sound that everybody raves about, and I'm just discovering it's not for me? Or am I missing something?

I can find some sounds I like if I fiddle around, staying on the neck and rolling off the tone, but it just feels like trying to avoid the natural tone of the pickups.

(On a totally separate note though, I think it finally clicked why people love teles so much, and I'm very happy I didn't give up there.)
In my experience having played a Les Paul Special through a Royal Guardsman in the '70s, yes. Mine had a "honkin' sound, lots of midrange. That was my term for it, too.
 

All Thumbs

Gretschie
Dec 20, 2020
182
Kansas
I have two P90 guitars, an Epiphone Casino Coupe and an ESP LTD PS-1000. The Coupe has stock pickups, the PS-1000 comes with Seymour Duncan Phat Cat humbucker sized P90s. The Coupe is maple and hollow, the PS-1000 is mahogany and semi-hollow. I love them both and they sound nothing alike.
 

Synchro

The artist formerly known as: Synchro
Staff member
Jun 2, 2008
26,437
Tucson
The match between an Epi Casino and P-90s is perfect. They compliment one another. As a rule, you don’t buy a Casino for shredding, but it’s a good choice for sort of a bluesy approach to Rock n’ Roll, or at lower volumes, some fairly mellow sounds.

The LP Special is maybe a bit harder edged than a Casino, and has been used in a lot of Rock bands. Once again, they clean up nice, and are versatile. Years ago, I had a Les Paul Special with P-90s. It was a great sound. Glenn Frey used one for years, with the Eagles.

P-90s are definitely not going to sound like Filtertrons. They are capable of some great highs, but they aren’t going to get you into Telecaster territory.
 

wildeman

I Bleed Orange
May 10, 2015
16,211
norcal
The match between an Epi Casino and P-90s is perfect. They compliment one another. As a rule, you don’t buy a Casino for shredding, but it’s a good choice for sort of a bluesy approach to Rock n’ Roll, or at lower volumes, some fairly mellow sounds.

The LP Special is maybe a bit harder edged than a Casino, and has been used in a lot of Rock bands. Once again, they clean up nice, and are versatile. Years ago, I had a Les Paul Special with P-90s. It was a great sound. Glenn Frey used one for years, with the Eagles.

P-90s are definitely not going to sound like Filtertrons. They are capable of some great highs, but they aren’t going to get you into Telecaster territory.
Fry's tone with that guitar is killer.
 

Randy99CL

Country Gent
Feb 17, 2020
2,195
Albuquerque


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