My completely unscientific P90 shootout

Discussion in 'Guitar & Gear Reviews' started by juks, Oct 28, 2021.

  1. juks

    juks Country Gent

    Nov 26, 2020
    Fremont, California
    As I got the below Gretsch with P90s, I got intrigued how it compares to other P90s. As I happen to have a few. Totally IMO and what my ears hear.

    Amp used: Vox AC15. (Parts of) Songs dabbled with them all: Everybody hurts, Up around the bend, Helter Skelter, Jesus just left Chicago, Kick out the jams, You can't put your arms around a memory (Thunders), Enter Sandman. Just tried to find bits where I could hear a difference.

    G5627T-P90 and Gibson Les Paul Special Tribute DC, which I got when GC was blowing them out $300 below what the asking was at Reverb.


    Gretsch has a very biting, metallic sound with a twang (hey, it's a Gretsch :)) while Gibson warmer, I'd say closer to humbucker sound. Both have excellent clarity, all notes cut through nicely even with good amount of dirt. Can't really put one above another. It's more of a question what kind of song each fit better. As they are very different sonically.

    Epiphone Riviera (2010) and Wildkat Royale (2019).


    Not much point comparing to the Gretsch as they are so different. But I have to say that I can hear tiny difference to the Gibson. Weight on tiny. Epi is so very close. The Riviera sounds just a little bit better than the Wildkat. Metal pickup covers vs. Plastic? 9 year age difference? Weight difference? Riviera is heavy! Or simply price difference, most likely. Still great clarity with both. Not ashamed when compared to Gibson. At least a Gib at that price point.

    The Riviera has a nice story. I bought it from Reverb from a guy who turned out to be really nice guy. After I received it, I messaged him and let him know it arrived safe and that I was very happy. At that point he told me that he had purchased it from a cousin of Dolly Parton who is a buddy of his. I have no reason not to believe him as he brought it up only afterwards.

    Danelectro 59XT and Firefly whatever model they called it. I got the Firefly because the previous owner had put in Grover tuners and a Rio Grande P90. Asking price was $20 above those upgrades. Upgrades don't pay off financially!

    Dan of course has only P90 at the neck. It has very much Dan twang (amusing), so it's closer to the Gretsch. Gretch beats it though in clarity. Not by huge margin but it is better. For me anyway. I do love the double lipstick humbucker, but that's another story. The Rio Grande P90 is bit muddier than Gibson, not as clear, not as warm. But it's not a bad pup by any means.

    Epiphone ES125TDC George Thorogood signature, Firefly Tele Thinline.


    The Epi has a very thin tinny sound compared to the other two Epis. And no twang like Gretsch or Dan. Hmm, comparing it head to head is making me bit disappointed. I was and am a Thorogood fan but I can't get his kind of sound out of this thing. Did Epi really have that different sounding P90s available? It's made in 2019, just like the Wildkat. The Firefly is as said many times, great for the money. I can hear a difference though. Clarity is lacking a bit, it's not warm like Gibson. Which I think they try to emulate. I have no Fender P90s, so don't know what they'd sound like. But frankly, it's not that far from Gibson considering the price.

    In conclusion, the hands of the player will make a way bigger difference than who made the pickups. A great player will make the Firefly sound better than what I can make the Gretsch or Gibson sound any time soon. :). However, there are clear sonic differences between the Gibson kind of 'humbucker' P90 and Gretsch or Danelectro twangy P90.
    Marv666, MrWookiee, Jeff67 and 4 others like this.
  2. Stefan87

    Stefan87 Country Gent

    May 20, 2019
    Brisbane, Australia
    This is so cool as I have been trying to work out what P-90 guitar to look at getting and the gretsch options where on the list, what you have described though is enough for me to cross them off, sorry Gretsch but I have enough bright guitars, the tribute Gibsons was were I was wanting to look next so will have to check one out.
    juks likes this.
  3. MrWookiee

    MrWookiee Country Gent

    Jun 17, 2020
    SoCal, USA
    Kick Out The Jams... there's a great one I haven't heard in forever. I love the version on the Some Enchanted Evening live album. Heck, I love the whole album! Thanks for reminding me to give it another listen.
    juks likes this.
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