Since these pickups are in between the two main categories in size, it can be tricky to figure out what kind of pots work the best in a P90. There is some debate in the guitar community about whether they should use 250k or 500k pots. Most players favor 500k pots for the volume, but opinions are more split when it comes to which pots to use for the tone. The pots listed below give you an array of excellent options to replace the current pots in your P90 pickups.
These are our recommendations for the 4 best pots for P90 pickups on the market:
Emerson Pro CTS Pots for P90 Pickups
The Emerson Pro potentiometer was designed with professional musicians in mind. They’re tested individually, so you’re guaranteed to get consistent performance. Every detail of the construction has been thought through to perfection.
The low drag and volume taper combine for a smooth playing experience (see full specs), no matter how you set your controls, with no sudden jumps as you adjust the volume. It also has a tighter resistance tolerance than the majority of pots you’ll find. With these pots installed, your pickups will give you a better response, staying true to the subtleties of your playing style.
StewMacCTS 250k Control Pickup Pots
StewMac has been a trusted name in guitar hardware since they were founded in 1968. Their pots are guaranteed to last longer and sound better. This model uses a split shaft designed to fit a fine-knurled knob, made of high-quality brass to lengthen its lifespan. It has a resistance tolerance of 10% and a precision taper for a more even response (see full specs).
The quality of craftsmanship extends down to the details, like the two included hex mounting nuts that give you the option of adjusting the height. There’s a reason so many guitar techs and repair shops use StewMac pots. If you’re looking for dependability, they can’t be beat and are easily among the best pots for P90 pickups.
EVH Custom High Friction 250k Potentiometer for P90 Pickups
Another great choice if you’re looking for a 250k pot is this high-friction ¼” knurled pot from EVH. Once only available as a pre-installed piece of hardware on Wolfgang USA guitars, it has recently been released as a stand-alone object, and has been highly sought after since.
Once installed, they give you a sound that has a fuller tone and longer sustain than most pots on the market. They are also very smooth and quiet, generating no extraneous noise even when you crank your amp. They’re especially impressive when installed on Fender instruments, though you may need to also purchase new knobs that fit the ¼” shaft, depending on what pickups and equipment you’re currently using.
Bourns 500K Knurled Shaft Pickup Pots
If you’re looking for the pot that will give you the best value, you should take a look at this option from Bourns. They provide a well-balanced tone that blends seamlessly from pickup to pickup and across the frequency range, at a cost of less than $10 each. They use the same high quality materials as other, more expensive brands, including a solid brass shaft.
It’s also designed to fit on a relatively wide range of guitars, including most modern USA-made Les Pauls and other popular models. Bourns takes the same care in the build across its catalogue, meaning that you’ll get a consistent and reliable pot that doesn’t sound like it was purchased on a budget. For the money, these are among the best pots for P90 pickups period.
250k vs 500k Pots for P90 Pickups
The usual rule of thumb with pots is that you should use a 500k pot with humbuckers and a 250k pot with single-coil pickups. If you’re shopping for a P90, though, which has a tone that’s in between these two main categories, it can be tricky deciding which kind of pot is right to get the sound you’re looking for. Aside from practical considerations about the size of the shaft, the resistance of the pot is going to be the main determining factor in your decision.
A 250k pot brings a bit more warmth to the tone and attenuates some higher frequencies to the ground. This is why they’re more popular for single-coil pickups; humbuckers already have a warm tone and can benefit from the brighter tone and extra treble of a 500k pot, but since single coils can be very bright to begin with, reducing the treble tends to have a positive effect on the sound. Another way to say it is that a higher-value pot will give the pickup more punch, while a lower-value pot smooths out the peaks of the tone.
The guidelines listed above are general trends, not usage rules. The only thing that determines whether a pot will work inside a given pickup is whether the shaft fits the knob. A humbucker will work just fine if you put a 250k pot into it, making it a question of sound quality rather than one of functionality. Since P90s are in between the two tones, which position you’re putting the pickup into might be the most important aspect of the decision. Most people will use 500k pots for the neck and 250k for the bridge. This gives the tone a nice balance, imbuing it with warmth without sacrificing the high treble tones.
You can also mix pots within a pickup if you want something different than what you get out of either a 500k or a 250k. This is more common in the bridge position than the neck; the P90 is typically already a brighter sound when placed in the neck position, and putting 250k volume pots in on top of this can lead to a tone that sounds harsh.
The good news is that pots are significantly cheaper than the pickups themselves. If you’re not sure which type or combination would be the best pots for P90 pickups (i.e., the best complement to your sound), you can just buy a few different options and try some different combinations (just make sure they have a no-questions-asked return policy like Amazon’s). All of the pots on the list above will give you a high quality of tone, and can be excellent options for this kind of experimentation. Good luck!