The 4 Best P90 Pickups – Reviews 2024

best p90 pickups, best p-90 pickups

Photo by Keith Ellwood / CC BY

The P-90 style pickup is in some ways a compromise between humbuckers and single-coil models. A P-90 pickup will give you clearer attacks and a brighter tone than a humbucker, but has a beefier mid- and low-range than traditional single coil models. P-90s have the right amount of twang and power to sound great in rock and country styles. Though some still produce the 60-cycle hum of single-coil pickups, you can find several options that cancel it out like a humbucker while still giving you that distinctive P-90 tone.

Guitars routed in the Fender or Gibson style won’t work with most “dog ear” or “soap bar” style P-90 pickups. You can still explore that sound, though, by using a humbucker-sized P-90. Whatever shape or style you’re looking for, you’ll find something to suit your needs on this list. 

Below are our recommendations for the 4 best P90 pickups on the market:

Lindy Fralin P90 Pickup

One of the foremost names in aftermarket pickups, Lindy Fralin’s P-90 is available in both a soap bar and a dog ear style. It’s available with steel poles (which will sound the most like the original 1950s P-90s) or Alnico, which will give you a cleaner overall sound. These pickups (see full specs) give you a balanced sound with a vintage vibe, with a bit more color and a brighter edge across dynamic levels than your standard Gibson pickup. Unlike some P-90 style pickups, the Lindy Fralins are noiseless like a humbucker, truly giving you the best compromise between single and double coil designs.  These are among the best P90 pickups you can buy.

Lindy Fralin Noiseless P-90 Demo.wmv

DiMarzio Bluesbucker Pickup

If you’re looking for a humbucker-sized P-90 for a very reasonable price, check out the DiMarzio Bluesbucker. It functions like a humbucker in both the size and the hum cancellation. It uses a combination of Virtual Vintage and Airbucker technology to give you the sensitivity to playing dynamics you’d find from a standard single-coil pickup. The unique design features a “hot” coil with six adjustable poles and a second coil that’s primarily to cancel the hum, meaning changing the placement gives you distinctly different sounds—put the hot coil closer to the bridge to brighten the sound, or closer to the neck to warm it. This versatile pickup sounds great in any context and will fit any guitarist’s budget.

Seymour Duncan Phat Cat P90 Pickup

The Phat Cat is a humbucker-sized pickup that can fit into guitars that can’t use other P-90 styles. Like the name suggests, it’s got a big, fat tone with an especially strong attack, making it a great pickup (see full specs) for fingerpickers, whether they play in a funk or country style. Their overdrive performance is also top notch and won’t lose the tonal clarity even when you push the gain. Paired with the precision of the sound overall, this also makes it a great choice for metal guitarists.

Seymour Duncan Phat Cats 2004 Gibson Les Paul Standard P90's Review

Kent Armstrong Stealth P90 Pickup

The Stealth 90 is a unique new style of P-90 pickups that uses a double-coil design to eliminate hum but at a lower output–and are a lot cheaper than a lot of other P-90s on the market. Sonically, it tends to warm up the tone with a chiming high end that’s very sensitive to a wide range of picking dynamics and has a lot of style versatility, from raunchy blues to heavy rock distortion. The ceramic magnet gives the pickup the crunchy sound so desired by players of hard rock or metal.  Without a doubt, it’s among the best P90 pickups for the money.

P-90 Pickup Styles

The original Gibson P-90 was what is known as a soap bar style because of its rectangular shape. The screws on these designs are in the center of the pickup, where they’re sometimes mistaken for pole pieces and can lead to a crowded appearance on the front of the pickup. The dog ear style was developed later and fixed this issue by having a triangular screw plate extending from the end of the traditional soap bar design, letting the screw be affixed away from the poles. Dog ear P-90s were common on Gibson hollow body guitars in the 1960s and have a very similar overall size and shape to the original soap bar design.

Both of Gibson’s P-90 designs are unique in their shape. They’re longer than other pickup styles, wider than most single-coil pickups but narrower than humbuckers. This means that if you want to install a standard P-90 pickup on a guitar built for humbuckers—a Les Paul, for example, or most Fenders—you have to modify the way the instrument is routed, which can lead to aesthetic issues or even structural problems down the line. Because of this, some manufacturers started to develop a humbucker casing for their P-90 pickups, giving these guitars a new sonic option.

Choosing the right size and shape for the best P-90 pickups is important inasmuch as you want to make sure it’ll fit on your instrument, but in terms of sound quality, the shape itself will have very little impact. The internal workings of pickups from different brands give them unique sounds, but this has more to do with the way the poles are wound and the materials used than the shape of the cover.

P90 Pickup Magnet Materials

There are two main types of magnet you’ll find in most P-90 pickups. The most common is an Alnico magnet. Made from a combination of aluminum, nickel, and cobalt, Alnico magnets are very stable and give off high energy. Alnico is also very expensive, though, especially as  gets into higher grades and outputs. The other frequently seen magnet material is ceramic; these typically use a kind of iron ferrite to generate the magnetic field. If an Alnico and a ceramic magnet of the same grade were compared, the Alnico would be stronger—but since ceramic is so much cheaper, it’s possible to get a higher grade magnet for the same price, ultimately leading to ceramic magnets in pickups generally having stronger magnetic fields.

What this means from a sound perspective is that most pickups with ceramic magnets are brighter in tone than those with Alnico magnets. Alnico magnets are also generally used in the “higher end” pickups, and have earned a better reputation because they’re often made with more care, but this doesn’t mean an Alnico magnet is inherently better than ceramic. If you want a bolder, more strident sound from your guitar tone, a well-made ceramic magnet product might just be the best P90 pickup for your needs.  Good luck!

  • Micah Johnson started playing music in high school, when he taught himself the bass to join his friend’s band. He added guitar and drums during his twenties playing in local clubs, and along the way, he picked up unique, hands-on experience from hand drums to studio mixers. On Song Simian, he aims to share this knowledge from 20+ years playing and recording music. When not in gearhead mode, he enjoys photography and travel.

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One response

  1. I bought a 1956 Gibson ES125TD neck and body. I am getting Seymour Duncan custom shop P90 dog eared pickups. They are supposed to be replicas of Gibson’s Black beauties, the original P90 pickups that came with this guitar. Be prepared to pay, they are expensive. They are less than some prices I have seen for the original used 1956 P90’s that were installed on this guitar.

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