Mini Humbucker vs P90 –Which Is Better? (ANSWERED)

mini humbucker vs p90

Photo by Bill Froberg / CC BY

Before we begin discussing whether a P90 or a mini humbucker is a better option for you, we should be clear on one point: both of these pickups are great. It’s just that certain playing styles would be complemented by some or hindered by the other, which means that you should pick the magnet that will be good for you and your playing style.

What is a P90 pickup?

Basically, a P90 is a single-coil guitar pickup made by one of the most famous guitar brands – Gibson. It emerged on the scene in 1946 and it’s, by far, the most widely used pickup. Virtually every P90 pickup offers a bright, transparent tone, especially when compared to humbuckers, although this tone is not nearly as crispy as regular Fender single coils.

What is a Mini humbucker?

A mini humbucker (or minibucker) is, in essence, a humbucking pickup which was originally developed by Epiphone. They resemble Gibson’s PAF magnets, but they’re narrower, which in turn shortens the length of string’s vibration. That, however, means that the tone emissions from mini humbuckers are extremely clear and bright.

Mini Humbucker vs P90 Round 1: the Best P90 Pickups

Seymour Duncan SPH90 Phat Cat P90 Electric Guitar Pickup

The first P90 pickup is Seymour Duncan’s SPH90 Phat Cat. This remarkable pickup features a size of a regular humbucker, which makes it extremely convenient for most guitars. The reason why this is so great is because most P90 pickups are incredibly small, so you’d otherwise have to mod your guitar in order to fit this type of magnet. The Phat Cat takes care of this issue with its small design.

Now, Seymour Duncan’s hat Cat comes outfitted with Alnico 2 magnet – it sounds very vintage and classy. The sound of these pickups is characterized with smooth, well-rounded sound emissions which can thoroughly be felt in the midrange.

What’s more, the clarity of sound emissions Phat Cat provides is ideal for virtually all types of genres and musical playing styles, which means that this pickup is very versatile and great for practically everyone. Even though they cost quite a bit, the Phat Cat is well worth the buck.


  • Incredible soundstage
  • Alnico 2 magnet
  • Very versatile
  • Great for the buck


  • No major flaws whatsoever
Seymour Duncan Phat Cat P-90's

Seymour Duncan Antiquity P90 Dog Ear Pickup

The main difference between the Antiquity P90 and other P90 pickups is in the sound the former emits. Namely, this pickup comes outfitted with a vintage Alnico 2 magnet which was intentionally tweaked to provide the most vintage-like sound you could get for the buck.

This single-coil pickup (see full specs) is made of premium-quality bobbin, bound with a flatback tape, and enveloped with enamel-mag wire. These materials, once combined, have resulted in exceptionally clear bass output, well-balanced middles, and neat-sounding highs. Even though this might not be an ideal pickup for players looking for versatility, it goes a long way for those with a taste for old-school sounds.

To top it all, the Antiquity P90 single pickup could give you the sound of some of the oldest Les Paul models. If you’ve always wanted to sport a LP, this might be a good alternative.


  • Great value for the buck
  • Vintage-like sound
  • Premium-quality materials


  • A bit pricey
  • Not overly versatile
Thunders Model w/ Seymour Duncan staple P90 Dog Ear Pickup

Mini Humbucker vs P90 Round 2: the Best Mini Humbuckers

Seymour Duncan SM-3B Seymourized Mini Humbucker Pickup

Seymour Duncan’s Seymourized SM-3B minibucker is absolutely great – it comes outfitted with Alnico V magnets that provide classy, vintage like tone with a high-output performance. The tone of this pickup has a well-pronounced midrange and superb grit, providing a more punchy sound emission when compared to a regular vintage-style pickup.

Your chords will sound bigger and you’ll notice a dramatic reduction of generated frizz, as there’s a natural tone openness which points out the uniqueness of SM-3B.

This minibucker (see full specs) performs great on both high gain amps or and pristine clear ones. The muddiness of your drive will be swept away if you want it so, and your cleans will be bright and rich as ever.

On the downside, Seymour Duncan’s SM-3B Seymourized Minibucker costs a bit. I belongs to the medium bracket of the “expensive” price point category, but its value for the cash is exceptionally high.


  • Very versatile and well-rounded
  • Perfect for nearly all playing styles and music genres
  • Superb value for the money
  • Works great on both high-gain and pristine clear amps


  • Could get expensive
Seymour Duncan Factory Tour Part 1 of 3

DiMarzio DP240 Vintage Mini Humbucker Pickup

The second-best minibucker, as well as the last pickup in our review is DiMarzio’s DP240 vintage minibucker. Basically, it features a very well-balanced soundstage, with mids and basses being decent and treble being just a bit more pronounced.

In essence, DiMarzio’s DP240 is a bright pickup – it produces a mellow, rich tone which works best on solid & semi-hollow guitars. Though not as powerful as the other pickups we’ve reviewed so far, don’t think that DP240 is “weak”. This exceptional pickup will give you the most vintage-like sound, so if you’re an old school guitarist looking for an upgrade, this is the way to go.

The best thing about this minibucker is that it performs exceptionally well for its price – it doesn’t cost too much, but its value heavily exceeds that of different models within the same price range. On the downside, it’s not too versatile, but you’ll be able to use it on both high-gain and clean settings.


  • Great for vintage sound lovers and enthusiasts
  • Works equally great on high-gain and clean settings
  • Superb value for the buck
  • Best-sounding cleans


  • Your distortion might get a bit muddy, depending on your gear
Telecaster w/ Stuart LapWrap bridge and Dimarzio MiniBucker DP240 neck

Mini Humbucker vs P90 Conclusion

So, which one is better – P90 vs a mini humbucker?

Generally speaking, most people use mini humbuckers for their guitar’s neck magnet – their universal low-freq performance greatly complements this guitar section. They also provide a Telecaster-sounding tone when compared to P90’s and are great when wired with a fuzz or overdrive pedal. Minibuckers also allow for an increased range of playing styles and music genres.

P90’s warmness, on the other hand, is ideal for clean guitar playing, and you’d get the most natural-sounding tone if you don’t overstack it with effects.

Bottom line: there’s a reason why we’ve presented you with some of the finest pickups you could find on the market, so kick back, enjoy our selection, and take your pick based on your own needs. Good luck!

Written and Reviewed By

  • 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.

  • Marko is the senior editor and writer on Ultimate Guitar, the No. 1 guitar spot on the web, since early 2013. His work was also featured on a variety of other notable gear spots such as Guitar Fella, Consordini, and, of course, Song Simian. His musical journey began at a very young age, and he finally opted to pick up an instrument in his early teenage years. A fan of King Crimson. A travel enthusiast.

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