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Old 10-04-2018, 02:37 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is online now
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Default P90s v HBs

Am I just a P90/single coil guy? Or is it that I haven't tried a quality humbucker?

I'm in my experimental phase - buying different cheap guitars with varying pickups/configurations (eg full/reduced scale lengths, solid/semi/hollow bodies, single coils, P90s, and humbuckers) to get a feel for what I do and don't like, so that I can focus my efforts for greatest aural reward. Experience-wise, I'm a newbie player working through the basics.

I have 2 Epi 339s (semihollow) - 1 w/alnico V HBs (alnico classic pro) and one with Epi's "vintage P90s". I have an Agile LP copy (Korean) w/cheap no name alnico V HBs. I have a G&L Asat Special (solid body) w/large (Magnetic Field Design) single coil pickups. I have a G&L Ascari GT90 (solid body) with P90s neck/bridge. I have a '93 Gibson LP w/the 490/498 HB combo (I replaced the alnico V magnet in the bridge pickup with an alnico II magnet (as in the neck) to calm the bridge a bit - they didn't seem well matched). I have a Gibson 390 (hollow) w/Gibson alnico II minihumbuckers. I have a Korean single coil strat copy. This is my limited universe of available sounds, and experience.

Re: Preferred music/sound -- I, thus far as a relative newb, like defined articulate sound that is clear, but which can also sound good (strong/rocky) with added gain and effects. I prefer to play a pop or classical song clean, or with minor effects (eg some reverb) to playing loud, lots of distortion/effects - I don't like muddy metal-type sounds. But, I also like playing blues/rock rhythm riffs via power chords with added gain (eg some classic rock). Quiet homebody bedroom playing, only, so low volume or headphones.

When I play the HBs in isolation, they sound "ok" (Gibson LP sounds a "little" better), but I find myself adding some volume (guitar and amp), raising treble, reducing the bass (again, on guitar and amp) to try to get closer to the articulation I prefer. On the Epi, I find myself splitting the coil to get a more defined single coil sound (not great, though). I could live with the HB sound, but it doesn't move me. Sounds quiet, somewhat muffled, unclear, less defined/articulate.

The strat-type single coils (in a 25.5" scale guitar) are more articulate, but sound smaller/thinner, and don't dirty up as easily or as well - it's like they're trying too hard, and not making it. I seem to like a little more meat on the bone. Not the sound for me, at this stage of development, though almost every time I see a really seasoned instructor-type guy, he's rocking some form of strat, sometimes w/HSS, so I'm sure I'm missing something there.

The minihumbuckers are much more articulate than the HBs, and almost as articulate as the single coils. They also sound meatier alone, and better with some gain, great with reverb, etc. I like them. The ones I have are alnico II and I'm A/Bing them against alnico V HBs and full scale single coils, if that makes a difference, but I prefer the minihumbuckers to both the strat-type single coils and the HBs.

The Asat Special (also a 25.5" scale, so it'll have more snap, regardless of the pickup) MFD single coils appear to be a hotter (than the strat type) pickup - more clear, louder/forceful and defined than the minihumbucker. They sound good with added gain, or clean. I like the sound from these.

Enter the P90 - I've got two similar-quality (lowish) P90 guitars with 24.75" scale. Very clear, forceful articulate sound even with the shorter scale, maybe a little meatier than the Asat's MFDs, they feel powerful -have to turn down the volume on the amp after the HBs. I like the P90 sound in both guitars.

So, I'm most comfortable with the single coil sound - MFD and P90 about the same, followed closely by the minihumbucker, less comfortable with the HBs, at least the ones in my stable. At the volume levels I play, I don't notice any hum, but I'm also aware that some P90 makers today are underwinding their P90s to reduce returns made by underinformed buyers who think the full wind P90's hum is a defect, so maybe mine aren't the "true" P90s of yesteryear.

Am I a single coil guy who shouldn't waste more time with HBs? Or have I just not heard quality HB pickups that are capable of more distinct articulation? I've read that HBs were born to reduce 60 cycle hum, but the reduction came at a 2 octave range reduction - is that what I'm experiencing? Reduced sonic range? Lots of great/expensive guitars come with HBs and many folks upgrade non-HB guitars with expensive HBs, while P90s and big single coils seem to be looked down upon by these makers, so I suspect there's something I'm missing about the HB experience - I recognize it may be that my HBs are low quality, and that spending more $$ could give me the sound I'm after (but see next paragraph). It may also be the case that the makers use HBs because of the types of music that are more likely to be played on those guitars.

I've read from commenters on forums that it's no longer necessary to automatically replace current Epiphone humbuckers - "they're better than they were." I've seen A/B demos of Epiphone HBs v. Gibson's '57 classics in the same guitar/amp/settings, and I (and most commenters) couldn't tell the difference - same for changing the pots/caps.

Any input on this issue will be appreciated. I'm enjoying the journey.
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Old 10-04-2018, 02:52 PM
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Well, to start off with, the PAF type humbucker really only reduces the overtones by one octave.

But there are a couple of possibilities here: pickups and placement. Firstly, the most articulate humbucker pickups I've worked with are the '57 Classics. I've got 'em in two guitars, n ES-335 and an SG. The 490/498s I I've worked with have just been too dirty and low-mid crowded for me. The next level for me are T-tops and Burstbuckers. The T-top is right up there with the '57 Classics. My ES-335 and SG are right up under my Tele for brightness. I had a Les Paul with P-90s and loved the growl but the background noise was just too much for me.

But none of the humbuckers will sound good if you are running the pickups too close to the strings, where they will cancel some of the high end and dampen sustain. You may also need to tilt the bass side down to balance the pickups. Have you seen the Gibson Joe Walsh electric guitar setup video? You should:

HERE

Lots of good info there.

Bob
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Last edited by Bob Womack; 10-04-2018 at 02:58 PM.
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Old 10-04-2018, 03:20 PM
YamahaGuy YamahaGuy is offline
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I prefer P90s to humbuckers. That said, of the humbuckers I've tried, the ones (Dimarzios DHB4s) on my Yamaha Weddington are terrific.
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Old 10-04-2018, 03:30 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Womack View Post
Well, to start off with, the PAF type humbucker really only reduces the overtones by one octave.

But there are a couple of possibilities here: pickups and placement. Firstly, the most articulate humbucker pickups I've worked with are the '57 Classics. I've got 'em in two guitars, n ES-335 and an SG. The 490/498s I I've worked with have just been too dirty and low-mid crowded for me. The next level for me are T-tops and Burstbuckers. The T-top is right up there with the '57 Classics. My ES-335 and SG are right up under my Tele for brightness. I had a Les Paul with P-90s and loved the growl but the background noise was just too much for me.

But none of the humbuckers will sound good if you are running the pickups too close to the strings, where they will cancel some of the high end and dampen sustain. You may also need to tilt the bass side down to balance the pickups. Have you seen the Gibson Joe Walsh electric guitar setup video? You should:



Lots of good info there.

Bob
Thanks Bob - great info, as always.

I've seen that Joe Walsh vid and I should have mentioned that the pickups are about as low as the 1/4" he recommends. They were definitely louder when they were closer (which likely explains my need to turn up the volume on the HB), but I lowered them to try to get them clearer, for the reasons articulated by you and Joe. With this reminder of that lowering, I may bring them up a bit, and check the balance. I may be more of an HB guy than I know.

Re: Your 490/498 info - by "dirty and low-mid crowded," are you saying what I've tried to say about "less articulate"? Or do you mean something else? The 490/498 to me seemed a little "smoother" to my unpracticed ear, esp once I changed the bridge magnet.

Re: '57 Classic - I also should have mentioned that, although Epiphone used an alnico V magnet rather than the alnico II used in the '57 classic, their Alnico Classic Pro (in my Epi 339) is supposed to be Epi's copy of that Gibson pickup, soundwise. Here's the vid where I saw them compared:



I can't find my support for the 2 octave drop, so I'm going with yours.

Thanks again.
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Old 10-04-2018, 04:37 PM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
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Even though the following isn't going to follow this precept, I've come to think that there may not be any bad sounds, only ones you personally don't like right now in the context you're using them.

That said, I too have had my problems loving a great many regular humbuckers over the years.

If it's like mine, the set of P90s in the Epi 339 sound very good to me, so you're comparing against a pretty good sound. I find them very flexible, different things come up if they're picked gently with the volume down into a clean chain vs when you dig in and up the volume/gain.

And you've already tried minihumbuckers, which I love too.

I'll agree with Bob on the 57 Classics. I have a set in a Les Paul and I like it more than most any Gibson solid-body humbucker guitar I've ever played. Not muddy at all.

Another humbucker option to try would be Gretsch Filtertron. Brighter and more articulate than the average humbucker.

The longer Fender scale helps with the humbucker pickups a bit too from my experience.
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Old 10-04-2018, 05:20 PM
ChrisN ChrisN is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankHudson View Post
Even though the following isn't going to follow this precept, I've come to think that there may not be any bad sounds, only ones you personally don't like right now in the context you're using them.

That said, I too have had my problems loving a great many regular humbuckers over the years.

If it's like mine, the set of P90s in the Epi 339 sound very good to me, so you're comparing against a pretty good sound. I find them very flexible, different things come up if they're picked gently with the volume down into a clean chain vs when you dig in and up the volume/gain.

And you've already tried minihumbuckers, which I love too.

I'll agree with Bob on the 57 Classics. I have a set in a Les Paul and I like it more than most any Gibson solid-body humbucker guitar I've ever played. Not muddy at all.

Another humbucker option to try would be Gretsch Filtertron. Brighter and more articulate than the average humbucker.

The longer Fender scale helps with the humbucker pickups a bit too from my experience.
All of that makes sense - right sound for the right need/time, especially. I'm glad to see I'm not alone on this issue. As you might expect, I'm looking for reasons/ways to reduce the number of guitars (and these are just the electrics, I'll spare you the similar acoustic ensemble), while keeping what I'm likely to stick with (but I don't want to sell and regret it, so you see my problem . . . .).

I found your Epi P90 description spot-on. They sound good no matter what I do around them. Flexible, they are.

I haven't tried a long-scale HB set up yet. I know it's very popular, but assumed it was Fender's "Gibson wannabe" setup to garner that market segment. That assumption was based on minimal information, limited to the observation that almost all Gibson short scales were HBs (or P90s), while almost all long scale Fenders wore the single coils, save for the oddball HBs thrown in here/there. In other words, I assumed from this that HBs sounded best with the shorter scale.

I appreciate the Filtertron recommendation and will explore those. I've heard nothing but good about the '57 Classics and will keep an open mind, but I truly couldn't tell the difference in that video.
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Old 10-04-2018, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by YamahaGuy View Post
I prefer P90s to humbuckers. That said, of the humbuckers I've tried, the ones (Dimarzios DHB4s) on my Yamaha Weddington are terrific.
I'm glad there's a club for those who lean toward P90s. I'll keep an eye out for the DHB4s (used, as they're apparently not in production). Any idea what their equivalent is in D's current lineup?
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Old 10-04-2018, 05:23 PM
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I donít have an electric with P90ís (maybe itís time to get one ), but Iím very satisfied with the 495R and 459T Mini Humbucker Firebird pickups in my 2015 Firebird V, and the Semour Duncan 59ís in my Eastman T185-MX.
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Old 10-04-2018, 05:39 PM
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Originally Posted by ChrisN View Post
Thanks Bob - great info, as always.
I've seen that Joe Walsh vid and I should have mentioned that the pickups are about as low as the 1/4" he recommends. They were definitely louder when they were closer (which likely explains my need to turn up the volume on the HB), but I lowered them to try to get them clearer, for the reasons articulated by you and Joe. With this reminder of that lowering, I may bring them up a bit, and check the balance. I may be more of an HB guy than I know.

Re: Your 490/498 info - by "dirty and low-mid crowded," are you saying what I've tried to say about "less articulate"? Or do you mean something else? The 490/498 to me seemed a little "smoother" to my unpracticed ear, esp once I changed the bridge magnet.
I guess "less articulate" might be a good way to say it. The ones I had were so hot they seemed to drive the first stage of every amp into distortion and they just sounded "muzzy."
Quote:
Re: '57 Classic - I also should have mentioned that, although Epiphone used an alnico V magnet rather than the alnico II used in the '57 classic, their Alnico Classic Pro (in my Epi 339) is supposed to be Epi's copy of that Gibson pickup, soundwise. Here's the vid where I saw them compared:

I can't find my support for the 2 octave drop, so I'm going with yours.
Thanks again.
I actually like the sound of P-90s when you gain them up like Joe Walsh does. They are really brash. I always described Joe as taking something ugly and somehow making it pretty. But when I had that guitar plugged in and my wife walked by she'd say, "What is that awful racket in the background." And she was right. I do a lot of recording and could never get it down to a point where I could use it in the studio. I ended up with an SG Standard Limited Edition '61 Reissue with a '57 Classic in the neck and a '57 Classic Plus at the bridge. That gives me nearly as much brashness without the racket. (!) It doesn't have the girth of the LP with P-90s but may I have gone there with a recent LP with Burstbucker Pros (alnico 5). So I've got a pretty broad palette on the humbucker side. BTW, my lovely wife gave me a G&L S-500 with the MFD pickups that gets a LOT of use in the studio. What a great guitar! Here's "red guitar day" in the studio about ten years ago:



Bob
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Old 10-04-2018, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Bob Womack View Post
Well, to start off with, the PAF type humbucker really only reduces the overtones by one octave.

But there are a couple of possibilities here: pickups and placement. Firstly, the most articulate humbucker pickups I've worked with are the '57 Classics. I've got 'em in two guitars, n ES-335 and an SG. The 490/498s I I've worked with have just been too dirty and low-mid crowded for me. The next level for me are T-tops and Burstbuckers. The T-top is right up there with the '57 Classics. My ES-335 and SG are right up under my Tele for brightness. I had a Les Paul with P-90s and loved the growl but the background noise was just too much for me.

But none of the humbuckers will sound good if you are running the pickups too close to the strings, where they will cancel some of the high end and dampen sustain. You may also need to tilt the bass side down to balance the pickups. Have you seen the Gibson Joe Walsh electric guitar setup video? You should:

HERE

Lots of good info there.

Bob
Being kind of new to electrics and the Gibson/Epiphone brand now this post helped me quite a bit. One of my older ( new to me) Epi Les Pauls did not quite sound as good as the other one. Using the adjustment screws I dropped the height of both pickups, ( the neck more than the bridge), and POW..instant excellence. High end not as shrill..smoothed out the dual response. Good advice when I wasn't looking for it.Thanks.
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Old 10-04-2018, 06:05 PM
YamahaGuy YamahaGuy is offline
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I'm glad there's a club for those who lean toward P90s. I'll keep an eye out for the DHB4s (used, as they're apparently not in production). Any idea what their equivalent is in D's current lineup?
Looks like the DP162 is the latest version.
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Old 10-04-2018, 06:42 PM
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P90 pickups are my favorite.
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Old 10-04-2018, 06:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Bob Womack View Post
I guess "less articulate" might be a good way to say it. The ones I had were so hot they seemed to drive the first stage of every amp into distortion and they just sounded "muzzy."I actually like the sound of P-90s when you gain them up like Joe Walsh does. They are really brash. I always described Joe as taking something ugly and somehow making it pretty. But when I had that guitar plugged in and my wife walked by she'd say, "What is that awful racket in the background." And she was right. I do a lot of recording and could never get it down to a point where I could use it in the studio. I ended up with an SG Standard Limited Edition '61 Reissue with a '57 Classic in the neck and a '57 Classic Plus at the bridge. That gives me nearly as much brashness without the racket. (!) It doesn't have the girth of the LP with P-90s but may I have gone there with a recent LP with Burstbucker Pros (alnico 5). So I've got a pretty broad palette on the humbucker side. BTW, my lovely wife gave me a G&L S-500 with the MFD pickups that gets a LOT of use in the studio. What a great guitar! Here's "red guitar day" in the studio about ten years ago:



Bob
Thanks Bob. "Muzzy" sounds like muddy and fuzzy. I'll pay closer attention to the ramp at the amp to hear how that changes things.

I love the S-500 (but I've already got too many guitars . . . ), and you know I'm already rocking that Original Pod I see on the table. I love it.
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Old 10-04-2018, 08:20 PM
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Looks like the DP162 is the latest version.
I think you're right. Doesn't appear to fit a standard humbucker route, though -didn't see it on their site, but found one here:
https://www.musiciansfriend.com/acce...soapbar-pickup
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Old 10-05-2018, 07:22 AM
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Thanks Bob. "Muzzy" sounds like muddy and fuzzy. I'll pay closer attention to the ramp at the amp to hear how that changes things.
Igot that from U.K. writer James Herriot, a Yorkshire veterinarian from the 1930s to the '70s. He described with pride his first HiFi rig that was clear and sharp, "without a hint of muzziness." I heard that and immediately knew what he meant.
Quote:
I love the S-500 (but I've already got too many guitars . . . ), and you know I'm already rocking that Original Pod I see on the table. I love it.
Hehehehe. Yeah, I mentioned the S-500 to show solidarity with your MFD-equipped ASAT. The POD was my entre' into the modeling world.

Bob
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