P90 Pickups versus Humbucker Pickups
Totally there’s quite a bit of difference between P90 pickups and humbucking pickups. One of the reasons for this total difference is P90 pickups are a single coil while humbucker is a two coils system.
Advantages of P90 Pickups
The advantages to P90 pickups is they generally have more high end and low end. Most people would probably assume this isn’t the case but it absolutely is. P90 pickups cover more of the audio spectrum than humbuckers and they also stay a lot cleaner and more precise in terms of their tone.
Because of this increased clarity, you can also get away with it being very musical for guitar parts that would normally be done by something like a Stratocaster or Telecaster.
P90 pickups have more output than a single coil pick up and because of this they generally sound hotter and have a little bit more bite about them in terms of tone.
Disadvantages of P90 pickups
Due to their design, the number 1 issue most people will experience is buzz or “hum”. This is caused sometimes by dirty power or even something in your signal chain. Much like a Stratocaster pickup, P90s have all the inherent issues with buzz and hum.
Another disadvantage of P90 pickups over Humbuckers is they will feedback sooner with higher gain than a humbucker pickup will.
Advantages to Humbucker pickups
Humbuckers are widely regarded as the “go-to” for rock and metal players. There are a few advantages to Humbucker pickups over single coil pickups as well. These include:
- Not having any (or minimal) hum or buzz
- Being able to handle higher gain guitar tones without squealing
- Having more options to replace your current pickups with various brands
While Humbuckers don’t cover the entire audio spectrum like a P90 they are a mids-heavy beast that sounds great in the mix. This fat voicing usually cuts a live mix really well and while you don’t get the full high and low end of the P90, you don’t get any buzz. If you are playing a lot of heavier music and hard rock, then lean towards the humbuckers.
Disadvantages of Humbucker Pickups
Humbucker pickups don’t quite have the same low-end thump and high-end clarity of the P90 pickups. If this is important to you (even over the buzz) then the P90 is a great choice for you.
Another disadvantage is I have heard a lot of lacklustre humbucker pickups over the years. My suggestions are, if you’re looking for a set of humbuckers find a PAF style set that has a lot of top-end snap. The less hot the humbucker pickups are, the better the top end will be.
Are P90’s better than Humbuckers?
There is no right or wrong when it comes to selecting and guitar and pickup combination. If you want an old-school vibe the P90’s will definitely give you. A lot of people say the P90 pickups have more vibe and “sound better” than a humbucker but the drawback is the buzz. If you play at home or live shows and your Stratocaster buzz drives you crazy, then you might want to give P90 pickups a miss.
Humbuckers are a lot less problematic at venues. I’ve done shows where I can’t bring any single coil guitars with me otherwise I get nothing but buzz and it is very distracting. Humbuckers are a really safe choice even at the extent of not quite having the same mojo of a P90.
The Gibson in this video with the P90’s is an original 1963 Gibson ES330 and the Humbucker guitar is made by Eastman guitars.