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Dallas

P90 or Humbuckers?

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Hello, looking to purchase my first Gibson Firebird. What are your opinions on the 2018 Gibson Firebird studio w/P-90 pickups, or the 2017 Gibson Firebird Studio T w/496 Humbuckers?

Trying to make an educated choice but both seem to have their pros and cons....

Thanks

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Despite Murph's well-researched and knowledgeable opinion [laugh]......

P90s are fine pickups, which may be why they are still produced by Gibson and various custom pickup manufacturers.

Received wisdom; a single coil pickup reproduces more of the harmonic content than a humbucker, which cancels some out while doing it's hum-reducing job.

So P90s have a bite and audible clean-tone sparkle that humbuckers don't quite reproduce.  However, they hum (or buzz) when used for overdriven/distorted tones, and they generally have much lower output than humbuckers.

If you don't already have a guitar with P90s then consider the 2018.   But you really must play both.

Before Gibson adopted the Seth Lover-designed humbucker around 1955, P90s were standard for Gibson electrics. This was also before transistors, so guitar amps were much smaller  and lower wattage, powered by valves/tubes and designed for clean tones.  P90s worked fine in that situation. 

A few famous P90s users included Les Paul, Kenny Burrell, Scotty Moore and - much later - Angus Young.  If you play loud and distorted enough you probably won't mind the hum, especially if you have some sort of noise gate in your chain.

Forum members please correct me if I am wrong;  you may know all of this already Dallas, so apologies if I seem patronising.

Good luck with it anyway.

Edited by jdgm
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To me, the humbuckers are more a stock option...  and if it was my first firebird (thinking there could be others after) I'd get the stock option first - do a thorough evaluation about what I like or not and then next time around see how I'd like to change it.

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p90s are not for everyone..

but for those of us they like em  they are great options. 

as long as you're willing to accept the noise, they are very cool pickups.

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14 minutes ago, kidblast said:

p90s are not for everyone..

but for those of us they like em  they are great options. 

as long as you're willing to accept the noise, they are very cool pickups.

 

Agree, try each guitar out. The 496 buckers are ceramic and hotter than the PAF type pickups as well and as a result those pickups, like P90s, aren't for everyone.

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3 hours ago, Murph said:

P-90's are for girls...

Tell that to John, Paul & George, Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochran, Keith Richards & a whole bunch of other Cats who did all right with them....

That said, a proper Firebird with Mini Humbuckers are, well, Firebirds... Anything else is a Franken-Guitar....

Edited by Larsongs
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P90s - IMHO the best pickup ever made (so far)

Most people who play P90s exclusively for a year, can't go back to any other kind of pickup because they just sound dull.

Notes

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38 minutes ago, Larsongs said:

That said, a proper Firebird with Mini Humbuckers are, well, Firebirds... Anything else is a Franken-Guitar....

Well stated

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I got rid of my only P-90 guitar, but not because of the pickups. I have two other guitars that don't have P-90s, but hold pickups oriented more to a P-90 kind of sound- Fralin P-92s in an Epi Dot and Fralin Steel Pole 42s in a Tele. I like the clarity, bite, punch, and beefy sound they put out.

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Everyone has their preferences, but I never cared for the P-90 sound.  My first two electric guitars had them, and the second one I went so far as to have the top routed out and Humbuckers installed.  The traditional Firebird tone comes from the mini-humbuckers, the P-90 is a variant on that.  I would say play them both if  you can and decide which you like better. 

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P-90's are too noisy. they're like noisy Strat pickups x10. shop around for a used Firebird with the mini humbucker / Firebird pickups. they have a unique tone . I love mine. 

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It's personal preference. Personall I never liked them bumhuckers. IMO P90's are what humbuckers should have been. 

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P90's have a very wide usable tone range, the tone control actually does something.. Typically they are very hot having twice as many windings as other pickups, for noise reduction you can back off the volume a bit and still get a great sound. They get a great jazzy sound or bluesy, but turn em up and they scream like banshees, with half the amount of overdrive that humbuckings take. In addition there have been a lot of advancements made with them since they were introduced on the Les Paul in the early 50's.

I started on the humbucking side and used to replace the P90's in Juniors, Specials and single coils in MelodyMakers. Then I heard this kid from South Carolina playing a Les Paul TV and I started to wonder... For quite a while now I have been a born again convert to the P90 church... 🙂

Edited by mihcmac
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Thank you all for your opinions. The mini humbuckers were also another choice. I was looking at the 2017, 2018, and 2019 firebird studio guitars,  with the 496’s, P-90’s, and the mini humbuckers respectfully. The local guitar shops (Guitar Center and other local music stores) do not carry the Gibson Firebirds, so I will be trying the different pickups in different Gibson guitars.

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1 hour ago, Dallas said:

Thank you all for your opinions. The mini humbuckers were also another choice. I was looking at the 2017, 2018, and 2019 firebird studio guitars,  with the 496’s, P-90’s, and the mini humbuckers respectfully. The local guitar shops (Guitar Center and other local music stores) do not carry the Gibson Firebirds, so I will be trying the different pickups in different Gibson guitars.

 

 

Good luck! its hard to decide when you cant try the guitar for yourself...i love all pick ups P90's, humbuckers, mini humbuckers. I have a firebird with mini humbuckers and its the coolest thing ever hehe, but i wouldnt mind having a bird with P90s hehe

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3 hours ago, Dallas said:

Thank you all for your opinions. The mini humbuckers were also another choice. I was looking at the 2017, 2018, and 2019 firebird studio guitars,  with the 496’s, P-90’s, and the mini humbuckers respectfully. The local guitar shops (Guitar Center and other local music stores) do not carry the Gibson Firebirds, so I will be trying the different pickups in different Gibson guitars.

Johnny Winters signature guitar was a thru body neck Firebird with Mini's... Some think the Mini's sound kind of brittle, but Johnny got a lot out of them..

Edited by mihcmac
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Another option:

Get humbuckers, and replace them with Duncan "P-Rails" with "Triple Shot Rings".

The TSRings have two tiny slide switches on them, and you can make them sound like P90s, Rails, Series Humbuckers, or Parallel Humbuckers.

The P90 sound is very good, a little brighter than soap bars but close enough.

The Rails are the weakest in output, but if you use both together they sound very strat-ish

The humbuckers can sound pretty close to a PAF or Mini depending on whether you use series or parallel.

They fit in a standard humbucker cavity, and when I had my custom Parker made, I had the factory install them. My Parker is now a "Swiss Army Knife" of guitars.

 

 

NN03_TShot_B4.jpg

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On 10/11/2019 at 2:49 PM, Larsongs said:

Tell that to John, Paul & George, Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochran, Keith Richards & a whole bunch of other Cats who did all right with them....

That said, a proper Firebird with Mini Humbuckers are, well, Firebirds... Anything else is a Franken-Guitar....

 

There's an outside chance Paul & Keef might listen. 

 

Love those mini HBs. 

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Everyone should at least one Franken-Guitar. Mine with P94 style..

BZ0dfUy.jpg

Humbucking sized GFS Dream 90's..

Edited by mihcmac

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I saw a picture yesterday of a guitar i forgot I had.  An ink Black, late 90's LP Special, flat slab with some minor contouring on the back.  Pair of P-Hunnerts that everybody hates.  I liked them a lot and I should have kept that guitar.

rct

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1 hour ago, rct said:

I saw a picture yesterday of a guitar i forgot I had.  An ink Black, late 90's LP Special, flat slab with some minor contouring on the back.  Pair of P-Hunnerts that everybody hates.  I liked them a lot and I should have kept that guitar.

rct

Not everybody hates them, I think you just been running with the wrong crowd... 🙂

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Love P-90's........noise has never been an issue.....and if it is then what are you doing standing around........play it, no more noise!

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