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P90 Les Pauls and random thoughts


SteveFord
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Over the years I've had an old SG-style Les Paul from the early 60s, a much later SG Classic, a Les Paul Special and a Les Paul faded double cutaway with P90s and none of them really did it for me.  Some sounded better than others but I always preferred humbuckers as they had more body to the sound.

However, many years ago John Fogerty was on the cover of Guitar Player and he said that the best sounding guitar he ever heard was a Les Paul Gold Top with P90s, that was his ideal tone.  I always kept that in the back of my mind and then Bence, I believe it is, would post pictures of his beautiful Les Paul with P90s.  Maybe the missing ingredient was the carved top?

Gibson recently came out with a Classic with P90s which made me think impure thoughts and then a Gold Top Standard which REALLY made the credit card hand itch.  They are evil people tempting nice fellows like me with their shiny wares.

You guys know that my first Classic was stolen in transit so I ended up putting a fairly lowball bid on a replacement and somehow I won the auction.  It doesn't appear to have been played very much, I think the owner decided he didn't want an electric guitar after all as it came with picks, strings, guitar polish, all sorts of stuff.  

MxKhgbx.jpgnuc21OJ.jpg

It's a hard guitar to photograph as it's super shiny and shows every little bit of dust and smudges.  It's like new.

The guitar itself weighs 10.2 ounces, has a really comfortable 60s style neck and certainly sounds much better than the other P90 models I had before.  It's got warmth, snap, you can really get some pretty cool sounds out of this thing.  This is the last of the Henry J. era models but from what I can see, they did a really good job on it.  With some lemon oil on the fret board, new strings (I use .011s) and two truss rod adjustments it plays really nice.  

The only shortcomings apparent are when you compare it to the Standard Gold Top.

Edited by SteveFord
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This Gold Top came from Guitar Center in Missouri and was advertised as Used, Excellent and was the cheapest one I found that wasn't all beat up.  It turns out it was New, Excellent!  I guess removing the plastic on the pick guard made it a used guitar.

I wondered what the extra $500 between the two models would bring and it buys a lot.  This guitar weighs in at a whopping 11.2 pounds, the fret board feels smoother, the 50s profile neck is a little chunky and has that silky feel to it and the sound is just astonishing.  You know a high end Martin has THAT sound?  Well, this is the electric equivalent.  John Fogarty did not steer me wrong.  I figured he probably played a few over the years although I always associate him with a black Custom.

You get the rich tone, the notes have some real snap to them, you can make it scream, it kind of made me think of This Is Spinal Tap where it will sustain for weeks, don't even look at it.

In 2019 Gibson changed the pots  and now rolling off the volume doesn't kill the treble.  You can actually use the middle pick selector knob and blend the sound without it sounding like crap.  I'm going to see about changing the pots in that Classic.  That will tell me if the sound difference between the two models is down to the pots or the extra tonnage and stouter neck found on the Standard.

Another thing they did is anchor the bridge pick up.  Every other P90 I had was wobbly down there but not this one, it just stays put like they're supposed to.

Fit and finish looks perfect to me, the wood grain is real nice, it has that Gibson upper crust feel to it when you pick it up.  

My favorite guitar is whichever one I'm playing but this is probably the best of the bunch.  

If you're looking for a Les Paul w/ P90s I don't think you'll be disappointed with this model.  

n0KP85q.jpgnLXgugx.jpg

Edited by SteveFord
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I need to experience more P90 guitars. I really wanted to like the 2015 DCs but couldnt coax a sound I liked from them. Yet on a Epi Casino Coupe they sounded great. 

The P90 is very close to the ideal sound for me, but sometimes when that sound is too extreme it tips into 'rubber band' tone, and thats what I cant take. 

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I do know what you mean.  I sold off all of the previous P90 guitars.  The old faded Double Cutaway would kind of come close to the sound I thought they should have but it's nowhere near the sound from this Standard.  The Classic is close so I'm hoping it's the pots but it's probably a combination of the pots, neck and heavier wood.

I am going to put P90s in that black Firebird and see how that goes.  If it sounds like a surf guitar I'll be pissed but you never know.  The stock (recent) Firebird pick ups sound better than the Seymour Duncans that someone put in there so they won't be missed.

Edited by SteveFord
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Beautiful set of LP's..

As you may already know I started migrating to P90 guitars about 20 years ago and found that my amp needed to to be tweaked differently because of the already driven P90's..

As I started getting my amp dialed in, my SG-X didn't sound good to me anymore and broke my heart..

Anyway the amp, Less Gain and more Volume, Bass about 5, Mid about 6 and almost no Treble. Of coarse  these are all variable but the general ideal. At lower volume levels I need to drive things a little more, but as volume increases I usually clean up a bit.

My stacked boost pedals with less gain and are set so they do not individually increase the volume..

One of the nice things about P90 guitars is the the Volume and Tone actually provide a positive effect, that is usable. If you set them about half way and experiment you will find kind of a Straty range of effect.. 

You may also find that the way your Guitar blends with other players is very pleasing and can cut through without having to flood everything with volume..

Cc2IfT5.jpg

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I am the proud owner of a LP Custom with P90s, made to '56 spec - very comfy chunky neck.  This guitar and the pickups were a revelation to me, boosted my playing and motivation hugely -  and brought me to this forum.

I've kept it stock except changing the switch tip (black now) but I've always felt the bridge pickup is a bit quiet compared to the neck.  TBH I haven't made height adjustments and that might improve things. The caps are the usual tiny orange-brown ones - NOT 'orange drops' - but it sounds so wonderful that I haven't changed them.

Ref the P90s - I am tempted to do one of the following -

Either - A - buy a Seymour D (or  who?) custom 'staple' pickup for  the neck.  Would need to have gold-plated staples.

Or - B - buy a complete Lindy Fralin noiseless P90 set with the bridge pickup extra wound.

Perhaps I could even do both and use spade connectors for  quick changeability. :-k

However as I'm not gigging this (or any other guitar) at the moment.....I'll just carry on thinking about it. 

Enjoy the hell out of both Steve, I know you will.  What amp(s) have you tried 'em through?

Posted this before -

WebLPd.jpg

Edited by jdgm
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I am guitar heavy and amp poor and am waiting to get the claim settled on that missing Classic so I can buy yet another guitar.

When the world goes crazy I buy guitars.  Haven't done this since the Great Recession, I just loaded up on them.

Right now just the little cheap Crate amp which sits under my feet at a rolltop desk.  I've actually been able to find a decent setting on that thing and my Marshall is a bit much for my neighborhood.

I will be going amp shopping late next month.  I'm thinking small tube Marshall and/or Mesa Boogie.

 

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22 hours ago, jdgm said:

Ref the P90s - I am tempted to do one of the following -

Either - A - buy a Seymour D (or  who?) custom 'staple' pickup for  the neck.  Would need to have gold-plated staples.

Or - B - buy a complete Lindy Fralin noiseless P90 set with the bridge pickup extra wound.

Perhaps I could even do both and use spade connectors for  quick changeability. :-k

 

Another option is one P90 with a reverse coil providing you with some hum cancelling when the switch is in center position. This doesn't require any wiring changes, but the actual polar field is reversed by flipping the bobbin and the reversing the magnets. In stock form Gibson rarely does this, while almost all other manufacturers offer this as a stock feature when P90's are used. Aftermarket P90 builders are on top of it offering Reversre Coil P90's, as well as matched sets with each pickup in an opposing polarity.

Edited by mihcmac
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On 8/30/2020 at 5:52 PM, SteveFord said:

I am guitar heavy and amp poor and am waiting to get the claim settled on that missing Classic so I can buy yet another guitar.

When the world goes crazy I buy guitars.  Haven't done this since the Great Recession, I just loaded up on them.

Right now just the little cheap Crate amp which sits under my feet at a rolltop desk.  I've actually been able to find a decent setting on that thing and my Marshall is a bit much for my neighborhood.

I will be going amp shopping late next month.  I'm thinking small tube Marshall and/or Mesa Boogie.

 

A Mesa won't let you down. I loved my TA-15 when I had it.

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I've always disliked the sound of HB's, even in beautiful-looking Gibsons. Way too dark and muddy sounding to my old ears, always liked the bright single coil sound of most Fenders. That being said, two of my newest additions to my modest collection are an SG Jr and SG Special, both with, obviously P90's. So now, whenever I want a little more ballsy sound, I pick one of these up. Oh, and the only LP I ever owned that I wish I had back was a 56 RI Goldtop LP. Fantastic guitar, looked just like the pic you posted SteveFord...

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That gold top just made me laugh with the sound that came out it.  Hit an barred E chord up by the pick up and gave it a real snap and the sound just went ba-WAPP!

That particular sound never came out of any of the other ones I have (or have had) here.  I assume that this one is representative of the bunch and if so, this is a really good model.  

One (maybe two) more guitar for this year and then decent, small amp shopping time.

Once again, the Classic is a really nice guitar but the Standard is worth the extra dough.  You can just feel it the second you start to play it.  I'm not sure exactly do to give it that particular feel but the neck and fret board just feel silky, for want of a better term.  They must spend a bit more time on them at the factory and maybe use higher quality materials to begin with.

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I'm not sure.  I have a 100W Marshall 1/2 stack and the sound is just tremendous but a bit too much of it.  They're known to be a little on the loud side...

Maybe a small Marshall?  I really want something I can stick under a desk and it has to be tubes.  I've had two SS Marshall amps and those things just suck.

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15 hours ago, SteveFord said:

I'm not sure.  I have a 100W Marshall 1/2 stack and the sound is just tremendous but a bit too much of it.  They're known to be a little on the loud side...

Maybe a small Marshall?  I really want something I can stick under a desk and it has to be tubes.  I've had two SS Marshall amps and those things just suck.

There are quite a few great sounding Tube powered practice amps some with good low end rumble with 10's or 12's.

Under your desk will you use pedals? Or do you need some builtin effects.

Do you need it to sound good at really low volume? Tube amps need to be tweaked for going from one extreme to the other.

 If you want it to be a Marshall there are a few in this range like the DSL20 or Studio's or JVM's in a wide range of prices.

https://www.guitarcenter.com/Marshall/Tube-Combo-Guitar-Amplifiers.gc?N=1075#narrowSideBar

 

 

Edited by mihcmac
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Had a 2018 LP Classic goldtop - the one with P90s...  I hated it personally.  It was a 10lb hunk of wood.  Very poor fretwork - and this was my second one I received after the first one I picked up had a poor cut nut, gouge in the finish underneath the pickguard, and of course, poor fretwork (string constantly catching between the nib and fret end is what I constitute as poor fretwork).  I mean, YMMV with these 2018 Classics, I know because the USA guitars are hit and miss more than say the Custom Shop.  I know there are some dogs out there in the CS world, but the ones I have received have been fantastic and worth the extra few thou.  BTW, I sold my 18 Classic P90 goldtop.  Haven't regretted it one bit... 

If I were to get a P90 LP, I'd go R6 all the way.  I'd also go used because you can get a great deal on one probably for the price of a new LP Standard 50s that has either the HBs or P90s.  All I know is that you probably could get a great 50s Standard today with P90s (2019-2020 of course), but the way I figure is for a few more bucks, you can get the Historic.  FWIW, long neck tenon, lighter and more resonant wood used in CS guitars, nicer case (haha), better fit and finish - i.e. not mass produced and given more attention to detail.  I mean, the Standard 50s are nice looking guitars as I've seen quite a few that have killer tops and such, but there's just something about the CS Gibsons for me.  Not too sure how the Standard P90s compare to the CS P90s say in an R6, but in an R7, R8, R9, R0, you get Custombuckers which IMHO are absolutely the best Gibson pickup life has to offer today.  SO overall, the Standard 50s P90 goldtop may be a great buy for the right price, but I'm not spending anywhere near $2k for one...  For that money, I'd almost be at the price of a used Historic - and there are plenty of them out there - that's my point. 

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Nah, no pedals or effects.

I'll probably do something stupid like buy another Marshall with too much oomph.  I have my eye on a nice white combo which I may have to bring home.  Always was a sucker for things like that.

Maybe I'm just lucky, both this Classic and Standard are really nice.  No doubt the Custom Shop ones are better but I'm done buying Les Pauls with P90s.  

Or at least the carved top ones.

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Well I guess I missed out on the P-90 sound that so many of you guys like.  My first electric guitar was a 125-TC with a single P-90 at the bridge.  Seemed very limited tonewise to me, but it was all I could afford at the time.  About 5 years later I got a used Les Paul with the cream soapbar P-90s and a great neck.  It wasn't exactly what I wanted at the time, but again the best I could afford.  Many years later and after I had traded it I figured out that it was a '68 re-issue of the '58 Goldtop (Steve's new classic looks identical to the one I had, but of course mine had some checking, and a lot of buckle rash).   I played it for about five or six years with the P-90s, but always thought it was lacking in tone, especially for lead lines.  So I had it routed out and put two humbuckers in it.  That solved my tone issues, and I gigged that guitar for another 20 years.

What is odd to me is that fans of the P-90 say they like the bright snappy sound.  My experience was mine were muddy sounding and wouldn't cut through the mix?   And at that time I always played through a Fender Twin Reverb which is know for it's excellent clean high end.   I never went back to P-90s in any of the 20 or so guitars I bought and sold over the years since then, but I've been on this forum for a while now, and a lot of you guys just love the sounds you get from P-90s.

I have pretty much retired from playing in a band now (and there is nowhere to play anyway) so I think the chance to play and enjoy the P-90 sound has past me by.  Oh well, you can't win them all.  

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4 hours ago, Twang Gang said:

Well I guess I missed out on the P-90 sound that so many of you guys like.  My first electric guitar was a 125-TC with a single P-90 at the bridge.  Seemed very limited tonewise to me, but it was all I could afford at the time.  About 5 years later I got a used Les Paul with the cream soapbar P-90s and a great neck.  It wasn't exactly what I wanted at the time, but again the best I could afford.  Many years later and after I had traded it I figured out that it was a '68 re-issue of the '58 Goldtop (Steve's new classic looks identical to the one I had, but of course mine had some checking, and a lot of buckle rash).   I played it for about five or six years with the P-90s, but always thought it was lacking in tone, especially for lead lines.  So I had it routed out and put two humbuckers in it.  That solved my tone issues, and I gigged that guitar for another 20 years.

What is odd to me is that fans of the P-90 say they like the bright snappy sound.  My experience was mine were muddy sounding and wouldn't cut through the mix?   And at that time I always played through a Fender Twin Reverb which is know for it's excellent clean high end.   I never went back to P-90s in any of the 20 or so guitars I bought and sold over the years since then, but I've been on this forum for a while now, and a lot of you guys just love the sounds you get from P-90s.

I have pretty much retired from playing in a band now (and there is nowhere to play anyway) so I think the chance to play and enjoy the P-90 sound has past me by.  Oh well, you can't win them all.  

 

In the 70's I acquired several pawn shop specials, that were P90 powered Jr's, Specials, early Epiphones, and even MelodyMakers that I installed HB's, which left me with a pile of old P90's. By the time 2000 rolled around I was burned out on Mud Buckers. I bought a couple of 99 Epiphone Junior DC's and found that the sound was intriguing and still having a small supply of older Gibson P90's I installed them, this started the end of my HB guitars. Playing with single pickup Juniors I rediscovered the the use of the tone and volume control as a viable option to multiple pickups. I still have one of my Epiphone Junior DC's with a 59 LP P90...

plSH6oW.jpg

Edited by mihcmac
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The tonal qualities of these things does seem to be all over the place, doesn't it?

I had one of those ES-125s and I actually gave the guitar away.  I was expecting to sound like George Thorogood but maybe if you threw a wet blanket over the amp...

I've got a recent Special coming my way and I'm going to take Dub 1-2-3's advice and change out the guts and see what that does.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 9/2/2020 at 1:01 AM, SteveFord said:

That gold top just made me laugh with the sound that came out it.  Hit an barred E chord up by the pick up and gave it a real snap and the sound just went ba-WAPP!

That particular sound never came out of any of the other ones I have (or have had) here.  I assume that this one is representative of the bunch and if so, this is a really good model.  

One (maybe two) more guitar for this year and then decent, small amp shopping time.

Once again, the Classic is a really nice guitar but the Standard is worth the extra dough.  You can just feel it the second you start to play it.  I'm not sure exactly do to give it that particular feel but the neck and fret board just feel silky, for want of a better term.  They must spend a bit more time on them at the factory and maybe use higher quality materials to begin with.

The Classic and the Standards are (supposed to be) exactly the same quality. You just have a poor Classic, or an especially good Standard. 

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I've owned many HB& P90 Gibsons & Epiphones over the years. I still have several.

My first was a mid 1950's Les Paul Jr with P90 which was a great sounding Guitar.. Later I got a 1959 ES345 with PAF's.. Amazing Guitar!

I own LP's with P90's & several different versions of HB's. I own a Gibson ES335 with 57's & 3 Casinos with P90's. 

I love the sound of Humbuckers & P90's... Equally.. Both types of Pickups are Great!

I feel bad for those who miss out on great Guitars with either type of Pickup....

Edited by Larsongs
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