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TONE REPORT: Lindy Fralin p-90 vs Gibson p-90


stein

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I got this new thing with p-90s. Sinse i started messing with the guitar again, I can't seem to want to play anything else, even though i have been a strat head for years.

 

Good freind of mine, who is a drummer, has all the usual gas symptoms. he has had an es-135 for years, with the dreaded p-100s. Of corse, those have to go. He chose to go the Fralin route, and sinse i ain't doing nuthin lately, here I am for the rewire.

 

The first thing, of corse, is to see how they compare to the standard Gibson p-90. For most of us, we want to know what the difference is before we buy, Obviously to make a choice. Except for the random guy on the internet with no life who has a chance to try both in the same guitar and tell you. I will be wiring his es-135 and reporting but first a comparism.

 

The guitar i used is a '96 Les Paul special. A pretty heavy slab of mahogony, with the old style gloss nitro in cable yellow. It has been rewired to a complete vintage spec, with all coax and the 50's style curcuit, and nos paper and oil caps. .02 mfd however instead of .047. The amps i used are a '67 Deluxe Reverb with a Jensen c12r, a Victorilux with 2 el-84's and a Jensen p-12q, and a '57 Bassman with 4 Weber p10q's.

 

I listened first to the axe through all 3 amps to get a handle on the tone. Bridge pickup only, I played some dirt and grind both cranked and low, and some sweet, clean blues with pretty chords. P-90's grind with tone fatter than a meat butcher's dog. If you don't like grind with fat over the top midrange, quit reading and go get a sandwhich or something. What is surprising though is if you can resist the temptation to wail, and play sweet and soft, the p-90 in the bridge will do it with a clean that is full of both fatness and something i can only describe as color. Very harmonically rich. The struggle is to get a handle on the mids, which requires playing soft. Extremely reactive to touch.

 

The Gibby pup measured about 8.5 and the Fralin about 8.25, so slighty less, but real close. By the time i got the soldering iron working and the pup switched and played through the amp, I was hard pressed to hear a difference. sounded identical. So I played a bunch more to see if I could get a handle on what might be different and get some impressions, but it ain't easy when they sound so close. I was noticing how nice the color and harmonic richness was when turned low with the Vicky, and when switching to the Deluxe, how fat the lows were and how lean sounding this was for playing through the bridge pup. Anything through the Bassman sounds fat, but the p-90 bridge breaking up with it is just creamy and mean. What i also noticed was when turning the guitar volume down and getting clean, how much it preserved the clarity and highs. No tone loss here folks. none. Cranking clockwise and getting volume, like a flame thrower, the p-90 turns into a heavy grind, and you can really hear the amp break up and when it does, the p-90 tone does not bite your head off by adding more treble, but barks hard. Very, very heavy on the mids. Taking notes, I switched back to the Gibby p-90.

 

And here, I was able to get a handle on some differences. The Fralin seemed to have a little more color, a little more air. It preserved a little more of the brilliance when backing off the volume. The Gibby p-90, by contrast, had a harder, meaner bark when cranking the volume than the Fralin. The Gibby, while not having a sharp treble responce, had a definite sharp bite to the upper mids that cause the break up qualities to seem fatter. While the Fralin might have sounded a little sweeter when turning down, the Gibby was thicker, while not having more bass, but more of a fatter string sound. I would not say that the Fralin has any characteristics that the Gibby didn't have, but perhaps the mids being slightly more in the Gibby have an effect of dominating the the frequencies more.

 

Now, these two pickups are very, very close. This isn't like changing from a cheap Asian pup and getting a clear improvement, and they are so close that i'm not getting a different sound. Both pickups are doing the same thing, and share the same qualities. I had to look harder than usual for differences this time around. Which is a better choice would have to do more with the guitar than which one might be a better pickup. I prefered the Fralin, but in a guitar that was already on the bright side where I wanted a more raw machine, I would go with the Gibby. I can also see where in a different guitar the differences between the 2 might become greater depending on the axe. If the axe is aready a heavy grinding beast and very mellow sounding, The fralin might sound better than this comparism showed. If you are after the absolute most bark you can get, and have your amp settings and gear to cater to that and have no room for subtlety, I'm sure the Gibby is going to be the most potential mean you can get.

 

Anyone notice I went through and capitalised and corrected spelling?

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Cool stuff! So not much of a difference then...

 

But you still spell like a damn Brit with you "capitalise" lol looks normal to me though, I'm just joking with you

Yea, when i did that as a joke, but when your spelling is as bad as mine in the first place it gets lost. You make it funny again.

 

Yes, real close. I wouldn't think it was worth it to run out and buy either one for the switch. I could see it if you had very discerning ears and were looking for that last ounce, you might make the switch. Thought it might be nice for some to know what to expect.

 

I hear the question asked a lot and I was wondering myself, so I wanted to be accurate and truthful to maybe help someone decide which way to go initially or what to expect making a switch, if they wanted to switch at all.

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Yea, when i did that as a joke, but when your spelling is as bad as mine in the first place it gets lost. You make it funny again.

 

Yes, real close. I wouldn't think it was worth it to run out and buy either one for the switch. I could see it if you had very discerning ears and were looking for that last ounce, you might make the switch. Thought it might be nice for some to know what to expect.

 

I hear the question asked a lot and I was wondering myself, so I wanted to be accurate and truthful to maybe help someone decide which way to go initially or what to expect making a switch, if they wanted to switch at all.

 

Ha, its all good man.

 

And thanks. I mean, as a hack like myself, tone is good as long as I don't have to cover my ears from playing [biggrin]

 

I hear a lot of people talk about "blah blah custom wounds" are so much better than stock Gibsons, but the price difference also has to factor in, and if its close, then screw the extra money

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I moned from SoCal to Oregom like 15 years ago. Not so important anymore.

 

Yer sppeleeng iz stilll of a bitt.....[flapper] .....I'm in Portland, where are you at Stien ( I spelled yer name wrong !)

 

Nice comparison Stein.........I'm on a P-90 kick, and want to upgrade some P-90s on some guitars.........

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Just because Fralins aren't that much better than stock Gibson p90s doesn't mean all hand wound p90s aren't.

Yes, absolutly true. I would not say that hand winding gaurentees a better pickup, but for the most part the best I have witnessed have been, but not always.

 

This is only a comparism between 2 pickups. I should point out that both pickups are fairly close in price last i checked. The Fralin is also a highly regarded pickup, but I also think that just reading or hearing someone saying "they are fantastic" doesn't tell me much. The gibson pickups are also highly thought of, but sinse they are a "stock" pup we are less likely to hear of reviews and perhaps get the thought they aren't as good.

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Yer sppeleeng iz stilll of a bitt.....[flapper] .....I'm in Portland, where are you at Stien ( I spelled yer name wrong !)

 

Nice comparison Stein.........I'm on a P-90 kick, and want to upgrade some P-90s on some guitars.........

I tried to send you a message by it would'nt go. I am in st. johns specifically. i don't get out that much lately. whole nother story.

 

I think there are lots of guys around here that are onto the p-90 thing though. Old town music sells the Fralins and such, and Apple does the gibson thing. Possum is here as well, the SDdesigns guy.

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wow, you actually read it. i didn't realize, i figured with all your knowledge of things tone you might have had something useful to share, and thus, even more than i have written.

 

 

Sure I read it. I know absolutely nothing about P90's though with all the stuff going around here on them I might have to try some out. I know a little about a lot of stuff but don't claim to be any guru or wizard of tone or know everything there is to know. It's reading informative posts like yours where I accumulate knowledge about things... Nice work.

 

SG Fan - No offense meant...

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  • 2 weeks later...
Guest FarnsBarns

 

perhaps the mids being slightly more in the Gibby have an effect of dominating the the frequencies more.

 

 

Maybe that's why I've found, to my surprise, that I prefer the tone of a heavy R6 to a light one. I spent quite some time only bothering to ask to try if it was lite, assuming from what I had been told/read, that a lite one was good. When I did eventually try a heavy one I loved it and parted with lots of money.

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Maybe that's why I've found, to my surprise, that I prefer the tone of a heavy R6 to a light one. I spent quite some time only bothering to ask to try if it was lite, assuming from what I had been told/read, that a lite one was good. When I did eventually try a heavy one I loved it and parted with lots of money.

That is interesting..I have always prefered lighter guitars as well, for both tone AND the effects on the back. But I am finding that in the case of my special, which wieghs quite a bit, there is something to it that I don't think I would get if it was what I might think I want in weight.

 

And the thing is, while one guitar feels light and another heavy, we are only talking 4 lbs at the most between a feather of a guitar and a tank. Can that really have that much effect on our backs?

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Guest FarnsBarns

That is interesting..I have always prefered lighter guitars as well, for both tone AND the effects on the back. But I am finding that in the case of my special, which wieghs quite a bit, there is something to it that I don't think I would get if it was what I might think I want in weight.

 

And the thing is, while one guitar feels light and another heavy, we are only talking 4 lbs at the most between a feather of a guitar and a tank. Can that really have that much effect on our backs?

 

Well, in theory a heavy mahogany back means stronger bass tones, the choice of maple can then be used to counter act and emphasise the treble by using a particularly light piece. If, as the op suggests, Gibby P90s are stronger on the mids this would, to my mind, explain my preference, good base from the back, strong miss from the pups and the high end colour coming from the maple.

 

That's my speculation for now.

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