#1
I have humbuckers on my main guitar which sounds quite good, but i am not that pleased with the clean sound. I like the sound of Fenders, but i want a bit fatter sounding guitar. My ideal tone is Pete Townshend's live tone. If i compare Pete's "Live at Leeds" tone (where he used an SG Special with P90s) and later live recordings (Les Paul Deluxes with minihumbuckers) the guitar on the later recordings tend to sound a bit fatter, maybe because of the bigger body of the Les Pauls? What is the differences in sound between all these pickups?
#2
i'd look into the P-Rails from Seymour Duncan. if you haven't seen it, it's a pretty damn cool invention. it's a p-90, a hot rail, and a humbucker all in one. if you split it up it'll give you pretty much whatever sounds you could want. and i've heard that in it's full humbucking mode it's pretty hot, so good for crunchier stuff.

anyway, from what i've always heard (never used them) mini humbuckers are great for a classic rock sort of AC/DC just-overdriven sound. p90s are the masters of cleans, and humbuckers of course can do pretty much anything with gain.
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#3
generalisations, but:

p90s sound somewhere between full-size humbuckers and fender-style single coils, depending on the spec and tone of the particular p90 (and humbucker, come to that) you're comparing. they sound warm and powerful like humbuckers, but sound a bit rawer and have a bit more top-end like f-style single coils.

mini-humbuckers are a bit brighter-sounding and more focussed than full-sized humbuckers. I'm not as familiar with them as I am with p90s, though, which is why I'm not going into much more detail.

Regarding styles of music- far as i'm aware, both p90s and mini-humbuckers will work for the same styles of music as lower output, paf-style full-sized humbuckers. In other words, most things short of out-and-out modern metal, but obviously each player will have his or her own favourites.
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

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#4
I play an SG Classic (P90s). It can handle a surprising amount of distortion, almost to metal levels, honestly. I can get so incredible tones out of this thing, and it plays really well to boot. If you need, I can provide an SG classic review or some vids
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#5
yeah, definitely, a lot of people hear that p90s are single coils and instantly think of fender singles and that they can't handle dirt (forgetting for a moment that teles can handle dirt), but they're nothing like those. to my ears, if anything, they're closer to humbuckers, just with a bit of single-coil flavouring and single coil characteristics.
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#6
Once you understand the three elements that effect most comon pickups' tones, it's easy to see how diffreent pickups relate to each other and what might be better for you.

Size
Simply put, a larger pickup covers a wider area of the string. I'll spare your the physics lesson why this effects tone, I'll just tell you the results: bigger pickup results in a thicker, 'fatter' tone, smaller does the opposite.

Type of magnet
Fender style singlecoil pickups are made with six separate magnetic pole pieces. P-90s and the majority of humbuckers are made with one big bar magnet (though there are two specific models of humbucker I am aware of that use pole pieces like Fender style single coils do). Lots of cheap singlecoil pickups on the basic MIM Fender Strats, Squier Strats and other similar guitars use one ceramica bar magnet. Using a bar magnet gives a smoother, rounder tone with even response for all playing techniques. Using separate magnetic pole pieces will let you hear each string slightly more individually, even when playing chords; it will also pick up on less of the bass frequencies and it can cause uneven response when bending notes as the magnetic field is less even across the width of the pickup, certain areas won't respond as much as others.

Single coil or double coils
A single coil gives you the full response the pickup is capable of, but you can become victim to 60/50 cycle hum. Using a second coil at the same time will cut out certain frequencies; this will reduce background noise and hum, but it also means you lose a little of the frequencies you do want. The treble frequencies are the ones most naturally audible to the human ear, so the usual result is you will think you've lost some 'high end'. However, the extent of this changes depending on how you wire the two coils. In 'series' wiring, the output of the coils is combined, giving more output and making bass frequencies more obvious (giving a 'thicker' tone). In 'parallel' wiring, the output of the pickup remains roughly the same as if there was only one coil, but you're still losing the unwanted frequencies. This gives the impression of a 'brighter' tone (since the bass frequencies that series wiring gives you aren't as audible) while still being virtually hum-less. You can also 'spit' humbuckers, where you reduce them to one coil entirely; you get back the lost frequencies that parallel and series wriing removes, but you also bring back the hum too.
In short, one single coil is the brightest-sounding, two wired in series is the thickest-sounding, two wired in parallel is in the middle.


As a general rule, whether a pickup is made with pole pieces or one big bar magnet tends to make the most difference, the fact a pickup is made with one coil, two coils in parallel or two coils in series makes the second largest impact on tone, then the size is in third. Things like the specific type of magnet and the nature of how each coil is wound are in fourth; personally I tend to not pay much attention to shoe differences unless I'm comparing two similar pickups. When you're just comparing say, humbuckers to P-90s overall, you don't need to worry about whether certain humbuckers are wound with hotter coils or not.


So, knowing all that, you can begin to work out for yourself how different types of pickups will sound to you.

A Fender style singlecoil is the brightest and clearest sounding as it has just one coil, is small and uses individual magnetic pole pieces.

A full sized humbucker is the thickest sounding and most powerful as it has a bar magnet, two coils most normally wired in series and is covers roughly twice the area of a Fender style singlecoil.

A mini-humbucker is made the same as a full humbucker but is closer to the size of a Fender style singlecoil, so it's output is typically lower than a normal humbucker and it doesn't pick up on the bass frequencies as strongly as a normal humbucker does.

A P-90 is the hardest to understand and it's very common for people to have the wrong idea about them. They have a bar magnet, one coil and cover a large portion of the string. They will pick up more bass frequencies than a Fender singlecoil because of the larger size but they pick up less bass frequencies than a full humbucker because they lack the second coil and output that humbuckers have (and are also very slightly slimmer). They have a 'smoother' tone than Fender singlecoils due to the bar magnet, but because of the single coil design they retain more of the natural frequencies than a humbucker so they are clearer and more articulate than either a humbucker or mini-humbucker. This is what leads to the most confusion, I think. The size and bar magnet makes you think they'll be very thick, the term 'single coil' makes you think they'll be very bright. They're neither. They're very much in the middle.


The common mistake is thinking mini-humbuckers and P-90s sound the same, which they don't. They both have bar magnets, so that puts them on-par. The main differences is the single coil/double coil design though, which makes a lot of difference. The mini-humbucker has a thicker and more powerful tone than the P-90 because of the twin coil design. Some people then think that the size difference between them will balance out the single/double coil difference, but it doesn't; the coil count makes more difference than the size does, so the mini-humbucker still remains sounding more powerful than the P-90 while the P-90 will remain more articulate.
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#7
Wow awesome post ^ this should be stickied somewhere if it isn't already great description.
#8
yeah, nice post. I'm not sure you could put the things which affect the sound in such a set-in-stone order, though, because every individual pickup will be different (the p90s in my JJ are warmer and hotter than some of my humbuckers in other guitars, for example). But certainly those are the main things affecting the tone, as far as i'm aware, anyway.

i think p90s have two bar magnets, too. that probably affects the tone a bit, too.
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#10
Quote by Dave_Mc
yeah, nice post. I'm not sure you could put the things which affect the sound in such a set-in-stone order, though, because every individual pickup will be different (the p90s in my JJ are warmer and hotter than some of my humbuckers in other guitars, for example). But certainly those are the main things affecting the tone, as far as i'm aware, anyway.

i think p90s have two bar magnets, too. that probably affects the tone a bit, too.

That would be correct. They face each other with similar polarity, which makes changing the magnets on them much more difficult.
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Quote by Anonden
You CAN play anything with anything....but some guitars sound right for some things, and not for others. Single coils sound retarded for metal, though those who are apeshit about harpsichord probably beg to differ.
#11
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Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?
#12
Correction: proper P-90s should have two bar magnets; that was the original design. However, the majority of P-90s made today have one single bar magnet.

Although tonally there is next to zero difference, so meh.
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Last edited by MrFlibble at Oct 8, 2009,
#13
I've got mini's in my LP Deluxe and I like the sound, it's an interesting change. Overall, they don't have the sizzle that my bucker equipped guitars do, but somethings that bright jangly, percussive sound does the trick, even under gain. Haven't had the issues with microphonics some of the old timers on another forum had warned me about either. On the plus side, the neck mini has a great tone for bluesier stuff, on the down side, if I was a shredder, they don't have quite enough output to generate that totally electronic sound under high gain. That doesn't even bother me but what does is the unstable way they're mounted to tbe body. If you bring them up to get more output out of them, they wobble a little.

Overall though, I've been pleased. I haven't had any major isues with them and they sound neat.
#14
Quote by MrFlibble
Correction: proper P-90s should have two bar magnets; that was the original design. However, the majority of P-90s made today have one single bar magnet.

Although tonally there is next to zero difference, so meh.


oh, ok. I just assumed you were talking about proper ones.
I'm an idiot and I accidentally clicked the "Remove all subscriptions" button. If it seems like I'm ignoring you, I'm not, I'm just no longer subscribed to the thread. If you quote me or do the @user thing at me, hopefully it'll notify me through my notifications and I'll get back to you.
Quote by K33nbl4d3
I'll have to put the Classic T models on my to-try list. Shame the finish options there are Anachronism Gold, Nuclear Waste and Aged Clown, because in principle the plaintop is right up my alley.

Quote by K33nbl4d3
Presumably because the CCF (Combined Corksniffing Forces) of MLP and Gibson forums would rise up against them, plunging the land into war.

Quote by T00DEEPBLUE
Et tu, br00tz?