#1
I just got this vintage (late 70s, give or take) neck-thru guitar, pretty rare higher end Harmony made in Japan. I'm a sucker for vintage Japanese neck thru guitars, especially if they are rare, mysterious.

Anyway, the obvious issue here is the mis-matched humbuckers (neck is cream, bridge is black). Well, the mis-match bugs me, and I toyed with getting chrome covers, or getting a cream humbucker for the bridge. Then I started thinking about Humbucker-size P90s. I've been hankering to own a guitar with P90s, so I could kill 2 birds with 1 stone, putting a pair of P90s in this guitar.

The new pickups really should be cream to match the body and keep the looks as original/vintage as possible. I think this guitar would look really cool with either a pair of cream P90s (though it might look cooler if they were regular size P90s, I'd rather not modify the body at all if I can help it due to the age/rarity of this guitar).

Searching for cream-colored, humbucker-size P90s, I did not find a lot of options. A pair of cheap Kent Armstrong made-in-Korea PUs fit my requirements for about $85 total, but I've read some negatives stuff about those. The only other option I saw in cream was the Seymour Duncan P-Rails.

Reading on the P-Rails, I saw each pickup can be played 3 ways, as P90, lower output single coil (more stratlike), or humbucker. That sounded really cool to me, and I think the cream versions would look awesome in this guitar. On the other hand, I remember the saying, "When you try to please all the people, you end up pleasing none of the people," and I worry that these P-Rails might do a mediocre job on each of the three settings while I might prefer just one really good P90 sound. And the P-rails would cost twice as much as the Kent Armstrong.

Anyway, I did not find any other humbucker-size P90 options in cream. However, I did see some in chrome / faux chrome (I think metal covers don't work on P-90s, so these are some kind of plastic that looks like chrome.). I think chrome would also look good, if surrounded by a cream pickup ring. So if anyone thinks neither the Kent Armstrong nor the P-Rails are really good at getting the P90 tone, but there's a chrome humbucker-size P90 that does a better job of this, I might jump that way.

Well, any opinions on this project appreciated, even if you think it's just a bad idea, I'd like to hear why. My mind is not really settled on what to do here.

Ken
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#2
The HB sized P90 (P94) is an awesome addition to the arsenal. I have a lot of friends that have done that mod, and all seem to be very happy...
I have a P90 equipped guitar already so I don't need to do the conversion, but I would do it if I didn't already have P90s!
The P-Rails thing... Haven't got any experiences either good or bad, so I can't help you there... so my 2 cents is to go for the P94 type pickup. I'm sure you will love it!
#3
Here's the deal with P-Rails (I've got some):

There are actually FOUR switching options and there are two separate coils on them. One is a real P90 coil, the other is a real rail-coil single coil, both full-blown.



So you can switch between those two coils AND you can switch to both serial and parallel humbucking modes. The parallel version is a bit thinner-sounding but still humbucking mode. My '82 Ibanez AR300 has Tri-Sound switches that include this mode, and the early '70's Gibson L6S uses parallel modes to good effect. In fact, some Gibson LPs actually switch to parallel mode, NOT to single-coil mode on guitars with push-pulls.

One option for the switching is the Seymour Duncan Triple Shot pickup rings, which have switching right on the rings.



There are THREE output levels for the P-Rails. SD classifies the two hotter ones as "bridge" and the milder one as "neck." I actually chose one of the hotter versions as a neck pickup, and like it that way a LOT better than the planned "balanced" mode of mild neck and hot bridge. Fooey.

You may decide you want either the P90 or the rail coil in a different spot (closer to the bridge, etc.) than what SD does as stock. If you do, call SD and they'll send you pickups with the SD decal properly placed for how YOU want the pickups in your guitar. Mine don't match their stock setup; that's how I know they can do this.

Both the rail coil and the separate P90 coil are good at what they do. Rather than simply getting a single P90 coil, the P-Rail gives you a TON more versatility and they sound good doing it.
#4
Thanks for the detailed response. I just read about those triple-shot rings, seems like an okay option, if they come in cream matching the cream P-rails. I definitely want to try the P-Rails in this guitar after all I've read.

The only thing still confusing me is the parallel - series option. So, apparently I was wrong on how this works. I had thought, at first, that this option only applied when you used two P-rails pickups, that the two pickups could be wired so that, when you played both, you could have them wired together in series or parallel. I did not realize they were talking about having two humbucker options (series or parallel) for each pickup. I don't really have a good understanding of series versus parallel.

Hmm...after reading some more on the triple-shot rings, it seems the build quality sucks, flimsy plastic, not good if you have tiny switches that will get used regularly. I wonder if there's another way I could control this with my existing controls -- two tone, two vollume, one three-way pickup selector.

I suppose a push-pull under each knob ought to work. Like, for each pickup,
- both volume and tone down is humbucker series,
- both up is humbucker parallel,
- only tone up is small single coil,
- only volume up is P90.

I'm thinking something like that ought to be more durable than the plastic switches on the pickup ring. I've got 35 year old guitars with push-pull knobs that work fine. And it seems to me those switches might not be as easy or fast to access. Tiny plastic switches are sometimes easy, sometimes tricky to work. Then again, if four push-pull switches is going to cost significantly more than the rings, then I may decide to try the triple shot rings after all.

Ken
Bernie Sanders for President!