What is the Difference Between A Humbucker And A P-90 Guitar Pickup
Both the humbucker and the P-90 pickup were initially the concept of how to get rid of staticy hair the Gibson Guitar Corporation. The unique version of the P-90 was branded the PU-90 and was developed by Guy Hart and Walt Fullers in the 1940’s – the Les Paul version came later, consisting of exactly the identical standard plate but minus the side brackets. It was not until 1956 that the now legendary humbucking pickup designed by Seth Lover of Gibson appeared on the scene.
So what’s the difference between these two styles of pickup
Well to start with the P-90 is a single coil pickup and the humbucker is made up of two coils. Not only do they sound somewhat diverse but electronically there are some very different things happening.
A mean P-90 is constructed with approximately 10,000 winds of 42 AWG enamel-coated wire wrapped around a black plastic bobbin, which are subsequently covered in a black paper tape. These winds give a meter reading of approximately 8,000 ohms. Positioned beneath the black bobbin are two Alnico magnets in a magnetically opposed configuration. The initial examples used Alnico 3 magnets but the form of Alnico varied over time. Screws attach to a centre steel bar which is about between the magnets and directly above a steel baseplate. Braided wire is used and a cream or black plastic cover.
A standard humbucker is put together with approximately 5,000 winds of 42 AWG enamel-coated wire around two black plastic bobbins. These winds give a joint reading of roughly 7,800 ohms. The two bobbins are wound in exactly the same direction but the beginning and end of every coil may be magnetically out of phase with each other while connected together. One side hot and the other side ground. This very clever system is what produces the hum canceling effect craved by a substantial amount of guitarists requiring quiet, hum free pickups. The coils are covered in black paper tape, and sit above one Alnico magnet. Once again, the rating of the Alnico magnets varied with time. Screws pass through one bobbin into a steel bar and steel slugs go through the other bobbin. A steel baseplate, braided hookup wire and a nickel cover complete the pickup.
With regard to overall performance it is all the way down to personal preference. The humbucker is more popular as many players really love the quiet, flexible functionality, however the P-90 has won a number of fans because of its raunchy growling sound. Nowadays both variations come with diverse overall performance specs for various music styles including varied magnets and windings.
It must be said that both versions sound fantastic to my ears and look exceptional on an aging vintage Les Paul.
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