If you are new to playing electric guitar, you may have come to a point when you need to do some upgrades with your pickups. Believe it or not, guitar pickups are among the most important parts of your electric guitar because they can directly influence how you sound. And, when choosing the right pickup, you’ll really come across picking mini-humbucker vs P90.
Before becoming confused and undecided, this article will help you discern. Actually, these two guitar pickups are among the best – in a certain kind of playing style and music. When you know the kind of music you want to play, it’ll be very easy for you to choose the right pickup for your electric guitar. This article will describe these pickups in terms of their characteristics and what their major differences are.
What are mini-humbuckers?
Usually, mini-humbuckers are associated with Epiphone electric guitars. It’s basically a humbucking pickup but is narrower, hence the name, mini-humbuckers. They capture a much shorter length of the string vibration, which makes them produce clear and bright tones.
What are P90 pickups?
These are single coil pickups made by the famous guitar manufacturer, Gibson. Being the widely used pickup since 1949, perhaps, nearly every single legendary guitarist has used this pickup. And, given its presence in the Gibson guitars, you can achieve its classic sound – bright and transparent. However, the P90 pickups aren’t as crispy as the single coils of Fender.
In short, mini-humbuckers can be found in Epiphone guitars, while the P90 pickups are mostly associated with a Gibson guitar.
These pickups have proven themselves to be great in years and decades, but why are there still heated debates of the mini-humbucker vs P90? Let’s take a closer look at these two great guitar pickups.
Seth Lover, the famous music instrument designer, designed the mini-humbuckers for Epiphone. He was also the designer and the creator of the original humbucker. The mini-humbucker is designed with just less space where the wires will be wound around the bobbin. And, in this smaller size of the pickups, many players have achieved a particular sound that they can’t help, but love.
The P90 pickups aren’t the same as the Fender-style single-coil pickups because they have completely different designs. These pickups have shorter, yet wider bobbins and their wires are further away from individual poles. This difference allows the P90s to stand out, offering warmer, darker, and less edgy sound.
Way back in 1957, Les Paul guitars came with these pickups. P90 pickups come in two variations – soap bars and dog ears. They are basically the same pickups, except that they have different mounting mechanisms. The former has the mounting screws within the coil perimeter, while the latter has extensions to the sides for the mounting screws. Of these two, some players said that the dog ears are better in terms of transfer of vibrations. Check out Wikipedia to learn the clear distinction between the two.
You can find different kinds of pickups available in the market. This is because players have their own preferences in terms of the design, tone, and usefulness of the pickups. Hence, we’ll also differentiate these two so you’ll definitely know which is the best one for you.
When it comes to the size, the P90s are bigger single-coil pickups than the mini-humbuckers. However, soap bar P90s have the same size as the minis. So, you can easily put a mini-humbucker on a soap bar P90 slot, and vice versa.
These mini-humbuckers are like a miniature PAF pickup. It’s made with one bar magnet which can be found under each coil with adjustable ferrous alloy pole pieces and the other coil that contains a fixed ferrous metal bar. Other types of mini-humbuckers like the Firebird type and Johnny Smith have their distinct design, as well.
P90 pickups, on the other hand, are made of a coil of wire wrapped around a plastic bobbin, two (2) Alnico bar magnets, a spacer, and six (6) pole screws, a metal baseplate, and a pickup cover (usually plastic).
The most important comparison between these two pickups is on the sound quality. P90 delivers thicker mids and rounder top-ends than that of the mini-humbuckers. Since the P90 is a single-coil pickup, it has a more open tone, warmer and rockier. The mini-humbuckers are more focused on the mid-range with lower output. Most jazz players love the minis, while P90s work great with clean tones. In short, P90s are geared towards mid outputs, while the minis are present in the treble side.
To give you a more concrete example, Leslie West, the famous American guitarist, used P90 pickups on most of his recordings with the hard rock band, Mountain. On the other hand, the Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young used a Deluxe with mini-humbucker and firebird pickup.
The mini-humbuckers don’t have the fullness in either presence and tone of their full-sized counterparts because of the thinner size and coil configuration. These are “less dark” humbuckers, but the P90 pickups have different tonal characteristics. Yet, it can have the drive of a humbucker if it will have the same amount of wire.
Here’s a YouTube video comparing Les Paul guitars with different pickups on board. Check out for yourself which is better between the two in terms of sound.
When you find it hard to choose between two things, that means, you need to know your preferences better to choose the one for you. With the mini-humbuckers vs P90 pickups comparison, it’s very clear that these are two great pickups with different uses.
We don’t recommend any of these guitar pickups if you don’t know what style and sound you want to achieve. However, what we can give you are some tips when choosing one over the other.
- Mini-humbucker tones are closely similar to Fender-style single-coil pickups, while the P90s are more related to traditional Gibson sound
- P90s work better for overdriven rock tones, while the minis are best of clean tones
- Minis are perfect for noisy pickups, but if you don’t mind the hums, use the P90s.
If you are still in doubt, have a look at the guitars of your favorite players and see what pickups they are using. Aside from these two, there are still tons of other pickups available for you.