Friday, December 11, 2009

The great P90 shootout

It's kind of worrying when you can do a 'shootout' from a subset of your own collection of guitars.

Anyway, on to the contenders...

The new kid on the block
This Vintage Goldtop (V100GT) has been upgraded with handwound Bareknuckle BKP91 P90s. I've paid less for several of my guitars than these cost the previous owner. Yet is this still a just a polished turd?

The Nashville Kiss
This Indie 'Super T' was never really a Telecaster and cost half what the pickups in the Vintage did. Since then it's been modded with a Kent Armstrong P90 in the bridge and two GFS lipstick tubes.

The Indie custom semi-hollow
The only one here that's still as it left the factory, two P90s in a lovely light satin number.

The BFI
Once a conventional Indie 'Designer' Les Paul copy this now sports a GFS P90 at the neck and a vintage handwound Kent Armstrong 'hot PAF' humbucker at the bridge. Also wired for coil tap and phase reverse.

The trial
This consisted of me naffing about with them all through the Peavey Nanovalve running at full pelt to get some overdrive, using an external speaker cab and with the attenuator wound up to keep volume low. To maintain some consistency I did try one particular not overly widdly Kirk Hammett solo that I know well for back to back pickup comparisons. It' not the right kind of material but something I know.

The verdict
In reverse order, the finishers are...

Third loser
The Nashville Kiss. It seemed like a good idea at the time but the bridge P90 is flat, not smooth and the lipstick tubes are nice and bright but can't lift it out of last place. This will be getting revisited and the (vintage voiced) original Indie humbucker put back in the bridge once I've fitted a suitable matching pickup cover.

Second loser
The new kid on the block. The neck P90 is simply gorgeous, and by a nose the best sounding here. However the bridge is weak and thin sounding to me. This is even after I wound it up closer to the strings. The contrast in output between the two pickups is enormous and sustain from the bridge noticeably absent.
I almost suspect there is something wrong with it, I may look at the wiring. I am also unhappy in that it can't actually be got particularly close to the strings without the mounting screws coming loose. Oh and I think the guitar itself needs a setup, even though it intonates OK it feels a little odd and frets out in places when you bend strings.

First loser
The semi-hollow. This has the best overall P90 showing with a neck pickup nearly as good as the Goldtop and a creditable performance from the bridge.

Winner
The BFI wins by cheating. Gibson were onto something, the combination of neck P90 with a bridge humbucker is the killer combo for me. The GFS P90 is almost as good as the Indie and BKP ones but that humbucker just works better in that position. It helps that this vintage Kent Armstrong is great in its own right of course. This is the modded guitar that I keep coming back to to tweak, not because it needs it but because I hope it can be made even better. There are some Sperzels in the post already.

The never was
I've got a Mockingbird with a neck Kent Armstrong P90 in but that's the project I keep avoiding returning to because it never seems quite right.

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