Other Guitars

P-90 or Humbuckers


I have to agree on the Epiphone, too. I've often referred to Epis as the poor man's Gibson.


If I only had one LP, I'd put humbuckers in it. If I had more than one, then I'd start trying different pickup types.


One of each on my Hamer sunburst. The neck P90 is a Duncan Phat Cat and it balances pretty well with the stock Hamer humbucker.


You might TRY some examples of both at guitar stores (or other opportunities) before deciding. Our opinions may be irrelevant to your ears.

I have considerable sympathy with macphisto's position that the "classic" LP configuration - at least for those of us whose guitexpectations were largely informed by late-60s-and-onward classic rock - is all about humbuckers.

Which isn't to say P90s are wrong. P90s can never be wrong. In my world, they rule co-equal with Dynasonics.

Of my Les and Less Pauls, the actual Gibson has mini-hums (yet another toothsome LP option) - while I failed to bond with a Gibson LP with P90s and sent it onward. The same happened with a very nice P90 Less Paul.

But I've judiciously kept three fabulous Less Pauls with 'buckers - one a lowly but mighty Agile, one 70s Electra, and one 80s Westone.

So apparently I'm in that classic rock LP cohort.

BUT I have a wonderful (and dirt-cheap) Dean Evo 60 more-or-Less Paul with P90s, and it's an unparalleled snarling beast. It's just a touch more vicious than my Gibson LP Special slab mahogany doublecut with P90s, from the last decade.

So I guess my own ear tends to endorse P90s on all-mahogany (Special/Jr) slabs - all hail Leslie West's early tone - and 'buckers on maple-over-mahogany arched Pauls.

But prices for Epihones and Agile guitars being what they are, you can get one of each Less Paul for less than half the cost of a single actual Gibson. That exercise will also help you decide - and then if you just HAVE to have "Gibson" on the headstock, you can confidently get the variant you know you want. (And keep the Less version of the other.)

Though for most guitar types, I find I get every bit as much satisfaction from my cheap guitars as from the Brand Names.


Just because everything else that I have has hum-buckers, I'd go with P-90's. i wouldn't mind having a guitar with a different voice. I guess it depends on what you're looking for in your sound. Lots of great advise above.


Over a period of many years, I eventually sold all of my humbucker-equipped Gibsons because I was always trying to make them sound like Gretsches. I kept the one with P-90s.

That said, the 1992 LP Classic with Duncan Antiquity HB's and a Bigsby was the best-sounding LP I've ever heard. I sold that one because the neck was too shallow and behaved as if it were made of rubber, not because of the sound.

The right Gibson or Gibson-style humbuckers in the right guitar can be glorious. Unfortunately, there are lots of mediocre examples, and it's hard to say why they don't sound better. It's always a risk if you can't try before you buy. I think P-90s are a safer bet.


I guess the sound in my head is a “big” ballsy, percussive sound but with clarity.... Think of Steve Stevens with Billy Idol.

I don’t like the mud I hear with most Humbuckers. But Steve uses Humbucker equipped LP’s. And if I’m honest I come close to that sound on my Jag Tan Annie. I suppose it’s more of a lust thing than a “need.”


not at all, Walter. as i said above, i love my Tokai Les Paul Special with P-90s. it just seems counterproductive to me to spend north of $2000US for a P-90 Les Paul Standard when IMO humbuckers are the ur-Les Paul sound exemplified by everyone from Duane Allman to Steve Jones to James out of Manic Street Preachers. it makes no sense to me, any more than spending elephant dollars for a 2xHB Stratocaster or Tele. of course, I'm accustomed to folks here bashing PAFs because they don't fit the early/mid-50s sound many of y'all prefer. if that floats your boat, mazel tov!

– macphisto

Hi Mac! I was pretty sure you had a Tokai LS-135 and completely agree with your input above. Just when I want to swap them out, I start playing my PAF-sounding Tokai and say "well I'll just sleep on the switch to Dynas for now".

Dicky Betts is a huge influence and my Tokai tuned to an open G is pure tone for when I play the Stones' "Can't You Hear Me Knocking". It's just that my LP Traditional, with the '59 Reissues, covers the '60s Rock and then has enough clarity and depth on just the neck pup played clean to go towards the other side of the spectrum.

I think the fact that I love Les Pauls' tone in the days he played with Mary Ford (think "How High the Moon") that converting the Tokai with DeArmonds or Dynas might satisfy this vs. spending on a new guitar.

But since I'm not a big pedal user, this explains why I have 10 electrics to cover the tone I'm chasing in my fickle practice sessions so buying a clone Les Paul, like an Agile" and installing Dynas may be another good option. Of course I must admit that my lack of playing the past 12 -18 months, because of a heavy work schedule, does not warrant any new purchases right now.


i have a variety of electric guitars even though i'm a big pedal enthusiast. i've always found that different styles of guitar make me play differently, and this is also true for different types of pickups. an obvious example is my Strat vs. my Duo Sonic or the LP with PAFs vs. the SG, which are very different despite having very similar pickups. i definitely phrase and voice chords differently on P-90s as compared to PAFs or Strat PUs. at the moment my pickup selection includes PAFs, P-90s, Strat/Duo Sonic, Dynas, D'A 2000s, and a variety of odd single-coils including Hopf/Schaller and Guyatone, with a Jazzmaster on the way as soon as i can afford one and a set of Hofner staple mini-hums out of a Kapa Challenger waiting for a Strat install/build once i get a 3d PU to simulate the Hofner Galaxie.


IIRC Stevens has his own signature model humbuckers, from Duncan i think? i'm a Duncan enthusiast since the Antiquities in the Duo Sonic are superb, perhaps the nicest Fender-style pickups i've ever played.

seems like you'd really want P-90s or staple PUs for the Les/Mary sound, but Dynas would probably work with judicious EQing.


I generally prefer P90s Les Pauls. I love that early Freddie King sound! Yes i know that THE Les Paul sound is HBs but in my experience most Les Pauls with HBs sound incredibly boring. Whereas every LP I have owned with P90s has sounded great, and probably more versatile than a HB Les Paul.

BUT: I am in the extremely fortunate position of owning a '59 RI Gibson Les Paul - a 2018 I think - and it's incredible. I have never played a better Les Paul and it sounds so different from any other HB Les Paul I have played. So I guess my advice would be to first work out what you want you guitar to sound like. P90s will twang but still rock if you need to. Most HB les Pauls won't come anywhere close to twanging.

But if you can afford a great Les Paul try an R9. For me it is an ridiculous luxury - and if I didn't have it I would go P90s every time.

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