Humbucker vs P90 guitar pickups. What are the differences? What’s best for you?

This is our in-depth comparison of the Humbucker Vs P90 electric guitar pickups.

I’m a guitarist of over 25 years, and still, to this day, I’m a sucker for both a raucous Humbucker and the famous glittery tones of P90 pickups on my electric guitars.  

As you’ve landed here, you probably need to know the difference between the two pickups? Let’s get straight into that. 

What are the differences?

The main differences between a humbucker and a P90 guitar pickup lie in their build design, tone, and output power. 

Humbucking Pickups

Humbucker pickups are larger in size and feature two coils of wire wrapped around magnets, which create a stronger signal as they cancel out any hum or interference. 

They provide a warm, mellow sound with ample mid-range frequencies but can offer more punch when cranked up to higher volumes. 

With the dual coil setup, they have higher output levels than single coil pickups. This makes them great for heavier music styles, such as metal tones and hard rock, where greater power is often desired.

P90 Pickups

P90 pickups are smaller pickups typically feature one coil of wire wound around alnico bar magnets instead of double coil like humbucker pickups.

As such, their output is usually lower compared to humbuckers. Their tones tend to have a brighter sound with cleaner less lower-end frequencies. This makes them better suited for playing styles such as blues and jazz, where clarity is essential. 

Their single coil construction also makes them prone to picking up electromagnetic interference from other electronic devices. Resulting in the infamous “hum” sound when playing distorted tones at high volumes.

Main Tonal Differences

Regarding tonal differences, humbucker pickups have fat, punchy tones that are ideal for rock music due to their heavy mids and low-end presence.

Their tight bass response works wonders for rhythm playing, whereas their fat bottom end makes them beasty for your earthy guitar solos. 

P90s, by comparison, produce bright yet mellow tones that have been described as having vintage jazz-like qualities. With less output allows them to be better suited for old school blues or country music genres where subtlety is required.

They also provide crystal clarity, which Humbuckers cannot compete with. This is especially important if you need to cut through a band mix, or you want your audience to hear every single note ringing true.

However, they can also be overdriven to create softer yet still creamy distortion tones with a subtle crunch. 

Although both pickup types can be used in many different styles of music, the vast differences between their designs result in very distinct sounds.  

See below for the Pros and Cons of each pickup.

Pro and Cons 

Humbucker Pickups


Thicker tones / more distortion

Reduced electrical interference

Mellow / warmer Tone

Higher output for heavier styles


Can be muddier than P90 pickups

Tend to be more expensive

Can lack brightness

Can be more costly and complex to install

P90 Pickups


More Midrange and Bass than standard single coil pickups

Easy to Install

More Versatile than Humbucker pickups

Lots of Sustain


Not as bright as a standard single coil pickups

Can be pretty noisy

Can be a bit muddy sounding with some genres of music

Lack the Humbucker power

Be aware, there are 3 main types of P90 pickups you need to know about

Each type of P90 pickup has its own unique sound and characteristics. They also come in 3 types: Bar, Blade and Pole.

  • Bar pickups

Bar pickups tend to be brighter and louder than blade or pole pickups

Seymour Duncan Soap Bar Single coil pickup
  • Blade pickups

Blade pickups tend to have more midrange tone than bar or pole pickups. 

P90 Single bar pickup for electric guitars
  • Pole pickups

Pole pickups generally have a richer tone with more bass response than other types of P90 pickups. 

Single coil pickup for electric guitars. Pole pickup style

My Recommendations

I’ve gathered up my favorites for each pickup type. I’ve given you the best option while considering musical genre.

Our Top 3: Humbucking Pickups

*Full Reviews Below

Best Overall

p90 vs humbucker Pearly gates Pickup

Authentic country sound

Warm, thick tone

Classic crunch/blistering overdrive

Best For Jazz & Crunch

p90 vs humbucker JB and Jazz pickup

Smooth, mellow tones

Rock/Country to Jazz

A huge favorite within the guitar world.

Best For Modern Rock

p90 vs humbucker Fishman Fluence for higher gain

Absolute Power

High Octane Distortion like no other

Super Versatile

Our Top 3: P90s

Best Overall

p90 vs humbucker Antiquity P90 Dog Ear single coil pickup

Beautiful Vintage Tones

Handmade on the original machines from 50s

Superb sustain/grit & honk

Best For The Live Musician

Seymour Duncan Soap Bar p90 vs humbucker rectangular shape

Gibson tone of old

Best option for the live guitarist

Vintage Soapbar look

King of Versatility

p90 vs humbucker Phat cat in humbucker casing

Can withstand any genre of music

Brilliantly bright

Best bang for buck

Humbucker vs P90: Full Review

1- Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Set Zebra Electric Guitar Electronics

seymour duncan pearly gates humbucker pickups

Fired up and ready to rock, the Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates Set Zebra humbucker is a tuned-down Texas sizzle that covers all of your country-fried needs.

Channelling raw outlaws like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson with their vintage voicing. This set complements any Les Paul-style guitar for an authentic country sound.

Compact, focused midrange with a zesty attack ensures dynamically rich performances with plenty of sustain and balanced amp response.

You can pull off everything from laid-back blues to AC/DC-influenced crunch metal without the “mud” often associated with heavy overdriving. All without ever having touched a pedal! Get beasty Rockin-Hendrix-like tones with ease.

The SD Pearly Gates set is perfect for blues guitarists who need their pickups to have a warm, thick sound. Two searing hot humbucking pickups in middle and bridge positions allow you to blend that classic tone with blistering overdrive.

They have a single volume knob and 3-way selector switch, which will help give your guitar that signature blues growl from the old records of the 70s.

The tone is robust and has plenty of output for what you need on stage or at home practice sessions!

Seymour Duncan is a company with decades of experience in crafting the best pickups on the Planet.

Absolutely my choice for the best humbuckers for blues.


Authentic country/blues sound

Handmade on the original machines from 50s

Outstanding sustain features

Well balanced and reliable


Harder rockers may want to avoid

Can be too hot for some

2- Seymour Duncan JB and Jazz Set Electric Guitar Electronics

Seymour Duncan JB and Jazz humbucker pickups

Seymour Duncan JB and Jazz humbucker pickups will melt you with their unbelievably smooth, warm, mellow “jazz” tone.

The JB and Jazz Set is the perfect combination for any musician looking for a wide range of versatility.

The guitar humbuckers from both pickups offer wonderfully moderately baked voicing with impressive crystal clarity, harmonics, and punch unmatched by their close competitors.

The JB and Jazz set pickups are designed for guitarists with a broader genre of music to cover. Genres range from rock to country to jazz.

Every note rings out beautifully without being too overpowering or muddy sounding, even at high volume levels. If you’re a live guitarist, this will be essential for you.

Both pickups are designed to emulate the sound of a single coil pickups, with an Alnico 5 magnet. So you’re getting the best of both worlds.

These top sellers are Seymour Duncan’s most famous single coil pickups available today. The JB model has been around since 1974 and is more than adequate for your needs. And will cover everything from blues/clean/distorted and old-school jazz. Not a bad range, eh?

If you crave that classic jazz tone with the crisp attack of a single coil, I suggest you have found your next pickups right here.

The JB and Jazz set is wired specifically to reproduce that classic Fender U.S.-made tone without the high-end scratchiness of other cheaper pickups on the market today. There’s a reason why Seymour Duncan outsells other competitors in the market!

These pickups will upgrade your Strat or Tele to sound as warm as an older Gibson humbucker-equipped instrument, bright and crunchy like those magnificent humbuckers from Kalamazoo!

What more can I say? The traditional humbucker. An absolute must for the purist!


Outstanding smooth, mellow tones

Great for Rock/Country and Jazz

Still the benchmark for versatility

Huge Seller



3- Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker Alnico & Ceramic Pickups Set, Black Nickel

fishman fluence modern humbucker pickup set for rock and metal

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a guitarist without a decent guitar pickup is seldom seen. Along those lines, it should be evident that your pickups are pretty crucial to your guitar. 

The Fishman Fluence Modern Humbucker Alnico & Ceramic Pickups offer a fresh take on the classic guitar pickup, incorporating a fishbone-style design that is both eye-catching and functional.

This patented technology monopolizes sound quality, power, and versatility to provide you with the best sound when playing any style of music. 

These pickups are perfect for this year’s selection of modern rock tunes! The humbucker pickups are the most requested type for guitarists looking to ‘unleash the beast’. 

Fishman’s Fluence Modern Humbucker set is designed to give you all of the power, articulation and nuance that make these pickups hot right now.

These versatile beauties allow for amplification and acoustic playing modes by transforming into a microphone or electric guitar (with overdrive). You can switch back and forth depending on how you feel like rocking today; let the artistic juices flow. 

Don’t be fooled by its stunning good looks – this model is a dangerous instrument of tone mayhem. 

The Treble Boost preamp has been specially tuned to drive signal from the coil split humbuckers into an intense, high-octane distortion that will take over any amp.

Beautifully futuristic in look and made by the masters at Fishman. A truly versatile option for modern players.

Are you brave enough? Guitar chaos awaits. 


High Octane Distortion like no other

Perfect for Modern Rock/Heavy Metal guitarists

Noise Cancellation outstanding

Very stylish appearance


Not for the clean/crunch loving players

Wiring can be complicated

4- Seymour Duncan Antiquity P-90 Dog Ear Pickup – Bridge

P-90 single coils vintage tone dog ear pickups

Seymour Duncan’s Antiquity P-90 Single Coil Pickups are your gateway to the vintage sound of an original 1959 Gibson pickup in all its glory. What else would you need in life?

So, you got this great guitar, but the pickup doesn’t cut through. Does Seymour Duncan have a solution? Hell yeah!

Cutting-edge engineering techniques combined with old-school design make our Antiquity P90 Dog Ear Pickup perfect for your new Gibson guitar tone or Fender relic build.

All the components have been aged in every detail for that smooth, distortion-free tone.
Seymour Duncan’s Antiquity Pickup is a faithful reproduction of the original 1959 Gibson P90 Dog Ear for an authentic vintage vibe.

The Seymour Duncan Antiquity Pickups are handmade on antique machines from 1955-65, honouring design history- precisely what makes them so desirable.

The Antiquity P-90 was made to recreate that mature golden sound of the good old days, equipped with a pickup calibrated for the best mid-range clarity and grit any P90 can possess.

Equipped with two high-grade magnets and an extra meaty saddle. You won’t have any issues getting those long, satisfying sustains without worrying about sounding too muddy or scratchy.

The Antiquity’s alnico 2 bar magnets are calibrated to give you all the pops and growls of a late 50s ES-330 bridge position without sacrificing articulation in single notes.

No wonder Antiquity is one of the biggest-selling P90 on the market! Don’t miss out. Roll back the years for your ears.


Beautiful Vintage Tones

Handmade on the original machines from 50s

Top draw sustain features

Gritty, honky midrange, and single notes are articulate.


Price may deter some buyers

5- Seymour Duncan Antiquity P-90 Soapbar Pickup – Cream Bridge

Soap Bar pick up for electric guitar

The Seymour Duncan Antiquity P90 Soapbar pickup, perfectly captures that classic Gibson tone in your own guitar.

With its aged look and construction from period-correct materials, this pickup will give you that distinctive, creamy sound that’s perfect for blues, rock, and country music.

If you’re into a vintage sound and look, the Antiquity P90 soapbar is calling your name. With two specially calibrated Alnico 2 bar magnets and custom coil winding, it brings the unmistakable growl of early ’50s Les Paul bridge pickups straight to your fingertips.

It’s warm yet sparkly in its midranges, so chords sing out sweetly. Single notes have plenty of punch without getting too harsh or overpowering! Now that’s undoubtedly beneficial for all your blues work.

Our Antiquity P90 vintage pickup brings you classic ’52 Goldtop tones, from the edgy sparkle of a bridge to sweet neck-position warmth – let’s bring back rock’n’roll!

The neck model of this pickup is specially crafted for an exquisite sound. Each note rings out with a sweet, singing quality you can’t get anywhere else. Plus, the RW/RP winding allows it to stay hum-free when paired up with its matching bridge pickup. This is essential for the live guitarist.

Remove the hand-aged covers and prepare to be impressed. Beneath lies a piece of original vintage Kalamazoo magic made from carefully chosen bobbin components like plain enamel mag wire and flatback tape!
This feature will excite you if you love the small, authentic touches to your guitar gear.

Did you know that antiquity P90 soapbars are often used by jazz guitarists? These pickups have a warm, mellow tone that is perfect for the jazz guitar world. Some of the most well-known jazz guitarists who use antiquity p 90 soapbars include George Benson, Pat Metheny, and John Scofield.

What’s not to like?


Outstanding Gibson tones of old

Best option for the live guitarist

Vintage ageless appearance

Jazz guitarist heaven


Not great if you need high gain/distortion levels

Some reports of calibration issues

6- Seymour Duncan SPH90-1N Phat Cat Humbucker Neck Pickup – Nickel

Phat Cat p90 Electric guitar pickup for humbubking tone

Want to add the classic sound of a P 90 pickup to your humbucker-equipped guitar? Do you want the best of both worlds?

The Seymour Duncan SPH90-1N Phat Cat Humbucker Neck Pickup might be just what you need.

With its formidable might and presence, the P-90 is like no other pickup out there. You’ll get all of a humbucker’s muscle in tone and sustain – but with clarity that rivals single coils. This genuinely one-of-a-kind sound has spiced up legendary tracks for decades – unlocking everything from dynamic dynamics to powerful, punchy chords behind your favorite riffs.

It’s perfect for country, jazz, blues, rockabilly, classic rock, and heavy rock! Whether you’re playing classic rock riffs, punk power chords, or going totally wild, these pickups have a wide range of musical diversity.

These pickups will cut right through the loudest band, with crisp highs, like the edge of a blade slicing through the air. The sound remains bright and brilliant even at low tonal settings, perfect for bluesy rock chords from your bridge pickup!

Take it to the neck position – you’ll hear pure jazz-like characteristics with crystal-clear notes resonating majestically.

A real feast for the guitarist who loves a wide variation of music. A very popular model for a reason. Not many guitarists say anything bad about the Phat Cat P90 Humbucker pickup.


Can withstand any genre of music

Best Bang for Buck

Brilliantly bright

A very popular reliable model

Built to last


Can be a bit stiff on the treble in comparison to the more expensive models


I hope this article has answered some question you may have had about pickups. Obviously, every guitar player is different. My advice would be to try some out. Get a feel for what suits your style, guitar and musical genre.

Good luck.

If you require a larger selection of pickups to read up on, I’ve also reviewed the following:

About Lee

Lee has been playing guitar for over 25 years. In the 1990's he made a few TV appearances in London and supported a few big bands at festivals. He's recently sung on radio and worked as a full-time guitarist/singer. Lee is the founder of Authority Guitar, a site where he wants readers to enjoy every aspect of learning the guitar.