Adjusting the height of P90 pole pieces

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Figaro, May 25, 2015.

  1. Figaro

    Figaro Supporting Member

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    I've seen some P90 pickups with the pole pieces adjusted high. How much difference is there in raising the pole pieces vs raising the whole P90 pickup?
     
  2. PixMix

    PixMix Member

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    Not difference but control over targeting each string, vs. raising/slanting the whole side of the pickup.
     
  3. halcyon

    halcyon Supporting Member

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    Sure there's a difference. When you raise the pickup you're bringing the magnet closer to the strings. When you raise a single screw... you're not. It makes a noticeable difference in tone and feel.
     
  4. Figaro

    Figaro Supporting Member

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    Anyone have an opinion? What kinds of differences do you hear?
     
  5. 27sauce

    27sauce Supporting Member

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    I've found that when I raised the entire pickup, I got a hot/compressed/darker tone. With just the pole pieces raised, there was more clarity, volume, and less boom.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2015
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  6. jecars

    jecars Member

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    My two cents: I raise/lower the entire pickup by ear to get to a sweet spot that I like. For me, the pickups usually end up slightly tipped, a little closer to the thin strings than the bass strings. Sometimes a middle string sounds weaker. In my experience, if a string seems weak, it tends to be the G-string but not always (BTW, I mostly use 10-46 strings and never use wound G). In that case, I adjust the pole piece a turn or less to be closer to the weak string until balanced.
     
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  7. 27sauce

    27sauce Supporting Member

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    The issue with 2 pickup p-90 guitars is that the neck pickup's volume is almost always much louder. More so than on HB guitars, it's exaggerated for some reason.
     
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  8. DonP

    DonP Member

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    I think you see the poles raised more often because it isn't easy to raise a P90. You have to take it out, put in a spacer, put it back in.
     
  9. Devin

    Devin Low Voltage Supporting Member

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    Im using vintage vibe s-90s, they are strat p-90's. Very similar construction to a p-90. Just did a bit of experimenting after reading this thread. I raised the pole pieces and got much more definition and focus. Better string seperation. As with humbucker's, the bobbin adds more gain and warm tones when moved closer to the strings but the adjustable poles provide more "poke" or attack.
     
  10. Figaro

    Figaro Supporting Member

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    I'll bet that's why many original 50's Guitars with P90s have their pole pieces raised up. It's just easier than removing the P90 to raise it up.

    Thanks for all the responses!
     
  11. Tony Bones

    Tony Bones Member

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    Soapbars are height adjustable, though sometimes there's not enough spring or foam to push them out as far as you might want, so you end up taking them out to add foam.

    I definitely prefer the sound with the screws nearly flush with the cover and the entire pickup adjusted close to the strings. The center screws might be backed out a turn or two for string balance, but the bass E screw will be in as far as it will go. Like jecars, I usually end up with the pickup tiltled a little closer to the skinny strings.
     
  12. IPLAYLOUD

    IPLAYLOUD Member

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    A few gigs ago, for the first time, I actually had a string get hung up under the edge of a P90 pole screw!
    I did have the poles raised up pretty high. I guess with some aggressive playing, I pushed the string down and it hooked on. At first I thought I snapped the string and it was stuck to the pickup magnet.
     
  13. mad dog

    mad dog Silver Supporting Member

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    More or less what jecars said. I tried adjusting P-90 polepieces on dogears w/o shimming the pickups. Never did anything much ... if anything, sounded worse. Then tried shimming the whole pickup. Instant improvement, quite obvious. I've experimented with shimming to different heights on several P-90 equipped guitars. There's a sweet spot, a certain height where the p/u sounds best. I keep the polepieces flush to the pickup body.
    MD
     
  14. Devin

    Devin Low Voltage Supporting Member

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    both matter, bobbin is more dramatic. My genius is going unnoticed online.
     
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  15. LanEvo

    LanEvo Member

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    I find there's a pretty substantial difference:
    • Raising the whole pickup = more humbucker-like tone. Darker, louder, more compressed.
    • Raising the pole pieces = more of a Strat/Tele tone. Brighter with a more open feel.
    If you have a dual-P90 guitar, like a Goldtop or Special, try raising the bridge pickup way up and keeping the neck pickup dropped down into the body (with the pole pieces raised). Almost a Broadcaster-like tone. Very cool.
     
  16. swiveltung

    swiveltung Member

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    I seem to like the pole pieces up rather than the whole pickup. Also, never too close to the string with a P90. They seem to sound more full and gutsy to me that way.
     
  17. e-flat

    e-flat Supporting Member

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    I agree with the info above.... I generally adjust a P-90 to get in the "ballpark" for the output & sensitivity I'm looking for. This usually involves a little bit of the above mentioned "slant" with the high strings closer. I then adjust the pole pieces to balance the strings.

    I do have one guitar (an Epi Casino Gold Top) with which I've been experimenting with different P-90s. Even an otherwise awesome Fralin 8K4 bridge PU sounds way too hot & bassy in that guitar. I plan to wind new low output pickups (a first for me... supplies inbound) but as a temp fix found that extending the pole pieces up did increase clarity while sacrificing focus ... more jangle but it sounds a little tinny and cheap with the polepieces cranked too high.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2015
  18. Brett Faust

    Brett Faust Member

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    It has been my experience that if the distance from the poles to the string is the same, then a coil farther from the string usually sounds brighter and less punchy.
    For me, it is really all about coil placement not pole position relative to the string.
     
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  19. rwijaya

    rwijaya Supporting Member

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    the thing with P90's is, the closer the whole pickup to the strings, the better it sounds.

    what i usually do when i setup a P90's pickup is, raise the whole pickup closer to the string until i get the desired volume and then adjust the pole pieces to balances each strings volume, so no one strings is louder than the rest.

    raising the pole pieces alone without raising the whole pickup, will resulted in a brighter tone and better string separation but it lack body in the tone. the whole result is the pickup sounding Thin.

    i like the result with raising the whole pickup better.
     
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  20. Rod

    Rod Tone is Paramount Silver Supporting Member

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    So many P-90 neck position pickups are just to hot, imho. I've had better luck with 7K ohm winds in that position, then, as others have said, raising the pole screws gives it better note definition.. The bridge position to me sounds best raised up close to the strings with the pole pieces not extended...
     

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