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P-90s in Les Paul too bright -- fixes?

scelerat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,206
I just put a pair of GFS Dream 90s in an Aria Pro II Leopard (Les Paul copy), and they're a lot brighter than I expected them to be. I'm guessing that the 500K pots are the reason.

Short of replacing the pots -- they're original and have narrower shafts than the replacements I've found, and I don't really want to ream out bigger holes -- is there anything I can do make the sound less bright? It's pretty thin/ice-picky.
 

Tidewater Custom Shop

Performance Enhancing Guitarworks
Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,691
If the tone control itself doesn't suffice, try different capacitors.

I had a Les Paul with P-90s and used a .015uF on the neck, and a .022uF on the bridge. The result was a bright, clean, deep and woody tone... which was my goal.

If you want to tame the brightness, I recommend you try a .022uF (or even a .033uF) on the neck, and a .033uF (or a .047uF) on the bridge.

Paper in oil caps will smooth things out a bit, too, more so than ceramic caps. That's been my experience.

Your 500K pots should be okay... that's what I had on mine. Upgrades (RS Guitarworks) may help, but caps are key to tone management.
 

scelerat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,206
When you say "use a cap of a particular value" -- do you mean just replace the existing cap between volume and tone pots? Or somewhere else?
 

zombiwoof

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,900
A tone cap change is not going to bring the overall brightness down very much. If it's too bright, can't you just EQ your amp to accomplish this? If not, I'd suggest changing the tone pots to 250K audio. Original LP Juniors had 500k volume pots and 250k tone pots.

Al
 

Hugo Da Rosa

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
2,387
Surprised no one has suggested to adjust the height of the pickup yet. Or is that a no brainer these days? Or can you not adjust p90s? :dunno

I wouldn't change the pots. The only pickups I would use a 250k pot in are single coils. If you switch from 500k to 250k, your sound is going to be a bit muddier. If that's what you are going for then sure, I guess you can go that route. But I'd rather have more brightness and just roll down the tone knob than having a ceiling to how much brightness you can get.

If adjusting the height of the pickup doesn't do any good, then I would suggest a different type/value cap. It may not tame the brightness but it will tame the amount of treble frequencies passing through, and to many people with bright pickups, it seems to solve the problem. If you are using a .015uF cap, go up to .022uF. If you are using a .022uF cap, go up to a .033uF. I wouldn't go past .033uF as .047uF with these kind of pickups really muddy things up.
 

Keyser Soze

Member
Messages
1,472
P90s are single coils, going from humbuckers to single coils is going to sound bright. Single coils, even big fat ones, don't have the compression/phase cancellation inherent to any humbucking pickup (especially ones with side-by-side coils.)

Raising the pickups is an option, it won't so much reduce treble response as add in more mid-range response and bump up overall output. This may result in an overall tone that doesn't sound quite so bright.

Turning down on the tone knob is another option. So what if you have to leave it on 6? So long as it sounds good. The further option would be to change the tone cap to one of higher value.

Then there's the amp...
 

OlAndrew

Member
Messages
2,345
A Harley fix I've used with success is to attach a cap between the pickup hot and ground. try a .002 to start.

A Dream 90 is a single coil, pretty similar to a Strat, just in a case that fits humbucker routes.

I've got a couple of 'em.
 

Live Wire

Member
Messages
269
Some years back I had a similar problem on my LP Special. I installed two Duncan P-90's, ans the bridge was way too bright. I merely switched them, and put the neck pup in the bridge position, and vice versa. Worked like a charm.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
39,218
Some years back I had a similar problem on my LP Special. I installed two Duncan P-90's, ans the bridge was way too bright. I merely switched them, and put the neck pup in the bridge position, and vice versa. Worked like a charm.
the pickup ended up being less bright than the other one when you put it in the bridge position? then it likely was the actual bridge pickup! (maybe they were labeled wrong?)

two pickups in a calibrated set will be wound with a brighter, quieter neck and a darker, louder bridge, so that they balance with each other in the inherently woofy neck spot and the inherently twangy bridge spot.
 

walterw

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
39,218
I just put a pair of GFS Dream 90s in an Aria Pro II Leopard (Les Paul copy), and they're a lot brighter than I expected them to be.

It's pretty thin/ice-picky.
sounds like you just need better pickups. sorry, you get what you pay for :dunno
 

scelerat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,206
sounds like you just need better pickups. sorry, you get what you pay for :dunno
Yah, I've considered that, too. The P-90s were an experiment, and I just dropped them in directly to what is a pretty standard LP setup. I've never had P-90s before. These are brighter and thinner than the Duncan five-twos in my Telecaster.

But given the good-for-the-price (which is cheap) reputation I figured it's something I did wrong. Could be time for a tech who can take a look and knows what it's supposed to sound like.
 

scelerat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,206
Ok, well I adjusted some things:

Saddle height: got the strings up off the fretboard a little bit; this helped get a little more power out of the strings.

I also raised the bridge pickup a bit and lowered the neck.

The sound is more even now, and a little more full. The sound is still not quite as good as the Tele with the Seymour Duncans, but I suppose that would be expecting quite a bit from $30 pickups in a 30+ year old les paul copy.

It doesn't sound like crap anymore and is giggable. That's the main point.

...quick-n-dirty "test"--simply temporarily connect a 250K ohm resistor across the two 'outside' lugs of the volume pot...that'll 'lower' the effective VOL pot resistance from 500K down to 250K.

...if that sounds like what you want, then either (a) permanently solder the 250K ohm resistor in, or (b) replace the 500K VOL pot with a 250K pot.

I'll give this a shot too, after I gig it this Saturday.
 

909one

Member
Messages
2,197
If those are p-90's in a humbucker route, that explains everything.
P-90's need to have more room to allow for more wraps of wire to achieve classic p-90 tone. According to an email I once received from Jason Lollar asking if he made p-90's that fit into humbucker routes, he has heard no p-90's in a humbucker route that accomplish typical p-90 fatter midrange tone. The Seymour Duncan Phat Cats are the same way. I actually really like those pickups...

Lollar does offer 90's in a humbucker style now on his site, but the description says they sound like a p-90 but not exactly the same, less midrange and more high end... So that really is the problem, those Dream 90's are brighter because they aren't true p-90's. That doesn't solve your problem but it explains the cause.
 

zombiwoof

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
5,900
If those are p-90's in a humbucker route, that explains everything.
P-90's need to have more room to allow for more wraps of wire to achieve classic p-90 tone. According to an email I once received from Jason Lollar asking if he made p-90's that fit into humbucker routes, he has heard no p-90's in a humbucker route that accomplish typical p-90 fatter midrange tone. The Seymour Duncan Phat Cats are the same way. I actually really like those pickups...

Lollar does offer 90's in a humbucker style now on his site, but the description says they sound like a p-90 but not exactly the same, less midrange and more high end... So that really is the problem, those Dream 90's are brighter because they aren't true p-90's. That doesn't solve your problem but it explains the cause.
The GFS pickup that is a real P90 in humbucker size is the Mean 90, which gets rave reviews on many forums. Maybe the poster should have gotten those instead.

Al
 

OlAndrew

Member
Messages
2,345
Second the above. The Mean 90 has a much richer warmer sound. It has larger coils and I think, different magnets. The Dream 90s are a fairly small single-coil, much like a single Strat pickup. I've got both, and for the record, I found the Dreams kinda thin sounding and overly bright. That was in an old Japanese hollowbody. Its now got a set of Tonerider Alnico IIs in it, and sounds just gorgeous. I like a low-drive mellow tone, though.
 

dbeeman

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
5,990
...quick-n-dirty "test"--simply temporarily connect a 250K ohm resistor across the two 'outside' lugs of the volume pot...that'll 'lower' the effective VOL pot resistance from 500K down to 250K.

...if that sounds like what you want, then either (a) permanently solder the 250K ohm resistor in, or (b) replace the 500K VOL pot with a 250K pot.
Old Tele

Did you not mean to put a 500k resistor across the pot -- to make the total max load = 250K?
 

scelerat

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
3,206
Would you believe a setup is what was called for, and not -- necessarily -- a pickup change?

I had my local guitar shop (SF Guitarworks) recut the nut, do some work on the saddles and a setup on this old Aria Pro II Leopard Les Paul copy. When I got it back I immediately noticed the strings rang so much better than before when it was unplugged.

When I got into the studio tonight before practice, I plugged into my Route 66 and went through some songs. Beautiful grinding nasal bridge sound; mellow but clear neck. Where before, notes were thin and dead, now they are thick and complex; a full range of harmonics. Same GFS Dream 90s as before.

I thought it was dead because of the pickups, but really it just needed a good setup. My guitar tech just stole a sale from a pickup manufacturer.
 

buchla300

Member
Messages
1,427
Would you believe a setup is what was called for, and not -- necessarily -- a pickup change?

I had my local guitar shop (SF Guitarworks) recut the nut, do some work on the saddles and a setup on this old Aria Pro II Leopard Les Paul copy. When I got it back I immediately noticed the strings rang so much better than before when it was unplugged.

When I got into the studio tonight before practice, I plugged into my Route 66 and went through some songs. Beautiful grinding nasal bridge sound; mellow but clear neck. Where before, notes were thin and dead, now they are thick and complex; a full range of harmonics. Same GFS Dream 90s as before.

I thought it was dead because of the pickups, but really it just needed a good setup. My guitar tech just stole a sale from a pickup manufacturer.
Cool!
Yes, a good nut and setup can make the world of difference. I built myself a Tele with decent parts (fender body, allparts neck) and just gave it to a guitar builder for the final nut and setup. It cam back feeling like a high end guitar after leaving as a half decent mid range instrument

Those Aria Leopards can be great instruments, so I think you did the right thing.
 






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