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Seymour Duncan P-Rails - review and pics (PRS content)

Gnarlly

Member
Messages
2,862
Just installed a set of SD P-Rails in my PRS the other night. I wired them to two push-pull pots (volume/tone) and the stock 3-way switch, and can now switch between P-90, rails, series, and parallel settings. Review below, after the pics.

These things are a PITA to wire:



I used the set with cream covers; a shade lighter than the PRS pickup rings' cream color, but that could be due to age. Some pics of the guitar with pickups installed (taken with flash, so everything looks a little brighter than in-person):








Review: I mostly play my strat with a swamp ash body, maple neck, low-output single coils in the neck/middle positions and a medium-output humbucker in the bridge, so take these opinions with a grain of salt.

P-90's: I've never owned a guitar with P-90's (I don't think I've ever even played one before in 15+ years!), so one of the reasons for buying this set was to check out the P-90 hype that I've been reading about lately. So far, I like what I hear, and as I get used to them I think I will end up enjoying them a lot. More mids and output than the SSL-1's in my Strat, but still retaining a single-coil feel. From what I've read, the P-90's in the P-Rails have a little more output/aggression than regular P-90's. The bridge kind of reminds me of a Tele bridge pickup. The neck is beefiy, but not muddy like most neck humbuckers sound to me. For someone that finds strat pickups too thin and humbuckers too thick/muddy, these would be the perfect pickup. With some tweaking, I hope to get that old Townsend live sound and Gilmour's solo tone from 'Another Brick in the Wall.'

Rails: I knew beforehand that the rails setting would not sound as good as the SSL-1's in my strat, but I was hoping to get close. In this case, the rails setting does get close to a Strat single-coil sound, but I think body/neck woods and the placement of the rails in the P-Rails are big factors in affecting the rails sound. In my mostly-mahogany PRS, the wood gives the rails setting some more "body" and warmth, but I think the rails might sound too "thin" in a guitar with an alder/ash body and maple neck. The fact that the neck rail faces the bridge rather than the neck also gives the neck position a thinner sound than the typical strat neck position. I may experiment with rotating the neck pickup so that the rail faces the neck, but that may get rid of the in-between "quack" setting; yes, the middle position does have that strat "quack" which I love, as the bridge and neck rails are closer together (sounds more like the strat bridge/middle sound than the neck/middle setting to me). With only two pickups, it might sound similar to a Fender Jaguar (I don't know, never played one), but I can cop a usable Knopfler 'Sultans of Swing' tone if needed. The bridge rail sounds a lot better to me than a stock strat bridge single-coil; it's closer to the neck and so has more beef and less ice-picks.

Series: Medium to high output, definitely fat but not too muddy, nice highs but not ice-picks, balanced mids with no mid-hump. That's probably how I can best describe the series humbucker setting for both pickups. I currently use a JB Jr. in my strat and prefer full-sized JB's in most humbucking guitars. The JB has an upper-mid "bump" that makes it really stand out, and to my ears seems lacking in the P-Rails. It is going to take me some time to get used to this setting; it's definitely usable, but my ears keep wanting to hear more mids. Compared to the JB, the P-Rails' treble tones seem about the same, but the bass is definitely increased. However, it still retains clarity even with the heavy bass. Probably the weakest setting of the four in my opinion, but again I tend to avoid higher-output humbuckers.

Parallel: I wasn't expecting much from this setting, but it has probably surprised me the most (favorably). I've read some folks compare the P-Rails in parallel to old PAF's; I've never tried a real old set of PAF's, so I can't compare. It has a little more output than the rails setting, but a lot less than in series, with a scooped-mids sound similar to the rails, but with a low-output humbucking feel. I guess I would compare it to a lower-output version of the SD Jazz pickup, with a more scooped-mids feel. All positions sound great, but I wish the bridge had a little more mids to give it some more kick. This setting is really cool!

Sounds clips that I recorded can be found here: https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/474344

Conclusion: Huge upgrade over the Dragon II's that came stock in the guitar; the PRS pickups always seemed lifeless to me, and the coil-split settings never sounded as good as the rails setting on the P-Rails. It's going to take me some time to get used to the pickups, and all of the various settings (going from 6 possible tones to 12). I will say that each setting is different enough from the others, that this guitar now seems like 4 guitars in one. These are really cool pickups and I know I will be playing my PRS a lot more in the future. Highly recommended. :BEER
 
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Will Chen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
6,705
Thanks for the review. I haven't seen them in creme yet and I think they look much better than in black. How about some clips?
 

tone4days

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,681
great review
thanks for sharing it
glad you are happy
just the idea of these pickups makes me want to buy a guitar just to put them in :D
 

edward

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,725
Thanks, Gnarlly! Great write up with good detail. I am really on the fence with these for an all-maple solid body. Everything you write seems to jive with everything I've read on them thus far.

Curious about the series bucker tone though: in your opinion, would you find the bridge pup in series-bucker config makes a good rock lead tone (as in classic to contemp rock, no ultra-heavy OD or scooped metal), as well as a rock chunky rhythm tone? Looking forward to hearing your clips!
:D

Edward
 

Gnarlly

Member
Messages
2,862
The bridge pup is definitely chunky, but you may need to boost your mids/upper mids settings if you're going for a lead tone. Through my Marshall Jubilees, it doesn't stand out as much as a JB to me for an '80's hard rock lead tone, and sounds more like a modern heavy humbucking lead tone (more like a SD Hot Rails that I tried years ago).
 

Mike Dresch

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
943
I have these installed in a couple guitars. I think the neck pickup is stellar. Series mode is not muddy at all. Just a great PAF type sound. Series bridge is decent, but it doesn't quite have enough bite to it for my tastes. Still though, it's very usable. Pretty much everything said in the review I agree with. Parallel mode is great in the bridge pickup. P-90 mode is cool as well, but I don't notice as much difference between the P-90 and series humbucker as I thought I would. You can hear the difference between the two modes, just not as obvious. That being said, I've done some tracking with one of my P Rail loaded guitars on a couple different projects and it performed well. I'm going to do some experimenting with different pot values. I've tried 500k and 250k. I might have to try 300k at some point.
 

908SSP

Member
Messages
5,800
I have had a pair in a Fly Mojo for over half a year. And except for one thing my findings pretty much agree with yours. I think the parallel setting is excellent and nearly as loud as series, almost wished I'd wired the switch so that was the normal both pots in position instead of both posts pulled.
 

edward

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,725
Hey wait a minute, Gnarlly!

How did you get all the coil options (series bucker, parallel bucker, P90, and Rail from just a push/pull volume and push/pull tone?

FWIW, I am thinking of wiring mine in P90 as default, then pull vol for humbucker in parallel, then pull tone for bucker in series. I figured I'd just give up the rail, but how did you get that given your controls? What am I missing??

Edward
 

JimH

Member
Messages
1,571
How did you get all the coil options (series bucker, parallel bucker, P90, and Rail from just a push/pull volume and push/pull tone?
+1 - if one puch/pull pot is "master" series/parrallel what's the other? On standard humbuckers it becomes coil tap but it can't be on a P-rail as you want to use both individually and together - which is three options, add series/parrallel of both on together, that makes 4 options per pickup. x2 pickups = 8 tones. Plus another 4 from both P-rails together - makes your 12.

How d'you control em?
 

Mike Dresch

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
943
Here's how it works:

Both knobs control the modes together.

Both knobs down - Humbuckers in series
Both knobs up - Humbuckers in parallel
One knob up the other down - P90 mode
First knob up, second knob down - Single coil mode.

This is for a two potentiometer set up. It affects both pickups at the same time. If you wanted to control the pickups separately, you would have to use a two volume / two tone set up.
 

908SSP

Member
Messages
5,800
Hey wait a minute, Gnarlly!

How did you get all the coil options (series bucker, parallel bucker, P90, and Rail from just a push/pull volume and push/pull tone?
Actually I wrote Duncan and asked for this arrangement in just a couple days they wrote back saying they had forgotten to do that one and thanks.

 

Gnarlly

Member
Messages
2,862
Yep, that's the diagram I initially followed, but with mine the default "down" position is the P-90's; tone up gives series, volume up gives parallel, and both up gives the rails setting. I'll be recording some clips the next couple of days. Unfortunately, they will be at apartment volumes, but they should still give folks an idea of how the different settings sound.
 
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edward

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
4,725
I would never have thought to wire it like that. Thanks!

Do they have a wiring schem for doing the exact same thing, but for 2 p/p vol pots and 2 p/p tone pots so each pup can be controlled indep??

Edward
 

908SSP

Member
Messages
5,800
I think so but you'll have to find it on the Duncan site. They have a load of different drawings like that for all kinds of installs.
 




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