So, what's so great about the HD Z90s?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by dhdfoster, Aug 22, 2006.

  1. dhdfoster

    dhdfoster Silver Supporting Member

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    There is probably no other pickups that I have read so much praise for, while having no idea what they sound like. I keep reading words like "amazing, huge, hi-fi, etc.". What is so different about the Harmonic Design Z90? I can't figure out if they are more Duane Eddy or more Leslie West, or both.

    I wrote this after reading a post of someone saying it's the only pickup they've actually wanted to design an entire guitar around.

    I tend to be a little skeptical of all the praise, as I have only played one set of truely "magical" pickups. The old "P90s" in my '59 Guild are absolutely amazing, but all these glowing descriptions for the Z90 have me so curious.

    What gives?
     
  2. jmadill

    jmadill Gold Supporting Member

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    They have their own sound, and are unique.

    The best suggestion I can make is to play a guitar with them installed, and see for yourself.

    Two major factors that contribute to their tone:

    1) Oversized pole pieces
    2) Taking advantage of the humbucker size for wire winding

    I initially bought a set because I wanted a P-90 style pickup in my PRS HB. What I got just was different than I expected. Not a humbucker, not a P90. but something that was unique. They are hot pickups, but not harsh like many of the overwound P90s.

    You may like them, you may not, but they are different than just a P90 in a humbucker form factor.

    -jm
     
  3. Rhomco

    Rhomco Silver Supporting Member

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    I sold mine after about a month of trying to find what the hype was all about.
     
  4. Rob DiStefano

    Rob DiStefano Member

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    Describing "sound" and "tone" is so subjective at best, but IMO Z90's exhibit a large, clear, articulate ... more midrange emphasis ... no distorto or added uber volume - no question, they're different than any single coil, i.e. - P90 or P94.
     
  5. esoteric pete

    esoteric pete Supporting Member

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    same here... neck sounded too "woofy" for me, and the bridge was way too thin and plinky....and yes, i did mess around ALOT with the height and adjustment...
     
  6. WahmBoomAh

    WahmBoomAh World Crass Guitarist Silver Supporting Member

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    I had them in a 335 type guitar and they were PERFECT .....except the guitar was impossible to keep in tune .Sold the guitar, kept the Z90`s and now I`m looking for a guitar to put the pickups in . Don`t know if they`ll be as great in a solidbody but for a bluesy/clean/jazzy sc sound in a semi hollow ..they`re fantastic
     
  7. Unburst

    Unburst Member

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    I liked them in my Klein.
    They are nothing like Duane Eddy or Leslie West, in fact they don't sound very P-90-ish to my ears at all.

    What they do sound like is clear but big.
     
  8. the_Chris

    the_Chris It's All Been Done Before Gold Supporting Member

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    Glad I'm in good company, I tried the HD Z-90, S-90 and Vintage + neck for Tele also... I just didn't like 'em. They were a little too hi-fi for me, didn't really give me that organic warmth I was looking for. I kept messing with the height and adjustment screws trying to find a "sweet spot" so that I could find what all the praise was about, but never found it.

    They weren't bad pickups, but P-90s are way different and as Unburst mentioned, they're "clear, but big". Perhaps a bit too clear and clean for my taste (almost sterile sounding for my style), tried to do some down and dirty rock and roll and was disappointed. The country, jazz crowd will probably like it.

    Take this opinion from a man who loves P-90s and likes humbuckers, so I'm probably biased towards the "dirtier", thicker and warmer sounds than the pickup was really designed for.
     
  9. dhdfoster

    dhdfoster Silver Supporting Member

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    Thanks. I don't really like humbuckers, and I guess I'd put myself in the twang club. I keep seeing "big" used to describe them. I appreciate the input, but I still don't understand. I'll have to find someone who has some locally.
     
  10. Mark Robinson

    Mark Robinson Member

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    I have the z-90 set in a Strat type guitar. They are large sounding. What I mean by large sounding is they have more bass and volume than normal Fender pickups, and a much fuller midrange, just as P-90s do.

    But they are different than p-90's in that they have clearer highs, and a different peak as evidenced by pick attack. The simple twist of a tone knob about down to seven or so, and they become much more similar to P-90 pickups.

    One other VERY HANDY feature of the z-90 is that is is lower in hum susceptability than normal P-90 pickups, much quieter.

    They certainly do not suck. But of course not everybody has the same amp or ears or way of adressing the instrument. I'm a huge fan of every product I've seen so far from Harmonic Design. I have the S-90 and Vintage plus rig in a Tele too, and they are really fun, more midrange, less twinge, more chug, less chime. It's a different way to go FWIW:jo . YMMV etc.
     
  11. thesedaze

    thesedaze Member

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    I'd say hi-fi is a great description. Clear, Hi-fi. That can be great, or it can be horrid depending on your rig and desired tone.

    Check out Kimock's DVD for a good feel for them. He's got em in a few of his guitars, but plays the Cripe w/ 3 loaded in on the DVD.

    Bill Frisell has also recorded w/ em.
     
  12. paddywhack

    paddywhack Silver Supporting Member

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    i had some Z-90's and still have a S-90/vintage plus setup in a tele...i like em but don't think they're for everybody...they're aggresive and articulate and sound good to my ears at higher volume when their harmonic richness comes through...i like em with warm tweedy amps the best
     
  13. Jason Calieri

    Jason Calieri Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm considering the Z90s, too, but I'm having a tough time getting a good idea of what to expect. I've always played humbuckers, but recently spent some time with some P90s and G&L MFD large single coils. The G&Ls are *awesome*! I couldn't believe it... pretty aggressive, lots of bite, low end oomph, plenty of clarity... this is probably a long-shot, but does anyone know how the Z90s compare to these particular G&Ls?
     
  14. cameron

    cameron Member

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    I think the Z-90 will generally be quite similar to the big MFD. I have HD Super 90 bridge pickups in both my Teles and I've often noticed that they sound quite similar to the MFD pickups. They're a bit more aggressive sounding than the smaller MFDs you find in ASAT Classics. They're about what a big MFD would sound like if mounted in a steel Tele bridge.

    I have a Z-90 bridge pickup in my Les Paul. Again it's hard to compare with my MFD guitar (I have an older SC-2) because the guitars are otherwise so different (scale length is a big factor in tone, I've always thought - much more important than body wood). But they're not totally alien to one another. I always found the G&L to be better suite to my style, but the Z-90s in a longer scale guitar might work just as well.
     
  15. Jason Calieri

    Jason Calieri Silver Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the info! I picked up an ASAT Special on a whim, after hearing lots of praise, and it ended up being sort of a revelation. I'm hoping to capture a bit of that flavor via pickup choice in another guitar. Sounds like HD Z90s might be worth a shot.
     
  16. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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    I agree.

    BTW, these may well be my all-time favorite PUPs. I love 'em and have 'em in two guitars now.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Robal

    Robal Supporting Member

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    I have Z90s in a vintage Guild Bluesbird, which is a hollow body. They do not sound like P90s (which I have in 3 other guitars). "hi-fi" is an apt description, and they work well in this guitar. They don't have the distorted bark of P90s when pushed; they are more articulate and balanced.
     
  18. michaelprice83

    michaelprice83 Member

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    Seems like people either will love or hate the Z90's. I may be the one exception, however, as I didn't know what to think about the sound of my guitar after dropping them in. I had them in an Ibanez Scofield model guitar and they certainly didn't sound bad but just kinda characterless. Maybe they were too perfect? I sold that guitar and will probably buy another set of the Z90's again to give them a shot in something different. Plenty of professional tone freaks swear by the damn things, they have to be great for something.
     
  19. Crazyquilt

    Crazyquilt Guitar Dad Silver Supporting Member

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    What's interesting is that the reason that some folks have for liking or disliking them is often the same thing -- the big & clear/hi-fi/MFDish quality.

    I was going to put one in a Koll that's on its way someday, but that description has me seriously re-evaluating. Clarity & harmonic complexity are very good things in my book, but sterility is not.
     

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