My very first really nice, pro level guitar, was a Paul Reed Smith McCarty with soapbar pickups. It was everything I wanted at the time, a mahogany and maple built guitar with excellent playability, thick tone and single coil pickups. I happily played the heck out of that guitar for years and years and it was always a great fit for pretty much any style. There was only one thing missing, or perhaps i should say, only one thing present that I wish hadn’t have been — NOISE!
That annoying, ever present single coil hum. For several years, the tone of the guitar totally made me overlook it, but, eventually, when I got my PRS Custom and realized I could have great tone and playability with no hum, the noise became harder to overlook. Not too much of an issue at home or recording (thanks to noise gates and digital editing!) but boy would it get on my nerves under stage/fluorescent lights. Thus began the search for a hum cancelling P90.
I’ve heard a few other noiseless P90s over the years but none of the ones I’d heard ever sounded like the real thing. Typically they’d sound dull and lifeless with no bark, not like a P90 at all. They were more like weak, bargain basement humbuckers. But I kept hearing good things about Fralin’s pickups, including their noiseless P90 and decided to give them a shot.
If you’ve heard of Lindy Fralin before, then you’ve heard all the stuff about him being a fantastic maker of vintage styled guitar pickups and that his company boasts excellent customer service. It’s all true. But the noiseless P90 is not your typical pickup… can it be done? In a word — yes.
The P90 has an unusual tone. Loud, humbucker like output, but from a single coil design with a lot of turns of wire. They’re raunchy, rude, and have tons of midrange. I’ve played lots of guitars with P90s and they all have those characteristics, some to a greater degree than others. The Fralin’s don’t have the exact same tone as the original pickups (made by Seymour Duncan) in my PRS Mccarty but very similar and definitely as good. The bark is absolutely there, with a huge midrange response and very high output, yet with great note separation in chords and searing upper mids for lead playing. The cleans are fantastic, the neck is perfect for jazz or blues and the bridge is made for country style players looking for something other than a telecaster. To me, they sound better than most other *true* P90s I’ve played that weren’t made by Gibson and as good as the Gibson and Duncan pickups just slightly different. The Fralins sound a little brighter on the treble strings and seem to have much more output than the original pickups did. In fact it took a while before I found the sweet spot as far as pickup height relative to the strings. But once I did, I was very pleased with the tone. They’re very lively and responsive, none of that flat lifeless tone here! Note pop out at your just like a P90 guitar should but without tearing your head off with high end. True P90s have what I can best describe as a broken up, uneven type of response to them that most players describe as “rude” or “mean” and this is the only other area where I can hear a slight difference. The Fralins are just a hair more polite sounding that other P90s, despite having plenty of midrange bark. They absolutely have a *ton* of output, but it’s more even in it’s response than regular P90s while not being as smooth as the average humbucker.
To sum up, I’m very pleased and the pickups are definitely staying in the guitar! They’re a tiny bit brighter, a whole lot louder, yet a tiny bit smoother than most true P90s. If you’ve got a P90 guitar and like to play with a little overdrive but hate the hum under stage lights you owe it to yourself to check these out!