PAF Vs P90 Pickups [Difference & Which is Best]

Among pickups, there is a large controversy around a humbucker and a single coil pickup. This also leads the debate between PAF Vs P90 pickups. Where the former is famous for its humbucker quality, and the latter is famous because of its single coil quality.

Both these pickups are amazing as they sound really promising. But of course, they are not similar and come with many differences. After using both pickups to enhance my regular performed gigs, I have come up with certain differences between these pickups, and today we will talk about them.

PAF Vs P90

Primal Differences in Short –

The first difference between these pickups is while PAF is a passive humbucker type, the P90 pickup is a passive single coil type. This also determines the sound differences between these pickups. With higher output than the P90 pickups, the PAF pickups sound warmer than the former too. Besides, while a PAF is perfect for Jazz music and other many genres, a P90 is suitable for rock and blues.

However, in terms of versatility, both these pickups excel at the minimal standard. There is a lot to talk about these pickups in detail but before that check out this added comparison table.

Comparison Table:

Features PAF P90
Sound Quality WarmerBrighter, cleaner
Magnetic Feature Alnico 2,3,5Alnico 3, 5
MidsLower midsUpper mids
Hums NoYes
Versatility Metal, jazzBlues, rock
Type Double single coilSingle coil

PAF and P90 Pickup Reviews:

The popularity of both these PAF and P90 pickups is great and mention-worthy. They have distinctive features and notoriety even though they came to a lot later to enhance the sound quality of electric guitars in the Gibson Guitar brand. That’s why it’s important that you view the broad aspects of these two pickups.

About PAF Pickups –

About PAF Pickup Details

PAF pickups from Gibson Guitar Corporation gained widespread popularity the moment it was launched. It was not the first humbucker which most people mistake it for. But this humbucker is the only humbucker that gained immense love from almost all types of players.

In the beginning, the PAF pickups used to come with Alnico 2 and 3-based magnetic fields. But later on, the manufacturer updated the magnetic quality and started to provide an alnico 5-based magnetic field in the PAF pickups. This strengthens the sound quality of the pickup big deal.

Moreover, as a humbucker, this PAF pickup has higher output and can distort sound easily. For this fantastic quality, this pickup is responsible for playing genres like jazz, metal, and many others. Because of the warmer tone of the pickup, you can feel a vintage vibe too from the sound quality.

However, if we look for versatility, then PAF pickups have this quality. But comparing other pickups of Gibson like P90 pickups, the former lacks the feature.

Things We Liked About / Pros:

  • They come with the strongest quality as passive humbuckers and are widely famous for their features
  • Come with alnico-5-based magnetic features and also provides alnico 2 and 3-based features too
  • Sounds warmer, gives off vintage vibes, and bucks hum perfectly with its higher output feature
  • Because it can distort sound, PAF pickups for metal, jazz, and other genres are great to use

Things We Didn’t Like About / Cons:

  • The pickup is not entirely great for playing surf and country music
  • Comes with fewer varieties than P90 pickups

About P90 Pickups –

About P90 Pickups Review

Even though P90 pickups are the passive single coil type, it performs like the middle happy child between humbucker and single coil pickups. These pickups are great as they have a higher volume than a single coil. But compared to a humbucker, the high output feature lacks.

However, in terms of magnetic features, a P90 pickup can come with either an alnico 3 magnet or an alnico 5 magnet. This also implies the high-end feature and strong features of a P90 pickup. This pickup is so famous that other brands like Fender also made replacements for this magnificent P90 pickup.

Besides, a P90 single coil pickup is great when it comes to examining its sound quality. Compared to a humbucker this pickup sounds brighter and clearer. That’s why most players find it suitable for playing blues. However, don’t expect as snappy and crispy a sound as the single coils of Fender.

The good thing is you can also play rock music but definitely will face trouble if you try hard rock with a P90 pickup. Besides, this pickup has significant versatility, if you dodge its humming habit.

Things We Liked About / Pros:

  • Comes with a significant characteristic remaining between single coil and humbucker
  • Great at producing brighter and crystal clear sounds
  • Offers versatility as it is suitable for playing blues, rock, and country music
  • The alnico magnet enhances the sound quality and top-notch feature of the pickup

Things We Didn’t Like About / Cons:

  • Comes with a buzzing sound that is not perfect for metal

Main Difference Between PAF Vs P90 Pickups –

You might get confused seeing almost the same outer features of these two pickups. But I would say, there are some signs of day and night differences between PAF and P90 pickups. You can already tell by the individual reviews and now is the time to dissect more deeply.

1) Pickup Type:

First and foremost, a PAF pickup is a humbucker which means it comes with two single coils. And that’s why these pickups are different from single-coil pickups. Conversely, the type of P90 is a single coil and it is almost a breed of a humbucker and a single coil pickup, so to speak.

2) Magnetic Feature –

p90 pickup Magnet

There is not much difference in the magnetic feature between these two pickups. Both PAF and P90 now come with alnico 5 magnets. They both also have an alnico 3-based magnetic field. But the PAF magnets only come with this rare alnico 2-based magnetic field in some cases which the P90 ones do not.

3) Sound Quality –

p90 sound quality

This feature determines your decision of choosing one between PAF and P90, so you need to pay attention to it. PAF, being a humbucker offers a warmer tone than any single coil pickup. And this warmth fits playing jazz, and metal music too.

Conversely, a P90 pickup provides such a brighter and clearer tone that you will love it playing blues music. You can also play rock with it. But for its buzzing and humming sound, this pickup is not applicable for playing metals and hard rock.

4) Higher Output –

You see, both these pickup has great output. But the PAF offers higher output than a P90 pickup. Because of the higher output, the PAF can distort its sound easily too. For this extraordinary characteristic, PAF is suitable for playing metal genres because they require distorted and saturated sound.

Conversely, a P90 has a higher output than a single coil but not as a PAF. And that’s why they don’t perform well when it is metal genres.

5) Mids –

It also determines how your pickup will sound. So, a PAF pickup comes with lower mids while a P90 pickup comes with upper mids. And that’s why a PAF plays the country and surf badly and a P90 plays the metal badly.

6) Versatility –

PAF Versatility

Both pickups come with versatility. A PAF is widely famous as a humbucker and still wins the heart of many musicians. On the other hand, a P90 is so popular that other brands are manufacturing a means of replacement for this pickup.

So, which one is better?

From the wide view of their dissimilarities, one thing I am sure about is that they are not meant for a typical player only. While PAF gives this sassy vibe, P90 depicts a fine definition of a clearer tone. So, if you want some serious experience, buy both pickups.

But if you are only into blues then go for P90 pickups. And if you are only into Jazz or somewhat metal, then go for PAF pickups.

FAQs –

Question 1: What is P90 tone?

Answer: With thick and bright sound there is very tremendous texture in the tone of P90 pickups. You can get a mixed flavor of humbucker and a single coil-based tone. Besides, the P90 pickup height adds enhancement to the tone.

Question 2: Are PAF pickups noisy?

Answer: It depends on the player but there is less chance that you feel any noisy elements from a PAF pickup. Because it is a humbucker and has two single coils, it affects strongly and eliminates the hum and buzz coming out of your electric guitar.

Question 3: What’s the best P90 pickup?

Answer: From my perspective, a lot of brands including Gibson, and Fender come with P90 pickups but the Gibson Les Paul guitar offers a huge deal. Besides, the Seymour Duncan Antiquity P90 Dog Ear pickup is also good.

Last Updated on October 13, 2023 by Perry Garner

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