Whenever you’re comparing two different pickups, it’s important to remember that both are good in their own way.
Different pickups are better suited for different tasks, and the point of comparing them is to find out which pickup is right for you.
So, let’s compare some P90s and mini humbuckers, and help you decide which pickup is the one for your playing style.
What Are P90s?
P90 pickups work much the same as single coil pickups, consisting of just one wound coil, but they have more power and grit.
Think of P90s as falling somewhere between a single coil and a humbucker, with some added vintage low-end.
P90s have more midrange bite and brighter highs than humbuckers, but aren’t as versatile as mini humbuckers.
A big downside of P90s is that, just like normal single coils, background noise and interference can cause buzzing on the pickups.
What Are Mini Humbuckers?
Humbuckers use two coils instead of one, sort of like gluing two single coil pickups together. The two coils have opposite windings and polarities.
This allows the pickup to cancel out any external noise or interference in the audio signal, so it ‘bucks the hum’.
Mini humbuckers work the same way, but are more of a tonal mix between humbuckers and single coils. This puts them closer to P90s than normal humbuckers.
Mini Humbucker vs P90 - Key Differences
Even though P90s and mini humbuckers (sometimes called minibucks or minihums) have some similarities in tone, they are still fairly different.
As I mentioned, the two pickups are made differently. P90s use a single coil and minibucks use two coils in opposite polarity.
I find that P90s run a bit hotter with their higher midrange output which can drive preamps easier than minibucks.
Minibucks on the other hand will be a bit snappier and they sound a bit brighter. Their tone is also not as full as P90s, and P90s have more presence. P90s are also a bit more open compared to the slightly compressed sound of mini humbuckers.
On clean, mini humbuckers have a bit of a fatter bottom end than P90s, and P90s almost sound a bit thinner overall.
With overdrive is where I notice the biggest difference. P90s have a very dirty, almost angry sound, while mini humbuckers are a lot smoother.
Notes and chords have a bit more clarity on minibucks as well, but this is because, like standard humbuckers, they cancel out a lot of excess noise. I feel P90s are almost the exact opposite of minibucks and almost like they attract noise.
P90s don’t need to be pushed too hard to start distorting nicely, but if pushed too far, you could end up with an overdrive sound that is more muddy and bad, and less dirty and good.
The noise cancelling on mini humbuckers is also good because you’ll need to drive them a bit more since their output is less than P90s.
P90s are great pickups for old school punk like The Clash or The Sex Pistols with their bite, and mini humbuckers are a bit more versatile, especially compared to standard humbuckers.
Effects on Pedals
Another big difference is how the pickups interact with external effects like pedals. Mini humbuckers have no problems with pedals, and work really well when paired with a fuzz or overdrive pedal.
P90s, on the other hand, have the most natural tone when used with few or even no pedals. So, you can still get a great tone from a P90 directly into an amp.
Minibucks are also going to set you back a few extra dollars compared to P90s. Expect anywhere between around $20 - $100 extra for a mini humbucker.
Which Pickup to Choose?
You might know this already, but as usual the answer is – it depends.
If you’re looking for a gritty, very punk sound, P90s are the way to go, but if a mellower, more controlled sound, you’ll probably be better off with minibucks.
I prefer mini humbuckers because they’re not as harsh as P90s, but some people want that nasty sound.
Mini humbuckers can be especially great as neck pickups because of their beautiful clean tone.
P90s and mini humbuckers both have their advantages and disadvantages, but both are still great pickups.
Whether you’re looking for grit or a more mellow tone, I hope this article has helped you find the pickup that is right for you.