It seems that Chris Kinman seems has embarked on something of a one-man crusade to create the perfect noiseless pickup. Regular readers will know that he's already created a noiseless pickup that delivers the look and sound of Strat-style single-coil pickups, and he's now tackled the Gibson P90. Guitars fitted with P90s can be particularly troublesome in a studio, as their large coils make them very susceptible to hum pickup, but most of the hum-cancelling alternatives change the tonal attributes that draw players to P90s in the first place.
Having suffered hum problems with two of my Gibson guitars, I bought one of the new Kinman P90s for my Les Paul Junior and a neck/bridge pair for my SG. They aren't exactly cheap, but when you consider they incorporate 202 individual parts (only 13 are used in a standard P90, and 23 in other noise-cancelling designs), they don't seem like bad value!
I fitted them to both guitars, and to my ears the tone was at least the equal of the best P90s Gibson has to offer. In fact, I thought the dynamic response was better: I heard sweet highs and warm lows but without any mushiness. Kinman tells me that he tweaked the neck pickup to slightly improve the clarity, and with the SG the 'both on' setting yielded excellent results. Importantly, there was absolutely no audible hum!
There are a few practicalities to bear in mind. These pickups are deeper than standard P90s (the depth is about the same as Gibson's own P100 noise-cancelling pickup), because of the hum-cancelling coil, so on some guitars you'll need to make the pickup cavity deeper. On my Les Paul Junior, I had to use a router and a hand-made template to deepen the cavity by around 4mm, but this went smoothly and the pickup dropped right in. With the SG, though, the cavities were already deep enough.
The pickups come with covers (black or cream), short rubber-tube 'springs' and thin woodscrews that pass through the pickup for mounting. I used these in the SG, though I had to clip off the tips of the screws after 'starting' the holes to avoid the risk of them breaking through the back of the guitar in the neck position. However, in the Les Paul Junior, the pickup cover was a 'dog ear' type, so all I had to do was place some foam rubber under the pickup to act as a spring and then screw the cover down on top. The pickups terminate in short pins that are compatible with Kinman's DIY 'no-soldering' harnesses, so I cut these off, joining the cold and ground wires together. Standard P90 'soapbar' covers fit these pickups, so you can keep your old pickup covers if you prefer.
The difference with these pickups is remarkable. You still have the classic P90 sound with the benefit of a little more focus from the neck pickup. And you can record without the fear of hum. That's what I call a result! Paul White
£129 each including VAT.