Epiphone WildKat Semi-Hollowbody P90
Gibson Les Paul Special P-90 Limited Edition
Epiphone Les Paul Special I P90 Guitar
Table of Contents
Loved for their warm, bright voicing and open articulation, P90 guitars are a favorite of musicians the world over.
Played by the likes of Carlos Santana, The Who’s Pete Townsend and Mick Jones of The Clash, these guitars aren’t used by rockers alone. They work equally well for indie, blues, jazz, country, alternative and metal musicians.
When it comes to P90s, the Epiphone WildKat Semi-Hollowbody takes the best P90 guitar crown. It’s versatile, offers plenty of character and feels and looks great.
The Epiphone WildKat may be at the top of the heap, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only P90 guitar worth checking out.
The seven models we’ve featured here are some of the very best. So, if you’re looking for an outstanding guitar and want to avoid the hassle of searching every shop in town, this is the perfect guide for you.
The 7 Best P90 Guitars:
Epiphone WildKat Semi-Hollowbody P90 Electric Guitar
Epiphone’s Wildkat model showcases all the lush tones of P90s pickups in an affordable and eye-catching design. It’s a semi-hollowbody model with a smaller, more manageable frame.
The design takes cues from classic Gibson and Epiphone archtops, with f-holes and cream binding. The semi-hollow construction gives you the warm, woody tone of acoustic guitars. It also preserves a center block to eliminate feedback and add sustain.
The body is mahogany, with a maple neck and top, and the fingerboard is rosewood. The combination of tonewoods offers a Gibson-style look and sound. The warmth and sustain from the mahogany lend a premium aesthetic to the guitar.
Two Epiphone dogear P90s at the neck and bridge provide the tone. They’re glassy and airy when clean, but if you add some overdrive they respond with plenty of snarl and bite.
To control them, the Wildkat offers a master volume, individual volume controls for each pickup and a master tone knob.
Finally, the Bigsby tailpiece allows you to add lush vibrato effects to your sound with a touch of your wrist. It’s a great way to add dynamics and greater expression into your playing style.
Epiphone Les Paul Special I P90 Electric Guitar
For players on a budget, the Epiphone Les Paul Special I provides a workhorse of a guitar at an exceptional price. It’s built with a mahogany body, and shaped with the classic single-cutaway LP design.
There’s also a mahogany neck, which is an outstanding feature at this price point. It’s contoured with a “slim taper” D shape to emulate classic Gibson style necks from the 1960s.
A rosewood fingerboard tops things off, with a 12-inch radius for a quick, modern feel. The 22 medium frets make the neck easy to play, with smooth access to the highest notes.
A pair of P 90 pickups provide the sound in this guitar. The neck offers warmer, mellower tones while the bridge pickup is wired hot for crunch and overdrive. Overall, both pickups sound good with overdrive and distortion. They retain plenty of harmonics and add some smooth character.
Gibson Les Paul Special P-90 Limited Edition Electric Guitar
Gibson’s Les Paul Special is a classic P90 guitar. Its chunky, rock-oriented feel and stripped-back aesthetic have spawned hundreds of imitations. The original model provides Gibson’s rock and roll heritage along with vintage tones and outstanding build quality.
The Les Paul Special runs with two soap bar pickups. The neck pickup is softer and rounded, while the bridge pickup delivers plenty of bark, particularly when cranked up.
Each pickup comes with its own set of tone and volume controls. The volume controls are particularly responsive. Adjusting the volume knob can take your tone from pristine cleans to screaming distortion.
This guitar also borrows from vintage LP Special models with its neck and body. The slab mahogany body and thick mahogany neck provide plenty of sustain and leverage for bends and vibrato. A rosewood fingerboard increases the premium aesthetic.
Guild T-Bird ST P90 Electric Guitar
Guild’s T-Bird ST vintage style guitar delivers plenty of retro flair in a package that can still handle modern playing styles. It’s a solid mahogany body with a funky offset shape and plenty of contours. While the body dimensions are somewhat large, the cutaways keep the axe light and comfortable to play.
There’s also a set mahogany neck. It’s reminiscent of Gibson guitars and even jazz hollow body designs. That’s topped with a bound rosewood fingerboard with a 9.5-inch radius for fast, smooth playing.
The twin Guild Franz P90 pickups at the neck and bridge provide a broad spectrum of sounds. When clean, they’re glassy and articulate, with a sparkling top end and tight, controlled bass response. You can also crank them up for throaty, saturated overdrive.
Master tone and volume controls help you dial in the perfect tone. In the hardware department, the T-Bird features a Tune-O-Matic bridge and stoptail tailpiece. These preserve perfect tuning and intonation.
G&L Tribute ASAT Junior II P90 Electric Guitar
G&L’s Tribute ASAT Junior II puts a thoughtful spin on two classic designs. The final product is versatile and durable yet outstandingly intuitive. The body style references the classic Telecaster shape. The “C” shape neck and 12-inch fingerboard radius emulate vintage Fender styling as well.
However, the look and sound of the guitar take inspiration from the Gibson Les Paul Special. The mahogany body, translucent wine red finish, and TonePros bridge/tailpiece combo are straight out of the Gibson LP book.
At first glance, the pair of soap bar P90s might seem to continue that influence. However, these pickups can do far more than just Gibson-style tones.
When clean, the pickups feel light and responsive, with plenty of clarity and not too much bass. They tighten up with overdrive, although they retain a bit of vintage sparkle that establishes them as unique.
The output is balanced across the two P90s to maintain an even volume as you switch from the neck to the bridge.
Godin 5th Avenue Kingpin P90 Electric Guitar
Archtop guitars remain the favorite choice of jazz guitarists. Godin’s 5th Avenue Kingpin marries that traditional archtop design with the clear, open sparkle of a P90 pickup.
The body utilizes Canadian cherry for the top, back and sides. There’s also a silver leaf maple neck and rosewood fretboard.
Compared to other tonewoods, the cherry emphasizes the midrange frequencies of your tone. It maintains a neutral profile with the treble and bass. This is a great way to add warmth and depth to your sound without making it muddy or losing clarity.
An adjustable bridge and trapeze tailpiece anchor the hardware. The lightweight wood bridge can move to improve intonation without damaging the carved top.
The Kingpin offers one P90 pickup at the neck position, for warm and jazzy clean sounds. Because of the archtop design, it also plays great acoustically. If you want to, you could even use this guitar unplugged to practice or at gigs.
Yamaha RevStar RS502 P90 Electric Guitar
For guitarists looking for a minimalist model that still delivers on all important features, it’s hard to beat the Yamaha RevStar RS502. This model strips away many flashy extras to provide a streamlined, inspiring guitar at an affordable price.
Like many other P90 guitars, the RevStar offers two pickups, at the neck and bridge. These use Alnico V magnets and have adjusted output levels to provide a vintage flavor. The controls include one master volume and tone knob, with a high-pass filter hidden in a push-pull function.
The high-pass filter rolls out some of the bass frequencies in your sound as you play. This provides you a single-coil sound, but doesn’t sacrifice the hum-cancelling properties of the best P90 pickups.
The mahogany body features a maple top cap for brightness and greater tonal balance. It’s carved in a double-cutaway style for a sleek, aggressive look that provides you easy access across the fretboard.
Finally, the RevStar offers a set mahogany neck. Compared to a bolt-on neck, this increases sustain and durability.
What is a P90 Guitar?
A P90 guitar is any type of guitar that uses P90 pickups. P90s are a type of single-coil pickup that use a wider bobbin than standard single-coil designs. They look larger in the guitar body, and provide a “larger” tone as well.
This changes the tone of the pickup, making it more resistant to feedback than classic Fender-style single-coils. Compared to those pickups, P90s are a bit warmer and softer, providing a thicker sound when distorted.
These guitars might share one common trait, but P90 guitars come in all styles, body types and sizes. You can find them in nearly every style of modern guitar music. They’re common in blues and jazz, classic rock, hard rock, and even alternative styles as well.
Many of the best P90 guitars use a solid body to increase sustain and keep the guitar comfortable to hold and use. Some classic P90 guitars, like the Gibson LP Junior, are made with thick slab solid bodies. These P90 guitars are most often used to play rock ’n roll or hard rock.
Other designs use a semi-hollow body. Semi-hollow body styles offer the acoustic resonance of a fully hollow guitar, but place a center block in the middle of the body. This increases attack and minimizes feedback issues.
Semi-hollow guitars are extremely versatile for rock, jazz, and alternative music. The Epiphone Wildkat, our top pick, is a great example.
The P90 guitars that use a fully hollow body provide the most acoustic resonance. They create a warmer, more natural-sounding tone from the electronics. Because they sometimes feed back at high volumes, hollow guitars are common in softer styles like jazz and blues. Some early rock ’n roll artists also like to use these models.
What are P90 Pickups Good For?
Despite being around for more than 70 years, P90 pickups aren’t as well-known as single-coil designs and humbuckers. In fact, some people even call P90s “P90 humbuckers.”
However, P90s are some of the most versatile pickups that you’ll find. They strike a good balance between single-coils and humbuckers. When used properly, P90 pickups provide brightness and clarity, but add more warmth and bass response than single-coils do.
Many guitarists love P90s for their clean tones. Without any overdrive, they produce a smooth, broad sound that has more depth than a single-coil yet more clarity and sparkle than a humbucker. That combination makes these styles a favorite of many jazz guitarists. They appreciate how P90s retain high-end clarity without sounding brittle.
They also excel with overdrive and distortion. P90 pickups are famous for their “bark” or “snarl,” as many players describe them. Some of the most famous distorted tones in rock ’n roll history have been made with P90s.
John Lennon, George Harrison, and Keith Richards all used these pickup designs on many iconic records throughout the 1960s. They loved the tonal range of P90s, which sounded great whether they wanted to play clean or overdriven.
In short, P90s are versatile. No matter what style you want to play, you’ll probably be able to use these pickups for it. As long as you don’t shred them with too much gain, you’ll find P90s are some of the most musical and lively out of any other pickup type.
What is Better? P90 or Humbucker?
Many guitarists compare P90s to humbuckers as competing options. While they might sound similar, there are some important differences between them. Ultimately, neither one is “better” than the other. What you choose will depend on your playing style, gear setup and favorite styles of music.
Compared to humbucking pickups, P-90 designs sound much “lighter” and more open, offering an “airy” midrange. This creates a very distinctive sound compared to humbuckers. Depending on your genre, P90s can sound glassy, “honky,” or biting.
In contrast, humbuckers provide more bass response and a “thicker” tonal profile. They’re often used for heavy overdrive and distortion, and they sit well in a crowded mix. Many guitarists who look for thick, high-gain sounds prefer to use humbuckers rather than P90s.
Those tonal characteristics offer a great frame of reference to help you compare any humbuckers to P90s. Of course, there are lots of variations between any given set of pickups, even if they’re both P90s or humbuckers. Gretsch Filter’Tron humbuckers and Gibson P.A.F. designs are both humbuckers, for example, but offer distinct sounds.
The type you prefer will also depend on the style of music you want to play. P90s excel at many clean genres, as well as styles which prioritize crunch and twang. Lots of rock ‘n roll and classic rock guitarists used these pickups. Pete Townsend, John Lennon, Keith Richards and George Harrison are some of the most famous examples.
For extremely clean styles like jazz, many players use both P90s and humbuckers. Rolling off the tone knob on a guitar with P90s creates a sound similar to humbuckers, but P90s can also provide a brighter, sharper tone as well.
Compared to humbuckers, P90s often sound better at lower levels of overdrive. With just a bit of dirt in your signal, they can sing with plenty of extra harmonics. Lower overdrive levels also retain the advantages of clean electric sounds, like a smooth, airy tone and top-end sparkle.
For extremely high levels of gain, humbuckers work better than P90s. Because P90s are technically a type of single-coil design, they don’t cancel hum and feedback as effectively as humbuckers do.
This is particularly important at high volumes and extreme distortion. Even a little feedback can quickly become ear-splitting.
If you want to play hard rock or metal, a guitar with humbuckers might be better than a P90 guitar. Of course, there are always exceptions. Tony Iommi used a P90 guitar (a Gibson SG special) for the first four albums with Black Sabbath.
However, many players don’t have high-end gear to prevent feedback and hum, making Humbuckers a convenient solution.
We’ve settled on the Epiphone Wildkat Semi-Hollowbody as the best P90 guitar in this roundup. Its semi-hollow design and custom-made Epiphone P90s cover a lot of sonic territory. It looks fantastic too.
If you’re in the market for a high-end guitar, the Gibson Les Paul Special is another fantastic option. It features legendary rock tones in a streamlined package.
What type of P90 guitar do you prefer? How do you use P90 pickups in your rig? Let us know in the comments section below.