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P-90 Hx - a tale of 9 years of inventive development

When Gibson’s President Ted McCarty told Seth Lover to silence the P-90 in 1955 I understood that to mean keep the P-90 sound and get rid of the hum. Well Seth got rid of the hum (almost) but the sound of his humbucker was nothing like a P-90. Gone were the expressive whack attack and the piano tones of the low wound strings. Gibson sat on the pickup for 2 years for that reason and only released it in 1957 under pressure in response to Gretsch’s silent Filtertron pickup. Meanwhile a whole generation of guitar players has grown up not experiencing the wonderful sonic attributes of a gorgeous P-90. They don’t know what it means to have expressive whack attack and piano tones coming from the low wound strings. That's because the P-90 was relegated to obscurity due to the massive amount of 60Hz mains hum it produces and it died a death at the hands of Gibson's marketing team and Seth's humbucker.

What's wrong with P-90's? Not too much, but two aspects that annoy me are the strong tendency of the neck position wound strings when played as a chord to turn to mush under aggressive pick attack; that and the large amount of mains hum.

During the course of the development period I came to realize that some manufacturers of P-90 are under-winding for a lower output in an effort to reduce 60Hz hum. Well they certainly did that but unfortunately they also lost a lot of revered sonic characteristics. It was when I compared these inferior modern cousins to my genuine original Gibson P-90 I realize why it is I see so many comments on forums saying the hum from a P-90 is about the same a Strat pickup. That is a deluded claim because under identical laboratory test conditions a genuine P-90 produces 650 millivolts of hum compared to 250 millivolts from a Strat pickup. P-90's are incredibly noisy.

A new beginning and a twist in history: The P-90 was cursed with hum from the beginning, that's the reason Gibson developed their famous humbucker so long ago …. to create a hum-cancelling pickup. But Gibson's humbucker turned out to be a very different sounding pickup and the P-90 hum problem was not actually solved. The twist of history is now the P-90 Hx is even quieter than a humbucker.

With it's revolutionary 600 Ohm noise sensor the P-90 Hx moves a lot of air and has changed a lot of minds about hum-cancelling pickups. It is nothing less than an astounding new beginning for the noiseless era and will start a new chapter of history concerning P-90 sound.

The 9 year story: G'day, Chris Kinman here. Over 8 years ago I set my goal to duplicate the gorgeous sonic characteristics of a genuine original P-90 but eliminate the 50/60Hz hum, a noiseless P-90 (or hum canceling P-90) no less. At the time I did not realize the massive effort and complex manufacturing it was going to take to achieve that goal. Now I know the reason noiseless authentic P-90 sound has not been achieved before by other pickup manufacturers. There are plenty of look-a-likes but not one has a genuine P-90 sound.

When I tried to design a hum cancelling P-90 by applying my existing patented technology I found that which works well for Strats* and Teles* was not suitable to cancel the immense amount of hum from a P-90 without destroying it's magnificent sound. I came to realize that P-90 sound, although in some ways brutal and powerful, is actually quite fragile and a more sophisticated technique would be required if the original sound is to be retained.

Discovering the additional solutions took almost 3 more years with countless hours spent and many experimental pickups made and discarded, creating a whole bin full of scrap copper wire and parts. There were many times I thought it was an impossible mission and almost came to the point of abandoning the whole project as a waste of expensive R&D materials and my valuable time.

However, I had made a promise in 2001 and almost in desperation, I continued, like a lonely prospector looking for gold in the wilderness. I'm glad I didn't abandon my quest because eventually, little by little the P-90 gave up it's secrets and I eventually found the Mother Lode.

My P-90 Hx captures the magnificent girth, luscious lows, piano mid tones and extreme dynamics that characterize a great P-90 pickup. It has 206 individual parts and some very unconventional thinking to accomplish this extremely difficult task. Now YOU can enjoy magnificent P-90 sound without that annoying mains hum at a price representing extreme value for money (after all those 206 components cost more to make and assemble than 10 regular noisy P-90's).

Improvements: I improved the definition and clarity in order to reduce the neck pickup's tendency of turning to 'mush' under heavy pick attack. This was accomplished by increasing the dynamic range, but the sound remains un-mistakably P-90. My noiseless P-90 Hx are great sounding pickups, not offensive in any way, but not polite either. It has the same brutal output as the original and the characteristic P-90 muscular sound that in many ways is more likeable (and more silent) than a humbucker. The P-90 Hx is an incredible tone machine.

How good is the Kinman? Whether you like the sound of a P-90 in the neck position or not, the true test of quality of a P-90 is whether it sounds GREAT in the neck position or not. The Kinman speaks with a BIG voice, notes are so alive they just leap out and it sounds gorgeous and luscious in the neck position. With it's baseball bat attack it won't turn to mush too easily when played hard. The sound has piano-like mids, huge deep lows, sweet transparent highs that sizzle rather than clang and dynamic range that takes you from a tonefull gentle whisper to a crunched power chord in a nano second. One more important test is 'does it sound great at low volume?' If a P-90 passes both these tests in the neck position it will sound superb in the bridge position too. Then and only then can it qualify as an authentic sounding P-90 and you'll know because you won’t be able to put the guitar down.

The big mouthed Kinman noiseless P-90 Hx with it's remarkable 600 Ohm noise sensor and 206 inndividual parts is in a different world, keeping good company with genuine great sounding noisy P-90's. It really has got something to crow about.

The P-90 Hx is an extreme pickup in more ways than one.