In the electric guitar world, there are, essentially, two different types of pickups to choose from:
- Single coils
P90 pickups are a type of single-coil but are often put in their own category as a third type of pickup due to them sounding a little different from a typical single coil.
They are often warmer and thicker than a regular single coil but aren’t quite as warm and thick sounding like a typical humbucker.
So, it’s fair to say that P90s are kind of in between a single-coil and a humbucker.
What’s not fair is saying that Jazzmaster pickups are P90s…
I mean it.
Fender Jazzmaster pickups are not P90 pickups. While they look similar at a glance, they are a bit different physically and sonically as well. Jazzmaster pickups have a slightly different internal design, sound brighter, and have a lower output. P90s won’t fit on Jazzmaster routings and vice versa.
In this article, I’ll go over the differences and similarities between the Fender Jazzmaster, P90s, and regular single coils typically found on the Fender Stratocaster or Telecaster.
Are Jazzmaster pickups single coils?
By definition, Jazzmaster pickups are single coils.
They have a single coil as opposed to two, which is what a humbucker pickup has.
However, keep in mind that Jazzmaster pickups have a fatter tone than a Stratocaster or Telecaster pickup.
That’s because their construction is completely different from a regular single-coil.
Are Jazzmaster pickups actually P90s?
Essentially, Jazzmaster pickups are too different than P90s to be classified as the same thing. Here are the physical differences between the two:
- P90s are twice as tall as Jazzmaster coils
- Jazzmaster pickups have wider coils
- P90 pickups have pole pieces that are adjustable and are magnetized by a pair of bar magnets that are attached underneath
As you can see, there are some pretty stark differences when you really break it down.
Do Jazzmaster pickups sound like any other P90?
Sonically, Jazzmasters do not sound like any other P90.
Jazzmaster pickups sound a bit brighter than P90s. The tone of a Jazzmaster pickup is a bit closer in sound to a Strat or Tele single-coil than a standard P90 single-coil, though there are differences.
P90s have a higher output than Jazzmaster pickups. Heck, they can even have a higher output than some humbucker pickups! This is due to the fact that P90s have more magnets in them, which gives them a rather high output.
If you want that clean, jangly ‘60s electric guitar tone, Jazzmaster pickups are the way to go. P90s are better suited for genres that have a bit more distortion and overdrive, such as rock, country, and blues.
Neither pickup is ideal for metal, though, because the high gain will cause a lot of unwanted noise. You’ll want a guitar with humbuckers, such as a Gibson Les Paul or a PRS for that.
Why does Fender not use the denomination “P90”?
The answer is rather simple: because they aren’t P90s.
Jazzmasters are a different type of single-coil pickup. There are too many physical and sonic differences for them to be classified as the same thing.
You can think of them as Fender’s take on P90s if you want, but they will never admit it.
Would any P90 fit on a Jazzmaster?
Unless you do a bit of modifying, you won’t be able to put a regular P90 on a Jazzmaster guitar.
While the diameter wouldn’t be a problem, regular P90s are taller than Jazzmaster pickups.
Would Jazzmaster pickups fit on any other P90 routing?
It’s hard to give a conclusive answer to this question.
What I can say is that Jazzmaster pickups are not likely to fit “comfortably” in any P90 routing, but they might work.
With the routing for a standard P90 being deeper, there might be a bit of an issue with the pickups being too far away from the strings for the signal to be ideal.
Modifications might be necessary to get the best possible sound.
Do Jazzmaster pickups fit on humbucker routings?
Jazzmaster pickups won’t fit on humbucker routings without modifications. They are two different sizes and shapes.
There are Jazzmaster sized different types of pickups
If you want to get alternate tones out of your Jazzmaster guitar but don’t want to do a crazy amount of modifications to your guitar, Edward Van Halen style, then the easiest way is to switch out the pickups.
Thankfully, there are a few options to choose from.
Curtis Novak makes PAF humbuckers meant to fit a Jazzmaster guitar.
Lollar pickups make:
- P90 Jazzmaster pickups
- For if you want the more “traditional” sound of a P90, i.e. higher output and a bit more grit
- Regal humbucker Jazzmaster pickups
- For if you want to turn up the gain and have no noise
- Blademaster pickups
- This is a single-coil pickup that has higher output but also has a much fuller bottom end
These are great alternatives if you want to try different sounds on your Jazzmaster but can’t stand the idea of making destructive modifications to it.
I was rather surprised by my findings when researching this topic.
When I started this article, I went in thinking that Jazzmasters were a type of P90s.
My research told me otherwise.
While there isn’t a clear-cut answer on this because there’s room for debate, I came to the conclusion that while the pickups are both shaped somewhat similarly, they are built significantly differently from one another.
They also sound quite a bit different.
If you play surf music, shoegaze, or indie rock, a Fender Jazzmaster with Jazzmaster pickups would be the best guitar for the job.
For more traditional or vintage rock you will always have P90s.
Hello there, my name is Ramiro and I’ve been playing guitar for almost 20 years. I’m obsessed with everything gear-related and I thought it might be worth sharing it. From guitars, pedals, amps, and synths to studio gear and production tips, I hope you find what I post here useful, and I’ll try my best to keep it entertaining also.