P90’s are single coil pickups but with a wider and shorter bobbin compared to standard single coils where the wires are closer to the pole pieces. This makes the pickup sound warmer and thicker in comparison to a standard single coil pickup.
There are two main variants of the P90 pickup: the dogear and the soapbar.
Soap bar P90 pickups have a rectangular shape and the two mounting screws are located between the pole pieces that sit in the middle of the 2nd and 3rd strings, and the 4th and 5th strings.
Dog ear P90 pickups have two extensions on either side of the pickup which is where the two mounting screws are held.
Soap Bar vs Dog Ear P90
A soap bar P90 pickup is mounted onto the body of the guitar using two screws located between the pole pieces whereas a dog ear P90 is mounted by using two screws located on extensions on either side of the pickup. It is easier to adjust the pickup height on a soap bar P90 compared to a dog ear P90.
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Pickup Mounting Mechanisms
On a dog ear P90 you can’t adjust the height of the pickup easily because it is mounted to the body directly. The dog ear P90 goes into a cavity on the guitar’s body and then the screws are mounted on the “dog ear” extensions on either side of the pickup.
Instead, if you want to adjust the height of a dog ear P90 you’ll need to put shims underneath it to raise it up, or move the individual pole pieces. Hence, raising the height is possible but lowering it isn’t an option unless you cut a deeper cavity.
Soap bar P90 pickups on the other hand can be adjusted by using the screws on either side of the pickup in the same way as the height of a single coil or humbucker pickup can be adjusted.
Do They Sound Different?
This is a big topic for debate.
Some argue that dogear P90 pickups sound better because they are connected more to the body of the guitar which results in a more resonant tone in comparison to a soapbar pickup.
However, I personally haven’t noticed a difference in tone between the two. There are so many other factors that affect the tone of an electric guitar that the design of the P90 pickup isn’t going to make a tangible difference in a lot of cases.
It’s worth noting as well that the soapbar design allows you to adjust the height of the pickup more easily, which has a much greater impact on the tone.
Check out this YouTube video for more information on the mounting mechanisms.
Which Guitars Have Dog Ear and Soap Bar P90s?
Soap bar P90 pickups are more commonly seen on electric guitars compared to dog ear P90 pickups because they are easier to mount and make it easier to adjust the height of the pickup.
Here is a list of guitars which feature either dog ear or soap bar P90’s.
Guitars with Soapbar P90 Pickups:
- Gibson Les Paul Standard ’50s
- Gibson Les Paul Special
- Gibson Les Paul Tribute
- Gibson SG Special
- Gibson ES-335
- Epiphone Wilshire
- Fender Player Mustang
- D’Angelico LE Atlantic
- D’Angelico LE Bedford
- D’Angelico LE Brighton
- B&G Crossroads
- Chapman ML3 Pro Traditional Semi-Hollow
- Reverend Charger 290
- Reverend Club King 290 Semi-Hollow
- Reverend Airwave
- Yamaha Revstar Professional RSP02T
- Gretsch Streamliner G2655T
Guitars with Dog Ear P90 Pickups:
- Gibson Les Paul Junior
- Gibson SG Junior
- Epiphone Casino
- Heritage Standard Collection H-530
Swapping Out Pickups
It’s perfectly possible to switch between dogear and soapbar P90 pickup designs with some modifications to the pickup casing and the guitar itself. If you are switching from a mini humbucker, then your best option is a soapbar P90 as this should have the same routing.
It’s worth noting as well that if the guitar’s pickup is usually mounted on a pickguard, then a soapbar P90 will be much easier to install than a dogear P90.