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Zephyr Blues P90 pickups by Dave Stephens, SD Pickups, Stephens Design


P90s are one of my favorite pickups. Their history is legend in jazz, R&B, blues and swing. I have done extensive research trying to recreate the tone of the very earliest P90 coils, achieving those beautiful tones in my latest Zephyr Blues set. I use magnets and wire that were used before 1953, when Alnico formulas changed for both Gibson® and Fender®. Listen for youself to see if this fits you.

These sound samples are through my Princeton® and a Dillion® Goldtop copy guitar with ten gauge strings. The clips are of the two pickups, 3 positions and an out-of-phase position controlled by push-pull tone pot.

Zephyr Blues clean.
Zephyr Blues dirty.

If you're bored by my noodling, here are some live clips courtesy of Vyasa Dodsun at a jam. The mic is directly in front of his cool Magnatone® amp.

Zephyr Blues live with V. Dodsun


The X set takes the Zephyrs a step beyond. They are overwound, but still retain the classic tone. When you really need to push your amp and want a big fat sound that doesn't turn to mush, this is the right choice.

This set will give you the power of a humbucker, but when turned down you still get clarity and sweetness. They sound great in archtop guitars and help with acoustic feedback to some extent because you don't have to turn your amp up so high to get delicious tone and drive.

Click here to hear Zephyr Blues X in a Dillion® Goldtop copy, through Deluxe Reverb™. (This is the guitar and set I play all the time, my favorite weapon).

Click here to hear Zephyr Blues X in an Epiphone® Sorrento archtop (thin body) through a Blues Junior™.



The Zephyrs use vintage correct bobbin components and brass base plates, and pole keepers. Where applicable, keepers aren't used for clearer tone purposes. Bar magnets are classic Alnico as used in every classic vintage pickup ever built. No cheap ceramic magnets here. Different wire guages are used for each set; the X set uses wire common to earlier pickups than the vintage P90 that Gibson® made. Neck pickups are reverse wound with reverse polarity magnets to give humbucking when both pickups are used.

All Zephyr Blues Sets are hand-wound using classic scatter winding techniques as used in all vintage pickups, with very expensive plain enamel wire. Scatter winding gives a rounded, full frequency tone and eliminates the annoying brittle high-end tone of computer wound pickups made by all the big companies. Scatter winding isn't cost effective in large runs. If you want true vintage tone, you have to wind them by hand. I do.

Covers are available in black and creme, soapbar or dog eared styles.

Let me know what kind of tone you are looking for in your P90s. By eliminating the brass base plate and keeper bar eddy currents which choke high frequencies are eliminated, achieving a more modern open tone. Also, true vintage P90s were never potted. Yes, they squeal, but they also sound wonderful. If you use pedals or only play at home in front of a loud amp, you will get feedback. Many — like me — prefer unpotted pickups and play mostly live gigs, not close enough to the amp to be a problem. I usually wind tight enough that feedback isn't a big problem, but let me know if you want them potted or not — this is very important for P90s.



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