The P-Rails: Three Times The Tone

Posted on by Peter

Sometimes when you’re contemplating a pickup swap or putting together a custom guitar, the hardest choice to make is what kind of pickup to use. Humbucker? Single coil? P-90? Each have their charms, of course, and you can split a humbucker into a single coil to expand your tonal reach a little further. But we guitarists are well known for looking at our instruments and thinking “What if..?” And it was one of these ‘What If Moments’ which led to a pickup which could do all three: the P-Rails.

Players have been splitting pickups for years but the options have typically been limited: you’ve either got a humbucker or a single coil, or perhaps two coils in parallel. The poor P-90 was feeling neglected. The P-90 offers a bright, occasionally dirty, powerful take on a single coil sound, and it’s very hard to achieve if you’re using a small pickup. So a large part of the P-Rails’ surface area is dedicated to a ‘real deal’ P-90, to ensure that the pickup’s P-90 sound remains authentic. There’s also an Alnico rail-style mini single coil, and this mismatch of coil types ensures a particularly full humbucker sound.

P-Rails are typically used in a neck and bridge set to fully explore their capabilities. There are many ways to wire them up: a three-way toggle can select each of the three modes; you could simply switch between two of the pickup types if you have no need for the third (for instance, a single coil and a P-90, or a P-90 and a humbucker); you could add a switch to take humbucker mode from series to parallel; you can use a DPDT (double pole double throw) switch to change the mode of both pickups simultaneously or you could use one for each pickup for maximum flexibility. Or you could use the Triple Shot mounting ring to access series and parallel options as well as accessing either of the individual coils. You can even order the Triple Shots and P-Rails together, installed and ready to go.

For players who need a more powerful bridge pickup, the P-Rails Hot uses a more powerful Alnico 8 magnet for the rail coil, along with a special wire type for the P-90 coil. It still matches perfectly with the regular P-Rails Original in the neck position.


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  • Jessie Deacon

    Hot damn
    Great timing, restoring an old axe and this is perfect for what I have in mind

    Jessie Deacon did not rate this post.
  • Oshua Ichards

    Wow, I really like the sound of those! Maybe I’ll switch ’em out on an older guitar of mine.

    Oshua Ichards did not rate this post.
  • zed

    I have one wired for P-90, humbucker & rail. I use all three–mostly P-90, and mostly for slide. They’re a cool idea that works.

    zed did not rate this post.
  • pixelzombie

    Does it have 60 cycle hum?

    pixelzombie did not rate this post.
    • SeymourDuncanBlog

      Not when you are using the humbucker position.

      SeymourDuncanBlog did not rate this post.
  • Pedal Nerd

    Those look and sound AWESOME!

    Pedal Nerd did not rate this post.
  • Kevin James


    Kevin James did not rate this post.
  • twinsrock365

    I have a set in a Franken strat and they are amazing. I have a 3 way switch for each so I could have say a p-90 in the bridge and switch to neck single coil. Plus, this way, in the middle position, you can get some really crazy combos.

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  • JT Kerry

    About 2 years ago, I bought the Br. Nk. set of P-Rails for a Washburn Nuno Bettencourt’s Signature neck and body I received without any other hardware. I replace the Floyd Rose and installed P-rails after leveling the frets. The installation with 2 3-way switches is difficult. I wish SD would make a solder-less system to install these pickups. It took some tweaking and a lot of adjustments to the pickup height to get the sound right, but the variation in sound these pickup produce is phenomenal.

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