March 30th, 2012


Here is a question posed by someone considering JBE Soapbar pickups:

Hello !
I have a little question … well, it is not about asking to reveal any technological secrets, but, here it is.
For instance, you have released a new pickup which adapts to guitars designed for “soapbar” type pickups. It looks like it is basically some sort of a “modified” humbucker. Now, what will influence the changes in the sounding properties of such a pickup, in order to have it sound more like a standard single-coil or a soapbar or some other kind of already existing pickup ? Which are the parameters which have the major influence on the sounding properties ? (magnet type ? wire material or thickness ? … etc …)
Thank you so much for the great products … and for your answer.

The JBE Soapbar utilizes the design philosophy set for all JBE pickups i.e.  hum-cancellation and superior tone and performance.  In this regard one can argue our Soapbar pickup is a humbucker variant.  But, if one were to rely on that characterization of the pickup as a soapbar-sized humbucker, he/she would be wrong and would miss what players are finding to be a great Soapbar pickup tone and performance. .  Most players go even further and characterize JBE Soapbars as a superior noiseless P-90 .

JBE did not set out to mimic a “vintage P90″.  When we surveyed players, we did not get universal agreement on what  a P90 tone might be…possibly because P-90s were made and sounded inconsistent (not to mention that the guitar into which they were installed also had a lot to do with players’ idealized notions of a P-90) .  Some P-90 Soapbars were great; others were a big disappointment with muddy tone and performance.   All shared one common characteristic however…THEY WERE DAMNED NOISY.

In contrast, JBE set out to design a pickup that had to meet several fundamental requirements.

1. It had to be quiet

2. It had to exhibit superior tone and performance. i.e.
* It had to meet our notion of Soapbar tone (and, yes we had P-90 as a target).
* It had to be nasty in the bridge, mellow yet articulate in the neck, and “woody” when both pickups are used together.

3. The JBE Soapbar pickups also had to fit standard Soapbar pickup routs without requiring modification to the instrument.  In this regard we sweated a few details because some popular after-market Soapbars do not fit all soapbar body routes. .

Happily, The JBE design met every objective. JBE Soapbars are characterized by players as “ P-90 sounding” but with more articulation, superior tone and playing performance than other Soapbars they used in the past.  Check out our Testimonial page. For those wanting to compare it against some idealized Vintage P-90 with all its noise and inconsistent performance.

Lastly, the question of materials used….Sorry, will not give that away.

Admittedly, for the most ardent “Vintage Soapbar” enthusiast, JBE Soapbars may not meet their all expectations, especially if those expectations include traditional pole pieces and covers, soft (sometimes mushy) tone, and vintage soapbar/P-90 noise and hum.

Frank T
JBE Pickups