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First and foremost, I would like to thank Ilitch Chiliachki at Ilitch Electronics LLC for all his support and help with this project. When I began my search for “noiseless” P-90 pickups I was lucky enough to stumble onto the Cavity Noise Canceling System (CVNCS) for P-90 fitted Les Paul guitars. Meeting Ilitch turned out to be a gold mine and has provided a real education about pickups, electronics and noise canceling. I now have a fantastic Les Paul with great sounding custom P-90 pickups and virtually no noise! (well….dramatically-reduced noise)


My New Les Paul and Stock P-90 Pickups


A few month’s ago I purchased my first Les Paul; a Classic Antique model. This guitar is one of only 400 Gibson Les Paul Limited Editions. It has a beautiful Iced-Tea Sunburst finish (known as “Teaburst”) on a figured maple top. The finish on this guitar certainly caught my attention, but it was the playability and resonance of this particular guitar, that sold me.


What also intrigued me about this guitar was that this model was updated with Gibson’s H-90 pickups. These are specially designed stacked double-coil pickups that were originally designed for the Billie Joe Armstrong Les Paul Junior signature model (I think). Unfortunately these pickups did not work out for me. In my opinion they are thin and weak sounding and they didn’t hold up in a live band situation. What’s worse is that they were VERY noisy and virtually unusable.


According to Gibson, the H-90 pickups are supposed to be high-powered single coil “P-90” style pickups, but with stacked coils for noise canceling. Unfortunately, the noise persisted in any position and any configuration. The push/pull pots were supposed to engage the stacked noise-canceling coils, but engaging these switches had no affect on the noise. It was as if the guitar was not wired correctly.


After a few weeks of struggling with the noise I contacted Gibson to obtain a wiring schematic for this guitar since I could not find any wiring reference on the Internet. Unfortunately, Gibson was unable to actually locate a schematic for my guitar....very disappointing from Gibson by the way. Without a schematic I really could not compare the existing wiring with what should be there.


My next move was to find a “noise canceling” system similar to what I installed in my Stratocaster. For my Strat I installed the BPSSC (Back Plate Silent Single Coil) system from John Suhr. This is a unique hum-canceling system for Stratocasters. Rather than using a reverse-wound reverse-polarity (RWRP) middle pickup that only yields hum-canceling in positions 2 and 4, the BPSSC utilizes an unconventional back plate that replaces your existing one. This back plate, used in conjunction with three single-coils wound with the same polarity, yields hum canceling in all five switch positions with no negative tonal consequences.


Searching the Internet I discovered Ilitch Electronics and their Cavity Nose Canceling System (CVNCS) for use with P-90 pickups and Les Paul guitars. It seemed that this was exactly what I was looking for. Upon contacting Ilitch he invited me to his shop in Camarillo so that he could personally investigate the problem with my guitar.


Ilitch confirmed my suspicions and noted that the noise canceling coils on the Gibson P-90 pickups were shunted to ground. How this “Limited Edition” Les Paul could come out of the shop wired incorrectly is a little disturbing to say the least. To help test the pickups with the noise canceling coils engaged, Ilitch rewired the guitar according to how we thought it was supposed to be. There was some level of noise canceling, but not enough to make me happy.


Noise Canceling System


The Cavity Nose Canceling System (CVNCS) by Ilitch Electronics is designed to fit into Les Paul guitars with 2 Volume and 2 Tone potentiometers. This passive (and patented) Large Coil Noise Canceling System is designed for noise cancellation of  single coil pickups mainly on guitars with flat back or backside control cavities. The basic CVNCS system is for standard, thick body LP guitars where the cavity itself is deep and has the available depth (about an inch) for the noise-canceling coil.


However, because of the complicated cavity shape on Les Paul guitars, it can sometimes be difficult to shape the noise coil correctly and to fit it safely inside of the Les Paul cavity. Therefore, Ilitch offers options for the noise coil that can be fitted onto the back of the guitar as well. See below.




CVNCS 

The standard large noise canceling coil is shaped to fit and be placed inside the control cavity. It is suitable for guitars having larger sized and deeper square-round shape control cavities. A good size control cavity will have more than

13 inches circumference length and more than 3/4 inch deep clearance. Recommended for P90 or similar style of pickups, which read about 6.5KOhm up to about 8KOhm resistance.



BNCS-CV 

The large noise canceling coil is constructed to replace the original control cavity cover. It has a plastic core, which uses the same screw hole pattern and is mounted using the original cavity cover screws. Recommended for P90 or similar stile of pickups , which read about 7.0KOhm up to about 9KOhm resistance.





BNCS-R 

The large noise canceling coil is shaped to match the original control cavity rhombic shape. It is placed on the middle back of the guitar body using double-sided tape or some other taping technique. Recommended for P90 or similar style of pickups  which read about 7.0KOhm up to about 9KOhm resistance





BNCS-C1 

The large noise canceling coil has a rounded shape and satin finish plastic cover. It is placed on the middle back of the guitar body using double-sided tape or some other taping technique. Recommended for P90 or similar style of pickups  which read about 7.0KOhm up to about 9KOhm resistance





BNCS-C2 

The large noise canceling coil has a circular shape. It is placed on the middle back of the guitar body using double-sided tape or some other taping technique. Recommended for P90 or similar style of pickups , which read about 7.0KOhm up to about 9KOhm resistance.








CVNCS-R2

The large noise canceling coil is built into a slightly enlarged rhombic plastic cover. The CVNCS-R2 easily replaces the original plastic cover, since its mounting holes pattern is similar to the original one. Recommended for P-90 or similarstyle of pickups which read between 7.0KOhm and 9K of resistance.




The exact system will be based on data they receive from customers (i.e. guitar type,  pickup model/brand, specific wiring, etc.…)


Since I was more interested in the effectiveness of the noise canceling coil rather than the “look” of the coil, I was happy to have this coil mounted to the back of the my Les Paul body. The option I chose is the BNCS-R. My coil was placed on the middle back of the guitar body using double-sided tape.


By the way, Ilitch is the inventor/designer and manufacturer for the BPSSCC and SSC systems, branded as a Suhr product on the market.


My Search for P-90s!


Who doesn’t love the P-90 Tone! I certainly do. Over the past year I have listened to many great recordings with P-90 fitted guitars. Warren Mays, the other guitar player in my band has been using a sweet little Gibson Blues Hawk (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibson_Blueshawk

) with P-90s and it sounds so great in the band. Over the year I have researched quite a few manufacturers who produce P-90 pickups and here is what I found:



Lindy Fralin Hum-Canceling P-90


Every Lindy Fralin pickup I have tried out and heard on recordings sound great! What’s cool about their P-90 pickups is that you can order and specify pickups that are 5% under wound, stock, or 5% over wound with regards to the total amount of winds. According to Lindy Fralin, lower winds results in a weaker, yet brighter sound, while the over wound option results in a stronger yet meatier pickup.


Kinman P-90 Hx


Kinman’s P-90 Hx is apparently modeled after the original early 60's Gibson P-90. It is built with their proprietary 600 ohm noise sensor, which is at the heart of their hum-canceling design. Kinman claims that this pickup sounds identical to a noisy P-90 without mains hum.




Seymour Duncan STK-P1 Stacked P-90


Seymour Duncan’s stacked design lays claim to maintaining that “cherished” P-90 tone. The “dummy coil” in their design eliminates the 60-cycle hum.

DiMarzio Virtual P-90 (DP169)





DiMarzio Virtual P-90 (DP169)



DiMarzio’s  has always made great pickups. Their Virtual Vintage technology fuels many of their single coil pickup designs. What is unique about this pickup is the two-coil design that mimics the output and clarity of a P-90, but presenting drastically different frequency responses and output levels in the coils. The end result is a vintage style P-90 without the rattle and hum.



Sheptone P-90



Sheptone pickups seem to be making some noise in the industry. My friend, Brian Kahanek, turned me onto these pickups. They have a standard P90 pickup with vintage construction, rough-cast de-gaussed Alnico 5 magnets, scatter wound with #42 Enamel wire available in Soap bar, Dog ear or humbucker sized. Neck pickup is RW/RP in relation to bridge to cancel hum in the middle position. The also have a Alnico 2 P90 version.

http://www.sheptone.com/p90.htm


Lollar


I love Jason Lollar Pickups. I have his Mini Humbuckers in my Jack Briggs Guitar and they are fantastic! Jason’s P-90 pickups are also scatter wound with de-gaussed Alnico 5 bar magnets. He claims a fatter P-90 tone with smoother treble and that it sounds like an old P-90 rather than a new pickup that still has some hard edges.


They also have another model copied from Sean Costello’s ‘53 Goldtop. These P-90s have lower output, more delicate attack, less mid-range and bass, and are coupled with weak magnets. Overall tone is brighter with less of a grind to the distortion quality and is slower to overdrive an amp than the stock P-90 set. This set is good for an early Freddie King tone.


In my opinion it is the neck position P-90 sound that so many desire, so the true test of quality of a P-90 is whether it sounds good in the neck position or not. What I was looking for is a P-90 pickup with a warm crunch, but also with clarity on the top end. I don’t like that mushy sound some P-90s get in the neck position. I like the notes to be “alive” and “piano” like.


My New Pickup Selection


Although I did not try out all of the pickups on my list above, I did audition the Lollar and Seymour Duncan P-90s. They were both GREAT sounding. Both had a classic P-90 tone with clarity and punch.


In the end, though, I chose the Ilitch Electronics IP90 pickups for a couple of reasons. While testing the CVNCS system, I was also privileged to audition Ilitch’s IP90 pickups. These pickups are very musical and have a great response. The clean sounds have a prominent mid-range bump, but still maintain a snappy “twang” sound, which is what I really liked. The dirty tone (especially in the neck position) is more biting and has a smooth overdriven breakup. They also sustain quite well! They work extremely well with my chambered body Les Paul.


The pickups are made with Alnico 5 (and sometimes Alnico 2) magnets. According to Ilitch, Alnico 5 magnets create a slightly stronger magnetic field which gives a little more output (approximately 5%). I was immediately pleased with their performance and decided to buy them.


What is also cool is that Ilitch custom wound these pickups with two taps; one at 100% and another tap at approximately 70%. He then installed a stereo blending pot to allow for simultaneously blending (both Bridge and Neck PUPs) from the 100% tap to the 70% tap. I’ve never seen this before and the result is very cool. You get some useful tones with variable output and frequency response, caused by the in series resistance added to the pickup output. In the 100% position the pickup is all P-90; very big and robust. In the 70% position the pickup starts to enter into the Fender Strat single coil territory. This 70% position is more bell-like and chimey.


Ilitch tells me that in regards to pickup resistance it is about 9K for the 100% tap and 6-6.3K for the 70% tap.


Pots and Wiring


Now, because I now had custom P-90 pickups made with two taps along with the CVNCS noise canceling system, Ilitch recommended a fairly unique, but simple wiring scheme. He recommended a single volume control and a single tone control. (By the way, I prefer this configuration on most of my guitars) For the other two pots we installed a “fine adjustment” pot for the CVNCS system. This allows me to fine tune the noise cancellation depending on the position of the blending pot. The forth pot is used to roll in (add back) high frequency after I turn my volume down. Loss of high-end frequency will sometimes occur when turning your volume down on any guitar. It’s a “nice to have” feature that I find useful.


So, in the end I have a Master Volume, Master Tone, Blend Control and High-End Frequency Boost.


Conclusion


Well….I just LOVE it! The Ilitch P-90s and his CVNCS system are well made and thoughtfully designed. I’m still very happy with this light-weight chambered Les Paul. It plays beautifully and I now have great pickups and a wiring scheme that have worked out perfectly for me. The guitar is easy to control and the pickups rock! I especially love the clean tones from these P-90s. They are very rhythm-guitar friendly and when in overdrive they have a great bluesy sweet sound. I’m just now starting to incorporate this guitar in to my band and I couldn’t be happier.


Most importantly, the noise canceling system REALLY WORKS! I’m very impressed. I couldn’t use this guitar in the band without the canceling coil and it’s a perfect solution to any P-90 fitted Les Paul.


I want to personally thank Ilitch for all his support and help in my P-90 and Silent System adventure. He was incredibly helpful and I’m really happy with my Ilitch P-90s and Silent Coil system.




Other Links

Below are a few links that are good reference for these Ilitch IP90 pickups and CVNCS noise canceling system.


Go HERE for more information on Ilitch Electronics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OIb7MtGUU0


A Little P-90 History


Gibson created the original P-90 pickup back in the late 40s and since then many manufacturers have attempted to reproduce this classic sound, but without the classic noise that has always been the issue. This is why Gibson created the now famous “humbucker” pickup (a self-contained hum canceling pickup).


P-90 can be somewhat brighter and more transparent than a humbucker pickup. They are not “crisp” or “snappy” like a Fender single coil pickup. The tone shares some of the single coil twang, but having large amounts of mid-range and depth. All vintage P-90 pickups that are hand-wound and DC resistance tends to be around 7-8 kilo-ohm for neck pickups and 8-9 kilo-ohm for bridge pickups. Earlier pickups (around 1952) used Alnico 3 magnets, but in 1957 Gibson switched to Alnico 5.

The problem with P-90 pickups is that they are susceptible to 50 Hz/60 Hz cycle mains "hum" induced in its coil by external electro-magnetic fields originating in mains powered electrical appliances, motors, lighting ballasts and transformers etc. This susceptibility is common to all single-coil pickup designs, however the P-90 having around 2000 more turns of wire in its coil than Fender single coils produces a large amount of hum, and for some players is objectionable enough to drive them to use side-by-side humbucking pickups instead.

At first, manufacturers were under-winding their P-90 pickups for a lower output in an effort to reduce 60Hz hum. Unfortunately this also reduces a lot of revered sonic characteristics of P-90s. Now manufacturers are creating some pretty unique P-90 pickup designs that maintain the classic tone and also reduce the inherent noise. They range from very traditional to hot-wound to “ true noiseless” versions.


There are two types of noise canceling P-90, stacked coils and side-by-side coils. In the first case, a second coil is placed below the main one; due to its position, the amount of sound picked up from the strings' vibration is almost negligible (as can be proven by selecting only the bottom coil in a 4-conductor stacked pickup), but due to its close proximity to the main coil, the amount of hum it picks up is very similar and it is effectively cancelled by connecting both coils out of phase. In the second case the operation is the same as in a typical humbucker: both coils sense the strings' vibration and being connected out of phase, but with the position of the magnet giving them opposite magnetic polarities, the signal from both coils is added, while the hum (which is not affected by the magnetic polarity of each coil) is effectively cancelled.


Now there is a third option….the Ilitch Electronics CVNCS System!



 
Gear Review
Ilitch Electronics
Cavity Noise Canceling System (CVNCS)
&
Custom P-90 Pickupshttp://www.ilitchelectronics.com/

Review by Chris Conte, Jan-11’

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