UK maker Sunbear is offering Firebird-style pickups in P-90 and full humbucker sizes

Sunbear Pickups
(Image credit: Sunbear Pickups)

Firebird pickups might just be the most underrated humbucker of all time – a truly distinct proposition by design, but many players won't get the chance to try them because A) You need to be about six-foot tall or as cool as Johnny Winter to wield a Firebird confidently and B) They're a mini humbucker size that's not ideal for some retrofit projects. Well, Sunbear Pickups in the UK has some good news on both fronts…

Sunbear is the brain-child of Stuart Robson and the company offers a wide range of humbucker, single-coil, 'Beartrons' and P-90s – including its highly-rated SB-PAF options. All tempting options, but the 'SoapBird' version of is SunBird pickups really caught our eye because we can't think of any other maker offers a P-90-sized Firebird-style humbucker right now.


Sunbear SoapBird P-90-size pickups (Image credit: Sunbear Pickups)

With the right spec and wind approach is one of the most underrated options around

Stuart Robson, Sunbear Pickups

But what is so unique about the Firebird sound? This is not like any humbucker you will have heard before.

"With the right spec and wind approach is one of the most underrated options around," Stuart tells us. "They offer richness and character with an almost single coil like chime while of course being a true humbucker keep any noise issues in check. Their totally unique internal construction is a huge part of this but keeping the spec just right to avoid harshness is also key to creating the ideal balance." 

Sunbear Pickups

Sunbear SunBird mini humbucker-size pickups  (Image credit: Sunbear Pickups)

So what is different about their construction? "While a classic humbucker, mini humbucker or P-90 employ their horizontally loaded bar magnets to 'charge' screws or slugs that in turn sit vertically under the strings," Stuart explains on the Sunbear website. "The Firebird pickup takes a totally different approach by instead orientating a bar magnet within each of its two coils and orientating them vertically across the full width of the pickup."

But that's not all. 

"On top of that oddity there’s also a ferrous plate directly under those magnets in a manner that bears some resemblance to a Tele Bridge pickup!" The result is a very distinct bridge and neck experience and Stuart's design has sought to address some of the undesirable 'brash' high end character that can be associated with some Firebird bridge pickups.

Stuart uses a customised raw nickel cover for his P-90 SoapBird design, and it means more of us can get a taste of what we've been missing.  The neck position's promise of single-coil clarity with punch on tap has our interested piqued. 

Take a listen to two of our favourite players Chris Buck and Remi Harris demoing the mini bucker versions that come with Ivison Guitars Dakota to get an idea of what Stuart has achieved with his SunBird pickups. And he stresses to us that no matter which of the three iterations players choose, they're all the same under the cover. 

Prices for the SoapBird are from £135 and from £120 for the mini and standard humbucker SunBird. Contact more information and the full range of pickups, head to Sunbear Pickups.

Under the microscope: Johnny Winter's Firebird V

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.