Seymour Duncan vs DiMarzio Pickups: Which are the Best?


DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan both produce high-end pickups for electric and bass guitars, but which are the best? In this article, I’ll compare the two brands in terms of their tone, value for money and the different options and types in their ranges, so you can decide which brand is best for you.

The Quick Answer

Seymour Duncan pickups usually have a more balanced tone and wider dynamic range than DiMarzio pickups. Seymour Duncan pickups are well known for their versatility, and many players prefer their vintage output tones. DiMarzio pickups are often associated with their high output and modern tones.

Contents

  • Brief Brand Overview
  • Tone Comparisons
  • Prices
  • Range and Options
  • Which Should You Choose?

Brief Brand Overview

Before we dive into some comparisons, I wanted to briefly outline how each brand organises their range, and the different options available so you have an idea of which models are comparable between DiMarzio and Seymour Duncan.

DiMarzio

DiMarzio specialise in passive pickups and offer a range of humbuckers, single coils, P90s and bass guitar options. They use primarily alnico and ceramic pickups and vary from vintage low output, to very high output, so cater to a wide variety of music styles.

Humbuckers

DiMarzio’s humbucker range is vast and most models come in a variety of design and colour options. The range can be most easily divided by the output. Here is a list of each model currently available.

  • Vintage (low output): Air Classic, Bluesbucker, EJ Custom, Fortitude, PAF 36th Anniversary, PAF 59, PAF Master, and the Humbucker from Hell.
  • Medium output: Air Norton, Air Zone, D Activator-X Neck, Dark Matter 2 Neck, AT-1, Dominion Neck, Evolution Neck, Fred, Gravity Storm Neck, Illuminator Neck, Imperium Neck, Liquifire, Mo’ Joe, Norton, PAF Joe, PAF Pro, Rainmaker, Sonic Ecstasy Neck, Steve Morse Model Neck, Titan Neck, Transition Neck, and Utopia Neck.
  • High output: Crunch Lab, D Activator Bridge, D-Activator-X Bridge, D Sonic, Dominion Bridge, Dreamcatcher, Dual Sound, Evo 2, Evolution Bridge, Gravity Storm Bridge, Igno, Illuminator Bridge, Imperium Bridge, Pandemonium, Satchur8, Sonic Ecstasy Bridge, Steve Morse Model Bridge, Steve’s Special, Super 2, Super 3, Super Distortion, The Tone Zone, Titan Bridge, Transition Bridge, Utopia Bridgem and X2N.

Stratocasters

There are three types of Stratocaster pickups in the range: standard, rail hum cancelling and stacked hum cancelling.

  • Standard: Dark Matter 2, FS-1, Red Velvet, SDS-1, True Velvet, and Utopia.
  • Rail Hum Cancelling: Air Norton S, BC-1, BC-2, Fast Track 1, Fast Track 2, Pro Track, Satch Track, Sugar Chakra, Super Distortion S, The Chopper, The Cruiser, and the Tone Zone S.
  • Stacked Hum Cancelling: Area 58, Area 61, Area 67, HS-2, HS-3, HS-4, Injector, Virtual Solo, Virtual Vintage 54 Pro, Virtual Vintage Blues, and Virtual Vintage Heavy Blues 2.

Telecasters

There are three types of Telecaster pickups in the range: standard, rail hum cancelling and stacked hum cancelling.

  • Standard: Notorious, Pre B-1, True Velvet and Twang King.
  • Rail Hum Cancelling: Fast Track T, Super Distortion T, the Chopper T, and The Tone Zone T.
  • Stacked Hum Cancelling: Area Hot T and Area T.

Other Electric Guitar

As well at the Humbucker, Tele and Strat ranges, DiMarzio also make some mini pickups (humbuckers in P90 coil size), P90 pickups, and models for 7 and 8 string electric guitars.

Here are some images (all link to Amazon) to show some of the most popular designs of the electric guitar pickups..

Super Distortion

Tone Zone Strat

Area Tele

Evolution

Bass Guitar

DiMarzio make pickups for 4 and 5 string basses. Here are the models available at the time of writing:

  • Standard 4-String: Area J, Model J, Model P, Model One, Relentless, Sixties P, Split P, Ultra Jazz.
  • 5- String: Area J 5 and Ultra Jazz 5.

Seymour Duncan

Seymour Duncan make a wide range of humbucker, P90, single coil and bass pickups. Although they primarily specialise in passive pickups, Seymour Duncan also make some active humbucker electric guitar pickups and active bass guitar pickups.

Humbuckers

The range is divided into the following:

  • Vintage (lower output): ‘59 Model, Slash, Pearly Gates, Jazz Model, Antiquity Humbucker, Seth Lover, Whole Lotta Humbucker, Alnico II Pro HB, Vintage Blues, Saturday Night Special, Phat Cat, Antiquity Jazz HB.
  • Medium Output: ‘59 Custom Hybrid, Custom 5, Screamin’ Demon, Full Shred, P-Rails, Custom Custom, Benedetto, Jason Becker Perpetual Burn, Parallel Axis Blue Saraceno.
  • High Output: JB Model, Hot Rodded, Mark Holcomb, Invader, Duncan Distortion, Black Winter, Nazgul, Mayhem, Duncan Custom, Dimebucker, Sentient, Pegasus, Dimebag, Alternative 8, Jupiter Rails, Dave Mustaine Thrash Factor, Parallel Axis Distortion.
  • Active: Mick Thomson Blackouts, Jeff Loomis Blackouts, Dave Mustaine, Retribution, Blackouts HB.

Stratocaster Single Coils

The range is divided into true single coil and noiseless models:

  • True Single Coil: Custom Flat/ Staggered, Vintage Flat/ Staggered, Antiquity Texas Hot, Quarter Pound Flat/ Staggered, Antiquity II, Hot, Jimi Hendrix, Vintage Flat, Alnico Pro II Flat/ Staggered, Lipstick Tube, Five-Two.
  • Noiseless: Hot Rails, Classic Stack, Everything Axe, YJM Fury, Little ’59, JB Jr, Duckbuckers, Vintage Rails, Cool Rails, Vintage Hot, Red Devil, Hot Sack, Custom Stack Plus.

Telecaster Single Coils

The range is divided into true single coil and noiseless models:

  • True Single Coil: Vintage Broadcaster, Quarter Pound, Hot, Alnico II Pro, Vintage, Vintage ’54, Five-Two, Jerry Donahue Lead, Brad Paisley La Bra, Antiquity, Antiquity II, Antiquity ’55.
  • Noiseless: Hot Rails, Little ’59, Hot Stack, Vintage Stack.

P90s

Here is a breakdown of the Seymour Duncan P90 selection:

  • Vintage (lower output): Antiquity P90, Antiquity P90 Dog Ear, Vintage P90.
  • Medium Output: P90 Stack, P-Rails.
  • High Output: Hot P90, Custom P90.

Here are some images (all link to Amazon) to show some of the most popular designs.

Duncan Distortion

Antiquity P90 Dog Ear

Vintage Strat

Blackouts

Bass Guitar Pickups

Seymour Duncan split their bass guitar pickup range into the following categories:

  • Jazz Bass
  • P Bass
  • Music Man
  • Soapbar
  • Rickenbacker
  • Other models

They make a range of active and passive pickups to suit different tones and output levels.

Tone Comparison

It’s pretty difficult to draw comparisons between the tones of entire pickup ranges by these two brands, so I’ve tried to make some generalisations as well as provide some specific examples so you can listen to the differences for yourself.

Seymour Duncan pickups generally have a fuller tone than DiMarzio pickups which tend to sound more tight and focused. Seymour Duncan pickups often have a wide dynamic range with more bass and low-mids than DiMarzio pickups often have a punchier tone.

Here are some examples so you can listen to the differences in action.

Example #1 Humbuckers (Seymour Duncan JB vs DiMarzio Super Distortion)

  • Very similar tone
  • DiMarzio pickups sounded more tight (less bass and low-mids) than the Seymour Duncan pickups.
  • The DiMarzio pickups sounded a bit brighter than the Seymour Duncan’s.

Example #2 High Output Humbuckers (Seymour Duncan Black Winter vs DiMazrio D Activator)

  • The Seymour Duncan pickup had a fuller and more balanced tone
  • The DiMarzio pickup sounded thinner but more punchy crisp

Example #3 Precision Bass Guitar (Seymour Duncan SPB-3 vs DiMarzio Model P)

  • The DiMarzio pickup sounded more punchy with more mid-range than the Seymour Duncan pickup
  • The Seymour Duncan pickup sounded fuller with more bass than the DiMarzio

Value for Money

Both brands make a wide range of pickups, so there are affordable and high-end options available for every pickup type.

DiMarzio pickups start at a slightly lower price than Seymour Duncan pickups. The most inexpensive DiMarzio pickups at the time of writing are $70 for the humbuckers, and $50 for the single coils. Seymour Duncan’s cheapest humbuckers are $79 and the cheapest single coils are $59.

However, when comparing the top of the range models, Seymour Duncan’s are slightly cheaper. The most expensive Seymour Duncan humbucker at the time of writing is $139, whilst the most expensive DiMarzio humbucker is $150.

Regardless of your budget, you are likely to find what you want from either brand due to the size of their ranges, so price and value for money is less of a factor to consider in this comparison.

The Ranges

In this next section I wanted to take an in-depth look at the different options each brand offers. I have made the following tables to summarise pretty much every pickup currently available, along with their price and some key features. All the tables are ordered from the lowest to the highest price from the brands’ websites at the time of writing to the nearest US dollar.

I don’t expect that everyone will read every row in the tables, but hope it will help to narrow down your search and give you an idea of the different models in your price range, so you can move closer to a final choice. Here are the categories:

  • Humbucker
  • Stratocaster
  • Telecaster
  • P90 Pickups
  • Bass Guitar (Jazz and Precision)

Humbuckers

  • DiMarzio only make passive humbuckers, and Seymour Duncan make active and passive humbucker pickups.
PickupTypeMagnetPositionPrice
DM NortonPassiveAlnico VBridge$70
DM PAF 36th AnniversaryPassiveAlnico VEither$75
DM PAF MasterPassiveAlnico IV/ VEither$75
DM Air ClassicPassiveAlnico II/ VEither$77
DM Air NortonPassiveAlnico VNeck$77
DM Air ZonePassiveAlnico VNeck$77
DM D ActivatorPassiveCeramicEither$77
DM Super 2PassiveCeramicNeck$77
DM The Humbucker From HellPassiveAlnico VNeck$77
SD ’59 ModelPassiveAlnico VEither$79
SD JB ModelPassiveAlnico VBridge$79
SD Jazz ModelPassiveAlnico VEither$79
SD Duncan DistortionPassiveCeramicEither$79
SD Duncan CustomPassiveCeramicBridge$79
SD Custom 5PassiveAlnico VBridge$79
SD Blackouts HB Coil PackActive CeramicAny$79
DM Steve MorsePassiveCeramicEither$80
DM LiquifirePassiveAlnico VNeck$80
DM Evo 2PassiveCeramicBridge$80
DM PAF ProPassiveAlnico VAny$80
DM Satchur8PassiveAlnico VIIIBridge$80
DM Super DistortionPassiveCeramicBridge$80
DM TransitionPassiveCeramicEither$80
DM Steve’s SpecialPassiveCeramicBridge$81
DM D Activator-XPassiveCeramicEither$85
DM ImperiumPassiveCeramicEither$85
DM Super 3PassiveCeramicBridge$87
DM Mo’ JoePassiveAlnico VBridge$87
DM AT-1PassiveAlnico VBridge$87
DM DominionPassiveCeramicEither$87
DM Dual SoundPassiveCeramicBridge$87
DM FREDPassiveAlnico VAny$87
DM Gravity StormPassiveAlnico V/ CeramicAny$87
DM The Tone ZonePassiveAlnico VBridge$87
SD Alnico II ProPassiveAlnico IIEither$89
SD InvaderPassiveCeramicEither$89
SD Phat CatPassiveAlnico IIEither$89
SD Full ShredPassiveAlnico VEither$89
SD Custom CustomPassiveAlnico IIEither$89
DM DreamcatcherPassiveCeramicBridge$90
DM RainmakerPassiveCeramicNeck$90
DM Crunch LabPassiveCeramicBridge$92
DM X2NPassiveCeramicBridge$92
DM BluesbuckerPassiveCeramicAny$96
DM EJ CustomPassiveAlnico VEither$96
DM EvolutionPassiveCeramicEither$98
SD Blackouts HBActiveCeramic Any $99
SD Black WinterPassiveCeramicEither$99
SD NazgulPassiveCeramicBridge$99
SD SentientPassiveAlnicoNeck$99
SD ’59 Custom HybridPassiveAlnico VBridge$99
SD PegasusPassiveAlnico VBridge$99
SD P-RailsPassiveAlnico VEither$99
SD Alternative 8PassiveAlnico VIIIBridge$99
DM IgnoPassiveAlnico VIIIBridge$101
DM PAF 59PassiveAlnico VEither$104
DM IlluminatorPassiveCeramicEither$106
SD SlashPassiveAlnico IIEither$109
SD Pearly GatesPassiveAlnico IIEither$109
SD Whole Lotta HumbuckerPassiveAlnico VEither$109
SD DimebuckerPassiveCeramicBridge$109
SD Saturday Night SpecialPassiveAlnico IVEither$109
SD Screamin’ DemonPassiveAlnico VBridge$109
SD Jason Becker Perpetual BurnPassiveAlnico VBridge$109
SD Dave Mustaine Thrash FactorPassiveAlnico VEither$109
DM FortitudePassiveAlnico VBridge$113
DM TitanPassiveCeramicEither$119
 SD Mick ThomsonActiveCeramic Either $119 
SD Seth LoverPassiveAlnico IIEither$119
SD BenedettoPassiveAlnico VEither$119
SD Retribution Active CeramicAny$125
SD Jeff Loomis Blackouts ActiveAlnicoAny  $129
SD Mark HolcombPassiveCeramicEither$129
SD Jupiter RailsPassiveCeramicEither$129
DM PAF JoePassiveAlnico VAny$133
SD AntiquityPassiveAlnico IIEither$139
SD Ducan Distortion Active MountPassiveCeramicEither$139
SD Nazgul Active MountPassiveCeramicBridge$139
SD Sentient Active MountPassiveAlnico VNeck$139
SD Psyclone Filter’TronPassiveAlnico VEither$139
DM Dark Matter 2PassiveCeramicEither$140
DM PandemoniumPassiveCeramicEither$140
DM Sonic EcstasyPassiveCeramicEither$140
SD Hot RoddedPassiveAlnico VBoth$149 (set)
SD MayhemPassiveCeramicBoth$149 (set)
SD Vintage BluesPassiveAlnico VBoth$149 (set)
DM UtopiaPassiveCeramicEither$150
SD DimebagPassiveCeramicBoth$199 (set)
SD Dave MustainActiveAlnico VBoth$209 (for set)
SD P-Rails Triple ShotPassiveAlnico VBoth$259 (set)
DiMarzio vs Seymour Duncan Humbucker Electric Guitar Pickups

Stratocaster

  • All passive pickups
PickupTypeMagnetPrice
DM FS-1StandardAlnico V$50
DM SDS-1StandardCeramic$50
DM Dark Matter 2StandardCeramic$55
DM Red VelvetStandardAlnico V$55
DM True VelvetStandardAlnico II$55
SD Custom Staggered StratStandardAlnico V$59
SD Vintage Staggered StratStandardAlnico V$59
SD Quarter Pound StratStandardAlnico V$59
SD Quarter Pound StaggeredStandardAlnico V$59
SD Hot StratStandardAlnico V$59
SD Vintage Flat StratStandardAlnico V$59
SD Custom Flat StratStandardAlnico V$59
SD Alnico II Pro Flat StratStandardAlnico II$69
SD Alnico II Pro StaggeredStandardAlnico II$69
DM UtopiaStandardAlnico V$70
DM HS-2NoiselessAlnico V$70
DM HS-3NoiselessAlnico V$70
DM HS-4NoiselessAlnico V$70
DM Virtual SoloNoiselessAlnico V$75
DM Virtual Vintage 54NoiselessAlnico V$75
DM Virtual BluesNoiselessAlnico V$75
DM Virtual Heavy Blues 2NoiselessAlnico II$75
SD Hot Stack StratNoiseless Ceramic$79
DM Air NortonNoiselessCeramic$80
DM BC-1NoiselessCeramic$80
DM BC-2NoiselessCeramic$80
DM Fast Track 1NoiselessCeramic$80
DM Fast Track 2NoiselessCeramic$80
DM Pro TrackNoiselessCeramic$80
DM Super DistortionNoiselessCeramic$80
DM The ChopperNoiselessCeramic$80
DM The CruiserNoiselessCeramic$80
DM Area 58NoiselessAlnico II$80
DM Area 61NoiselessAlnico II$80
DM Area 67NoiselessAlnico II$80
Dm InjectorNoiselessAlnico II$80
SD Lipstick Tube StratStandardAlnico V$85
DM The Tone ZoneNoiselessCeramic$87
SD Vintage Hot Plus StratNoiselessAlnico V$89
SD Cool Rails StratNoiselessCeramic$89
SD Vintage Rails StratNoiselessCeramic$89
SD DuckbuckersNoiselessCeramic$89
SD JB Jr StratNoiselessCeramic$89
SD Little ’59 StratNoiselessAlnico V$89
SD Antiquity Strat Texas HotStandardAlnico II$89
SD Antiquity II Surfer StratStandardAlnico V$89
SD Classic Stack Plus StratNoiselessAlnico V$89
SD Custom Stack Plus StratNoiselessAlnico V$89
SD Hot Rails StratNoiselessCeramic$89
SD Five-TwoStandardAlnico II+V$89
DM Sugar ChakraNoiselessCeramic$96
SD YJM FuryNoiselessAlnico V$99
DM Satch TrackNoiselessCeramic$103
SD Red DevilNoiselessAlnico V$109
DiMarzio vs Seymour Duncan Stratocaster Electric Guitar Pickups

Telecaster

  • All passive pickups
PickupTypeMagnetPositionPrice
SD Vintage ’54 TeleStandardAlnico VBridge$65
SD Vintage BroadcasterStandardAlnico VAny$69
SD Quarter Pound TeleStandardAlnico VAny$69
SD Hot TeleStandardAlnico VAny$69
SD Vintage TeleStandardAlnico VNeck$69
DM Pre B-1StandardAlnico VBridge$70
DM True VelvetStandardAlnico VAny$70
DM Twang KingStandardAlnico VAny$70
SD Alnico II Pro TeleStandardAlnico IIAny$79
SD Hot Stack TeleNoiselessAlnico VBridge$79
SD Hot Rails TeleNoiselessCeramicAny$89
SD Little ’59 TeleNoiselessCeramicBridge$89
DM Fast Track TNoiselessCeramicBridge$90
DM Super Distortion TNoiselessCeramicBridge$90
DM The Chopper TNoiselessCeramicBridge$90
DM The Tone Zone TNoiselessCeramicBridge$90
DM Area Hot T BridgeNoiselessAlnico IIBridge$90
DM Area T 615NoiselessAlnico IIBridge$90
DM Area Hot T NeckNoiselessAlnico IINeck$97
DM NotoriousStandardAlnico VAny$97
SD Antiquity IIStandardAlnico VAny$109
SD Antiquity ’55StandardAlnico II/VAny$109
DiMarzio vs Seymour Duncan Telecaster Electric Guitar Pickups

P90 Pickups

  • All passive pickups
PickupMagnetsPrice
DM The Tone ZoneCeramic$75
DM SoapbarCeramic$75
DM DLX PlusCeramic$75
DM Super DistortionCeramic$75
DM VirtualCeramic$80
SD Phat CatAlnico II$89
DM VintageAlnico$90
SD Vintage P90Alnico II$99
SD P-RailsAlnico V$99
SD Hot P90Ceramic$99
SD Custom P90Ceramic$99
SD Antiquity P90 Dog EarAlnico II$109
DM FantomNeo$115
SD Antiquity P90Alnico II$119
SD P90 StackAlnico V$119
DiMarzio vs Seymour Duncan P90 Electric Guitar Pickups

Bass Pickups

  • This table is limited to Jazz and Precision bass models, and does not include Seymour Duncan’s pickups designed for other bass guitars.
PickupBassTypeMagnetStringsPrice
SD Vintage J BassJ BassPassiveAlnico V4$69
SD Hot J BassJ BassPassiveAlnico V4$69
SD Hot P BassP BassPassiveAlnico V4$69
DM Area JJ BassPassiveAlnico II4$70
DM Ultra JazzJ BassPassiveAlnico V/ Ceramic4$70
DM Ultra Jazz 5J BassPassiveAlnico V/ Ceramic5$70
SD Quarter Pound J BassJ BassPassiveAlnico V4, 5$69/ $79
SD Quarter Pounder P BassP BassPassiveAlnico V4, 5$79/ $139
SD Vintage P BassP BassPassiveAlnico V4$79
SD Hot P BassP BassPassiveAlnico V4$79
DM Model PP BassPassiveCeramic4$80
DM Area J 5J BassPassiveAlnico II5$80
DM Split PP BassPassiveCeramic4$85
SD Hot Stack J BassJ BassPassiveAlnico V4$89
SD Antiquity II P BassP BassPassiveAlnico V4$89
SD Steve HarrisP BassPassiveAlnico V4$89
SD Antiquity II J BassJ BassPassiveAlnico V4$99
SD Apollo J BassJ BassPassiveAlnico V4, 5$99
DM Model OneOtherPassiveCeramic4$101
SD Pro Active J BassJ BassActiveCeramic4$119
SD Lightnin’ Rods J BassJ BassActiveAlnico V4$119
SD Pro Active P BassP BassActiveCeramic4$119
DM RelentlessP BassPassiveCeramic4$120
DM Relentless NeckOtherPassiveCeramic4$120
DM Sixties PP BassPassiveAlnico V4$127
DM Model J SetJ BassPassiveCeramic4$130 (set)
SD Antiquity IIP BassPassiveAlnico V4$139
SD Antiquity Raised AP BassPassiveAlnico V4$139
SD Steve Bailey 2-band System J BassJ BassActiveCeramic4$269 (system)
SD Rex Brown System J BassJ BassPassiveAlnico V4$299 (system)
SD Rex Brown System P BassP BassPassiveAlnico V4$299 (system)
SD Steve Bailey 2-band System J BassJ BassActiveCeramic4$309 (system)
DiMarzio vs Seymour Duncan Bass Guitar Pickups

Which Pickups are the Best?

This is always a tough question to answer because tone is so subjective. What sounds good to me, might not sound good to you, so one pickup can’t really be described as better than the other. However, here are a few things that you might want to keep in mind:

  • Seymour Duncan make active pickups as well as passive pickups, whereas DiMarzio just focus on passive pickups.
  • DiMarzio pickups generally sound a bit tighter and more focused.
  • Seymour Duncan pickups usually sound warmer and more balanced.

The best thing to do, is to use the tables above to identify the pickups in your budget and go from there. Consider the style of music you like to play and whether versatility is something you really need.

I also have some more comparisons of pickup brands below if you’re still on your search for the best brand for you!


Here are some more articles you might find useful:

Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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