Seymour Duncan vs Fender Pickups: Which are the Best?


Seymour Duncan and Fender both make amazing pickups, but which ones are the right one for your guitar? In this article, I’ll compare the tone of Seymour Duncan and Fender pickups, and the options in the range. No matter if you have a Strat, a Tele, Jazzmaster, Jaguar, bass guitar or otherwise, you’ll have a clearer idea on which to choose by the end of this article.

The Quick Answer

Fender pickups often sound brighter than Seymour Duncan pickups which usually sound fuller and have more mid-range. Seymour Duncan offer a larger pickup range, with more humbucker and P90 options than Fender, however they are typically a bit more expensive.

Brief Brand Overview

Before we dive into the comparisons, I wanted to briefly outline the Fender and Seymour Duncan pickup ranges, so you can get to grips with what’s on offer from both brands.

Fender

Fender make pickup sets specifically designed for the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Jazz Bass and Precision Bass. This allows you to make modifications to your existing Fender guitar.

The pickups usually come in sets, and some can come in a pre-wired pickup guard, which is common for the Stratocaster models.

They predominantly make single coil electric guitar pickups,, but do have some other options such as the CuNiFe Wide Humbucker, ShawBucker 2 Humbucker and Double Tap Humbucker. These are typically designed to go in the bridge position of a Stratocaster for a H-S-S configuration.

Seymour Duncan

This brand make a huge range of pickups including humbuckers, P90s and single coils for electric guitar, as well as pickups for bass guitar.

Their humbucker range is split into vintage, medium, high and active output pickups, so you can choose anything from country to metal. At the time of writing, they have 60 models of humbucker available. Their P90 range consists of 10 pickups and is split into vintage, medium and high output pickups. They do not offer any active P90s at the time of writing.

However, for this article, I’ll be focusing mainly on single coils and bass pickups, since this is mainly what people are looking for when comparing them to Fender.

Stratocaster Pickups

Seymour Duncan offer 30 passive pickups designed for Stratocasters at the time of writing. They use alnico 2, alnico 5 and ceramic magnets. Some pickups are are described as true single coil, some are noiseless single coils and some are humbuckers in single coil form. Here is a list of the models in each category:

  • True Single Coil: Vintage, Custom, Antiquity Texas Hot, Antiquity II, Quarter Pound, Hot Strat, Jimi Hendrix Signature, Alnico II Pro, Lipstick Tube and Five-Two.
  • Noiseless: Hot Rails, Classic Stack Plus, Everything Axe, YJM Fury, Vintage Hot and Hot Stack.
  • Humbuckers in a single coil format: Everything Axe, Little ’59, JB Jr., Duckbuckers, Vintage Rails, Red Devil and Cool Rails.

Telecaster Pickups

There are 17 pickups in the Telecaster Seymour Duncan range at the time of writing and they use alnico 2, alnico 4, alnico 5 and ceramic magnets. Again, the range is split into true single coils, noiseless single coils and noiseless humbuckers in single coil form.

  • True Single Coil: Vintage Broadcaster, Quarter Pound, Hot Tele, Alnico II Pro, Vintage, Vintage ’54, Five-Two, Jerry Donahue, Brad Paisley La Brea, Antiquity, Antiquity II and Antiquity ’55.
  • Noiseless: Vintage Stack
  • Humbuckers in single coil format: Hot Rails and Little ’58.

Other Single Coils

Seymour Duncan also make pickups specifically for offset guitars such as the Antiquity/ Antiquity II for the Jazzmaster, and the Quarter Pound, Antiquity/ Antiquity II and Vintage for the Jaguar.

Bass Guitar Pickups

The bass guitar range suitable for Fender models includes a Jazz bass section and a Precision bass section. Both ranges have models to suit 4 and 5 string basses and include vintage, medium, high and active outputs, so there’s something for everyone. At the time of writing the Jazz bass range has 15 options, and the Precision bass range has 14 options.

Later in the article, I’ll be comparing the prices and options in both the Fender and Seymour Duncan ranges for different guitars.

Tone Comparison

It’s hard to make general comparisons between pickup brands because these two both have pretty large ranges. So in this section, I’ll give me overall summary, and four examples of Fender and Seymour Duncan pickups being compared so you can listen and decide which you like best.

Fender pickups generally sound brighter and thinner than Seymour Duncan pickups. To get an authentic Strat or Tele tone the Fender pickups are more suitable, but the Seymour Duncan pickups sound fuller and thicker and usually have more mid-range and bass, lending them well to a variety of styles.

Now let’s take a look at some examples.

Example #1 Stratocaster (Fender Vintage vs Seymour Duncan Antiquity Texas Hot)

  • Very similar tone
  • Seymour Duncan’s sounded a bit full
  • Fender pickups sound a more thin and twangy

Example #2 Stratocaster (Fender Stock vs Seymour Duncan Hot Rails)

  • Seymour Duncan has a higher output and has more gain
  • Fender pickup sounds clearer and brighter

Example #3 Telecaster (Fender Stock vs Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder)

  • The Seymour Duncan pickups sound richer and fuller
  • The Fender pickups sounded thinner but with more presence and treble

Example #4 Bass (Fender Stock vs Seymour Duncan SPB-4)

  • Seymour Duncan is louder and has a thicker tone
  • Fender pickup has more treble so sounds sharper

The Price

Generally, Seymour Duncan pickups are more expensive than Fender pickups.

When purchased as a set for Stratocasters, Telecasters of bass guitars, the Fender pickups are typically a bit cheaper when you look on Guitar Center. However, it’s a bit easier to find Seymour Duncan pickups individually, so they may be a better option if you’re looking to make changes to just one of the pickups in your guitar.

Take a look at the next section for some price examples, but remember to shop around for the best deal!

The Ranges

In this next section I wanted to compare the sizes of both ranges and the options available. I’ve made some tables to summarise the options and the price from either the brand’s website or Guitar Center at the time of writing (depending on availability).The tables are split into the pickup type, and the are all ordered from the lowest to the highest price.

I’ve not included humbuckers and P90 pickups here as that’s not what Fender specialise in, however, Seymour Duncan have a very extensive range of these pickups if that’s what you’re looking for.

Stratocaster

PickupPrice for Set
SD Custom Staggered Strat$59
SD Vintage Staggered Strat$59
SD Quarter Pound Strat$59
SD Quarter Pound Staggered$59
SD Hot Strat$59
SD Vintage Flat Strat$59
SD Custom Flat Strat$59
SD Alnico II Pro Flat Strat$69
SD Alnico II Pro Staggered$69
SD Hot Stack Strat$79
SD Lipstick Tube Strat$85
SD Vintage Hot Plus Strat$89
SD Cool Rails Strat$89
SD Vintage Rails Strat$89
SD Duckbuckers$89
SD JB Jr Strat$89
SD Little ’59 Strat$89
SD Antiquity Strat Texas Hot$89
SD Antiquity II Surfer Strat$89
SD Classic Stack Plus Strat$89
SD Custom Stack Plus Strat$89
SD Hot Rails Strat$89
SD Five-Two$89
SD YJM Fury Strat$99
Fender Vintera ‘50s Modified$120 (set)
Fender Vintera ‘50s Vintage$120 (set)
Fender Vintera ‘60s Vintage$120 (set)
Fender Yosemite$130 (set)
Fender Pure Vintage ‘59$150 (set)
Fender Original 57/ 62$150 (set)
Fender Pure Vintage ‘65$150 (set)
Fender V-Mod$200 (set)
Fender Ultra Noiseless Hot$200 (set)
Fender Gen 4 Noiseless$200 (set)
Fender Ultra Noiseless Vintage$200 (set)
Fender Vintage Noiseless$200 (set)
Fender Eric Johnson$220 (set)
Fender Custom Shop Fat ‘60s$230 (set)
Fender Custom Shop ’54$230 (set)
Fender Fat ‘50s$230 (set)
Fender Custom Shop 1969$230 (set)
Fender Custom Shop Texas Special$230 (set)
Fender vs Seymour Duncan Stratocaster pickups

Telecaster

PickupPrice
SD Vintage ’54 Tele$65
SD Vintage Broadcaster$69
SD Quarter Pound Tele$69
SD Hot Tele$69
SD Vintage Tele$69
SD Alnico II Pro Tele$79
SD Jerry Donahue Lead$79
SD Hot Stack Tele$79
Fender Tex Mex$80 (set)
SD Hot Rails Tele$89
SD Little ’59 Tele$89
Fender Vintera ‘50s$90 (set)
Fender Vintera ‘60s Vintage$90
SD Five-Two Tele$99
Fender Pure Vintage ‘64$110 (set)
Fender Original$110 (set)
Fender V-Mod$160 (set)
Fender Gen 4 Noiseless$160 (set)
Fender Vintage Noiseless$160 (set)
Fender Ultra Noiseless Vintage$170
Fender Custom Shop Texas Special$190
Fender Custom Shop Nocaster$190
Fender Custom Shop Twisted Tele$190
Fender vs Seymour Duncan Telecaster pickups

Jazz Bass

PickupTypeMagnetStringsPrice
SD VintagePassiveAlnico V4$69
SD HotPassiveAlnico V4$69
SD Quarter PoundPassiveAlnico V4, 5$69/ $79
SD Hot StackPassiveAlnico V4$89
SD Antiquity IIPassiveAlnico V4$99
SD ApolloPassiveAlnico V4, 5$99
Fender YosemitePassiveAlnico V4$100 (for set)
Fender Pure Vintage ‘74PassiveAlnico V4$110 (for set)
Fender Original Jazz BassPassiveAlnico V4$110 (for set)
SD Pro ActiveActiveCeramic4$119
SD Lightnin’ RodsActiveAlnico V4$119
Fender Gen 4 NoiselessPassiveAlnico V4$160 (for set)
Fender Ultra Noiseless VintagePassiveAlnico V4, 5$170 (for set)
Fender Custom Shop ‘60sPassiveAlnico V4$190 (for set)
SD Steve Bailey 2-band SystemActiveCeramic4$269 (system)
SD Rex Brown SystemPassiveAlnico V4$299 (system)
SD Steve Bailey 2-band SystemActiveCeramic4$309 (system)
Fender vs Seymour Duncan Jazz Bass pickups

Precision Bass

PickupTypeMagnetStringsPrice
SD Hot Single CoilPassiveAlnico V4$69
SDPassiveAlnico V4$69
SD VintagePassiveAlnico V4$79
SD HotPassiveAlnico V4$79
SD Quarter PounderPassiveAlnico V4/ 5$79/ $139
SD Antiquity II Single CoilPassiveAlnico V4$89
SD Steve HarrisPassiveAlnico V4$89
Fender Yosemite P BassPassiveAlnico V4$100
Fender Original 1962PassiveAlnico V4$100
SD Pro ActiveActiveCeramic4$119
Fender Custom Shop ‘52PassiveAlnico V4$130
SD Antiquity IIPassiveAlnico V4$139
SD Antiquity Raised APassiveAlnico V4$139
SD Rex BrownPassiveAlnico V4$299 (system)
Fender vs Seymour Duncan Precision Bass pickups

Which Pickups are the Best?

This is always a tough question to answer, because what might be the best pickup for my guitar, my not be the best for yours. Tone is subjective, so it’s always a good idea to try and listen to the pickups back-to-back before making any decisions.

With that said, here are a few key points I wanted to end this article with:

  • Fender pickups are generally less expensive than Seymour Duncan pickups.
  • Seymour Duncan pickups usually sound a bit fuller and warmer than Fender pickups.
  • Fender pickups often sound a bit more bright and twangy with more treble than Seymour Duncan pickups.
  • Seymour Duncan have a much larger range of tones, pickup types (active/ passive) and colour/ design options available than Gibson.
  • Seymour Duncan have options for 7 and 8 string guitars.

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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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