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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
|Pickup||Price 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 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 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)|
|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|
|SD Vintage||Passive||Alnico V||4||$69|
|SD Hot||Passive||Alnico V||4||$69|
|SD Quarter Pound||Passive||Alnico V||4, 5||$69/ $79|
|SD Hot Stack||Passive||Alnico V||4||$89|
|SD Antiquity II||Passive||Alnico V||4||$99|
|SD Apollo||Passive||Alnico V||4, 5||$99|
|Fender Yosemite||Passive||Alnico V||4||$100 (for set)|
|Fender Pure Vintage ‘74||Passive||Alnico V||4||$110 (for set)|
|Fender Original Jazz Bass||Passive||Alnico V||4||$110 (for set)|
|SD Pro Active||Active||Ceramic||4||$119|
|SD Lightnin’ Rods||Active||Alnico V||4||$119|
|Fender Gen 4 Noiseless||Passive||Alnico V||4||$160 (for set)|
|Fender Ultra Noiseless Vintage||Passive||Alnico V||4, 5||$170 (for set)|
|Fender Custom Shop ‘60s||Passive||Alnico V||4||$190 (for set)|
|SD Steve Bailey 2-band System||Active||Ceramic||4||$269 (system)|
|SD Rex Brown System||Passive||Alnico V||4||$299 (system)|
|SD Steve Bailey 2-band System||Active||Ceramic||4||$309 (system)|
|SD Hot Single Coil||Passive||Alnico V||4||$69|
|SD Vintage||Passive||Alnico V||4||$79|
|SD Hot||Passive||Alnico V||4||$79|
|SD Quarter Pounder||Passive||Alnico V||4/ 5||$79/ $139|
|SD Antiquity II Single Coil||Passive||Alnico V||4||$89|
|SD Steve Harris||Passive||Alnico V||4||$89|
|Fender Yosemite P Bass||Passive||Alnico V||4||$100|
|Fender Original 1962||Passive||Alnico V||4||$100|
|SD Pro Active||Active||Ceramic||4||$119|
|Fender Custom Shop ‘52||Passive||Alnico V||4||$130|
|SD Antiquity II||Passive||Alnico V||4||$139|
|SD Antiquity Raised A||Passive||Alnico V||4||$139|
|SD Rex Brown||Passive||Alnico V||4||$299 (system)|
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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